Lilypie Pregnancy tickers

Saturday, September 30, 2006

So Much to Say

We took the bus from Tallinn to St. Petersburg (SP) through the usual military checkpoints, poverty and luxury abounding all the way. Miia's multilingual parade started then in ernest with help from a nice Russian-Estonian lady who flapped her arms and smiled to translate our immigration form. Miia in turn translated it for a creepy Italian tourist and a group of travelling Spanish minstrels, who became omnipresent in SP, before us at every turn.

Six years since my last faraway wander I learned that the Lonely Planet has yet to tire of being wrong: we arrived at the wrong station and hauled 60 pounds each to a nonexistent hostel, during which trek we discovered some of the many intracacies of the SP subway system, which took us back to from where we started and a slightly more expensive than anticipated hostel. Sweet sleep ensued and I dreamed fragments of languages I learned but never mastered: Deutsche, Suomia, bahasa Indonesia, Francais.

We spent a few days roaming SP's Nevsky, eating cheap Russian food, searching for a phone card, and getting ourselves registered (step two of the visa process here). We gazed at gargantuan ornate spectacles like the Hermitage and the Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood (where one of the Nicolas's was done in and to this day tourists fear the smallest street child as a potential assasin and scatter like disorganized gazelles at the site of beggars. Miia was bolder than most and introduced herself to Olga and Anya, who were the kindest of tsar-slayers and let us pose for a picture with them. They were gorgeous children.) Continuing our church tour we visited a Catholic and Finnish Lutheran church that shared the same story of communist oppression including murder and exile of key congregation and staff, having facilities confiscated for public use with all visible traces of spiritual purpose removed, and current fundraising drives to restore facilities for now-thriving memberships. Ressurection.

We had a great visit with Dina at Innovations, an organization dedicated to children's rights including fighting HIV/AIDS and poverty. She was compassionate and committed, informed and inspiring, yet was none to fond of immigrants to Russia and made no bones about making that clear. I guess I can't expect everyone to agree with me that immigrants are no threat to social cohesion and health. They make an all too easy scapegoat and that sentiment is proving itself somewhat universal.

After our meeting we accidentally coughed up big bucks for lattes (we live in a state of perpetual confusion despite Miia's amazing ability to understand people no matter what language they are speaking) and sipped them in front of yet another astounding cathedral, where we were visited by some travelling Jesus freaks led by an American who had no idea he was about to engage in a theological debate with a minister's daughter. She was merciful in her crucifiction. Another universality this one: folks wandering around trying 'save' me. I never seem to find the right words at the time to tell them heaven's here on earth is what I believe, but when it comes to spiritual matters whatever anyone else believes is their own business and probably doesn't need to be sold on the streets.

From there we visited a bizarre 'zoological' museum of dead things with a cool restored woolly mammoth and then took shelter from the falling rain under the naval museum. Everywhere around us were rainy day weddings and smashing champagne bottles. One couple even released doves! We capped SP with fake Indonesian food served by Russians who occasionally mispronounced the names of the dishes, with chopsticks!

And that was just St. Petersburg. More to come...


No comments: