Monday, August 11, 2008
Travel and heart-break
In Gori, Georgia the flag is viewed from the Stalin Museum
Georgia wants to become an EU and NATO member; Russia doesn't approve.
A rooftop view of Tiblisi, the capital of Georgia.
The first time I ever needed a passport, in 2004, I traveled to the great country of Russia. It was, and remains, an incredible life-changing experience. My horizons were broadened, my view enlarged, my heart expanded and my world, quite simply, turned upside down.
My family traveled a lot when we were growing up. Daddy had a truck, I believe a Chevy, loaded with a truck camper and every summer the five of us, parents and three children, would crowd together and see the USA. Daddy got two weeks vacation from, then VEPCO, now Dominion Resources, the electric company, and we saw an amazing amount of our great land. One of my favorite trips was Out West. We went to the Badlands, Wall Drug Store, Corn Palace, Mt. Rushmore, Yellowstone, Old Faithful and I can't remember what else. I remember a helicopter ride over Mt. Rushmore and huge bears in Yellowstone. We needed a JFK fifty cent piece to take a shower in Yellowstone and, just about the best, standing Directly Over the Top of Old Faithful just waiting for it to spurt. Of course, we'd always move away in order not to be burned by the steam but it was amazing, just standing and looking down into the hole that was Old Faithful. Now days, Old Faithful is roped off and people have to view it from a distance; not quite the same experience but I suppose it helps keep accidents down and the gene pool safe.
Mom prepared delicious meals on the camper stove and she and Daddy taught us how to read a map, how to read the sky, how to travel by both sun and stars. Those family trips prepared me by making me flexible, independent and willing to take risks so when the opportunity came to lecture and teach in Russia, I was more than ready.
Sudhakar Jamkhandi, a professor at Bluefield State College and Director of the Center for International Understanding, CIU, invited me to lecture and teach on Agri-tourism, Rural Tourism Development and Increasing Small Farm Income. Essentially, what I do at Thistle Cove Farm and what I taught at Concord University. Dave traveled with me and that turned into a blessing in disguise as we spent the first week, the two of us, separated from our group. We had a Russian interpreter but, deviating from plan, I lectured and taught alone. It was a great experience and I still maintain contact with some of the dear, wonderful people I met on that trip. I did, and do, love Russia and her people. They opened their hearts to me and I to them; they made me a better person and, hopefully, I helped some of them as well. One day, God willing, I'd love to return and visit with some old friends and make some new friends.
Flash forward to 2007 when Dave and I visited Armenia and Georgia and, again, met many wonderful people who opened their hearts and homes to us. As before, this trip was arranged through the CIU and it was an experience a tour group could never have provided.
All that to say, the business of war between Russia and Georgia is breaking my heart. Dave and I were all over Georgia and in Gori and shared a day and meals with many residents. Now the MSNBC photos of Gori show a city under siege while the countryside is being run over by tanks and soldiers and the country is being cut in half by Russian military. Russian troops are moving toward Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia, where we spent many wonderful and pleasant days and God alone knows what will happen.
We know nothing of the people with whom we shared meals with or spoke of ways to enrich our lives and future. We know nothing of the vineyards we visited or the women who served us a delicious meal to celebrate the vineyard. That evening, while seated in a foyer, waiting for the rest of our group to arrive, I drew a small bottle of hand lotion from my purse. As I poured a small amount into my palm, I looked up and noticed a woman watching me. I motioned to pour some into her hand and she nodded “yes” but her companion was shy and nodded “no”. She smelled the lotion, massaged it into her hands and eagerly smiled her approval. I tightened the bottle cap and put it into her hands, a small gift from one woman to another. Her smile broadened and she kissed me on the cheek as thanks.
What of her, Russia? What of that woman with such a gracious heart who made me feel welcome in her country even though neither of us spoke the other’s language? She is…was?…a mother, Russia. Is she alive or has she been bombed into eternity?
It’s true I know almost nothing of politics but I do know Russia, you’re a big country and Georgia is a small country. Russia, you’re too big to be this small; it’s unbecoming and beneath you to be such a bully. It is incumbent upon the strong to take care of the weak; to feed the hungry, to be a mother to the motherless, to care for those less fortunate…not to cause the hunger or to make orphans. I, and the world, expect more of you, Russia.
Russia, in 2004 you showed me your great heart, your great love of family and friends. Russia…where’s that great heart and love? Show us before my heart finishes breaking.
Blessings ~ God…in a world gone absolutely mad ~
~Anyone then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn't do it, sins." James 4:17