So I started off my Sunday morning, my last day in Russia 😦 (if I knew how to make a crying face, I would) right, with mass at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. I’m really confused about the exact number of Catholic Churches in Moscow, it’s either one or two, regardless, once you see it, you can’t mistake it for anything other than what it is…a Catholic Church. My friend and I searched for it on Saturday to find it and to find out the times. We got there at the tail end of a wedding, it was uplifting to see the grins on the bride and groom’s faces, the happy plans in their eyes, and the love that surrounded them. I was serious when I said that very few cultures celebrate like Russians do.
The Mass that we went to, the 10am, was actually celebrated by the bishop, who apparently is Polish, not Russian, at least according to the way that he was speaking during the homily. Inside of the Cathedral is gorgegous, but extremely new…there weren’t any communion rails or the other things that are usually thought of when you see a Cathedral that is as old as this one. In the front of the Cathedral off to the side of the altar was a bust of the late Pope John Paul II, obviously a nod to the large Polish community.
My friend read the Church’s history and it goes basically like this: Although there is a long history of Catholicism in Russia, it has for the most part been an extremely small minority amongst ethnic Russians. This particular Cathedral was actually built thanks to the effort of the Polish expat community. During the Communist period, the Cathedral was gutted and turned into an office building for the government. Later it was sold to a business and used as an office building again. When Communism fell, the Catholic community had to petition for permission to use the Cathedral for Mass. Eventually the Church was able to gain control of the Cathedral and once again it is a full-time, full-working Catholic Church.
Later I had lunch at Shesh-besh, a charming Azari restaurant.
In one of the stores, there was a one liter vodka bottle shaped like an AK-47 and the container looked like a gun crate. I wanted to take a picture but there were signs everywhere about how cameras were not allowed and there were security cameras everywhere. I seriously don’t think that there were any blind spots in that store. Because my friend couldn’t find these Russian candies anywhere, she gave me an extremely delicious going away present: marzipan chocolates…Mozarts!!!! (I’m currently hoarding them like gold in my apartment.)
Then it was off to Novodevichy Convent and Cementary. Okay. Usually in Catholic world, convents and monastaries, or at least the ones that I’ve seen, are beautiful yes, but not golden and castle-like, so Novodevichy was a bit of surprise to me, especially when you’re expecting a beige, maybe tan, possibly white building and get a cranberry red and white building with golden onion top towers.
It was quite an eye-opening experience to see graves, particularly headstone in Eastern Europe, I’ve seen some of the most fantastic headstones in my life while traveling around Central and Eastern Europe. And I always have the same negative thought float guiltily in my head…is this unbelievable headstone/memorial genuinely out of love or guilt or as a way to bargain with God. There are a couple of people that I truly love with all my heart, but I could never justify to them, myself, any one really, or even God about erecting such a monument to them. But that’s probably just an extension of me being a very contained person.
So to get to the airport, we took the subway as far as we could, then we paid this guy for a seat in his van and then headed off to the airport. Because my flight left at 9pm and I really couldn’t stomache the thought of eating another Aeroflot meal, I had an early dinner at Friday’s.
Unfortunately for me, when I got in line to go through the first security point, I got in line with a high school group and a Korean travel group. The high school students were all studying Korean and taking a language trip to Korea to see first hand the country whose language they were learning. Two of the girls that were standing in front of me were hilarious. Before I knew any of this, I thought that one of the girls was Korean, so I asked her in Korean if this was the correct line for my flight Korean Air 599. She had one of the blankest looks that I’ve ever seen on a student. Eventually she shoved her e-ticket into my hands and pointed to KE 599. Apparently one of the things that these particular girls paid attention to in Korean class is this currently popular thing to do, rub your hands up and down together while saying, ‘sorry, sorry’ in a slightly high-pitched voice.
Can I just say this without sounding like a terrible person? I LOVE my American passport. Seriously, the longest it’s taken me to get through customs/passport control was five minutes total (and it does help that I throw every single possibly related paper at the officer) and I’m on to the final security check or to go get my bags. Every other Asian looking person stands in front of the officer for what seems like ages compared to me.
I had the most perfect seat for sleeping, I was in the very back, so I couldn’t annoy anyone by reclining my chair as long as I possibly could, and there wasn’t a window, so I could put my pillow against the side of the plane and not really worry about getting that annoying crick in my neck. The downside of my seat was that I was in the section with both high school groups and a group of older Korean women who had never traveled before. I really liked my seatmate’s face when I answered her question about why my Korean was funny sounding with I’m a kyopo, you would have thought that I had given her spoiled milk to drink. But when we were landing she was very friendly to me when she realized that I knew how to fill out all the landing forms and as she was copying my forms, she also copied my signature. Oh well, I can’t win them all, can I?
One thing that amazed/shocked me was that the entire time I was in Russia, I saw one, maybe two Skodas, and only a handful of Ladas, the overwhelming vast majority of cars that I saw on the roads were foreign cars, more specifically Korean, Japanese, and American, with a few French and German cars tossed in. Status is as status does, I guess.