Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Is that the house from "Hey Arnold!"?

Today I moved out of my hotel and into my "new" apartment. I was sad to leave the hotel for a couple of reasons...1) Free internet (not very reliable though) 2) Free breakfast! If you know me, you'll know which one I liked better. Anyways, I received a call from our GM this morning telling me that I'd be moving into the new digs after our morning practice and that should have everything packed sooner rather than later. When he picked me up and took me to my place, I thought, wow, this is a typical Russian high-rise apartment. I'm living the dream! I'm situated on the 9th floor of building #2 in apartment 73. There are a couple of great things about this place. It's closer to my gym than the hotel was, there's a supermarket within 200 feet of my door that sells avocados, I have a full kitchen and shower I can stand in (Greece reference), and it looks like somebody's grandma was living there before I was. Awesome! Here are a couple of pics of the place...I spent about an hour cleaning, unpacking, and setting things up. It'll be a great place for me to live for the next 2 months and for Kate to visit. I can't wait!

Full Size Kitchen

The Bedroom

The Living Room

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Exploring Magestic Yaroslavl

Now that I've been in Yaroslavl (Yaro) for 4 days and change, I thought it'd be a good idea to give an update on what has been happening so far. Here we go...

Ron Hein and I share the same color office building
Upon arriving in Yaro, I was delivered to my current residence of Hotel Sport which is about 5 minutes walking distance from our sport hall. The next morning I was able to see the place where I'd be "working" for the next 8 weeks or so. But before I could get inside I had to contend with the -5 degree temps outside. Thank goodness it isn't a Chicago -5 with winds of 30 mph because I'd really be in trouble. Although I didn't have a true practice with the team until Friday, I got a good idea of how things worked around the building, where the weight room was, and which locker was mine in the locker room. I have to say that compared to anything I've seen in Greece, Romania and Puerto Rico, these facilities were top tier.

Now that I was somewhat acquainted with the facilities I'd be working in, I was happy to start my first day of practice and to meet the team on Friday. After about 2 hours of morning practice I'd learned a couple of things about myself and the team. 1) I was a little rusty after taking some time between playing in Greece and playing in Russia. 2) Not a lot of Russians speak English. 3) Russians are like Americans because if the person they're talking to doesn't speak their language, they'll either get mad at them or speak super slow even though neither of those solutions help the foreigner. We had another practice that evening and I was hoping for a better showing. As of right now I'm still not at 100% playing ability, but I should get there during this week. Luckily during my time off Kate made me workout twice a day and do yoga with her...so at least I'm in good general shape and flexible.

Yesterday was my first match as a member of Yaroslavich Volleyball Club. We were playing against a team called Ural UFA. They were in the bottom 4 of the league and fighting for one of the last couple of playoff spots (the top 8 of 12 make the playoffs). This team also had another American on it, Clay Stanley, reigning MVP of the Olympics. For me it was nice to see a familiar face in an already very foreign country. The atmosphere of the match was pretty great though. Our arena isn't very large and 1,500 people is enough to max it out. Since it was a standing room only crowd, I'd say there were definitely a little more than that cheering us on. Also, UFA brought there own cheering section complete with green shirts, drums, and pieces of wood they'd attach to their hands to make clapping louder. Although we had the home court advantage it wasn't enough and our team lost 3-0. Definitely a tough first match for me, but we have two weeks until our next match to work on things.

Now since we have this break between matches our coach decided to give us Sunday and Monday morning off and that gave me some time to go exploring. Today, with Kate's urging, I decided to venture into the cold weather and walk around the city to see what I could find. I wasn't given a car by the team so I was hoping that there would be things to see and do nearby. Alas, I was sorely mistaken. I did get to enjoy the nice sunny day, although it was about 10-15 degrees outside. Thank you Ugg boots for keeping my feet warm! What I ended up deciding to do was walk down the main street that was near my hotel and see if I could find anything. I had asked the concierge at the hotel if they knew where I could go, but they didn't speak English. After about 45 minutes of walking I saw a familiar sign in the sky: McDonald's!
I could taste the freedom

After I enjoyed a Big Mac and coffee I decided it was time to turn around. Not because I couldn't find anything to do (there was a large cathedral another 5km down the road), but because I couldn't feel my face. The walk back wasn't nearly as long as the walk to McDonald's. I was able to amuse myself by playing the game of "find the sidewalk". It's where the sidewalk you're walking on suddenly disappears and you have to find or make another route without going into the street and risking certain death via passing motorists. Super fun!

On the way back I did spot something pretty cool, and if I was a skiier, which I'm not, I'd be really into it. Apparently cross country skiing is pretty big in Russia for obvious reasons and there was a very large oval shaped area where people of all ages were cross country skiing. Looked pretty fun.

After seeing this I was only a few minutes away from home and since I couldn't feel my face, it was probably time to call it a day. I ended up spending a good 3 hours walking around the city and I was able to get a good feel for what was around. Hopefully this will pay off when I get an apartment and have to start shopping for groceries and other items. All in all, I thought it was a pretty productive day in Yaro.

On to the next one...

kate + andy

Tuesday, February 15, 2011


It's Russia time! Andy had a very early flight this morning - 6:30 a.m. to be exact - requiring a less than desireable 4 a.m. wake up call. The excitement of the upcoming trip, coupled with the anxiety and eagerness to arrive and touch a ball, left both of us restless much of the night and afforded us very little sleep. Thankfully, we're pretty pro at these early morning flights (read: our lives last spring and summer) so getting up and at 'em wasn't TOO MUCH of a challenge.

It wasn't a happy moment, saying goodbye again, but this time I took a much different approach - rip the bandaid. This time I was far less lame - I did not stand in the airport clutching Harry W and crying as I watched Andy go through security. We arrived, we hugged, we kissed, we said we'd miss each other, promised to be good and enjoy the adventure, and said goodbye. Thank goodness it's only a few weeks until I join him. I keep telling myself it's just a quick trip and we'll be together before we know it.

Mr. Hein is currently enroute to Yaroslavl by way of NYC. I asked if he wouldn't mind stopping by the W on Lex during his layover in New York to help with Hidden Valley event prep...he politely declined. He's set to arrive in Russia around noon on Wednesday. They have an away match that evening and we're guessing he'll be swooped from the airport and taken directly to the gym. Whether or not he plays, it seems like they wanted him there ASAP.

And so the official adventure begins. Keep us in your thoughts and prayers in the coming weeks as we travel, experience a new culture, welcome the opportunity to play with a new team and begin our crazy life together.

On to the next one...

kate + andy

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

I can see Russia from my house!

No, we haven't become addicted to Sarah Palin's Alaska but we do have some exciting news to (officially) share...

Last December, Andy was faced with a tough decision  - should he stay or should he go now (cue The Clash)? The team he was playing for in Greece was struggling big time financially and ultimately Andy decided to take a leap of faith, come back to America and patiently wait for another contract.

It's been an emotional and long road, but we're pleased to announce that Andy has signed a new contract and soon will be heading off to...


For those of you who aren't fluent in this country's native language - aka everyone but Romo - we're going to RUSSIA! The town is called Yaroslavl and can be found 150 miles northeast of Moscow, situated on a lovely little river.

While this is a far cry from a team we thought we might be joining in Indo (80 degrees and sunshine everyday), we couldn't be more thrilled for this (chilly) adventure. Russia is an incredible country for volleyball and we're hoping the next few months prove beneficial from a development and competitive play standpoint.

The contract has been signed and we've received an official "invitation" letter from the Russian government - whew! With his visa application, passport photos (a la Glamour Shots) and invite in hand, Andy will head to the Russian consulate in the city tomorrow to obtain his work visa - woopie! Once we have the visa, the team will book his flight and off he goes. In the next few weeks, I'll be wrapping things up in San Francisco, traveling to Minnesota for some friend and family time, and then I'm off to Russia for a visit.

Personally, I'm looking most forward to updating my current (lack of) wardrobe with a few new pieces - an ushanka hat, a pair of Uggs (my last pair kept me cozy as I gallivanted around Italy and much of Europe for four months back in 2006 - they're due for retirement) and a cute new scarf or five. I'd be remiss if I didn't acknowledge the copious amounts of vodka that will be at my little American finger tips. Of course, exploring a new city and country with the love of my life ain't to shabby either...

And so I guess the saying is true - good things really do come to those who wait. A huge kudos to our families and friends for all the support, strength and love you've given us during this time of uncertainty.

On to the next one...

k + a