below is the gate to the monastery. Note the double headed eagle on the gate? it represents the uniting of the east and the west and it is a symbol of the government, and the symbol is shown on the coins.
This morning we met again with the same priest whom we attended service under at the Russian Orthodox church. We went to the monastery where he is at and walked around part of it and got to hear a bit more about the orthodox church, and about this priest. He really is a remarkable man. He fled Russia to the United States, when they were granting visas to refugees. Then, once rumor that things had changed over here, he returned. But when he came back, it was as a Priest. He talked about how previously, if one was talking to foreigners, they could be arrested on the spot (at best). When the Bolsheviks were in power, many churches were destroyed. He feels that this region specifically has not recovered well from this, and this era has left scars on the region.
I wonder what that would be like? To flee home and then return 12 years later after all that had happened. Would re-building be possible? How would you heal from this? Is it all up to those higher-ups in charge…or is it the small people that give back into a broken city that actually fosters the healing?
During the priest’s talk we also got a small orthodoxy history. And while his English was absolutely clear, I am ashamed to say that this part of the morning, I had a difficult time focusing on. I wont relay it all here, mostly because I am sure to fudge some details. But the bishops/priests distributed over different areas and the ratio of priest to population has shifted and changed over the years. He feels that now, the ratio is more appropriate. (I realize that this matters little to those of you who were not standing in that room with all the paintings of the patriarchs of Russia on the walls, listening to this fascinating man, who stood before us in his clergy robe, hat, and golden cross hanging on his neck. If you were there, listening with determined attention, you may feel that even these small pieces picked up are important).
Following this we went to outside to the church that they are constructing. The outside is beautiful, complete with golden tops. We went through the construction scaffolding, made from tree trunks in a rudimentary but sturdy way, and into the unfinished church. It was completely empty (except more elaborate, yet simple, scaffolding in the center). And although only dry-wall and not painted yet, one could feel the elaborate church it will become. One day, who knows how long away, it will be finished the priest told us. Nobody knows because it depends on funding/what they decide to decorate it with. Example: painting with a white wash? Or fresco’s? They are having problems keeping fresco’s preserved here. Old churches have paintings beautiful and untainted by time. But new churches, within 20 years, the smoke from the candles and the condensation from the walls (due to closing off the church in the winter, the walls are so thick, the air is still warm and causes damage with the dampness) starts deteriorating the artwork on the walls and ceilings. They architects of old designed things differently to avoid these problems with the air flow.
We said goodbye, after many pictures. Later, we purchased an icon for the center. When he had come into the center previously (a positive and notable thing that he did this) one of his few comments was that there are no icons. While we do not really support icons in the way that they are used, we are not here or there to convert or change their use of Christianity. It is a part of their culture, and hanging a picture on the ceiling is not supporting anything negative. As the Priest told us before about icons… anything can be taken too far and used for something bad.
At the center for the day. It was relatively quiet. We found out later that the kids had practicum tests at school (the tech schools). Lunch was divine. I need to find the name, despite the Russian word meaning nothing. The director put chicken on homemade large pasta noodles, and potatoes, and smothered it in cheesy, garlic sauce. With grated garlic carrots, along with a plate of other fresh veggies, on the side.
Now, when I say garlic, I mean CHUNKS. Not sprinkled. Not lightly dusted. We smelled it before we ate it, and then we could smell it on each others breaths for the rest of the day. I think I actually bit into a clove. (not exaggerating here). Garlic is healthy though and it was delicious.
The librarian came to give a presentation on Russian orthodox holidays. It was very interesting. Although it was tough to pay close attention in the warm room as the gaps between Russian and English translation became longer and longer. The poor librarian was so nervous! She looks very much as ours do here, dressed neatly and properly, quiet voice and demeanor, neat hair. There were a couple holidays devoted just due to miracles performed by Mary, such as spreading of her head covering over a city to protect them. So on this holiday, young single girls are to be happy and cheerful, and they will soon find the right guy. (is the rough, shortened translation). Then another, which celebrates when Mary died, they looked in her tomb and her body was gone, as her son had returned to take her to heaven with him. Our translator burst into tears at this one, she said church always makes her emotional. Then, last one I will pain you to strain your eyes reading, the Easter eggs! Apparently someone went up to the king perhaps? And said the Christ has risen! When this was not believed, he was asked to present proof and that was an egg that turned a brilliant shade of color. I did not know this was an orthodox tradition! They also share the tradition of the egg cracking contests, where you hit the top of another person’s egg with your own , and who ever has the egg that remains whole…wins! WE DO THIS TOO! Okay, my over excitement may have been from difficulties paying attention. But still kinda awesome.
We were also given a presentation by the lady in charge of child psychology. She discussed the differences between goals and dreams. I think this is important because it is easy to get the two confused, and if they are aware that the things they want to do will take work, and gradual progression (not overnight success) then they are more likely to be prepared to focus and accomplish these goals. Just me though. But I support all education here, the more they are told and shared with, the more they will learn and be able to better handle situations in life. Many of these kids have been on their own since they left the orphanage. Some younger than 16. Can you picture having to make all these big life decisions with a 4th grade education (which is all that those in the special needs orphanage get. It’s 11th grade for all other orphans/kids). It is no wonder they struggle making wide choices! They would have no support system if it wasn’t for this center. That’s why it is so important that it is here in Ivanovo.
Ps: Happy Birthday MOM!!! I wouldn’t be able to succeed in life without all of your support, wisdom, and unconditional love.