19: Meeting the parents
The day of the meeting with Elena’s parents can be described as one of the many highlights of my tour to Russia. Often guys go to Russia to meet a few women and then make their choice after they have met them all. In my case I have made up my mind before I visited Elena. We had a mutual feeling that we were made for each other. My visit was to confirm our feeling for each other and to meet Elena’s family as well as to meet her in her natural environment. It is three very important points for a visit and in my opinion the foundation for a successful future relationship.
Friday was set-aside for meeting the family. Our first contact was at the graveyard where Elena’s brother was buried. He was murdered when he was in his early twenties (he was a night safeguard at a shop and it was a robbery). I was curious to know why we had to meet at the graveyard. Elena explained me the reasons why we would meet there. Family and the relation between family members are very important for Russian families. A lost family member is not a forgotten member of the family, and to pay respect to a lost family member is an important ritual that he or she is not forgotten.
We met with the parents at the grave. Because of my inability to speak Russian, my first contact with Elena’s parents was not more than a handshake. Thereafter Elena acted as my interpreter. Respect was paid in the form of flowers that were placed on the grave, cleaning up the grave and thereafter we visited the church on the same premises. In the church we bought candles and lit them.
Lighting candles in somebody’s memory in a church is the part of the Russian Orthodox tradition. The lit of candles can be described as a moment of silence, where you think of the deceased. The Russian Orthodox Church services and actions are very symbolic. The lit of candles and icons play a very important role in Russian churches.
The church on the graveyard premises was built of wood and was there merely to serve the purpose. That building was a total contrast to the other Russian Orthodox Churches that one will find in Russia. Churches in Russia are known for their wonderful architecture and gold plated roofs. I think Russian churches are one of the biggest attractions to foreign tourists. The most famous church is probably St Basilius on the Red Square in Moscow because of its location. For me, the most impressive were the St Isaac’s Cathedral in St Petersburg and most beautiful from a distance with an impressive history, the Cathedral of the Resurrection also in St Petersburg.
After the graveyard we all went to visit Elena’s grandmother, her father’s mother who stayed in Ekaterinburg, for a lunch.
These types of lunches are planned and prepared days in advance. To enjoy those lunches to the full you will also need some time; usually Russians spend 2-3 hours at the table while eating, drinking and talking. According to Russian tradition and beliefs, somebody would announce the necessary toasts to welcome me. No toast was made without a reason, and after the toast everybody should empty his or her glass. If you did not empty your glass, you showed your neglect and disrespect to the reason for the toast. I am a social drinker and I very seldom drink, but this was a gathering for celebration and joy and most certainly not a venue to inform the people that I was a very moderate drinker. So I was drinking like everybody else. Elena did not drink at all because she was driving, and I had to follow what the rest of family members were doing.
I can tell you honestly, I did not enjoy the Russian Vodka at all. I tried to drink it in small sips as we usually drink wine but was told I should drink it all at once, in one big sip. You drink Russian Vodka to become drunk, and not to enjoy the taste. I am not a big fond of being drunk but I decided I’d rather keep my mouth shut, or better say open and drink with the others. But it did not take long for Elena’s family to realize that I was not used to this type of celebrations. Despite the fact that some of the stronger alcohols were not easy to swallow with one gulp, I tried to make the best of the situation and enjoyed the nice food that Elena’s grandmother prepared for us. Thereafter I was embodied as a possible future family member.
Little did I know that there were more tests set for me! I would probably do the same if someone were interested in my daughter. The difference was that these barriers were in the culture that I did not know in detail. It was a memorable experience and I was satisfied with the manner in which I dealt with it.
The lunch and the wonderful spirit in which the people enjoyed the event had made a lifetime impression on me. These impressions stick in your mind after the happening. My advice would be to enjoy everything to the full extent.
Before we sad down at the table, some food was on the table already and the most interesting to me was the caviar. Before any food was dished up, we enjoyed the food on the table as snacks with the celebrations. Thereafter followed the starters that were salads then we had our main meal followed by sweets. I know there was also cheese on the table but am not sure at what time did we eat it, before or after the Vodka.
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