Friday, January 25, 2008

Consider my Blog updated

Yeah, when I was back in the US, I heard a lot of complaining about my lack of blog updates.

The whining apparently hasn't ceased. I was even told that in order to increase my blog readership, I need to post more personal stuff on my site. A friend blithely informed me that the "blog stalkers" are extremely disappointed in the lack of exhibitionist-hud so typical of young folks' blogs, these days. So I told her to write her own blog, and include all the trivial icky details that people seem so infatuated with revealing. like when she gets spinach stuck between her teeth. I sometimes wonder whether the blogging world doesn't reveal a curious exhibitionist tendency by those who describe minute intimate details about their lives. Anyway, it's just a thought. Who am I to judge whether or not your flossing habits are interesting or just icky?

But anyway. Here's a warning to readers: Boring personal travelog to follow.

I spent last weekend in Velikiy Novgorod, the area where I served the final 10 months of my LDS mission. I figured the 3-day weekend was a perfect opportunity to get out of Dodge. I mean Moscow. As I was ruminating out loud about my underwhelming plans for a weekend, a colleague at work volunteered to go along with me. So we bought last-minute overnight train tickets to Novgorod. We ended up with what are called "platzkart", i.e. open public bunks on the far end of the train just adjacent to the bathroom. This made for a rather unpleasant trip, as people were making constant trips to the facilities all night long. Additionally, it became quickly apparent that many of the passengers are nicotine junkies, as a never-ending troop of people were constantly migrating to the little vestibule between cars for a puff. Apparently they could hardly stay asleep at night for more than a half hour without the urge grabbing them. Needless to say, the fragrant odor of an old train lavatory combined with a continual plume of tobacco smoke was an unexpected addition to my night's sleep. My buddy David had it worse, as he kicked the smoking habit about a month ago, and the slightest whiff of tobacco really sets him off.

Anyway, we got to Novgorod. Though the temperature was about the same as Moscow, it felt significantly colder. It sits on the river that feeds a large lake. Walking against the wind is a most unpleasant experience that left my face abused and seared by high-speed pelting ice debris. The city is the oldest in Russia, and has quite an impressive number of old Orthodox Churches, plus a large imposing Kremlin fortress. We checked out the local museum, which was half-closed for renovations. I recall that they used to have a fascinating exhibit built by the Soviets dedicated to the glorious Soviet period, followed immediately by a more modern exhibit that displayed lists of names of local Novgorodians slaughtered during the Stalin purges. You can only find such ironic museums in post-Communist countries. Competing with the icy wind wasn't a lot of fun, so we retreated to the Kremlin where we got scalped by a local restaurant that served mayonnaise in heavy doses with other trivial ingredients like beef tongue and eggplant tossed in. We also met up with a friend of mine whom I used to work a lot with as a missionary. We made plans to go to the local Russian sauna, but for some reason we ended up pretending to play Civilization IV (or something) on his computer at home. Yeah, I really have a wild time when I go on vacation.

The next day church was a rather interesting experience. My accompanying colleague is Jewish, and he informed me that the only way he would attend our little LDS branch on Sunday was if I promised him that he wouldn't get proselytized. I could make no promises (in fact informing him that in all likelihood he WOULD be), but assured him that people would back off if he told them he is genuinely not interested. So we went, and I think he actually enjoyed himself. He also made it clear that the single LDS scene looks very rosy in Russia. I'm sure I haven't noticed.

Then we hopped a train back to Moscow. We made sure we got bunks in the middle of the wagon this time. I would've fallen asleep before we even left the station, but was bothered by a drunken Russian who wanted to chat endlessly to "help" us have a comfortable stay in Moscow. I was half awake, and so let David explain to him that we would be at our most comfortable-est if our inebriated friend would let me sleep and David read his trashy Leonard Elmore novel (I think he's gotten through like 4 of them in the last week). I woke up the next morning as we arrived in Moscow to see the guy passed out with a bottle near at hand on one of the bunks below. Thus ended my trip to Novgorod.

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