From Russia With Love

Thursday, February 9, 2012

привет (Hello)! Last week we had a CEV match in Krasnador, Russia. Let me start off recapping our travel day (and by day, I mean night). Our match was on a Wednesday, so the club likes to get us there at least one day in advance, only, our club also seems to like giving us the most complicated travel routes possible (Let me mention our 20 hour bus ride through the night to Romania). Our flight was scheduled for Monday night, or Tuesday morning, at 12 am. We were on a 3 hour flight to Moscow, an hour and a half layover, then another 2 hour flight to Krasnador. We landed at 11 am Tuesday morning local time, 8 am Austrian time. There’s no rest for the weary.

As tough as that was, we were pretty excited to go to Russia. I can honestly say that’s somewhere I never expected to visit. We actually had to do some leg work earlier too- everyone needed a Russian Visa just to visit for 3 days. It’s apparently not too easy to get into Russia, or out of it, for that matter. Instead of a stamp on my passport (which I LOVE getting stamps on my passport FYI) I got a sticker ahead of time that took up an entire page! Woo, world traveler here!

The first and most glaring difference in Russia is the language. There are letters and symbols that do not register at all in my brain. At the Moscow airport I actually spotted a Sbarro pizza (one of my mom’s favorites) but only because of the coloring and style of the name. I also found out how my name is spelled in Russian.

The good news was our hotel was pretty close to the airport. The bad news was our hotel was about 40 minutes from the gym, and not in the greatest conditions. But we checked in, ate breakfast/lunch, and passed out until our light evening practice.

As is normal when we’re traveling, I don’t get to see a whole lot of the area we’re in besides what we can gather from the bus windows. But I did manage to snap some pics with my iPhone to try and give you all a sense for it. It was a lot more populated than some of the other areas we’ve been in recently and a lot more developed. But of course, it was another overcast trip (we’ve never traveled on a sunny day) with a bunch of added snow. I was actually quite impressed with how unfazed the drivers in Krasnador are even with quite a lot of snow packed on the roads.

We had practice Tuesday evening to get a feel for the gym. And it was going to be a really nice environment to play in. Let me mention, Russia is a huge country for volleyball. The Russian Volleyball League is one of the best leagues in the world for Professional volleyball and the team we’re playing happens to be second in the league for now. They also have a pretty legit familiar face- Foluke Akinradewo. Luke is a middle for the US National Team and I have had the pleasure and frustration of playing against her a few times while she was at Stanford.They also have a few players from the Russian National team, so this was not going to be an easy task for us. However, we haven’t been pushed all too often in our leagues, so it was going to be a good chance to see how we measure up.

But back to practice, well after practice. There was a technical meeting our coaches had to attend which was supposed to be 20 minutes, so we were going to wait around in the gym until they finished up. The Krasnador Men’s Pro team just happened to have practice right after us. Wow. These guys were really, really impressive. I love watching men’s volleyball because they’re so athletic, and strong, and explosive. It really inspires me to keep learning and getting better and to enjoy this game I play. So when the technical meeting went from 20 minutes to over an hour, we didn’t complain all that much. 😉

We played the next evening. Our team lost in 3 but we put up a pretty good fight. I’ve never seen us so scrappy, and it was nice to know that we could kind of hang. I actually played about half the time and had a total blast out there. I e-mailed my parents that night, that I’ve never been so happy about a loss- the match in general reminded me how much I love playing volleyball, high level volleyball. That’s the type of environment that I want to play in and train in all the time. It kind of relit my passion and reinforced the idea that I’m not ready to give up playing, and training, and trying to master this game just yet.

After the match the Americans (Kayla, Brittnee, and I) had a nice chat with Foluke, swapping stories and our longing for home. We also hit the jackpot again- the men’s team had a match against a Polish team in the CEV Challenge Cup. We got to hang around and watch an incredible game. I haven’t seen Men’s volleyball being played at such a high level with my own 2 eyes in a very long time. It was a ton of fun. (Sidenote: I also heard Russian rap for the first time during a timeout)

Fortunately, our journey back began at 11am the next morning. (What!? A normal travel time?! Shocking, I know) We got back to Vienna around 5 pm local time, so a full 9 hour travel day including the time change. As of now, I don’t think we’ll be leaving Austria for another match, but if I’m lucky I’ll be able to see another country our city if we get some more time off. As of now, we’re jam packing matches in to finish up our MEVZA league and then the Austrian Championships. But for now I’ll leave you with some more pics of our lovely day in the Russian airports.

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