Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving Abroad

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

I have to say that I am little jealous of those that are reading this from their homes right now. That means that you are there with all the good food that is prepared for this wonderful day. You are there with family, friends, and loved ones. I do hope that everyone had a great Thanksgiving though. We all have so much to be thankful for these days. I, for one, am very thankful for all the things that have happened to me and for me in my life thus far. Whether it was good, bad, or indifferent I am thankful for it, because I know I learned from it, grew from, or just was happy and blessed that it occurred.

I am healthy; family is doing well despite having our first holiday without my grandmother. I am abroad getting paid to do what it is that I love to do, I am surrounded by positive people and positive influences, I am meeting new people and learning about different cultures. I am getting the opportunity to see different parts of the world. Like I mentioned in a few blogs ago, I am thankful for the new addition to our family, my little niece JaʼNiya. My sister is healthy after giving birth to her, my other sister and brothers are all doing well, and so are my other nieces and nephews. Mom and dad are both strong and healthy. So I am very thankful. I am also thankful to be able to share my life experience with all of you that are following and keeping up with me.

Now I will share with you how my Thanksgiving eve and Thanksgiving were.

Let me fill you in on this great trip that I had to Russia.

First to begin with, we had a four hour flight to Moscow. Once we landed we took a bus for 10 hours to Kursk (another part of Russia). Now let me share with the size of this bus. It was smaller than the short yellow buses in America. There was very limited space and there was no room for us to put our luggage underneath at all, so you know what that meant, yep the luggage was on the bus with us as well. It was the most uncomfortable ride that I have ever witnessed in all my days of traveling. Not only were we cooped up on that little bus, it was also snowing very hard so the driver was being extra cautious with his drive so it took about 11-12 hours instead of 10.

While driving of course there were bathroom stops and we stopped at this one rest place alongside the road and the most unusual thing happened. When we opened the door the lady that was in charge of that part of the building says to us in Russian that we had to pay to use the rest room. Yes yaʼll pay! It was a great thing that we have a teammate that is Russian, because without her we would have never made it through this trip. Anyway there was problem that came about with the restroom, no one on our team had exchanged money yet so none of us had any rubles, which is Russian money, so the lady then says OK three for a dollar. Yes One American Dollar. I was just standing there smiling, because I have never seen such advertising like that in my life. Not when it came to using the rest room. But luckily we were able to give her a dollar to use the restroom. If not it would have been an even longer trip.

Now we are back in the little van and off we go heading towards Kursk again. About 3 to 4 hours later we stop again, but this time the bathroom is inside of the store. A problem occurs there as well. The clerk at the store was very upset for some apparent reason and gave all of us a hard time. She did allow us to use the restroom, but she refused to sell us anything out of the store. I am still unsure of what exactly happened for her to get that angry but I do know that she was arguing with our bus driver for a lengthy period of time. I just wanted to get in and get out. I was not feeling like we were the most welcomed people out there in Russia, even though I couldnʼt speak the language I did understand the body language and the tone in most of their voices. So I just sat back and observed how things were unfolding.

Finally after getting back on the road we get to our hotel, (now like 8:30 am) and we had left Israel at 2 pm the day before. Once we get there, we had to drop our bags off to our room and go straight back down for breakfast. My body was thinking that it was bed time not breakfast time, but I went down to eat and be with the team anyway. From here on out we are just eating and sleeping, trying to rest up for the game the following day. We did have a light practice that night so that we could get a better feel for their gym.

Finally it's game time and we come out playing very well in the beginning. We were only down by two points by half time, so we were somewhat pleased especially since this team had beat our team by forty points in our gym the last time we played them. This was before I was on the team, so I wasnʼt exactly sure what had happened the game before, I just know what I was told. So being down by 2 at the half was a great thing. Then everything went wrong from there. The second half we were a totally different team, and not in a good way. Some of the girls just stop playing, it was almost like they had given up, like the were content with just playing twenty minutes. Some were still fighting while others were in a rut. The Russian team did what most would do. They took advantage of that and opened the lead up within a blink of an eye.

I was fairly upset, but not because we lost the game, it was the way that we lost it. We didnʼt go down fighting in the last 20 minutes of the game. From there we went back to the hotel, showered, ate, packed our bags and were back on the road for another 10 hour bus ride back to the Moscow airport. This time it was a much bigger bus and it was a lot more comfortable. We did make one or two stops but didnʼt face as much attitude from the clerks as we did when we were going to Kursk. As I sat there and just watched, I wondered to myself how can these people always be so angry and mean. I didnʼt want to just assume anything, nor say that they were just some rude, not so nice people, because I donʼt really know their culture like that so I didnʼt want to judge. All I came away with was that they were not from the same type of culture as I was from, and I had to accept that and move one. Now donʼt get me wrong, I am not saying that there are not any Americans like that, I just havenʼt had to deal with any like that. One thing that I have learned while traveling abroad is that you have to adapt to the culture, things will not always be what you are use to so that what I try to do.

Finally we get to the airport, and it is 7 am but the problem with that is our flight is not until 2 pm. Another long wait before we get on a 4 hour flight back to Israel. But wait, of course we did have a little encounter when we got to the airport as well. Our bus driver dropped us off at the wrong terminal with all of our luggage and of course he left once we were all off the bus. Once we got in there our Russian teammate was trying to talk to the people in there to figure out what it was that we had to do. They told her that we had to catch a bus to the other terminal because it was too far to walk, and there was no way that we could have walked through the airport to get there. Their airports are not exactly like the ones in America.

Now once we get back outside and we are waiting for the bus to arrive it was freezing outside. It wasnʼt snowing anymore, but it was still cold. While standing out there with luggage and all, we were informed that once the bus gets there that we would have to pay 500 rubles for each piece of luggage that we put on the bus. Management was not too pleased with this, but what were we to do. So we get on the bus and finally get to the terminal that we need to be. We still had some time before we had to take off, so some of us found outlets to get on our computers, while others found places to lay their heads for awhile because they were extremely tired. This was one tough trip, but we did make it though.

Until next time have a safe and blessed Holiday.


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