Russia · 13 Days · 56 Moments · May 2016

Rebecca Andrsn

Rebecca's Adventures in Russia

11 June 2016

It's been an $$ day. My bag was 11 lbs overweight; there went $140 :( I did have a lot of stuff. I think I wore all the clothes, except one shirt. Apparently, I need to learn to wear the same clothes multiple times or hand wash. The flight from St P to Moscow was easy. I slept from takeoff until prepping for landing. Moscow airport, on the other hand was more difficult. It was crowded, and there was a crazy dude in a bar screaming "Silencio, silencio!" I couldn't see what was happening, but the crowd developing had camera phones recording. I stealthily walked in the other direction awhile. It must not have been anything too crazy because it was all settled before I came back. It's been interesting people watching. In places, such as the palaces of Catherine the Great, people were so pushy. There were times I thought I was going to get knocked over! Then, there were those I we met in the churches and restaurants who were super welcoming. Russians are wonderful, tourists are not.

10 June 2016

Spent my last evening in Russia with these two fine ladies, Aunt Kathy and Aunt Chris, and my roomie Lynne (not pictured). I'm sure we'll be in touch sooner than later. I spent the last of my rubles :) My bags are packed and ready to go. Two days of travel are ahead. I hope it turns out to be as easy going back as it was coming this way. I've certainly been sleep deprived...I'll have plenty of time to catch up!
Hermitage Museum. It's a art lover's dream! We did not see even half, but still saw plenty! St John of Kronstadt Convent. We were blessed to visit and venerate St John's relics and visit his convent. The lower church was very small, but beautiful. The attached photo is of the upper church. The church was ruined by the Bolsheviks and turned into a bomb shelter; the windows were cemented shut. Even before St John was canonized, many would pray outside the bldg. Some were arrested for public nuisance. It took a great deal of work to restore. Liturgy is held everyday in the upper church. The Icon of the Protection of The Mother of God was found in a church and was completely dark. It was placed behind the altar, and after sometime, the icon renewed by itself! By the inscription, we know it was painted for a convent in Poland that was also overseen my St John. When the area near the convent was under siege, many nuns fled here to St Petersburg. That was our last excursion :(
St Isaac's Cathedral. Consecrated June 9th, 1858. Weighs 300k tons and can hold 11k people. The domes were guilded in mid 1800s and have not been done since. The architect was Montferrand, who had never been an architect. He was an interior designer, and made many mistakes, which have since been corrected. He wanted to be buried here, but was Catholic and was his request was denied, and was buried in Paris. It is said someone told him he would die after the completion. Montferrand died 3 wks later! It took forty years to finish and some wonder if he was stalling? The cathedral is St Isaac's after St Isaac of Damascus who was the patron saint of Peter the Great. The stained glass behind the altar is not Orthodox, Montferrand had to ask permission from the holy synod and Romanov emporer, which was granted. The church was closed during the Soviet regime, but used as a museum, as it is still today.
Our Lady of Kazan Cathedral. First stop of the day. The Our Lady Of Kazan is one of the most venerated icons in Russia. It dates back to 1579, and is said to have aided in fighting off the polish invaders. When Peter the Great founded St Petersburg, he demanded it be brought here. The cathedral is built with Siberian granite and has a dark grayish sort of color.
I woke up early this morning to handle some personal things, and then went to breakfast. Good food, good view, and good people :)

9 June 2016

The view from the hotel. Good night (It's after ten pm, by the way)!
Our last stop of the evening was out farewell dinner :( It was a bit sad, but more so a good time by all. We are all very thankful for all Fr Ilya has done for us before and during this trip. His knowledge is priceless. Orthodox Tours is well worth the money, and Fr Ilya made this a trip of a lifetime for each of us! We still have one more day of touring - Kazan Cathedral, St Isaacs Cathedral, Hermitage, and the monastery where St John of Kronstadt is buried- and then I'll be flying back across the "pond!"
Catherine the Great's Summer Palace. This place made me miss touring the churches! It was ornate, baroque, and in my opinion gaudy. I'm pretty sure all the homeless could be fed for a few years with the money spent restoring this palace. The Amber room alone was $11M; there were many more rooms! I'm glad I had the opportunity to see it, but it was too much. It's one thing to restore a church for the glory of God and to restore a palace for the glory of...??? The guide explained it was a deep part of Russian history and the restoration was wanted by the majority. Could be true.
We went to visit the tomb of St Xenia. She's one of my favorites, and one of the excursions that sold me on this trip. The chapel built above where she's buried is beautiful. It's not big, but super nice with mosaics. The rector anointed us after Father Ilya performed the akathist to her. He prayed for all those whose names we submitted. Following, he had a memorial service for the departed. From there we went to the Smolensk Church, which St Xenia helped to build. She has an amazing story that will not fit on this blog. In short, her husband died suddenly without going to confession or otherwise prepared for death. She wore his coat and called herself by his name, as if she had died and he had lived. She was a fool for Christ, and many were embarrassed by her. Docs evaluated her for mental illness, but could find nothing wrong. In the evening, she would carry the bricks and stone up to the Smolensk Church, as an obedience. Miracles have occurred after praying at her tomb!
Feodorovskaya Icon Cathedral. Blessed to have attended liturgy this morning. What an amazingly beautiful church. There was a simple elegance, and was surely one of my favorites. The liturgy was beautiful and easy to follow. Fr Alexander formally welcome us and Fr Ilya had us come up to the front. Everyone was so welcoming. I bought a small book and the woman in front of me gave me another piece of antidoron (bread). We were then given a tour of both the lower and the upper churches. During the soviet regime, the church was desecrated and turned into a milk factory. Much has been restored and the lower church was created. What a wonderful way to start the day!

8 June 2016

Peterhof Palace. I'm not a fan of baroque, but the fee neoclassical rooms were nice. The best part, however, was the grounds. Beautiful greens. Fountains upon fountains! This is our last stop, save dinner. I'm hoping to turn in early tonight. Tomorrow is the day for St Xenia; I'm excited :)
We left the shop this morning for Kronstadt Naval Cathedral! Beautiful, beautiful church with a naval theme. It's on a small island built where anchors used to be made. St. John of Kronstadt initially encouraged the builders to build the church slowly, but then said faster, just as they would build a ship. He said the church was just as important as any military or armament for protecting the island. The church was consecrated in 1913. He donated 700 rubles, which was an enormous sum of money. There were herons in the decor of the church. The heron is the only bird in the world that flies during a storm. The photos don't do it justice, but should give a taste of the beauty. With the white nights, it's been tough to go to bed at a decent hour. Thankfully, it was a long drive from St P; all of us were sleeping on the bus. We toured St John's home. Walking where a saint has walked and prayed! Father sang a short troparion and anointed each of us. Each day is a blessing (always)!

7 June 2016

River cruise! We left St P for Valaam on a big boat. We boarded later last night and had a nice dinner and a few drinks. When we awoke, we were greeted with amazing scenery. It was brisk, but bearable. Orthodoxy came to America via St Herman, who had been a monk here! We toured many sketes and enjoyed lunch. All were amazing. I will share the pics later when they're downloaded. I have to say walking where many saints have is humbling. A special moment was when we went to the cave of St Alexander Svir. We each went in alone to pray. The moment I stepped in Father led the rest of the group in the "Christ is Risen" troparion. I had chills walking in, venerating the icons, and praying. Having such a history and sound examples are something seriously lacking in the faith I grew up with, and I'm eternally grateful I found such a rich and full faith. As I exited the cave, I was anointed once again. The main cathedral, St Nicholas' Skete and the skete Putin frequents were also picturesque!

6 June 2016

Sts Peter and Paul Cathedral. An Orthodox Church built in a Catholic style - there were not many icons. Strange. Also strange is that I feel as if I've visited 100 churches and they are each different! There was a ton of history here. I encourage googling :). I can't possibly fit it here. The next church was the Church of Spilt Blood. That was nothing short is amazing! I was disappointed it was never used as a church. It's name is bc Alexander II was lethally wounded there. It was breathtaking...better than St Basil's.
Apparently, I need to blog everyday. I've forgotten what I ate for lunch, never mind what I did yesterday! The evening of the fifth we boarded a train for St Petersburg. It was wonderful. I relaxed, I read, and I slept! That was the most sleep if gotten in over a week! I was saddened by the lack of wifi, but that's probably why I actually read instead of blogging, texting, or face timing :). Oh! How could I forget? No showers! I did in fact survive, though...

5 June 2016

What a blessing. Today we attended liturgy in Diveevo at Holy Trinity. Fr Ilya is a rock star and arranged VIP treatment. It began last night when we were anointed after vespers, skipping ahead of hundred of people. Today, St Seraphim's relics were opened and we were led to the front to venerate them! After that, we were ushered to the front of the cathedral and stood right in front of the solea. We were able to remain there for the service. Afterwards, we saw the procession coming back to the church, and we received yet another blessing. They don't mess around, most of us were drenched...see the pic! I took a video, and it will be posted on FB :) We're now headed back to Nizhniy Novgorod and then off to St Petersburg. Time is flying by :( I know some are happy about that, but I'm loving the sites, the photo ops, and seeing and venerating so many relics, icons, and other sites with spiritual significance. Kim: Only one more week of Molly waking you up at 5 AM!

4 June 2016

What can I say about Diveevo? A-mazing. Mother Alexandra founded the monastery in 1760 after she embarked on a pilgrimage. She found herself tired in Diveevo and fell asleep there. She had an apparition of the Theotokos who told her to build a monastery there. St Seraphim was the priest of the convent and has an amazing story; certainly more than what I can type in here. He also had a vision of the Theotokos. She told him and showed him how the monastery was to be built. She walked a path around the monastery. St Seraphim had the sisters dig a trench where she walked to protect it. We walked this same path along the trench. I did stop to take pictures, but spent more time in prayer. It's so strange and yet peaceful and comforting to think I was next to where the mother of God walked. St Seraphim also prophesied and has since been proven true, including the impending doom of Russia and Tsar Nicholas II. There is so much more to tell, but this blog is not enough!
We drove a bit away from Cathedral Square to Our Lady of Smolensk. Yet another miracle working icon was seen and venerated! The interesting thing about this church was that it was a peasant church and that it never closed. Despite being a peasant church, it was huge and ornate. The peasants have whatever they had to ensure the church was maintained. We were able to your both the winter and the summer churches. Both are within the same building, but very large boilers are seen in the winter church, and very large, floor to ceiling, Windows and doors are in the summer church. We also saw a life sized statue or sorts that was to represent Christ's Himility. Sadly, it's on the other camera. Sorry for the tease. I must remember to take pictures with both. We've toured four churches before lunch. It's a good day!
Christ the Savior Church Part II. Another miracle! A sister saw man coming to church and praying in front of this icon, daily. Sister asked what was wrong, and he explained his father was near death and an unbeliever. He was encouraged to continue to pray. The father passed away, and was taken to the morgue. While the means are unknown to us, the father woke up in the morgue some hours later! He woke up a changed man, calling for his son and a priest, which was unheard of for him. The father was only saying one word at a time, but made it known he needed to be baptized and anointed. The son asked him what he had seen, and he said a woman who told him he needed to be baptized and anointed. Both rites were done and he again passed away12 hours later!
Christ the Savior Church Part I. A Theotokos icon was found in a garage. It was all black, and surely in need of restoration. The person who found it did not want to throw it away and gave it to nuns. It was placed in a storage room, initially, but the sisters suspected it was an icon of the Theotokos and decided to pray in front of it. The icon now looks as if it has been restored! I was not able to take pictures, but I did pray in front of it and Fr Ilya anointed each of us. Someone prep had bought a print of the icon, stowed it with things, but didn't know what to do with it. She later took it to her priest and had it blessed. When she brought it home, she noticed it was completely restored! She contacted the monastery to share her story! Many miracles have come about for those praying in front of this icon. It's so amazing to me. Growing up, I was taught about miracles, but they were all those in the Bible. Miracles are not a thing of the past, they happen every day!
Monastery of St Nicholas. The church was very colorful. It is a typical example of the tragic history of monastics being thrown out and buildings repurposed, which caused great strife between the new residents and the nuns. Another issue once the property was given back to the Church was that it had been used for decades as a storage place for pesticides. Much work was done to restore, and most things are new. It is truly beautiful, and while very close to the Church of the Resurrection, a very different style. Also inside is an icon of St Nicholas called the St Nicholas Icon of Forgiveness. This icon had been stored in Church of the Resurrection, which remember mostly stayed open under the Soviets, and was spared destruction. It was later moved back to the Monastery of St Nicholas. It has provided relief from strife, disagreements or otherwise dis-peace between people for those who have prayed in front of it and asked St Nicholas for his prayers.
Church of the Resurrection. Built to celebrate victory over Napoleon forces. It was consecrated in 1841. The frescoes on the inside of the church were done in a monochrome style. This church was barely closed during soviet regime. It is a sign of church survival. In the post soviet era, there have been many churches in need of repair. This one needs work, but is not a priority. It actually looks amazing, but there are spots where the frescoes need restoration. Most of the money comes from benefactors and candle sales and services, such as weddings and baptisms. The pink and gray style was typical of the beginning of the19th century. Many churches are built in two parts - a winter and a summer church. It takes a lot to heat a church of this size during the winter months. I took many more pictures with the other camera. They will be available after I return home.
Just a couple of iPhone pictures in Cathedral Square (yes, another cathedral square!). We went into three very different churches. The first was the Church if the Resurrection, which had monochrome frescoes. It was beautiful. If never seen icons painted as such. The second was St Nicholas, and lastly The Baptism of Christ or Christ the Savior - there was a bit of a language barrier ;) More to follow in in finding posts for each. A bit of humor...our guide, Natalia, speaks a bit of English, and has been greatly helpful. Last night, we were all ready to leave, but Fr Ilya was not in sight. Natalia says, "Where is *pause* our father?" We all thought, and one person said, "...who art in Heaven, hallowed be thy name..." It gave us a good chuckle. She says it often, and we all smile.

3 June 2016

Ascension of the Lord Monastery. Nizniy’ very own Cave monastery. The monastery was started after the fashion of the Kiev Caves by the local monks back in the 14th century. Museum. Lower level is dedicated to the history of the monastery, and the upper is dedicated to diocese of Novgorod region. One of oldest in this area, it was built in1330, but could be older. St Dionysius is the founder, he started his monastic journey at Kiev caves monastery. The monastery was famous partly bc of the charismatic nature of her founder. The Original monastery was closer to the river, but was destroyed by a terrible mudslide. They decided to recreate it right after it was destroyed, but built it here instead of original place bc of fear of another mudslide. They did not look upon it as a tragedy - no one died during mudslides, but as the start of chain of miracles.
Kremlin. We visited our second Kremlin today. There was a tribute to those who served in WWII, and some of the artillery made here in Nizhniy Novgorod.
Archangel Michael. Just a few iPhone pics, but I was thinking of the icon guild :) this church was built in 1221. During the communist regime, it was made a museum, so it was not destroyed. The church was reopened in 2000.
Nizhniy Novgorod. The city is rich in historical and religious monuments. For centuries prior to the Bolshevik coup d’etat these cities were a home to the largest Russian Fair and earned the nickname “pocket (wallet) of Russia”. First stop was the Cathedral of St. Alexander Nevsky. Sadly, I traveled here from Moscow on very little sleep. I slept awhile in the train, but that precluded me from coffee. Apparently it has become an addiction because I missed most of the talks from the tour guides. I do remember that the cathedral was desecrated and rebuilt as the original. There were pictures of the original to compare. Also, the bell in front is the third largest in the world, weighing 64 tons! After the cathedral, we went to a quaint little restaurant and had borscht and chicken. Dessert was fabulous linden berry ice cream, cake, and coffee! I tactfully acquired a second cup and while my eyes are still heavy, I feel like a normal person, again.

2 June 2016

The Cathedral of Christ the Savior is the largest functioning Orthodox Church in the world. This magnificent building was demolished in the 1930s and has been rebuilt in recent years, becoming a symbol of changes in the country and the resurrection of the religious life in all of Russia. There were no pictures allowed inside. I have to say it was large and ornate! It has an upper and lower level churches. One thing that's been a bit comical is that because we are still in the Paschal season, most of the churches have large red "Христосъ воскресе" (Christ is Risen) signs. They use red bulbs, so it does not seem to fit in with the otherwise ancient decor, but maybe that is the point! Afterwards, we went to a church super store of sorts. Sadly, nothing I liked was in my price range. I loved a lambada, but 23,730 rubles ($300+) was too expensive for my budget. There were many inexpensive icons, but none that grabbed me. Most were cardboard or framed. It's an early eve for an early AM!
Part II Butovo. The church and grounds serve as a memorial for all those 'purged' in Russia, but also all those around the world who were persecuted unjustly. This time in Russia is not spoken of or recognized by those in power. Putin, after all, was in the KGB. Whether or not he was involved is no matter, for him to speak so negatively of his organization is unlikely. The grounds are a work in progress and when completed will have a black wall with the names of the 21,000 people purged within 18 months (750k across Russia, 120k priests/monks). Many were clergy and monks and seven were bishops. Of these 332 have been researched and canonized. The church is amazing. The iconography is dark and shows the passion of Christ, even icons of Judas. 2 red lines lead to the Royal Doors equalling same size as the mass graves. There is a cross on the Royal Doors. There are icons of all the new martyrs. They tried to eradicate religiousity and live without God. It didn't work. Lord have mercy.
Part I Butovo. Place of Sorrow. Wow. Whenever you think the US has a sordid past, learn of other countries. Butovo was originally a place owned and used by the KGB for farming. They ate off of the land. In 1937 decrees were issued by Stalin with quotas as to how many in each area would be executed or taken to labor camps. Butovo was one place of these mass executions. Many, though not all, were exterminated for their faith. Interestingly, things, such as iconography, were not forbidden, but if you wrote (painted) icons you would be suspected for what you also must do. The icons could not be sold to enemies of the state and there were already plenty of old icons in Russia. So, if you're writing icons, who are you writing them for and why. Also, with the quotas, it often targeted whole social classes. If the agents could not reach their goal, then they themselves were purged. One boy was just 13 years old, arrested for stealing food.
Part II Church of the Mother of God. The lower church had the traditional iconostasis and altar, but also had replicas of the major sites in the Holy Land. Golgotha, Bethlehem, etc. it was very well done, though I have yet to make it to the Holy Land to truly have a comparison. Father has already mentioned that as my next trip :) The church was amazingly beautiful. It is not overly ornate with the lower register being plain marble, but as soon as I looked up I was amazed. It was as if I was looking up to Heaven. The other amazing thing is the government has not contributed a dime to build the church, as is usually done in Russia. It was erected with donations, and much of the mosaics were done by unpaid and untrained volunteers. Simply amazing.
Part I Church of the Mother of God. Consecrated last year. Broke ground in Oct 2008, 2009 patriarch consecrated site as Church of the Protection of the Mother of God. Could be considered miracle with trenches dug, area wasn't very nice with garages on side, but Moscow decided to change area and create a green zone around area of church. 1425 sq meters, 1000 people can be a accommodated at a service. The church has 5 domes. Main symbolizes Jesus and the other four represent the evangelists. About 1300 churches are dedicated to the Protection of the Mother of God. This church is at a higher elevation; it is one of the highest points of Moscow. The church has 2500 sq meters of mosaics; the fifth largest in the world. The Pantocrator is massive and appears to be watching you from wherever you are in the church. The upper church is done in an ancient Russian style, which was based on the Byzantine style. The lower register is made of marble, the uppers are mosaics and frescoes.

1 June 2016

Semhoz. We visited a church built where Fr. Alexander Men, a famous Russian Missionary and religious writer, was assassinated. The church and grounds were beautiful. In short, Fr Alexander was a devout Christian who managed to write several volumes of works, despite this being a criminal offense. He published them in multiple languages and distributed 8,000 copies under a pseudonym. Many did not like him and were suspicious of what he was doing. One night, it is thought, he was outside and was stopped by someone he knew. His reading glasses were found beside him, so someone may have asked him to read something. He was hit in the back of the head by a blunt object. This did not kill him, but he was left unconscious. When he came to, he crawled home to his wife and she called for help, but it was too late. KGB??? I cannot do the story justice. I am anxious to read his works recently translated into English.
Holy Trinity Lavra Monastery. The monastic settlement was established by St. Sergius in the 14th century and became the single most important spiritual center of all of Russia. St Sergius was known for the gift of miracles and the monastery grew rapidly. He was very strict and expected this of his brothers. He was later chased out and while exiled from his monastery, he founded three others. The brothers came to their senses and begged him to come back, and each time he did. He became popular among the grand dukes and they sought his counsel. St Andrei Rublev was one of the brothers and wrote the icon of the monastery. The monastery was closed in the 1920s and reopened in 1946. Many of St Sergius' students, about150, later became saints and opened monasteries, as well. The monastery grounds were gorgeous. There were many relics, including St Innocent and St Marcarios. We were blessed to visit St Sergius' cell where he was blessed with a vision of the Theotokos (God bearer or Mary).
No pictures were allowed, but also in the Tretyakov Art Museum was a church where we saw the miracle-working “patron” Icon of Russia, Our Lady of Vladimir. I was blessed to ask for her prayers and Father anointed each of us.
So, this app is awesome in that I can type while on the bus and upload when I find wifi. The bad thing, though, is the word count. Please excuse the abbreviations and/or choppy sentences!
Sts Mary and Martha Monastery was founded my Grand Duchess Elizabeth. St Mary is known for piety and St Martha for charity. It began as a rehab facility for single moms and an orphanage. Grand dutchess Elizabeth remained Lutheran when she married, but became Orthodox later by choice. After her husband was assassinated, Elizabeth dedicated herself to the social service. Despite the monastery being desecrated, frescoes remained intact. She mourned her husband wearing only black, later became a nun, and her House of Mercy became a convent; she was the abbess. She served in various hospitals for the wounded. She was placed under house arrest and exiled to Ural Mtns and executed by regime-thrown into abandoned mine shaft. Soldiers threw grenades in, but voices were heard days after. St E didn't die for several days. She used her monastic garb as a tourniquet for others with her. Relics were buried in St Mary Magdalene convent in Jerusalem, as she wished. This covent reconsecrated in 1990s.
Tretyakov Art Museum. Interesting story about the Resurrection and Descent into Hell icon. It isn't shown specifically in the one I captured, but in some there are two angels who were binding the devil. The devil's name was Despair. The angel's? Joy. Andrei Rublyov's Trinity icon. My very most favorite. I seem to have an affection for angels. Many say God is on the left because the church is behind him, the middle is Jesus because the tree behind him would be wood for cross, and the Holy Spirit is on the right because of the mountain behind. Andrei Rublyov's Iconostasis - only have 3 icons, must be more. Not sure what church they came from because they were too big to fit in his church. Andrei Rubylev was a master iconographers and is mentioned in the iconographer's prayer.
Day 3. I saw a different view of the Kremlin today. It's amazing to see it from the outside after seeing it on the inside yesterday. Wow!
The KGB has changed its name 19 times in the last hundred years. It's in the Guinness Book of World Records!

31 May 2016

Donskoy Monastery = Our Lady of the Dawn. The monastery was closed in 1927, but given back to the Orthodox Church in 1992. Many details were given, but this entry has a word limit. So, in short, during the persecution all males under 8 were being killed and all girls were being sold into slavery. That is until prayers were said in front of the miracle working icon-Our Lady of the Dawn icon. This is also where St Tikhon was jailed for standing up against the regime and fell asleep. It is rumored he was poisoned. I was blessed to venerate his relics and see his cell. Of note, his relics were buried under a wooden floor in the church. The only reason they were not stolen was because after burial he was covered with 15 layers of concrete. He was found when a fire erupted right in that spot. The concrete was noticed and questioned. Men dug until he was found. Also, in 1941 the Germans dropped a bomb on the monastery, and it did not detonate. So much info in so little time!
I'm only able upload the iPhone photos, so much better pics will come after I am stateside. It's been a busy, but wonderful day. We could not ask for better weather. We've toured a monastery, several churches, Red Square, and lastly St Basil's. One more monastery still yet to come today.
St Basil's Cathedral!
The massive bell that was never rung.
Moscow's way of discouraging overeating...
Cathedral Square
Uspenskiy (Dormition) Cathedral

30 May 2016

Room with a view
I just finished dinner with my fellow (tour) groupies. It was nice meeting everyone, and I'm excited to start touring tomorrow. My eyes are heavy and I'm turning in early. Fr Ilya insists I will be up at 4AM, but I'm hoping to prove him wrong! G'night from Moscow!
I'm showered and in clean clothes! After 24-hrs of travel that is a beautiful thing. I slept through the last flight - all three hours of it. I vaguely remember the man in the window seat climbing over me twice. I'm thankful he didn't make me get up! The trip has been surprisingly smooth. No issues at the airports, customs was easy, my luggage was coming around the belt when I walked up, and my driver (I like saying I have a driver!) was waiting right past baggage claim. It was a quiet drive to the hotel, but I'm here and while sleepy I'm excited, blessed, and thankful. Btw, WIFI is awesome 😁 I've been traveling OCONUS since 2008. Comms are so much better! Tonight is simply dinner with the tour group. I hope to have more exciting things to write about!
I'm in Brussels! I have a short layover here before the hop to Moscow. I was able to sleep a bit on the last flight. Dinner wasn't bad - Thai chicken, rice, and salad. Breakfast was a croissant and yogurt. Not bad for airline food. It's 3:15 AM Eastern, and 9:19 AM here in Belgium. My recommendations for a long flight: stay up the night prior and sleep on the flight. Bring a book, sweater, and neck pillow. I put my phone in airplane and low battery mode and still have 46%. I was also gifted a battery that will charge devices right before the trip :) I'm letting my phone go right now, but I'll surely put it to good use. I must not look Russian because people keep looking at me funny - raising an eyebrow - when I show them my boarding pass. There's interesting scenery. People are people. If I didn't hear the many different languages, I'd think I was still in the US. There are folks who are well dressed and put together and then there are those looking like they are just outta bed!

29 May 2016

We're experiencing a "Very minor maintenance issue." Hmm. I'm not too concerned. I am an aviation maintenance officer, after all. Thankfully, I'm getting very sleepy and hope to be sleeping soon after take off.
I'm a bit nervous about the pond. I've sailed across it more than a few times, but have never flown across. Thankfully, Fr Gregory gave me a travel blessing yesterday. Afterwards, we spoke for a minute and I told him of my anxiety. He said, in his oh so peaceful and sincere way, "There is nothing to worry about." It's surely been a comfort. I'm not quite sure how people make it without faith. God has picked me up, shook me off, and placed me back on my feet more times than I can count! 45-min till boarding 😁
It's travel day! I was in bed late last night and up early this morning to be at BWI by 8 for an 11 o'clock flight. I was proud I did not shed any tears with the goodbyes. My girl, Molly Bean, is a trooper. We exchanged hugs and she understood. I forgot to leave my keys and when I walked back in the house she was just on the couch, perfectly content. I know she's in great hands and well cared for. I'll certainly miss her and a few others 😉 Security at BWI was a breeze. I was done in twenty minutes. I probably could have made it arriving only two hours prior to the flight. The flight to Newark, NJ was smooth. I'm super sleepy, but determined to stay awake until the flight across the pond. I have multiple books to read and a boy to text; I'm content. Oh, and I'm also sitting next to two naval officers who keeping talking bad about their JOs. Hmm. I'm a JO! I am 'politely' eavesdropping. I wonder if my boss talks like that about me! Not possible! More to come later...