Thursday, August 26, 2010

Quantum leap

So many unfinished blog posts, so little time ...

I've escaped the heat and smog to Rostov-na-donu -- the city where I served 9 months of my mission, all in one area. I feel like I'm in a time warp. Where am I? Who am I? What year is it? Where did all these supermarkets and billboards come from?

I was kind of disoriented at first, and exhausted by Moscow both physically and emotionally, but a few days of Raya Hausbiulina's amazing cooking and stories revived me. Turns out a Russian grandma was just what the doctor ordered.

I rode the 71 bus from Zorge to Tsentralniy Rinok the other day, craning my head to see out of the dirty window. If I peeled back the layer of billboards and storefronts and new buildings pasted onto the familiar landscape, I recognized the same crumbling balconies, the same worn dirt paths. I remembered buying ice cream on the corner of Stachki and Zorge – I knew the shape of the corner, I could almost see the ghost of a woman pulling the squat cone out of her portable freezer – it was a cold day in February. It was like the image was superimposed on the current August scene, and if you tried to focus on it too closely it would disappear, but if you let your eyes blur then it appeared right there.

The trees around our apartment were much bigger, and I remembered walking through the park nearby to visit someone who was selling eggs at a rinok in the middle of winter. We brought hot chocolate to her. I remembered a pile of watermelon, taller than I was, on the sidewalk in the summer, and buying chocolate at a kiosk from someone who wanted us to invite them to visit America. I remembered walking in the chastni sector singing “country roads,” eating mulberries right off the trees, and walking through the meat section of the market near Druzhinikov Square. I wanted to peel back the façade of modernization – because that’s all it seems to be here, is a façade pasted onto the same old crumbling landscape – peel back the years, see myself walking through the square to Alla Ivanovna’s apartment or talking to Ruslan, Alya and Lyudmila and the elders at the bus stop about how to properly eat sunflower seeds.

Ghosts were everywhere, and for a moment, all moments were present, and I knew that the core person I am now really is the same person I was then, as much as I may or may not have changed. The trees around the statue of the working class man waving his flag at the beginning of Zapadny region have grown tall enough to obscure the foot of the statue, and riding past them I lost my sense of time and place -- for a moment they became the trees on the way from Bethlehem to Jerusalem, and all moments were present. If I had exited that bus and found myself in Jerusalem or Moscow or Washington or Peru, it would have seemed completely normal.

And it was comforting, in a way. More to come about people, experiences, thoughts.

1 comment:

Wanders said...

So glad you can breathe again!