This morning was pretty similar to yesterday. We finished our painting at the church and got everything cleaned up. We also took a break at noon to celebrate both Max and Stas’s birthdays (Stas is the deacon of the church) with cake and tea. After a bit of cleaning we had lunch which was a soup we would consider most similar to chowder and a second course of meat with scalloped potatoes, cabbage, and tomatoes. We finished work at the church around 4 and were brought back to the hotel to shower before going out to do a bit of shopping. Then it was time for dinner, which is what we are going to spend a majority of this blogging talking about.
If there’s two things we haven’t emphasized enough this week it’s how much food we’ve been served and how absolutely incredible everyone we’ve met has been. Starting with the food this evening, they decided to treat us to unique Russian cuisine, more specifically the ones we’ve been hearing about all week and trying to avoid. The first appetizer was a bit of bread with a thin layer of pig fat and salt. It is second from the left in the picture. Next up was a toothpick of meat that had been roasting for 6 hours on top of a broth gelatin which can be seen on the far right. We called this the meat jelly as we were contemplating it on our plates. After this came the small cup with a white liquid. It was a thick milk with a similar taste to Greek yogurt, but I must say it smelled a bit like Swiss cheese. Next was a bowl of cabbage that ended up tasting very similarly to cole slaw. Finally, they had bread with butter and red caviar, which they told us they only have on special occasions. Overall, we tried all of them and none of them were too off-putting. There were even a couple I went back for seconds of. For our main course, we had buckwheat and mushroom stuffed chicken. Once again, there weren’t many problems with this and I (Anna) was forced to overcome my fear of mushrooms, and I think I succeeded. For dessert we had a Turkish disk called chuck-chuck and it resembled a Rice Krispie Treat. It was covered in honey and definitely delicious. Along with this we were also served some very tasty chocolates. This is just one meal, but you can see how extensive it was and we feel like they never stop eating.
Now onto our second point: the people. As dinner was winding down Stas starting asking questions for everyone to answer and one in particular was what our biggest impression has been of Samara. Doug started us off and took the rest of our answers by saying the enthusiasm and spirit the congregation has is incredible. They voluntarily have spent so many hours at the church this week, not only hanging out with us, but also preparing for us and driving us and cooking for us that we definitely feel their love. The love they have for the church, the love they have for each other, the love they have for God, and especially the love they have for us. It’s so insane how connected we feel despite the language barrier. When we asked the Russians their impressions of us, it was crazy to see how we had touched them because I think we all feel like they’ve impacted us so much more than we’ve impacted them.
The waterworks started and we know tomorrow night is going to be incredibly difficult. We realize this mission trip hasn’t been about the physical work we’ve done, but the emotional in keeping and strengthening HPCUMC’s relationship with Samara United Methodist. There isn’t a better group I could imagine having a partnership with and it’s exciting to see what the future could hold. These people will forever be in our heart and prayers and we can only hope to one day see them again. We still have one more day and will post a couple more blogs, but after tonight this was something we really wanted to share. Samara United Methodist is doing incredible things and will continue to do so with the passion they have.
Here are a few pictures from the day, but we didn’t take many:
Doug and Sarah painting
Doug trying a Georgian dish of meat wrapped in grape leaves as Tanya looks on with excitement
The birthday boys, Stas and Max
The room after being painted and the repairing and moving of the shelving used for giving clothing to the homeless