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Foundation for International Cooperation
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FIC members in Southwest Florida host visitors from Russia

By Sally Pawlik

On Saturday, January 3, Elena Kuvshinnikova arrived in Tampa, Florida, with her little 10-year old granddaughter, Dunia. Many FIC members who were on the trips to Brazil and South Africa will remember Elena as the bubbly little Russian lady with a quick smile and a happy nature. FICers will also remember Elena’s son, Anton, from the trip to South Africa. Well, Dunia is the daughter of Anton. There was no possibility of Anton traveling, because in December he became the proud father of twin boys. These babies were born to Oksana and Anton just before Christmas, and as Elena proudly boasts, “They were made on the trip to South Africa.”

Upon their arrival to Tampa, Elena and Dunia stayed for two evenings with Ted and Mary Lou Allison in Sarasota. One of the first stops in Florida was the museum depicting “The Greatest Show on Earth” - of course, the Ringling Brothers circus re-enactment. They experienced the thrill of it all: the parade wagons, the posters, the glittering costumes, and the cannon that shot daring performers through the air. What trip to Florida would be complete without a trip to the beach? So they walked the shores of Siesta Key Beach (voted the best beach in the US several years ago). After this they scouted the grounds to find Florida Alligators.
On Monday, January 5, the ladies came to Bonita Springs, where they split the week between the homes of Pete and Sally Pawlik and Paula O’Connor in Naples. The week flew by so quickly as we planned so many activities for our guests. The weather during that week was so beautiful – temperatures in the high 70s to low 80s, and Elena and Dunia wanted to soak up the sunshine with swimming and as much outdoor activity as possible. So of course one afternoon we went to the beach to see the sunset. We also sent them back to Russia with a new sport they learned, Bocce Ball – of course, Dunia pick it up right away and proceeded to beat everyone.

During their stay in Naples, Paula took the ladies to Vanderbilt Beach, where they saw the beautiful Ritz Carlton Hotel – No. 1 in the state of Florida, and the beautiful high-rise condos that start at $1,000,000+. They toured the downtown area and saw “The Pier”, which is a landmark of the area. After lunch at a famous fish restaurant, they concluded the day with tours of the Naples Museum, and Naples Art Museum, and the Concert hall in Naples.

The next day they were up to a nature tour. They walked through prairie and dwarf cypress and spotted eagles, wading birds, and a variety of migrating song birds along with many unusual plants. Lunch was at the Big Cypress National Preserve, with alligators watching every move they made.

One of the highlights of the week was the trip we all took to Everglades National Park. This park spans across 1.5 million acres. We enjoyed a ranger-directed tram tour throughout the park. Dunia spotted at least 147 alligators along the way. The week was over so quickly, but not before they went to the beach to see the sunset, and of course, shopping and more shopping!

Dunia celebrated her birthday while she was on the trip – so the Allisons had a party for her when they arrived back in Sarasota. And then the fun continued. Mary Spradlin joined them as they traveled to Disney World in Orlando for several days. What a wonderful time they had on their trip to Florida.

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