‘What does love look like? It has the hands to help others. It has the feet to hasten to the poor and needy. It has eyes to see misery and want. It has the ears to hear the sighs and sorrows of men …… That is what love looks like.’ - St. Augustine

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Da Vinci Would Be Proud

Cafes are the same all over Russia....lots of smoke and techno music blaring. This time I am on Nevsky Prospekt in St Petersburg. It's 10:40am and I'm sooo grateful to finally have internet access. We couldn't get it yesterday anywhere we went -- don't know why -- and now today I can't access facebook. Anyway, I'm here and have almost too much to cover.

I want to be very clear that I do not hold Finland or Helsinki responsible in ANY way for the treatment I received while at the Russian Consulate there. You know how it is ...when you travel and have a bad experience, usually the entire city where you are becomes guilty by association and you say " I'm NEVER going there again!" Well, be sure this is not the case with Finland. I loved it there. It was bittersweet because I was not with my girls and had no one to share the experience with, but it piqued my interest enough that I really want to go back there some day. there is a sweetness about the people there, a gentle sincere contentment, that I have not experienced in any other country. I know I was only there for two days, but I had to deal with a great many people just maneuvering my way around the city. If the language were not  barrier, I might want to move there! They seem to hold the same values I do, and, to be honest, I like the way they dress..lol! Men in knit caps and wool coats, women riding bikes with baskets of flowers in the front, sporting colorful tights and maryjane shoes. It really looks like a postcard.

Now I'm back in St Pete and enjoyed a really relaxing, inspiring day yesterday at the Hermitage. For those who do not know what the Hermitage is, it used to be the Winter Palace of Czar Nikolas and his family. It is now one of the most impressive museums in the world. I bribed the girls into going for two hours full knowing that couldn't be done. I knew that once they were in there, the beauty of the place would draw them in. I was right.

Watching Anya look with wonder at Grecian statues and Da Vinci paintings literally made me cry. I had to go hide in a corner! she walked in a jaded, cynical girl from a very small world and walked out a very different person. Think about it, if you had never ever seen beautiful art your entire life  and then you found yourself surrounded by some of the most majestic, sacred and moving works of art the world has to offer. It would change you too.

I could tell it was affecting her when she tried time and time again to get away from Nastia and just be alone in the galleries. I finally had to take Nastia aside and remind her of her first time in a museum. " She needs to be alone, honey.." I told her. Thankfully, she got it and stuck with me. We spent almost seven hours in the Hermitage. My girls. Seven hours in a museum. Can you believe it? I was torn between the delight at fielding Nastia's non-stop questions and observations of what she was seeing, and revelling in Anya's absolute absorption of ever little thing. We crossed paths with her several times (which is a feat if you know the size of the Hermitage!). Once we found her sitting across from a Flemish painting of a young girl, (reminiscent of Girl with a Pearl Earring) and Anya had her head tilted sideways in the sweetest way, just pondering this girl. It was one of the most beautiful moments I have ever witnessed. I will treasure it forever.

Nastia, on the other hand, has become an amazing observer over the years. " Mom, look at the love in her face...she really loves that man" She says of one painting. " I wish I could go  back in time and watch this statue being carved. I want to see the guy who made it.." she says sweetly. It was seven hours of this. God couldn't have given me a more precious gift, unless He told me face to face that Anya is coming home with us.

I have so much more I'd love to share, but we have to pack up our things and head to the airport soon. Because of two flights, layovers and time changes, we actually don't arrive back in Kemerovo until Monday morning. So I may be MIA again for a day or two. Thanks for all your comments. I LOVE them. See you back in Kemerovo!


  1. After the last post I read this was so very refreshing and comforting to know you are back with your girls and life is fine again. I know the experience you had at the Hermitage must have been so remarkable and I really enjoyed reading about how it affected you and the girls. Take care and I will continue to keep track of your journeys. My wife and I start our own journey today boarding the Carnival Glory bound for the Bahamas for a week. I will still be able to keep up with my blog friend so thanks to technology.

  2. Glad you got to enjoy a little of St. Petersburg and have an awesome memories for you all to take back to Kemerovo. Yesterday we celebrated our 8th anniversary of our son's adoption! Always a special day. It places us snack dab in Tver Russia every time!!

  3. And your observations about the girls observations were inspirational as well. Thank you, Keri!

  4. What an event! One of the saddest things to me, is that our children never really get to know their own country, its rich history, its architecture, because most of the time they are locked away, and have no opportunity for education, and even less opportunity to actually see a museum. How very sad.

    Your description of Anya sitting and soaking it all in is very clear in my mind. I could picture a young girl sitting and taking in such breath taking beauty, not knowing, she is also a breath taking beauty at the same time.

    Safe travels back to Kemerovo. :)

  5. So glad to know you are back with your girls, Keri. Watching Anya watch such beautiful things... only a mother's vision could capture things the way you did. I love you

  6. So glad you are reunited and that you had a fantastic day together.

  7. Keri, this post is so beautiful! What a wonderful day you and the girls enjoyed -- your joy at watching them in the museum reminds me of one of the best things about being a mom and/or a teacher: when our kids get it, the earth moves.

    "A mind is a fire to be kindled, not a vessel to be filled." Plutarch

  8. I know an art professor who will be grinning ear to ear for hours after I tell her about this.

  9. Oh, treasure that! Gosh, it sort of astounds and dismays me that Babs is simply "not moved" by art, music, etc. Nothing like his mum in that regard. He's be fidgeting and bored. And while I know he's younger than the girls, I'd bet some cash he'll still be that way at their age, barring some transformative life event.

    Hope you snuck some pics while Anya was so absorbed! I'd love to enjoy a bit of that vicariously :-)

  10. Well....once again you've made me cry. The very idea of a little girl from a distant village being given free reign to walk all over the Hermitage - a place that would undoubtedly reduce me to tears - it is just such a powerful image. How can she ever be the same again? It is just extraordinary.

    And, if you live a hundred years I cannot imagine you experiencing the richness of life in all its facets as you have been experiencing it in this past month. And I'm so glad you are sharing it with us.

  11. Anonymous9:45 AM

    Hi Keri. A friend of mine told me about your blog and suggested I comment here. I am currently in Ukraine. We just adopted a 7 year old girl with Down Syndrome from a mental institution here. She only weighs 21 lbs and looks like a one year old baby. Court was yesterday and we now have a 10 day wait before we can begin the paper process for birth certificates etc...I will be following your blog from now on. My name is Anna my email is calidutchtreat@yahoo.com. Thinking of you! since we are on a similar timezone, maybe we can instant message and encourage one another?


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