Wednesday, August 24, 2011

My Siberian Adventure - Day 11 - July 7, 2011

Visit: Novosibirsk and Berdsk

Dan and I have breakfast in the bishop's office.  After a while, the bishop arrives and we have a nice visit.

Dan and I then go for a long walk from the seminary to the shopping center.   We're not exactly sure where it is.  This part of Novosibirsk is very amenable to walking.  In our strolling and conversing, it seems like we have gone too far.  Three young people are walking toward us.  In as primitive a Russian as possible, I offer up: "PuhZHALstah, g'DYEH SHOPping CENter."  "Shopping Center" is actually Russian for "shopping center" - though I try to Russify it up a bit like this guy.  My Russian was obviously not impressive, as my youthful interlocutor replied in English and pointed us back the way we came.  But then again, if the object is to communicate, it worked well enough to get us where we needed to go.  It helps that young people both know English and shopping centers.

We can tell we are getting close, as the density of people increases and they are carrying shopping bags.  We walk past the old iconic crumbling Soviet-era movie theater.  In the mall, I buy a few gifts and souvenirs.  Dan wisely buys us some ice cream.  We are, after all, trying to fit in.  And as the bishop explained the native affinity for ice cream: "We are Siberian.  We like ice."

We meet a map dealer selling maps on the street.  He looks like a bum, but is polite, almost courtly.  He is selling maps of Russia for 200 rubles (about $6).  He has them strung up on a clothes line.  I buy one.  He meticulously refolds the map and places it in a plastic sleeve.

On the way back to the seminary, we stop at Traveler's Coffee - a fairly new chain of western-style coffee shops.  I have a Coke and a капучино большой (large cappuccino).  A double cappuccino is only 10 rubles (about 30 cents) more than a single.  My blood-caffeine level is beginning to creep back up to acceptable levels.  Dan has a Coke.  Cokes in Russia have real sugar - not high fructose corn syrup.  On the down side, the Diet Coke ("Coke Light") seems to be flavored with saccharine.

We hang out on the outside patio and relax.  We are under an overhang and face the street.  This is the lovely Akademgorodok neighborhood - a university/scientific community partially set in the woods.  It combines forest trails with an urban setting.

After our little caffeine respite, we start the hike back.

Upon our return, we chat with the bishop, who suggests we try some Arminian шаурма  (sharma - which is called shwarma in North America).  We take a drive to Berdsk where Natasha lives.  We buy food, pick Natasha up at her flat, and drive to the central town park where she is planning on doing some rollerskating.  We eat with our food on the roof of the car as Natasha skillfully glides away.  It's getting chilly.  The bishop shares vanilla powder with us - not as a spice, but as a black fly repellent.  As this is one of the feasts in the Orthodox Church honoring John the Baptist, young people partake of the ancient custom of shooting one another with water pistols.

After we finish our sharma - which is outstanding, by the way! - we drive to a local Orthodox church,  newly constructed, and take pictures.  The bishop tells us the story of the local bishop who is buried in the small graveyard behind the church - a man who suffered at the hand of his own church, who died of a heart attack while still in his forties.  It seems that he was not abusive enough toward religious minorities to satisfy everyone.  He once raised eyebrows by greeting the local Presbyterian minister (whose wife was pregnant) in a TV interview.

The Orthodox building is impressive, and was built with government money after the fall of Communism.  The Orthodox churches typically have highly-polished gilded onion-domes.  All over Russia, these buildings have either been restored or built.  In spite of her legal status and the fact that her churches were also destroyed by the Communists, the Lutheran Church doesn't get the same treatment under the law.  There are a lot of hoops to jump through for Lutheran churches.

Even small things - like registering the official seal of the church - can become a bureaucratic nightmare that requires the hiring of lawyers.

We take pictures of the local Lenin statue (this one, interestingly and inexplicably, is flanked by a dinosaur).  Lenin is often portrayed with his arm extended, pointing like a football referee signalling "first down."  So Dan, who is a high school football referee, poses beneath the statue signalling "first down" as I snap the picture.  This high jinks happens under the watchful eyes of security guards in a car and an older lady who is amused and delighted at our antics.

There is another tableau worth a picture or two - a sharma kiosk whose logo is the McDonald's golden arches, only upside down.  Such restaurants are run by Armenians all over Russia.  But this may be the only one with inverted golden arches.

Back at the seminary, the bishop shows us pictures on his computer of his episcopal consecration at the Lutheran Cathedral of St. Mary in Tallinn, Estonia.

Here is a link to all of my pictures of Day Eleven.

1 comment:

James said...

I am enjoying the diary of your Siberian / Lutheran experience. Thank you.

Did you get any insight on the relationship between the Orthodox Church (priests and laity)and this relatively new Lutheran presence? I've often read most Russian Orthodox in Russia are not welcoming to other Christian denominations.