From August 3rd through August 16th, Rev. Ralph, Dawn Angarone and Kathie Greear visited our sister congregation in Dorogobuzh, Russia. Despite the shock and sadness of Dawn's death while in Dorogobuzh, both Rev. Ralph and Kathie found the trip enjoyable, uplifting and important. Here is Kathie's journal from the trip:
DAY 1, August 3
Arrived in Las Vegas, first stop. I lost my Leatherman to security in my carry on. Should have known better. Arrived in Chicago on time after circling the airport for several minutes due to thunderstorms in the area, only to be told that our next connection was still on the ground in Detroit and would be late by about three hours. Which, of course, would have us missing our London connection. Going through security this time they got my toothpaste and Dawn's sandwich which she was planning to eat on the plane. After swabbing and examining her sandwich they let her have it back. Our plane fina1ly arrived and we were able to leave Chicago around 10:00 pm.
DAY 2, August 4
The plane was comfortable and Rev. Ralph was out like a light once we were served our meal. Short night, lost a few hours, arrived in London mid-morning. British Airways had already booked us on another flight and we were told we had a very small window to get to our next gate after picking up our boarding passes, going through security then catching a bus to our next departure gate, like 20 minutes. We sped through and got on the bus just in time, Rev. Ralph then realizing his laptop was still in security. He notified the driver who told him he could go get the laptop OR catch the flight. So the laptop stayed in London with hopes of possibly having it forwarded to us in Russia or picking it up on our return. So we made our flight, it was a little after 11:00 am.
Another 3 hour flight, naps and food service. They served an onion & cheese sandwich which we passed up but Rev. managed to get a half of the sandwich down. We decided it must be a British thing. Arrived in Moscow around 4:00 pm, got through customs and went to pick up our luggage, all was present except one of Dawns suitcases. We had all packed an extra bag in order to take our Christmas pageant costumes for Sergei's congregation to use. That was the suitcase that Dawn was missing. Word was that it was still in London and would be arriving during the night. So that meant that Dawn and Al had to return to the airport in the morning a little less than an hour away to pick it up. We got to our Holiday Inn, checked into our rooms and proceeded to the restaurant for our first meal of the day which was very good, that was at 8:00 pm. Then it was straight to bed.
Day 3, August 5
After breakfast Al and Dawn were off to the airport to pick up that last piece of luggage. The day is beautiful, sunny some clouds in the 60's which is,....,18C. Our train tickets are for noon then it's a 4 hour ride to meet Sergei. There's a lot of paperwork. It's required that we must carry it with us at all times especially the one we got at customs which Al says we must NOT lose, would be very difficult to be able to leave the country if we were to loose it. We have another bit of paperwork that needs to be completed but Al has made arrangements that it can be done when we return to Moscow next week. We believe that Sergei has a computer that we might be able to use for this blog and to skype, keeping our fingers crossed and saying a little prayer. Off to the train station by taxi. Ate at Subway, I had a somewhat traditional salmon and cream cheese sandwich while Dawn took the ham and cheese which unbeknownst to her had horseradish in the mustard. WOW!! Hot НОТ, she scraped what she could off and tried to salvage it, pictures taken.
Sinuses cleared. In order to catch our ride we had to tout our many suitcases up the stairs and back down the other side to get to our train. The ride was a little less than 4 hours. Arrived around 4:30 pm, Sergei was waiting for us. It was a warm welcome and I instantly felt relief at meeting our host for the next week. Despite the language barrier there seemed to be a genuine connection and appreciation. Into the car we went and onward to Dorogobuzh. Again, when we arrived we receive another wonderful warm reception from the entire family. Nina, Sergei's wife, Lena and Rita his daughters and Tima his youngest son, his eldest son Kostya is away at college. They made us feel so welcomed and appreciated. We took a little walking tour, picked raspberries for snacking and for supper. beautiful view of the fields and gardens.
Returned to the house and got settled into our rooms. Dawn and I are in one room and Rev. Ralph and Al in the room next to us, although we had a door and they did not. Rev. Ralph remembered that last year he was in our room and there was no door so we must be special, he was a little jealous. Church service at 6:30 p.m., of course we want to attend. A quick change of clothes and we were off again. The sermon was preached, in Russian, by Volodia, the other pastor at Sergei's church. There was a lot of praying for the church members, their church their families and just recognizing the issues that face this congregation. After we met some of the members, once again, warm and loving and pleased with our being there, we prepared for a late supper, awaiting the arrival of a group from Moscow who come to help with Bible Camp. They got in early, 10:30 pm. More names to remember and get right. There was Masha, a biologist, Larissa and Dasha who are teachers, and Sasha, he was a bus driver. Nina prepared a great meal: fresh baby potatoes with fresh tomatoes and fabulous fried patties of onion, sausage and potato. Topped off with a smoothie made from fresh raspberries. There was a bit of tea, chai, to complete the evening. Late night looking forward to bed and sleep. Group prayer.
DAY 4 August 6
Boy the sun comes up early here, starts getting light at 4:00 am. Folks started moving around at 7:00, getting ready for church. Many folks to get through the bathrooms. Only 2 bathrooms for 18 of us but it all works out. Breakfast accomplished, porridge and chai, just right. The plan is for 3 sermons, communion and Dawn's solo, a good 2 hours total. People of the church, as always, are very welcoming and warm. Everyone greets you, women with hugs kisses and handshakes and men with handshakes. Even the younger folks, every time they first meet for the day they welcome you. After Volodia finished his sermon he began the communion, followed by Ralph with the wine part of the communion. Then Al introduced Dawn for her solo. She began, unaccompanied, got her key on the piano and began singing "For God So Loved the World", John 3:16, the voice of an angel. A little over half way through she reached for the podium and just fell forward. She was caught before hitting the floor. She was immediately removed to the outer sitting room and laid on the couch. I could not find a pulse, moved her to the floor and began CPR, it was a good 30 minutes before help arrived. I wanted to continue to help - I have the experience - but they would not let me. A lot more time passed with no changes in her condition, very grim. In the meantime the whole congregation were praying. In shock, they showed such concern and compassion. They had only known Dawn for less than 24 hours but they loved her and what she brought to them. The eldest little lady of the church, she's 92, kept holding my hand and speaking in Russian that I couldn't understand, trying to console me but we each knew, understood perfectly despite the language barrier. Everything was so heartfelt and honest concern you could feel how they were just lifting us up with their prayers and love. Concern for us as well as the congregation in St. George. No one left, they continued to pray. It was more than an hour before the emergency team stopped efforts and left.
Then we had to try to determine where to go from here. The morgue was called, they arrived but could do nothing until the authorities released the body. Several officials came, lieutenants, majors and captains. This is a very small rural community and they really weren't sure how to handle this. They were all very thorough and completed their mission at what seemed like an eternity . Finally Dawn was removed to the funeral home.
This was certainly not a common occurrence for this community and being American further complicated things. There is a 9 hour time difference so it was still in the middle of the night in the U.S. so we had a bit of a wait before we could do much. Rev. Ralph had a huge burden in having to call and notify the family as well as our congregation. Al contacted Ellen who made immediate arrangements to come help with expediting this process with the embassy, government and family. She would arrive tomorrow. By the time the dust had settled and everything that could be done was done it was time to eat. The church had planned a barbecue with shiskabobs and all the fixings so we couldn't let it go to waste. besides, keeping busy was therapy. Preparations now began for the start of Bible Camp tomorrow. Putting up balloons, volleyball net, puppet theater and arts & crafts. I busied myself with the babushkas in the kitchen, cleaning up and doing dishes, a lot of dishes which was entertaining in itself. Picture a kitchen full of Russian ladies who speak no English and me who speaks no Russian. To me they speak very fast and of course I could only guess what they were saying, we all had a good laugh. Comical but the tasks were completed with great fun and friends were made. Returned back to Sergei's to get ready for tomorrow and a busy week all around. At the end of the day we all gathered in a standing circle for prayer, Sergei insists . No one goes to bed until this is accomplished . We recalled the events of the day and once again uplifted Dawns family and friends in prayer.
DAY 5 August 7
I woke up with the events of the previous day heavy on my mind. I reached out to my docs by text getting their options on what had happened. We knew it was a catastrophic event but why. Conclusions were: possible aneurysm or pulmonary embolism which was likely considering the long flight. Dawn took precautions wearing her compression stocking. The autopsy will tell us more and will help us in understanding this a little better. It was pointed out that if one was to choose their exit this might have been the one we'd chose, in church, on a beautiful day, after communion and singing to the Lord. All things that made Dawn joyous. I guess we should just leave it at that.
Rev. Ralph headed out for his run early, looks like another beautiful day, sunny and in the 80's. Before leaving for church I walked up the street with Rev. Ralph to see the historic buildings, WWII headquarters. Took pictures. Ready to walk to church, a couple of miles with the folks from Moscow. Such friendly smart wonderful young people, we talked all the way to the church. Masha speaks and understand English very well, she has been to the U.S. The others are more subdued with speaking English but they seem to understand it. Today we had 20 children for camp and lots of activities. They had rented a bouncy house/slide which was very popular along with all the other activities they were kept very busy. I was told that not all the children are from the church so learning about the Bible and its stories and Christ's love was something new for some.
Some were return campers I'm told and Masha was quite delighted when she realized that those returning kids remembered what they had learned last year. Rev. Ralph spent his time helping with the slide and games and furthering his Russian with the church members present, especially Gena, a retired police officer who now owns a little store in town. I spent most of my time in the kitchen with the ladies, I don't think I ever got their names straight but let me try. The head cook was sent to us from a neighboring town where her husband is pastor, her name was Svetlana. Her son was with her, large young man early teens and they travel quite a distance to be here. She is extremely vivacious and smart and animated AND a good cook. The other ladies Nina and Galya and one other I'm not sure of. When I arrived around 9:30 the ladies were already at it. Making soup and the meal for the kids and staff that would be served at 2:00 pm. The dinner was soup and pasta with a meat patty all prepared from scratch so there was a lot of peeling, slicing, chopping and dishes to do. After everyone was fed it was time to clean up, no dishwashers only our 2 hands, no hot water, a lot of work but very happy work. After eating Al and Sergei left to go pick up Ellen who was arriving from Berlin to help with the necessary arrangements for Dawn. Soon after she arrived, Victor and his wife also arrived. He's seems to be the liaison for the churches with the authorities. No one had ever had to deal with this sort of an event in the past. A couple of folks had to be hospitalized in the past but never a death, so this was new territory. Fortunately Victor has very good relations with the authorities and if we had been in another Oblast there could have been a lot of problems especially for the church. Thank the Lord we were in the right place and had Victor for support. Every time someone arrives, out comes the Chai (tea), sweets and conversation. After a while we walked back to Sergei's for the night and dinner. I decided that if I was going to continue to eat like this I was going to walk to and from the Bible Camp each day. Ellen will be staying a few days then she is to return to Berlin to pack for their trip to the states. They leave 2 days after we leave and will be in the U.S. for 2 months. She has been in contact with Dawn's sister, Pam and is checking to see how they're holding up. A lot of concern for Lois, Dawn's mom with all the losses she has had over the past 3 years. Everyone here has been so supportive and offering ongoing prayers. This community is so loving and compassionate. They have felt the loss as we have. Supper at 9:00 pm then prayer and off to bed.
DAY 6, August 8
Today is Al & Ellen's 36th wedding anniversary and would have been Dawn's 57th birthday. The walk to Bible Camp is always a pleasant one. The children are learning and singing a hymn in English and they are getting very good at it. The atmosphere in the kitchen this morning is a little more subdued. A brief prayer was offered and it seems that Nina's son is in the hospital in Moscow and not doing well. It's hard enough to comfort someone when they are worried and anxious but even a bigger challenge when there's a language barrier. I had to give it a try and had some success. After some hugs and smiles were exchanged with Nina the day seemed to a little lighter. Crafts, games, badminton, stories, prayers, bouncy slide, volleyball and relay races, never a dull moment. Rev. Ralph was a willing participant in the relay races and games.
Playing pass with the Frisbee and football was enjoyed until Nina attempted to catch one of Rev. Ralph passes and badly twisted her ankle, instant swelling and discomfort. There was no ice so I found a frozen package of meat. We elevated the leg, wrapped and succeeded in keeping her off it for all of about 10 minutes. Tough little lady that she is there's no keeping her down. I can see we're going to have a hard time getting her to rest. Off she hobbled to continue supervising the day's activities. She had applied mecuricon to it, really didn't have any anti-inflammatories. Found some topical anti-inflammatory cream but it didn't look good. I just hope she didn't break it, she's pretty sure she did not. Walked back to Sergei's, stopped at the market for some fruit. Got back around 8:00 pm, Sergei and family not home yet. Looks like another late night. Beyond today's activities a few thoughts, at the risk of repeating myself but as hard as Dawn's passing is we can take some peace in knowing a few things. The autopsy will help put our minds at rest that it was most likely an event that happened so quickly that she was gone before she met the floor. All attempts were futile and at the point help arrived, if the outcome had been different it might have only sustained a shell of the Dawn we knew and loved. Again, I'm repeating myself but, we took communion, she was sharing her gift of song and left us. Doing what she loved with people who loved her. Bitter sweet as Rev. Ralph has pointed out. She touched this church community so deeply, the constant prayers on that Sunday and continued concern is amazing. They are very special people. They have endured such hardship and suffered for so long yet they have a strong faith that can be hard to imagine. They live a simple life with few material possessions yet their lives are centered around family, friends and most importantly Christ. Their faith truly gets them through all the tough times. Some venture outside this community even outside this country which can be traumatic and a terrifying experience. Talk about a culture shock. What must go through one's mind when these 2 worlds collide. How extravagant and superficial we might appear. We seem to take so much for granted and often overlook the simple things that are so important, primarily the love of God, and our many blessings, love and support from our brothers and sister in faith. It's way easy to get caught up in the day-to-day rat race and forget to just take a breath and start caring for someone other than ourselves. Great lessons to be learned if we take the time acknowledge them. I've rambled enough, could be the chai. Good night.
DAY 7, August 9
Sunny and in the 80's again, we're blessed with such beautiful weather. Ellen has to meet with Victor this morning so she and Sergei left early. Not a long trip but they probably won't be back until this afternoon.
Nina's hopping around this morning, they did stop last night to get the ankle checked and it's not broken just a bad sprain. They told her to apply some tincture that she had in her cupboard to help with the swelling and wrap it. I'm sure they told her to stay off it but we know that won't happen. It's pretty discolored and swollen this morning.
Walked to church. They have been re-paving the main road, work from sun up to sun down, even Sundays to get it done before snow. They actually got snow here in June so now they are finally getting their summer. We pass an open air market every morning with fresh fruits and veggies. Today we have borscht on the menu for lunch, always a soup and main dish with lots of good munchies, fresh tomatoes and today fresh cucumbers that have been soaked overnight in a brine to have that fresh pickle effect, garlic, dill, thyme, salt as well as mayo and sour cream to garnish the soup. Made a compote yesterday of all kinds of fruit for the kids beverage today, apples, and berries made into juice. And of course chai. Activities today included a magic trickster of sorts, he was well received and was very entertaining. He's actually a pastor from another area church. He does these party events on the side. All the pastors have other jobs. He and his family stayed for dinner, of course.
His English was pretty good. He has visited Iowa and Nebraska for about 8 months and learned there. He wanted to know my age, he insisted I was 45, love that guy. After camp was finished Gena took us to a nearby Russian Orthodox Monastery. It was a very nice ride about half an hour. The property was beautiful. The monks and nuns were having vespers and it was a treat to be able to listen. Ellen and I had to slip on a skirt, which they provided, in order to enter, also had to cover our heads with the fellas ball caps, since they had to have their heads uncovered. We strolled, took pictures and learned a little history. The buildings were occupied by the Nazis during WWII and completely leveled with fighting and artillery fire. At the end of the war the entire monastery was rebuilt as it had been prior to the war. back at Sergei's we're still trying to keep Nina's foot elevated. Ellen and I have been trying to help with supper and encouraging her to rest, it's a challenge. We've been lucky with meal preparation since the kitchen ladies put up all the extras from lunch so all we have to do is reheat it. No microwaves by the way. Sergei did get her crutches today, didn't like to see her hopping around, now to get her to use them. Rev. Ralph also brought some tortilla chips and homemade salsa along for them to sample. Salsa has a bit of a kick to it but everyone really liked it. Sasha was putting it on everything when the chips ran out. Ralph had brought some crosses for the family that Torry made in memory of Bob Routh from our congregation, he was very pleased. Tonight we're needing to wash some of our clothes, they will need to be air dried but they should be good to go when we leave on Saturday. We drew names for a secret friend at Bible Camp and tomorrow we'll exchange gifts. I got Svetlana and I know she loves flowers so that will be my mission tomorrow on our way. Hoping for another restful night, had herbal chai at 9:30, that's been working well.
Went to take my shower and there was no more hot water. Oh well, I'll survive, like swimming in a cold lake. There are usually at least 13 people in the house so the hot water does runs out after about 3 showers, we split morning and night showers. It's almost 11:00 pm now, waiting for prayer.
DAY 8, August 10
Late night last night but early breakfast this morning. Ellen and I slept well, Rev. Ralph had to wake us up at 7:30 for breakfast, it's usually after 8 that we eat since we don't hit the road until 9:00 or 9:15, but all is good. Stopped by the market on our way this morning to pick up some ice cream for my special kitchen ladies. Only 1 more day before we leave for Moscow, trying not to forget anything. Picked up an orchid plant for my secret friend and I had brought a Dream Catcher from home as well since Rev. Ralph gave me a heads up on the secret friend activity. It was lots of fun and I got some treats, chocolate, souvenirs of the area, monastery and the town. Never found out who they were from, it's a secret, so I couldn't thank them. Ralph was a little dismayed with his gifts of soap and bath salts, was afraid someone was trying to tell him something. I told him it just meant that they knew he was a clean man and they were just adding to his supplies or possibly he's hard to buy for and this was practical. Had a good day, good food. I had a bit of a battle while peeling potatoes, ended up with a little cut on my right thumb, which is quite a trick since I am right handed. So I'm on somewhat limited duty, can't peel the wet dirty potatoes for a while. The ladies made some delish donut like deserts with sweetened condensed milk drizzled on top. Good thing we took an extra-long walk tonight on our way home. The girls and Sasha from Moscow wanted to take us up the a high point of the city to see the view and to visit the War Memorial there. The kitchen ladies had decided that they weren't going to call me Katya any more they wanted to call me Katyusha, they said it was a great honor and they feel it flows better, softer than Katya. Then it was explained to me that Katyusha was what they named the rocket launcher that was instrumental in Russia driving the Nazis out of the Motherland. So this was a great honor. Now, at the War Memorial I finally got a chance to see a display of Katyusha. Then something really cool happened. Masha (Marie in English) said that every school child learned this great patriotic song that all Russians know then they proceeded to sing it for us. I recorded most of it and it was wonderful, I loved it.
Supper at 9:00 hoping for early bath & bed. Forgive my sequencing, I'm a little off. Frequently, during prayer it is encouraged that anyone who wishes to can participate. We had a church service tonight at 6 after Bible Camp. Rev. Ralph gave the sermon and Al translated, They dun good! Then Sergei spoke and encouraged anyone and everyone who wanted to, to speak. It was so wonderful and heartwarming to hear their comments. It was inspiring to hear how they felt about us and the connection that has been formed. These trips by the Good Shepherd has supported and truly changed minds and hearts of these Russians, our brothers and sisters. They feel the bond and love this partnership has produced and can see for themselves what kind of people we are and how we sincerely want to be one with them in fellow ship. They can feel the genuine concern and love we have for them and they feel that what they once thought of Americans has changed. The concern and support we received from them with Dawns passing was also a tremendous bond that has strengthened this relationship. They need and want our prayers in helping them overcome the barriers they are facing in everyday life.
The obstacles the "believers" have to encounter. Their journey of reaching out to their families and communities to share the word of God. Most have very little but they are happy, faithful children of God and want to share that love of God with all. Alcohol abuse and addiction is a problem for many and the recovering find solace and refuse with these Christians who welcome them in with open arms. Your heart can't help but to be full of admiration and love for these people. And I thank God that we have Al here to translate all that was said. Otherwise I would have been totally lost and not heard what they felt.
DAY 9, August 11
We woke to no water. Ellen and Ralph had both finished their showers and I took mine last night but it was likely that we will have it back by the time we return tonight. I guess it happens often and the whole area will be without water. There a spring down the road where we can get it for now for the toilet and to wash up with. We headed out to our last day of camp. The day went quite fast. We had a late morning rain for a couple of hours but it cleared in the afternoon so the kids could get back outside for a bit. The children had some final presentations at the end of the day, a lot of excitement. I was able to record some of their music.
There was also a video of the week's events and at the end it was dedicated to Dawn. A lot of emotion. The eldest lady of the church had brought special gifts for all the staff, a little something that she had written about each person. I'll have to get mine interpreted. Another lady wrote a poem about our visit. People spoke as they wanted to share their feelings. These folks are so genuine and open it just lifted our hearts to hear how our visit had changed their minds about Americans. They often ask why do you come? Ralph says it's for Nina's cooking but they know better. It's the love we've shared in Christ. One comment was "you first come out of curiosity", "but then you continue to return out of love".
This mission is so important for so many reasons. Changing the minds that propaganda has influenced is huge and with God's blessing this will continue to grow. Well darkness has fallen and it's time to return home. After a nice walk we find there's still no water, and we really need a shower. Fortunately Sergei has spoken with Nina, kitchen lady, and she offered for the girls, Masha, Dasha and myself to come to her apartment and shower. Since we all leave tomorrow morning we are very thankful for the offer. The guys weren't so lucky or maybe it's us that won't be so lucky since it's they who are not able to shower. Ralph and Al's first order of business tomorrow when we get to Moscow will be to take a shower. Ellen left prior to supper, she had to get back to Berlin to prepare for their trip back to the states. They will be leaving 2 days after we leave and will be stateside for 2 months. In Oct. they will be stopping in St. George for a brief visit before returning to Berlin where they will continue their work with the Christian Foundation.
DAY 10, August 12
The sun is back and we're headed for the train station at 7:30 am. The Moscow girls and Sasha will also be leaving on the same train so Gena will be helping get everyone to the station about 30 minutes away. We are returning with as much baggage as we arrived with. We will be taking Dawns belongings back with us. Hopefully the airline will not charge us for checking her bag. Ralph spent a lot of time on the phone with Expedia concerning Dawn's ticket and baggage and still has to call them back. After a 3-1/2 hour train ride we are back in Moscow. The girls and Sasha were in another car but they were wonderful helping us with baggage and waiting until our taxi arrived. They are wonderful people so caring and thoughtful. We will be meeting them again tomorrow at their church here in Moscow. Looking forward to it. So, got to our hotel for the 4 days. Getting settled in, the guys are anxious to get their showers, then we'll have some lunch. Took the Metro to check out the Arbot the main attraction for tourist with shops and restaurants. Will plan to return back to the hotel for supper.
DAY 11 August 13
Had the breakfast buffet in the hotel and they had everything one could possibly want. Rev. Ralph has already been to the bar for several cups of coffee. I think he drained the bar tenders supply. After breakfast we headed to church. Masha met us when we got off the Metro and we walked several blocks in the tree lined residential street. Upon arrival we were offered chai. Everyone was very welcoming. Dasha, Larissa and Sasha also greeted us. Many people stopped to introduce themselves and have conversation. One couple was from Estonia, he is a pastor and was visiting in Moscow for a wedding and came to this church The service was very interesting, I understand, Al kind of gave me the cleft note version but the pastor who was Larissa's father spoke about marriage and when to get married and when not to. Not the typical subject. Many familiar hymns were sung and played. After the service, of course, there was food. We had a salad, ovilia which is like our potato salad and the crepe like potato pancakes, with chai. Then we headed to the open air market that's only open on weekends. I could have easily spent the day there but I would have run out of money real fast. One thing I've noticed is all the fur, hats, stoles, gloves everywhere. I guess PETA isn't in Russia. We bought lots of gifts. I found a music box that plays Katyusha and Ralph couldn't resist getting me a coffee mug with the rocket launcher on it so I could sit, drink my chai in my Katyusha mug and listen to my music box. We went back to the hotel to recharge and drop off our treasures before heading back out. This time to Red Square. We went in St. basils Cathedral. Wow! So impressive. They are getting ready for a Military Tattoo in a couple of weeks so there is a lot of staging and areas blocked off but we still couldn't go everywhere, a lot of fences and barricades. We've decided that we will return tomorrow night to see everything all lite up. Then we headed back to the Arbot for a fantastic supper outside people watching. Noted, was all the street washing going on, they must have the cleanest streets anywhere. We noticed it as well in Dorogobuzh. back to the hotel by 10:00 pm for a somewhat early tum in. Plans for lots more walking and museums tomorrow.
DAY 12, August 14
No set time to be anywhere, nice...Going out for breakfast, Mickey D's, not bad. A little overcast today, it rained overnight. Headed to the Arbot for a vest that Ellen needs picked up. A little more shopping then lunch at МУМУ (pronounced MOO MOO), cafeteria style with the absolute best borscht yet. Don't tell the ladies that. Back to the hotel to drop off packages then to Red Square for the museum of the Great Patriotic War, when Napoleon invaded Russia. We spent a good 2 hours there. It was very interesting but since it was mostly in Russian I didn't get a lot of it. Once in a while Al or Ralph would try to bring me up to speed. They seemed to enjoy the museum, I'm sure they understood much more than I did. Then we went to the Russian Orthodox Church, again, beautiful and so much history. Stalin had torn this church down so he could build a massive government building but later found out that the ground could not support such a building so he built a swimming pool instead. Go figure. After the Soviet Union failed they rebuilt the church exactly as it had been. Originally it was to honor the fallen from the Great Patriotic War in 1812 when Napoleon invaded Russia. Unbelievable but very memorable. Then we headed to a burger joint with the best burgers in Moscow, probably Russia. "burgers, bun, and beer", Excellent. Then we returned to the hotel for a couple of hours to wait for dark so we could return to Red Square and witness the lights. It was worth it, got some great pictures. Somewhat an early night 11:00 pm. Tomorrow we'll start a little later and plan to go the WWII museum.
DAY 13 August 15
The sun is out and another beautiful day is expected actually a little cooler in the 70's, perfect. Found a great little place for breakfast, outside . Headed to the WWII museum, there's both inside and outside exhibits. Spent more than 2 hours there, lots of walking. Got to see a Katyusha up close and personal. Stopped for a quick hot dog and beverage then caught the Metro cross town to the Harley Davidson shop so I could pick up a tee shirt for John. Then back to the hotel to pack.
Found a restaurant nearby for an early supper. Early call for 1:30 am, our taxi will pick us up at 2:30 be at the airport at 3:30 for a 5:45 departure. Al saw us off and we were now on our own. Flights went well. When we checked in and explained what had happened with Dawn they checked her bag at no cost. The flight was on time and we arrived in London around 8:30 am. Then it was off to the lost and found where we were able to retrieve Ralph's laptop. Since it was an eight hour layover we wanted to get out of the airport to see London or at least find some fish and chips for lunch. We found a baggage check so we could leave our carry-ons there. Then got tickets for the Heathrow Express that took us to Paddington Square. Ralph had a map and we headed out for Regent Park. Did a lot of walking. I had changed some of my rubles and US dollars to pounds, just in case. Actually it was quite expensive for the train ticket, like 37 pounds which I think is close to $50.00 Anyway I was needing to find a bathroom. Finally we found one but it cost 20 pence which fortunately I had. Ralph not so much. I gave Ralph 20 pence and we were glad that we had the British money, plastic just wasn't going to do the trick. Headed back toward the station looking for food. Found a nice little pub and had some excellent Fish & Chips. Got back to the station in plenty of time. Had a few turn arounds during this little excursion but all was good. We were all set to go to our gate but they weren't posting it until 1 hour prior to departure so we weren't quite sure where we should hang out. Found a place where we could see the departure times and waited. Finally on the plane, seated and ready for a nap. They fed us twice, the food wasn't bad. I was extremely dehydrated and couldn't seem to get enough water. The advantage to that is you don't need to get out to use the bathroom as much. The second meal I felt should have been breakfast but it was pizza and although I had slept several hours and had been up and running for the past 18 hours the sun was still shining and it was only 7:00 pm in Vegas. Russ was there to pick us up and he had water! It was really nice to be back.