It’s been quite an adventure so far here in Narva. Between having hilarious misunderstandings between myself and babushkas to not ever getting a joke spoken in Russian, I’ve had a blast exploring the Russian language here so far.
When coming here, I wanted to find a place to train for wrestling; I wrestle in college and didn’t want to become a fat blob by the end of my time here, so I searched for a place to train. As it turned out, every club in Narva was closed for the summer. However, I soon found out that there was a kickboxing class at the big yellow gym where I lift at.
I walked into the class and asked a gruff looking, tatted up Russian man with fohawk if he knew of any wrestling clubs. “No”, he said, “this is kickboxing.” I struggled in Russian to ask him if he knew where any were, and he got mad and asked me to leave. Defeated, I walked downstairs. However, an old man approached me, and said “come with me” in Russian. I followed him, and he showed me every room in the gym. We approached the kickboxing room, and he pointed to the fohawk man again.
I decided right then to give it a try. I asked him how much it costs, and he replied 25 euro, but he’ll give me a discount. I took it and he told me it runs every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.
The next Wednesday, I went and worked my butt off punching and kicking the crap out of the punching bag. A young boy came up to me, and I found that he spoke English surprisingly well. His name is Maksim, and we became fast friends.
As it turns out, Maksim told his dad that he met a really cool american guy, who is very strong and a hard worker but has atrocious technique. The next practice he came up to me and said “Connor, my dad and me invites you to eat with us. Sunday. Also. My dad comes to train you.” behind him stood a stocky and ripped 45 year old Russian man in a wife beater, who made me work nearly as hard as a d1 wrestling practice. His name is Dmitri.
As it turns out, Max is the Baltic champ (includes, the Baltic states, Finland, Poland, Belarus and Ukraine) and Dmitri is a former world champion. I was seriously learning from the best. In addition, I get to practice stance and motion drills and lifting before practice, so I’m having absolutely no problems keeping in shape (in fact, due to the fact I’m with other ROTC students, I’m running and doing more pushups in addition more than I did before I came here).
I ended up meeting Dmitri at the hotel Noorus, where some of my friends on the trip had already gone that morning to go to the spa there. They had already paid the 25 dollars necessary for a few hours in the spa, but when i wandered into the spa and asked the head desk person if she knew a person named Dmitri, and that I was supposed to meet him there, she gave me a wrist band and let me into the spa for free.
I met my friends inside, and found Dmitri. I asked Tigran (a fellow student) to tag along, and we proceeded to get the VIP treatment, literally getting into the VIP area, using expensive rubbing oils in the eucalyptus steam room, and sitting in a salt room for a few hours, all the while talking in Russian and getting to know each other. As it turns out, Dmitri is the head of security at the hotel.
We then proceeded to eat the most delicious pork I’ve ever had, at a local, family-owned Armenian restaurant, which was especially a treat for Tigran, as he is Armenian himself. It was an amazing day, spent with amazing company.
I am continuing to train with Dmitri and see Max every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, and convinced a few other Americans to join me in Muay Thai. So far I’ve sparred with Dmitri a few times, and a 15 year old champ, but I’m slowly getting better at it, all the while picking up a lot of Russian experience by putting myself out there.