Q&A with Kansas Junior Center Sasha Kaun

Aug. 10, 2006

Kansas junior center Sasha Kaun returned to Lawrence, Kan., Aug. 9, from his birthplace of Tomsk, Russia, where he went to update his passport in June. Kaun went to high school in Florida and last visited his native Siberia in early January 2003. Below is a Q&A with Kaun about his summer vacation.<?xml:namespace prefix=”o” ns=”urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office”?>

How long were you there? Was that too short, too long or just right for a visit?

S.K.: It was almost two months, from June 16 until yesterday (Aug. 9). It was too long.

What was the purpose of your trip?

S.K.: To get some paperwork done. Exchange my passport.

How long were the flights? Were there any special accommodations for 6-11 people or were you scrunched up for most of the flights?

S.K.: From Kansas City to Atlanta was a couple of hours. From Atlanta to Moscow was about 10 to 11 hours and from Moscow to Tomsk is four hours. I bought myself a first-class ticket for the long portions of the flight.

What was the first thing you did when you visited home?

S.K: I went to sleep. I bought myself a cell phone, and then I went to turn in my paperwork to get my passport exchanged.

Were your family and friends surprised to see you?

S.K: Not really because everyone knew I was coming. I told some close friends and they passed out the word to other people. Almost all my friends and family knew I was going to be there. We got together with my old high school class from Russia. It was definitely a fun time.

What was the biggest change since your last visit, New Years of 2003?

S.K: The biggest thing that has changed in Tomsk is that the city has a lot of new stuff. They have a lot of new buildings. Two years ago they had a city celebration of 400 years and they spruced it up a lot for that with fountains, memorials and statues. The German consult came in and did a lot for the celebration, so the city became very beautiful. Also, a big surprise was how expensive it has become in Russia. Everything is so expensive. Tomsk is somewhat comparable to (the U.S.) but Moscow is unbelievable. Everything is two to three times more expensive than it is in the states. If you go to a restaurant, for two or three people it would cost $400 to $500. I expected that in Moscow because it is rated as the most expensive city in the world. It makes you concerned about how people will survive there.

What is the meeting place/hangout for young people in Tomsk?

S.K: There is a really nice facility or complex that has everything – night clubs, pool tables, bowling alleys, movie theatres, restaurants – most people would hang out there. It’s a big complex.

Tomsk is a city of almost 500,000. Can you describe the topography of Tomsk?

S.K: There is forest outside the city. It is big with a wide variety of trees. The city is compact but expanding. It’s grown a lot since I was last there. There are six different universities there, so that is making it grow. Also, our football – or soccer – team is doing really well and that is helping the city grow as well. People from the surrounding cities – some 600 miles away – are coming to Tomsk to watch games because they are in the highest pro league.

What is the Tom’ River like? Is that a place for vacation, hangout or not? Does it attract tourists?

S.K: There is a water park they recently built there and some restaurants on the river but that is not its main purpose. Usually when there is a river near a city, it’s used for industry transportation.

How much did your family and friends know of your success as a Jayhawk or the team in general – being a starter in 2005-06, on a Big 12 championship team and being named Academic All-Big 12 First Team?

S.K: They mainly know about Kansas basketball through me telling them. Some go online. Some just know me as their friend and don’t really care about it. They are happy that everything is going well and that I am happy here but they don’t really get into this whole basketball thing and me playing. In Russia it is not a big deal. In America, talking about sports is much bigger.

Were you able to work out over there? What kind of facilities did they have and were they comparable to KU’s?

S.K: In Tomsk I was able to work out for half of the time I was there but it was really, really expensive. To have a pass for a week was about $50 to $60 for two hours a day. In Moscow I had a friend who had a pass to a really nice gym. It was more like a country club with tennis courts. All the famous women’s tennis players from Russia practice there.

How different is the food over there compared to the U.S.?

S.K: I had no fast food for two months and that was a good thing. The food is changing also in Tomsk. There are a lot of new restaurants in Tomsk and Moscow – Japanese, Italian, Spanish. In Moscow you can find anything you want. I ate mostly home cooking. I maybe went to a restaurant two or three times for special occasions. My mom and I make everything like borsch, soups and some fried stuff that you can’t get in America, but it’s all relative.

What did you miss most about Lawrence?

S.K: Driving on the streets without panic everywhere. In Lawrence, it is a nice and quiet drive. Nobody is in a hurry and everybody is following the rules. If you are driving in Russia, you have to have some nerves to be able to drive because people there drive crazy.

What restaurant will you go to first now that you are back in Lawrence?

S.K: It has been Longhorn Steakhouse and now that Pachamama’s has opened up in a new location downtown, it is really, really good. Maybe On the Border to get some Mexican food. All those are on my list.

Naturally the teams’ goals are to three-peat as Big 12 champs and to go on and win the national championship. Do you have personal goals for this season?

S.K: I want to be a leader so that guys can ask me questions. Bring the young guys along. Without a senior class, we are the old ones now. It seems just like yesterday we arrived here with (Wayne) Simien, (Keith) Langford and (Aaron) Miles in front of us. Now you realize you are the oldest ones here and the freshmen will be looking up to you. Trying to accomplish the team’s goals are the main thing.