Sunday, March 27, 2011


Today being the last day Kate and I are together in Yaro, we finally decided to take the plunge and adventure into the city center to see some sights. We're currently living about 10 km outside the city in some sort of suburb area, so accessing the city was not an option as we have no mode of transportation outside our feet. The day started out strong when we were able to find a cab literally right outside our front door. I was able to practice my broken English by asking our cab driver to take us to the Sih-tee? and then Sen-ter? He gave us a head nod and that meant we were in business. Now, Russian cabbies, as we know, are a little weird and our guy was no exception. After some weird conversation in Russian with our responses only being Da or Okay, we noticed two large beverages wedged in between the front seats. Don't worry they were only beer, not vodka. 

Kate has great perving skills
After the cabbie dropped us off, we started our adventure of exploring downtown Yaro. Yaroslavl recently celebrated it's 1000 year anniversary which means that this city has had a 1000 years to get a little weird. The downtown area contains a few main attractions:

1. Churches
When we were dropped off, we found ourselves surrounded by churches. We're not exactly sure what these churches are called or what their deals are, but we knew they looked pretty cool. The area we were in seemed like a large campus (maybe a convent or monastery) and contained a few very large cathedrals. Since it's Sunday, there were plenty of people around going in and out of each church, but since Kate and I were wearing jeans (appropriate in many US churches) we didn't feel like we were dressed appropriately for traditional Russian Orthodox services. Here are a few pictures highlighting the churches we saw.

Awkward yes, but an impressive church
She doesn't fit in here
I don't know who these women were, but they are probably important
Lock your love
 2. War Memorials
Since Yaro is such an old city, they've probably experienced their fair share of armed conflicts. We found a few war memorials commemorating soldiers that died in battle. Some were very impressive to see and could definitely be featured in Washington DC. Although neither of us could tell exactly what we were looking at, we knew that one definitely had something to do with World War II. It seemed like the memorial in DC regarding the "Tomb of the Unknown Soldier" with an everlasting flame burning between two sculptures. 

Pretty solemn
She is small...compared to this monument
This might have angered some Russians
3. Freezing cold weather
Although it's about to be April in most of the world, in Yaroslavl it's decided to stay February for at least a few more days. We were still able to see a few sites outside of the churches but our trip was definitely cut short because of the weather. Luckily we found a nice cafe in the middle of the city to take a break from the elements and drink some warm beverages. The warmth didn't last very long so we decided to call it a day after a couple of hours and head back home. We wished that we could have stayed a little bit longer, but after a while it became pretty tough to walk around the city. We saw some pretty great sites and took some pictures and we can finally say that we've experienced Yaroslavl (or at least most of it).

We think this bear was important...only because other people took pictures in front of it
Hot Chocolate. Yummmmmm
The main street running through downtown.
It was an appropriate ending to Kate's stay here in Russia and I think we saved the most full day for last. She's leaving tomorrow via car to Moscow at 7am and her flight leaves at 1pm for America. I will miss her presence in the apartment for the next 8 or 9 days, but I know that I'm going to be seeing her very soon in warm California. 

on to the next one...

k + a

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Going Loko and Kate's Kidnapping

Go Loko!
 Last night we had the pleasure of attending the first game of the 2011 KHL (Russian Hockey League) Finals between Lokomotiv Yaroslavl and some dumb team from Moscow (Atlant was their name). The team manager pulled through and scored us some "just okay" tickets - the last ones available for the sold out game. We entered the arena, bought popcorn (score!) and made our way to the seats. Section 15, Row 1, Seats 110-112. "Hmmm..." we thought, "First row doesn't sound too bad. Maybe we're on the upper deck or something." Wrong. We were on the glass and right next to the opposing team's bench. Again, just okay.

Not too shabby
 The game was a rough go for the home team. Within the first few minutes, the opponents had scored 3 goals and Loko had failed (over and over) to perform, despite several power plays. After the first period, we headed up to the concourse and scored some sweet (NOT!) beer from the concession stand. Much to Andy's stomach's dismay, we passed on the cheese filled pastries that were being heated, reheated and rereheated in a dirty microwave. We were surprised to learn that in Russia, they do not permit beverages in the arena itself. They have several high top tables and TVs throughout the concourse where you can enjoy your delightful beverage in the company of your fellow Russian comrades. Without realizing it, we found ourselves in the scene of BY FAR the weirdest and most amazing situation that's happen to us since we've been here.

Bojan, our resident Russian translator, struck up a conversation with two Russian men - one could have easily been AC Slater's older brother and the other was a big, huge, bald, drunk local man dining on salted fish and bread. Cue the kidnapping...

Kate needed to use the WC but had little luck identifying a gender appropriate one in our vicinity. After a bit of internal struggle, Kate had ultimately decided to suck it up until we got home. Without a moments notice, BHBDL had grabbed Kate by the arm and dragged her over to a woman. We can only imagine he was asking her where the nearest bathroom might be. After some conversing and pointing, Kate was again on her way with BHBDL. Bojan and Andy watched as Kate vanished into the crowd of Russian spectators.

After a bit of walking and searching, BHBDL stopped, checked out the nearest (men's) bathroom to see if anyone was in there, then shielded her eyes and escorted into a bathroom stall. He stood guard to ensure no men entered the facility, allowing Kate to pee in peace before gratefully delivering her back to our table. It was a bit alarming and surprising, but ultimately one of the funniest, most awkward (standard Kate Diers) and entertaining thing either one of us had encountered in quite some time.

KD = amazing sports photographer
Cute 3x
The game ended in a 6-1 loss for the home team, which apparently isn't surprising for Loko since they normally play better on the road. What a blessing and unique experience to take in one our favorite sports together and in a foreign country. It was a little taste of familiarity and pulled at the homesick heart strings just a bit. Perhaps we'll be back for more tomorrow in the second game of playoff series...

On to the next one...

k + a

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Wordless Wednesday

It's the Final Countdown (doo doo doo doo, dododo doo doo)

Last evening, Team Jaroslavich played their final regular season match. It was a must win to get the team into playoffs and ease the qualms of the management staff. On Monday morning, we learned that the team Loco Belgorod wasn't at all interested in moving up in the standings (they were in 6th, Yaro in 7th) and that they'd only brought one of their starters. The rest of their travelers appeared to be the "B Team", a motley crew of awkward 16 year old looking boys and the shortest libero I've ever seen. I didn't like them from the get go. Their jerseys were green and red (Christmas colors are not tolerated outside of the holiday season) and none of them wore compression shorts, affording me the wonderful (not) opportunity to see lots of tush during their warm up and stretching. I will admit, however, that perhaps I'm just harboring bitter feelings toward the opponent and am ultimately jealous because their team is sponsored by PIO, the local mall. 

The shortest libero with the biggest butt ever and the rest of the "weiner" team.

This little weiner team was no match for Jaroslavich. It was quite funny, actually, to see the teams warming up together on the court. Andy's team is tall, big and strong. Loco was shorter (still tall), lean and looked like a bunch of highschoolers. The first two sets were no problem for the home team but over confidence gave set three to the opponents (it was a courtesy win in my opinion). Yaro battled back and took set four no problem - victory! We're happy to report crazy coach gave Andy some good playing time in the third set - it was so fun to watch him play and block the crap out of these little kiddies.

Green team getting owned.
A few non-volleyball related highlights from a spectator's point of view below. I've quite enjoyed the people watching at these matches - I'll definitely miss their weird outfits, awkward stares and "insults."

Outfit Fail of Life
The "cheerleaders" dancing to some Euro song - the only words in the entire song are SEX, SEX, SEX, SEX. They also look like they are 12.
Post match, we headed to the center of town with our bestie and Andy's teammate, Bojan Janic, the celebrity. We enjoyed a wonderful dinner or salad, soup, sushi and steak. We're very blessed and thankful to have found friendship in an English-speaking Serbian who is not only a blast to hang out with, but speaks enough Russia to get us by. We met his wife, Nada, last week when she was in town visiting. We knew she was an actress but didn't know to what extent. Last night we learned just how famous our foreign friends are. Apparently, their wedding news and pictures were all over the tabloids in Serbia last Spring - pretty crazy!

Bojan and Andy post match. Note candy bar in Andy's left hand. I promised B (a chocolate FANATIC) I'd gift him with a chocolate bar if they pulled out a win - it worked!
We're departing shortly for an afternoon with Bojan (or Booyah, as I call him). Our adventure will begin at McDonald's and then we'll trek into the center to tour around a bit. This evening, we're hoping to head to the arena and take in some Russian hockey. The local team, Locomotiv is playing in the finals of what seems to be the Stanley Cup of Russia. As avid hockey fans, we're both interested and excited to see what it's like. Fingers crossed Andy's manager is able get tickets!

On the the next one...

k + a

Monday, March 21, 2011

A day in the life...

For those of you wondering "What exactly do Kate and Andy have the joy of experiencing in wonderful and majestic Yaroslavl?"...wonder no more. Take a sneak peek into our fabulous life with some super sweet footage of a daily adventure -  going to the gym! This motion picture brilliance stars none other than your favorite Russian Flip video stars, Katia and Androslavl. We're confident this inaugural video help us to quickly climb up the "internet sensation" ladder. Biebs, watch yo'self.

Disclaimer: This is Kate's directorial debut so please pardon the slightly shaky film capturing.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Volleyball Update

We're currently in the middle of a 3 match home stretch here in Yaroslavl. So far we've played 2 of the matches and have one more to go on Tuesday which will signal the end of the regular season in the Russian Superleague.

Our first match was against the team from Kaliningrad Dinamo-Yantar. This is a very young team (I think one of their backup middles was about 16 years old) and they've been at the bottom of the standings for the majority of the year. But the thing about the Russian league is that anyone can beat each other on any night. So we weren't taking these guys lightly. The match started out really strong for us when we won the first set with ease 25-14. There were a couple of long serving runs by our team and the young guys from Kal. couldn't really handle it. 

In the second and third sets it was pretty much the same, but Kal. kept the match a little closer and we only won 25-21, 25-21 in both sets. All in all, it was a good and much needed victory for us. We'd lost our last two matches against very important opponents so putting together a quality victory over a lesser important helped our confidence a little bit. It also solidified our spot in the standings a little bit. We were now 3 points (a 3-0 or 3-1 victory) above the 8th place team from Surgut. 
Victory over Kaliningrad!
 Our next match was against a quality opponent in Dinamo-Moscow. The feel of this match was much different as soon as we walked in the gym to start warming up. When we played Kaliningrad, our small stadium was maybe 80% full and there really wasn't a very lively crowd. When we walked into the gym last night, our place was packed (standing room only) and Dinamo had brought a legion of fans with them to cheer them on. Already a huge difference in atmosphere, so you knew this was an important match. The mood in the locker room was still a little tense before the match though. We knew that if we were unable to secure any type of victory in this match, our playoff hopes would end up coming down to our last match of the season, so we really wanted and needed a win. But we knew that Dinamo was no push over. They're currently in the Final Four of Champions League this year. 

The first set was a very sloppy set from our side. Although we were siding out well and converting some important points, we were shooting ourselves in the foot with all the serves we were missing. By the end of the set we had missed 8 serves and that was the biggest difference when you only lose 21-25. We needed a change if we were going to make this a match. 

From what I've seen from this team this year is that we're not really the fighting type. We've played a couple of important matches and when we've been down, we've basically been out of the fight. I'm not sure if it's because it's Dinamo-Moscow or that we realized how important this match was, but we came back in the second set with a lot of commitment to winning. It was a back and forth type set and both teams were siding out at very good rates. If one team would score a point off their serve, the other would match that almost immediately. There were a couple of pretty shady calls from the refs (on our home court nonetheless) that handicapped us a bit, but we were able to overcome those obstacles and win a barn-burner 29-27.

Our momentum from that set carried us into the 3rd set. We took control of the game and we were able to win with ease 25-19. This set us up for the clincher in the fourth set which would mean 3 points and guarantee to be in the playoffs this year. At the start of the set, the mood was already different in the gym from the last two sets. Dinamo made a couple of substitutions that would end up proving extremely valuable. They subbed out their opposite (who wasn't doing anything) and one of their outside hitters. Both of these players were able to bring some energy to this team and it paid off big time for them in this set. For the most part the 4th set was another back and forth kind of dual where neither team was able to take control of the set until very late. At about 20 points a piece we had the opportunity to go up for the first time in the set, but after a bang-bang play, we were again foiled by the referees and went down by 2 points. This proved the clincher for that set because we ended up losing 25-22.

So this match ended up turning into a crowd pleaser by going the distance. It had been a battle and both teams would be getting some points in the standings no matter what, but no one was sure if we'd be getting more for the win or not. The 5th set didn't start so great for our team. We were down 7-4 early and it was a margin that is very hard to make up when you're only playing to 15 points. We were definitely fighting and had some good opportunities to take a few points away from Dinamo, but we ended up (much like the first set) shooting ourselves with our serving errors. Our best servers couldn't put any strings of quality serves on Dinamo and before I knew it, we'd lost the set 15-12 and the match. 

Right now we're still in 7th place in the league but there are two team tied for 8th place at only 3 points behind us.

The standings look like this:
7. Jaroslavich Yaroslavl  28pts
8. Dinamo-KP 25 points
8. Gasprom Surgut 25 points
10. Ural 23 points

Good thing for us...Ural plays Dinamo KP in the final match of the season and Surgut plays the second place team in the league. Our destiny is basically in our hands against Locomotive Belgorod (the 6th place team), but I'm thinking if we play like we did against Dinamo, we should pull out a win. 

on to the next one...

k + a

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Weird-o-slavl: A Week In Review

As my first week here in Yaroslavl comes to an end, I thought I'd share an uber exciting (exaggeration) update.

The flights here were uneventful. I crashed out hard on the trip from San Francisco to New York and after a quick layover in the grossest terminal in all of JFK, I was en route to Moscow. We had some serious tailwinds on our side and the jump to Russia was a quick 8 hours - wonderful. I stayed awake long enough to catch most of The King's Speech and snack on some (gag) airplane food before falling into an ambien-induced slumber. The remainder of my time was spent catching up on the lastest dramz of Serena, Lonely Boy and Mr. Chuck. Icing on the cake - I managed to score exit rows for both flights. Overall, a pretty easy traveling day for me with one exception: the reigning "World Cup Arm Wrestling Champion" (or something) was sitting in front of me on the flight to Moscow. I'm not exactly sure what kind of supplements, vitamins or weird food he had going on in row 20 but whatever it was, he was definitely making it work. I would not recommend spending 8 hours of your day sitting in someone else's fart if you can help it. 

This isn't the guy, but it easily could be...

I emerged from baggage claim to find a cute little Russian man holding a sign that said Kate Diers. He toted my bags to the curb and held up his hand as if to indicate he'd be back with the car in 5 minutes. 20 minutes later, I found myself still standing on the curb, looking lost and attempting at all costs to avoid making eye contact with anyone who might try to speak to me in Russian. At long last, my Kia chariot had arrived and it was off to Yaroslavl. By chance, Andy was walking out of his apartment when we pulled up a short 3 hours later (it's been known to take much longer to travel from the airport to Yaro).

And so, here we are. I'm writing from my "nook" - a little window seat in the kitchen - and here is my beautiful view. I love this little place because it's sunny and that makes me happy. A little vitamin D goes a long way when most of your days are gray and cold.

A nook with a view...
The week has been uneventful yet simple (I won't complain). I've watched a handful of Andy's volley practices, read a few books, wandered the market aisles aimlessly looking for anything that might resemble mustard, diced tomatoes or table salt and most recently had the pleasure of celebrating Andy's teammate's birthday at an authentic Russian restaurant in the center of the town. We've enjoyed cooking together (a few images of our creations below), catching up on American TV shows, attempting to "shop" at the "mall", and trying to kick jetlag's butt.

Impressive produce section at the "good" market.
Loving our veggies (and beer)!
Traditional Russian fare - potato/cheese pierogies with sour cream and green onions.
Andy has the day off and we're heading out shortly for an "adventure." It's sure to be a thriller.

on to the next one...

k + a

Monday, March 7, 2011

First away match

Yesterday I returned from my first away match experience in Russia. Our team traveled to Surgut, which is about a 3 hour flight east, northeast from Moscow which equates to roughly 1300 miles. It was a long day getting there because the Moscow has the nearest airport to Yaroslavl and that's about a 5 hour drive. We arrived in Surgut at 1am on Friday morning with our match being on Saturday evening @ 6pm. On Friday we didn't have practice until 6pm, so I decided I wouldn't just sit around all day in our medium hotel room. Obviously I'm not familiar with this city at all, but assumed that there would be something to see within a 30 minute walking distance....yeah, not so much. I walked for about 45 minutes, trying to find anything that struck my eye as interesting and nothing happened. I decided it would be best to turn around because a) I couldn't feel my face any more, and b) I wasn't making any progress.

Looking out of our hotel...pretty bleak
 Practice went well that evening and it seemed like we were ready to play our match the following night at 100%. Right now there is a lot of stress on our team to perform because there isn't much separating us as the 7th place team and the 10th place team (only the top 8 make it to playoffs). This team was in 10th place and we just needed to win for our standing and our confidence. Well, it didn't work out that way. We ended up losing in 3 sets and we were only competitive in the 2nd set which went 28-26. It had to be one of the sloppiest and half-hearted efforts I've seen in a long while. I was really embarrassed to be on my team and it wasn't a great feeling in that locker room afterward.

Practice at the gym that night...they had a really nice gym
Although I didn't play, I'm still very determined to keep training at the highest level possible because I know if I don't, I'd be cheating myself and my teammates. I want to continue to get as much out of this experience in Russia as I can. So we'll see what happens on the 16th when we play at home against the last place team...I'm praying for a victory!
Walking with the team into the arena...gotta win on the 16th!

On to the next one...

k + a

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Kate's turn!

The time has finally come and in just a few short hours, I'll be boarding a plane to Moscow via JFK. I'm not exactly sure what to expect in Russia but I'm looking very forward to it - I'm thinking house shoes and sweatpants, lots of H2H chats, snuggling up with a few good books and a shot (or fifteen) of Russian vodka.

I hope I don't come home looking and/or feeling like this...

My biggest fear (aside from being kidnapped by Communists or attacked by a bear on a chain in Moscow - thanks for that, Tash), is what on earth will I eat? Andy, affectionately known by some as a human garbage disposal, has had a tough time adjusting to Russian fare. Woe is vegetarian me. I've planned ahead a bit and packed some "essentials" including dried fruit, granola bars, almonds, mac & cheese (kraft, duh) and chocolate chip cookie mix. Rumor has it they have avocados and eggs - hooray!

Do you think the locals will judge my pink uggs and fuschia Ray Bans? I'm not convinced they're so much into colors, let alone "happy" ones. Thoughts and prayers for safe and stress-free (a girl can dream) travel are much appreciated. So long America!

On to the next one...

k + a