Last week, while the rest of the Christian religious world was celebrating Easter, we were driving 10 hours to Moscow. My parents asked me “What is the traditional celebration for Easter in Russia?” My response was “Apparently nothing…?” But, I found out this week that in fact, Russia follows the “Old World” calendar and all of the holidays are celebrated late. They celebrate Christmas on January 7th and they celebrate Easter today, a week after everyone else. So, most everyone went home to spend time with their families this weekend. With the extra free time our translator, Tanya, and I went for a walk in downtown Voronezh yesterday. She took me to the City Center, which I had walked around with Ximel the day we got lost… but this time Tanya showed me things I hadn’t seen before.
She showed me some of the major landmarks in Voronezh….
This is a sculpture of a hero dog (like Balto) out side of the main theater. You are supposed to touch it and make a wish. Tanya told me she did it and her wish came true in 2 years….
This is a monument where people come when they are married and put a lock with their names on it. It stands right next to be big bridge (which is called a “most” in Russian)… everyone used to attach locks on the rails of the bridge, but they erected this monument because the bridge was too full of locks.
She also took me to two of the main Orthodox churches in Voronezh. This is when I found the Russian tradition for Easter. All of the women bake a special type of bread that is tall and circular (kind of like a giant muffin). It has raisins in it and then is frosted with white frosting and colorful sprinkles. Then after the women finish baking it, they take it to the churches where holy people bless the bread. There were lines of women with their bread all the way around the churches. These are two of the churches we saw.
Then we walked down to the waterfront where we walked along the Voronezh Sea for a bit. With the bridge, the grey sky and the walkway by the water, I felt like I was back in Portland walking on the waterfront.
Then this morning, on Easter morning, I woke up and took a walk in the surrounding neighborhood from my apartment back to the base. On the way, I was overwhelmed with a feeling of happiness because I realized how unique of an experience and a culture I am living in. I was walking next to broken down houses on muddy dirt roads. But the sun was out and there was the smell of spring in the air. There was so many people and families out walking. They were all in their Easter best and were carrying their bread and a bouquet of synthetic flowers (because nothing grows here) for their loved ones. And, I realized, as I was walking that all of these people live so simply and they are happy with that. They don’t care about the mud on their shoes, or the broken wood on their homes, they care about sharing the time with their family and celebrating the traditions of the culture.
Yesterday on the bus ride home with my translator I was trying to get money out of my wallet to pay for the bus, so I couldn’t hold on to anything to keep my balance. As we were bumping over the pot holes and screeching to stops I was falling all over the place. I ran into several people… after the 3rd person I hit I started just laughing at myself. I looked at the woman I accidentally sat on and smiled, but she didn’t smile back… My translator said this “In Russia, you don’t smile unless you truly have a reason to smile. People are not fake and don’t give smiles generously.”
Then last night, the Jamaican, the Swede, one of the Cameroon girls, and I were discussing our cultures. What we grew up in, what our families were like, what our futures will be when we finish futbol, and other things of that nature….
I realized that culture is such an amazing thing. There is NO right or wrong, NO black or white, there is only differences. No one can say that one is better than the other because it is like comparing apples and oranges. There is no way for comparing, only ways of appreciating the differences. The Russian people may not be handing out smiles, but neither do New Yorkers, or even two strangers (no matter the country). We celebrate Easter by letting a giant bunny break into our homes to hide colored eggs and chocolate, heaven forbid we dont find one of the eggs he hid... WHY any culture does the things they do is not for us to judge, it simply is the way it is. I have found a new love for my country. I love America but I also have a new appreciation for other cultures because most everyone loves their country. There is a patriotic pride in all of us. That is all that need be said.
Happy Russian Easter!
We have our next game on Wednesday in Voronezh. My first home game! In Russian you say “dome” for home... and I will of course give you an update ASAP!