Home on Monday, I was busier than usual and conducting Lighthouse business from bed. Speaking with a North Carolina family whose calling is to keep sibling groups intact, I thought of Zulya and Lora, for whom hope had expired (Her Lora, 4/9/10). The family was interested, and went through heroics to obtain passport and visa in an astounding nine days.
The week of the trip, Lighthouse Project director Hope told me Moscow was in the throes of its worst heat wave in the last century. Checking the weather, I was dismayed to see 104° forecast for our arrival. Later, adding that wildfires in old peat bogs outside the capital were shrouding the city in clouds laced with carbon monoxide and other pollutants, Hope suggested I bring face masks. Initially resistant in my vanity, I eventually acquiesced, but secretly planned to return them unused after the trip.
On Friday, my journey commences at 4:30 a.m. Having traveled to Russia four previous times the past ten months, I’ve accumulated many frequent flyer miles. On both legs of my flight, this status lands me a coveted complimentary upgrade from economy to business class, especially desirable for the trans-Atlantic portion. For once, I can stretch out and sleep mid-flight, though my pleasure is a guilty one as I remember my two host families holed up in economy class, unable to catch even a few winks.
After the tour, we shuffle down the road to a wooden movie set depicting eighteenth-century England, where they're filming a soap opera. Dima enters like he owns the place, and we follow in his wake. An actress wilting in a heavy costume hides behind the structure, dragging on a cigarette made laughably redundant by the omnipresent smoke. She seems flattered when we ask for a picture, but then she unleashes a Russian tirade when one photo is snapped as she puffs on the cigarette.
Breakfast, 6/30/10). Smoke hangs just below the ceiling, and the lack of air conditioning inside a store so cavernous and enclosed is oppressive, and not conducive to loitering.
We know in advance the hotel will not be cool, but depression sets in when we find there aren’t even fans to circulate the foul air. Long, cold showers proceed our dinner at a restaurant selected merely for its possession of air conditioning. At night, I check the weather, and find the temperature reached 97° today, obliterating the previous record of 84° on this date. Weather conditions on each half-hour report only “smoke,” with no relief projected until at least Wednesday. Right now, that seems an eternity away.
I always want children to be adopted, but as I melt under my mask in a morgue-like room, I pray harder than usual that our efforts are not wasted.
I’m in the fire. But if we can help the kids, it will be worth it.