THE LONE BLACK IN ST. PETERSBURG, ??. EP. 4

This episode covers all events and experiences from church through to winter camp in Vostok and departure from Vostok (from 1st January -10th January 2017)

Amongst other things, my church is big on families. Since New Year happened to be on a Sunday, church service lasted for only an hour(it’s usually for 3). And this is just so families can go back home and have the rest of the day to engage in other worthwhile activities to build their bonds stronger and stay happy. The joy I felt during service was amazing…i felt at home. Back home I heard people say that church was the same everywhere and I felt it could be possible because we follow a particular set of proceedings each Sunday no matter where you are in the world, yet deep within I felt there could be a bit of a difference. Beingat church in Russia was a beautiful experience, the hymns, the talks, the testimonies, the people- everything was lovely. Now thinking about it, I feel I did myself a great injustice to judge the people Vis-a-Vis the Ghanaian people. Ghanaians are generally nice and happy people. There’s a lot going on in our country, as I perceive may be the case in other nations (everyone in a way or the other have their own reservations about their economy, politics and the well-being of their nation), yet Ghanaians have ways to find happiness in these situations. I’ll soon understand that Russian people are not particularly jolly fellows on the outside. One thing is for sure though, they are very, very nice people(when approached). I mean they won’t smile at you on the streets and wave at you because you are a foreigner, NO WAY. But if you happen to lose your way, or need any information they are open and hospitable. There’s a language barrier, yes, but with gestures, google translators, they will certainly help you find your way or offer help any other way they can.
So at church I was expecting the members to come welcome me, get acquainted and make me feel at home and all, (because that’s the case in Ghana) but that didn’t happen. But for 4 missionaries out of the 10 or so who were present, and 2 members out of the whole congregation, I wouldn’t have had a single soul walk up to me. Now I don’t know if you think it very ok for me to have feelings of regret for going to church or sadness at the turn of events but in retrospect I ask myself, ‘did I go to church to be pampered by the members?’. Of course it’s a good thing to move to a new setting and have the people make you feel welcomed but it is no one’s job to make you feel welcomed especially when you are at a particular place for a particular reason. I didn’t fully know this then and so I went back home feeling sad and angry and at a point I felt Russians were racist, and that they did not come to me because I was ‘black’. I don’t believe this was the case now, anyways. I believe I should have made an effort to socialize as well and not have crossed my legs hoping people will run to me just because I’m new to them.I cooked when I got home and on Tuesday, I left for winter camp in Vostok with my colleague from India, Manpreet.

Vostok was fun for me because I made it so. Our job as interns was to make the kids’ stay at the camp enjoyable, make them happy as well as teach them about our culture and traditions and some traditional dance from our countries. There were a number of supervisors and teachers present, and even a principal, so most of the time Manpreet and I didn’t have much to do. Yes we helped out with organizing camp events, teaching dances from our various cultures, interacting with the kids, but when we weren’t doing those, which was mostly the case, we were just in our rooms feeling sad and lonely and almost depressed. I later found a way to interact with the kid- join them in their dance performances and all…I felt happier communicating with them.
Generally, a lot of the kids didn’t speak much English, so again….google translators. It was fun, so much. On Christmas Day, (yes Christmas Day is 7th Jan. in Russia) I led a group of kids to dance to a Ghanaian tune, it was truly lovely. We had jams after the Christmas event and then the DJ dropped a slow-beat tune. It was amazing how the girls immediately moved away from our dance circle to meet up with the boys who, I later found out, had invited them to that dance. Seeing them ‘slow-dancing’ was the loveliest sight I’d seen so far and I shed a few tears. It was truly lovely. When the music went off I found myself in my room, my lights turned off, and crying out some more. The next day one of the kids wanted to know if I was a lesbian. Uhm… to this day, I still do not know how and why that question happened. I don’t know where the motivation came from but I do know I was startled and confused. But it’s ok… it’s probably not what you’re thinking as well.

A portion of the girls and me in my room

The whole camp experience was great. I do not regret participating and presenting my country to those kids. Deep down I’m proud I made it.
Last day in Vostok

We both arrived in the city on the 10th and I was welcomed with some good news, ‘I have a host I’d be living with for the rest of my happy days here in St Pete and she’s already excited, waiting for me at the Pionerskaya metro station’.
This conversation happened right in front of McDonalds. I stared at the chicken and fries that I was just about to order from my mind’s eye, and I moved my hungry self to the metro station nearby…

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