the bottomless hole...

going down...
Originally uploaded by The Enforcer.
Stepping onto the escalator, I stared ahead searching for our final destination. The stairs kept going down, like it was a bottomless hole. From that moment, I knew this trip would be unlike any I had or ever would go on.

Welcome to Russia: fur hats and blistering cold weather greet you. There are the babushkas and elaborate buildings, ladies selling cats in the market to Turkish kabobas. Russians take great pride in doing things well and use a great deal of money to make everything look nice—especially their metro stations. Who’s heard of statues and chandeliers in a metro stations? Only in Russia!

Highlights from today:
  • Red Square shots
  • Photo shoot with Russian Army Men
  • Touring the Kremlin
  • Spraying medicine in Peggy’s mouth in a Public Restroom, while all the Russian women stared at us in confusion
  • seeing the elaborate metro stations
  • "€œAnd this was supposed to motivate Russians to kill their grandmas?" One of our leaders'€™ comment, while looking @ a statue of a soviet girl standing proudly with a gun
  • Superstitious Russians: they are superstitious about everything. While in the metro station, I noticed the nose of a statue of a dog was shiny gold, because as people passed by they would rub his nose. And I found coins in the hand of several statues.
  • Josh getting busted by one of the babushkas for taking pictures in the Metro (definitely not allowed)
  • €œThe De La Guerda Show”: an experimental, interactive, and very crazy show performed by a group from Brazil
  • Renalda and I screaming as the acrobats were flying around us
  • One of the actors hugging and kissing Renalda
  • Justas (a Lithuanian) showing me how American boys dance—his point was that they can'€™t!
  • Walking to the Metro station with 10 other people covered in confetti and water after the "€œDe La Guerda Show"


The Hill of Crosses

Marmie's cross
Originally uploaded by The Enforcer.
7.00 am~ we left for Russia. Our first stop was outside of Siauliai (still in Lithuania) @ the Hill of Crosses. This is by far my favorite place in Lithuania, perhaps in the whole world.
"It is a symbol of suffereing, hope and unaltered faith of the Lithuanian people."
Here is the story: Lithuanian rebels were secretly buried @ this site where a castle used to stand around 1863. The people regarded the hill as a sacred place. By 1900, over 100 crosses were standing. During Soviet occupation, Soviet authorities wanted to destroy the hill. 1961: it was first devastated. The Soviet tried to destroy the hll for almost two decades, but after atch time it was reborn again. On September 7, 1993 Pope John Paul II visited the hill of crosses and blessed Lithuania and all Europe from the place.
"We come here in the moment of suffereing and joy. We come full of hope, love and faith."
~commentary on hill of crosses~

I have loved this place since I visited it two years ago (when I was on a missions trip in Latvia), but there is something different about standing at the bottom of the hill, gazing on the overpowering number of crosses in the dead of winter; the snow has covered the entire place in a peaceful, enchanting atmsophere. Today, I bought a cross to hang up for my mom. The anniversary of her passing onto Heaven is Mar. 11 so in honor of her, I hung a cross of hope and remembrance.


A stranger for a friend

Saulis and I...
Originally uploaded by The Enforcer.
Today felt like the longest day of my life. This morning I flew out from Berlin, saying farewell to Steph. I won't see her again for at least 3 months. I decided to take a bus out of Riga to Sauliai, because the direct bus to Klaipeda wasn't leaving for another 5 hours. The layover in Sualiai was supposed to be 2 hours, but my bus never came. An older Lithuanian man who was waiting for the same bus kept asking me where it was, in Lithuanian of course, and I kept answering simply, 'I do not know.' Eventually he got frustrated and took me to the info. booth, to find out that the bus wasn't coming. Both of us were quite upset (me completely confused as to how I would get home). Well, this man kept rambling off things to me, none of which I could understand. I tried to explain to him that I didn't know Lithuanian, but apparently he didn't really seem to care as he kept talking to me a mile a minute. Through much confusion, he eventually led me to the train station and talked to a lady, setting us both up with tickets: him to Plunge, and me for Klaipeda. But it was another 2 hour wait until the train would come. So we hung out in the train station. Train stations in Eastern Europe are never heated, so this place was warmer than the -10 deg. celcius weather outside, but definitly not warm. I went the entire day being cold, but with the weather here, the feeling of coldness is something you get used to.

The man, Saulis, continued talking to me, until I faked sleep and then actually did fall asleep. After what seemed too long, the train finally came and we gratefully loaded. Once seated, Saulis continued talking for the next 2 hours, until he had to leave. We parted with many thank yous and farewells. An hour later I arrived in Klaipeda, grabbed the closest taxi, hiked the 5 flights of stairs and collapsed on my dorm bed. Never had I been so happy to be in a warm bed. It wasn't until I laid down to sleep I realized how crazy of an experience i had had that day, but how God had provided me with a stranger to be my friend. Perhaps Saulis wasn't an angel, but today he was mine.

Way home from Berlin

Thoughts while sitting in a cafe in Sauliai:
One thing I relaized that since coming to Europe, I have become so independent. I am not scared to make mistakes, because I have to make them everyday and I am actually starting to see that I do learn everytime I mess up. Along with that I am now okay with being uncomfortable and sometimes even awkward in many situations.
I think that is one thing though about living in a different country, where both the culture and especially the language is different: you can never fully get over the feeling of always being a little out of place. Ig uess that is what is so cool about LCC; there I can feel comfortable, mostly because there is not a language barrier. Also having the Christian environment makes a huge difference.
I didn't realize until after this weekend being around friends from the U.S. how much I have learned and how much I have changed--in attitude, in outlook, and in my perception of the world. Although sometimes I don't even like living in the East--it is harder than North America and even Western Europe--I have developed a great appreciation and a small understanding of this place. Eastern Europe has been through so much. The people here truly are survivors. I want to be very careful though not to judge the people or this culture after such a short time and to make false inferences or conclusions. 2 1/2 months is a short time, and what lays ahead in the next 2 1/2 may be even more of a surprise.