23 August (so, before my computer died)

Thank you all so much for your prayers. I’m sure some of you have heard the mess that went in to obtaining my visa on time. But after several hours on the phone Friday, and about $315 later, I had a changed plane flight and a visa that would arrive at DIA just in time for me to pick it up and board the plane. I met up in Atlanta with Jim and David barely 25 minutes before our plane was to leave. We jumped in the boarding line, and despite an issue with my ticket, we were on and home free! We even found a woman willing to switch seats with me so that I could sit in the row in front of Jim and David, rather than half a plane away.

Ten hours of flight, 45 minutes in a mob line for customs, and 2.5 hours driving to Vladimir, we arrived! What I remember of the drive was lovely, Russia is covered in birch along the highway that we bumped over. Driving on the shoulder to pass slower moving vehicles provided for an even closer view of the picturesque countryside.This evening we went to Victor and Svetlana’s flat for tea. It was a great 2ish hours. We saw pictures of their family, I got a tour of their sweet little home (with a green kitchen and dishwasher to boot!), and we dined on delicious homemade raspberry jam that we ate straight off the saucer when the bread ran out. The tea was good too, it reminded me of Grandma Irma’s house. I mentioned that when we were trying to figure out the herb that Svetlana had added to the tea. I said it looked like yarrow, and smelled like something my grandmother used to make. So, now I have homework for when we get to the states. Victor and Svetlana’s daughter came over to the flat with her husband and their toddler son. Misha was polite to me, but obviously talked to David since I couldn’t understand a word of what was going on. Andrushka was very excited about the new truck his grandparents had bought him, and was pushing it around the floor, and showing it to us will chittering on in a language I wish I knew. That, I think, is the most difficult part of being here. I know how to say ‘hello’ (privyet), ‘yes’ (da), and now I am trying to remember the words that David taught me tonight…. Please and Thank You. It is bewildering to sit through a conversation and have to have everything translated. I know my Spanish was never fluent, and Popi did have to translate some things. But I could at least get around, I could figure out a word by having it described or compared. Now I have to have Svetlana translate everything. Like Victor telling me that he made me more tea, because apparently I looked very distraught when I poured my self the last bit from the tea pot (which may have been culturally inappropriate). I also appeared very needy, or skinny, or just tired, because Svetlana kept pushing more and more food my way. Of course, that might because I was finishing off everyhitng she gave me, which culturally means she is meant to give me more… I just wish that I could communicate with people, and that I didn’t just smile and bob my head when we laugh as though I knew what was happening.

Tonight we walked back from Svetlana and Victor’s flat, about a 40 minute walk since we took a few wrong (ish) turns. The evening was gorgeous. We walked through fields (“this looks kind of like a trail!”), along the road, ran diagonally across an intersection, up alleys and down sidestreets, and through a wood that I was told wouldn’t be safe to be in after dark. It was great. We could see the cathedrals’ spires, the old communist building where youth were sent for indoctrination, the sky scrapers reaching hesitantly past the old boundaries, and the apartment buildings that are flying up, despite the slowing economy. I thought, during that walk, I could do this. I could be here. I could walk home like this, watching people draw water from a spring down the hill on the side of the road. I could do this. I just wish I knew the language. Because it is so difficult to feel like a statue, or an intelligent dumb individual who could have things to say if only she knew what was going on around her. But Victor and Svetlana are kind. He complimented me tonight, said I have hard working hands. I said they work hard on the computer and everyone laughed. Jim said he was just telling me I was a hard worker in general. And Svetlana is warming up to me, I think. So that is good. And between their patience, and Jim’s astonishment that I packed only one carry on (considerably less than him and David), and David’s chipper attitude and reminiscing about Illinois, I think this could work out.

And now I need to go to bed in my burgundy-red room with a desk and a shower and a window below which I can hear men talking.

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