Monday, April 18, 2011

Fed Cup.

Here I go again! Back on the road! But this time around as a coach.
It's kind of strange to be at a tournament and have to apply for a coach's badge. Signing lots of forms, that I used to make fun of when I was a player. Not to be able to use the trainers or be in the locker room. But rules are rules! And I have to adjust to them, doesn't matter how strange it feels.

My flight to Bangkok, Thailand is about 30 hrs long. What do you do on such a long flight? Watch movies and sleep (if you can). In my case its more movies than sleep. I am stuck in the middle between two guys. Thank God I am small and can fit anywhere! So while both of my "short term neighbours" are snoring, I attach myself to a TV in front of me. Six movies is my record as of right now. And honestly, I don't know if I want to beat that record!

Finally, when I get to Bangkok, all I want is a bed and a pillow. Its a middle of the night in Thailand.
While checking in, I look around the lobby that looks awfully familiar. And only in the morning when I open my curtains I understand, this is the hotel where I stayed during a WTA event in 2007. I instantly remember the trip from hell, getting to that tournament.
My flight was delayed for a day due to a typhoon. The airline didn't provide a hotel, but was kind enough to give us sleeping bags and a box of dry food. I felt like a dog, sleeping on the floor and eating out of a box. Thank God I was not alone in this situation. Looking around the terminal, I could see hundreds of people lying on the floor in their blue sleeping bags.
I shook off a bad memory, got dressed and went down to breakfast.

"Now we are talking!"-I said to myself seeing a huge selection of food. Just what I need after plane food!
I joined the table with "Team Kazakhstan"sign on it. I think I was the first one at the table! But was quickly joined by some Chinese people, who obviously couldn't read English. They stuck their faces in a noodle soup and didn't pay any attention to the surroundings.

After breakfast I met up with Galina and we took a taxi to the club. And that's when speaking Thai would come in handy! The address of the club was written in English and the driver spoke none. So we jumped and swung our arms, showed him our tennis bags, trying to explain to him that we are going to the tennis club. Finally, after 3 stops we found someone who understood us and gave us directions.
The taxi driver dropped us off in the middle of the monastery. He obviously had enough of our company and left very quickly.
We looked around and saw no courts. The only live souls we saw, were stray cats. After walking around in circles we finally found a tennis facility. It was all the way in the back of the monastery. And the problem was, we had to climb the wall to get to it!
I found a broken down chair. Dragged it to the wall and threw my leg up. At that point I wished to be taller. Thanks to Galina's push I managed to get over.
After such a glamorous entrance we heard laughing from up above. We looked up and saw a small group of monks seating on the balcony. They had a live show while eating lunch!

I have never been to a Fed Cup as a pro. Only as a junior. In Russia, to play Fed Cup or Olympics you have to be in the top 20 or a good junior to be even considered. That's why I was looking forward to this experience.
As the girls were getting ready for an open ceremony, I got myself a nice spot and was ready to take pictures.
Team after team came out on stadium and took their stance. Until baselines on both sides were full. It was a nice view. A bit heroic to represent and play for your country.

When the schedule came out, Galina's team had a tough first round-Japan! It was decided that Galina will not play singles
but only doubles. And her partner would be Zarina Diyaz.

On the day of the first round everyone in a team was a bit tense. From players to representatives. This round was important! But the situation in Japanese team was even more tense. In fact, so tense that their number two player had cramps and couldn't finish the match. And their number one player looked so tight that it was painful to watch.

But that day, the Japanese team prevailed. Beating team Kazakhstan in the deciding doubles 64 64.
After the matches were completed, Japanese captain has gathered his team in a circle. None of us spoke Japanese, but from just hearing him scream, we understood that he said nothing good!

That day, a couple of more girls couldn't finish their matches due to cramps. I guess it's not easy to play for your country!

Throughout the Fed Cup Galina's form wasn't impressive. She struggled with finding a court and her game in general. And even though I was very positive and encouraging with her. I was a bit scared about the next tournament. I knew we had to do some mental work before Pattaya.
Galina even played a singles match in Fed Cup. The score was not important anymore, so I thought it would be a good idea if she played.
It was a long and painful match. Full of ups and downs and almost a broken racket. Kazakhstan played against Thailand. The temperature was in high 30's. But that didn't prevent many people from coming out to support their team. And most annoying was a group of 3 men with instruments. After each point they would play their instruments and yell. Later I was told that these men go to many tournaments to support Thai players.

Before leaving for Pattaya, we decide to go look at the Royal Palace. Getting there was easy but getting out... But first things first!
When we got off the taxi, right away we were approached by a guy who spoke good English. He explained to us that the Palace was closed for prayers for Thai people. And will re-open in 2 hrs. So while we are waiting why not to take a Tuk-Tuk taxi, that will take us site seeing. It only costs 3 dollars and like this we will not loose time and get to see other things.
We thought it was a good idea. 3 dollars and see other things. (For those of you who will get in the same situation, stop! Its a tourist trap! The Palace doesn't close for Thai people! Its always open during the day! So just continue walking to the main entrance and don't pay attention to anyone who tells you otherwise!)
Anyway, we get on the Tuk-Tuk. We drive through a crazy traffic in this small half-bike half-motorcycle with no safety belts or anything safety even written on it. The driver drives us to a standing Buddha. (which was not so nice). Then, we deiced to cut our tour short and get back to the palace. But the driver refuses to take us! He shows me a paper, translated in Russian. It says:" Please go with me to the next stop-Jewelry factory. I have to take you there, because I get a free gas coupon" I read it to Galina and we tell the guy we give him money for gas. He asks for $500!!!!! We give him $5 and tell him to take us back. He shows us a finger and with perfect "F" word leaves us at the standing Buddha. How about that holly behavior?

OK. It took us a while to find a new taxi. And when we got back to the palace, I had a desire to find the guy who tricked us into this Tuk-Tuk thing. But he was long gone. Probably knowing that many people would like to beat him up!

Finally we got to the Palace. I was the only one who was aloud to come in wearing the dress. But was asked to cover my shoulders. And everyone else had to rent long sleeves, pants and long skirts. I felt sorry for all the people who had to wear long skirts and pants-it was 40C outside!

In the certain areas of the palace, we were asked to take off our shoes. I didn't risk leaving my favorite shoes outside. Seeing a sign " watch for pick pockets" I knew my shoes would be gone the second I put them down. Doesn't matter how holly this place is! So I put mine in my hand bag. Galina did the same with hers.

After 3 gruelling hours in the heat. Wearing a warm sweater on my shoulders, I was ready to leave. But than I remembered about "Reclining Buddha". Something I should see, many people told me. And we start our quest to find him.
We walk through a busy street market. Full of things that I would never consider usable. Like a huge mountain of buttons. Or lines of glass with pieces of stone in them. I guess its like a "second hand store" only located on the street.

It was an interesting walk. And when the last person we asked for directions, pointed his hand to a big temple on the other side of the street, I start to get excited!
The "Reclining Buddha" is impressive! His long body is 46m long and 15m high! His face looks relaxed which relaxes me too. I hear a strange noise coming from somewhere. Later I find out, its a sound of small coins being deposited in metal bowls. For luck and good fortune. I do, like every other tourist does. Buy some coins and walk down the aisle putting them inside the bowls. This part of our little adventure I loved! And the day almost finished on a good note. Until we try to catch a taxi!

Every taxi that stopped, asked for a small fortune to drive us back to the hotel. We persist and end up stopping more then 10 taxis. One of them agreed to $30 dollar fare. (just a note-it cost us $4 to get there!)
When I finally get back to my room, I fall into bed and couldn't move. Being a tourist is much harder than being an athlete.But I shouldn't complain! I got to see a place that many people dream of visiting! I can't say I was very impressed with the Royal Palace. But I loved the "Reclining Buddha"!
My feet and my back are aching. I know I have to get up and start packing. Next stop is Pattaya!

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