Sunday, August 14, 2011

Taking a walk around Russia

Dave: Where is our work place? It is usually at the LDS church's building called the Service Center but our work can take us to the airport, the metro or the train. Where ever our work is...we walk.
When we first arrived in Russia we were deposited at the Art Hotel (very Dave like-don't you think?) until we could find an apartment. After checking into the hotel, we were taken to the Service Center. Walking from the Service Center to our hotel started out a little different than normal. The Budd's were kind enough to help us figure out a route to our hotel. I
looked at the map with Elder Budd and he was showing me which streets we would need to travel on until we arrived at the hotel. It was obvious he hadn't walked in that area before, but he seemed to know what he was doing and volunteered to walk with us. After an hour or two at work, we all headed out for the hotel. We were so grateful to them for doling this for us...they lived a half hour in the opposite direction. We walked, then we walked, then we walked some more. Finally, after an hour and a half we arrived at our hotel. (we only had to ask directions one time). The Budd's left us then and walked another hour to their apartment.
Luckily, the next morning a driver picked us up because our assignment for the morning was away from the service center. That evening we were dead tired from jet lag, but we studied the map and decided we could walk a completely different route which would take us through two parks and a short walk on the streets. We headed out. In just 45 minutes we were back at our hotel. After we gained a little energy and got over our jet lag we started to make the same walk in 35 minutes each way.
It was a very nice walk through the parks. It was the beginning of summer and people were out with families and friends. In the park, children were still playing at 9:30 at night. Friends gathered, and in Russia, vodka and beer are always close at hand (both are much cheaper to buy than drinking water). Every morning the park would be littered with bottles and cigarette butts, but there were plenty of park workers in the park and a few were working. By evening the park was neat and orderly and families and friends began congregating again. The pattern repeated itself every day.
When we found an apartment our commute was greatly reduced. We now walk only ten minutes to work or twenty minutes to the metro. If we walk to the service center it is still twenty minutes to the metro. Most of the places to purchase food are by the metro, so if we go to lunch we walk 20 minutes to lunch and 20 minutes back.
What we see on the way to work is enhanced by the stories we tell each other of what we observe. But to put it in more boring terms; we see a giant preschool and some very large homes, in a very expensive place called the Art Village. Mikhail Gorbechev, the last leader of the Soviet Union lives in this village. Which house? We think we have it figured out but really we have no clue. There is also a house we call the "Mafia House" (we will tell you more about this one in a later blog). We see one man every day - picking up leaves and sweeping the long sidewalks around the very expensive homes. He is very interesting all by himself...He has a weathered and worn face from much toil and work. (He has a hump on his back which adds to Hollywood's interpretation of what an Igor should look like). We say good morning in Russian to him almost daily and he mumbles the same. We also pass a playground or two and in the evening there are usually children playing and mothers or grandparents watching patiently. Becky loves this part of the walk the most.
When we go to the Metro we pass several small stores full of fruit, vegetables, meat, groceries, etc. There is usually someone passing out pamphlets and papers to advertise sales of clothing, eye glass exams and products, or some kind of program. We do have a couple of small parks we walk through, but try not to go through them after dark We pass some beggars close to a Russian church. There are some old women selling what they have produced in a garden somewhere. They only have a few items to sell, we think they must have great need for the money and try for hours to sell their onions, carrots, beets, or flowers. We arrive at the metro and are whisked away until we arrive at our destination and then we walk again. We seem to be getting stronger as time goes by.
Becky : I became a fan of walking on 22 June 2011. It wasn't because we had nothing else to cheer for - nor was it because we wanted to ---NOT NECESSARILY...It was out of NECESSITY - HOORAY!!! LET'S WALK! If we want to get anywhere - the metro, or market, the church, or to work - we WALK! More than a couple of times in the July heat I hummed..."Pioneer Children sang as they walked and walked and walked and walked..." (I didn't sing it aloud because that would be very strange here). I determined I wouldn't have made a very good pioneer but it helped me to put one foot in front of the other and we got to where ever it was we were going.
Walking in Russia is quite an ART...Do you think the shortest distance between two points is a straight line? Not so here in Russia. We do not walk a fast as those here...we are slow when we walk - mostly because we don't know the way and are not sure of what lay in the path ahead. We turn right - through breeze ways, alley ways, along dirt paths, between short buildings and tall ones, then we turn left - through the carts of food, around fences, behind one building and then another, along side the railroad tracks, cross over the tracks and back again ... until we find our way.
Maps are ok - and are sometimes quite helpful to tell us which street we may be approaching as we twist and turn and straight away find the fastest shortest route possible. It doesn't always work out though when using a map...our first night in Russia we took the long way (NOT THE WRONG WAY) back to our hotel. We sometimes say it is the "scenic route" or a "Short cut" - but for most of the time I said we were "LOST". We determined, after the first night we could cut down our hour and a half walk to the hotel by going through the parks and we predicted (more like prayed) it might take us an hour. Much to our delight - and my relief - it took about 40 minutes and we made better time every day after. The parks were beautiful with fountains and flowers, and children playing along the tree lined pathways.
My feet complained (LOUDLY) and I was ready to whine "Are we there yet" but I knew better. I needed to buy some better walking shoes after the first few days and many blisters. (yep! we walked to the shoe store).
We have found it is very important to watch where you walk and take great care...(I learned this lesson the hard way when I twisted my ankle and fell...and after it swelled and turned black and blue it was difficult to walk for almost three weeks) and I wasn't a big fan of Walking back then.
But...we have no option...we keep walking using much more caution - and we get where we are going through the maze of fences and gates-cracks and dips-holes in the sidewalk...and we step over the pipes and the trenches-and we miss the mud, and the puddles the best we can...We just keep walking - especially if we want to get where ever it is we are going...and at the end of the day we rest and our feet are happy feet...
And the next day when the sun comes up - we start the day ... BY TAKING A WALK!

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