Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Another wedding before God

Warning: this is going to be a detailed description of a girl’s struggle to get herself dressed and arrive at a wedding on time. Guys, sorry to bore you. There are pictures at the end. Girls, read on.

Part I-Finding my way

I was invited to a wedding on Sunday. I decided that I would go to my own church first, change, and go straight to the wedding. This turned out to be a bad idea. First of all, I was totally distracted during worship and messed everything up. Secondly, I had to bring everything with me. I had the wedding present in a huge gift bag, my flute, my purse, songbooks for last-minute rehearsing, my wedding clothes, two pairs of shoes, a snack in case I got hungry, and my camera.

After worship, I went and changed my clothes. Everything was going according to plan. I had plenty of time. Then I packed up and started to walk out of the church building. I could barely walk to the door without staggering under the weight of all my various parcels. How was I going to buy flowers and carry them too? I looked at the time and decided I had just enough time to go straight home, dump half of my belongings, and go straight to the wedding ceremony. Now why hadn’t I done that in the first place?

I had adjusted the strap on one of my shoes and the shoe kept felling off, but my hands were too full to fix it. I limped on. I got home just in time, discarded everything not necessary for the wedding, and took off again. It was 1:00 and the wedding started at 2:00. And I had no idea how long it would take me to get there, aside from 1 metro stop+4 tram stops. As I walked to the bus stop, my big toe had already poked through my new stockings. I got to the bus stop and there were no buses. Hmmmmm. There was the option of taking an alternate form of transportation, but one of my personal rules for success is “No experimenting with directions when already late.” No looking for shortcuts or trying new routes. Better to be 5-10 minutes late than get lost and be 1-2 hours late.

I decided to pop into the flower shop while waiting for the bus. I don’t know how to buy flowers, especially in Russia and for a wedding. In Russian class we were taught that certain numbers of flowers meant something (even numbers=not allowed) and certain colors too, but I didn’t pay much attention, just avoided the flowers scene in general. The flower shop had some bouquets all prepared. They were expensive, but I bought one for the sake of time. The shop attendant assured me it would be okay for a wedding, and I believed her. So now I was carrying a huge bouquet of flowers and a huge gift bag. Imagine how I looked going through the turnstile in the metro. I got the gift and flowers through and then panicked that my dress was caught on the turnstile, but it wasn’t.

Now that I was finally on my way, I wondered how I was going to find the church. The bride had called me a few days previously, giving final instructions. The connection was bad and I was tired. She said something about having one of her friends meet me at the metro. “Oh no, I’ll find it,” I said, even though I couldn’t really hear what she was saying about the location. So now I was on my way and realized that it was too late to call the bride for directions. I had the phone number of just one person who might be attending. I sent her a text message, but it bounced back.

Once I exited the metro, I headed for the tram stop. It was 1:35. I stopped near a man with a young boy. “(something something) buy your flowers,” he said. Ummm, what? I smiled and nodded and said, “I’m going to a wedding.” But I didn’t walk away. “Go on to the wedding!” he said. “Can you tell me where the tram stop is?” He pointed me in the right direction. Once on the tram, I wondered where I was supposed to get off. Dasha had said 4 stops, but sometimes Russians count differently than Americans, including the stop where you get on. Or at least it seems that way. I tried to stay calm by getting lost in my thoughts, but then I realized that I had forgotten to count the stops!

I got off after about 4 stops. I had about 10 minutes, hopefully enough to get to the church. I didn’t see a church anywhere and there was no one in sight. I began walking and suddenly a woman appeared out of nowhere and walked across my path. I asked her about the church and she showed me where to go. I approached the church, where there were clearly wedding guests gathered, but was it the right wedding? I hesitantly walked closer, and recognized one of Dasha’s friends. I had arrived, and on time!

Part II

The bride and groom were late arriving. Meanwhile, the guests gathered and the women prepared their headcoverings for entering the Orthodox church. Finally a car pulled up and the bride started to get out. I thought, “Oh no, we can all see her!” But no one seemed concerned. The bride and groom were already newlyweds, having been married in a civil ceremony earlier that day or perhaps earlier in the week. They walked up the path, greeting the guests. I wasn’t sure what to say. “Congratulations” seemed a little premature with the church ceremony still ahead.

We entered the church. I had been worrying about where I would sit. After entering the church, I was reminded that in an Orthodox ceremony you do not sit down. I was still holding the flowers and present at this point. :) The ceremony was pretty. I didn’t understand much, so I won’t speculate too much here, but there was a lot of chanting of prayers and reading scriptures and some kind of sermon. One tradition typical to the Orthodox ceremony is the practice of holding crowns above the heads of the bride and groom. The people holding the crowns can’t put them down until the end of the ceremony. Tough task!

After the ceremony, there was a receiving line, where I handed over my flowers and gift and congratulated the newlyweds. We also took a group picture. Then I bade farewell, as I was ready to leave and wouldn't be staying for the reception. The wedding party gathered for more photos outside. The bride suddenly looked around, remembering. “Elizabeth! Come here.” The crowd parted as I approached. “Take a picture of me with my friend, please. She has to leave.” I thought it was very sweet of her. The photographer obliged.

And the life of a new couple has begun…




Holding the crowns in place for the remainder of the ceremony...






Processing around in a circle 3 times with the priests, the bride and groom, candles, and the two witnesses holding the crowns in back.

Slow day at the office

I was sitting doing some deskwork today, and it seemed to be lunch hour for our friend Mr.Snail. He was making the rounds...



I actually found it a little gross, to be quite honest.

On a happy note...no throat pain!


Saturday, July 14, 2007

A mess

The city is a mess right now. Summer repairs are in full gear: roads are torn up; pipes are lying around waiting to be installed; the cold or hot water is turned on and off intermittently.

And today we had a flood. Once again I managed to avoid getting drenched; it rained once while I was in the metro and another time while I was at my destination. On my way home I only had to run a few minutes to and from bus stops, and got wet only as I neared home.

We did have to drive through a river to get to the metro, though. There were cars and people stranded everywhere. Somehow we managed to keep going and the car didn't stall, although I looked down at one point and the water was seeping up under my feet.






I made it home and had a bowl of soup. :)



In other news, we got new mailboxes in our apartment building.

I'm not sure if there were ever any to begin with. I've never received mail. The bills get stuffed in the door.

It's always interesting, in this city, to watch repairs pop up all around. I often wonder who makes the priorities in the city development. And who pays for it. Why is it that "they," whoever they are, can put in a new playground, but not wash the windows in a hospital? What's the point of putting in new bus stops with metal benches, when Russians are afraid to sit on metal benches?


Thursday, July 12, 2007

Health

Okay, I promised my Russian hospital experience. Read at your own risk.

First of all, let me tell you that Russian hospitals look a lot different from American hospitals, at first glance. Here are a few differences:

Hallways: U.S.-bright florescent lighting/Russia: dim lighting or lights off to preserve electricity

Main entrance: U.S.-receptionist/Russia-security guard and turnstile

What patients wear: U.S.-hospital gown/Russian-regular/indoor clothes

Footwear: U.S.-??? normal shoes/Russian-slippers or other change of shoes

Anyway, I was at the hospital to have my throat looked at. It had been sore for about 3 weeks. Russians like to scold you for being sick, as if it is your fault. They also scold you for not trying hard enough to get better. Now, I had suffered from a head-cold which I allowed to run its course, thus receiving scolding. The head-cold only lasted about a week, as expected but the sore throat continued. Any time I mentioned it to someone, they asked, “And how are you treating it?” Ummm…? Tea? Cough drops?

So I finally went to get it checked out. Part of not paying attention to illness is not wanting to take the time. And part of it is a phobia of anything medical-related. Doctors are wonderful people, but I really do not like visiting them. I cry when my teeth are cleaned. I hyperventilate when blood is drawn. And here I was, ready to get my nose and throat checked out. I think nose and throat have to be worst of all. Maybe even worse than getting a shot in the you-know-what.

When the doctors learned about my meager attempts to get better, they stared at me and then at each other and shook their heads disapprovingly. At their prompting, I opened my mouth to expose my throat. I had tried to look at it myself at home, and even googled "throat" images, but it grossed me out too much.

The doctor looking at my throat asked how long ago I’d had a stuffy nose, and I said “Two weeks ago. But it’s not stuffy now.”

“Yes it is.” Ummm, okay, the doctor is contradicting me. I started laughing from the amusement of a doctor scolding me.

“No smiling.” Yeah, that helped a lot. A Russian doctor just told me not to smile. I kept smiling.

“I said, NO smiling.” Fine. I managed to make the corners of my mouth turn down.


The doctors continued to look at my throat and discuss their findings. I could understand some of the words such as “chronic” and “flowing.” Ewwwwww….

So apparently they didn’t find anything scary like tonsillitis, but some after-effects of the cold were causing the sore throat, so I had to have my nose flushed out. I probably would have bolted from the room if one of the doctors hadn’t been a close friend. The walls lined with glass jars...the chair in the middle of the room...

“Do you have a handkerchief?” she asked, as she began the procedure. I didn’t. She handed me a paper napkin, leftover from a local restaurant. There were no paper towels or tissues in the room.

When I went back the next day for more treatment, I had saved some paper napkins from lunch.

“Good job!” said the doctor. I had done something right. I’m turning into a good little Russian patient. :)

Tired

Yesterday I spent 6-7 hours total in transit. One trip was to an orphanage outside of the city, one was to the doctor, and one was to Bible study. I'll explain more later. The problem is supposedly with my sinuses, so I'm having some "nasal irrigation" done. Woo hoo! Stay tuned for my impressions of Russian hospitals.

This evening I arrived home fairly early. I ate dinner, washed the dishes, took a shower, and ironed some clothes. So far, so good. Then I sat down at the computer to do some work. Not so good. There was some error with an antivirus program that pops up when I load Outlook, and somehow I clicked on something that prompted Windows Installer to run everytime I loaded a Microsoft Office application. To make a long story short, I couldn't open anything in Outlook. E-mails, addresses, etc. I couldn't find where the archive was. Three-four hours later, Office is reinstalled, minus the Windows Installer but back to the original antivirus message. I located the archive and have my data back. And it's bedtime. Maybe tomorrow will be more productive. Right now all I want to do is sleep for a week.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Growing senile

Wait a minute! Those aren't chocolate chips, those are raisins...

In a strange quarter-life crisis moment, I decided to bake a non-chocolate dessert, at 11 pm. These are oatmeal raisin cookies, which at other points in my life had prompted a "blech" response. And suddenly, I chose them over chocolate.

I also halved the recipe, thinking there was no way I would ever eat a whole batch of oatmeal cookies. But now I regret that.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Stormy weather

The traditional scene from the kitchen window, captured at around 10:30 during this evening's thunderstorm. As usual the long-awaited White Nights are already on their way out and I've yet to go for an evening stroll or boat-ride. Maybe next year...



In other news, I'm getting ready to visit a doctor due to a rather persistent sore throat. :(

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Washing windows

I think my relationship with my computer is finally growing stale. Due to a headache, I took a little timeout earlier and sat down with a book. And I realized that I had been missing out. I read a lot online, but it is not the same as sitting down and getting lost in a book. Somehow I have had less energy lately for writing, although I have many topics which I hope to address soon.



In the meantime, here's some of what I've been up to...today we washed windows at a local children's hospital. Sveta from church works there and invited us to help. We also met her co-workers, whom she has witnessed to. She requested that we pray for them.


A hospital room:


Lida hard at work.






In the cafeteria.



Hard-earned lunch.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Back to "normal" life

The above photo is supposed to represent the number of people staying in our apartment right now. But I realize that Americans probably use just as many towels for one or two people.:)

There are 5 of us, although yesterday there were 6. One (me) speaking English and Russian, no Serbian. Two speaking Serbian and English, no Russian. Two speaking Russian only. And one lucky (and ambitious) person speaking Russian, English, and Serbian.

What happens when you cross the Serbian/English-only with the Russian-only after a long day of sightseeing? The photos below explain.



It's a good thing that laughter is a universal language!

I also made a little video and uploaded it on Youtube.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

End of Vladimir

Somehow it has taken me over a week to recount my trip to Vladimir. On the third day of our seminar, we visited another orphanage that has made the transition to patronat families. The orphanage staff and psychologists explained how they find host families and build relationships with them. They have a binder for each family and for each child in need of a family. They also have photo albums of the families that already host children. We were invited to drop in on one of the families briefly.

On our last day, we took a trip to the beautiful destination of Suzdal, which featured a multitude of old Medieval churches nestled in the countryside.

This stained glass is not part of a church, but is displayed in the train/bus station in Vladimir!





One of the sights of Suzdal...




With Marina in the countryside.

Now I'm finally caught up. In future posts, I'll be going back to "normal" life, as well as exploring our findings from our trip.