Thursday, July 31, 2008

July 25, 2008 At Camp Granada

 At Camp Granada
July 25, 2008

In the previous article, I forgot to mention the couple in our carriage with the 4 month old baby. The lady spoke some English and we found that the older couple on the platform were her parents and the grandmother was spending a lot of time trying to get the baby's attention. Babushkas are the same around the world.

I did not mention the accommodations for the Young Singles traveling with us from Novosibirsk. “Cattle Car” is the shortest, best description. Visualize a carriage (train car) the same size as ours with a table like ours facing short benches, one on either side ours all attached to the left wall of the carriage. Then an isle runs the length of the carriage from door to door. On what’s left of the right side are open (no door) compartments like the booths at the old Black Angus in Sacramento. In each booth is another table attached to the right wall flanked by two benches and two bunks about 4 feet above, making four sleeping perches.

As we walked through the carriage to see our young people we passed a mixture of passengers, male, female, old, & young in various stages of dressed-undressed filling all of the seating/sleeping positions and occupied in various ways from sleeping to eating to playing cards, to reading, to just looking around. Smoking is not allowed in the carriages, but the air was dense with a variety of fragrances. It reminded me of the arrangements in the forward torpedo room of a WWII submarine. The kids seemed to be having a good time, but it didn’t take long for them to filter up the train to our car for a little conversation and some hoped-for goodies.

We arrived at 7 am in Krasnoyarsk and were met by the Zone leaders and another pair of elders who helped us up and down the stairs with our bags; greatly appreciated. We spent the next hour standing around with the 50 or so young people on the plaza in front of the train station waiting for the buses that don’t start running until 8 am.

The town of Krasnoyarsk is actually very pretty in many ways. The traffic is lighter; the streets more narrow, decorations were strung from pole to pole across the streets in the business district and it has numerous squares and fountains. There is a lot of building going on there, but the pace is not fast. One building owned by a Chinese company is said to be under construction for the last 20 years. The orphanage is painted pink with white rococo trim; very attractive.

We cross the river and head up a valley to the west, past several large, abandoned recreation facilities, built during the Soviet era, and one new ski resort. Camp Granada is located on a tributary of the main river that runs through town. Saturday, some of the senior couples took a walk across a rusty footbridge and over to the opposite shore where wildflowers were in profusion.

The camp was probably a very posh resort in the old (Soviet) days, but is showing its age, as are most of post-war Russian buildings. It has a main meeting hall with a 325-seat auditorium, generous foyer and a second floor recreation room with a pool table. There were 8 residence halls that I could see, some with dorm-type rooms and at least one with two bed rooms, probably for the counselors. The cafeteria looked to seat about 300 and served 3 meals a day to us, although we had to help set up the tables at each meal. There was a large play yard with various children’s apparatus and open fields. The resident horse and colt visited us regularly and were quite popular.

We arrived ahead of the “committee” and stood around for an hour before things got organized. Every so often a bus load of attendees arrived all through the morning until most of the 250-some young adults were there by 1 pm. 

The children from the previous week were just checking out and waiting for their buses and were very interested in us. They came over and wanted to practice their English on us and generally hang out. At first I was a little skeptical, but they really were very nice kids.

All of the adults were in building 8, at the end of the road toward the cafeteria. We made that trip numerous times during the weekend. Our room had two single beds, a bathroom with tub-shower, a TV (2 stations in Russian) small refrigerator, and a set of corner windows. It was old and well used, but comfortable and cozy.

The event finally got underway with the opening ceremony at 3 pm with President Mickelsen giving the keynote address and the workshops began at 4 pm. The attendees were divided into 6 groups for the 6 workshops and attended 3 on Thursday and three Friday mornings. We attended several and even sat through a couple of them in Russian. After dinner the day ended with a dance in front of the big hall and ended at 11:45 or there abouts. 

We got the assignment to get one of each of the groups to set the tables for lunch and dinner each day and thought we had to be there to see that it was done. We usually arrived to find the job pretty much done and did very little supervising. We also asked the senior couples to do breakfast each day and they were great too.
The dance was a real surprise. It doesn’t get dark until after 10:30 pm so a dance that starts at 8 pm runs mostly in the daylight. That was no problem to these kids. There was a DJ and lots of music with lots of sound, but the interesting part was that they danced mostly in groups, in a circle. The slow dances were mostly in couples, but even then there were many group partners. The dancing was mainly disco style with some conga-line action, going through the arch, and line dances. It was very unique how easily they mixed and danced with many partners and many groups. It was like they all knew one another from somewhere else. I later found that a large portion of them had been a member of the Church for less than a year and some were still investigators.

I have to say that this was one of the nicest, kindest groups of young people I had ever seen. They were genuinely grateful to be there and appreciated everything offered to them. I saw no rolled-eyes, no bored looking at the ceiling, no caustic or cutting remarks about anything or any one. They were loud, they were funny, they were cute, they were happy, and they were honest. I really enjoyed being with them even though I couldn’t talk to most of them. They were very different from the young people I have seen on the streets and even from the general group at home. These kids paid 1500 rubles to be there and it didn’t come from rich parents because many, if not most, of their families were poor and/or not members. The more I think about it the more impressed I am.
What a country to have such a group.

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