We’re barely two days away from leaving and I’m far from ready. I’ve started having dreams about us being back home and it’s made me realize how much I haven’t satisfied my desire to be in Russia.
Maybe it’s just because it’s only been in the past two days that I feel like we’ve really gotten to experience it, but it seems like we’ve been given a tantalizing taste of something amazing and now it’s being taken away.
Yesterday we went out to dinner in a different part of town than normal. We went further away from Olympic Park, so of course we ended up in a less touristy side. At Olympic Park, everything feels more American; American music is playing, people speak English, the workers are young and fresh and wear brightly-colored Western clothes. In this other part of town, the stores don’t have doors, but are “closed” with hanging strips of plastic; the aisles in the grocery store are narrow and the floor is unpolished cement. The people are older and don’t speak English as well and the shopkeeper eyed us warily the whole time we were in his store.
Today, after a nice half-day off (during which Ashley and I slept in til 10 a.m., then took another nap from 1-2 p.m.) the whole group headed into Adler. We boarded bus B6 again–this time with the full knowledge and intention of going away from our hotel and into downtown. We spent about 45 minutes at this small mall that felt more like a maze with shops than an American shopping mall, and bought ice cream from a sweet older woman who didn’t speak a work of English but somehow made us all fall in love with her.
After that, we took off in search of the water. Before we found it, we got shanghaied by the Sochi Live Site, where small children were singing and figure skating was being shown on giant screens. As we sat there it dawned on me that this is probably what Russia is like during the years when it’s not hosting the Olympics. The crowd was full of what I can only suppose were grandparents, parents and community members, and I couldn’t help but feel my heart wrench at the thought of all the preparation that must have gone into their performance.
This is life outside of the Olympics, I suppose, life as it is for every month of the year that is not filled with tourists and sporting events. This is the life I love to write.