We set the alarm for 7 AM so we can get up and call Ed Rau for his fiftieth birthday! We take a chance on sleeping with the windows open on a cool and comfortable night and we're rewarded with relative quiet as we drift off. The revelry picks up around 1 AM with car horns, car radios and loud conversation/laughter on the sidewalk below our windows. Around 3 AM, pouring rain ends the night's outdoor activities and provides a peaceful soundtrack for returning to sleep. I wake at 6:30 and decide to call a little earlier than planned. Tricia answers and I ask her not to freak out before telling her who's calling as we're hoping to surprise her Dad. She does a great job and, as luck would have it, he's right next to her. I think I detect a note of disbelief when she tells him it's us - one too many practical jokes or surprises on this day, perhaps? - but we take five or six minutes to catch up on what's new here and to get a flavor for the day's/evening's events there. My mouth is watering thinking of all the great food we're missing, and we miss the company of our friends in the village....
We sleep again until the alarm at 8:30. Our driver arrives at 9:40 to take us to church. Alli and I muster the courage to take communion today. It feels very good to take the sacrament once again: It's been three weeks since our going away mass at Holy Trinity.
On our previous two visits - when we did not take communion for fear of being denied the sacrament - the priest who celebrated the mass left the altar and entered the sacristy after the service, and we never saw him again. Today, he follows the usual routine, but after the closing song and a brief litany of prayers - I think I recognize the rhythm, if not the words, of the "Hail Mary" - the priest reappears and practically runs down the aisle to greet us. Regrettably, he speaks no English and we can only fumble through simple greetings in Russian. Alli thumbs through our Russian phrase book while he asks if we speak German or French (no again), then calls two young girls - perhaps late teens - over to ask if they speak any English. They manage enough words and ideas to ask where we are from, why we are here and where we are staying.
We manage to communicate our names, that we are from Philadelphia (I thought Schnecksville might not ring any bells in Kostanai), that we are tourists staying for about a month in a hotel in town. I'm sorry we can't be more truthful, especially with a priest, but as we've written earlier, we have been counseled against revealing the true nature of our business here to anyone with- out Olessya's OK.
By this time, nearly all two dozen people who attended mass have gathered around with smiles and what appear to be words of welcome and encouragement for Beth and Bob to take com- munion next week. (Bob is not Catholic, but now does not appear to be the time for offering that explanation.) Father Stanislaus (if I understood him correctly) smiles broadly: He wants very badly to speak with us, and we'd like very much to accommodate him, but our language barrier is, for the moment, intractable. I thank him for giving us communion. He asks, I believe, if we are all Catholic. Alli answers that we are Roman Catholic, and I try to convey the names of our parishes back home (not knowing whether they even understand the parish concept). We promise to see him again next week, and on the way home, we decide to ask Olessya or Dana to go with us/meet us there to translate for us.
The rain is gone, the cool air remains, and we walk to the baby home @ 12:15. My turn to get Molly: She's in a swing chair (wind it up and it rocks away) and I can't figure out how to get her out of it. On my initial attempt, I lift child and chair off the floor and she's looking at me like,
"I don't know how to say 'Ouch' in Russian or English, you blockhead!" One of the care-givers offers advice then, laughing at my ineptitude/inability to follow direction, she comes over and shows me how to open the tray and lift Molly out. My little girl's looking at me like I'm an idiot, and amidst the giggling of the care-givers, we beat a hasty retreat to the marble room.
Molly's in better form today: still congested, but no sign of the runny nose from yesterday. When we arrive, Aidan's crawling on Alli. She's wearing a sundress with a pattern of which he is particulalry fond, and he's virtually waxing poetic. Later, he offers a dissertation on Bob's wedding band and a particularly enthuiastic evaluation of Alli's necklace. When not extolling the virtues of inanimate objects, he climbs on his sister. She's pretty much unfazed by his attention, but she gives him a look I've seen very shortly before and is poised, hands in air to pull his hair, but refrains for reasons about which we can only speculate. We have a very pleasant visit, and it comes to an end when Mama Natasha comes calling promptly at 2:30.
Off to the internet cafe to post Saturday's Blog entry and send photos. Back to the hotel at 4:45; Dana arrives at 5. Once again our plans for dinner at Baron Munchausen's are folied: They are not open tonight. We decide to return to the "Russian Pub," where there's an English menu - big break for Dana - and the food has always been good. During dinner, we ask Dana about mass next Sunday and she agrees to go with/meet us there. (She's Muslim, so we don't want her to do anything with which she might be uncomfortable.) We'll run our plan by Olessya some time this week to get her approval.
After dinner, we stop by the grocery store for a few necessities, drop our purchases back at the hotel and walk Dana half-way home. We're home by 7:45. Alli cuts my hair - for whatever reason, the hair clipper is super charged here, and the noise and vibration are extraordinary -
then reads and naps while I journal (yesterday and today). Bob and I are meeting for the gym at 8 AM. Lights out at 11.