Iceberg Skating Palace

Well, the press have arrived. You’ve no doubt seen the articles floating around such as this one about how Sochi isn’t yet ready for the Olympics. Honestly, that’s what I thought too my first few days here.

It’s easy to talk bad about a place that you don’t know, especially when you’re a reporter who has likely never traveled abroad before and has a hungry audience to feed.

I showed that Deadspin article to my Russian co-worker and immediately regretted it. She was so embarrassed to hear the stories. This was her country. Her country’s leaders told the people that Sochi was ready and they believed it. Seeing those articles came as a sad shock.

My impression of Russian people has evolved over the last few days. While at first they appear cold and detached–walking down the street or down the hall they don’t acknowledge your presence–once you crack their shell, they’re incredibly generous people.

Don’t get me wrong, there have been some hilarious pictures & stories floating around, most of which I absolutely believe are true. It just sucks to see the people over here get embarrassed and raked over the coals on the internet because of a situation they had no control over.

Meanwhile, when they ask me questions like “Why do so few Americans have passports?” I have no answer.

Can I also say that I’ve been here for nearly 10 days and I’ve yet to see Sochi proper? Sochi is the resort town 45 minutes north of here. Sochi is apparently well established and really nice. Olympic Park is in Adler, a town that I gather was almost nothing 8 years ago. Everything was built for these two weeks, to varying degrees of completion.

HomemadeVodkaHaving said that, I hope the journalists report soon about how quickly things are getting done. I’ve seen incredible change in just the past week I’ve been here. A perfect illustration of this is when Bryan, a co-worker, walked out of a train station on the mountain the other day, looked around & said “this entire parking lot didn’t exist when I left last night!”.

Even on our street…several days ago it was a dark walk home. One night we noticed light poles. The next night the whole road was well lit with brand new streetlights.

Horse SausageAnd to answer those who have asked about our accomodations, after reading some of those horror stories, I realize we have it very good in our hotel. My co-worker Owen covered it pretty well on his blog. We have hot water, clean sheets, shower curtains, pillows, mini fridges, and even wifi.

The owner is a super nice Greek man who has lived here for 16 years. I think, anyway. Translations can be spotty. One night, after dinner with some Panasonic guys, we were hanging out in the hallway and he motioned for us to come to his room. We thought we were being punished for being too loud, but before we knew it he was serving us homemade vodka.

We spent the next several hours, 5 of us–3 Americans, a Greek, and a Russian–communicating about work and family via gestures, and Google Translate having a grand old time.

And that’s how in one 6 hour period, I ate Sicilian pizza drinking Japanese beer with Brits at an Italian place in Russia. Then, we got invited to our landlord’s room where we drank 5 bottles of his homemade grape vodka while eating sausage that we later learned to be horse. Meanwhile, a random fire burned outside our window in the street.

This is Russia and I’m growing to absolutely love it.

Bo is currently based in Orange Beach, Alabama working towards checking #31 off his bucket list. If you’d like to be a part of the adventure, consider sponsoring a mile. To get more info on the curriculum, sign up here.