Friday, January 24, 2014

Free Day, Free Thoughts

This past weekend was our last Saturday and Sunday to go exploring in and under the city of Moscow. I began my Sunday with an early morning. Around 8:00 AM, I rolled out of bed and decided to venture  outside of the protected university, ending up at the locally-run cafe.  Inside, I sat down next to an elderly man, who happened to be eating the same apple pastry as myself, though he didn't finish his. Once my breakfast and tea were nothing but crumbs and a soaked tea bag, I found myself walking through the streets around станцая Менделеевская.  On my way back, I discovered a small park across the road from the campus.  A man was feeding pigeons, despite the biting cold, as owners briskly walked their dogs.

I spent my lunch hour with Hannah (Ханна) at the outdoor souvenir marketplace that was off of станцая Партизанская, which was an absolute blast!  I was able to haggle a few prices on fur hats, matrioshka, and tablecloth for my parents. Hannah was also satisfied; she purchased a scarf (or two?) that she had been wanting to buy.  The market consisted of a lot of beautiful buildings and surely hundreds of stands. It was daunting to see so much for sale, especially when the sellers stood in front of their merchandise, trying to call attention to any and every passerby. On another note, it was incredible to see these vendors out in the freezing weather without any gloves on! My hands went numb after trying on hats for five minutes, so I can't imagine what they were feeling standing out there for hours.

After (only) an hour or so of souvenir shopping, I left to meet up with Lisa (Лиза) to go see a Moscow ЦСКА hockey game. I somehow managed to get myself to the correct metro stop, станцая Аэропорт, but once I walked outside, I was completely lost and had no idea how to get myself to the arena. Luckily, the girls I asked directions from were also going to the game, and they invited me to walk with them. They were extremely kind; they asked for my name, where I was from, and why I decided to visit Moscow in the middle of winter.

The day got even better once the game started. Our seats were, quite accidentally on our part, in the visitor section, which happened to be reserved for the Admirals of Владивосток (a city that borders the Pacific Ocean).  The atmosphere of the arena was nothing short of simple bliss and enjoyment; people dressed from head to toe in fan wear, drums played in the background, cheerleaders danced to American and Russian pop music between whistles, and chants of "ХОККЕЙ УРА!" echoed from one side of the rink to the other. It was impossible not to catch the contagious smile that spread across everyone's face.  Our section seemed to be especially animated; as aformentioned, a young man continuously banged on his drum while surrounding fans tailored their chants to his beat.  And twice during the game, a huge flag nearly stretched across the entire visiting section.

Владивосток ended up losing 2-1, though both teams fought it out till the end. Sitting in the visiting section definitely influenced my decision to cheer for their team rather than Moscow's, the team I initially went to root for. Even with the loss, the experience of going to a Russian hockey game was incredible; seeing such a large group of people come together to celebrate the sport of hockey was enough to leave me in a great mood for the rest of day.  Though, something odd occurred after the game ended. Those in the cheering section for the Moscow team (which was almost the entire arena) were let out to leave, but our section had to stay. In fact, a lot of security guards and policemen with their dogs bordered our section off until everyone else had left. It was such a strange experience. Lights were shut off, zambonis had retired, and the arena had been cleaned before we were allowed to leave. Thirty minutes passed until we finally were lead through the exit and out of the arena. Lisa and I were thinking that it was possibly a precaution taken to squelch the opportunity of fights breaking out between fans of the opposing teams. But that seemed unlikely. Who knows! The reasons behind this experience still baffle us.

All in all, this day was a memorable one.

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