Going to Klyuev’s village was definitely the highlight of the trip for me. It started off with our visit to Andoma school, where we were warmly greeted by faculty and staff, meeting so many warm and wonderful people. They were so excited to have us, and we were more than excited to be there! One of my favorite parts was the poetry section where the students recited poems to us with music in the background, interspersed with our own recitations as well. I just love how into poetry they all are and how seriously they take it, so different than the U.S.! I wish I had a primary school experience that placed such an importance on poetry. I have only recently begun to realize its significance and I feel that it could have added a lot to my education in high school and even before. We were then given a delicious lunch and were surprised by a huge spread of sweets and presents, due to the next day being Woman’s Day, which the school closes for. Not only were their jams, pastries, candies, and more, but they also gave us flowers and homemade scarves! I was in disbelief with their generosity.
As it turned out we were running behind for our visit to Makachova, the village of Klyuev, where we visited a library and then the home of Viera, a little Babushka. This was where the magic began happening (not that it wasn’t already an amazing day). Viera was so tiny and the most adorable elderly woman, who was beaming with happiness and love. Although I neither of us speak each others language, I understood her based purely off of the emotion she was radiating. She was bustling around making sure everyone was happy and satisfied, trying to get us to eat more than our exploding bellies could handle, and was smiling and laughing so much that she would randomly wipe away tears from her eyes. At one point she told us that she lives in the house with just her two cats and her cow Marta. She said that Marta was like her sister and that they understood each other and she began tearing up again. Every time she spoke and shared her happiness and love with us, I became overwhelmed with emotion as well, tearing up and just wanting to give her the biggest hug possible. I was able to give her several hugs before leaving though and after one of them she was saying something I couldn’t understand, but got the sentiment from her gesturing that I gave bear like hugs (haha). When we asked her to take a photo she would nervously bustle about fixing her hair and scarf and straightening her clothes. Then after the photo, we would look at the picture, and in traditional fashion, her shining smiling face turned blank for the photo. Such a funny comparison considering that in the photo she had the straightest, sternest face you could imagine, hiding all of her soft happiness.
Before leaving, she showed us Marta, taking Jackie and I back first. The stable was connected to the house and the first doorway and room was so short that you had to be completely bent over the whole way across, leading to another taller, yet smaller room where pregnant Marta stood. Seeing Marta and Viera’s relationship and how they related was so touching that I began to cry. It was so powerful and the whole experience of her gratitude and happiness to have us all there was so overwhelming that I just couldn’t contain myself anymore. She had us feel the head of the calf in Marta’s bulging belly and it was so incredible! We then were able to pet Marta behind her ears, with Viera proudly chatting away the entire time, beaming and radiating an energy that I have rarely felt from anyone. Leaving her was so difficult as she walked us outside, and a few of the other girls and myself left her with a group hug, expressing to our gratitude and how we did not want to leave. She stood at the side of the road watching us as we left, exchanging waves as we saw her for the last time. I was so touched by this meeting with Viera, the purity of her emotions and intentions, and with all of this being said, it will remain etched into my memory and heart forever.