Monday 22 June to Sunday 28 June

Wednesday, 24th June 2015

Today marks my first week here, and what a day!  We’ve finished the paklya work on the small house (the pointing with straw I mentioned last week) and also I had my first ever horse riding lesson.

I may have mentioned it once or twice (or more) last week that we had been “pointing” a small timber house using traditional Russian methods.  I now understand it to be called paklya.  It needed to be completed both outside and in.  This manual work was a therapeutic change to begin with but started to take its toll on my hands where the only tough skin that existed was on my fingertips from computer typing.  But don’t be mistaken thinking it was just this soft Southern Brit who was happy to see it completed, there are many in the Community pleased with the completion because now the space can be put to good use.  Celebrated this with a hefty meal, a cup of tea, and then to the stables…

I was invited along to the stables for a horse riding lesson by new Belarusian friends staying in the same host home as me.  This is something I have wanted to do for years and was pleased to “give it a go”, although I’m sure I had the broken horse as it kept stopping.  I think it was the on/off switch you’re supposed to activate with your heals but even so the experience was enjoyable (pics to follow with next upadate).  The cost? In the UK £45 maybe £60, here 800R (c. 85R to the £). 

The Community is quiet at the current time.  There are 4 groups of children; biological to the foster parents, biological to volunteers, foster children and programme children.  Many of the programme children have returned home (they live and attend school here during term time) and also a large group of older children are visiting seaside camp returning mid-next week.  This gives the foster parents a chance to relax a little and catch up on a few jobs.

My objectives for now are i) share some lesson and play time with the children, ii) visit nearby town Obninsk, iii) learn to ride the tractor, and iv) a little less paklya just for now although there is plenty more to be contribute to other houses I’m sure.  And improve Russian vocab, of course.  The following are my first efforts at writing Russian, marked by one of the boys here, Sergei, who gave me a “B+”, and some panoramic shots of Orion


Friday, 26th June 2015

Friday night and still dry, well I am anyway.  There have been showers this evening and heavier rains are expected from the direction of Sochi (the City of the 2014 Russian Winter Olympics) where flash floods have been reported.  I’ve not seen any truely bad weather here yet but I have heard the region is susceptible to heavy storms.

My work for the last couple of days has been concerned with controlling the poisonous plants (pics included in last week’s blog).  These awful plants were originally common to the Caucusas area but introduced to Russia, Poland, Ukraine, Belarus and Baltic States as silage.  The toxicity of the plant’s sap causes burns and photosensivity to human skin.  Yesterday, Thursday, I went out with Zhenya who explained to me the importance of cutting the heads off the plants when the flowers are developed, but before they go to seed, and then one year later the plant dies.  One flower can hold a thousand seeds which carry in the wind.  The plant can also regrow from roots.  It’s a continuing battle but it’s all that can be done to control the plant’s spread other than treating with poison which scorches the earth (and I would be willing to bet that the first plant most able to grow back on the poisoned area will be… yep… Borschevik).  Today I went out by myself to exterminate borschevik thinking how coincidentally, or perhaps aptly, that the flower heads when opening resembled Audrey 2 (the talking, man-eating plant from Little Shop of Horrors).

Yesterday night we sat around a bonfire upon which a steaming pot of Indian tea was brewed whilst enjoying flat bread filled with cheese, herbs and garlic, and grilled over a BBQ.

Here are some pics taken over the last few days…


A man wih trouble sleeping goes to the hospital for treatment.  During his first night he manages to get some sleep but is awoken by his doctor shaking him and saying, “Wake up!, Wake up!, Wake up!, it’s time to take your medicine!!!

Sunday, 21st June 2015

Today is a rest day, meaning that few people work, some go away to visit friends and relatives and there are no community meals – volunteers eat at their host family’s home.  Friday and Saturday were full, busy days as I continued with my newly learned skills of what I can best describe pointing timber joists with straw using a mallet and chisel.  For the previous 2 days we have been working on a smaller house that is intended for the use of visiting guests with completion hoped to be in the next 2 weeks so there have been 3 to 4 of us working on it although it is a process that takes time, however traditional methods are rarely quick but look and feel so much better.  Weather has been damp which encourages kamar to come out of the grasses to feed on you (these are not squid {“calamari”} arising from the woodland as you may be forgiven from first reading, kamar is Russian for mosquito).  Yours truely brought excessive amounts of repellant from the UK to deter the nasty creatures but of course have forgotten to apply it before each work session, and now

have several bites.  

Thursday I met with the founder of Kitezh and Orion and had tea with him at his house.  We discussed a broad variety of topics in the 45 minutes together including religion, politics and culture.  It was a conversation that I was grateful to have so soon after my arrival here as it helped me to understand more about the background and current workings of the community and also, because it is a community and perhaps collectively questioning my reasons for being here, the opportunity for me to explain why I am visiting.  Just as my strong Russian tea disappeared, so has the content of that private conversation… That evening from 9pm to 11:30pm I chatted with my home’s host and other volunteers again discussing a broad variety of topics which, as you may expect, included the differences (and similarities) of cultures and much translating.

Saturday I was invited for my first chay masalla at a couple’s home during a morning tea break from work.  Chay masalla is translated as Indian tea and comprises a range of spices boiled with milk, it is absolutley delicious and needs no sugar.  The choice of tea is huge here from breakfast tea (but for strength imagine straining hot water through an 80 pack of Tetley’s per cup which in my view as one who hasn’t drunk tea in 30 years makes tea enjoyable to drink) to a vast range of herbal teas including brews from locally grown leaves and herbs.  In the evening I was asked to help with washing up duties and then returned to my room to practise some Russian.

Today has been a relaxing day.  A late breakfast of boiled rice and greens, not my usual weekend bowl of granola, chatting with my host and other volunteers, learning some Russian, eating a late lunch of homemade cous-cous, playing counting games with 2 of the small girls who patiently assisted (or rather instructed) me with my counting in Russian and a visit to the local shop which is no Spar but has all that you need to avoid going into town.

Thank you for reading, please enjoy these pics…

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