Tuesday, January 17, 2012
Angels Will Watch Over You
Arrival in Moscow has heretofore meant navigating Sheremetyevo Airport’s dingy, tired, and cramped international terminal, but this trip our plane halts outside a building I’ve never been in. It is immaculate, modern, innovative, and expansive. If signs weren’t in Cyrillic, or if the flight attendant hadn’t welcomed us to Russia, I’d think I’d deplaned at a new airport in the United States.
The next day, I return to the airport to pick up my families. Ten are traveling, by far a record. They come on two flights, about an hour apart, so I chat with the first group as we await the second. Kate, a young girl whose parents adopted through our director Hope years ago, has read much of my blog. She reminds me of details I’ve revealed about myself in posts past, and wonders if I find it creepy she knows so much about me.
At the hotel, everyone unloads their bags. After their all-night flight, they good-naturedly vote to sightsee. Travel is my favorite hobby, and they delight me with their gameness to see a place that, despite its grittiness, has become my third-favorite city, after Grand Rapids and Venice.
Sure enough, our first foray onto the metro, a few hold back to permit the rest of the group to meander in. When the alarm sounds to warn the door is closing, I physically stuff the person in front of me onto the train, and not a moment too soon, as the doors slam shut behind me. Beside me, an elderly lady also makes it. She smiles at us, very rare for Russians, as they believe to smile at strangers is to announce the smiler is crazy. She speaks to me in Russian, as I smile and nod. When she continues, I answer “Da!” though I haven’t any idea what she is saying. If the country is enjoying a nascent movement toward friendliness, I’d hate to squelch it. As she persists, I counter with da’s at each pause, until she finally realizes I’m not Russian. While speaking English is becoming more prevalent among the younger generation, the older the person or more menial their job, the less likely they are to know English. So the lady flabbergasts me when she abandons Russian and switches to first-rate English. “Angels will watch over you!” she declares. She asks a few questions, which I answer until the train grinds to another stop. The car is already standing-room only, and as more Muscovites shove their way aboard, the lady is swallowed by the crowd. “Angels will watch over you!” she calls as her parting benediction, slipping away.
Tomorrow morning our arms will open to the children now on their way to us. Today, though, it was our turn to be embraced, by this giant of a country. New friends from America are here, and I’ve been privileged to share with them just a few places I love in Moscow: this day embodies all that’s best about travel. Along the way, Russians we don’t know, and will likely not meet again, have shown their goodwill, and opened their hearts and the heart of their country to us.
Angels are watching over us.