Wow, as always, it's been a long long time since I posted here.
I figured I should update at least twice before I head home so here is the first of (at least) two postings.
Before I start talking about Sochi, where I spent last week, I'd like to briefly mention what's been going on. Not too much really, life before we left for Sochi was business as usual with one large exception. Our friend and compatriot Matt, one of the best people I've ever had the pleasure of meeting, had his visa cancelled before we went to Sochi for doing nothing but being in the the wrong place at the wrong time. It is not my place to give all of the details, but suffice it to say all he was doing was asking questions for a very in depth and impressive term paper he was writing (in Russian). We all saw first hand just how fucked up Russia can be as we watched helplessly how the situation unfolded. As far as I know he's back in 'Bama right now, kicking it, but Sochi just wasn't the same without him. Hope all is well Dude.
Now for Sochi. Well after a 36 hour train ride, we arrived and walked to the hotel. Most of our time was spent sitting out on the balcony of our hotel room in the sun, drinking beers and talking. It rained several days wile we were there, but it was still fun to sit around and watch movies. We also went to a place called the 33 Waterfalls, the name of which kind of tells all. However, to get there, we all had to pile into the back of what appeared to be an old Soviet troop transport (kind of like a big pickup truck with a bed that could have been covered in some kind of cloth, but wasn't). This thing was massive. We drove up into the mountains, then back down into the river valley, and then...into the river. This monster truck just barrelled up this river basin, I swear to god the driver was aiming for the water when he could have been driving on shore. So we get up to the waterfalls and climb up these sketchy wooden planks to get up to the top. I'm not sure if there really were 33 of them, no one counted, but there were many, and they were all spectacular. At the top one, some of us stripped down to our skivvies and jumped in. It was COLD. Those of you who will see me in America will get to see the pictures, there are many.
The other highlite of Sochi was, "The Baltika Challenge." (I hope you're reading this Tom)
In Russia there is a brand of beer called Baltika. They produce a series of beers, each named only by a number (0-9). The numbers do not really correspond to one another in any logical way except that 0 is non-alcoholic and 9 is very alcoholic (around 8% I think). Everything in between is pretty much just different types of beer, though several of them are very similar, different only in alcohol content. So the challenge is quite simple: 0-9 in an evening. 5 liters of beer (Russian beer usually comes in .5L bottles). Well, didn't seem so bad at first. We've all had that much to drink before, I alone drank about 5 liters of Baltika 3 on the train ride to Sochi, no problem right? Wrong.
Something went horribly, horribly wrong.
Aparently mixing 10 different types of beer in your stomach is a bad idea. It only took about 4 of them before people started to lose it. There were 6 gladiators in the ring that night, only one finished, and it was not me. I quit half way through my number 9, so close, but unable to complete it (9 tastes like ass anyway). The Whitmer finished his and passed out. Kush would have finished but was cut off after puking out of a window. My memory is grainy, but I was sane through all of it. Some of us walked to McDonalds for a late night snack before tackling the 9. I think this helped me, but in the end prevented me from finishing.
The next morning our room was a disaster area. 60 bottles littered the floor. A garbage can stood full of...well...you know. One bed had taken a pretty nasty gastro-intestinal beating, it's sheets and pillows tossed out on the balcony to prevent the smell from causing more problems. The cleaning ladies stopped by in the morning, but were thankfully prevented from entering the room. Andy just passed bags and bags of bottles through a crack in the door, the maids aghast and mildly amused.
One day I will face this monster again, but I was beaten this time. Readers who are familiar with Russia take heed: the Baltika Challenge is not for the timid and faint of heart, you will face your worst demons and end up with a video on your camera of some asshole whipping his penis out.
On that note, I prepare to face what is essentially my last week of classes. I will have exams of some sort I think, but I'm not too worried. I'm looking forward to going home, but I will do everything I can to make this last week count.