Friday, July 26, 2013

1025 Years and Other Things to Love About Russia

As my time here in Russia coming to a close, I am getting more and more excited to get back to normal life, to see my family and roommates and friends, to live in my cute little house with carpet and a nice bed and a kitchen. But really, especially if I had a real kitchen, I could live here indefinitely. And every day or two there's something that reminds me how much I love Russia and that it will still be hard to leave this time around. I've been lucky to have 2 big ones the past few days. I'll try to be brief and not get too long-winded, but I can't promise anything.

First, yesterday (July 25) there was this huge, free concert on Red Square to celebrate the 1025 anniversary of the Baptism of the Rus people. It had it's wonderful, quirky, crazy moments. Kirill, the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox church (think pope or prophet, but Russian and Pravoslavni) spoke, and there was an opera reenacting the baptism and lots of folk music and dancing. Crazily dressed Russian pop-stars. A letter from Putin. It was fantastic. So Russian. And I loved it. Here are some random thoughts. The first is how connected church and state are here. It is kind of weird for an American, where we are so seperate (seperate? separate?) and still not as separate as some think it should be. And not just church and state, but church and EVERYTHING. To be Russian is to be Pravoslavni. A lot of times, especially when I was a missionary, this was very obnoxious, and even at times hurtful (on both a logistical and emotional level). However, my mission president always spoke of how we needed to be grateful to Pravoslaviya because it had managed to keep Christianity alive in Russia through horrible times--years of oppresion, beginning with the Mongol-Tatar invasion in 1240 and continuing clear through atheistic communism. And although I don't believe in the Russian Orthodox church and I'm very aware of a lot of corruption that goes on and frankly get really annoyed with it sometimes, I am, like President Sorenson, grateful for the good that is has done. Which leads me to my second point. That Russians are awesome. And by Russians I really mean all Eastern Europeans. They have lived through so much. One of the songs just repeated over and over again "We will survive through the pain and suffering and all this other hard stuff" and it was just so full of the Russian spirit that they can and will conquer anything. And they are amazing, and I love them for it.

And then tonight I went to see one of my favorite families in all of Russia and we ate Russian food and sang songs and laughed and talked and it was just so wonderful. And I was reminded of how much I love these people once again. And when we were walking out to their car at the end of the night to go back to the metro, Luba leaned over and gave me a hug and told me that she was so happy I was here. And my heart just smiled and broke at the same time, because I love it to, and I have to leave again in a week.

The past little while I have wondered if I was going to cry or not when I fly to Ukraine next week, or at least when I leave Eastern Europe in general. I have just been so ready to go home. But really, I could be here forever. And when I leave, it will still be hard, even though I thought it wouldn't. It will be easier than a year ago, as I'm only saying bye to Russia and not my mission, but it will still rip out part of my heart. I will probably cry. I always cry.

Russia, I love you.
And P.S. Sorry that this was super long even though I tried to make it short. Blin. I can't write anything short.

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