Tag Archives: Russia

A Wish To The Moon

By: Mary

Cold rain battered down in intermittent frigid cycles all of yesterday. This morning the white powder of snow has been layering the ground as it falls from a grey and windy sky. Everybody is talking about the weather as it continues to become more difficult with week after week of dismal conditions. My laughing line that I have shared with friends, family and even cashiers at my favorite food co-op is “well, I am starting to understand why they drink all the time in Russia.”

russian park

Laugh as I may when sharing my observation, I have been thinking back upon my time in Vladivostok.


Vladivostok is a sea city. It’s a big city with about 5 million people getting through life in the commotion of it’s city boarders. The city is next to the sea. Because of the proximity to fresh water, many fish are sold at markets, or even on street corners heaped upon a pallet.


One dear sight to me was on Saturdays when a man would come to the orphanage with a black gym bag packed with presumably fresh fish to sell to the nurses on duty.

The city of Vladivostok is many things other than just a sea city: It’s cosmopolitan in part, and impoverished in part, and it’s also very sad.


The parks in Vlad confirm this. I do believe that I took these pictures on a random weekday afternoon. Drinking in the parks during daylight hours is common as it is even on a bus or sidewalk or in a grocery store.


Sunlight is strained and smiles are seldom, but there are still so many beautiful faces.



Sunny skies and the beginning of fresh growth can’t solve all problems.

beer and plant

However, it’s one heck of a good jump-start into positivity and production. I wish to the moon for sunlight and the freshness of spring brightness in both Russia and here, in the Midwestern states.


Snow Memories

By Mary

Just as the meteorologists predicted, the world is covered in the first coat of snow here in Southwestern Wisconsin. Snow is not an element that I welcome with peace. However, I have been musing of favorite snow memories. In the past I have had my share of good times in the flakes: Slating, sledding, the traditional first snowfall ride that I would take on my horse, building forts and jumps, and of course making snow angels. No childhood snow memories are as dear to me as a later favorite snow memory though.

This memory takes me back to Raminika.

Raminika is a poor military village far, far away in a mountainous region of Russia dotted by the shrubbery of trees and little dachas on steep hillsides. When I spent the winter in Russia, there were times when I would make the 4 hour round trip from the city of Vladivostok to the little village of Raminika. I would go with a most  joyful group of Catholic sisters that had originally come over from Spain. The trip would be a vernacular collage of Russian, Spanish, and English. The only background noise that could be understood by all passengers was the emotional booming opera music that the sisters were especially found of playing while navigating the twisting roads on those longs trips into the countryside. The operatic ensemble was a deserved relief to the sisters, some of whom would make the trip up to 5 days a weekly. A children’s center had recently been opened by the order for children to have a safe place to play. In addition to making the trips to the village, the sisters also taught at the University in the city and maintained a very detailed prayer life.

While I viewed these incredible ladies with utmost admiration, it was perfectly evident to me that the children at the center did too. On the days that I rode along, when we would arrive at the little rented building, a flock of children would greet us. Entering into the cramped space, the charismatic Sisters would be right in the midst of the excitement, chasing balls and dancing with the children.  Every child there would get to drink heavily sugared tea from a plastic cup and have a large chunk of donated bread as an early afternoon meal before playing more games and heading home before dark.

I can still remember the taste of the bread, the sweetness of the tea, the hours and hours of volleyball that I would play with the kids, and the painful Russian lessons that a gaggle of school-aged children would capture me to partake in!

One Saturday, a young woman from the University in the city made the trip with the Spanish Sisters, and just before dark she asked the golden question in the golden language (English!) ” would I like to take a walk with her?”

This walk turned into my favorite snow memory ever. The stillness and crispness of the cold after such a long day in the midst of the close quartered commotion greeted me with a special refreshing lure. My breath floating like a white sheet of fog into the cold air calmed me as we set off to view the fallen ruins of an old military officers club at the edge of the village.

After some time of walking, a little girl who looked to be about seven or so and who had been one of my former volleyball buddies throughout the day, ran up from behind us and linked her little arm in mine. How I enjoyed our unspoken friendship on the remote walk in the crisp snow. After some time, we came to a shack with straw spread in front and a rusty clothesline spread with the hanging of frozen laundry.

My new friend waved goodbye to me. I hugged her and watched as her blue coated back darted into the little house. And just for a second everything seemed beautiful.

Even snow.

A Simple American Girl

By Mary

Though there are few things that please me about the seasonal progression of colder temperatures and gray skies that are  the daily expectation around this time every year, I must admit that I do like being able to bundle up into a warm coat. In October 2009, I was especially focused on finding just the right coat to purchase to keep me warm(er) in Russia. I looked and looked until I settled on a practical brown snowboarders coat that got me thru the winter. Did I ever hate that coat! In my simple girl American eyes, it seemed like every woman and daughter had a incredibly beautiful coat. I can remember a mental game I played to see if I could match one coat with another. It seemed like every coat was unique, like there was not an exact replica of any style.

One morning I found myself in a shack with no plumbing and almost no heating. The warmest place was on the kitchen floor, so the people living there were sleeping on the it. Because we were company and because Russians are pretty much the most hospitable people ever once you set foot in their home and they decide they like you, the house was warmed up for the visit I made with a priest. Of course the first thing that my eyes and brain sought out was-do really poor people still wear coats with dead animals on them? The answer is: indeed they sure do!

Long walks in Vladivostok were so much more interesting because of my acquired coat obsession.

When I came back to the States, I made many resolutions. One of my least important resolutions was to get a serious coat with lots of character. It had to be unique, nothing like the snowboarders coat that got me thru in Vlad. I looked and looked in stores here. Nothing caught my eye. So I turned to ebay, and spent many a night browsing for the perfect Russian inspired winter wear. I did all this coat browsing while talking to a guy that I had no interest in on the phone. He would tell me about wanting to ice fish and snowboard with me, and I would half way listen while focusing on my pursuit of coat happiness. I finally settled on a designer coat that I wanted to order from China.Unsure if I should buy a size medium or small I asked my mom. She used the Chinese sizing chart to measure me. It’s a good thing she did before I sent in my purchase, because by their standards I am a size XL. Global coat buying is a complicated matter!

Gratitude is one of the most priceless things one can conceive within their heart. Though I hate the cold outside, I am contented to have a coat that I am grateful for. The gratitude extends far beyond the material properties of the coat. It goes all the way back to Russia where I learned so much about the beauty and weight of love, and the legitimacy of a coat with some character.

P.S. Perhaps I should note that my Chinese coat with “character” looks more like something that Sherlock Homes would wear then something that a tiny Russian lady would own. It is by no means offensive to PETA and is lacking of the dramatic tone that the coats in Russia flourished. What can I say? I guess I am just a simple American girl.