Thursday, April 8, 2010


Sunday morning we lose an hour to Daylight Saving Time. Attending church in a building with a magnificent Kremlin view, I’m humiliated by a farewell presentation that stretches 30 minutes and a moralistic lecture delivered by a man who screams much of his message. One in our band manages to nod off during this ear-splitting homily that leaves me with tinnitus long after the speaker has fallen silent.

Walking back, one girl vomits, another feels feverish, and a boy complains of headache, so some retreat to the hotel to recuperate, while others of us wander Arbat, Moscow’s pedestrian-only street. We lunch at MuMu, an inexpensive cafeteria-style eatery, serving Russian food on dishes patterned after Holstein cow spots. The food is delicious, the stone and timber décor atmospheric, the music sprightly, and the dining area jammed with Muscovites. It’s a hit with our Lighthouse families; every subsequent suggestion of the restaurant is met with a chorus of ayes. MuMu is the place I wish would branch out to Grand Rapids.

In the evening, we visit the eponymously-named Nikulin Circus. A bronze statue of the renowned actor and clown Yuri Nikulin stands outside the pavilion; Faith claims that by rubbing his nose, we’ll become the funniest people in the world. Doug, a host dad, rubs it vigorously, then subjects us to jokes just as corny as before. Inside the arena, fluted columns support the ceiling, obstructing our view while lending the venue an air of sophistication. Though attendance hardly justifies it, every show we’ve been to on our trips has included live orchestra; Russians take their performing arts seriously. As a lover of Equidae, I’m charmed by a humble donkey, plodding heedless of the urging of his driver. As warranted, the performers stay clothed, though a clown in an ankle-length fur coat loses part of his outerwear as he parades around the ring. When the collar springs to life by a fox’s leap to the ground, shadowed by thirty ferrets jumping from the body in unison, the coat is creatively transformed into a PETA-approved style. I leave this circus satisfied we’ve done nothing to compromise the morals of our orphans. As we exit, Faith insists on a group photo by a portrait of the beloved Nikulin, whom she extols for his clean, kind humor and love of children.

We get back late, but I talk several families into venturing out to Eliseevsky’s, my favorite Moscow store. Tracy, a blog aficionado, is anxious to shop there, knowing how I love it. While the edifice is reliably grandiose, I’m disappointed to find them out of chocolate croissants, so I splurge on a consolation box of baklava instead. Successfully navigating the metro as a group without a bonafide Russian speaker, we arrive back home just after midnight. Delving into the baklava in the sanctity of my room, I am horrified to find the bottom blackened. Burned baklava stokes my generosity, stripping me of the gluttonous desire to wolf it down myself.

As I puzzle over how to unload my baklava without throwing it away, a host family taps on my door, ending the reverie. We end up visiting until just after 4:00 a.m., discussing kids they’re considering adding to their family. Having been blessed so richly by my own children of the world, being part of the conversation with other families considering adoption is unadulterated joy.

Joy, at any hour.