A few weeks ago (oops, I’m a bad blogger), Vickie and I went with our colleague and Fulbright-alumna-friend Nastya to a charming little fairy-tale village called Letka. She grew up there, and her parents still live in her childhood home.
Friends, I love Letka. I love Nastya’s parents. I love everything about the place.
But I won’t get ahead of myself.
First we had to get to Letka. This involved four hours on a bus from Ukhta to Syktyvkar, and then three hours in a car from Syktyvkar to Letka. It turns out we went about 600km almost directly south, landing us parallel with Vologda and halfway to Kazan (see, Russia isn’t THAT big…)
The trip there was actually not all that fun, because I was sitting next to a man who was drinking beer the whole trip and invading my American-personal-space-bubble. But my mood wasn’t down for too long, because on arriving to Letka (at 9:30pm), we were greeted with a homemade dinner, tea, and a trip to the banya.
Yes, the banya.
Nastya’s parents (Aunt Masha and Uncle Vova, as we were to call them) have their own house, and their own banya. A banya is kind of like a sauna, but it serves for recreation, shower-substitute, and also literally steaming yourself like a piece of chicken. While beating yourself with a bundle of birch branches.
We woke up on Saturday to a breakfast of blini. Then we went to the school (the same one where Nastya studied!) and lead a few English lessons there. Apparently we’re awesome teachers, because after the lesson we were asked for autographs and about a half million pictures (none of which I ever saw again).
Then we wandered around town, taking in the sights and the variable weather…
Then we went to this neat event that I can’t even figure out how to name. Basically, each class (2-3 classes per grade) did a sort of military performance, involving marching and sing-shouting some rhythmic song. It made Vickie and me feel very patriotic. Afterwards, we took several million more pictures.
My personal favorite part of Saturday might have been the thunderstorm. It’s been ages since I’ve been in a thunderstorm, and I love them a whole lot. It was pouring up down and sideways for a while, and then it cleared in time for a gorgeous post-storm twilight.
The whole time, I had Tyutchev’s poem running through my head… Attached below with a really stupid translation, sorry Tyutchev, and sorry everybody else.
Люблю грозу в начале мая,
Когда весенний, первый гром,
как бы резвяся и играя,
Грохочет в небе голубом.
Гремят раскаты молодые,
Вот дождик брызнул, пыль летит,
Повисли перлы дождевые,
И солнце нити золотит.
С горы бежит поток проворный,
В лесу не молкнет птичий гам,
И гам лесной и шум нагорный –
Все вторит весело громам.
Ты скажешь: ветреная Геба,
Кормя Зевесова орла,
Громокипящий кубок с неба,
Смеясь, на землю пролила.
I love a storm in early May…
The first great thunder-clap of spring,
As if to frolic and to play,
Loudly in the blue sky rings.
The newborn peals resound, and dust
Begins to fly, shower-sprayed,
And on the threads small pearls of rain
Turn golden in the sun’s bright rays.
From mountains nimble streamiets run,
And forest birds sustain their song.
In forest song and mountain sound,
The thunder’s clap is echoed on.
You might say: tempestuous Hebe,
When feeding the great bird of Zeus,
Took the effervescing cup,
And on the earth its streams let loose.
On Sunday, we had to say goodbye 😦 But we were treated on our way out with more Russian hospitality in the form of more food than any mortal could hope to eat, along with fresh milk from their neighbor’s cow.
In conclusion: love Letka, probably going to retire there, hope that’s okay with everybody.