Monday, April 19, 2010

Clifton: Russia Trip-Day Five

Editor's Note: Engage Russia's newest team member, Michael Clifton, made his first trip to Russia earlier this month. Michael is a media producer living in Kiev, Ukraine. This summer Michael will start leading Engage Russia production trips while Marc Hooks is in the States meeting with churches and others who are interested in becoming Engage Russia partners. The following is posted fromMichael's personal blog.

Date: 1 April 2010

I’m nearly kicking myself that I pulled a grand total of “zero” April Fools Jokes. I didn’t even attempt one.

Our train pulled into the station before sunrise. I had forgotten my tripod in our coupé and had to go all the way back from inside the station to our wagon (at the front of the train). Everyone had already gotten off and the doors were shut, but our wagon “stewardess” let me back in to retrieve. All I said when she asked was “Ya zabil” (I forgot).

Most of the Most

We were exiting the station when we heard a voice of desperation ask, “Does anyone speak English.” This lady had the name and address of the hostel (Godzilla’s) where she was going to stay, but had no clue how to even get to where she was going. Marc and I helped her out all the way out of the Metro stop where she needed to be. It was a little out of our way, but we were at least on a Metro line where a McDonald’s was located. Yes, McD for breakfast, again. As we emerged at our stop, the sun was showing off a clear sky.

After recharging our stomachs, we went to the apartment to recharge our phones, laptops, and various other batteries. We cleaned up from the travels and rested a bit before going out for the day.

Couple in the ГУМ

Since the Internet had been cut off at home, and both my phone battery and minutes were used up two days previous. I loaded up some money on the phone and finally managed to relieve the nerves of my precious wife. I used up all my minutes in that one call.

We met another colleague for lunch at a food court in a mall near our McDonald’s breakfast location. I had Sbarro pizza, which was much better than their counterpart in Kiev. They even had pepperoni pizza!! We sat around discussing things and strategizing how I might be used once Marc was going stateside for a year.

Tomb of Unknown Soldier in St. Petersburg

I then made my way out alone to meet up with another colleague, Tim, for us to videotape “man on the street” interviews with people to find out what they think it “means to be Russian.” I also needed to pick up the registration I had ordered three days prior.

I’m not sure we ever got a straight answer on the “What it means to be Russian” question. It was difficult enough to get anyone to agree to answer on video, and another thing to break the language barrier. One lady helped us for a few minutes to find others that would do it. One couple of older men chatted with us for over 20 minutes. One of them was Russian and the other Belorussian. The Russian dominated the conversation (or shall I say monologue). Every time the Belorussian tried to speak, the Russian would cut him off and tell him he was wrong. An interview with a couple ladies produced some laughs, and another compliment on my Russian language skills. I must have the most convincing nod in the world. :)

Duck (Duh)

Tim had some other things to do, so he departed, and I made my way back to the apartment. My eyes shut for only a moment (more like an hour or more) when Marc hobbled in. He had sprained his ankle some kinda bad on the way home.

We still had plans to meet up with some of his former English Club students, so we headed out the door to meet with them. Only two of the group showed up, but we went to the nearest Schocolodnitsa Cafe for some coffee. We sat there for a couple hours talking and catching up with them.

Russian Flag

Marc and I said goodbye and went to Rostick’s (KFC) to get some real dinner to take back to the apartment where he could rest and wrap his ankle.

By this part of the trip, my habit at the end of the day was to take the card out of my camera and load them into iPhoto, but I had not shot a picture all day. How was that even possible? So, I’ve just included some random photos from the trip throughout this blog post.

Having lived in Africa, it was easy to make friends quickly. People there smile and greet everyone. This became our biggest Culture Shock upon entering a former Soviet country. People here don’t smile much, and often become suspicious of you if you do. Friendships take time here. People are just not as open to foreigners. However, once a friendship is made, it becomes a deep friendship. These relationships are the key to unlocking the door to sharing with people in this culture. Marc demonstrated that on several occasions during the trip, but this night, when we met the two English Club students, it was apparent that one of these was a real life-long friend. Marc got invited back to his home village to stay with his parents.

Pray with us that these types of relationships be made and continue. We also pray that when they invite us into their lives, that we live transparent enough that they invite Jesus into their lives as well.

Double Eagle in St. Pete Palace

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