Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Odds and Ends Observations 2/13/10

Odds and Ends Observations
Weather--Overcast with light snow
Temp--minus 22C (-7F) Wind--10-12 mph from the west

I have made many observations from our 9th floor bedroom window and while walking or riding around our limited area of experience. Surely these cannot be generalized beyond my actual experience, but they COULD be a microcosm of the activity all over Siberia for all I know.

One of my observations is that I see people walking alone down our street at all hours of the day and night; alone. I mean, at 3:00 AM when Sister Cindy has finished her last email and run completely out of things on her list, I can stand at my side of the bed, next to the window, and see one or two people walking down the street solo. It seems interesting that ANYONE would be on the street at that hour (it seems strange to me that I would be up to observe this phenomenon at 3AM), walking alone from somewhere to somewhere, alone. The streets must be considered safe to be alone at a time when only criminals and the homeless are afoot.

Another observation is associated with the elevator. As we stepped into it tonight we looked down to see 4-5 hand-print-size puddles of liquid about 1/4 inch deep. With our 20+ month experience with puddles in our building and particularly in the elevator, we both looked at one another and said, "I hope that's melted snow."

An associated observation is the fauna and flora on our 18 staircases as we go to the office each day. As we walk down the stairs each morning we have to dodge what has been left on the stairs by our, usually young, neighbors and their friends. We pick our way amid the cigarette butts, partially consumed cans and bottles of various liquids, the by-products of apartment remodeling, and puddles of vomit, some of which are thoughtfully absorbed by notebook paper that is now dried and permanently stuck to the stair.

We had a puddle of used spaghetti in front of the elevator two months ago that, rather than being removed by the donor, just soaked into the unsealed concrete floor for several weeks along with being tracked away by the shoes of those running the gauntlet of obstacles on our stairs. It is hard to believe that the donors of these various deposits don't get it. It has to be that they are so sick(or drunk) that the issue of cleaning up is simply beyond them. Logic would suggest that the donors must be visitors to our building because if you lived here you would not tolerate your own mess for very long; would you?

The fauna consists mostly of the stuffed animals in our living room. As soon as the YSA kids come into the room, they grab one of them and hug them the whole evening. Even the missionaries, mostly the sisters, hug the toys, but even many of the elders seem to get some real comfort from them. When Sister Cindy started buying them at Ikea, I objected. Now I see the wisdom in it and am glad that we have them. Here, Anya Kovalenko demonstrates her technique with the panda. Anya is a returned missionary from Japan. She was also my choir pianist, my translator, and a good friend, one of those who has moved from Novo for work in Moscow. We miss her a lot.

I have mentioned the cars that start, run, and turn off multiple times during the night. I can look out the window at various times of the night and see the hazard lights flashing on the street, in the parking lot across the street, and in our own parking lot. It is kinda creepy to walk through the parking lot past blinking, driver-less cars with running motors each building its parking-lot volcanoes beneath their tailpipes.

Russians want to be friendly and occasionally we get a glimpse of that. This past week, a young lady pushing a pram (for you in Rio Linda that's a baby buggy) caught up with us and started asking us something. I gave her my usual "don't speak Russian" response and with limited English and gestures she asked if we bought our shoe-chains (Yak Traks) in Russia. We said no, but maybe they were available. Sister Cindy immediately wanted to see the baby and bonded with the young mom.

She asked the lady for her cell phone number and promised to call her with some information. Now, you have to picture this. I have a 22 pound briefcase slung over my head and left shoulder, cutting off my circulation while we are standing there, and Sister Cindy starts pulling on my coat, trying to get at a pen for her to write her phone number. After the lady writes the number, Sister Cindy tries to tell her where we live. Then she gets real aggressive and tries to expose my name tag while she explains that we are missionaries. The young lady, somewhat amused and a little disappointed said, "I know. I live across the hall from you."

Of course, we have seen her several times and I once helped her down the stairs between the elevator and the exit door with her pram, but we did not recognize her in all the clothes we all have to wear. We all laughed and she was genuinely pleased to make the connection. It seems that her grandmother slipped on the ice and she saw our shoe-chains as a possible solution. Nice lady.

A little farther on, as we approached the office on the driveway, a lady in a full-length mink coat approached us and, smiling, said something in Russian, I gave her my usual answer and added, "Amerikanski". She smiled broadly, apologized and waved as she walked on. It was a very pleasant encounter.

I will have more observations from the 9th floor window, but I need to get this posted so my readers don't get discouraged and quit checking in. Reason: I have a secret goal to get 1,000,000 hits on the blog before we go home in April. At first I thought that no one would read this but family. Then when I put the counter on the blog and saw that over 100,000 hits had occurred, I sort of checked on the count every once in a while and watched it grow. Now that it is over 900,000. The one million mark is not so far fetched. We'll see.

We love our mission here and the people we know. Even the people we just see and meet periodically like the checkers at Megas (supermarket) or the Metro guards, or the security guard in the Zoloni Kupola (green roof) building where we have church. They call up from my heart a sincere love. I have heard it said by other senior couples that you are filled with God's love for the people, but I doubted it; just missionary hype. Well, it's true. I am filled with love for all of these people, even the ones who don't look at or talk to us or those who donate the stuff to our stairs, or the drunk teenagers who congregate on our landing and leave sunflower seeds all over. I love them as brothers and sisters and cannot help myself. It is a gift God gives his missionaries to allow them to love strangers. It is a neat feeling.

What a feeling. What a country.


Emily said...

I check in often but post less often. It is very interesting to see what all our international missionaries are doing and how comfortable and secure I feel here. Good luck on your goal, I'll do my share to click ;0)

Trisha said...

THis one was a little gross. Not sure I would like to see all that stuff every day. I keep checking in and doing my part. I did miss the posts when you slowed down.

Shannon said...

I too, missed the posts when you weren't leaving them. I am taking a quick break at work to try and catch up things!!! I miss the missionary life - while you are busy with a lot of good work, your focus is so narrow, and by a result, your vision is heightened and sharpened. Those stairs are sure gross.

Good luck with your goal and I will check the site more often to help with your clicks :)