Last Goodbyes

Wednesday was our last day in Samara, but was a very good day at that. We began with a river cruise on the Volga with many members of the church, two of which had to run to the boat to make it on time. They brought tea and leftovers from Tuesday’s meals to share with us for a snack. We then took another walk on the embankment to take in the beauty of the river one last time. After this we headed back to the church for a late lunch of a beef stew and cake for dessert. We were taken back to our hotel after eating so we could get ready for the ballet that evening.

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We saw a performance of Le Corsaire, a story about a girl who falls in love with a pirate and everything they have to go through to be together. The theatre was gorgeous along with all of the costumes, and the dancers did a fantastic job conveying the story. We had front row seats and it was an incredible experience. Once the ballet was over we had to say a few goodbyes to people who wouldn’t be making the journey to the airport with us. As expected these goodbyes were difficult, but we were all still in good spirits from the ballet that the sadness hadn’t hit us yet.

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We returned to the hotel for a few hours of sleep before leaving for the hotel at 1:30. Before leaving for the airport we prayed together one last time, ending our time there in the best way. Max had to leave before the drive because he teaches English classes in the morning and wanted to be able to get some sleep before them. Natalia, Albina, Tanya, Elena, and Olga accompanied us on the trip in the middle of the night, which takes an hour each way. Of course they brought snacks for us. Without our translator, Tanya entertained us with an app that attempted to convert what she said in Russian into English and have Doug speak back so it could be translated to her. Some worked better than others, but it kept the mood light before the hard goodbyes.

They all came into the airport with us and walked us all the way to the security gate before we had to face what we knew was going to be tough. The fact that it was 2:30 in the morning definitely didn’t help. From there we went through passport control and made it to our 4:35 flight. Luckily most of us slept the whole way and we made it to Prague around 6am after losing 2 hours on the way.

We did a 3.5 hour tour of the city during our long layover, and we learned a lot about the history of the Czech Republic from our very knowledgeable tour guide. We returned to the airport and made it to our gate, only to learn that our flight to New York had been delayed. After waiting for about 3 more hours, we decided to change our tickets for flights tomorrow to Paris and then to Cincinnati. Even though we’re spending an unexpected extra night in Europe, this city is beautiful and we enjoyed a delicious dinner at our wonderful hotel. We have another early morning tomorrow, with a taxi picking us up for the airport at 4:30am. If all goes as planned, we will be back in Cincinnati by 5pm tomorrow (Friday).

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Unless things turn out differently, this is going to be our last blog post. Thank you to those who have followed our journey and we hope you enjoyed the updates. As we expressed in a previous post, this trip has been absolutely incredible and the people we’ve met are truly one of a kind. There aren’t enough thank you’s in the world to express our gratitude to Samara UMC for being such gracious hosts and showing us what it really means to love one another and have servant hearts. You’ll be in our hearts and prayers. Until we meet again, do svidaniya!

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