Our journey to Rostov, Russia began with a VERY LONG road trip to New York City. There were 14 people, including 9 children (one was a 7 month old baby) in a 15 passenger van. We were also pulling a small UHAUL trailer containing all our bags. The trip began about 4 p.m. in the afternoon of December 30th, 2016, and finally ended about 12 p.m. December 31st, 2016. Along the way we stopped in Hershey, Pennsylvania. Fr. Joseph picked up a newspaper that was very fitting for our trip.
After checking into our hotel, we ate lunch at a nearby Applebees. Our service could have been better, but we were all thankful to get out of that van. We returned to our hotel rooms, took showers, watched The Two Towers, and The Return of The King. Supper that night was pizza and soda. Yes, the children picked the menu! The next morning we packed up, and headed to church at St. Nicholas Orthodox Church. Trying to park a 15 passenger van with a UHAUL trailer attached was rather interesting. In the end, Subdeacon Jeremy and Fr. Joseph ended up dropping us off in front of the church, and parking a few blocks away. We all thoroughly enjoyed worshiping together, and they were very friendly and encouraging about our impending journey.
After church we walked a few blocks to a small café, and had a delicious lunch. Next we walked several blocks back to the van, and went sight-seeing. The World Trade Center and Memorial, Empire State Building, and the Statue of Liberty were among the attractions we saw.
High praise goes to Subdeacon Jeremy for driving the van and trailer in New York traffic! Next, we headed to JFK airport. All total we had to check in 10 people, and 22 pieces of luggage (not counting our carry-ons). Thankfully we were able to get it all checked, receive our boarding passes, and then head on to security.
On a side note, I called the airline to ask if we could check an umbrella stroller at the gate, and was told this airport didn’t allow that. As a result, I had to carry Kenneth all through the airport (along with my backpack, laptop back bag, purse, and camera). The lady at the check-in said that was wrong, and that we could have checked an umbrella stroller at the gate. We all made it through security without any pat downs (such a wonderful blessing), and waved goodbye to the Conrads and my brother Jon.
Another side note, I had fingernail clippers, and scissors in my purse and backpack, and Andrea had scissors in her purse, and none were taken. I intentionally bought chewable medicine for the kids, and had that in my backpack. We were able to board the plane first, because of having children.
The flight went very smoothly. The kids that were 10 and under were given a small bag that had games, crayons, and stickers in it. We flew out about 8 p.m., and arrived in Moscow about 12:30 p.m. their time. This worked well for our kids. They served us dinner, and then the kids watched a movie. Shortly after, they lowered the lights and everyone went to sleep. About an hour before we landed, they served us breakfast. The flight was about 9 hours long.
When we arrived in Moscow, we had to go through Customs. They looked at our passports, and stamped them. We headed to baggage claim to collect our 22 pieces of luggage. Another HUGE blessing was free carts to move our bags out to where Fr. Roman and a couple of other people were waiting for us. Fr. Roman and the other two men were very friendly, and loaded our bags into a van.
Then we began the 3 hour drive to Rostov. It was fun to see how many of the signs we could understand on the drive. Before we got to our new home, we stopped at a grocery store. Fr. Joseph shopped for some food to hold us over for a few days.
When we arrived at our new home, those same three men carried all those bags up the stairs to our house. Each bag weighed about 50 lbs. After supper, we said our evening prayers and went to bed. We made sure to try to switch to the time zone we were in right from the start. This has made it so much easier to transition. It is a little harder waking up in the morning, because the winter sun doesn’t rise until about 9 a.m., but we are trying.
Before we arrived, Fr. Roman had purchased and put together all our beds. All we had to do was make them with the new sheets, pillows, and comforters. This was such a blessing. Everyone loves their new stuff.
Within a couple of days all the bags were unpacked and put away. It was like Christmas every day leading up to the real Christmas. Fr. Joseph would leave with Fr. Roman and come back with more stuff we needed (dishes, silverware, more food, etc.) It was very interesting remembering all the things we didn’t bring or have, like a screwdriver, hammer, clothes hangers, tape, glue, etc. We just keep a running list, and whenever we get a chance to go out we try to pick up as much stuff as possible.
Since we don’t have a car yet, we are relying on other people to pick us up and take us places. They have been very friendly and accommodating. We also had a very nice translator with us, named Anna, and she made life so much easier.
A couple of days after we got here, this area experienced the lowest Christmas temperatures in over 100 years!
Fr. Joseph said, “If we can survive this time of year, it can only get better!” Fr. Roman and his son have been checking on us regularly to make sure we are warm, and to see if we need anything. They even came on Christmas Eve and Day to check on us. They brought extra heaters to help keep us warm, and gave us hats and boots. They also took us shopping on Christmas Eve, so that we could buy a Christmas tree and presents.
We really enjoyed the Christmas Eve service, and our first Christmas in Rostov. (Most Orthodox Christians celebrate Christmas on January 7, instead of December 25th.) The temperature has gone back up (not negative anymore), and we have settled in pretty well!