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 6 - July 2

Novokuznetsk as seen from the majestic Novokuznetskaya Hotel

  • Novokuznetsk

The sun fights its way through the thick gloomy gray clouds to press its way through the fifth story window of the Novokuznetskaya Hotel and manages to wake me up quite early. Although the quarters are tight, it is a nice place. The best part is the piping hot shower. There is no hot water right now in Novosibirsk, so
Dan and I both comment about how nice the hot water is.

There is an amusing sign in the bathroom, posted in both Russian and (Google Translate-style) English that is apparently typical customer service in the former USSR. It ominously warns guests that using towels for any purpose other than their intended use would result in fines. It is signed by Administration.

Customer Service, Soviet-style

We meet the other guys for breakfast at the snack bar on our floor. It seems to be the common formula to have a small restaurant on each floor of hotels. In Russian, it is called a буфет (buffet), but it isn’t actually a buffet at all. In the old Soviet way, the menu has four options (again, hearkening back to Soviet times): Option One, Option Two, Option Three, and Option Four – no substitutions. We order Option One, the basic breakfast of two eggs, over-easy, yogurt, tea (or instant coffee), and bread. The eggs, like a lot of the food here, is garnished with dill. It is a simple breakfast, but quite tasty.

We drive to the church in Novokuznetsk, which is actually an apartment purchased by the SLMS. The Rev. Dmetri Dotsenko serves there as pastor. The sanctuary is set up for our lectures.

First, Father Dmetri conducts a brief prayer service. Father Daniel gives a series of short lectures on Psalm 23 (which is actually Psalm 22 by the numbering of the Russian Bible – as they use the Septuagint (Greek) translation of the Old Testament. Following Dan’s lecture, I give my presentation on the Augsburg Confession.

We break for lunch: a pasta salad, borscht, and a dish that is like a meatball surrounded by mashed potatoes. The people are very hospitable, and the ladies (most of whom in this parish cover their heads with scarves) keep giving us more food. We drink hot tea with cubes of sugar.

After lunch, Father Andrey and Father Alexey speak. Dan and I retire to a back room since we don’t understand Russian. He and I have excellent pastoral discussion. It is one of the side benefits of coming to Russia to get to know Dan both as a friend and as a brother in arms in the office of the holy ministry.

At the end of the lectures, about 4:00 pm or so, we greet everyone again. We head back to the hotel, and there is a huge festival going on in the neighborhood commemorating the anniversary of Novokuznetsk, bringing people out into the streets. Father Andrei goes to park the car, and comes back chuckling as the parking attendant is apparently very drunk. The streets are packed with people strolling, drinking, and listening to live music. We walk for a long time, talking, taking pictures, and people-watching.

The USSR Monument

We visit the monument to the USSR, a drab gray concrete monument shaped (ironically) like a crown. There is a display commemorating each of the republics of the now-defunct Union. The monument was apparently erected just a few years before the dissolution of the union. Alexey takes the opportunity to explain (and glory in) some of the ironies of Soviet history and the geographical complications resulting from this era that linger to this day.

For dinner, we decide to go to a mall food court, apparently a new thing for Siberia. We take a long walk to the mall, go upstairs, and wander around the food court. The mall is quite western, with a Subway, a Bowling Alley, and a movie theater showing Cars 2.  There is a difference of opinion about what to eat. So we decide to check out a competing mall’s food court. We walk some more, enter another mall, and make our way to the other food court. Again, opinions are divided. Lacking a consensus, we return to the first food court, traipsing all the way back. Again, someone vetoes the decision. Democracy is messy. I’m not sure how this procedure works, but it isn’t Robert’s Rules of Order. So, we head off to find another restaurant.

We settle on one that is a microbrewery/sports pub with an unpronounceable name (for me, anyway) just a half block from the hotel.

I order chicken wings and a blond beer. The wings are a little more authentic than the last ones I had. The restaurant is filled with TV screens. The ladies’ Wimbledon finals are in progress, and the Russian Maria Sharapova is playing. We Americans typically mispronounce her name – which is actually more like Sha-RA-po-va. She loses. Interestingly, the patrons are not paying that much attention.

Two scantily-clad women walk into the restaurant and come over to our table (of four priests not in clerical garb). They walk up to Dan and me and start talking. Since we don’t speak Russian, we are pleased to direct them to Father Alexey. After a very brief conversation, they leave abruptly. We laugh. We ask Alexey what he said to them. Father Alexey can be a master of understatement at times, and generally has an easygoing manner. He shrugged, smiled slightly, and said, “I told them we’re not interested.” He explained matter of factly that they were trying to get us to follow them to a bar that offers, in Father Alexey’s words, “erotic shows.”

We spent a good while hanging out in the restaurant, enjoying conversation and our food, and we walked back into the crowded street. It was finally starting to get dark. It seemed like everyone was standing around waiting – and Alexey speculated that the crowd was waiting for fireworks. At last, at the stroke of midnight, they began. It was a very good display.

There are a lot of drunk people in the streets, and others who were not tipsy just happy: people of all ages. Crowds squeeze chaotically onto the busses as longsuffering drivers wait patiently for their fares (in various stages of alcohol-consumption) to board.

We stroll across the street back to the hotel. Dan gets right to sleep, while I call Grace on SnapYap, copy pictures and videos to the computer, and upload a short video to facebook.

I wind down with a hot shower. I’m in bed at about 3:00 am as the partying goes on outside our open window.

Here are all of my pictures from Day Six.

The party goes on at Novokuznetsk

No comments:

Post a Comment