Sunday, February 21, 2010


Bogota is a big and confusing place for me. From polluted air to lots of people on the streets. From buses with open doors that slow down for people who jump in and out of them, to the hotel bill, that was a confusing list of million numbers without a total!
Don't get me wrong, the people are nice and I am sure that there are things to see, culture wise. But I never got to see anything accept courts and hotel.
The whole week I felt like a fish out of the water and remembered why I have decided never to play in Bogota again after my 2000 trip there-high altitude! My heart kept beating like crazy and breathing was not an option.
After 2 days of practice it was obvious that to get a rhythm was almost impossible and playing points was uncomfortable. Although someone was going to win the tournament at the end. And someone did. But my result in singles there was nothing but bad.
We got into doubles with my Colombian friend Cata Castano, but we lost to the winners of the tournament. Oh well.....

But even though my route included hotel-club-hotel I still got to see few things that amazed and surprised me. Like a homeless man surrounded but 20 dogs, all of them on the leash and happy. Old horse carriages trying to squeeze between cars on a busy street. Poor horses looked so skinny and fragile.
Hail in the middle of a hot afternoon, then sun and then hail again. People selling beautiful flowers on the streets, that I was tempted to buy. And many nice restaurants. Maybe I just felt confused because I didn't get enough oxygen?

One of the days I decided to eat at the hotel. The food looked good and reasonably priced for a 5 star hotel. Plus the large selection of deserts sold the buffet right away.
Maybe it was to much desert or the tuna fish I tried, or the combination of both.....but I spent the whole night in the "Lu-Lu room". Needless to say, the next day I couldn't play and spent the day in bed watching movies in Spanish.
I tried to complain to the manager and was shocked to hear her say: " So what?!" So what!!! I am so Americanized now and so accustomed to the rule "customer is always right," that her answer was shocking! After that she said:"If this is it, I have things to do." She turned around and left.

I was happy to go home. (No offense to nice people of Bogota, but high altitude is not my thing.)
But before I got on the plane I had one more obstacle to overcome. Getting through a check in at the airport! The line was huge!!!! There were people everywhere, talking, yelling, asking you questions in Spanish. I was glad that Rosana De Los Rios and her mother were there, but even they were confused. We had to go to some office and get a tax free voucher. Then we found out we had to pay another tax, and they only accepted pesos. Then a girl at the counter checked in all of our bags together and was confused which one was which....Two hours later we finally checked in. And in the confusion of things were given an access to Admirals Lounge, "because you are flying first class"-the girl said. But we were not! More confusion, but at least this one ended with a huge advantage for us.

When home, seating at my favorite sushi restaurant, and looking back on the events of the day, I saw a cockroach running from my napkin to a sushi bar in front of me. I hate those things! When I was growing up, it felt like a huge family of cockroaches was growing with me. Our Moscow apartment was attacked every morning and night.
I called the manager, who was very apologetic. And I got a free dinner. I guess it makes up for the one in Bogota. In Russia we say:" What ever God takes, he always gives back."

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Palm Springs.

I can't believe how cheap it is to fly from Florida to California! 99 dollars for 5 hours flight! The rental car from Los Angeles to Palm Springs was $80! And that's only 2 hrs drive! Wow!

Palm Springs is a town very similar to Boca Raton. A big retirement community. The Palm Springs area hosts Indian Wells tennis tournament and many golf events. It also has lots of country clubs and spas. The winter weather can be cool and sunny. But don't try to be outside for to long during the summer months, it's very hot!!!

During Indian Wells tournament I always stay with a family I have known for 10 years now. Fred and Gail. They are very nice people who have opened their house to many other players beside me. And by doing that lots of players have saved lots of money on hotel and food.

I felt good when I got to the tournament. I thought I started playing better and my energy level was high. I won my first match but then run into "Korean wall." The girl didn't miss anything, doesn't matter if I was hitting the ball or not! Also the chair umpire didn't really help making bad calls and corrections countless amount of times.
We played for 3 hours, good fight, but I lost. It was a disappointing result for me. I knew I should win. I knew that I had to go to the net more and be more aggressive.....I knew all that and didn't do it, so for me it's very upsetting.

Tennis is a sport where you have to be very resilient and mentally strong. Everyone looses, but the secret to win the next one is to be able to bounce back, even after the worst loss ever. And you have to do it fast. So I am trying to stay positive, learn from my mistakes and move on. I have a lot of experience in my sport, but I can still make mistakes, I am human.

I had the whole day before my flight back home, so on my way from Palm Springs to LA I had time to stop at one of the best outlet stores I've ever been to! Where else can you buy a "Crate and Barrel" pendant lamp for $9.95!!!! Last time I looked at it online, the lamp was $129!
That got me in a great mood! The only problem was, how would a carry the huge lamp shade?

When I got to the airport I've decided to check in my tennis bag and make the pendant my carry on. I have to tell you, I got more stares and laughs then someone who forgot to put his pants on leaving the house! Even the flight attendants were pointing at me! OK, how do you explain to people that tennis players don't have that much time to shop. And when they do, it is usually on the road where the next tennis event takes us!
I must say the lamp was not the most bizarre thing I brought back home from a trip. There were curtains from Morocco, china dishes (which I carried in my computer bag) from England,
bed sheets from Italy and many, many, many things from China!

At the airport, standing in line at McDonald's and looking at not so healthy menu, I was thinking how limited my food choices were. The other two choices were: California Pizza Kitchen or some bar that sold mostly chicken wings.
And even though buying a beautiful pendant lamp at the outlets made feel a bit better, I still felt down.
I ordered my food and turned around. Suddenly I almost stepped on something. When I looked down I saw a pair of beautiful green eyes looking at me. I froze for a second, didn't know what to say.
In front of me was a young woman trapped in the girls body, her face was lit with a smile and her eyes were sparkling with joy. "Excuse me"-she said. I nodded, coming to my senses. The girl pushed her cart to the counter and I couldn't help but turn around to watch her.
She was probably 4 feet tall, her long blond hair was nicely tide in a ponytail and run all the way down to her waist. Her legs were skinny and long but her torso was small and crippled, the girl almost didn't have a neck.
"Number 521! Number 521!"-I heard my number being called.
I got my food and set down. "Why am I feeling depressed? God gave me everything I could ever wish for?"-I was thinking. "Look at this girl. She probably gets stares all the time. I can't even imagine how it was for her when she was a child...."
And there are many people like this. I guess when you feel depressed always compare yourself to those who are less fortunate. For me looking at this girl, who was smiling to everyone who looked at her, made me feel ashamed of being sad because of the tennis match I lost! So I took the last look at the girl and decided that life is to short to be sad! If people less fortunate then me find the way to be happy even in the worst situations, so can I, especially in such a small thing as loosing a tennis match.

Next stop- Bogota, Colombia!