Copyright ©1998 by Dan Philgreen - ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
A JOURNAL OF MY SECOND TRIP TO RUSSIA
9/9/92 TO 9/26/92, By Dan Philgreen, all rights reserved
9/10 Finnair flight AY102, 12:41AM Florida time, 7:44AM in Helsinki:
I'm typing into a notebook computer 10,667 meters over the land of half of my ancestors: Sweden. It looks the same as the last time I flew over it; like one big cloud. I am traveling this time with Paul Read and David Nixon. Dave is along as a volunteer. There was a rare need for an outside cameraman and Dave couldn't pass up the chance to see Russia. This flight is about 7 hours and it's almost over. I didn't sleep much. There was a perfectly awful movie that I wasn't going to watch, but did anyway. As George Rogier used to say in film school, it would have made a nice student project. Read a good chunk of Steven Coonts' saga of flying around the USA in his Stearman biplane. Got the copy of The Cannibal Queen for my birthday. Had to have it when I spotted it in a bookstore. I have enjoyed his four novels very much. He has a great way of writing about flying. Puts you right there in the cockpit. And his summer of wandering the country, part of the time with his son, was pretty close to a dream I've had for a long time of building an airplane and flying the west with Nathan. The book, so far, is no match for Coonts' Flight of the Intruder. It's strictly for airplane nuts. If you yearn for narrative on the nuances of flying a Stearman, I recommend it. If that sounds boring to you, forget it.
This promises to be a very interesting trip. We are shooting video covering Mission Volga, an outreach to 14 cities along the Volga river from St. Petersburg in the north to Rostov-On-Don near the Black Sea. The outreach is based on a river cruise ship with about 250 on board (plus a crew of 50) and there are advance teams in each city. We will actually be on board for about one week in the middle of a six week schedule and will be in the cities of Kazan, Ulyanovsk (Simbirsk) (the birthplace of Lenin), and Samara. The evening meetings will feature evangelistic messages by Kalevi Lehtinen and will take place in sports stadiums. Crowds of 5-20,000 are expected. Dr. Jenia Rudenko, who visited in our home in Kissimmee last week, organized the medical outreach and his wife, Sveta, who was our interpreter on my last trip to St. Petersburg, and another gal, Masha, recruited the 200 interpreters who will be working with Mission Volga. We will be on the ship with a group of 20 or so executive-types who are big dollar contributors to Campus Crusade. Bill Bright will be there and we are basically there to cover his activities and things important to his agenda. We will be the fifth crew. There is a Finnish 3-camera crew covering the meetings for live projection. Another Finnish crew will be doing a documentary. A Russian crew will also be doing a documentary. And there are a few others as well. We actually have two cameras along and will have three in our crew. Matt Crouch, younger son of Paul Crouch of TBN fame will also be with us. He and I have developed what I think is a good relationship already, though we have only talked on the phone. I feel like I kind of know him because I've seen him on TBN. Watched part of his wedding which was at the Crystal Cathedral and some episodes of his "Real Videos" show he did with his wife. Nice guy. I'm looking forward to working with him.
Another thing we are supposed to cover is a meeting Dr. Bright is to have with Boris Yeltsin. I'm not holding my breath for this one. But if it really happens, it should be quite interesting.
Orlando to JFK leg was TWA, JFK to Helsinki was Finnair, Helsinki to St. Pete was KLM.
We are also going to be shooting material for a fund raising TV program for a project involving the Russian military. We are supposed to shoot on an army base near Moscow and on a navy base in St. Petersburg. There is an interesting story behind all this that I may have written about in my journal from the last trip over here.
A year and a half ago, Randy Ray, the director of the Crusade music ministry, was inspired to organize an Easter choir that was to perform in Red Square. There were certain parties that will go unnamed who thought this was an ill-conceived plan and spoke against it. Why go to all that bother to sing in Red Square? Well, Randy and his team pushed the thing through. It wasn't quite as big as he had envisioned, but he pulled it off.
A TV crew with a multi-camera truck was hired out of Finland (I think) to document everything. They really weren't sure how they would use the material, but the decision was made that it needed to be done. Well, there was some kind of unrest and the authorities would not let the event happen out in the open on Red Square. They offered instead to let the event happen in the Palace of Congresses inside the Kremlin walls. The problem was that they would not allow the TV cameras inside, so the truck was there for nothing. In the end they called in the Russian national television crew to shoot the proceedings. Since they were shooting it, they decided to go ahead and broadcast it on national television. (This was before the breakup of the republics remember.) So, every night for a week, there was christian music and preaching by Bill Bright, Glen Jones, and Dan Peterson (the CCC director for Russia.)
A certain Dr. Miranov, who was a colonel in the army and a lawyer, accepted Christ while watching Dr. Bright on TV. He later met Glen Jones, one of Dr. Bright's assistants (also a retired colonel), at a showing of the JESUS film. Miranov has stated that a major goal of his now is to get the film shown to all the units of the Russian military. This military business we're supposed to shoot is the ongoing development of all of that. It's amazing what has transpired as a result of that "ill-conceived" choir concert.
9/10/92, Astoria Hotel on St. Isaac's square, St. Petersburg (formerly Leningrad, formerly Petrograd, and St. Petersburg before that.):
This is the hotel where Hitler planned to have his victory party after taking over Leningrad. Of course, he failed, thankfully, and the invitations were found after the war. Hotel is very nice. Recently remodeled by a Finnish firm. Has Finnish bathroom fixtures (but no bidet), TV with CNN and remote control, fridge and those wonderful "pita-pocket" sheet/blankets on the beds.
Met Sasha, who drove for us on the last trip, at the airport. Paul had talked to him by phone from the US to get help with customs. Turned out his Sasha was my Sasha. Didn't know that till he walked up to me and said "hello!" Also, Staas was there. He was one of the interpreters for Josh on the last trip.
None of our stuff made it here with us. Hopefully it will catch up with us tomorrow. Interestingly, the customs guy realized that he would be off duty by the time the flight would come in tomorrow. Basically, he did all the paperwork to clear our equipment through even before it got here! The fact that it was to be officially received by the Christian Medical Center (which Sasha is working on with Jenia) probably made it a smoother deal.
Went over to St. Isaac's cathedral after checking in. Had changed money at 207 rubles to the dollar. By the end of the day, the rate went to 210. Paid our 12 rubles to get inside and 6 more to climb up around the outside of the dome. We were too late to get inside, but did the climb up the outside. It was sunny here today. Very different than last time I was here. Views were great from up there. Walked by the "Bronze Horseman" statue, along the Neva River, by the Hermitage and the big plaza in front of it and then back to the hotel. Dinner was pretty good stroganoff type stuff, but the bottled water was awful. It was sparkling sulphur water. Ugggh! Terrible stuff. Only other choice was very watery beer. I was so thirsty that I was about to opt for the beer when Pat Morely, real estate tycoon, author, big contributor to Crusade, and member of the board, sat down at our table. He wrote the book, The Man in the Mirror, which I've read about half of. Anyway, it was interesting conversation, even though I was almost falling asleep and I didn't know who he was until dinner was over.
Dave seems to be enjoying immensely the experience of just being here. I remember that feeling from last time. This time I like it just fine, but the honeymoon-like infatuation with the place has given way to a more familiar and comfortable feeling. Tomorrow we are supposed to see the Hermitage and possibly Petrodvorets, if it doesn't get in the way of getting the gear from the airport.
(Note: The previous part of this journal was typed into my boss, Paul Read's notebook computer. The rest was dictated into a little cassette recorder.)
9/11 Moscow, Hotel Astoria:
Today we had breakfast with terrible milk (later found out it was supposed to be buttermilk.) Then we went on a bus to the Cathedral of the Blood where Alexander the second was assassinated.
Then we finally made it over to the Hermitage and saw about 40 Rembrandts, rooms full of Matisse, a whole gallery full of Picasso, and others featuring Cezanne, Renoir, and
Van Gogh. There were even two DaVincis. It was amazing. The style of each of the various painters is unmistakable, but the pictures are images you have never seen before. They are virtually unknown in the west, having been out of our reach for generations behind the iron curtain. The Hermitage is truly one of the great art museums of the world. In the same class as the Louvre in Paris.
We came back to our hotel, had lunch, and went out to Petrodvorets, which was the summer palace of Peter the Great. It had lots of gardens and fountains gravity fed from springs. We decided to ride the boat coming back which was supposed to be a hydrofoil, but it wasn't. It was the slow boat. We met this wonderful couple who sat down at our table on the rooftop deck. Their names were Galena and Valera. She was from Yaroslav on the Volga and he was from Karkhov. They met a couple of years ago in the Crimea on vacation. Then we went to Nevsky Melody where the dinner was tonight. We missed most of it because the boat took so long. The dinner place was in the before midnight mode, fortunately. Dr. Bright talked as well as several of the others. We were there with the group of executives that were traveling with Dr. Bright. Each one of these couples has given at least one million dollars to Campus Crusade. Quite a group. Pamela Kister was there, our weather girl from channel 4 in Orlando. She happens to be my friend Dr. Scott Brady's girlfriend. So, I chatted with her a little while and had a fun talk. She happened to be staying at our hotel while in town on a trip for another mission group and ran into Dr. Bright on the elevator or in the lobby. He invited her to the dinner.
Sat., 9/12, Kazan, Tatarstan:
Today we got on an Aeroflot charter flight from St. Petersburg (the airport I flew into on the last trip where the old Airforce One 707 was parked) to Kazan to meet the Volga ship. Flew for the first time on one of the smaller Tupolev-134A jets. Kind of like a DC-9,though it looks more like a G-2 with a plexiglass nose cone. We landed in Kazan in Tatarstan, an area with a lot of Muslims. This is the city where not long ago a young man was beaten and stabbed to death when he ignored threats to stop sharing his faith in Christ. He was warned to stop, but would not. The blood of a martyr flowed here in the last year.
We rode a bus to the ship. I was assigned to room with Phil Burns, a young photographer just out of college. He's a nice guy, but I was hoping to room with one of the guys on my video crew. I had just dealt with that disappointment on a spiritual level when Matt jumped in and started talking about how it would be much better if the crew was together and he and I ended up in the same room after a lot of juggling. Matt has a way of making things happen! We got settled into our rooms, had lunch and a little orientation meeting on the ship, then we bussed off to the evening stadium meeting. We shot a little bit of the first part of the meeting. About 90% of the crowd went forward at the invitation. We didn't see this as we left early in order to redeem the time because Dr. Bright wasn't going to speak.
We came back, watched some footage, and came up with a plan for covering the stadium meetings. We ate dinner late, after the meeting was over, as we did every night on board. Matt went to bed, I went to eat ice cream in the lounge. I talked to Chris Garret, one of Dr. Bright's assistants, for a long time. Then I ended up talking to the Dr. and his family from South Africa, the Stevensons. I finally headed for bed and ran into Jenia, Sveta, Masha, and Andre Furmanov in the passageway. I went and got the last of their photos from Florida which I had gotten processed and brought to them. We went to one of their rooms and looked at all the pictures. I was telling them that I wished I had gotten one of them for our interpreter for the video crew. Sveta and Masha thought it would be no problem to get that changed, so we went down to see Simone, from Switzerland, and spent about a half hour with her and Val, one of the head interpreters, and got it worked out so Sveta could work with us. Finally I took my leave and went to bed.
Sunday, 9/13, Kazan:
Went with Dave Nixon to a small church where Dr. Bright spoke. Matt and I interviewed Baily Marks and Dan Peterson on the ship. Dave went to shoot a meeting of businessmen and did some shooting on the city streets with Paul. Went to the service again where it was raining at first. It stopped just before Dr. Bright got up to speak. The footage of Dr. Bright is really beautiful. The darkening blue sky behind him and the domes of a nearby cathedral make a great background. Dave climbed up to the top of the lighting tower on the back of the stage and got some nice high angle shots of people coming forward at the end. As happened every night, most of the crowd came forward.
The first night in Kazan a fellow who was a former KGB infiltrator came forward to receive Christ. He was invited to the boat by Dr. Stevenson. Dave shot an interview with this fellow on board just before the boat left at midnight. It was a big hurry to finish so he could get off in time.
After the boat left, Jenia and Sveta and a bunch of their friends were watching a videotape I made of them at Disney World. They scrounged a PAL video deck from somewhere.
The boat left at midnight. I was very curious about the ship (they fascinate me) and I hadn't had a chance to really see much of it yet, so I was wandering around the decks after Matt was asleep. I watched the boats go by and other things along the river as we were under way.
We pulled up next to big fueling rig. There was a barge and a filter/pumping vessel and a tanker tied up together and anchored near a little island in the middle of the river. I assumed we were getting ready to take on fuel. It took some time to maneuver up next to the barge. Once we were in place there was talking going on back and forth using the PA systems. I guess the barge didn't have a radio. It was wild watching the way these guys were living on this barge out in the middle of the river. For some reason we didn't take on any fuel.
We pulled away using the side thrusters. There appear to be four thrusters, one on either side of the bow and on either side of the stern. I saw some drawings on the bridge and actually there is one in the bow and one in the stern on the centerline of the ship. Apparently there are openings through the ship so one thruster can push port or starboard depending on which way the screw is turning. We pulled out perfectly sideways and then pivoted once we were clear and finally took off using the main screws. The whole process took probably a half an hour. This is a big vessel.
I want to remember that barge because of seeing all the massive industrial equipment with generators running and lights on and people living in the crew quarters, guys hanging out the little windows. It was a singularly interesting scene. Kind of like something from an Indiana Jones movie once again. Similar to my experience on the USS Ranger when there was mist and dim colored lights and an F-14 Tomcat in the shadows. Similar in that it was such a memorable picture; like being in a perfectly art directed scene from an intriguing movie.
I think Paul is becoming fond of Sveta as we all seem to. He keeps finding little things to give her like a box of tea today and a roll of Certs.
Monday, 9/14, Ulyanovsk:
Today we interviewed Dr. Bright on the top of the boat just as we were coming into Ulyanovsk, the birthplace of Vladimir Ilych Ulyanov, better known as Lenin.
We pulled up to the dock. I was shooting from right next to the gangplank on the lower deck. As soon as it was in place, some guys in military uniforms (who we later learned were cossacks), came aboard and wanted to have a meeting with the leaders before anyone got off the boat. There was a big confrontation with these guys. They presented a letter demanding that no mission activity be held in their city. An English translation of the letter follows:
STATEMENT OF THE SIMBIRSK COSSACKS
Members of the orthodox parish of the Archangel Michael address you on behalf of the orthodox people of Ulyanovsk of which there are many thousands:
The mission you lead which you have organized along the Volga cities has, judging by your publicity, good aim. However, the Simbirsk area has no need of traveling preachers as it has for centuries stood firm in it's orthodoxy and it confesses the faith of it's fathers and grandfathers. We are not pagans and are not savage tribes and we look on the appearance of protestant preachers as spiritual imperialism with regard to the Russian Orthodox people.
The orthodox church of Ulyanovsk is not taking part in Mission Volga '92 and has expressed it's negative attitude to the mission and we trust our spiritual leaders. We differ from what is in your advertisements. No one invited you here and no one here needs your help. A Russian proverb says, "Don't go with your rules to someone else's monastary." The negative reaction of the orthodox to your appearance in towns on the Volga River over the past few days is known to us, as are the massive excesses linked with this.
Going on from what has been said in the name of preserving the peace in the town and in the name of Christian peace, refrain from conducting a mission in our town. Stay on the ship and preferably leave our area as soon as possible. You can meet on board your ship with those few co-religionists with whom the orthodox live in peace and harmony without coming onto the shore.
If our request does not find a response in your heart, then your appearance here will be taken as an attack on our city with all the consequences thereof. We would like to use this opportunity to warn you that you may not be welcome any better in other towns. Therefore, we advise you to restrict yourself to purely tourist activities.
Ulyanovsk, 14 Sept., 1992
They made some veiled threats about the possibility of violence if the meetings were to go on. Dr. Bright responded by saying, "If something does happen we will know that we can hold you responsible for it."
The meeting went on for an hour and a half or so. It went on and on and all the while there were groups praying all over the boat. We could see the christians on the dock who had come to meet us praying in little groups as well. Kalevi Lehtinen faced off with these guys and said, "If I live or if I have to die, I will preach tonight." Wow! Then Dr. Bright said "I just want you to know that we will preach tonight in love, but we want you to know that we are here to preach and you are not intimidating us." At that point they realized that the service would go on and they left. Dr. Bright and Kalevi and some of the others finally got off to a big welcoming ceremony. The bread and the salt were presented and eaten (a Russian welcoming tradition), songs were sung and speeches made by hosts and guests and it was a big thing.
After that, Dave and I took off to shoot a meeting with the mayor downtown. Spent the actual meeting waiting in the anteroom and just shot the "photo-opportunity." By the time we got back, it was time for the service. We got there tonight and there were all these policemen and military types. There were some fellows with black berets, really tough looking dudes. We found out later that they were some kind of special forces unit. There were police jeeps everywhere and even a big water cannon truck. There was an ambulance there. They were ready for some action. They were assuming trouble between the christian missionaries and the Russian Orthodox church. They were expecting these cossacks to stir things up. The cossacks were the personal guards of the czar and though the czar was done away with, the cossacks as an organization never was. They exist now as a sort of para-military group. They were always closely associated with the Russian Orthodox hierarchy and would like to see Russia go back to a monarchy and the old political power of the church.
It was raining a little bit before the service started. There wasn't a really big crowd. Maybe 2,000 people in a stadium that could have held three or four times that many. Toward the end of the sermon, all the jeeps, water cannon, ambulance and troops started leaving. Apparently convinced that nothing violent was going to happen. Again, we saw something that is becoming commonplace at these crusades. At the end of the meeting Kalevi Lehtinen gives his invitation. There is no music. In fact as part of the invitation he has one minute of silence to think about the decision. Then he invites anyone who would like to receive Christ to come out of the bleacher stands and come to the foot of the platform. And night after night about 90-95% of the crowd comes forward. The stands just empty out like a fire-drill. Almost everyone comes forward en-masse. Tonight Dave was up in the stands shooting as everyone left them. He realized that probably half of the few who remained in the stands were weeping and praying and that many of them were either accepting Christ there where they sat or were already believers and were praying for others who were going forward.
We thought we lost Jenia as he was gone during the entire meeting. Sveta stayed behind with a friend to find him and we all caught up later at the ship.
We ate and planned some things and now we're going to sleep.
Paul, Sveta, and I stayed late after the service last night to do some interviews after the busses left. We passed up all the offers to ride a bus because we had arranged for a car. Well, our driver never came back for us. Or else somebody else grabbed him. It was 10:00 and we had two hours to get back before the ship left. There was nobody around. We tried to flag a car. Finally there was a young guy and an old guy with a huge white beard who looked like a homeless street person. He was talking and talking. Fortunately we had Sveta there. She told us that he was saying that there was a tram (an electric street car) not far away behind a certain building and that we could take it to the port. So, we started walking over there and he stayed with us the whole time. We were riding along in the tram and he had this whole library of books with him, wrapped up in brown paper wrappers. French and Russian authors. It turned out that He was a mathematician and he had a book of calculus. Paul looked at the book and told me it was no ordinary calculus text. It was very esoteric calculus theory. Paul told him that he had a degree in mathematics and that brought a big smile. The old man said he didn't like the service because the message was too simplistic. He wanted something to challenge the mind like his calculus theory. I was wishing I had some Russian copies of J.P. Moreland's books for this fellow. Unfortunately, a role of Certs that Paul had was all we could leave with him. He rode with us all the way to the port and stayed on the tram when we got off. It was an interesting experience and showed me once again that this is a country of thinkers.
Tues., Sept. 15, Ulyanovsk, aboard the Alexander Radeeshev (As close as I can spell it in English.):
This morning we got up almost in time for breakfast, but not quite. Dave shot a little bit of the worship service that Dr. Bright was speaking at in the cinema room on the fifth deck. It is the largest meeting room on the ship seating maybe 150. Then our schedule was interupted by some people that came to apologize for the problem with the cossacks yesterday. They represented the human rights organization here and the local government. We shot them at a press conference in the lounge on board. They will be speaking briefly during the public meeting at the stadium tonight. The Finnish crew is showing them some footage of the confrontation yesterday as I speak. They wanted to know exactly who was involved and asked to see the pictures. We also shot Val, one of the head translators, reading in English the letter that the cossacks had delivered.
Just now Leonard Mahoe caught me in the hall and asked me if there was anything he could pray for on our behalf. He is with the prayer ministry. We just stopped to pray on the stairway and he uplifted the video crew, and the shooting. He was just a tremendous encouragement to me. I was in need of something like that today.
I'm feeling a little bit behind the power curve here (An aviation phrase meaning the condition of being in danger of a stall and crash while the engine is putting out maximum power.) There is so much going on here and we have so many people and so much equipment involved with the shooting that's it's been a little bit hard to keep up with all the little pieces and getting things where they need to be when they need to be there and being prepared for everything that's happening so quickly. Our normal mode is a crew of two or three and one camera. I'm not very accustomed to keeping track of two of everything. It seems it should be easier with total redundancy, but with both rigs going simultaneously, it's really more difficult. I'm feeling a little bleary in my thinking and am having a hard time staying ahead of things, so I appreciated Leonard very much.
By the time the press conference was over it was lunch time. Had lunch with a lady named Christina who is from I'm not sure where. She had an English accent. Also at the table was Natasha, who is doing sign language for the deaf at the crusades. One of her parents is deaf and one is partially deaf. Also, another fellow named Boris. I don't know who he was. Never did quite find out. He didn't speak any English. Christina was asking about the hurricane in Florida as they have not gotten any news here on the boat. She has been on it since the beginning in St. Petersburg. Then Matt sat down and we talked about my direct marketing of tapes idea and his animation idea for the 5,000 MPTA story.
Dave and Paul went out to shoot around the city today. Sveta went with them. Somehow they arranged to find a car.
This afternoon I'm supposed to go out with Jenia and Rainer Harnisch from Germany. Paul and I are going to go shoot the medical outreach. We're going to a hospital. We'll shoot the delivery of some medical supplies.
Dave and I kind of swapped off. Paul and I took off to do the medical outreach. We went to a hospital here that is 200 years old. It's quite a sprawling complex of old buildings amid a bunch of trees. Dr. Robyn Stevenson, of South Africa, who is seeing after any medical needs of the people on the ship, made a presentation to a big group of doctors and nurses from this hospital. He shared the Four Spiritual Laws and his own testimony. I shot all those goings-on.
Then we went and shot the delivery of packages of medicine to the children's hospital portion of this complex. It seems that the head doctor of the whole place has a heart problem and is spending a lot of money on a big cardiac center. Apparently this facility is going to be quite nice and some parts of the hospital are fairly modern. But the doctors running the children's hospital have begged for funds and refurbishment and so forth for their operation and that has not been forthcoming from this head administrative doctor. So Jenia and Dr. Rainer Harnisch from Germany (masters in psychology, doctorate in theology), who is working with him on the medical outreach decided to give the medicine to the children's hospital since that's where the greatest need was. We videotaped in there and there was mold or fungus growing on the walls in various places. There was peeling paint. The sink that the doctors used to do their scrubbing before surgery was like a janitor's sink with junk on the floor under it.
We shot some of the bandages and dressings that they were reusing. They have little dryers that they hang the bandages around to dry them after they have been washed. All in all it was quite horrifying. It made me and everyone else present (several mentioned it) hope that we would never get sick or injured here in Russia and need to go to one of these hospitals.
The mothers of small children who stay with them in the hospital sleep in the same beds with their sick children. There were maybe ten people in a room about the size of a U.S. hospital room that would have two people in it. The beds were wall to wall. Some were undersize beds. In one room there were mothers with babies, young junior age girls, teenage boys all basically living there together. Of course no curtains between the beds or anything like that. You can imagine the privacy issues.
After we left the hospital, we had our own car, so we went into town and shot some street scenes. Buildings, faces, etc. When we got back it was time to go to the meeting.
Tues, 9/15/92, Ulyanovsk, Russia, Aboard the river cruise ship Alexander Radeeshev (This entry typed into the little computer.):
I am somewhat frustrated at the inability to journalize this trip. There is so much going on and things going all day and night. It is impossible to document it all on video, let alone write about it all. Even if all you were doing was going around to just look at every outreach and activity, I don't think it would be possible to see everything. There are satellite outreaches going on in the outlying towns as well as the crusades, street witnessing, medical outreach, etc. going on in the cities. Matt Crouch is proving to be a real creative asset and I'm really glad he is along. I ended up rooming with him and it's been fun to get acquainted. I must say, though, that with all the activity going on, all the creative juices flowing, and with Dr. Bright on board, that there seems to be no rest for the weary! It's go, go, go all the time. It's almost midnight now and I decided that if I'm going to get any thoughts written down at all, this will be the only time available. For the last two days I thought I would have an hour or two in the mornings, but there always seems to be something that comes up. The watchword of the trip was codified by Dave from Matt's frequent expression: "Hey! Let's roll on that!" All in all this is a wonderful experience. Truly amazing. But I'm having a bit of Disney World syndrome. There is so much so fast for so long that no one person can take it all in. You try and you go all day and late into the night and you get very tired. Just like the Disney experience.
This ship, and it is indeed a ship, is much nicer than I expected. It is not unlike the cruise ships I have been on (never for a cruise, unfortunately) only a bit smaller. Accommodations are not quite as luxurious as western ocean cruise ships, but they are not bad.
Tues., 9/15, Ulyanovsk, Approx. 9:00PM, After the service:
This was our second night in Ulyanovsk. About 15 minutes into the service tonight, in the middle of the men's choir song, all the power went off. The sound system went down. The lighting grid went dead. We were wondering if maybe it was a sabotage situation. It may have been for all I know, but they got it sorted out and it came back on within ten minutes.
We interviewed a guy with a mouse crawling around his collar. Last night Jenia met a guy who's wife is supposed to die in a week unless she gets dialysis, so he's trying to work that out.
Wed., 9/16, 1:00AM:
I tried to do some typing tonight into Paul's computer. I was out on a couch by the stairway so as not to disturb Matt who is sleeping. Some of my friends kept coming along wanting to chat. That was very nice, but I was a little frustrated because I was wanting to write. One young guy from Germany, a still photographer, wanted to see the computer and talk about it. Just as I was getting back into it after he left, Jenia, Sveta, Masha, and Andre came over, so of course we talked. Jenia saw this little cassette recorder and asked if it was like his. I told him his was better because it used the smaller micro-cassettes. I guess if I'm going to do all this recording I better get one of those. This one is a little big to carry when I have all the video gear with me.
Jenia wanted to give me some candy, so we went down to his room to get it. We talked some more about the girl with the kidney problem. Then I told everybody they should go to bed, said good-night, and climbed up to the fourth deck where my room is. Theirs are all down on the third. I slipped the computer into my room and decided I ought to get a few more thoughts down, so I slipped outside here with the tape recorder. If I'm going to get the journal done, this is the way I'll have to do it.
I much prefer to type as I seem to be able to express myself better through my fingers than through my mouth. But with the pace that this trip is having and with limited access to the computer, it's completely out of the question to try to keep up journalizing by pen (or keyboard) in hand. I'm going to be forced to use this recorder. Maybe I'll just have to get used to it. As I was listening to the few things I've said into this thing already, I realize it was quite a large amount of information. So maybe it's the most efficient way to do this after all. Then I can embellish when I type the stories up and maybe make it make more sense.
Right now I'm on the fourth deck of the boat overlooking the bow. The Volga is still like glass. There are a bunch of work vessels docked up in front of us about three or four deep. They make very efficient use of dock space. There is a big crane unloading a barge up there. It's squeaking and moaning occasionally.
Dr. Bright was very anxious and excited about being and speaking in this city of Ulyanovsk, which was Lenin's hometown. Ulyanov was his family name. It was called something else when he lived here, of course. (Simbirsk. Looking at a new map after returning home, it seems the name has been officially changed back to Simbirsk again.) Tomorrow we are supposed to go shoot Dr. Bright at the Lenin museum here which Dave and Paul visited earlier this morning.
Up here on the fourth deck is one of the few quiet, private places you can go to. This Volga River is huge. I'm looking out over a wide spot in the river which is actually a lake dammed up. Apparently there are some locks we'll have to go through. I've been told that the boat came through some locks before we got on. This wide spot here is like being on one of the Great Lakes back home. You can barely see some flickering lights on the far side at night time. This river makes the Mississippi look like a small river.
About the girl who is dying of kidney problems. They are refusing to give her dialysis because they don't have enough of the necessary expendable supplies for their dialysis machines here. They said that five people were refused dialysis today. The doctors here have said that she will die within a week if she doesn't have dialysis, but they refuse to give it to her. They say that she needs a kidney transplant. It appears they have given her up for dead. Jenia has been very upset about the situation. He was in a rather intense conversation with Rainer and Rainer was wary of this situation thinking at first that this fellow just had a story because he wanted money. But Jenia had gone over to the hospital with the husband during the meeting and met the young woman. (That was when he disappeared the other night.) So then Rainer was wary of getting involved in a situation where it would be an on-going thing. Jenia was pushing that this was a first-aid kind of situation to save a person's life. It looks like tomorrow they will go over there together and investigate some more and I think they are probably going to do something to try to help her get some treatment.
Through this, observing Jenia, I see his compassion as a doctor. He has a real compassionate doctor's heart. It's so hard for him to see so many people in such desperate need. He wants to do everything he can, but there are so many with so many needs. How are we going to help them all? It seems impossible. Jenia was agonizing. This girl is 24 years old. She and her husband have been married four years. I think he sees a bit of himself in this young husband as he is not much older and has not been married all that long either. I'm sure he thinks about what it would be like if it was his own Sveta who was laying there dying. His heart is bleeding for this young couple.
Wed., 9/16, Ulyanovsk, aboard ship:
This morning I shot the Bible school class that meets in the cinema room on the this fifth deck. That turned out very well. Right now I'm waiting to shoot the executives as they leave the music room on the fourth deck. Some "ship life" shots of them coming out into the passageway. I have a few moments to myself. Yesterday, especially, I was feeling a real need to just have some time alone. To read the Word a bit and pray. I was feeling like my spiritual batteries were totally drained. I've been feeling that quite a bit on this trip. A real hunger for some spiritual nourishment. And yet there was no time yesterday. I had to push and go and I was just praying that the Lord would just give me what I needed to make it through the day. Within an hour of that I came across Leonard Mahoy (as I mentioned earlier) who stopped and asked me what he could pray about for the video crew. So I was able to share with him a little bit and we just prayed together right there in the stairwell. And that gave me enough of a little boost to be what I needed. So I was really thankful for his ministering to me at that point.
I'm having a hard time with my mind being foggy here lately. I'm feeling like I'm just responding to what's happening and not being ahead of things like I need to be. So, that's been my struggle here. I'm wanting to spend some time reflecting on what's happening and yet instead it's just a big push-push-push. There is so much happening, so much equipment, so many pieces with the two sets of gear and four crew members that it's been a little bit of a challenge to me to stay on top of what's going on.
I'm looking out at one of the many hydrofoil passenger boats. It probably seats about a hundred people or so. Maybe less. You see them on the river in St. Petersburg. They have them all over the place around here. At every place we've docked we've seen at least one of them in a drydock situation. I'm looking at one where I can see the foils hanging down and the propeller shafts which angle down to the props about four or five feet below the bottom of the hull. Looking out at one of these last night, I believe it was Chris Garret who said, "you know what that looks like? Something from Buck Rogers." Kind of an antique modern look. It does look like one of those Buck Rogers spaceships, now that I think about it. It has a little canopy kind of like a fighter plane up on top where the pilot sits to drive the thing. Apparently there are two engines which are about amidship. The propeller shafts come down from there toward the back at about a 30 degree angle.
I shot some of the people coming out of the meeting, walking through the corridors, down the stairwells, and going to lunch. During lunch I shot some of the people eating in the dining room. After lunch, it's off to the local Lenin museum.
Sept. 16, Ulyanovsk, The Lenin Museum:
This is a fabulous museum. We came in here to shoot cut-aways after shooting Dr. Bright outside in front of one of the houses Lenin lived in growing up. (He lived here for 17 years.) The town here was called Simbirsk before they changed it in honor of Lenin.
After we shot Dr. Bright, Matt and I went into the museum while Dave and the others went to a meeting Dr. Bright had at a school where he gave a talk.
They were a little upset that we were in the museum with our video camera. They started turning out lights so our video wouldn't look good. Apparently the person who was supposed to be minding the door wasn't, so we got the camera in and that wasn't supposed to happen. Sveta later heard the doorkeeper getting chewed out. But we gave them a thousand rubles, which was what they were asking for a shooting fee. (about $5 now in our money) Then they turned the lights back on and we were able to do whatever we wanted to. Matt did most of the shooting.
There was a traveling exhibition of religious art in the back of the museum. There was a very moving picture of Herod's soldiers killing all the two year old male babies. There were also copies of paintings that you would recognize from illustrated children's Bibles. The art spanned the Old and New Testaments and the guides were telling the story of the Gospel intentionally as they showed the paintings. We ran into a fascinating juxtaposition at this exposition. High on the walls of the museum there were mounted permanent mural-size photographs of Lenin walking through Red Square and addressing a huge crowd. Then on the floor was this traveling religious art show. It was quite a statement to see these pictures in the same room. Matt and I both tried our hand (eye) at showing this juxtaposition on video. I think his shots turned out better than mine. He has an excellent eye. Anyway, we were told that a year ago they tried to bring this exhibition in and it was not even allowed into the city. Now it is here in the Lenin museum.
The museum, by the way, is quite new. It was built with funds collected from all over the country at some big anniversary of Lenin's birth or some such occasion. I never got into the Lenin museum in Moscow or St. Petersburg, but I wouldn't be surprised if this one is better. It is really a world-class set-up. Very nicely done. You can certainly learn more than you ever wanted to know about Lenin. It is quite fascinating though.
It occurred to me a number of times on this trip that Lenin wasn't such a bad guy at first. He had a lot of noble ideas and goals. But his story goes to show that a little evil mixed in with a lot of good can yield a very evil soup indeed. In many ways he seemed a nice guy before he started killing people, but of course he ended up the devil's handyman. I don't think he was always a monster, though.
After the museum, we shot near a big obelisk, a memorial to the people who died in World War II (which they call the Great Patriotic War.) Then we went off to a very old district of the city and shot log houses and wooden houses and people carrying buckets from a community water spigot on the corner.
Sept. 17, 1:00AM, Sundeck on 5th deck of Alexander Radeeshev:
We are steaming down the Volga River having left Ulyanovsk. We are now headed for Samara where we are scheduled to arrive at 3:00 tomorrow afternoon. I just spent the last hour or so viewing footage that we shot today with Dave and Paul. Paul is using two Betacam PAL machines from the Finnish crew and is dubbing some of their material that they've been shooting since the boat first left St. Petersburg. The equipment is being used during the daytime and so he's having to stay up tonight to do this dubbing. Of course, they have a lot of material that they shot during the time when we were not present. So, it's very valuable material for us. We'll have to have it transferred through a standards conversion system back at home to get from PAL to NTSC.
After shooting at the museum and the old district this afternoon, Matt and I came back to the ship and rested for about a half hour. He told me about his three homes he's had in California and how he did very well in the California real estate boom. He now lives in what to me would be a mansion and owes a fairly small percentage of it on his bank loan. But to me it still sounded like an awful lot of money. This guy is five years younger than me and seems to be very blessed materially. I'm happy for him and it's interesting to talk to him. I've had a great time getting to know him and working with him, but he comes from and lives in a much different world than the one I come from and live in.
Dave, Sveta, and I went off to the stadium to get some more exit interviews. That wasn't going real well. The interviews we were getting were just not very good. At one point toward the end I ran out of tape and was fussing with the machine, getting the tape out, and had a similar experience to my watch-in-a-box episode in St. Petersburg last year. A bunch of guys, ruffians who had been drinking, were smoking and pressing in all around me. I was getting kind of pushed and they were talking, trying to get my attention. When I asked Dave for another tape, he looked around and our bag was gone. The best we can figure we lost a camera battery worth about $450, a microphone worth about $200, and two blank tapes. We were very thankful that they didn't get any of the material that we'd shot today. Fortunately we had left that all back on the ship.
It's always a terrible feeling when someone steals from you, and I felt pretty rotten on the way home. The driver told Sveta that he had been roughed up by some hooligans and they were all in the same crowd. He had to get a bus driver to help him fend them off. Apparently they didn't hurt him badly. The driver was a dear old man. I took his picture out by the monument earlier at his request. He wanted to take us all home for dinner, but Matt was afraid we'd get sick. Of course, we didn't have enough time anyway, but he was a very nice man. He was with us for nine hours today and the rate was to be the equivalent of a dollar an hour in rubles. I gave him two American five dollar bills and he was delighted. He had a bag of apples that he gave to us. We let Sveta take them all.
Looking out at the Volga as it goes by, I'm once again impressed by the immensity of this river. We appear to be in the middle and it's several miles, I would estimate, to either shore. There are several places where the river is dammed up into large lakes and we may be in one of those now. But in any case, this is an unbelievably huge river system.
It's amazing to me that I've had the privilege of being on this ship and being a small part of this Mission Volga outreach. Tonight I was impressed, as we were shooting some things at the end of the service, by Dan Peterson. He happened to be in front of my camera and I was thinking about what a spiritual hero he is. He is the national director of Campus Crusade in Russia. He has lived here for eleven or twelve years. So, of course, he is well acquainted with what life was like here when the work was underground. How amazing it must be for him to see what has happened and all the changes and this incredible outreach based on this ship.
I'm surrounded by heros on this ship. Kalevi Lehtinen, the evangelist from Finland, and Markku Happonen, his best friend who is the organizer of the whole outreach. These men are giants in my eyes. These are men of God and men of vision. So humble. So mighty in spirit. When Kalevi told those cossacks that he would be preaching whether he lived our whether he died, I saw something that I had never seen in the flesh in any Christian before in my life: A completely calm, yet deadly serious willingness to lay down his life on the spot. I feel like such a puny thing being here making my little pictures in the midst of spiritual greatness. I thank my Lord that He has allowed me just to be here as a part of this. To see it. To experience it first hand.
I've sensed a tangible need for spiritual feeding on this boat. Of course that's the way it is and always should be, but right now it is palpable. Just so real. Like you could reach out and touch it.
Jenia, Sveta, and a gang of about ten other Russians came in while we were watching our footage to watch the second half of Ben-Hur on the VCR and TV that were also in the music room. As I've been wandering around the decks I walked outside that music room and Jenia spotted me through a window. He came out without a jacket and it was really cold. He ran over to me and put his arms around me and said hello. Gave me a big hug and gave me an update on the girl with the kidney problem. They took over a thousand deutchmarks, which was maybe $600 US to buy some filters for the dialysis machine that will keep her alive. Each filter is good for ten days. They bought four of them and they are going to try to find another dialysis machine or some other solution to help her. So, apparently Rainer finally agreed that this was a case they needed to get involved with.
Sept. 17, 7:30AM:
I stuck my head up earlier when we heard some bumping. It looked like we had pulled up to a dock. Now it's a little later and I hear in the hallway that we are going through a lock. So we put on some clothes and are going outside. Actually we're going through the second set of locks by now. As I speak, we've dropped in the lock and I'm watching the doors open as we're about to pull out into a big stretch of river. I estimate the drop at about 30 feet. This was lock number 23, right next to lock number 24. There must be a lot of them.
Norman Miller, the Interstate Battery man, is with us. He greeted somebody else who rolled out of bed to see the locks. He said, "Here's another lock watch monster!"
We're moving into a mountainous area. I'm seeing them off to the south of us.
Sept. 17, 10:15AM:
I'm standing on the bridge of the Alexander Radeeshev. We're passing a city and I see a monument that is styled after a Viking ship with a big sail. This city has a number of fairly tall apartment buildings of 12 or 14 stories and a beautiful waterfront park. I don't think this is the city we're going to as we are yet five hours from the time we are supposed to arrive.
I went to breakfast for the first time this morning and had some of the gruel. Ate with Anne Wright and Vonnette Bright. They sat down next to Dave and I and we had a nice talk. Little villages were going past with some factories and lots of little houses. Passed a number of small boats with men fishing. Some of them were in inflatable rafts and they were fishing in the freezing cold morning. It was very cold just being out in the wind, let alone sitting down there in the water.
The thought occurred to me this morning that it would be a tremendous outreach and ministry to buy a vessel that would allow a team of 10 or 20 people to live aboard and go down the river from village to village holding evangelistic meetings. I would think a team could keep busy for years doing this. There are so many little villages along this vast river system.
Right now we are passing a large sidewheel paddle boat that is over on the side of the river.
Ah, the mate driving the boat has told us that this is Samara where we are now. I suppose we'll be out here in the river waiting for a while.
Sitting here on the beautiful Volga on a sunny day. It's warm and breezy. Well, cool and breezy. We're in the middle of the river at Samara waiting for our docking time at 3:00 o'clock. We crossed a time zone and lost an hour this morning.
We've been shooting interviews most of the morning with people in the executive tour. There are a lot of small, personal size speedboats running around this area. Most of them are pretty old, but nevertheless it makes me see once again the inequity of the so-called equitable system that has been here.
It's 3:40 now and I'm out in a little motor launch a couple hundred yards out from the ship and circling around it. This is a photography expedition to get long shots of the ship. We've been waiting to get into the Samara port for about four or five hours. It's a beautiful, sunny day. There are some clouds in a blue sky. The ship looks gorgeous. I shot the first circle around the ship and then handed the camera to Matt and he's doing some shooting now. The ship has a huge banner tied to the railings on the starboard side proclaiming "God Gives Hope" in Russian. It is about 3 decks high. (It was the same graphic that is on the cover of this journal.)
Well, what a welcome we had in Samara! A major event. They had a parade through the town to the square. (The waterfront park I mentioned earlier.) We thought we'd reached the square about four different times as we came to various squares that were not "the" square. We marched and ran with the camera (with two of us holding it between us while running) until we were bleary-eyed.
Well, I just had my first ride in a Neva, a four wheel drive. The ideal Russian vehicle. It will take any pothole. We just walked six kilometers, actually we ran it with a camera in spurts. We would run past the parade and then stop and shoot it going by. Then we would run past again and so on for six kilometers. Matt and I just took a couple years off the end of our lives, no doubt.
9/17, 7:00PM, back on the boat:
This is Samara. Our last night on the boat. Tomorrow morning we fly to Moscow.
(Voice of Matt Crouch on the tape:)
Esther, Esther. This is Matt Crouch. I want to describe to you what your husband looks like when he comes out of the shower with the Russian towel on. It's a real wonderful sight. I know that you would enjoy it immensely. It's kind of the hospital gown look where you have a choice of what you want to cover. You do not have a choice of covering all. You have a choice only of covering half, so you do the side action, the front action or the crack action. Your husband has chosen the hospital gown crack action. Just would like to share that with you! Thank you. (Sounds of me laughing in the background.)
Friday, 11/18, 5:20AM:
Sitting on the bus. Dr. Bright is getting off the ship. We are leaving the Alexander Radeeshev to go to the airport here in Samara to fly to Moscow. After our wild experience shooting the parade we came back to the boat and I got a wonderful shower and we went to dinner. After dinner, Dave and I sat and talked to Vivian Stevenson and drank tea and ate some little bagels with jelly in the middle. Vivian and her mother are both nurses and they are working with her dad on the ship. Then we went upstairs to the lounge for some ice cream as became our nightly custom on the ship. Vivian's father, Dr. Stevenson, came and told us there was a meeting of the executive group in the music room where we all went and heard a little mini-concert by a violinist and then heard a bunch of people sharing about the highlights of their trip. For a lot of folks it was the parade yesterday. I got to thinking that for me the highlight was the showdown with the Cossacks and seeing Kalevi Lehtinen saying, "whether I live or die, I will preach tonight." It struck me how I have been so moved by spiritual heros that I've heard about and read about and that on this ship there were so many incredible spiritual heros all around me that I got to see in action. That one event when Kalevi looked at those hostile, threatening cossacks and to their red faces said, "whether I live or whether I have to die I will preach tonight" was tremendously moving to me and challenging.
After that service was done I went down to room 327 where Jenia and Sveta were staying. I had promised to see them and say good-bye before I went to bed as it was going to be a very short night and we would be leaving early in the morning. I brought them some chocolate Kudo bars and they had some chocolate they gave me, so we all ate chocolate. It was about 1:00 o'clock in the morning and I had to get up at 4:00. Jenia was typing out addresses and Masha was translating his letter. I'm going to send it to the people he met in the United States.
Jenia mentioned once again to me that their registration of the medical clinic as a charitable humanitarian aid organization will allow him to arrange for outsiders to fly in on Aeroflot for 10% of the normal fare. I asked him to look into this. I also asked Sveta and Masha to look into the cost of the cruise boats on the Volga river in a normal situation, rather than on a charter. I shared with them a dream of bringing Esther and taking a cruise down the river on one of these ships. They said they'd check it out.
Rainer Harnisch said that the fax machine that is being used by the Mission Volga office is going to be left for the medical center upon completion of the mission. So, perhaps, we will have a more reliable and fast communication link by fax.
The Lord answered a prayer of mine during that time in their room. Masha and Andrei were also present. Back in Florida when they were visiting a few weeks ago, I had the sense, and so did Esther, that something wasn't quite right when they were with us. I think it may have been multiple factors, some of which were Jenia, Sveta and Masha being away from their home turf. Also the fact that Esther has not been over here and had never met them before, and also the fact that they came during a tremendously busy time for our family when, though we were prepared for them to come, we were under a lot of pressure and very tired. In any case, I was praying that we would have a real good experience together on this trip and that I would be able to minister to them and really care for them. That happened last night. I was able to share about what was the highlight of the trip for me. We talked a lot about the importance of finding out what God wants a person to do with his life and then doing it. Jenia talked about taking care of our wives and having a balanced life. We seem to have similar problems with driving very hard in our work to the detriment of our wives. I shared with him from I Timothy 3 about the requirements for a spiritual leader. Also from Ephesians 5, where Paul is talking about a husband taking care of his wife as Christ cares for the church. It was quite an interesting discussion surrounding these passages. Somehow I ended up sharing my testimony about how I was called into video work. All in all it was a wonderful time and I sensed that I was anointed, I believe, for that time. I was able to minister to these four dear friends. In the middle of it all I realized that I was being empowered to minister and that I was touching these young people in a way that I rarely have the privilege of doing. It was a wonderful feeling to be used in this way and to have the realization while it was happening that it was indeed happening.
It was late and I had to go to sleep. Andrei had left earlier. We all stood and held hands. I prayed for everyone and for Esther and the kids back home. I prayed for their ministries, for their needs. There were hugs all around and I turned to leave. Jenia followed me into the passageway. We promised one more time to pray for each other, particularly that we would take care of our families well. I told him to take good care of Sveta and he said, "that is my desire." I walked down the hall, up the stairs and into my stateroom and laid down feeling very happy and praising God for answered prayer.
The sun is coming up. The trams our going by on the tracks along the road our bus is traveling on. The lights are on and the seats are filled with people going one direction, empty the other. We're heading away from the downtown area. Apparently Rainer and whoever else was involved with the girl with the kidney problems decided to act. Jenia was very much relieved about this. Last night in the meeting with the executives they talked about this and apparently among the executives they raised $1,500.00 and had commitments for some more funds to potentially purchase a dialysis machine or work out some other solution for this girl's problem.
I saw a rare compassion exhibited on the part of Jenia throughout this episode. He told me that he felt that this particular instance of this woman's husband coming to the crusade seeking physical help was similar to the people who came to Jesus as he ministered seeking help for their physical problems. He said he believed that if we did not do something to help them that how could we then preach the gospel? He realized that it's impossible to help everyone, but when someone comes seeking help in the context of an evangelistic outreach that we must do whatever we can to help, because this is what Jesus did.
I've never been hugged by anybody quite like Jenia hugs. And I've observed his affection for his close friends. He doesn't give little squeezes, but like a small boy he is gentle and joyous and he doesn't want to let go.
Rolling through the outskirts of town, I see how beautiful an area this is. Saw a sister ship to ours steaming down the river surrounded by beautiful, low-lying mountains. We passed a big factory complex a few miles back surrounded by apartment buildings, presumably housing the workers. Paul told Dave yesterday that Samara was a major industrial center and that they made ICBM missiles here. Population here is about 1.2 million.
The other day when we were taking pictures in the older section, we passed by an area of hundreds of little steel sheds all locked up. Sveta told us that these were garages and that people who live in the city will have one of these garages to keep a car in. They have to take the bus to the outskirts of the city to get to their car.
I have forgotten to take any of the vitamins I brought with me. I'm getting a canker sore in the lower part of my mouth.
Now we're at the airport about to get on a Tupolev 154M tri-jet. This M model has modern fanjet engines. The older ones are turbojets like on our 727's.
Well, I forgot to make a note about the showers on the ship. You step into this little bathroom and there's a sink and there's a stool and you wonder at first where the shower is. And then you notice this shower curtain that covers the door and the stool. The faucet pulls out of the sink on a long flex-hose and hangs up on the wall and you take a shower right there. (Voice of Dave Nixon:) While you watch yourself in the mirror. It's an interesting experience! (back to me) Oh, that's right. Since the sink is right there and the mirror you get to watch yourself take a shower. It's kind of like a soap commercial. Aye! Irish Spring! It's a manly scent, but I like it too! (sound of Dave laughing)
You have to be careful not to have your hair drier there or you'll electrocute yourself with 220.
Well, this is a unique Aeroflot experience. We have, actually, overhead compartments with doors on them and oxygen mask equipment.
Moscow, Friday 11/18, 9:30AM:
The watchword for this trip is "go with the flow." We're asking how you say "go with the flow" in Russian. Apparently there is a similar phrase meaning the same thing here that's something like "swim with the river," but we all had a hard time pronouncing it. I was never successful, but it sounded something like "itsy bitsy chicken," so that's the Americanized version. We kind of gave up on saying it in Russian because if you make some various mistakes you could say something about making dust in the road or something about cookies. If you really mess up it's something about spitting. So we decided the mistaken version is "spit on your dusty cookies." I gave up on saying it in Russian, but as best as I remember, it was "bleet puetucheniou."
Intourist Hotel, Moscow, 11/18, 12:00 Noon:
We drove in from the airport. Out at the airport, the baggage handlers had figured out that Americans would pay $5.00 tips, so they all demanded this. However, we had been told not to pay them more than 25 rubles per bag, so we didn't pay them all they wanted and they weren't too happy with that.
We drove in past the Kremlin. Saw St. Basil's. Phil and Dave were pretty impressed with that. Moscow is bustling today. Coca Cola seems to be everywhere now. Last year, it was nowhere to be found. McDonald's is building another restaurant up the block. Actually, it is a 12 or 14 story office building. We're staying at the intourist hotel, about a block from Red Square. We were all having fun telling "can you top this" stories in the bus on the way in from the airport. We went by the scene of an accident of a very big, expensive Mercedes that had absolutely crunched a smaller car. The Mercedes had a smashed in front fender and was pretty severely damaged, but the Russian car, which had been hit from the side, was totally collapsed.
I'm being accosted by gypsies as I speak here. They seem to be everywhere in every city.
Anyway, whoever had been in that Russian car that was smashed is in pretty severe shape right now, I'm sure. So, anyway, that seemed to spur the wild stories. Of course, Matt won game, set, and match for the best stories. He's been in something like eighty-five countries and I think he's seen just about everything there is to see.
Another prayer I've had for this trip is that I would just develop a very good relationship and friendship with Matt. That seems to be happening. We've been having, all of us, a grand time together. There are always a lot of laughs whenever he's around.
Looking out of the thirteenth floor elevator lobby of our hotel I can see over the Kremlin wall. I can see the domes of several of the cathedrals.
It's Friday. We're going to be here until Tuesday, I think, or Wednesday. It's very overcast, so we decided to leave the camera and walk around without it.
(Voice of Dave Nixon reacting to something we're eating:)
Wait a minute, wait a minute, I'm thinking! It's like being really thirsty, and needing a drink, and taking a bite, and it's dirt.
(back to me)
Dirt cake, described so aptly by Mr. Nixon.
3:45PM, inside the Kremlin:
We're at the world's largest bell. I was here before, but I didn't hear the story. The broken chunk weighs 11.5 tons. The whole thing weighs 200 tons. The thing took them two years to cast in the ground. The artist was not satisfied with the quality of the bass relief decorations, so it sat in the ground for a hundred years until 1836. It was raised out of the ground with a big lever with stones on one end.
Our guide is Ira, who we've hired for $5.00 for the afternoon. Paul spotted a soldier with a funny little leather bag with fringe on it and she explained that he was the falconer. He has two falcons or hawks that live here in the Kremlin. At night they hunt the crows that poop all over the place. They can't very well go shooting weapons inside the Kremlin.
We've entered the square of the cathedrals. Inside the bell tower there is an exhibition of Faberge things. Little women's accessories, opera glasses, a fan, all kinds of stuff. The fabulous eggs. One green with gold encrusting and there is a little ship that sits on a slab of glass or crystal inside the egg. This display opened three days ago and will be here a month or six weeks. There are all kinds of silver things and crystal vases, silver and crystal combined. Things of jade and other precious stones. Faberge was a Frenchman who lived in St. Petersburg.
I'm looking at a fabulous Faberge egg that is also a clock. The top part rotates with the numerals around the circumference so you can tell what time it is. There is a crystal egg with all kinds of beautiful blue, green, and gold decoration. The bottom half has a gold ship inside and it looks like it is sitting on crystal with waves in it which looks like the wake of the boat. Made in 1899.
I'm looking at one now that is silver from 1918. These all seem to have something inside like buildings and things like that. There is one encrusted with pictures of the Czar's family.
This is an unbelievable display of Faberge items. Every one priceless. Beautiful icons, crosses. Lots of personal items like brushes. A chess set. The ultimate Russian chess set, but a few too many rubles for me, though, I'm afraid. Jewelry, boxes, little pots and things that look like cloisonne.
Another very large egg; about six inches tall. And it looks like a small train, not more than an inch tall, about a foot long, an engine and five cars all made of gold. Apparently they all fit inside the egg. This egg with the train is made of "gold, platinum, tinted gold, silver rosettes, rubies, onyx, crystal, translucent enamel over a ghoulish(?) ground casting engraving filigree presented by Czar Nicholas II to his wife, Czarina Alexandra Feodor Ovanov. Commemorated at the Paris World Exposition of 1900." The medal was given to this as an award winning thing. It says "1900" on the egg.
There is a picture of the Faberge factory in St. Petersburg with perhaps a hundred artisans sitting at workbenches where they made all this stuff.
Here's another egg whose base is a miniature model of the Kremlin in the round. Another gift from Nicholas II to his wife. The eggs were made one every Easter for the Czar to give to his wife, so they were apparently produced one a year. There are near one hundred Faberge eggs in the Armory.
4:15, The Kremlin:
I'm back in the cathedral where the czars and princes are buried looking up at the beautiful iconostasis (the wall which seperates the public area from the alter/holy place) which has to be fifty feet tall and a hundred feet up to the top of the dome. Ornate paintings on all of the walls and ceilings. Every square foot is covered by murals and paintings. This is the cathedral of the Archangel Michael. Always has Christ on the right side of the doors and Mary on the left side. The last supper is over the doors. The second painting to the right is a scene depicting the scene from which the cathedral gets it's name, generally.
(sound of Ira's voice:)
"Kalita. Kalita. From when? The middle centuries, from the Russians. Not modern." We're talking about fanny packs here. Fanny packs are a design from the middle ages, apparently.
Ira told us the story of Ivan the Terrible and how he was after all the young women around, including his daughter-in-law. She was pregnant and he didn't like the fact that she wasn't as beautiful being pregnant, so he slapped her on the face and said "your face is not beautiful." His son came in in the middle of this. He was very angry and they had a big shouting match. Ivan hit his son in the temple with his staff and put a hole in the side of his head. The son's brains were exposed and four days later he died. Ivan wanted the son to be made a saint and therefor buried behind the iconostasis in the holy place. Czars and their sons have to be buried together, of course, so as a result of all this mess the son, then Ivan, and then his other son were all buried behind the iconostasis.
Old Ivan was married seven times.
(voice of Matt:)
"The point is that the church officials said that because you'd been married seven times you can't come into the church, so he had a special addition built onto the church so he could go up and look in the church, but he wasn't in the church, because he was terrible. He was married seven times. It was about the fourth time that they wouldn't let him back in."
This is the Cathedral of the Annunciation used by the Czars family only. Has a floor made of jasper from the Ural mountains. It's unbelievable. Looks like wood, but it's stone. Looking at the iconostasis, the metal work and the carving, the gilding, the paintings, it occurs to me that there is no economic system anywhere in the world anymore that could support the production of anything remotely like what I'm looking at right now. The thousands and thousands of man-hours to produce the artistic panels and metal work. It's awe-inspiring.
There is a second little chapel off to the right side for Ivan the Terrible, because he couldn't go inside after about his fourth marriage. This is the Annunciation Cathedral, that's why it was Mary and the angel in the second painting to the right of the iconostasis doors.
"Dompushti." The second station where you go for Arbot street on trolley number two.
We came up to another little museum in the Kremlin just as it was closing, but the head guide decided to let it stay open for us anyway. (sound of ringing and moderately excited Russian voices in the background) Saw some incredible rifles inlaid all over the barrel and stock with ivory or mother of pearl. A fabulous saddle and falconry equipment.
(voice of Matt Crouch:)
"Did you hear that alarm? I was standing there looking at that cup (about 4 ft. tall sitting on the floor) and there was an angel (on it). All I did was just reached over and just touched the wing and that alarm went off."
We've left the Kremlin and we're riding on an electric trolley bus. The fare is one rouble to ride the whole line. That's a half penny to go around the whole city if you feel like it. We're headed over to Arbot street. We've got a couple hours of sunlight left and we're going to look for bargains. Matt just bought a beautiful book of stamps for ten bucks. Haggled the guy down from twenty-five. There was a long stalemate at fifteen dollars, but the seller flinched first. He saw the fifteen in Matt's hand that he was going to pay if that's what it took and snapped his fingers like he'd been had.
Intourist Hotel, 11/18, 11:30PM:
After doing the Kremlin, we decided to hit Arbot street before it got dark. Ira, who we had hired to be our guide, took us on the trolley over to Arbot. Tickets were one rouble a piece, but you have to buy ten at a time. I already talked about that, never mind.
Right at the start of Arbot street the guys were looking at little KGB I.D. folders. Somebody bought five for a dollar and I got one of them. There were all kinds of military clothing and hats and insignia. A guy walked up with an army coat, an army internal inspector's coat and he held it for me to try it on. I thought "why not" and it fit perfectly. It was a nice color, wool, and heavy. The thing weighs 12 pounds and goes all the way down to mid-calf length. He wanted fifteen bucks for it. I immediately decided I was going to buy it, although I didn't tell him that. Then another guy came up with a belt that went with it and put that on me. Another had a matching hat and another a little satchel. They had me all outfitted. Dave was standing there shooting all of these goings-on with his little 8 millimeter Handycam, so I saluted and did a little bit of goose-stepping. Well, I didn't buy all the other stuff, but I did take the coat. Later tonight Paul told me that I had to get the matching hat, so I think maybe I'll go back and get it. They were about five dollars. Then I spotted one watch that looked a little interesting and I broke down and finally bought a Russian watch for ten dollars.
On the way back from Arbot street, we saw all kinds of things advertised and all kinds of western influences. Coca Cola, McDonalds, Rolling Stone magazine, Playboy, and all kinds of new age and occultic literature for sale. We were noticing these kinds of things that we probably will shoot for a video piece on western influences coming into the former Soviet Union.
I decided I was going to buy a coffee table picture book of Moscow and one of Leningrad, ones like I had seen last year. A fellow had one on the sidewalk for $15 with some beautiful photographs from all over the city.
We got to the hotel and dropped off our stuff and then went down and hired a car to take us to McDonald's where we all had Big Macs. They tasted pretty good after nine days of Russian food.
About a quarter to ten the phone rang and it was Phil Hooper. Looks like tomorrow at 2:00 o'clock we'll be shooting on a military base somewhere. I did a little reading, Matt fell asleep, and a knock came to the door. I opened the door and a fellow said in an accent, "is Matt Crouch here?" I said yes, and he said "can I speak to him?" I said, "he's asleep, can you leave him a message." He said, "can you wake him?" I said, "I'd rather not," and he said "I have a message from his father." Well, it was one of Matt's buddies who was traveling with his father and clowning with the accent. So he came in and woke up Matt and they talked for a while. His name is Dan and he's kind of a nut case.
As I'm speaking these words into my recorder, I'm looking out from the end of the 13th floor hallway. Across the street is the Armory and the Kremlin wall. I'm looking out at the domes of the cathedrals, the clock tower, and I can see St. Basil's from here down at the far end of Red Square. This is surely the most famous landmark in Russia. It was built to commemorate a great victory over Kazan by Ivan the Terrible. The last time I was here I heard the story that after it was built, Ivan thought it was so beautiful that he didn't want to have anything else built that was as beautiful again that might detract from it's preeminence, so he had the architect's eyes put out. Nice guy, old Ivan.
Sat., 11/19, Hotel Metropol, Moscow:
This is where the executives are staying. To give you some idea, my breakfast this morning cost 90 rubles, about 40 cents. Breakfast here is $23.00. I heard that somebody got some soup last night from room service at it cost $35.00. This place is fabulous. It's just about worth $23.00 to come into this dining room and look up at the huge stained glass ceiling that is big, big, big. There are fabulous gold chandeliers everywhere. And everything here is not only ornate, but looks new. Definitely a classy joint. What's going on here is the conference of Canadian business people with a bunch of military leaders, I guess, although very few are in uniform here. I can see Colonel Miranov in the crowd. Everyone here is in suits and ties. Definitely a buttoned down crowd.
Dave and Matt just took off with one of the cameras to shoot some of the western influence things that I mentioned earlier. I, on the other hand, am in "hurry up and wait" mode.
Dave called Kathy this morning and hurried to hang up when he saw the meter hit $96.00. It's $12.00/min. from the direct line booths. I understand that if you call here from the U.S., though, it's a fraction of that rate. And if you have access to a private phone and can wait the hours or days it takes to get an overseas line, it's dirt cheap.
There are a few things that I'm tempted to document in this journal, and I can recall a few things from previous trips that I was tempted to document, but I've decided that it was pretty wise counsel when my mother told me that if I couldn't say something good, don't say anything at all. Suffice to say that there are certain situations with some negative aspects that are only mentioned here because I find it so humorous. Certain political maneuvering and low-level intrigue that is highly entertaining to me.
Somebody back in California, from whom we bought lots of Sony tape, gave us two Sony SBT Pro vests. Affectionately referred to as the "pro vests" now. Kind of a typical photographer's vest with lots of pockets and pouches and things all over it. This is the first trip I've brought one on. It makes you look kind of like hot dog Joe photojournalist, but the pouches sure are nice. There is always a place to stuff something. And the two big pockets are big enough to stick tapes in.
Now that I've been journalizing for a few days using this recorder, I've decided that this is indeed the only way to do this. You can actually sleep at night instead of writing. So, it's decided. Before the next trip I've got to get one of those itty bitty micro-cassette jobs. I suppose I can always scrounge a transcriber back home from somewhere to type it up. Shoot, maybe I'll even buy one of those too.
I don't know that I mentioned eating at McDonalds in Moscow last night. It's got to be the biggest McDonalds in the world. (It is) I took a still picture of a couple of the guys inside it just before we walked out the door. Last time I was here the line went down the block and around the park. Last night there was no line outside. The place was still packed. Busier than any McDonalds I've ever seen, even the one in Orlando near Universal Studios which is supposed to be the biggest one in the States as I understand it.(Or maybe the busiest) The one in Moscow is several times larger. Things must be going well, because right down the block from our hotel McDonalds is putting up an office building that looks like 12 or 14 stories. Looks like there will be golden arches springing up all over the place before long.
The day before yesterday, our last day on the boat, in the middle of the afternoon, just before we docked at Samara, our crew was all sitting on the sundeck on the fifth level in chairs doing nothing. It occurred to me that it was the first time in nine days that we all got a chance to sit down and do nothing for a while. Today, sitting in this hotel with this conference going on with people in suits and dresses standing around talking is about the first chance I've had to hurry up and wait on this trip. Normally that is a pretty regular occurrence on these trips. It can get very old fast, but right now I'm enjoying it immensely. I have a couple of books with me for just such occasions and I haven't read anything in either one of them since the plane ride over here. I believe that on every other trip I've read at least one book.
Well, we got the word this morning that the Yeltsin meeting with Dr. Bright is off. Paul Crouch is still in the wait and see mode on his meeting. Apparently he's got a bit more clout over here than Dr. Bright.
I think it's time for a cup of tea. I've been enjoying the juices available here at this fancy hotel. I think I've been a little dehydrated.
Dan Peterson is speaking now to the conference. He's introducing his remarks by speaking of the historic days we're living in with all the changes. This guy has lived here for 11 or 12 years. He's a wonderful, godly man. While other spiritual giants have jumped onto my list of heros, he's working his way there gradually.
Free pricing became effective on the first of January on bread, milk, and other basic foods. Prices went up 20 to 30 times the next morning. They are getting ready to do the same thing to fuel prices. Inflation is about 25% per month right now. Galena (one of our interpreters) says that doctors are now making five thousand rubles a month and the coal miners are making fifteen thousand. Things are a little mixed up. One month ago the exchange was 100 rubles to the dollar, now it's around 200 to 210. To put this in perspective, a person working at McDonalds in the States makes as much in one day as a doctor makes here in a month.
Galena said that there is a saying here that says, "the soldier is sleeping, but the service goes on." It's a couple hours until we have to do anything, so that's what we're doing right now.
This hotel is 100 years old and was restored 5 years ago by a Finnish company. We found out that while the Americans have been assigned the outreach to the military here, this Canadian group has been assigned the outreach to the diplomatic community. Apparently some of these folks here are in that diplomatic category. Therein lies the reason for this meeting being held at one of, if not the finest hotel in Moscow. One Canadian man is paying for this entire conference: all the food, the meeting rooms, the whole deal. It's a very top-drawer affair and he cannot even be here because his wife became ill and they are down in Kiev. It's amazing how God provides.
Last night on Arbot street I had left all my money in the room. Everything I bought yesterday was with money I borrowed from Matt Crouch. When I went to pay him back he said, "no, just keep your money." It's quite an adventure to live by faith and see how God provides. It can be kind of scary, but it's kind of like a close brush with death in that when it's over and you've made it, it sure is a thrill.
"Pleets por te cheniou" (Galena's voice and mine as she tries to help me pronounce "I swim with the river," similar to our "go with the flow.")
Well, those seven big buildings like Moscow State Univ. were built during the Stalin era and are called "Stalin's wedding cakes." Two are hotels, two are ministries, two are apartments, and one is the university. The hotel Ukraine is one of them. There were supposed to be eight, but the land was marshy where one was supposed to go, so they didn't build that one.
Galena's voice explains that the students who live in Moscow and go to Moscow Univ. live at home. Non-Muscovites and foreign students live in the big building. That number is about five thousand. They live in the wing sections only.
11/19, 7:30PM, sitting in the Nissan mini-van in front of the Hotel Metropol:
Well, Matt says he poured his vodka into his soup. He just went into the hotel.
(voice of Matt:)
"I just greeted Dr. Bright, Vonnette, Sid Wright, and made coordinations, so I'm obviously fine and the other one who has the..."
(my voice) He also went into the hotel with a camera with no battery on it! (mumbling) I will never know if he's lying to me!
Yes, we went over to the military academy (comparable to our West Point) and shot Dr. Bright meeting with the general, presenting him with a Bible and video training materials and such as this. We shot in a museum which was especially memorable to Matt.
(voice of Matt:)
It was very touching and moving. Parts of the museum, I believe, are going to be very dear to me for a long time and... Phil, what was that great line that you had about the museum? Remember, you said? (voice of Phil: the silent symbols) Yea, the silent symbols that really talk about kind of your manhood. They were really close to my manhood at the time and it was just a very moving experience for us and parts of the, ah, parts of the, the ah, museum moved, and you know it was just a very moving experience for all parties involved.
(back to me)
Thank you for sharing that, Matt Crouch. Those were the words of the inimitable, indomitable Matt Crouch. Anyway, so we shot that. The silent symbols. And we shot the museum, as I said. Then we also went and shot the showing of the Jesus film with a bunch of the army fellows. At first they had about 20 guys in there. Then when they saw us bunching them all together on one side to make the shot look better, they called in a couple hundred to fill up the theater. They showed a video copy on a TV and the picture was almost impossible to make out, but the sound was pretty good.
Dr. Bright left before we went to shoot the film showing. After we finished, we were about to leave. I was already seated in the van when Galena informed us that they had prepared tea for us. A "tea" such as no other. Well, we got ourselves into quite a "pickle" as it were. We went to the "tea" and they had quite a spread set for us. They had prepared a complete multi-course meal. And there's a first time for many things in life and this was my first time to be in a situation where I had to down some vodka or offend my host, the assistant commander of the base, when he toasted us. He had a lot of stars on his shoulders. Anyway, Galena insisted that we had to drink some vodka. Matt claims to have poured his in his soup, however, I saw his soup spraying out of his mouth at one point, so I'm not sure if he's lying to me. In fact, I will never know if he's lying to me, if he actually poured his in his soup.
(voice of Matt:)
We could all check into the hospital and have blood alcohol tests done and I would be happy to give you a urine sample right now.
(voice of Phil:)
You already gave yourself one...
(back to me)
I rest my case! (laughter)
Anyway, let's just say we had to down some vodka and I'd say it's the nightime, sore throat, (voice of Matt: stuffy head!) coughing, stuffy head, so you can get some rest medicine...
(voice of Phil:)
Galena, Americans are crazy, loud, and obnoxious!
(voice of Galena:)
For twenty years I have seen a lot of Americans...
(back to me)
For twenty years she's seen Americans full of vodka, so, anyway, it was an experience I hope I will never have to repeat. It was like drinking paint thinner.
Sunday, 11/20, Moscow:
We finally got back to our hotel last night. Phil wanted to shoot something an hour and a half after we got back. After the vodka experience, I wasn't wanting to go do anything. Fortunately Dave came in just in time and he went out and did the shooting that needed to be done at some meeting. I can't remember ever being so glad to see someone show up at my door. Matt and I talked for about four and a half hours about all kinds of things; our dreams and our families and made a noble attempt to solve the world's problems.
Well, I finally believe him that he really did put his vodka in the soup and the rest in his coke glass. He feigned downing a whole shot glass (by then empty, but covered by his hand) "in honor of the commander." All eyes were then on Phil and me, so we had to finish ours. I thought, "Okay, I never thought I'd do this, but here goes" and I downed the rest of my glass. Then I wacked the empty glass upside down on the table. The commander clapped his hands, laughed, and loved it. Galena told me that this tradition was started by Peter the Great and I was a big hit. I had no idea. It was just something I had seen done in "Raiders of the Lost Ark." Matt told me that if he'd drunk even one of those glasses, he would have been asleep on the floor. The whole thing really is a terrifically funny story.
Dear reader, I hope you are not offended by the previous account. If you are, please try to picture yourself in the same situation in a foreign culture where you are unsure of the ramifications of what's going on and are under pressure to be gracious. It seems ludicrous to down vodka for the sake of the Gospel, but that's the way I saw it. It may or may not have been the right thing to do, but I made the best decision I could on the spot. I have always thought it reprehensible to make one's own piety or personal "whiteness" the top priority at the expense of someone else going to hell. I've always thought the more noble thing was to risk getting dirty for the sake of the Gospel. This is a case in point.
Well, we just had lunch at McDonald's and we're talking about the beautiful weather here. They call it "women's summer," kind of like our indian summer. And they say that along the end of September every year it's like this, and it's gorgeous. Sunny, cool at night, perfect in the daytime, no rain. So come here the end of September if you want nice weather and pretty pictures.
11/20, 5:10PM, Red Square, Moscow, at the foot of St. Basil's Cathedral:
We're getting ready to shoot Bill Bright and Paul Crouch together. This morning we played hurry up and wait and then shot some interviews after the Canadian executive meeting. We shot a couple of Navy officers; a commander and a captain. The commander is or was a ballistic missile submarine commander. We shot Boris Gontorev and King Caufman, who is the new head of the Russian Military Ministry of Crusade.
Just before we shot here, while we were waiting for Dr. Bright and the other crew to come, some guy walked up, obviously an American, and started talking to Paul Crouch. Apparently he recognized him from TV and asked him what he meant by "Christianity." Paul asked him where he was from and the fellow said "what difference does that make?" Paul said, "well, what kind of background are you?" The fellow again said, "what difference does that make?" Paul said, "well, it would give me a perspective on where you're coming from." Then the guy lit into him about how he should leave this country alone, it was the Orthodox Church's responsibility and protestants should stay away. Paul responded. He said, "Just look around. Do you think all these people are saved; are ready for heaven? The Bible says that we should go into all the world and preach the gospel. There are lost people here, that's why we're here." Well, the guy just ranted and raved and finally called him a hypocrite and a heretic and stormed off.
We went over to Arbot street this afternoon, Matt and I, and shot a lot more western influence material. Interviewed a couple of young guys selling stuff and asked them about their favorite rock groups and things like that. Obviously they were pretty well connected to the western music scene. Television here has MTV. This morning on TV it was MTV, CNN, and Jimmy Swaggert.
"Ple viom puetuchenu. Ple viom puetuchenu." That's like, "we go with the flow" instead of "I go with the flow" and I just found out that if you say "I go with the flow" wrong, you are saying a dirty word, so I think I will say it the other way.
11/20, 9:14PM, back at Intourist Hotel:
After dinner again at Pizza Hut, this time with Phil Hooper. Somehow I ended up telling the story of Vlad the Impaler of Transylvania in Romania.
Well, it's midnight. No, it's 12:30, and we're on the middle of Red Square right out in front of Lenin's tomb.
Now it's 1:00AM. We've just witnessed the changing of the guard. We're on a mission: to see Vladimir. (Matt's pal Dan thought he had arranged to get us in to see Lenin's tomb after hours. We went over just in case it might actually happen. I wasn't holding my breath. I was supposed to shoot Michael Jackson once too.)
We're here. Red Square. We got kicked out of Red Square, actually. We're on the back side of St. Basil's. I guess it's still officially a part of Red Square, but the police don't seem to mind us shooting here. We're ready, we're set.
(voice of Galena:)
The crew is frozen and having rest.
We're ready. We've got the prompter. We've got the script. We've got the batteries. We've got everything. We're ready. We're checked. We're double checked. We're triple checked. We're ready to roll. The lighting's great; it's sunny in Moscow. It's amazing, it's incredible, it's unusual. We're here. Everything is set except, no Dr. Bright! So, if he doesn't show up we're going to have Dave Nixon doing his Dr. Bright impressions.
Well, it's 10:00 o'clock. Dr. Bright's here. They're putting some powder on his forehead. We're ready to shoot. Looks good. It's 45 degrees. (According to Paul's Casio world time/thermometer watch.) We're trying to stay warm.
Well, at 10:45 it's up to 57 degrees. We're thawing out.
Well, we finished Dr. Bright. He looked great. Went to lunch at another Pizza Hut.
We're sitting outside the Intourist Hotel in the mini-van hurrying up and waiting as is our new mode here in Moscow unlike the Volga River trip. During the shooting today, Phil told us this incredible story about an extortion attempt on him by some shady characters that appeared at his door at midnight last night.
(Later, in the van:)
The doors are open, everyone's here, we're ready to go. It's cold! Brrrrrr! Seems like you are either sweating or freezing here.
We're sitting in the hotel lobby with our pile of gear. Mr. Hooper asked us to wait in the lobby and not put our stuff away.
Well, Irene told us that both of the circuses are closed tonight, so I guess we're not going to the circus.
Galena shared a famous Russian saying.
(voice of Dave:) Have her do it in Russian. Galena, say it in Russian.
(voice of Galena, who was loosing her voice, saying Russian phrase.)
(my voice:) And it means?
(voice of Galena) If you are a fool, it is forever! (chuckling)
11/21, 8:00PM, Arbot Street, Moscow:
I'm just leaving after picking up some treasures here. Found the hat that I wanted to go with the coat. Also picked up a couple Afghanistan army caps and some miscellaneous little medals. I finally bought a lacquer box. I got the firebird one. It's a knock-off, but it looks pretty good. Another box caught my eye and I bought it in a weak moment. One of those things that I decided I'd be sorry for if I didn't do. Paid $17.00 for a box made of jasper with brass feet and trim. The inside is padded red velvet. The jasper is from the Urals just like the jasper in the floor of the Cathedral of the Annunciation in the Kremlin that I mentioned earlier. This was the cathedral that I had not visited on my last trip. It's the one next to the Great Kremlin Palace. The one that Ivan the Terrible had his private entrance in.
Now I'm walking by the ministry of defense building. I thought perhaps I might see Matt Crouch and Dave Nixon here, but they're not here. I was supposed to meet them an hour ago at the middle of Arbot, but we didn't connect. On my way out, the guys that I bought the hat from earlier said they saw them go by about 15 minutes ago coming this direction.
Well, something big is going down. About four police cars are going by with all their lights on. They may be after Matt for all I know.
Let's see, what else did I buy on Arbot this time? Oh, I picked up a few of the little hand painted hair barrettes that Esther likes. Picked up a few extra for her to give away.
I've just had an adventure. I'm walking in front of the Lenin library where I've just come out from the bowels of the earth from the Moscow Metro subway system. I remember Irene telling us it was two stops from our hotel to Arbot street. I figured I would jump on the Metro, go two stops and come out. If I wasn't at the right place I'd jump on and go four stops the other way. I asked a fellow,"which way to Red Square?" He said, "square" and pointed in the direction. At the first stop, the guy was on the way out and pointed "square" at the door of the train, so I followed him and jumped off. Then I found myself in this labrynthine maze of tunnels. It was like a junction of where all kinds of tracks come together on different levels. (I found out later that this is the most complex junction in the system.) I decided I better get out and get up above ground and figure out if I was anywhere near where I was trying to be before I got totally lost. So I wound around and finally found some steps going up. Only problem is that it was an entrance and the turnstiles were in the way. I just went out through the "in" ones. Three policemen were standing there thinking I was pretty stupid, I'm sure. But anyway, I got to the surface and popped out in front of the Lenin library. I looked down the street and saw some familiar domes in the Kremlin, so I decided to hoof it the rest of the way lest I end up way out in the suburbs somewhere, hopelessly lost forever.
I knew it cost one rouble now to go as far as you want to go on the bus, trolley, or Metro. I have this wad of bills in my wallet, so was trying to discretely get some money out without showing it all. I reached in and pulled out a bill and it happened to be a 500. I presented that for payment and the lady behind the window looked at me incredulously. She asked me something and I don't know exactly what it was, but she handed me four Metro tokens. I don't think she wanted to take the bill, but I said "that's all I have." (It may indeed have been the smallest bill I had on me at the time.) She gave me my tokens, pulled out a little box with some large bills for change and pulled out about 90 rubles in 3 rouble notes, or something like that. At first I thought that was my change, so I grabbed it and started to walk away. Then people in the line started saying "oh no, no, no!" I walked back and she was counting out the 100 rouble bills for the rest of the change. I realized that I had almost just walked away from about a week's wages here. I laughed nervously and said, "silly me." Took the rest of my change from the lady behind the window and walked for the turnstiles feeling embarrassingly rich in front of all these people.
I'm walking around with, probably, six months wages in my pocket for most of these people. Back home it would by a couple tanks of gas and a trip to the grocery store. Feeling rich is a very strange feeling for me.
As I've been walking, I'm now to the end of Red Square about a block from the hotel and I know where I am. Instead of cutting across the street, I'm thinking about going underground once more through one of the tunnels and experiencing a little more of the Moscow tunnel life. The tunnels going under the streets are like little communities unto themselves. Most of them have entertainment going with someone with a musical instrument case open gathering rubles from passers-by. And there's forever free marketeers trying to make a profit on books or some type of little what-nots. The subways, by the way, the Metro, their tunnels are beautiful. Marble with chandeliers or nice lamps anyway. Every one is a different design. Many have artwork in the form of bass-relief or mosaics.
8:30, Monday night:
I'm looking across Red Square at St. Basils which is all lit up on the far end. The square is pretty full. Lots of people milling around. I was told on the last trip that the subways in St. Petersburg were so deep because they doubled as bomb shelters. I found out there was another reason. For many years it was thought that you couldn't build a metro under Leningrad because of the marshy, boggy soil. (Here's an example of the music in the tunnels as I'm walking by. Some of these musicians are pretty good. - sound of a combo with a flute rendering Simon and Garfunkel's "El Condor Pasa") Well, I found out this trip that they figured out, not too many years ago, that if they tunneled down far enough they could get underneath the peat and all the bog and build a metro. Therefore, it is very deep underground. The Metro I just rode was about as far down as ours are in the States, but I looked down another escalator to some that were much deeper, so who knows?
As I waited on the Metro platform I stood with my back to the wall and did the same on the train too, just to make sure.
Here's another tunnel band. That one was a four piece ensemble. (playing "So Much In Love") These guys are unbelievably good. Most of them, anyway.
I just stopped in the tunnel, here, at a little hole in the wall store and bought some stamps. A whole set of transportation stamps for 500 rubles, about $2.50. The airplane ones had caught my eye. Went to a stairway for an "up periscope" to ground level and I see that I want to go a little further in this tunnel. I'm being treated by a 3-piece chamber group now as I walk by. (sound of lively chamber piece being played passionately) It's unbelievable! I'm in a subway. A tunnel under a street. And this music is live!
Okay, I just came up to the surface at a familiar place. A covered sidewalk where a building is being restored by an Austrian company. It says "Rogner" on it. I suppose it's going to be another fancy hotel. And now I'm next door in front of the Intourist. Just realized I'm getting pretty hungry. Hopefully I can find the guys or I'll be eating by myself.
Tues., 11/22, 7:40AM:
This is the first morning on the trip that I slept until I woke up naturally without an alarm. Never got any word last night from Phil what the plan was for today, so there was no call time. In fact, he left without cutting us loose and we never saw him again. It's a little lonely this morning as Matt got up about 3:30AM to catch the 4:00AM bus to the airport. Some of the entourage left early this morning and another part of the group will leave this afternoon, including Dave Nixon. He'll take one of the camera rigs leaving Paul and I and one camera to finish the shooting here and up in St. Petersburg.
I was really sorry to see Matt leave. I really enjoyed getting to know him. I learned quite a bit by just observing him work and his style. And he's just an awful lot of fun to be around. I've been rooming with him every night since I've been here with the exception of the first couple of nights in St. Petersburg when I was with Dave. But, I always enjoy traveling with Paul and it will be he and I rooming together from here on out.
I'm walking... (sounds of hawker trying to get me to buy something and me saying "nyet, no thanks, not today.") Everywhere you go around here someone is trying to sell you postcards. We're walking along the Kremlin wall along the street under which the river flows. I just bought a map in the tunnel for a dollar, so I can look these things up now.
Phil finally called at 9:30 this morning and told us we're cut loose 'til 1:15. Yesterday, while Dave and I were out shooting, Paul went and saw the Armory and the crown jewels, the swords of the czars, their clothes and crowns and their huge carriages which are covered with beautiful paintings. It costs 10 rubles, about 5 cents to get in to see most of the stuff. The crown jewels collection is an extra $16.00. So, I think we'll skip that, but we're on our way over to see the carriages mainly.
We're still walking. (At first we had confused the Arsenal with the Armory. They are on opposite ends of the Kremlin. The Arsenal is now an office building. The Armory is a museum of treasures.) We've walked all the way around to the Armory and in through the Kremlin because they wouldn't let us in without a ticket. So, we're looking for the ticket booth. We think we've found it. We'll have to buy a ticket and then walk back again. I guess we'll have a whirlwind tour of the Armory, if we get there at all.
(When we went back again later, we found out you could indeed buy tickets right at the entrance, but we had been trying to go in the exit around the corner. But, the exit is used as an entrance sometimes as well. You never can tell when in Russia.)
Well, we got our tickets, finally. 15 rubles a piece. Dave just had to stop at this little place where they were selling pastries, so we bought us whole pile of 'em for 14, no 12 cents. Maybe we'll be big spenders and get some more on the way back. Now we're down to one hour out of our two hours to see the Kremlin.
We're in. This place is full of fabulous clothing, robes, dresses, crowns, scepters, throwns. Everything with jewels and gold all over the place. Unbelievable. We're in a room full of 14 or 15 horse-drawn carriages. Some are huge. Similar to the one in the Fisher Body logo. These were the transportation of czars. Some of them have leather belt suspension of the actual passenger compartment. The leather belts would take up the shock of the road. One here is a sled, the compartment of which is probably half the size of our hotel room. Dave is getting some clandestine 8-mm footage. (comment to Dave) We're going to call you Mr. Hipshot here.
Dave's getting a shot right now of a gold leaf covered, incredibly intricate carriage with fine oil paintings painted right on the doors. The inside is all upholstered with tapestries. The wheels are probably five feet in diameter, possibly closer to six.
The door of this one we are looking at now, the year is 1746 on the plaque, it has jewels encrusted into a shield, the double headed eagle shield (of the Romanovs). (Galena told us later that the carriages did not have real jewels, but just rhinestones.)
Well, the czars sure did travel in fine style. Here's one with a diamond (rhinestone) encrusted door handle. The headliner has a fabulous applique that's about 3 feet square and there is a border up along the ceiling that is encrusted in jewels all the way around the inside. (maybe these were real?) The cab is about six feet long and about five feet wide. You could just about stand up in it.
Here's an open air version with open sides and front. Just the spokes of the wheels on this one are works of art. This one has fabulous eagles on the front of it on either side. Every inch of this thing is intricately carved. About the only smooth surface is the sides of the rims of the wheels themselves.
Now we're looking at some stuffed horses all decked out in their regalia.
There is a beautiful painting I am looking at. It's probably about eight feet tall by about twelve feet long of the czar riding through Red Square on a sled in the winter time with thousands of people around with St. Basil's and the Kremlin. The Kremlin with white stone walls in the background. The wall was white before the red bricks went up in the 17th century, I think.
There is case after case, and room after room of exquisite treasures. There is more priceless treasure in here than your wildest imagination.
Now we are in a room full of armor, swords, battle axes, guns and other weaponry of the czars. Everything is a work of art. But, I guess these guys used it as everyday stuff. There's so much of it, they surely must have. A serious gun collector would come unglued in this place. There is ancient technology and craftsmanship in these weapons like I've never seen anywhere before.
Now we are looking at a case full of the most unbelievable china set I've ever seen in my life. Every plate has a different painting on it with a common border. Apparently czars were fond of collecting boxes too. There are all kinds of little ones and they are absolutely exquisite. Many of these have scenes on the covers that appear to be porcelain. Absolutely fabulous. No doubt quite a bit of this stuff was gifts from kings and all. It occurred to me that it would be extremely difficult to impress a czar.
Here are some fabulous (couldn't I think of another adjective?) pitchers, apparently, and goblets made of nautilus shells with gold filigree and little figures all around them. Beautiful!
Many of the suits of chain mail have bullets splattered against them. Somehow I don't think it would quite happen that way if there was a human chest behind the mail. Perhaps they wrapped them around a tree and did that. They all seem to be in about the same place on the right breast. May have been some kind of a symbolic thing maybe. Maybe a proof of the strength of the mail.
I should note that the "pashausta lady" kicked us out of one area. This lady came over and saw me talking into my tape recorder. Actually, I think she heard the click when I turned it off and she thought I had a camera which is not allowed. I tried to show her with hand motions that it was for sound only, not pictures. This didn't work. She wanted us to leave. We scooted off to another area. It's amazing, being in Moscow and the Kremlin, but I really don't think this old lady knew the difference between a camera and a tape recorder.
We just figured out where the $16.00 jewel tour entrance is, but we decided to forego that.
Well, there's been a lot of talk this trip about the shelf in the toilets. "Shelving it" will now have new connotations.
We stopped at the pastry ladies in the garden again and tried a bunch of neat, good stuff. Marshmallowy little sweet things and jelly rolls. Phil Burns got what looks like a small loaf of bread that is filled with egg and cabbage stuff that is all spicy and tastes pretty good. If I was hungry I would buy one. (Later I wished I had.)
I just walked by the funkiest little old lawn mower I have ever seen in my life.
I just picked up a book on the Kremlin for $10.00 just like the one Paul bought the other day. Back in the museum they had a demonstration running of some software for IBM computers. It was a few maps of the Kremlin. You point the cursor on a building in the Kremlin and it shows you what's inside and has some information. Got the disk for $10.00. So, now I've got the book and the software and Nathan can learn all about the Kremlin in home school.
(voice of Dave Nixon:)
So, I'm in McDonalds last night with my Airforce hat on that I just bought at Arbot street, and some guy in line behind me starts hassling me about (in his best Russian accent) "why, why do you tourists want military stuff? Why, why do like military? Not good for you to take military stuff and use." You know, and he wanted to know why we liked it and what we would do with it. And so I told him, you know, we would wear it back in America, and he goes, "Halloween! Halloween! You wear on Halloween!" I said, "Yes, yes!" (laughter)
(Sound of accordion music playing.)
My dad would love this country. There are accordions on every corner!
(Dave's dad plays the accordion all over the Australian outback where he leads evangelistic teams.)
(Sound of a big drum solo, then a Dixieland jazz band takes off into a soaring rendition of "Hello, Dolly")
Amazing! A six-piece Dixieland band ten feet underground! Live from Moscow!
Walking back we all got chocolate ice cream bars for 20 rubles. Not bad. The chocolate was a little bittersweet. Stopped and bought a 2.5 by 3 ft. map for 500 rubles from an old lady.
We just came from the Central Museum of the Armed Forces, otherwise known as the Red Army Museum where we shot lots of stuff inside. The most amazing thing is that a large part of the wreckage of Gary Powers' U-2 spy plane is piled up in one corner in a little display. His ejection seat was there. We shot some great paintings including one of Russian and American troops greeting each other after the pincer movement that finally cut off the Germans in WW-II. Then we went outside in the back and shot a bunch of airplanes and artillery pieces. There was an early model Hind helicopter and a bunch of tanks and guns. Got some great footage of two boys playing on a tank that was out there for the kids to climb around on. The gun would go up and down and the turret would turn, so they were having a ball cranking the cranks.
I almost missed this last gem as Phil was hurrying me to leave. I insisted and it was really neat stuff. When I finally turned to leave, I started to run and tripped on the pavement. The camera was headed for the concrete and to break it's fall I dove and sacrificed my knee and hand. The camera took a muted blow, but is okay, however my knee got scraped pretty good and I tore up a good pair of jeans. I've never dropped a camera before.
Tuesday, 11/22, 4:15PM: (My, but I sure did document this day!)
I asked Galena once and for all if it's "Mos-co" or "Mos-cow." It's "Muskva!" She was told "Mos-co" was the English pronunciation.
6:40PM, Moscow State University:
This is one of the awesome "Stalin's wedding cake" buildings of which there are seven in Moscow. This is the largest. Just got finished shooting, or almost finished shooting, a meeting of the Campus Crusade group here. Dan Peterson is speaking. I shot the snot out of this thing from every angle conceivable. But Phil wants the prayer, so we're staying 'till the end. I just went out to the van to get a couple of crackers and a Kudo bar I had stashed out there and to retrieve my book. There are all kinds of students standing around here. This is my fourteenth day out on this trip. I think it's about time to get home to Esther. These Russian girls are looking prettier every week.
My right hand is a little bit sore. I think I might have strained it a bit breaking my fall at the museum.
The garden along the side of the Kremlin wall where we bought our pastries today and my book on the Kremlin is over a river. The river is about 10 meters down underneath the surface of the pavement. So, the bridge that you go on to go in the main entrance of the Kremlin actually used to be over the river.
I'm on New Arbot Street outside of the Moscow House of Books. Where it says on the window, "Books are peace and progress." Phil bought a book on Fedoskino art and I bought one on Poleck art. Actually, I decided to buy both of them, but Phil got the last copy of Fedoskino. I think I'll steal his when he's not looking. I paid 3,200 rubles, which was about $15.00. I saw the same book for sale on the street for $25.00. (Later, I saw it for about $11.00)
We stopped in a little gift store, a souvenir place, a while back and I bought a map of Moscow with the Metro system. Phil spent several hundred dollars in there.
1:45PM, back on Arbot street:
Bought Esther a little bracelet. Spotted the Fedoskino book. Looks like I can get it for $10, but the guy is hesitant to take dollars. He had the Poleck book for about $4.00 less than I paid for it. Live and learn.
We just walked into a shop that had stuffed animals for sale. They had a bear skin rug on the wall with head for 40,000 rubles. I think that's about $200.00. Then the next shop over had tropical fish for sale, of all things. We saw something we hadn't seen before here and that was parakeets in cages for sale on the sidewalk.
"A hote na viot." That's the station where our hotel is.
We went back into the Armory with Galena today, so this time we had a guide.
Wed., 11/23, 4:15PM:
Walking through the garden, now, thirty feet above the river that's underground. Once again. We saw a big salt container which they said was only kept at the head of the table. The people with less respect had to sit at the far end of the table and ended up never getting any salt. This led to the Russian expression that someone who is not respected is "below their salt." Very similar, or possibly the origin of our expression, "not worth your salt."
Speaking of no salt, we're approaching the place where the cabbage bread and pastry people were yesterday and they are gone. We were going to get some of those things for a quick lunch.
(sound of Metro train accelerating)
We're down in the Moscow Metro. (Paul and I) We've been riding around trying to find our way to the McDonalds actually, or somewhere to eat. We've been bouncing around, trying to find our way. I have a map of the Metro system, but the words are printed in English. Of course, all the stops and the signs are cyrillic characters in Russian, so it's a little difficult for us to figure out what's going on here. We just went the wrong way, so we're going to get on and go two stops the other direction. Every platform here is like an art gallery. Every one is different. There are different chandeliers. One had paintings on the wall. One had mosaics. This one has bass-relief sculptures.
As we're riding along here, we're on the ring route which goes all the way around the city. (It is said to have the most beautiful platforms.) It's packed. We're standing here like sardines in a can. The other lines, the spur or spoke lines aren't nearly as crowded. It's really a beautiful system. There's not a spot of graffiti anywhere inside or outside any of these trains. They're not brand new, but they're not ancient either.
We had to make a little bit of a loop to do it, but we finally made it here to the Pushkinskaya stop. We believe that when we up-periscope here we will be pretty close to McDonald's.
It strikes me once again as we're walking through these crowded tunnels between the trains and the surface, that, judging by the looks of most of the people passing by, we could be in Chicago or New York City. With a few rare exceptions, everybody passing by looks like they could easily be an American.
If you ever make it to Moscow, I highly suggest riding around on the Metro system. Get off at the various stops and enjoy the art on the platforms and the different architectural styles. It's a tremendous entertainment value. For half a penny you can ride all day long.
There is one must-have item, though, for riding this Metro. You have to have a color-coded map of the system that is in Russian with the cyrillic characters so you can match it to the words on the signs and on the walls at the stops. An English map just doesn't quite cut it. (Unless you know the phonics of the cyrillic alphabet.)
We're emerging from the caverns and here we are, right at McDonald's. Nailed it right on the money.
I'm sitting in the 4th row, seat number 10 of the Moscow New Circus. I was thinking that last time I attended the "Old New Circus," which is the older one that has been renovated, but this seems very familiar. Maybe this is the one I was at before. This should be quite a show. Last time I was up pretty high. This time I'm right down practically ring-side. This is going to be really great. A perfect way to end my stay in Moscow this time.
Well, I'm watching the famous Russian circus bears. There were no bears last time I was here, but I'm watching them now and they're great! I'm twenty feet away from a bear standing on his front paws on two poles.
Well, it's quarter to ten. We're back on the bus once again. It's "good-bye" Intourist. "Good-bye"... a lot of things. The last day was great. The circus was nice. Got to ride the Metro. The Armory was wonderful. (sounds of others telling Irene what they liked best.)
Wed., 11/23, 10:45PM:
I'm aboard the night train to St. Petersburg from Moscow. The porters have just loaded the stuff into our compartments, and Phil and Paul are now negotiating the price. Their first asking price was $30.00 to load everything; maybe 12 or 14 pieces. The cost of the tickets was about $30.00 a head for first class. The compartments are about 5.5 ft. by about 6 ft. In first class, here, there are two berths per compartment. Second class has rooms the same size, but there are bunk beds with four per compartment. Irene says there are four or six of these trains per night between Moscow and St. Petersburg plus two others that only Russians ride that are not as nice. (They may have seats only.)
Well, they ended up paying them 10 bucks.
We were the first into this car. The rest of the folks seem to be piling on now. American sounding English. I'm standing here trying to see who Phil's roommate is going to be.
He ended up switching with a college age girl so she could be with her wheelchair bound father. Phil got the one single berth compartment on the end. The leader of their group expressed his thanks by giving Paul and I a jar of caviar. I guess he gave it to us because Phil was hesitant to move at first because of all the gear, and Paul and I made it happen.
Had a good long talk with Paul. Feasted on cans of tuna left by Matt, trail mix and Kudo bars from Paul, and bottled Cokes purchased from the conductor's personal stash for a dollar a piece.
The conductor just came by and woke us up. We're coming into St. Petersburg. I'm looking out at fog shrouded woods and towns going by our compartment window. This is a great way to travel. It's like a time machine. (I say through a yawn.)
(sound of Russian announcer on the train's radio speaker)
7:45AM, St. Petersburg train platform:
Two porters are busily trying to figure out how to load all our stuff on to one cart. The engines here are very interesting looking. I snapped a couple pictures of Paul by the train and one of the engine that dragged us here.
We walked past the open door to the big hall in which I had a hard time staying together with the rest of the crew on the last shoot on the way to see colonel Miranov. We're supposed to see him again today.
11:00AM, Pribaltiskaya Hotel, St. Petersburg:
I'm back at the Pribalt once again. The modern hotel on the Gulf of Finland, which is on the Baltic Sea. Once again, we have a glorious view of the ugly building next door, as most of the rooms in this hotel are designed to not look out over the water.
Our guide this time is from Intourist. Sveta, Jenia, and Masha are still on the boat on the Volga. So, we have an Intourist guide named Alla. And this week's motto is: "There is no guide but Alla, and more dollar is her profit." (After a decade in the middle east, Paul really cracked up over this. One of my finer moments, I must say.)
Oh boy! This is going to be fun transcribing. This is the start of tape three.
We are traveling in style, here, in a Mercedes mini-van. You can stand up inside. We went to see Miranov at the city hall which was once Katherine's palace in town. We went to check out what he had set up for us to shoot here. He asked Phil what he had for him to do. So, nothing was prepared. It looks like we have nothing to shoot today, so we may get to see St. Isaac's and who knows what else. Possibly tonight will be something to shoot or maybe tomorrow there will be something to shoot.
Well, Alla says, "Happy people don't watch the time." This is a popular Russian saying from long ago.
Well, we had a delicious lunch at Sadko's, which is part of the Swedish Grand Hotel Europe. Very good food, reasonably priced. $6.00 for lunch, maybe $9.00 for the most expensive. Cheesecake was a little steep at $4.00, but all in all a very nice lunch.
Sept. 24, 3:52PM:
Once again I'm inside St. Isaac's cathedral. I've never seen anything like this place. The scale is awesome. I'm told the stained glass window of Christ behind the iconostasis is the largest stained glass window in the world. (About 75 ft. tall.) It seems small in here. It's 400 ft. up, I'm told, from the floor to the top of the dome. The art and craftsmanship are beyond imagination. The huge pictures in the iconostasis look like paintings, but they are in fact mosaics. It occurs to me that it's a strange contradiction here: That there's such a huge and glorious place built to the glory of God, and yet in the story of the construction one finds that thousands of serfs were forced to work and die to produce this cathedral. Particularly gruesome is the fact that many died of mercury poisoning in the process of gilding the gold dome. The Great Northern and Southern gates are 42 square meters in size, and are made of 20 tons of oak. There is no structure in the United States that comes close to comparing with this cathedral. It's truly a wonder of the world. Walking around, looking straight up at the ceiling is an experience you will never forget.
Today was a bust. Nothing was prepared, so we didn't shoot anything. We've been back over to "Maple Lane." (An outdoor market, now enclosed by chain link fence.) I was ready to pay $20.00 for an old Russian camera, but I found one for $5.00. I grabbed it before the guy changed his mind. I think the price was lower because this one apparently doesn't work. It has a couple of broken parts, but it's fine for my purposes as a collector's item. The chess set I spotted a couple of weeks ago was not there, and I didn't see one that suited my fancy, so I didn't buy one. There's one for $100.00 or $120.00 that looked really nice, but that will have to wait for another day.
They had a new book on St. Petersburg, which Paul bought. I wasn't sure which one I wanted, so I kind of waited. I figured I'd get another chance to buy a book. I still need to find a book on the Hermitage.
Friday, Sept. 25:
I'm in the Mercedes coach once again. Today we're actually heading to a military base. We think. There is no guide but Alla! And more dollar is her profit!
The leaves are turning color in a bunch of trees along a canal. It's really pretty. Early September is definitely the time to come here. April and May are supposed to be nice too. By the middle of October it gets cold.
We're sitting outside an Army base on the outskirts of St. Petersburg where we've been for about an hour or so. Apparently they were ready for us to come in to this base and shoot, but they got a call from "higher authority" telling them to not let us in. Dr. Miranov is being quite apologetic as apparently he thought it was all set up, but it's not going to happen. So, we're shut down once again.
We're heading back in to St. Petersburg now. We're driving through a gorgeous birch forest. Some of the birch trees are just starting to turn. Many of the maples are in full color. It looks like Miranov was pretty upset about the situation of getting shut out of the base. He's offered a solution of having a Russian crew go in and shoot the items Phil had on his list. So, maybe this will work out. It occurs to me that one cannot set things up here by just phoning ahead. I'm thinking it might be more successful when trying to shoot something like a military installation to make an advance trip just to talk to people and build relationships and set things up. Perhaps a little tiny handycam would help the camera people to follow to prepare for how to cover it.
Well, we stopped at a couple places along the road and got some shots of Uri, one of the guys with us, handing out Bibles to some soldiers. Wasn't exactly like shooting on a ship or army base, but better than nothing I suppose. I'm not too terribly surprised that we did not get on a base. As I said, I was supposed to shoot Michael Jackson once too. I did get to shoot on a U.S. aircraft carrier once, though, to the surprise of many including me. So, hope springs eternal.
Just finished a nice lunch at Yanka. ("Choika") In Russian it means, "the seagull." The place is very reminiscent of the set of the TV show "Cheers." Kind of a pub atmosphere. I don't think your average, everyday Russian eats in here very often. My lunch was some smoked ham on a piece of bread. Wasn't too great, but the desert was an apple pie and real whipped cream with cappucino that was absolutely wonderful. Choika is about halfway between the Cathedral of the Spilled Blood and Kazan Cathedral, which is the Museum of the History of Religion and Atheism. It's on the canal about halfway in between.
Waiting for Alla to come out of the restaurant, I snapped a couple of pictures, one down the canal of the Cathedral of the Spilled Blood (where Alexander II was assassinated.) Then I ran up to the corner and got one of Kazan Cathedral.
I still can't get over the good weather here. Since we've been here, every day has had sun. Very little cloudiness at all, and the temperature has been delightful. Just a little cool. In Moscow I actually got rather hot, but here it's just right.
We're on our way to the airport to take Phil to meet his plane. Tomorrow Paul and I leave. It will be good to get home. I'm missing Esther terribly. I'm missing the kids, too. But especially Esther. I spotted a scarf over the shoulder of one of the hawkers outside the hotel this morning. I ran out and bought it from him for $14.00. It's kind of gold and warm colors (actually a picture of a leopard or mountain lion) on a black background with black fringe and real big. I hope she likes it. As soon as I can when I get home I'm hoping to take her for a walk by Lake Eola downtown and paddle around in one of the swan boats.
We're supposed to pack up our household and put everything in storage this next week and then take off on our support-raising trip. I hope I can work our little date into the schedule. I think I'm just going to determine to do it no matter what it takes. (I failed. What a jerk I can be.)
We're back in St. Isaac's Square looking at Nicholas the First sitting on his horse with two points of support. We just dropped off Miranov at city hall with a bunch of the leftover Bibles and literature.
(Later, in response to a comment from the front of the van:)
"Master purveyor of the inane." He will soon vanish into Finnair.
Next time I think it would be nice to arrange to hire a boat to tour the city via the canals. Another thing I've got to do is learn the phonics of the cyrillic alphabet so I can at least read what the words sound like, even if I don't know what they mean. Then at least I could cross reference to an English map if I needed to or find my way on a Russian map. Paul seems to be doing pretty well at it already. You could ask for directions buy pointing two ways and saying the name of the street with a questioning inflection.
The camera that I bought the other day for $5.00 is a "Fed 2." The guy said it was 40 years old, and at first I had a hard time believing it, but I suppose that may be right. It's probably the same vintage as an Argus C3. It was technology copied from the German Leica, although the camera is nowhere near the quality of a Leica. A Leica is almost silent in operation, while this has a focal plane shutter that's about as loud as a Nikon.
There are more apartment buildings in these Russian cities than you can shake a stick at. They just go, and go, and go.
We're at the airport. Phil Hooper is on his way home.
We passed by a Mercedes SL sports car all smashed in up to the windshield. That's the second wrecked new Mercedes we've seen over here. Apparently they aren't used to these go-fast cars.
"Enovallia" That's Maple Lane in Russian.
5:00 Back at the hotel:
I just stepped on the elevator. There was no one there. But someone had recently been there wearing Esther's perfume. And I want to go home. Now! (sound of Paul laughing)
There's a hover craft going buy out in the gulf there, just off shore. There are hydrofoils here, and hovercraft. This place is just like Popular Mechanics Magazine.
We just dropped off all the gear at the hotel. Said goodbye to our guide, Alla. There is no guide but Alla, and more dollar is her profit. I'm off on another adventure by myself. Got directions from Alla how to get to the Metro stop which is a bit of a walk from where the hotel is. She told me where to get off to get to Maple Lane. I'm on a mission to get my Leningrad book that I failed to get yesterday. And also to amuse myself by riding the Metro here.
The last two days have basically been wasted due to a lack of sufficient preplanning (or just lack of information or understanding for whatever reason) by the producer. The only thing we shot between yesterday and today was passing out some Bibles to a few military guys standing around on a sidewalk and at a bus stop. That went pretty well, but it certainly wasn't worth the price of coming all the way here.
I'm walking past a Honda motorcycle and car dealership that is new since I was here last year. There's a brand new CR-250R Honda motocross bike in the window. I'm sure there are many fabulous places to ride one here, but who could buy one? I'm walking by, in the parking lot here, a brand new BMW with the right front fender all scrunched in. Looks like the tire was bent right off the rim somehow. These guys seem to get a lot of money and buy a fast car and it must be too hot to handle. The Russian cars appear to be pretty gutless, though I've never driven one, only ridden in them.
Anyway, back to Phil. Our guide, Alla, was a rather negative person. Somewhat reminiscent of Natasha in Moscow last year. She doesn't much like the way things are going in the country, but then she didn't like the way they were before either. She just calls it a "big mess." Her only consolation seems to be another drag on her Dunhill cigarette. She has visited the United States a year or so ago. I'm glad for that so she won't judge my country based on our departed associate. Once again I'm embarrassed in a foreign country by one of my countrymen. Okay, that's it. I won't say anything else about him.
We've passed a couple of young boys today pulling cars on strings. Right now a couple kids with a ball just walked by. A couple minutes ago I passed a couple of boys with fishing poles heading for the water to try their luck. Kids and people in general seem to be pretty much the same the world over.
It occurred to me the other night that the way things are here is probably very similar to the United States maybe 30, 40, 50 years ago. I may have mentioned this while I was talking about the subway the other night: There seems to be very little crime. People seem to value property here. There's no graffiti and people seem to be fairly respecting of each other. Although there are few smiles. I understand that is something that is viewed as very American. Russians don't smile much in public. In fact, Jenia and Sveta told us that it was against the rules to smile in a photo on any official document such as a passport or driver's license. I noticed that when they were posing for snapshots at Disney World and such, that they looked very serious. This is as automatic a response to a camera for them as smiling is to us. I told them that when they took pictures for their American friends they should smile, and they did.
I'm riding the escalator down into the bowels of the Leningrad Metro after having bought my 4 tokens for 4 rubles. There were about 30 people in front of me in line, but it took only about 5 minutes to wait. The escalators run really fast here as do the trains. They seem to be faster than the subway and "El" in Chicago.
I didn't know where the Metro station was exactly, but I knew this was the end of the line, so I just followed the throngs of people. At the head of the stream was the entrance to the Metro. Without all the people coming out I probably never would have found it.
Well, this being the end of the line the train will be empty getting on. So, another first: the experience of actually sitting down on one of these Metros.
I do enjoy taking off by myself in a city like this; riding around on public transportation and going where the people go. Getting away from the hotels, the tour busses, and the guides. Guides really aren't so bad, but the hotel and bus thing really makes you so isolated from what it's really like in a country. Getting out and wandering around, especially at night when people are off work and coming and going to the store and home gives one so much more a feel of what a place is really like and what the people are really like. To have never been in a private Russian flat having tea or eating a meal is to never have visited Russia.
I went straight to Maple Alley. No problems finding it. No wrong turns. Made a deal for my book for $22.00. Wandered around and bought a couple of other books. A really nice one on lacquer boxes which covers all the four village schools of style. Also got a book of Dostoyevsky short stories from the same fellow. And a Leningrad guide and some postcards.
Just went into a state store. There's a lot more there than I remember from last time here. Lots of eggs, powdered milk, even partridge eggs.
6:40PM In a butcher shop:
There are whole chickens; feet, heads, and all, plucked, that are lying around in the coolers and on shelves. Another big line of people are buying, apparently, chunks of beef. Another counter has what appears to be pork being cut up and sold. Big slabs of it hanging from hooks on the wall. It must be fairly affordable as there are a lot of people here buying. The lines are not inordinately long; about like what you'd expect checking out from Winn Dixie at home.
There is one book that appears to be very popular. I've seen a number of copies for sale at a number of book tables along the street. I believe it's the sequel to Gone With the Wind; Scarlet. Yes, yes, I recognize it now. Scarlet. There are also several other western best-sellers for sale, translated into Russian.
Back down into the tunnel:
The lottery lady is doing a booming business down here. People the world over are willing to throw away their money on a gamble.
Here's something I've never seen before: A guy is playing a guitar which has a classical neck on a Fender Stratocaster-style body. Purely acoustical. As you would expect the tone is none too good.
Here's a family with a basketful of kittens for sale. And some other people with little puppies for sale. A whole long line of them.
These tunnels, which are the pedestrian crossings from one side of the busy streets to the other are seedy and messy and dirty the way our subways are at home. Maybe even a little worse. The subways (Metros) on the other hand, as I've mentioned, are fabulous and clean.
I'm looking at a chess set down here in a little kiosk with a price tag of 6,200 rubles which is about $31.00. It's all hand painted wood, but it looks like blue delft. Really pretty. I think Esther would like this one. I'd buy it if I had $31.00 left.
(Sound of trumpet leading a small combo. This group wasn't all that good.) The little combos playing on the streets and in the subways, or tunnels, really lend a festive atmosphere to the busy streets.
I'm back to the Nevsky Prospect station and I'm getting ready to head down to the Metro subway once again. Dinner is at 7:30. We'll see if I make it.
Most of the people have passes, so most of the crowd goes through one or two turnstiles down at the end and there are probably 15 or 20 coin-op turnstiles that nobody uses. So I don't have to stand in line.
Whoooa! At the bottom there is a veritable sea of people down here. Some of these stations have doors to the track kind of like elevator doors that open in sync with the doors on the train. On the escalators, if you want to stand you stay to the right. If you want to walk up or down, you go to the left. Lots of people want to walk going down. Nobody wants to going up.
There were two books, one of Pushkin's poetry and one of Pushkin's prose that were in the same series as the Dostoyevsky book I picked up. I would have liked to have gotten them as well, but I have come to the end of my money.
I saw the first graffiti I have spotted here today on an American advertising poster. There was the F-word in English. Interesting that the first graffiti I saw was an English swear word. I also saw that word attempted on the dusty rear end of a truck. It wasn't spelled right, but there was no mistaking it.
This Metro is certainly the way to get around here. You can spend 5 or 10 bucks for a cab ride, or 1/2 cent for the Metro.
I've been getting some really strange looks from people as I'm talking into this little recorder. It's not a very common sight, I guess.
Back on Arbot Street in Moscow the last time we were there, a guy wanted me to trade my shoes for something. They are "Hi-Tec" light weight hiking boots. They are the only shoes I have, but I wouldn't have traded them anyway.
The Maple Alley, I believe, is the same one that we went to last time, though I think it may have been moved. The big difference, though, is that there is a fence around it and a fellow that eyes the entrance keeping out riff-raff. It was much more low-key than I remembered last time and there weren't so many hustlers and pick-pocket types.
The end of the line. Stepping off the train onto another marbled platform. I just may make it to dinner on time.
Well, I've decided that either in Moscow or Leningrad, the Metro is a must-do item if you ever come here. It's a fascinating experience. Like tea in a Russian flat, I don't think you have really experienced the place if you haven't ridden the Metro.
Back up on the street. There are lots of really delicious-looking pastries and breads for sale. Also lots of vegetables. Very different from a year ago. I've seen an awful lot of watermelons for sale this trip. There are grapes, pears, potatoes, instant coffee, Pepsi, tomatoes, peaches(?), squash, Snickers bars, even bananas for sale along the street in little booths. This is a neat city for flowers. They are for sale all over the place in little road-side shops. There is a beautiful bunch of roses here I could probably buy for pennies. Don't know how I'd ever get them home though.
Well, even though we got busted here as far as videotaping, this has been a very rewarding last day. Making my little excursion on the Metro. Going straight there and coming straight back without getting lost. Judging by all the women and children walking along the street and the boys fishing off the bridge, this seems like a pretty safe procedure.
I would dearly love to come back here with Esther and without a video camera or any video agenda. I think I have this place wired well enough to make very efficient use of 4 or 5 days of sight-seeing.
I've been traveling with the same jacket I had last trip here, which is a cotton, kind of quilted jacket, medium weight. It has nice big pockets with velcro closures which are nice as I've been able to keep my little tape recorder and my little camera in them and have them with me at all times. I've found, though, that I've carried the jacket more than I've worn it this time. A jacket, though, is a must-have item because the temperature does dip from time to time and one is most uncomfortable without one. For cold weather, think layers. Gives you more versatility and it's easier to carry a jacket than a heavy coat.
I'm glad to have gotten the little volume of Dostoyevsky, so I can get a taste of his style. Like my friend, Larry Robinson, I've been running into many references to Dostoyevsky's The Brothers Karamazov. I'm going to have to find a copy of that back home and read it.
Well, I don't know how this journal will compare to the one from the last trip. I have a feeling that the last one was probably a bit more emotional than this one as I was responding to my first impressions of the country. Also, it's going to be interesting to note the difference in style between talking into a box as I walk around in the daytime versus funneling my thoughts through my fingers onto a page late at night after the day's work is finished. This new method is certainly a better way to get sleep. I'm much more rested now than I was at the end of my last trip over here.
I'm walking along the sidewalk among Russian people and I noticed a Mercedes Benz mini-van drive by toward the hotel similar to the one we've been riding around in for the last two days. Those things are a necessity for getting video work accomplished, but I don't recommend them as a means to really experience Russia. Tour guides certainly have a place when you're trying to see a city in a hurry and catch the high points and learn some history. But then you need to get out on your own and wander around, especially at night.
Flying over the top of my head is a huge formation of about 100 geese. They're in a big V heading for the gulf (of Finland.) The Pribaltiskaya Hotel is looming in front of me now. I believe it can hold something like 2,500 or 3,000 guests. It's a nice hotel, but it's so far away from the center of the city and all the things that you want to see here. And it takes about 20 minutes to walk to the nearest Metro station. So, though the train ride is quick, the walk to the station is not so hot. Especially with tired, sore feet. So the other hotel on St. Isaac's Square, the Astoria, is much preferable. Besides, it irks me that the one thing this hotel has going for it, it's site right on the gulf, is not taken advantage of. The hotel could easily have been designed so that the majority of the rooms would have a view of the sea, but instead, only approximately 25-30% of the rooms have a view of the water. Of course, those are, no doubt, the 2 and 3 room suites, so you are highly unlikely to draw a room with a view. (Except of the ugly parking lot or adjacent buildings.) Stay down by St. Isaac's. Then you can walk across the street and pay 6 cents to see one of the most fabulous buildings ever built whenever it strikes your fancy.
Another thing about the Pribaltiskaya is that they won't let the mini-vans or taxis up by the front door. So you have to haul your equipment up this huge flight of stairs every time, or else haggle with the keeper of the gate to let you drive through to the front door. It's just a hassle.
As far as the Intourist hotel back in Moscow, although it is nice to be walking distance to Red Square and the Kremlin, I don't much recommend it. You practically have to wade through a sea of hookers just to get through the lobby. The smaller and older Octoberskaya near the far end of Arbot Street that we stayed in last time is a much better choice. I'm told that Intourist was formerly totally run by the KGB and all the tour guides and drivers were agents. It's an interesting rumor. Could well be true, but who knows?
Apparently, according to the guides, there is no Intourist as it used to exist. Now Intourist in each city is a separate entity. They do a very good job of coordinating things as long as you have things planned in advance. When we got off the train here there were porters that came and got our stuff off the car we were on. They were right there. Took us to a bus and right to the hotel. Everybody knew exactly what was going on, exactly who we were and what to do with us. The downside is that everything has to be pre-paid. They use a system of vouchers, which you have to keep track of, and the system is not always as flexible as you might like, though the guides do their best. If you need to change a flight or a hotel accommodation it's a bit of a hassle.
7:30PM on the dot. Back in the Pribalt:
I'll go to dinner right on time.
I'm sitting down at a lovely table in the Dougova Restaurant, one of about 10 in this place. But no Paul. I'm sure he'll show up pretty soon.
(Sound of piano and balalaika playing a folk tune. Plays for quite a while.)
(I comment to Paul next to me:)
We have to come back here with our wives, Paul.
Yah, we do. And listen to the balalaika.
Sept. 26. 9:15AM:
Sitting, looking out the open window at the Baltic Sea.
The visibility is only about a mile. Haze blocks off the view. Alla called last night and talked to Paul for a long time. We gave her a Bible when we said good-bye, and offered her another one to take to a friend or a relative. She said, "Oh, that's such a valuable thing. Surely there is someone else you should give it to" and she wouldn't take the second one. Well, last night she called and it turned out that a friend of hers does want a Bible, so she's going to drive all the way to the airport today to meet us to get another one. She expressed great regret at our failure to get the video that we wanted yesterday. She felt very badly about that. And Paul seemed to sense that she was wanting to talk about spiritual things, but she couldn't quite get to the subject. She was reading Josh McDowell's "More Than a Carpenter" from the time Paul handed her a copy yesterday until we parted. We also gave her a video copy of the JESUS Film in Russian. Of course, that has the gospel in it very clearly and an invitation and suggested prayer at the end. If we don't get to talk to her anymore, at least she'll have a clear presentation made through the video.
11:15AM, Sitting in the airport:
Sasha showed up to help us through customs. There was no problem at all. I thought I was going to have to turn over my souvenir rubles. I mistakenly had claimed a few on my customs form, but I handed Sasha a few bills and everyone was satisfied with that. Right now, Paul is standing over at the Finnair cashier to pay for our excess baggage. All 7 cases of gear have been checked through to Orlando. It will be nice to not have to see them for a while. We sent the second camera, tri-pod, and most of the spent tapes home with Dave when he left a few days ago. So, our load is much lighter than it was on the way over.
Alla showed up this morning. Paul gave her a couple of Bibles and some other Crusade literature and some food items that we hadn't eaten. Just a can or two of tuna fish, some honey roasted peanuts, and a few things. Paul had a chance to share with her a little bit about the concept of a personal relationship with God and also shared a little bit of his testimony. I was busy buttoning up the camera case and loading our gear onto some carts during this time. When we said good-bye, her eyes were misty and her hands were very soft and warm. It was as if this somewhat hard woman had melted this morning. Paul said she had been crying while he was sharing his testimony with her. I don't know that she's made a decision for Christ yet, but I'm confident that when she watches the film and sees the invitation at the end that she will. I certainly pray that I'm right.
Once again, it's a phenomenal experience to see a person's life changing before your eyes. It seems to be such a rare occurrence in our own country, and so common when you come to a place like this where people are hungry. The rarity in the United States somehow tends to blunt our belief that it can even happen at all. It's frightening to consider the extent of the hardening of hearts in the United States. Economically our country seems uncatchable by this Russia that is in such a mess, but here hearts are open to God, and here, I believe, there is hope. If there are enough years left in the history of this world, perhaps we will see Russia emerge as we have seen Japan do over the last 50 years. Who knows? And maybe Russia will be the next great missionary sending country.
I'm sitting here seeing people say good-bye at the customs station. American, or perhaps Finnish young men and their Russian friends giving a special handshake, apparently taught to the Russians. Hugging. A last kiss to a Russian girl. There are a lot of people making friends here these days. The possibility of our two peoples being at war, which was so imminent just a few years ago, seems very remote indeed as I sit here seeing new friends say good-bye.
Well, I finished the Cannibal Queen book while sitting here in the airport. Didn't seem like I had very much time to read on this trip, but I managed to finish the book anyway. Toward the end it mentioned Bastrop, Louisiana where Paul is from. One of the airfields Steve Coonts landed at during his journeys. Interesting, too, that the failed coup over here happened while Steve Coonts was flying around the country in his biplane. He mentions the state of affairs over here at the end of last summer. I quote, "Only one thing is certain: The people of the Soviet Union and eastern Europe are emerging from darkness into light. What will come next, no one knows. Perhaps anarchy, perhaps chaos, starvation, civil war, or even a new political system that rests, in Jefferson's immortal words, 'on the concent of the governed.' We free people wish the Soviets and eastern Europeans well. We wish for them and all the people of the earth the life, liberty, and freedom to pursue their concept of happiness that we ourselves enjoy." Fitting words to read as I leave Russia behind once again.
Wheels in the wells and climbing away from the Leningrad airport. Today is very overcast, the first such day since we've been here. Now we have popped through several layers of clouds into the sun. Suspended above a sea of cotton.
Finnair DC-9, Flight AY711 is wheels down in the soup on approach to Helsinki.
After a couple of hours on the ground, we're about 45 minutes late taking off on flight AY101 bound for JFK in New York. A flight of about 8 hours. We're flying one of Finnair's two MD-11's which is the latest version of the DC-10. (Distinguishable by the upward sweeping winglets on each wing tip.) Paul and I are stuck in the middle section, but things look pretty cloudy so there is not much to see anyway.
We're an hour and a half into our flight. We've passed over Sweden and Norway. We are almost straight north of the Shetland Islands at this point. We're at 9,448 meters. Groundspeed of 925 kilometers per hour. 6 1/2 hours to go. 5,307 kilometers to go. For the fourth time I've passed over Sweden without ever getting a glimpse of it. Worse yet, I've yet to see the fjords of Norway. It's -44 degrees C outside. I'm sure glad I don't have to ride out there.
5:30PM on my watch:
We're over Iceland, but who knows what time it really is here as we are gaining 7 hours on this flight. (sound of baby crying in background) These long hops over oceans are kind of a time warp situation.
9:25PM Leningrad time, 2:25PM in New York City:
The movie on the way back was as unremarkable as the one on the way over. Really not even worth watching, but I was getting too tired to read any more. This MD-11 has a neat system that displays on the video screens. It cycles between maps of two different scales that show a little airplane denoting the present position and a red line showing the course track. One scale is basically continental, and the other closer one shows the size of the whole of Scandinavia, for example. The third display in the cycle shows distance to destination in kilometers, groundspeed in k/hr., time to destination, altitude in meters, outside air temp. in C, and local time at the destination. It's a pretty slick graphic system which, I assume, is driven by data from the INS.
I've spent most of this trip back reading in the volume of Dostoyevsky short stories that I picked up back in St. Petersburg. The first story is a rather long one called "Poor People," and consists of letters between a man and a young woman. It kinda drags on and on and doesn't have much of a plot, but talk about character development! Fyodor sure did have an incredible imagination when it came to characters. I must confess, I'm not enjoying this story tremendously. Perhaps I'll connect more solidly with the other 5 stories in the book.
2:49PM New York Time:
We just passed over Melinokit, Maine. With an hour and nine minutes to go. It's amazing that two meals, a movie, a nap, and a little reading and you can go to the other side of the world. Riding along in a machine with more floor space than my house.
3:54PM New York Time:
We're on the ground after 8 hours to the minute.
Sunday, Sept. 27, Orlando:
How wonderful to be with my little family again. They met me at the airport, all dressed up and made me feel so welcome. Esther, Nathan, Stacey, I love you so much, and wonderful reunions are almost worth the pain of separation. We went through our little ritual of breaking out the treasures I'd hauled home. There was a little something for everyone.
I managed to stay fairly rested on this trip. I was even able to stretch out on 5 seats with a pillow and blanket on the New York to Orlando leg and sleep. But today the jet-lag is hitting me pretty hard. I napped for 4 hours in the middle of the day and woke up feeling like it was the middle of the night. The dryer broke down while I was gone. Just a broken belt. Tomorrow we start packing up the house to put everything in storage before we go work on our support full-time. Welcome back to reality.
Another fascinating trip behind me. More new challenges before me. Again I repeat that the idea of following after God's plan for your life being boring is the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on mankind.
Copyright ©1998 by Dan Philgreen - ALL RIGHTS RESERVED