Friday, August 28, 2009

A Russian Wedding

Two weeks ago, our Marianna married Evan, a young man originally from Barnayl, Siberia. The wedding was here in Rostov at the Wedding Palace, the most elegant marriage registry in the city. Say, care to come along? A Russian wedding is very special.

Here they are, in front of the Wedding Palace waiting to be invited inside. It's quite an elegant system albeit an assembly line of sorts. Marianna and Evan's wedding was scheduled for 1:20 p.m. There were weddings before and after ours throughout the day. (Click photo to enlarge.)

As per Russian tradition, the bride and groom have one attendant each and they wear red sashes. Space inside is limited so only close family and friends attend the wedding. Our group was 25 or so but afterwards more people assembled at our church building for a religious ceremony and table of sweets.

In front of the Wedding Palace, other wedding parties were waiting their turns. This bride was kind enough to hold her pose and allow me a photograph. Brides are pretty good that way. They're okay with being photographed.

What a clever idea! This photographer put the big columns to good use for posing another bride.

Eventually we were called inside and waited at the base of the golden stairway. First we listened to the attendant give her speech of welcome. And then beautiful music began to play. . .

. . .and up at the top of the stairway, a boy and girl began the wedding waltz. At this stage, mothers of the couple usually pull out tissues and start dabbing at their eyes. When the waltz is over, the entire entourage goes charging up ascends the golden stairs. . .

We reassembled in the registration room for the civil ceremony. Here a government official talks about the significance of a new family. The ceremony is conducted beneath the double-headed eagle, symbol of Russia, flanked by the flag of Russia on the right and flag of Rostov Region on the left. We were in this room 15 minutes max, but there's no sitting down.

Here Marianna is signing the marriage license. The videographer was busy capturing everything.

Next is the exchange of rings. This happens off to the left on a special carpet which symbolizes family unity. Usually couples choose simple gold bands which are worn on the right hand. After the ring ceremony our group headed to the adjoining room for the next step. But I lingered a bit to ask the musicians for how many weddings they would be playing. Can you imagine: 30 weddings that day.

The welcoming room is our next stop. Here another attendant gives her little speech for 3-5 minutes and then family and friends run over to congratulate the newlyweds. After that the mothers have their special piece of the action. They use a specially-embroidered cloth to tie together the hands of the couple. These mothers made us laugh when they tied more knots than usual and pulled extra hard. They want this marriage to last!

Extended family and friends lined up, waiting to hug Marianna and Evan.

The final step is heading down the family staircase and exiting the building. Igor had this great idea of getting Marianna and Evan to look up for the photo.

So following right along is the rest of the group. In the white shirt and tie is Marianna's brother, Artash. Happens that he's our beloved preacher. Artash did the bulk of the organizing and planning for the wedding and receptions that followed.

By the time Misha, Lyka and I were done photographing ourselves in the mirror, we missed something I had really wanted to capture. By the we got outside, the pair of white doves were flying off into the trees. I missed the release of the doves. (A lesson learned. . .)

So here they are, married. A Russian wedding is simple and elegant. For one thing, I'd say that there are significantly fewer decisions to be made than in a typical wedding in the US. Anyway, after the ceremony, we walked the short distance to our church building for a religious service.

There's much more to share about a Russian wedding: How the groom and his entourage come to the bride's home to meet the bride, barter for her - done in jest nowadays - present her with her bouquet - which is a gift from the groom - and then head toward the Wedding Palace. But thank you for joining us for Evan and Marianna's wedding. They will live in Moscow where Evan is studying at the Conservatory of Music.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

What if Starbucks Were Run Like a Church?

Oh, almost funny. But it does hit home! Please come along on a visit to a unique Starbucks for an experience not unlike visiting church for the first time.

Thanks to Deb Simmons for sharing the link.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

A Pirana Tooth Necklace: Need One?

Dear Blog Reader, since it's just the two of us here, allow me to put you on the spot. Have you ever brought contraband or iffy stuff home from a trip overseas? Okay, maybe not you, but perhaps a friend (wink-wink)?

Recently I was hurrying through Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson Airport and in the international terminal were the Buyer Beware exhibits of travel treasures confiscated from passengers. And I thought of you, dear blog reader. And you and You over there. And I knew you would want to see all this. So I bit the bullet, ditched my beloved extra-large iced tea and fished out the camera. Because this contraband is so interesting. And because you have the right to know.

Does any of this look like stuff you might like to bring home? Does it look like stuff that you would try to bring home? (Double-click on photo to enlarge.)

Let's zoom on in and check out those boots. Hey, they're made from sea turtle, the label says. And I'm wondering about those eggs there. . . any ideas what those might be?

Oh lots of pretties! There are those shells and all that coral-y stuff. Might you have a place to display any of that?

Hey, how about some athletic shoes made from stingray leather. Well la-de-dah. Apparently there's a market for such. . .

A little further down the hallway more confiscated stuff awaits us. . .

Here's the wide view. . .Let's zoom on in for a close look at the poster on the right.

Okay, when in doubt, don't buy. The small print lists these reasons: Many souvenirs are made from endangered or threatened species. Many countries do not allow the export of wildlife or wildlife products without a permit. Many items may require a US permit. And right there, dangling by the sign is a necklace made from pirana teeth, which indicates they're quite serious about all this.

Moving right along, how about a snake-head fish? Might add a special touch to your bookshelf. Nyet?

And then there's the exotic butterfly collection. Butterflies are free, someone said. But probably not these ones. Oh, wouldn't you just hate to have to turn those over to the customs guys?

How about a blow gun with fancy feathers? Or the classic, pirana-tooth necklace? Perfect for a gala evening.

So here's a crocodile up closer, spiders, various insects. There are people who are into flora and fauna.

You know, this brings back memories of treasures I brought back from Australia in 1978 and didn't think twice about it. A fetal shark in formaldehyde, shark jaws, a kangaroo leather belt and pillow made from hide. Is there a shortage of kangaroos or sharks? Not likely. . .

How about you dear blog reader, have you any interesting experiences at the border? I've got stories for you, myself, but all that can wait. First I want to hear your stories!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Unexpected Divorce Entrance: A Parody

You might be one of the nearly 20 million who've seen the JK Wedding Dance Entrance on YouTube. Well that was just the beginning. Since then, the Unexpected Divorce Entrance has been released, a parody of the wedding version. Have a look:

Pretty clever, eh? I think it's even more creative than the wedding dance entrance and would be funnier if divorce were even mildly amusing. It got me to thinking about where this could lead. Might we anticipate an unexpected entrance to, say, a graduation ceremony? Or, heaven forbid, to a funeral? What can you imagine? (Thanks to Bobby Ross, Jr. for sharing the link.)

Thursday, August 13, 2009

President Reagan's Cold War Gaffe

Twenty-five years ago this week, during a sound check for his microphone, President Ronald Reagan came up with an absolutely idiotic off-the-cuff joke that put the Kremlin on full alert. I'm still not believing that a leader of his stature would have said this into an open mic. . .

Apparently no hard feelings though. Looking at the time line on this, I see those remarks were in 1984, three years before Reagan's famous challenge in front of Berlin's Brandenberg Gate to Russian leader Michael Gorbochev to tear down this wall! And that had a happy ending.

Speaking of President Reagan and Russia, apparently he enjoyed collecting jokes told in Russia. Here's a collection of some favorites. This gives me an idea. Think I'll check around over here for any jokes here about U.S. Presidents.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Let's Go Shopping!

Say, care to join me for a morning shopping trip to Central Market? You know, I'm not into recreational shopping. To me, shopping is w-o-r-k. But add a colorful, cultural photo opportunity to the mix and I'm there. So off we go! This includes sound as well as sights because guess what - in recent days I've learned a thing or two about using the movie mode on my still-photo camera. Oh this is exciting. So come along. I think you'll enjoy standing with me on some steps overlooking part of the market.

How did you like that? What a contrast, eh? The magnificent cathedral and than the ordinary little shopping kiosks nearby.

Say, let's sashay on over to the vegetable department. The fresh produce - the bright peppers are so beautiful in August. This video is more a learning exercise than anything. Thought I should tell you that first. Just because.

Note to self: no need to be shrieking out orders to folks - Smile! Smile! - and various comments from behind the camera. See, this movie mode picks up sounds, and so learn to cut the chatter when shooting video. Anyway, the idea here is to get a taste of the interior of the market. And maybe another time I'll add subtitles to translate what's being said, but that's something for another lesson, another video. . .

Thank you for joining me dear friends! Trust you enjoyed our shopping trip as much as I did!

Monday, August 03, 2009

You Would Slow for *Brad Pitt* -- Wooden You?

On a recent excursion, friends and I crested a hill just west of Rostov and happened upon this police car. (Click on photos to enlarge.)

What would you do - Hit the brakes? Seen from a distance does this make your heart quicken?

Let's take a closer look. Could be a genuine police car. Wooden you think so?

Reminded me of rumors that a Brad Pitt-of-sorts works in Siberia as a police officer.

There in the city of Omsk, Mr Pitt goes by the name of Ivan.

So then, here's Brad Ivan Pitt working the traffic in Omsk, Siberia. An Oscar-worthy performance.

Back to southwest Russia and our beloved Rostov-on-Don. . .

. . . and the decoy along the highway.

Here's the scenery as we approach the police car. Fields of sunflowers. By the way, did you happen to know that the Rostov region is a prime grower of sunflowers?

A little further west are fields of wheat being harvested. Beautiful. Again, let us not get distracted and be tempted to drive too fast.

Because suddenly just ahead up pops a two-dimensional police car.

Say, dear blog reader, have you had any experience with a decoy? Police car, Hollywood actor or other?

Saturday, August 01, 2009

A Musical Treat: Two Russian Hymns

Eighty-two of us came together July 19th for the annual Christian Singing School held in Donetsk, Ukraine. The aim of the week-long school is to enhance congregational singing in Russian-speaking congregations. On our fourth day together, we held a public concert. The following videos are of Kostya's Ensemble, an elite group of singers, hand-picked by Konstantin "Kostya" Zhigulin, musical director of the school.

I Believe in Belief, written and composed by Kostya Zhiglin. The words of a Searcher, looking to find God, looking to find meaning in life. (Translation in progress at the YouTube site.)

Create in Me a Clean Heart: A favorite song with a new twist. Translated and arranged by Kostya Zhigulin. This version has a Slavic touch: Here transposed into a minor key with the voices coming in separately. We've sung this song better on other occasions, but still we trust that our efforts are pleasing to our Heavenly Father.