Why Texas Isn’t Sending A Team To The Olympics In Sochi

Separated by a Common Language: How Can You Tell I'm From Texas? Linguistic markers for culture and ethnicity

The Former Republic of Texas

Knowing that I spent 10 years in the former Soviet Union, it seemed only natural for a South American friend to ask me, “Is Texas sending a Team to the Olympics in Sochi, Russia?”

The upcoming Olympic games are generating many such questions as neighbors and friends here in the US assume that their expat friend (me, in this case) will know all about Sochi and can tell them where the Olympic venue is in relation to other places in Europe.

After all, as expats, we’re expected to know where things are on a map. How can you go somewhere if you don’t know anything about where in the world you are?

In reality, Sochi is only marginally close to Baku… According to the online calculator:

“The driving distance from Sochi, Russia to Baku, Azerbaijan is:

complicated…   You might even have to swim.   May we suggest you fly instead?”

“The flight distance from Sochi, Russia to Baku, Azerbaijan is:

567 miles / 913 km.”

Euro miles map- Sochi, Russia to Baku, Azerbaijan- as the "crow flies"

Sochi, Russia to Baku, Azerbaijan- as the “crow flies”

Hmmm… what does that mean? How far is that?  Can you give me a visual on this, please.

Ok, this map shows a straight flight path, which wouldn’t be all that far to drive, except when you factor in road conditions, conditions near the Greater and Lesser Caucasus mountains, cultural rules or upheavals, renegade bands of potential trouble.  In that case, it could take lots longer than the same miles would in the United States.

What About The US Equivalent?

Interestingly, I got a real life demonstration of just those kinds of miles.

This past week has been all about travel and new destinations as I have been occupied by helping my daughter, Caryn, with packing, loading and then driving a truck full of furniture to her new home.

Cardigan Corgi, Jack

Caryn drove her car packed to the hilt and carrying her very understanding dog, a pet Corgi named Jack, and his  accoutrements from Tennessee to Texas.As I’ve been helping her make this move from northeastern Tennessee down to Houston, Texas for her new job, we drove 665 miles in one day (granted, it was a very long day, but we made it). We traveled through the states of Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama, and on into Mississippi.

A little further than flying from Sochi to Baku- long, but do-able.

Do-able?” Ok that may be a stretch- is this something only an American would do?

What About In Euro Zone Distances?

We’ve had a lot of fun with this as I have tried to relate distances- how far countries are from Sochi, what country Sochi is even in, and more.

After looking on the map  to find recognizable landmarks and cities, comparing Sochi and Baku to the distances we were driving, it turns out we each drove the rough equivalent of driving from Vienna, Austria to Brussels, Belgium over that second day.

In other words, for people who ask me to describe what the area around Sochi is like, I would say I know as much about the location of specific venues in Sochi as a person in Brussels would know about the concert schedule in Vienna… (uh, let’s just say you may want a second opinion!)

While most locals wouldn’t necessarily expect tourists in Vienna to plan a mid-week getaway to Brussels, in the United States we don’t think much about driving across four states or more for our annual college Spring Break, going home for holidays, or to attend a friend’s wedding. Information is readily available,  roads are good, all in one language, and no real bureaucracy in between to speak of.

How many states does it take to equal crossing Europe?

How many states does it take to equal crossing Europe?

It’s been interesting to consider so many people traveling to Sochi just as we are traveling in the opposite direction along the route on this map.

I’ve thought a lot about the geography as I have taken it all in along the way (as it all goes by at 70mph … or more). It has been good to be back “home” (real home) in Houston, but the driving distance, just in sheer ground covered to get here, is immense.

I started out in Washington DC, so my total trip began with about 400 miles from DC to TN on one day, then 665 miles of TN to MS on another, and finally, the last 400 or so miles from Mississippi and Louisiana to Houston, TX on the final day, coming out to a little under 1500 miles altogether.

Cultural Comparison: How Much Do We Really Know?

This trip also got me to thinking… (I mean, really, what else can you do when confined to a driver’s seat for that long?) what do others think about the area we covered, just how widely known is it?

Globally we often hear that Americans are ‘geographically challenged’. Ok, fair enough, we do tend to stay in the US for our limited vacation time. But then, the USA is a large place, with so much diversity, and as the populace with the world’s least vacation days, Americans don’t often have time for more. So for you readers across the pond with more vacation time, how much do you know about the United States?

We will all have a good laugh over this, I’m sure. First , here’s how the Brits do the USA:

Brits Do America Proud: map of America with misnamed states

When I saw these I knew I had to share them. It may not be PC, but it’s what our special friends, the Brits, know about their former territory. (Hey, BTW, even we don’t call it Sarah Palin Land… no need to disparage all of Alaska!)

Now for the Yanks turn to do Europe… and no this isn’t pretty, either- just as a fair warning.

Where is Sochi, Russia: Americans map Europe

We may not know our geography well, but we do know food and celebrities!

(My apologies if you’re reading this from one of the “stuff” countries. It could have been worse… How would you like to tell people you’re from Ravioliville?)

Why Texas Isn’t Sending A Team To The Olympics In Sochi 

In answer to my friend’s question “Is Texas sending a team to these Olympic games?” Of course, for now, I have to say no…  And it isn’t because we can’t find Sochi, regardless how the maps above would try to convince you otherwise! It could be a “maybe someday”!

Most Americans here know (and most Texans would like to them to forget) that Texas is a ‘state’ not a country.

But, if it were a country, Texas “would be the 14th largest economy in the world, bigger than South Korea or the Netherlands, and roughly equivalent to two Switzerlands.” “Texas land area is larger than many nations of the world, including every country in Europe. If it were a country, it would be the 40th largest country [by land area] in the world, after Chile and Zambia.” 

For now, Texas athletes are in fact part of Team USA… But, as a former sovereign republic, we (proudly) reserve the right to secede and go our own way- (a tongue-in-cheek notion which we remind the government in Washington of quite regularly). For our non-American readers, to hear Texans talk you might wonder if we haven’t just gone ahead and done that very thing already.

For these Olympic games at least, Texas isn’t sending its own team to Sochi. But we will, as always, proudly hang onto our right to do so, and who knows, perhaps, one of these years you’ll see a new star on the horizon… a Lone Star!

Texas sculpture of an Armadillo in front of Goode Company restaurant:  In Texas, It's Always Bigger and Better... even if it's an Armadillo!
In Texas, It’s Always Bigger and Better… even if it’s an Armadillo!



5 thoughts on “Why Texas Isn’t Sending A Team To The Olympics In Sochi

  1. This was great fun! And of course I can relate and had the same experiences. You did put quite some time into putting this post together! Having lived on Africa several times, I’ve often been asked, “Does Africa have king, or a president?”


    • It’s definitely interesting the perceptions of people around the world the questions about Africa must have been most curious, since it’s the last unexplored place we have. Africa remains a mystery to most of us.
      It will be quite an event when the Olympics are finally held someplace in Africa, like Kenya for example. But then of course we’d have to hold the summer games in November if we went beyond the equator – a whole new logistical issue there, but interesting thoughts.
      I’m looking forward to next week when we see you out of jail in Uganda! What a story to tell your daughters!


  2. When we lived in Germany, I remember various postmen delivering parcels from family back in South Africa, and wanting to know where South Africa was and if we lived in mud huts and if elephants and other wild animals roamed around our huts!! Here in Australia, (where I now live) an European visitor of a friend of mine asked him if he could drive them to Sydney (from Perth) for the day!! That takes 4,5 hours by plane, almost 4000km/2485miles.
    People underestimate distances in huge countries when they come from a tiny European country…


    • Oh, Sami- it’s hard to believe that you would get that in Germany. My goodness!

      But there are places the world over that are helped by having expats bring stories from life on far continents. Good that you could get packages by post- when I was in Baku Azerbaijan there was no post at all in the beginning.
      Thanks for sharing this, Sami. I enjoy hearing about your experiences.


  3. Pingback: My Best Ex-Pat Repatriation Tip: Viewing “Home” Through Ex-Pat Eyes | Life Lessons

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