Just finished a 42 hour train ride after an amazing time in Rostov in South Russia. We spent over two weeks teaching in home groups and churches. We did lots of inductive method Bible studies, Bible overviews, and preaching. Our contacts at YWAM Rostov were fantastic. Mostly, two
amazing women named Olya do it all. They line up translators, rides, ministry, invitation letters to get visas in the first place, and other miscellaneous work like raking leaves or cleaning the kitchen, should there be a dull moment. It’s so great when you have people who know the place and show you the ropes, connecting you with people and helping bridge the gap between cultures. Russia is NOT America. Not to mention, they are a ton of fun to be with!
Josh and I left Rostov about midnight the night before last. The way the train is configured, there are four bunks on one side, and we had the top two. That means that if you want to sit instead of lay up on your bed, you are with the people below you, but there is just a little table and the space is super tight with all the bags. So halfway through the second day, we went looking for the diner car, which we found. We hadn’t eaten much the day before, so a little splurge was ok.
I saw the guys drinking a few tables back and thought about the fact that it was only 1230pm and they already had about 20 empty cans on the table. Maybe it was a continuation of last night. Who knows.
So we ordered a couple plates of pasta and two coffees. A menu totally in Russian isn’t easy for me, but Josh has a handle on the alphabet, so we could just point. Buying something is like paying rent on the table, so we sat a while after finishing. Sure enough, the inevitable happened, one of the guys came over and sat down. I’m ashamed to say I only know about 6 words in Russian and this fellow was determined to talk. Then his buddy came over with even more enthusiasm. The rest of the guys made visits too trying to act out what they were trying to get across. We talked about where we were from, where they are from, and what they are doing on the train and what they do for a living-all pretty much playing charades . The two guys, Nicolai and Pavel hung on the longest. When there is lots of booze in a person, who they are comes out. If they are an easy going person deep down, that’s what you get, a happy drunk. If they have resentments, you get that, and so on. Nicolai was more the resentment kind. He sat with his face about 10 inches from mine trying desperately to get me to understand what he did for a living, but he could tell that my “da, da!” (yes) was just my attempt to appease and get rid of him. It continued with heightened intensity. There was a break were he stood up and walked back to his table where I looked at Josh and said, “Wow, that was getting a little intense.” But no sooner had the words come from my mouth and he was back. Drunks are that way. They get something into their head and there’s no stopping it. I know cause I’ve been there. So he sits back down making a sawing motion with his hand repeating the same word over and over. I think it was “miense” or something. I can’t remember now. The thought kept going through my mind, what do I do when he grabs me or smacks me? Should I just hit him really hard right square in the nose so he goes right to the ground? Nah, his buddies would destroy josh and I in the aftermath of that, no doubt. After all, we’re in Russia. We might get arrested and that would be even worse. I made my mind up to be a pacifist. Then he got up and marched to the bar.
He must be getting a pen to draw it out. Good, maybe just the process would satisfy him.
Nope. The bartender handed him a large steak knife.
“Oh, gosh, that thing’s gonna end up in my neck or stomach for sure,” I thought.
He tried harder to explain what his occupation was using the knife as an illustration this time, me saying the words I could think of until his buddy came back over, grabbing the knife and taking it back to the bar. He knew where this was going too.
In the end, things calmed down, but when Josh and I tried to excuse ourselves, they insisted on giving me at least a beer. They had tried Vodka, Gin, Whiskey, and wine earlier. One guy wrote his number on a paper telling me if we had any trouble anywhere in the Perm area of Russia, I should call him (As if we could even speak anyway). And one of the guys we hadn’t talked to in the back said, “Haha! Russia Mafia…”
We paid our tab and left. I set the unopened beer in between the cars and went back to our bunks.
Maybe I should take some classes and learn this language.