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Journals from Russia 2009

2009-02-11 Memories of an Incredible Journey!

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On the staircase in Catherine's Palace

An Incredible Journey! Thinking back to JanTerm in Russia brings a smile to my face. On January 7, 2009, I, along with eleven other students, Dr. Tong, and Professor Joyer arrived in Moscow after a 12 1/2 hour flight. We were jet-lagged and exhausted, but excited to be in Russia. When we arrived, temperatures were around -20C and a slight snowfall added to the white powder already covering the ground. I recall days filled with trips to different locations where outside it was freezing cold, yet when we arrived at our destination the interiors of buildings were kept at extremely high temperatures. There were many times when I had to step outside for a few minutes to keep from perspiring, but I was soon driven back indoors due to the cold. At first the people of Russia came across as very cold and rude, but studying their culture before the trip gave me some insight into their customs; smiles were reserved for friends and family. I found, however, that when I conversed with the people, using my limited knowledge of the Russian language, they often responded back with a smile or a greeting. I cannot begin to explain how much pleasure it gives me to try to interact with different cultures. Knowing the history and the hardships the people of Russia have lived through gave some insight into their personalities and what at first appeared to be a lack of friendliness. Health care in Russia varied, as did the type of welcome we received from the various institutions. The orphanage we visited in Yaroslavl was not my idea of what a typical home for orphans would be like in either Russia or the United States. These children seemed bright and happy and I had the impression that many of them, if adopted, would be more capable and accepting of being wanted and loved. It has been well documented" Schielderup-Mathiesen & Nytrhaug 1977, Hallden 1981, Cederblad 1982, Gunnarby et al 1982, Friess 2003"that children from third-world countries generally have many problems adapting in an adoptive family, particularly with the childrens' mental and physical development. It is important to consider the problems of children in orphanages, taken away from any home they might have known, compared to the general lives of children in society. The children at this orphanage seemed to have a home life that afforded them more stability than usual. It was very interesting to see antiquated medical equipment, some of which I had never seen before. Surprisingly, most businesses and institutions in Russia were very clean. Due to sand or solutions used to counteract the effects of ice and snow, almost all institutions and businesses were constantly being inundated with wet, muddy footprints. All around I could see workers with mops working to keep the floors clean. I do not remember seeing any of the health care facilities we visited being dirty. Medical supplies were clean and organized in cabinets or put away in their proper places. I do wonder about the orphanages, hospitals, clinics, and other health care facilities that we did not get to see; do these institutions fare as well? Besides looking at health care, I learned much more about the history and culture of these people. I always thought of Germany and Russia as more or less one and the same. I was very surprised to learn that Russia, like so many other countries, had also suffered at the hands of the Germans. On January 27th, I watched as Russians set off fireworks to commemorate the 65th anniversary of the date they had held off a German invasion. Somehow, learning this brought home to me the fact that Russia and Germany were indeed two very different nations. As with any visit to another country, the trip to Russia had much to offer. The interiors of Russian Orthodox Churches were covered with some of the most beautiful frescoes, icons, and artwork I had ever seen. The visit to the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow was both beautiful and inspirational. Special services were being held in many of the churches in celebration of Russias Christmas"January 7. One thing that remains with me even now is the memory of the beautiful inspirational chanting. I would like to have stayed awhile longer just to listen to the beautiful harmony and absorb the religious aspects of this incredible church. Visiting the Novodevichy Convent & Cemetery was like stepping back in history. Even now I can hardly believe I was actually standing in front of the graves of many of Russias most noted individuals. I am glad that being from an older generation I am able to comprehend the influence that people such as Khrushchev, Stalins second wife, Raisa Gorbechev, and Yeltsin had on Russia. I felt honored to be there. Another highlight that will remain with me forever is the visit to the Hermitage. I still find it hard to accept the reality of personally looking at authentic paintings by some of the greatest masters who ever lived"Renoir, Matisse, Van Gogh, Gauguin, Cezanne and Monet, just to name a few. I studied such works of art many years ago and never dreamed I would actually see them. Visiting other countries is an important part of furthering my education and aiding me in my future choices as a nurse. I look forward to someday traveling with our Northwest Medical Team to provide medical care to those in need. I am also interested in working with our past Linfield student during her medical travels to India. The health care studies in Russia have only furthered my desire to make things better for others. Oddly, even at my age I feel the sky is the limit. It took me a lot of years to get my wings and I intend to use them to take me to wherever I can benefit mankind the most. Thank you for an incredible journey! Anne Prantl

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