Monday, July 9, 2012

"my three words have two meanings...but there is one thing on my mind" Lego House--Ed Sheeran

The world might not be in as bad of shape as it is if all the people in it were Irish. Not the big city Irish people either, but the ones from the small fishing towns and villages along the coasts. But I'll get to that later. For now I need to get caught up on what happened between now and Moscow. I wish I had the patience to sit and write out all the details of everything I remember, but I don't. At least not for here on the blog.

This past winter in Moscow was the longest winter of my life. Maybe because I was away from home again. Maybe it was because it snowed almost everyday right through the first week of April. Maybe it was because I didn't have a nice, heated car and had to hoof it everywhere I went. Maybe it was all of those things. Maybe there were a few more reasons, too.

It was also the most memorable winter of my life.

Maybe it was because I lived on a floor full of foreign students in a dorm on the campus of the Russia Academy of National Economics under the President of the Russian Federation (pretty official sounding, eh?). Maybe it was because my atheist professor could have doubled for the part of Professor Trelawny in the Harry Potter movies. Maybe it was because I had a German bishop with a Russia-hating wife in an international branch where I was called as a primary teacher. Maybe it was because I was back in the former Soviet Union and this time I wasn't a missionary. Maybe it was all of those things, but there are definitely more reasons, too.

About two weeks into my stay in Moscow I went and bought a $40 guitar to give me something to do in my down time. I don't play very well, but that guitar made more friends than I did. It all started when the rest of the international students got moved in to our floor and decided to get together in the commons area and drink. Me and my roommate (2 of 3 Mormons living on the floor) got a knock on our door that night and invited to come out and drink with everyone. Well, we didn't drink, but we ate a lot of chips.

After about an hour or so of people drinking and me eating chips, the other Mormon lad on our floor asked to see the guitar that I bought. Before long we had 17 people from 10 different countries crammed into a tiny dorm room singing "Heart of Gold" as loud as they could--over and over and over. We must have sung it 7 or 8 times in a row. This taught me one of the great truths of this life: that good music and enough alcohol can bridge any language, cultural, or age gaps.

The dorms in Moscow made our social life loads more fun. Because we were on campus so much we were able to meet lots of the students, who wanted to hang out with us because we are from America. We even got to "teach" two classes of students studying English. And that was where we met Anna, who in turn introduced us to Seva and Vannya. These three people are some of the greatest that I know.

The first time that I met Seva and Vannya was when they picked us up and drove us outside of Moscow to a foster home for young boys. On the way we stopped at a supermarket and Seva bought a bunch of juice, cookies, crackers, notebooks, pens, crayons, and play-dough to take to them. I found out later that  Seva and his father have been doing this sort of thing for years, and he brings his friends with him whenever he goes.

While on the way to the foster home, Seva told me about a conversation that he had with a young black student living in Moscow who's father died recently. His father had been the one paying for his tuition, so when the payments couldn't be made anymore the university kicked the young man out and gave away his spot in the dorms. I listened, and then logged it away in the "Sad Stories" part of my brain.

The day after we went to the foster home, Seva took me and my Canadian friend Simon (who lived on the same floor as us and was one of those that got super drunk the night we sang "Heart of Gold" a thousand times) and treated us to a game of Russian billiards. While Simon and I were playing, I eavesdropped on a call that Seva made. Seva, in less than 24 hours, had found a place to stay and a job for this young black student. 

That story is the best way that I can describe Seva. His friend Vannya is cut from the same mold. And I found myself wishing I was more like these two Russian 20 year-olds--wishing I would do good things for people just because I could and wanted to, and not because someone was expecting me to. They drink, smoke, swear, watch what would be R-rated movies if Russia had any kind of a rating system, and do just about everything that would be condemned by any Happy Valley-an.

But more than that they are good people.

This post took a little different direction than I intended. I'm tired and going to bed. Looks like I'll have to catch up on my Moscow adventure in periodic installments.

I'm not even close to telling you why the world would be better if we were all small-town Irish folk. But I'll get around to it--maybe in a month or six.