To Russia with stereotypes

Madison pumped the brakes and the car shuddered, veering from the left line, across the right one, before thudding softly into the bank of snow lining the curb. The herd of maybe college-aged boys crossing the street in front of us stopped and goggled at us; my head landed in my lap as I doubled over, laughing, and Madison snapped at them to get out.

It was nearly 3 p.m., and we'd been in the car since 1:30 p.m. We were on our way to the University of Kentucky (UK)'s campus, where we were planning on walking around the student center and interviewing people.

"Hello, we're with LEX18, filming for the Olympics. Could you tell us the first five things that pop into your head when you hear the word 'Russia'?" That's the speech I planned out in the car. I shrugged my shoulders, straightening my black LEX18 jacket that I'd thrown on at the last minute in order to bolster my flagging confidence.

In preparation for the trip we're embarking on this Saturday, to cover the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics for LEX18, Lexington's local NBC affiliate, Madison, Aaron and I were working on stories relating to Kentucky that we can start at home. The topic today: stereotypes Kentuckians hold against Russians, to be added to a video about stereotypes foreigners hold about Kentucky (get ready for a lot of KFC references, guys).

Highlights of the day include: sliding down the snow-coated streets (in surprisingly worse shape than the ones in tiny Wilmore), taking at least three detours due to blocked roads and hearing that UK students think Russia involves, vodka, Rasputin, big hats, bears and of course, cold weather. 

That last one is my personal favorite, since the current temperature in Lexington is 24 (Fahrenheit), while the temperature in Sochi is 34 (Fahrenheit), and during the time we'll be there, the temperature is projected to be in the 50s. Balmy beach weather and bermuda shorts, here we come, right? (That last part is a lie; we don't wear bermuda shorts).

Today's experience of frigid weather, malfunctioning equipment and awkward silent stares from random strangers taught me that, you know what, we are so ready for you, Russia. Your weather can't defeat us, we've had more than one equipment malfunction and will not be fazed by anything you throw at us and we've met so many awkward strangers in Kentucky, it won't feel much different to get stares from strangers in Russia.

It also showed me what I've started learning over the past few days: I've got a great team of people traveling with me.

The team includes 7 Asbury juniors, one professor, and the wife and daughter of another Asbury professor.

We'll be in Sochi from Feb. 9-18, filming news packages for LEX18, writing blogs for Kentucky Monthly, Asbury and our personal blogs (including this one, of course) and hopefully sightseeing and trying some interesting food.

In an exciting turn of events, we ended up on the news ourselves last Monday (I'm standing up, second from the left).

At this point, less than 60 hours from our departure, I'm finally realizing that this is real life, and becoming overcome with excitement. As for fears for my safety, I'm confident in the extra security precautions and ready to get going. Look here for more updates (hopefully daily) while I'm in Russia!