Flights. Our flights on Tuesday and Wednesday were blessedly uneventful. Even a late departure from Washington, DC did not cause us to miss our connection in Munich. We only had time to hit the restrooms before boarding, however. The kids were troopers during the flights. Lyle sat with Kerith, and I sat between Lydia and Simon in the middle row of the plane. My original seat would not recline, and we were reseated several rows back. The flight attendants were delightful and kind to the kids, which made a big difference to us. Thankfully, Simon slept most of the longer flight, which allowed me to grab some shuteye too.
The flight from Munich to St. P was only 2 ½ hours, and at 4 pm we landed in St. P. Lydia and I had a window this time and marveled at the expanse of the Bay of Finland as we approached the airport. After we passed through passport control in St. P, our luggage was practically waiting for us in one big pile! All 13 pieces arrived with only minimal damage to a few of the suitcases. Another surprise was our team leader, Bill O’Byrne, who met us with a cart for the luggage. He surreptitiously skirted the customs officials to meet us.
Arriving. A Russian pastor friend of Lyle’s, Igor, also met us in the parking lot to help schlep our worldly possessions to our temporary apartment. The main avenue from the airport is well maintained with copious quantities of blooming flowers – orange marigolds by the thousands and hanging baskets of purple Petunias. This is the first impression for the foreigners, so the officials work to keep this street particularly attractive. It’s been 10 years since my last visit to Russia, and the western influence is immediately evident in the types of shops and restaurants (Sushi bars!)
Apartment. Our temporary living quarters in the apartment of some American missionaries home for the summer. We will stay here until we find a place of our own, or until Oct 1, whichever comes first.
The sidewalk in front of the building has construction in the form of a wide, deep ditch, so the workers had to bring over a board for us to cross over with the luggage. Welcome to Russia. The entryways to apartment buildings usually are rough and primitive. I call it “early rubble era”. Ours is no exception; however, the stairwells and elevator (think college dorm after a partying all night and very tiny) are not indicative of the apartments they lead to.
We are blessed to have 3 bedrooms. Lydia does not have to share with the boys and has already started decorating with her treasures brought from Virginia. There are usually young children living here, and the kids are enjoying using the many toys and books. The rooms are large and the kitchen well equipped. There is no a/c, but only when the sun shines in directly do we turn on fans.
White nights are at their peak early in July, but the sky still stays light until rather late, and it is dark by 2 am. (Ask me how we know this! LOL) We are starting to turn around our days and nights, and it’s amazing that the kids are sleeping as much as they are. I expected their bodies to still be on ET for a while longer.
O’Byrnes. Oh, where do I start? Bill and Priscilla and their 4 children, Gillian, 13, Karina, 10, Liam, 7, and Olivia, 1, are our lifeline right now. They have lived here for about 14 years, and they seem to know just what we need and when. Priscilla stocked us with provisions for a few days, including wonderful breads, muesli, fruit, and yogurt. Yummy. It was dinnertime when we arrived, and after a quick primer on the gas stove, they left us to acclimate. Dinner and 5 baths later, we hit the sack.
Simon’s comment. After our history lesson and tour of the waterfront, we retired to the O’Byrne’s for dinner. As we started trudging up the 5 long flights of concrete stairs to our apartment, Simon asked, “Why are we coming back here again?” We all chuckled, but the laughter fizzled to introspective hmmm’s. Secretly we were all thinking the same thing, “Yeah, what are we doing here?”
Friday. Priscilla and oldest daughter Gillian took Lyle, Simon, and I to the large western-style grocery store called “Okay”. It’s more than okay, let me tell you. I had to avoid looking at the non-food section just to keep my sanity. Lyle had warned me of this because he had toured this store during his visit to St. P last March. Priscilla patiently escorted us through the aisles and helped us select a cartful of groceries. Our total? 2,371.97 rubles. (25 r. = $1). The most expensive item was Olive Oil and the cheapest – stuffed bliny (stuffed crepes) at 3.90 rub each.
After 2 hours of shopping, I was ready to have anybody just put food in the cart for me. Deciphering all the ingredients and making decisions began to overwhelm me. How funny, an American tired of choices. The store was huge and the selection vast. Priscilla will take us to the farmer’s marker (Ree` nok) tomorrow for spices, dried fruits, and grains.
Friday afternoon playground.
Now Lydia has a story! She has been nervous about meeting Russian children because of the language barrier, but anybody who knows Lydia knows she has a gift for making friends of any age, size, and background. Nothing like Russian was going to stand in her way. At a nearby playground, three girls, ages 10-early teens, befriended Lydia and included her in some ball games. Lyle was on hand to help with translations. She was beaming when she came home having learned that she CAN make friends. The girls have asked when Lydia would be coming again!