Editor's note: Eric Frees, a senior running back at Western MarylandCollege, just returned from a cultural exchange trip to Russia with the school's football team, designed to teach the Russian players about American football. Dawn Frees, Eric's mother, accompanied the teamon the trip. While visiting with the Russian football players, the Ephrata, Pa., native kept this diary of his experiences.
FRIDAY, MARCH 13
We departed from WMC at 1:30 p.m. aboard two buses, headed for Dulles Airport in Northern Virginia. Our plane left around 6:30 and we were on our way to Paris.
We arrived in Paris eight hours later and had a three-hour layover until our flight from Paris to Moscow.
After landing in Moscow, we were greeted by International Sports Connection (ISC) officials and our interpreters. One interpreter's wife gave my mother flowers.
We then boarded more buses and were taken to our hotel, a military hotel named Red Star Hotel.
We were given the rest of the evening off to unpack.
SUNDAY, MARCH 15
Sunday morning, we were treated to a traditional Russian breakfast of ham, white and rye bread, cabbage and diet Pepsi. We had diet Pepsi at every meal and all drinks were served warm.
Our first visit was to Zugorst Sacred Church, which was built around 1340. We had to cover our feet when entering the church. Taking pictures was prohibited, and wetried not to interrupt the service.
We spent the morning at Zugorst and we had to fight through traders and small children wanting gumto board our buses on our way to our first practice with the Russians.
We practiced on an artificial surface and the Russians were very eager to "jump in" and join our drills. They were very interested to learn the American style of football.
Practice lasted almost twohours and at the end of practice we went "thud" against the Russians. We were given the evening off.
MONDAY, MARCH 16
Again we awoke to the Russian breakfast. The Russians serve ham at every meal and this became a favorite for our players.
In the morning we visited Red Square and watched the changing of the guards at Lenin's tomb. This was very interesting. The soldiers stand motionless despite all the distractions around them.
Again, we had to deal with traders andbeggars.
In the afternoon, we went back to our practice facility and practiced with the Russians. It was a lighter practice because ofour game the next day, but you could feel the competition in the air.
After practice, we went back to our hotel. A lot of guys took cabs to McDonald's and Pizza Hut for a taste of American foods. The rest of the guys stayed back at the hotel and played cards or caught up on some sleep.
TUESDAY, ST. PATRICK'S DAY
It's game day and we had free time until our game. We had eggs for breakfast and a high-carbohydrate lunch in preparation for the game.
We play our game at the Red Army complex in front of about 14,000 people.
There was a big pre-game show, which set the starting time back one hour.
Before the game, each team exchanged gifts and got ready for the kickoff.The game went very smoothly. The Russians were big, quick and stony.However, they lacked fundamental football skills.
Our second and third string played most of the game. I had only 12 carries for 130 and two touchdowns. However, I did score the first touchdown by an American on Russian soil.
After the game, we socialized with the Russians and discussed the game. We then returned to our hotel and some guys went out with Russian players to see Moscow through their eyes.
The rest of us retired for the evening.
WEDNESDAY, MARCH 18
After breakfast, we took a trip to the Kremlin, which was fascinating.We probably could have spent a day there, however we had limited time.
The whole team had lunch at McDonald's, the largest one in the world. It was quite a sight seeing those long lines just for a burger.
We then went back to the hotel, showered and went to the Russiancircus. Again, no pictures were allowed.
For me, the circus was one of the highlights of the trip. After the circus, we had an informal dinner with the Russian players and exchanged a few more gifts and socialized.
We returned to the hotel about 11:00 p.m. and called it a night.
THURSDAY, MARCH 19
We had the morning off. Some people went sightseeing.
In the afternoon, we had a clinic-type practice with the Russians for about 2 1/2 hours. It was a "teaching" practice with no pads.
Coach Scott Funk and I had the running backs andwe tried to teach them some of our drills.
We then went to Arbet Street, which was a big, open-air market. I traded and bought things for my family and girlfriend and a few souvenirs for myself.
I hadsome rubles left over, so I gave them to an elderly lady and her granddaughter. They were very gracious and prayed for me.
That night,we had a formal dinner among ourselves. After dinner, everyone went back to their rooms and packed for our 5:30 a.m. departure.
FRIDAY, MARCH 20
We boarded our plane for Moscow, headed for a layover in Paris. We had no problem with customs.
Again, we had a layover in Paris. We boarded a plane in Paris, headed for Dulles and we arrived in Virginia around 5 p.m.
We were all glad to be home and everyone was glad to get back to the college. It was a very enjoyable, successful trip. I'm glad I was a part of it.