27 December 2007

What a gift!

Opening the renovated
exhibition hall

The current exhibit is
dedicated to the 40th
anniversary of the
Children's Art School

Art School director
G. A. Samokhodkin
accepts congratulations on
behalf of the school.
I spent Christmas Day (December 25, "Gregorian Christmas" as I heard it called on a Russian newscast) working on Crane MetaMarketing assignments and on preparing exams. Aside from one brief outing to attend the grand re-opening of Elektrostal's main exhibition hall, and an evening visit to my honorary nephews, I spent the day at my computer.

The next day, in the Institute teacher's lounge, someone asked me how my Christmas went. I said, "Wonderful." And I meant it!
  • These three months in Elektrostal have been an incredible gift. Without having all (or even half) of our funding in place, the Yearly Meeting let me take up the chance to spend fall with these incredible teachers and young people, and to enter the world of local artists and writers.
  • During these months, I've learned so much about Russia and about the Russian language, but also (as so often happens in these placements) about the USA and the space it takes up in the world, and about myself.
  • Living out of suitcases, in temporary quarters, often walking everywhere (taking each step with care on ice that gets buffed daily to an ever more slippery shine by foot traffic), cooking for one and eating more mindfully, protected from consumer temptations by a very tight budget--it feels as if I've been less sheltered, as if I'm somehow living on a more elemental level, rubbing up more closely against the fabric of life. Prayer too seems more elemental, bubbling away not far below the surface.
  • Christmas is far from over! Today I was at the SPAR grocery store and heard some inane version of "Jingle Bells" bouncing out of the store's speakers, reminding me that the holiday season here extends past New Year's Day, even past Orthodox Christmas (January 7 ... for some not ending until "Old New Year" (January 13-14). Our family will celebrate Christmas on the New Year weekend, just after I arrive in the USA. So I did some of my Christmas shopping today, and will do more tomorrow.
The high point of the Russian phase of my Christmas was December 24, when the New Humanitarian Institute held its New Year's party. I can't even begin to describe it; a few pictures will have to do for now. As usual with NHI productions, the students took the lead in arranging sidesplitting skits, musical acts, and an amazing evening of dancing.

One of my classes, Group 303, presented a video at the party to explain to the teachers why they're so often late to class. Watch the video to meet some of these super students and a perhaps strangely familiar teacher. You'll also see the inside of Room 12, where I spent most of today giving exams, as well as scenes from the Institute's foyer and the streets and traffic in downtown Elektrostal. (Also notice the scandalous lack of snow. Everyone is nostalgic for the "real winters" of the past.)

Grandfather Frost
Musical therapy
for a student with
ailing inglish,
friench and doitch.
A great skit ends
with New Year's
another student skitStudents persuade teachers
to join them on
the stage.

Now I go back to the USA for phase two of Christmas 2007/08. I will do everything in my power so that Judy and I can be here together as soon as possible. This is one gift that I want to keep receiving.

Righteous links: Another entry for the Books I Want to Read Because of an Interesting Review dept.: Frank Schaeffer's Son of a Preacher Man. The years I worked in Christian bookstores were precisely the years of Francis Schaeffer's greatest popularity. I must have sold hundreds of his books. ~~~ Another nice example of the Internet providing access for the rest of us: Thanks to Rosalie Grafe for leading me to this amazing Web site for the Parker Library at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge. "The Parker Library's holdings of Old English texts accounts for nearly a quarter of all extant manuscripts in Anglo-Saxon, including the earliest copy of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle (c. 890), the Old English Bede and King Alfred´s translation of Gregory the Great´s Pastoral Care. The Parker Library also contains key Anglo-Norman and Middle English texts ranging from the Ancrene Wisse and the Brut Chronicle to one of the finest copies of Chaucer´s Troilus and Criseyde. Other subjects represented in the collection are music, medieval travelogues and maps, bestiaries, royal ceremonies, historical chronicles and Bibles." ~~~ On postmodernism and the wisdom of the crowd: Travis Scholl and "transgressive irony at Radio City."

For dessert, the great James Cotton. I've already described what a pleasure it was to see James Cotton and his band this past summer at the Waterfront Blues Festival. Now, thanks to the YouTube time machine, here he is in 1979:


Anonymous said...

Hi, Johan. Some questions for you.

What explorations have you had with Electrostal Friends during these last months? What are your plans on working with them & your mission work after you return from your time back in America?

Do you expect to continue some teaching there? Are you going to continue doing things for Crane as well? And does Judy have things in mind in addition to "mission work"?

Is it pretty settled for you and Judy getting to Elektrostal in a couple of months to settle in, or do you have a bunch of money to raise before that is firmed up?

These are probably the kinds of questions you will be addressing as you're speaking at Friends churches, etc. while back in the USA, but I hope you'll share some of it online as well.

Johan Maurer said...

Hello, Bill! I'm back on the Web for a while. Great questions! Some details will have to be reserved for correspondence, and some (like where our fundraising is, and the resulting issues of timing) need to wait for a bit more information than we have now, but in general I can say:

- Yes, more teaching.

- Yes, a limited amount for Crane as well, especially for clients I already know.

- The Elektrostal Friends group of 10-15 years ago is almost gone. Rebuilding that community will take time. The last long-time member of that group is hoping to emigrate to England within a year, following a well-worn path out of Elektrostal.

More soon!--and please feel free to write.

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