Friday, April 9, 2010

Easter time in Ak Mechet

Friday morning, I am at home, getting ready to take the train to Kiev later this afternoon. I’ve realized I really don’t like travelling—I know, pretty funny coming from me—but every time I am faced with going somewhere, I just want to curl up in the security of my little house. I guess we all feel that way…and not much would get done in the world if we acted upon it.
So off on new adventures this afternoon. First time I have taken the train alone, but I don’t think that will be a problem. In Kiev I will be spending the weekend with the over 50-year-old volunteers—a short meeting and then touring around the city. Should be very enjoyable, especially as the group includes my friends Jud and Fran. Debbie was also suppose to come, but at the last minute had to stay home to nurse a bad knee. She was very disappointed, as was I to not get to see her. Monday I have the Peace Corps meeting and then will be heading back on the overnight train. It will be a good trip, I think.
Last week my friend Grace was here along with her best PCV friend and her friend visiting from America. So I had three house guests, and the first night I actually had four, because nearby PCV Sam had come into the center for dinner with everyone and didn’t make the last bus home to his village. Good thing I have so many beds!
Wednesday was the monthly “cleaning day” at the library, the last day of the month where they clean all the buildings in town, or at least the government ones, I think. The library closes early, or in the case of the Children’s Library, for the whole day, so I had the day off—hooray!! Went with the girls to Bachiseray to see the cave city of Chufat Kale and the Khan’s Palace. I think by the time I leave here, I will have visited those two places more than anywhere in America. But so far, I have yet to tire of the beauty of Chufut Kale and it is such a treat to be there in nontourist season and in spring with the trees in bloom. Discovered another part of the caves I hadn’t seen before, and even a back way in which would avoid paying the entrance fee, if one desired. Which I don’t—I think it is important for them to be charging a fee to tourists. It is probably the reason the area seems in relatively good condition with not too much trash around. I have posted a few more pictures.
This past weekend was Easter, known as Paska in Ukraine and Russia. A very big holiday here, big enough that Monday is an official national holiday and most people (including me) have the day off. I remember last year celebrating with my host family—going early Sunday morning to the church carrying a basket of food to be blessed by the priest, coming back to a large meal including cognac. Though we didn’t do it, many people also spend that day picnicking out in the woods, a favorite pastime.
Well, being as how I live in a Muslim community, I did not do anything to celebrate Easter. Did go for a nice hike with PCV friend Adrianne up into the forest and hills—where we saw many people picnicking and beautiful views of the greening fields. That evening I went over to Neshet and Lenura’s to visit, and a friend of theirs was there, an older woman. Turns out she lives down the road and is Christian and comes over once a year on Easter, bringing the traditional Paska cake and some homemade vodka, of which, of course, I had a little. Very little—just enough to toast the holiday—that homemade stuff is truly deadly. After she left, Lenura told me that many Christians live not too far away, that a group moved in after the Tatars settled Ak Mechet. I have sometimes walked by a little cemetery that Serdar told me was Christian and often wondered why it is in Ak Mechet. And in one of his frequent insightful commentaries on life, Neshet said something about how it is important that different people come together, that the barriers of religion do not keep us separate. How right he is.
On my day off Monday I went into Franco Library and visited with Natalya a bit, and then took a long walk through the city along the river to the botanical garden park. Walked back to the center, took the bus to the bazaar near Ak Mechet and then walked on home. A lovely quiet day of walking through my beautiful home.
Off to Kiev. Will report more next week. Love to all.
ps. Having trouble with my internet connection so no pictures this time.

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