Today we visited a “village” on the opposite side of Moscow. It took us 5 hours to get to Orion, not only due to distance, but also traffic. Apparently we chose to travel through a section that has one of the busiest railroad crossings… or something. An actual operator in a house beside the tracks could only let 15-20 cars through at a time in between trains. Needless to say, there was a long line on either side of the railroad. The guard rails would come down to block traffic and out of the road would come a barrier, angled upwards towards the oncoming traffic so that one’s tires would be caught and severely impeded in any attempt to cross the tracks. Svetlana shrugged when Jim asked her about it “you can’t trust Russian drivers,” she said with a little giggle. Our driver climbed out into the misty grey weather to share a smoke with several others in the area. The birch trees shuddered in the chilly wind and we waited, occaisionally inching forward by a single meter or two.
We finally made it to Orion where we met with Katya. Marsha (?) the director, was gone to Moscow for the day, though when David called last week she said this was the only day she would be in Orion. But Katya spoke pretty good English, so Svetlana hardly had to interpret. We were given a tour of the 22 hectare grounds that make up the village the people have built almost entirely by themselves. They have a school for the 13 children, they teach the classes themselves, because there isn’t a government school nearby. But the childen are sent to Keetesh to a similar village where they are given their examinations (so they meet with government standards). Of Orion’s 13 children, 8 are orphans that are being fostered by those in the community. There are three permanent families and a building that houses volunteers who come from all over: Australia, New York, Montana, Littleton, Colorado. The people all take meals together in the kitchen, they share roles in the village, they have community chickens and recently purchased a goat. They live in log houses, most of which have running water and toilets, and electricity. But Victor says the windows are foolishly large and must give them a good deal of trouble in the winter for keeping the homes warm.
We watched a movie about the foundation of Orion and Keetesh. Basically, we thought it had a very “Woodstock” feel. Other than wanting to live in community and be near nature, we had a hard time understanding the driving purpose behind this village. They aren’t religious, though they mostly belong to the Orthodox Church. They don’t have jobs, for the most part they just work in the village and have sponsors from the UK and US. It was disappointing because we had been hoping there might be some possibility to work with these people or have something similar in Vladimir. But Svetlana kept shaking her head. “They are great people, but crazy. It is like taking a step backwards. Why would you do that?”
At least the apple jam was delicious and the green tea was great too.
So we climbed back into the van and headed out. We waited in that long line of cars and trucks that snaked around the hillside down to the railroad tracks. When we finally got up close to our turn, Svetlana kept repeating: “Will we make it? Will we make it?” Our driver wasn’t going to hesitate. He followed close on the tail of the truck in front of us and our van waddled over the uneven railroad tracks as Jim pointed out an oncoming train. “Is it going fast?” Svetlana asked in a surprisingly nervous voice. But our van stumbled forward and onto solid ground on the other side. David was still asleep, Victor was drinking his compote out of the old beer bottle, and I still had to pee really badly—but by golly we weren’t going to wait in that line any longer!
Now we’re back at the hotel, I have a new pair of socks on my little feet and I’m ready to take some sleeping pill that Jim gave me and doze off to sweet oblivion.