THE BLOG

An Open Letter to Journalists in Sochi

02/06/2014 04:46 pm ET | Updated Apr 08, 2014

To American and other western journalists covering the Winter Olympics in Sochi:

This is deep, but I have to get this off my chest.

I'm quite surprised how you are acting in Russia. You are taking your gripes out on Twitter about poor hotel conditions, dirty water, dual toilets, rudeness and this, that and the other thing.

I spent four and a half months in St. Petersburg, Russia. It was the toughest experience of my life, but it was also the most rewarding.

The conditions where you are at are no different than the majority -- if not all -- Russian hotels. Don't expect the same treatment or the same kind of amenities that you get at American or western European resorts.

There are only a few in Russia that I know of that have what Americans expect -- and these places are really catered to the one percent. Why would you want to stay at a place like that? It doesn't represent the real Russia I experienced.

Studying abroad in Russia was fascinating. It's hard, it's uncertain, it's different, but it was also beautiful -- and it was also miraculous. The most peaceful moment of my life was standing in the middle of Red Square in Moscow -- by myself.

I've been wanting to go back to Russia for the last 19 years. You get go because your higher ups sent you.

Be inquisitive and curious about where you are. That's supposed to be our jobs. It's very likely that none of you will ever get a chance to visit Sochi again, let alone Russia. That is a privilege. Why are you joking about where you are?

If you can't stand Sochi, then let me go. I'll kiss the tarmac the minute I arrive at Sochi International Airport.

It saddens me to think you probably weren't briefed about what it's like to stay in Russia. My advice? Leave your ideas of hospitality, your perceptions of the world and your entitlement at home. There's more to the world than just U.S. or western Europe destinations.