Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Another Picnic

We had a picnic with Grandpa Kostenko today. It was on a mountain, overlooking the entire city of Yakutsk. Did I mention that Grandpa's dead? Okay, all joking aside. Today is some kind of memorial day. The Russian equivalent anyway. I think it goes hand in hand with victory day (which is on the 9th) but that's just my opinion. Anyway, Misha told me that they were going to be gone all day today because they were going to the cemetary. I asked if I could go along.

I felt bad once we actually got there, because I felt like I was intruding, but it really turned out to be an interestind cultural experience. First, we drove to the cemetary. The drive itself was uneventful but you could tell when we were getting close because all of a sudden there were these roadside stands with all these people selling insanely bright colored fake flowers. And I mean bright. I'm talking like flourescent flowers. Flowers that could very easily light up a darkened room. And I'm only slightly exaggerating.

City Cemetary Number Two (The Russians are very creative at naming things when they have more then one. Take Schools for example. The 8th school, the Thirty-Third school and so on...) Is located outside the city. It's actually not too far out there. It's located on a mountain. Actually it's a really good view because you can see the whole city as well as the Lena River far off in the distance. I would've taken pictures but it would've made me feel a little awkward.

So Misha dropped off me, the other kids, Oksana, and his mom and we started on the hike while Misha parked the car. The grave was really back in there. We slogged through the mud and passed many other graves on the way. Russian cemetaries are different than American cemetaries. For example, each grave is surrounded by a fence and I'm pretty sure it's the family's responsiblity to keep the grave site pretty since some of the graves were pretty overgrown with weeds. (No eternal care here lol)

Eventually, we got to the grave and that's when I started feeling awkward. I kind of stood off to the side and watched. We'd brought some food with us, and they made up a little plate of some trail bologna, blini, and a shot of vodka which they placed on the grave. Then, they poured drinks, and we poured a bit around the grave before drinking the rest and eating a blin, or some cheese and meat. It was less of a meal than a ceremony of sorts.

Other people in the cemetary were also doing the same thing, with slight variations. Some people were cleaning up gravesites, some people were toasting vodka, some people were having whole meals with their dead relatives. Some people were a little tipsy from having too many drinks with said relatives.

We didn't stay at the grave too long. Long enough for Misha's mom to wipe off the grave stone, long enough to plant the fake flowers, long enough to have two toasts. Then we cleaned up, left the rest of the food for the bums (No, I'm not making this up. Oksana was like "Misha, should we take this stuff with us?" and Misha said "no, leave it for the bums") And then we headed out. While we were at the grave, it started to snow, big huge wet flakes. I think it's something I'm never going to forget. Standing there with the snow coming down, The city spread below us, and a grieving family.

Afterwards, they brought me back home, and went to another place. I have no idea where, but I imagine it's going to be the same kind of thing and am kind of glad they brought me home. They'll be returning this evening sometime, so in the mean time. I've got the apartment to myself, which is nice for a change.

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