Monday, March 11, 2013

Accounts of Some of My Most Favorite Memories in the Motherland 

One of my most favorite memories from the trip was visiting the Soviet b440 Foxtrot class submarine on one of the water reserves of Vytegra. I am fascinated by the Cold War era, and I was astounded by how complex the technology of the submarine was given the time, and can only imagine what modern submarines look like. We saw its sonar detectors, diesel engines, control rooms and heard about how the seamen exited the sub through its torpedo launchers cases of emergency. One of our guides on board was a man by the name of Sergei who actually had served on an atomic submarine on a fleet of 120 people, and he was recounting on many of his experiences during the war. One of the most interesting things I heard him say was that he never felt any impeding sense that war was coming soon. I found this to be quite ironic---so much money, time, resources and training had been invested into building the Soviet army and naval fleet in preparation for this war, and yet, there wasn’t even a concrete feeling that there would be actual combat in the near future. 

Another highlight of the trip for me was visiting the Alexsander Svir’sky Monastery a little over halfway to Vytegra from St. Petersburg. I was mesmerized by how colorful and full of life the frescoes still were, and the biblical stories they told were very heartfelt to me, even though I am not a religious person. My favorite stories were the one in which you could see Jesus Christ healing the common man of his maladies, such as the bleeding disease and cerebral palsy. Hearing the church choir sing in church Slavonic was breathtaking, and even though I could not understand what they were saying, it was almost an out of body experience where I could feel there passion and love of their faith, and it brought tears to my eyes. Also, the story of how Alexsander saw the Holy Trinity before him and how they blessed the sand they were standing upon was truly remarkable to me. Also, I’d like to think that a mini “miracle” happened to me on our visit to that monastery. We were told that if we touched the bags of holy sand that we collected from the sand pit inside one of the tiny structures within the monastery to Alexsander’s tomb that we would be granted our wishes. I had been coming on with kidney infection for the last two or three days which was becoming increasingly painful, and I wished that my symptoms would be relieved. No less than a few hours later, all my pain was gone! I am not exactly sure what to make of this experience, but even if it was a fluke or just pure luck, it was a story that I’ll be telling over and over again for the rest of my life. 

In the Andoma village, as well as in School No. 2, I recited a poem by Alexsander Pushkin I believe might have been titled “Deep in Siberia’s Mines” for the students and teachers. This was a poem I recited for the first class I ever took on Russian history in my junior year at Michigan. You can only imagine how I must feel…little did I know that a little over one year later I would be in Russia reciting the very same poem. When I heard the students began to recite the poem in Russian after they had recognized it, I felt so honored and happy that I had shared a poem with them by a poet that has contributed so much to Russian history and has impacted so many Russians lives, especially in the provinces where poetry becomes very important. 

It seems that I have had infinity and a half memories on this trip that will stay with me forever. The most interesting note that I will most likely ever have to say about my time in Russia is that it is almost exactly the country I pictured every time I envisioned Russia in my mind ever since I was a little girl. I always had an image of the cute little babyshkas in their colorful embroidered head scarves inside tiny log huts in midst of a snowy, cold, vast wilderness. I also had always pictured the metropolises as cold, unwelcoming and dark in its layout, which is exactly what I found to be true when I first set my eyes on it when our plane descended into St. Petersburg. This makes me happy, for Russia was always a country that I had always fascinated me in the way I had pictured it in my mind, and ever since I was a little girl I knew that wanted to come here one day. Who would have thought that around ten or so years later, that’s exactly what I would do.   

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