About This Blog

This is my travel journal chronicling my 2011 tour of Siberia, visiting with our Russian Lutheran brethren in the Siberian Evangelical Lutheran Church. Hopefully and God willing, there will be future adventures for me there.

The title is based on a remarkable book (that I actually read after returning home from Russia) called Travels in Siberia by Ian Frazier. I found much of his writings to mirror my experiences as an American in Siberia - though Mr. Frazier has made many more trips and experienced many more things than I did - not to mention that he is a better writer. At least for now. Practice makes perfect! Frazier's book (here is a review) is also an interesting look at Russian history and gives an overview of the past writings of American travelers to Siberia. I'm humbled to be yet one more.

I hope that readers of TILS vicariously travel with me and enjoy what I have posted. I hope that it provides a small window into the life and work of the pastors and laity of Siberian Lutheranism (and their extraordinary history) and Russian culture in general.

It is also my hope that readers will: 1) Pray for our Christian brothers and sisters in Russia, 2) Support the outstanding missionary work of the Siberian Lutheran Mission Society, and consider sponsoring a Siberian congregation, 3) Consider visiting Russia for themselves, 4) Support the work of the faithful LCMS pastor Rev. Prof. Alan Ludwig, who has taught at the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Novosibirsk for many years and has much of interest to say from his perspective, and 5) Read Ian Frazier's wonderful book
Travels in Siberia (which by the way is available on Nook and Kindle for $9.99)!

Of course, a disclaimer is in order: Ian Frazier has never endorsed this blog, nor have I ever met him or communicated with him. I thoroughly enjoyed his book, however, and am playing with his title for the title of my blog. However, Mr. Frazier, if you're out there - I would love to hear from you some time! I grew up in Cuyahoga Falls - and for some reason, Siberia seems to attract people born in Ohio who feel compelled to write about it. I really did enjoy your book, and I hope you are pleased by my reference to it.

One other disclaimer: other than being a supporter of the Siberian Lutheran Mission Society, I'm not affiliated with SLMS. The material on this blog is mine, and I take sole responsibility for it.

Note: Since I arranged this blog chronologically - which is backward from the way blogs usually work - the buttons at the end that say "Newer Post" and "Older Post" are reversed - just as the "hot" and "cold" water taps are often reversed from the way we're used to them in the states. In other words, if you want to read the next day's installment, click "Older Post" instead of "Newer Post." Just consider this another delightful quirkiness of an American writing about Siberia.

Большое спасибо! Thank you very much!

2011 Journal - Day 14 - July 10

Deacon Alexei grilling sausages

  • Novosibirsk
  • Berdsk

I woke up very early this morning - about 5:30.  It gets daylight here very early.  I have a bit of an upset stomach.  I have also scratched open a small patch of eczema on my ankle.  Not wanting to learn about treating infections in Russia on an American health insurance plan, I
err on the side of caution and cover the small wound with Neosporin and bandage it up.  It heals amazingly fast.

I take advantage of the matinal peace and quiet to transfer a few journal notes, to pray and meditate, and to reflect on my parish and parishioners back home.  I head to the shower about 8:00 am.  Afterwards, I meet Dan for a little breakfast and tea, and do some IM (instant message) with Grace followed by a short video session.  Our separation is very hard, but would be much worse without the technology that we enjoy.  Of course, the 12-hour time difference is something that constantly has to be dealt with.

I am the preacher at Mass this morning, and so I head to the church to get ready.  I meet Deacon Alexey Shillin - who greets me in fluent English.  Father Pavel (Khramov) will be the celebrant, and Father Alexey will be my translator and will assist with distribution.  Deacon Alexey will serve as the deacon and will be censing the altar.

Pavel helps me to get vested.  I borrow an alb, a cincture, a stole, and a pectoral cross.  It's always awkward when I have to wear vestments that are not my own.  I feel a little like a kid struggling to tie a Windsor knot.  We say a prayer in the small vestry that is located in the sacristy that doubles as a chapel.  Father Pavel then quickly goes over the service with me - especially the rubrics.  The service begins a few minutes late.

I am seated in the chancel with the clergy.  There is a good turnout in the pews.  Natasha is playing the organ. I do my best to pray and sing in Russian.  The pattern of the liturgy is, of course, familiar - while I don't understand very many of the individual words.

Father Alexey and I head to the pulpit.  From my perspective, we seem to have a good rhythm - although it might be a different story from Alexey's point of view!  Alexey is looking over my shoulder as I preach from my manuscript.  My text is the Prodigal Son.  Father Alexey has come up with a good word to translate the word "prodigal" - a similarly quaint and rarely used Russian word that means the same thing.

I took Holy Communion and remained standing outside of the chancel off to the side as the Russian clergy reverently distributed the Lord's body and blood.

After the service, we take some pictures.  Father Daniel pointed out that I may have been the first American to preach here following the formal declaration of fellowship between the LCMS and the SELC.  Actually, from the Russian perspective, we have always been in fellowship.  In an ironic twist, it is actually the American church body whose bureaucracy held up full altar and pulpit fellowship for many years.  It was a happy day in December when the new LCMS president, the Rev. Matthew Harrison, declared our two church bodies to be in full communion.  Years of bureaucratic wrangling and foot-dragging were swept away in a moment.

After taking pictures, we retire back to the small altar in the sacristy where I help the priests and the deacon consume the reliquiae, that is, the remaining elements of the Holy Sacrament.  St. Andrew's has a tabernacle in the sacristy so that the reliquiae may be stored for later consumption by the sick in the parish.  However, the bishop believes that the parish's current tabernacle is not a fit receptacle and is hoping to get a nicer one at a later date.  In the meantime, the reliquiae are consumed by the clergy.

It was not that many years ago that such a thing would have been unthinkable - Americans and Russians partaking of Holy Communion together in a public Lutheran worship service in Siberia.  Daria Lytkin, the bishop's wife, was so kind as to drop by the sacristy to thank me for the small gift I presented to her through the bishop: a silk scarf decorated with the fleur-de-lis - the symbol of Louisiana and of New Orleans.  She was very gracious, and obviously understood the symbolism.

We make our way to the parish hall for tea.  I found Natasha before she left, and with the help of Father Alexey, presented her with a different design of the fleur-de-lis scarf.  I also presented a small gift to Olga Netaeva - a fleur-de-lis decorated business card case.  I expressed my gratitude once again for Olga's and Natasha's hospitality.  Gifts are an important part of Russian culture, and my gratitude is heartfelt.

Olga thanked me for the sermon.  I asked her if she liked it.  She said that she did.  I replied that this is because Father Alexey mistranslated it.  That got a laugh.  She assured me that he translated it well, and that she enjoyed hearing it twice.

After tea and a light lunch (soup, meat dish), I went up to the lecture hall to hear Father Daniel conclude his treatment of Psalm 23.  Since I was the preacher, I was not on the docket for the rest of the day.  After the lecture, I went back to my room (which is how I now refer to Father Pavel's office...) to rest.  But there is a crowd outside my window.  Deacon Alexey is grilling sausages over a charcoal flame.

The aroma is absolutely divine, and I follow my nose outside.  I enjoy outstanding conversation with Father Pavel and Kevin Walker.  Kevin is in Russia working on some translations from German to Russian.  He is a student here in Russia, and is thus on a student visa.  It complicates things when one is a foreigner.  There is a good crowd outside mingling, eating, and enjoying the picture-perfect weather.

After the meal, Dan, the two Olgas, and I decide to take a walk to the shopping center.  Akademgorodok is really becoming comfortable for me to stroll around in.  There is a brick walkway lined by large anthills.  I am on a mission to buy Grace a birthday present (her birthday is exactly a week away).  I would like to find her a traditional Russian scarf - a gift that is not only a souvenir, but something she will actually use and enjoy.  And since the nights are on the cool side, I'd like to get myself a sweatshirt - hopefully something unusual an Russian.  Dan is interested in buying a map.

Olga Suhinina loves to talk about lingusitics - every manner of grammatical and syntactical minutia.  She does most of the talking, and I enjoy a free lecture in language.  Fascinating stuff, and she has a lot of great insights - delivered with a dry and keen sense of humor.  Here is an article in the SLMS newsletter about Olga and her invaluable work at the seminary in Novosibirsk (see page one).

We drop into the Traveler's Coffee for cappuccinos and latte.  It is lively, and the nice weather has brought out a lot of people.  We are seated in an outdoor covered patio in a roomy and comfortable booth.  The young people all around us look like young people from everywhere - phones, ipods, laptops, etc.  They are dressed in jeans, t-shirts, and carrying backpacks.  Dan and I are told that this is a recent phenomenon here.  Dan asks if it is obvious by our looks and mannerisms that we are Americans, and the Olgas laugh.  And laugh.  And laugh.  I guess it's pretty obvious.

I buy my friends coffee using my Visa card.  We take pictures, exchange stories, and relax.

Post-caffeination, we head to the shopping center.  Olga Suhinina takes charge, directing me from one store to another in search of the object of my quest: a traditional Russian scarf.  I find a beautiful wool scarf, large and just the right shade of mauve.  It is a little on the expensive side, but well-made.  I bring the scarf to the counter and present my Visa - which is declined.  Dan offers that it is probably a safety mechanism since I had just used it at Traveler's.  So I pay in rubles.

The Olgas lead me all over the shopping center in search of my elusive sweater.  I almost buy a nice plain hooded sweatshirt, but it's kind of expensive, and I figure I could buy such a thing back home.  After visiting several stores, I call off the search.  The Olgas find that funny.

The Olgas are a lot of fun to hang out with.  They are quite different from one another in personality - but they get along well and genuinely seem to like each other.  Both are very kind.  At one point, the Olgas were chatting in Russian.  Russians sound (at least to me) to be so emphatic when they speak to one another - at times, almost like they are fighting.  After one such intense conversation, Olga Netaeva turns to me and says matter of factly: "We like you."  Maybe the jury was out until that point!  Somehow, I must have passed muster with the Olgas.

We walk past a street vendor who is selling fruit.  Olga Suhinina asks Dan and me if we have ever had one of the melons on display.  We had not.  It turns out that the fruit comes from Uzbekistan and is known by the name "collective farmer."  Olga insists on buying us one.  She pays and places the large melon in her backpack.  She refuses my offer to carry it for her.  It is about the size of a cantaloupe.  Olga loves to walk, and by this time, we have been strolling for several miles.  Rather than head home (which is close by), Olga wishes to continue walking with us to the seminary, and then walk back again to return home.  Olga Netaeva has to work in the morning, and so she decides not to walk with us back to the sem.

Meanwhile, Dan has just received a text message from Natasha inviting us to a pyrotechnic show in Berdsk this evening at 9:30 pm.  Berdsk is Natasha's hometown just outside Novosibirsk - where she was skating.

Before heading back, Dan would like a beer.  So he and Olga Suhinina go into a grovery store to buy some, while Olga (Netaeva) and I wait at an outdoor table.  They return, and Olga N. says "goodbye" and walks to the bus station.  It starts to rain a bit, and Dan, Olga S., and I start walking to the seminary.

Once there, we head to the little parish hall where we had tea earlier in the day, and Olga brings the melon to the sink and washes it up for us.  She is a very health-conscious and fastidious person.  Olga had scolded me earlier for walking on the grass out of concern that I might be bitten by a tick.  We cut open the collective farmer, and Dan slices it into wedges.  It is very sweet!

Olga takes her leave.  Since it is raining, she reluctantly decides to take the bus.  She really prefers to walk.  Dan and I wait for Natasha to arrive.  She is picking us up to bring us to Berdsk.  She arrives shortly.

We join a good sized crowd on the main square of the park.  There is a stage set up.  The show begins shortly after we arrive.  It is spectacular!  It features music, lasers, and a kind-of dance troupe/circus of fire-spitters and fire-jugglers.  Because of the language barrier, Natasha and I are wielding phrasebooks, and Dan has his cellphone poised to contact Olga Netaeva should the need for a translation arrive.

We have a great time, and Natasha drives us back to the seminary.  Dan and I retire to the bishop's office, and we drink the two beers he had bought.  His is a dark beer, and mine is a lager - Baltika 7.  We wind down by listening to a recording of the British actor Hugh Laurie singing and playing American blues tunes.

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

Father Daniel and the Collective Farmer (not a Russian fairy tale...)

No comments:

Post a Comment