Trip to Russia

This is way overdue, but I had some serious jet lag after returning from Russia, my allergies have just been nuts, and the shoemaker just won’t loan me his elves.  The meanie!  Not my normal type of blog, but easier to do this here than somewhere else.

Behold: the epic journey that was my trip to Russia.

Tuesday/Wednesday: Flying and lots of flying. I watched Thor and Cloudy 2 on the plane. Thor was hard to watch because it was so dark on the little TV monitor on the plane, so I actually re-watched when I got home so I could tell what was going on in some of those darker scenes.  When we arrived the missionary family we stayed with welcomed us warmly and had a wonderful potato soup. It was so nice to see everyone, but the best part was seeing Holly. Holly started as one of the kids I taught in Bible Clubs, so how cool to see her now out serving others in Russia!

Thursday we saw so much my head was spinning. The buildings in St. Petersburg are amazing and everywhere you look there is something new to gawk at architecturally. The Hermitage was amazing. We probably only saw about 10% of what there was to see, but the paintings and the sculpture literally took my breath away. As we walked the marble halls of one of the rooms I got all choked up wishing my mom could be there with me. I am bound and determined to find a way to take her to London for an “all things Jane Austin trip”. I can’t wait for her to experience the joy that comes from experiencing such true beauty in person

Later that day went up about a stone spiral staircase of about 100 (felt like 1000000) stairs of St. Isaac’s Cathedral. The view of the city was spectacular and well worth the climb.  On the way to lunch we passed where Holly works and I was so excited I forgot to take a picture. Boo! For lunch I had Borsch for the first time and chicken Kiev. Both super yummy. I will have to figure out how to make Borsch at home.  In the afternoon we saw a ton of other sights, one of my favorite being these 12 chairs that represented each of the 12 tsars. Interesting that they don’t always showcase their best features.

That evening we got to see Holly’s apartment and she cooked dinner; yes, she really cooked. We had Pelmini (no clue how to really spell. It’s kind of like a tortellini) and veggies.

Note to everyone who didn’t go, when you walk in St. Petersburg you walk fast…I mean very fast. I now call this new treadmill workout Holly speed…it works. I guess when it is really cold what else can you do?? You certainly can’t stop and smile at people.

Friday we met a local pastor for lunch and then got to see the church. It was amazing to see where they worship each week. We took another train at a metro station. It is amazing to me how different each station looks. One station was kind of beat down and one was all marble. Like going from District 12 to District 1 for my Hunger Games friends. That night we at burgers and watched the opening ceremonies via laptop. Loved the incorporation of Swan Lake, as that is one of my favorite pieces of music. Love this pic because it was so cold I photo bombed it with my breath!


Click here for all my St. Petersburg pics

Black SeaSaturday we flew to Sochi and checked into our hotel; well really Adler right outside of Sochi. For dinner I had Chankana. It was like a traditional stew and hit the spot.  Sunday we picked up our spectator pass and got to see the Black Sea for the first time. So strange and yet magical to see dolphins in Russia. We stayed in Adler that day and started witnessing. Not really sure but think I only shared with about 10 people that day.

Monday we picked up the tickets for our hockey game and started passing out pins. Had a divine appointment with a girl at McDonald’s of all places. I gave her the pin and the scripture and she looked up the words on a translation app and asked a few questions. Sometimes it is hard to get out of my own way when we take these trips, so the first time you make a real connection it always makes it easier the next time. I got to share the gospel a total of 35 times Monday. And…I got sunburned.

ImageTuesday I had disgustingly undercooked eggs with delicious ham, so I just mashed them up and tried not to think about it too much. We went back to Sochi’s Coastal Cluster and passed out more pins. I shared the gospel a total of 65 times on Tuesday as well as having the best hot chocolate I think I’ve ever had. At lunch I oopsed and ordered beef stroganoff not realizing that it wouldn’t come with noodles. Augh…well the meat was flavorful.

Wednesday we went to McDonalds hoping to get an American breakfast, but got there right as they changed the menu to lunch…literally…we were in line. Boo.  We did get to hold the Olympic torch though, so I’m not complaining too much. We rode the train that day into Olympic Park and got to pass out more pins. On a break I had sweet fig ice cream that rocked! We almost started drama while trying to ride the gondola because we didn’t realize we had to have an event ticket.  It really upset one of the people and he started following us around, so we decided to go ahead and go to a different area. Fun pics by the tulips were taken in this area. I was amazed how many tulips we saw in Sochi. They are my favorite flowers, so I was thrilled. In total, I passed out about 45 pins that day. For dinner I had a wonderful Shepherd’s pie with lamb. I was nervous because I wasn’t sure if it would be greasy, but it was great.

On the way home I prayed for a divine appointment and sat by myself on the train with an extra seat next to me. I sat by a new friend Aleana and we talked about Russia and where we’d been so far. She was amazing. I got to share the gospel with her in detail and learn more about her life. She schooled me on still being single, and instructed me that all the single men are in St. Petersburg.  Sigh…even in Russia I get lessons on being single. Her heart was totally in the right place though, and you can’t blame people for wanting you to have happiness; after all, I want it for myself, it just hasn’t happened.

Ice StadiumThursday we went to the Olympic Village for the Germany vs. Japan Women’s hockey game. I’d never been to a hockey game before so it was a blast! There were so many things to see there, but we just didn’t have enough time. The flame was beautiful and it was the first time I’ve ever been that close to one before (or attended an event for that matter). We at a wonderful veggie stir fry and in total I shared the Gospel about 30 times.

Click here for all my Sochi Pics

Friday we were up at 2:30 for the flight to Moscow. Moscow was cloudy all day and we saw so little, but our tour guide was amazing and tried to squeeze in as much as she could. We saw in passing the river that inspired Swan Lake, the Bolshoi Theater, the library (whoop), and many other wonderful buildings. We got to go into the Kremlin. I honestly thought the Kremlin was one building but it is actually a whole bunch of buildings surrounded by a wall. Inside we got to see several churches and other sights as you’ll see in the pics.  Had nachos for dinner…well they called it nachos but it was a bowl of chips with a cup of sour cream, ketchup, and guacamole. Weird.  The apple streusel was mouthwatering though.  The hotel was the Aquamarine and it was fabulous. I slept so hard I didn’t even move.

MadridSaturday was all flying. We had a long day to Madrid (where pics prove the rain in Spain does stay mainly on the plane-ha ha ha) and then an even longer flight back to the states. I only watched about 1/3 of a movie because I wanted to get back to the audio book I was reading. I hate that I can’t read a book other than audio on a plane. Audio books are nice, but sometimes they just aren’t fast enough! Mom and sister waiting at the airport to take me home to a steak dinner and family. I was exhausted but so glad for their hugs.

Click here for all my Moscow pics.

General Thoughts:

I was amazed at the openness of the Russia people. In St. Petersburg no one smiled except for at the children, but that wasn’t true in Sochi. There people were very friendly. Everyone seemed receptive to the Gospel and would even look up and ask questions on a translator app when they had one.

Heaters run all the time in Russia. My hair usually takes 2 hours to air dry and it was dry in 15 minutes…it was really too warm, but people there can’t adjust their own heat.

I kept calling pigeon’s penguins. On accident…it got to be pretty hilarious.

We never got the Bibles released from customs. I’m excited to see what God has planned for those Bibles. Who knows, maybe the will be used by missionaries or a new church.

I’m a little concerned about our media’s need to paint Russia in such a negative light. I felt very safe the whole time we were there, felt that they had done a lot to prepare, and generally felt welcomed. Some of the issues we focused on in the states seemed weird to me. Not sure what the real agenda was there. One thing for sure, I guess it’s good to remind me not to blindly assume that what I hear is the truth.

I found out I was doing the whole dating thing wrong by the way. At the airport, I realized you could schedule your pickups:

Airport Sign

All kidding aside, the trip was amazing, and a gentle reminder I can and should do more here for Christ. As always, God is good…all the time!