Editor's note: Adrienne McCray, a 16-year-old track athlete at NorthCounty High School, recently returned from a 10-day trip sponsored by Pangaea Inc. to compete in the Soviet Union. McCray, The Anne Arundel County Sun's Female Track Athlete of the Year, kept a daily diary,which details her experiences on her first trip outside the United States. This is the first of four parts.
The first day that we, the Pangaea Team, spent in Russia was an experience all by itself. As soon as we got off the plane, we began to feel like foreigners.
The Soviet Union has very few blacks, so many heads turned as we walked together through the airport.When we stepped outside of the terminal, a bus was waiting for us. Also, there were many people waiting with flowers. The first thing that we noticed when we stepped outside was it wasn't cold, as we were told to expect. In fact, it was about 80 degrees.
On the bus, they told us that we would then be going to the Hotel Olympian for breakfast and to drop our things off so that we could tour Moscow. When we arrived at the hotel, it looked nice on the outside. We unloaded all of our things and went inside to find that we had to go up two flightsof steps before we got to the elevator. The elevators were about one-third the size of our hotel elevators.
Next, we went into the rooms and we all just stood there in amazement. The rooms looked more like college dorms. The rooms themselves were very small. They had small single beds and everything was wood. The bathrooms were the real turn-off. The toilets were small with hard wood seats. The tub was likea big sink with a shower head that you had to hold up, and it had noshower curtain.
Then we went to breakfast. For breakfast we were given coffee. The thing about their coffee and their tea is they leave grounds in the bottom of the cup. One girl tried to drink the coffee and made an ugly face, so nobody else tried it. We went without breakfast.
Next, our Soviet guide took us on a tour. First, we went to the TV tower and listened to a speech about the tower in Russian. Our interpreter was very hard to understand so we all ended up laughing at the end. Then, they took us to the top of the TV tower for lunch.
On the way, we got a lot of attention from the people around us.One woman ran up to us, jumped out in front of us, screamed and wentaway laughing. In another incident, one boy from our team who wears his pants down below his waist line was walking along. A Russian woman walked up behind him and pulled his pants up because she thought that they were falling off.
Only the rich can afford to have lunch in the TV tower. From the tables in the tower you can look out over the whole city of Moscow. Also, while you sit there, the building is slowly revolving so you can see all around the city. By lunch time, we were pretty hungry. When they brought us each a plate of caviar our mouths just dropped.
They brought out a plate of almost scrambled eggs with sour cream and chicken mixed in. Then they brought us apple juice with ice cubes. We couldn't drink the juice because of the ice cubes. Water in Russia has bacteria that Americans aren't used to andthat could make us sick.
This was the first time we got to use our Russian-English dictionaries to try to ask the waiters to bring us something American. Finally, the last thing that they brought out wasa bowl of ice cream, which tasted different. Later, I found out thatit had been made with goat's milk. We didn't eat lunch.
Next, theguides took us to the Kremlin and into a museum that displayed the belongings to kings and queens in the past. It was very interesting. Afterward, we headed home.
On the way they stopped the bus and toldthe American adults to get off and leave us with the Soviets who would take us back to the hotel for dinner. When we got back to the hotel, we found that we missed dinner. All that was left to eat were coldpancakes with butter and hard-boiled eggs that were blue on the inside. We didn't eat.
We all went back to our rooms and got ready forbed; and, to my surprise, ants had already claimed my bed so I didn't sleep that night. Instead, most of the group gathered together in one room where we spent the night talking. We got to know each other better. The whole night I was waiting for our chaperones to tell us that the whole thing was just a joke and take us somewhere else.
Today, we got up and everyone was super hungry and thirsty because the Russians hadn't gotten our bottled water yet. We all went downstairs for breakfast early to make sure we didn't miss it. When we got our plates everyone's noses once again turned up at what wesaw. They gave us noodles and some type of meat that I had never seen in my life.
They gave us some hot tea. The noodles were all right even though they were a little dry, but the tea hit the spot a little bit even though it was almost 80 degrees outside.
After breakfast, our coaches had a meeting with us and told us that we were actingvery selfishly and arrogant toward the Russians and that they were trying to give us their best. I began to feel a little guilty, and at the same time I began to feel a little upset because the night beforethe Russians had taken our coaches to dinner with them.
After lunch, we put all of our things on the bus and got ready to go on another tour bus. Things were looking pretty bad at this time for us. People on the team were auctioning off food and drinks. A boy and a girl paid $6 so that they could share a can of Pepsi. We then left for our tour. On the way, they finally got us bottled carbonated water. I wasso thirsty, but no matter how hard I tried, I could not drink the water.
They took us to this square where we saw Lenin's tomb. It wasvery tightly secured. They made everyone walk in a single file and wouldn't allow anyone with a camera to enter. If they suspected that you had a camera, they checked your purse to make sure. They also wouldn't let anyone in that had on shorts; so our group got split.
Inside the tomb, guards were spaced about every five steps. It was very cold and very dark. At first, Lenin's body looked like it wasn't real. Next, we walked around the square and went to find the rest of the group.
One place that we saw was a fountain that had flowers around it, and everyone who got married would go there the day before in their gowns and tuxedos and put flowers down in front of the fountain.
We found the rest of the group, and we went to see one of their sports schools. When we walked in we saw a picture of Sugar Ray Leonard. The Russians then found out that his son was with us. They were very happy to meet him and they gave him a copy of the picture and other pictures of boxers. There, they gave us some gifts and our lunch that we all just looked at again.
Our next stop was in Klin to meet our host families. On the way there almost everyone got in some sleep. When we got to Klin we met with the families in a recreation center. Everyone was petrified that we would be split apart and would have to be by ourselves with a family.
As it turned out, I was with a family by myself. The family that I was with had one daughter who could speak a little bit of English. The rest would talk to me and all I could do was shrug my shoulders and smile. They took me home and gaveme dinner. It was mashed potatoes with chicken mixed with some type of vegetable. I didn't care what it was because it was good. Then, they gave me juices to drink.
I was so happy to finally get a good meal. Their home wasn't very pretty but it was clean. I would guess that they were of the middle class. They lived in an apartment complex.Most of what I have seen of Russia so far has been apartment complexes. After dinner we went to a dance that they gave for us at the recreation center. For a little while we were having fun doing Russian dances but then it got a little boring so we went home.
By this time, I was so tired all I wanted to do was go to bed. The family let me take a shower, and I say let me take one because they don't take baths as often as we do. After that they wanted to stay up and talk but Ilooked up the Russian word for sleep and they let me go to sleep. Assoon as the lights were out and my head hit the pillow, I was asleep.
This morning I was awakened from a good sleep bya Russian woman talking to me in Russian. I didn't know where I was at first.
When I got up, they let me take another bath and then fed me breakfast. They had pancakes and instead of syrup, they put thisrunny jelly on the top. It was good. At first I started to cut my pancakes up. I looked up for a second and everyone was looking at me with smiles on their faces. One of the girls then took a pancake, spread the jelly on top and rolled it up like a burrito. I just said, "OK," and did it.
After breakfast we went to the school where we met with everyone to tour the home of Tchaikovsky, the famous classical music composer. In the house we had to put special footies over our feet so we wouldn't bring in dirt. Then they let us sign our names in a book that they keep in one of the rooms.
After the tour, we listened to some of his music and then went back to the recreation center for track practice. Before practice, many Russian kids gathered aroundus so we gave them many of our gifts.
We practiced on one of their indoor tracks. Their equipment was very different from what we have. The most shocking thing that I saw were the 2-feet-tall hurdles that were for the little children. Although we didn't practice much, it was hard because we hadn't worked out in a while. After practice we went back to the families. My family let me take another bath before we had to leave for Moscow to catch a train.
On the way, we went sightseeing and we saw the Moscow college, which is huge. After that they took us to McDonald's for dinner. Everyone was happy. When we got there, the line was out of the door, down the street one block and around a corner. We didn't care, though, we were going to wait in line no matter how long it was.
When we got inside, people were workingat every register and there wasn't a line anymore. Everyone was justpushing to the front. I ordered two cheeseburgers, two fries and twoCokes. The price was about 30 rubles. Considering that 27 rubles equals a dollar, it was a lot cheaper than in the United States.
Next, we went to the train station. When we arrived the train was alreadywaiting and we didn't have much time to get on. The train station had a lot of steps to climb to get to the train. We really had to all work together to get all of the luggage on the train. It was a very stressful situation. Finally, we got on the train and got all of our luggage in the rooms.
Everyone got back into our little groups and began telling stories about the families and other things that happened over the last few days. We knew that we had a 27-hour train ride ahead of us with no shower, a smelly bathroom and, at the time, I thought that we didn't have any water because I didn't know how to turn iton.
However, we all decided that we were going to try to make thebest of it. At midnight, our coaches told us to go to bed. By this point we were getting tired of being told what to do at a minute's notice so nobody went to sleep. We stayed up talking to each other.