Thursday, February 28, 2013

Tues, February 26th

Slow morning. Lots of tea. Then some more tea. I tried the coffee here…and then had some more tea.
                Before going to the center we went to one of the Tech schools here. The tech schools are most common for those pursuing education. They are around 16yrs old when they go, and have at least a 4th grade education to qualify. These teach them trades: like carpentry, brick laying, or mechanics for boys. Available for the  girls is sewing and hairdressing. They don’t pick, they are told what they will do.
                We were taken to the gymnasium,  about a half of Seneca’s full sized gym. Maybe less. It was filled all along the edges with equipment. Only one or two machines/benches. But the rest were bars (like monkey bars, but with a place to walk next to them ), a ramp, a gymnastics high bar, punching bag, climbing rope attached to the ceiling, only not thick and knotted, but thin, smaller than my wrist.  We spent the next 45 minutes watching an exhibition of the skills the gym teacher builds up in these boys. The gym teacher also comes into the center to teach the guys there twice a week. He specifically trains them so that they will succeed in the military. That is their whole goal and focus at this point. Every man must serve for at least a year here. He said (this older, rough man  while one of the cute petite translators stood next to him repeating in English all that he said) that he trains them physically, and mentally. The example of physical strength was various types of pull-ups, laying on a bed of nails, walking across broken glass, and team exercises with a large heavy log that he had attached handles to (in order to give resistance training to  7 at a time with curls, rows and sit ups done together). The psychological training? One boy stood above another who lay down and flexed his abs while the one standing dropped 3 sharp knives one at a time, sharp side pointed down, onto the boy’s stomach. I actually flinched. All the while laughing to myself, picturing ANY of these done somewhere like the Y. hah.  People would throw a fit! Not even with the knives, just the way they push themselves.
   when the boy lay on the bed of nails, they drew an American from the audience. When a translator was mistaken for one, she ratted me out and i was drawn forward. despite my best attempts to look far too heavy. She pecked me on the cheek and said that she owes me. Then, to my complete shock, this big, old, gruff gym teacher's whiskers ticked my cheek while he followed suit. i would have laughed but i was too surprised. I thought he didn't believe in girls :p haha just kidding. Then (and I am not joking) the held my arms to help me up, and i stepped onto this kids chest and stomach while he still lay on the nails! I nearly died of concern that this poor kid would bleed due to the demonstration.  I felt the nails. they.! I was guided off and dove back to the safety of the sidelines. 
                Following that, Lise and Peter played violin and viola as a concert for the school. They played a variety, all lovely and beautiful.  A favorite was a song, Ashokan Farewel, they played while one of the translators read the Sullivan Ballou letter. I’m glad that I had read it before and that the words being spoken with the song were in Russian or I would have been tearing up hard core. Many in the audience were, a couple of the boys left. The military is a very big focus for some you see. This letter is from the civil war and is a goodbye love letter to his wife that the soldier wrote the day before he was killed. Afterwards we chatted and got pictures with everyone (per request! That’s something notable).
                Back at the ministry center we ate lunch and prepared for the students. Again they trickled in slowly. I started the class late, waiting for the last few to arrive. We got started and again I talked about some healthy lifestyles and then focused on weights and exercises. This time…I got a group that talked. Well, they didn’t talk, they asked questions. Actually they argued. Not too much, but it increased at the end. My poor translator! She did so well. She didn’t know if she was to answer or to translate. And often they didn’t get the chance, talking right over her. They had some valid concerns. How do we do these exercises while taking care of our kids? How do we eat right on long work days? But often I wasn’t given an opportunity to respond (again, esp at the end). We offered to talk to the director, that if they were actually interested in coming to work out, she would reserve a time that the boys couldn’t come in for the girls to work. They argued with that too. So part of that arguing was valid, and part of it is just excuses. If you want to make excuses, they are easy to make. See? A similarity between America and Russia. The girls want to feel pretty and look pretty and healthy/trim without any work. I hear that all the time. Too bad I couldn’t stay more to show them, so they could do more if they actually wanted to.
                Dinner served 60 tonight.
Once that was finished we again visited the mall to hang out with any kids that may show up. I bought most of my souvenirs while we were there too. My priorities are in order I think, Tea and Chocolate! (oh, and some vodka too! Since this trip is not the bar hopping kind).
Mom forgot her passport in the hotel, and one of the three guys on the team walked her back to pick it up. On the way back he said he stopped counting policemen once it exceeded 15. Among the police were the immigration officials. They kept quite until she once again had her passport around her neck. So add that to the list of tight moments God has gotten us through here. Mom walked (sans passport) safely through police infested waters at a place that does not need many a thought or reason to inquire for official papers. We laughed afterwards.
                Made it back to the overheated hotel room, and zonked out. Sleeping in far away places may give me odd dreams, but after the long days, I hardly linger on those in-between places of lucid drea

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