We are deep into our Russian travels. As I write this, I am travelling on a train from St. Petersburg to Nizhny Novgorod. The cold has broken slightly - 30 degrees feels warm to me at this point and I can easily walk around without a jacket in this kind of weather with little affect. I feel that I have settled in to the lifestyle of the country slightly. Hearing Russian, although still almost completely incomprehensible, has become natural and my ears respond to it differently than when I first arrived. I have been able (for the most part) to learn the cyrillic alphabet and words are starting to slowly sound out in my head.
Wednesday will be the 3 week mark of our 9 1/2 week trip. So far we have played approximately half a dozen shows, to a wide array of audiences. I think so far the most rewarding show that we have played to date was at an orphanage in St. Petersburg. Before we had a chance to play, the kids gave us a variety of performances of their own - from musical performances to dances to a slide show of some other productions that they had participated in. We followed with our segment, which was received by uninterrupted attentiveness. It's obvious that the 150 kids in attendance don't have many opportunities to see live music. We opened the floor to the kids to ask questions and discuss music as well as ask about our impressions of Russia so far. We each gave miniature demonstrations of our own instruments and spoke about the learning process that we all went through to get where are in our musical journeys. Following the show we had opportunities to talk to them individually, as well as sign autographs and pose for photographs.
I was able to wander around the city of St. Petersburg for an afternoon by myself. I find it one of life's most energizing experiences when I have the opportunity to lose myself in a foreign environment. I had no goal in mind, except to get lost in the streets. I walked through main boulevards, alleyways, parks and along the Neva River. Two sights stuck out which I had the opportunity and I have attached below. One of them is a statue by the Neva River, which I didn't know the meaning of, but I found it as one of the most disturbing pieces of art that I have seen in a long while. The other was a scene that I came across in a city park of a woman leading a reindeer dragging a sleigh behind it. Again, I had no real idea as to what the reason for this was, but it struck me as something that I simply wouldn't have had the opportunity to witness anywhere else in the world so I captured it with my camera. I also have attached a few photos of the cathedrals that litter the city streets, which were by far the most glorious pieces of architecture that I came across. After truly losing myself in the depths of the city, I managed to find one landmark that I knew (an obelisk near the train station that we arrived at 4 days earlier) and I walked my numb hands and feet home to our hotel.
At the present moment, the group and I are traveling to Nizhny Novgorod on one of Russia's high speed train lines. Night has fallen. There is still so much left to see in our trip, yet it feels as if we've been here for months.