Suddenly it’s Monday. I’m finally emerging from the fog of jet lag and culture transition (culture shock would be an exaggeration.) Not many hours after my arrival here in Russia on Friday, I was already out on the street walking to the bazaar. My head fought against the reality that the (long) day before, I had been in pastoral Atascadero and now I was in a big city surrounded by foreign-word billboards, buses, and bustling. Welcome to Samara!
I’ve already reunited with many friends (and missed getting pictures with some!) Of course, Tanya was waiting for me with flowers at the airport. Long-time friends Igor and Marina also were there in their car to take me home to Alla, who was waiting with open arms and a huge hug. All this is happening at 4 a.m. (yes, this is real friendship!)
A problem with my previous cell phone was remedied by a visit from Dinara (always so helpful) and another walk to the bazaar the next day. And fun Ira Klimchuk had me to dinner on Saturday evening. Due to my new healthy eating regime, she wasn’t sure what to fix. So she fixed everything! Can you imagine? Three salads, then fish, stuffed cabbage rolls, chicken, potatoes, fruit, tea, and a really tasty “pie” (Russian style) that I broke down and tried.
Sunday was an even bigger day. Started out with the Bible study group at 10 a.m. here at “our place” (Alla’s house). I love this group of ladies who have been meeting regularly for about 15 years. And, yes, more food (see the photo of the table at the end of this post). After that, directly to Olga Starostina’s for the traditional pelmini and blini lunch which we have been having together for ten years or more. It’s always bittersweet as her mom and dad are both gone now. But nephew Alex serves as the host and is so proud of his new baby girl, Masha. I love being a part of these sweet families and watching them grow and thrive.
After lunch, Tanya and I joined several other friends downtown at the opera house for a performance sponsored by the Orthodox church–a close to their Easter celebration. About 15 different groups sang, danced, played–all extremely talented–to a backdrop of professionally choreographed graphics on translucent screens. It was (in my humble opinion) an outstanding presentation of all that is the best of Russia–its love of motherland, its rich culture, its excellence in the arts, and its love of God. Such a joy for me to be able to exclaim “Christ is Risen!” with an auditorium full of the faithful.
Especially inspiring was my seatmate. Do you remember my story “Tea with a Hero” – the woman who was born in a prisoner of war camp in Finland? She is now battling stage 4 cancer and has recently completely chemotherapy. At age 72, she has amazing strength and a level of determination I can only imagine. Her hope is in the Lord, and it shows. Doesn’t she look great?
Well, after all, it’s Russia, where hospitality is the rule. People matter, and there is always an adventure waiting.