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27 June 1994

Today a (friend? acquaintance?) of Olga's came over at 1:30 or so, maybe 2:30. Olga said he was the president of the local university. When I told him I didn't smoke and I believed in God, he told me I needed help! He was funny. He said all my problems were becauase I was born in the Year of the Snake.9

He also had some strange ideas about America and California, but I wasn't sure if he was serious or joking. I think he was being sarcastic.

It's raining today, so Olga called up a friend to drive us to a cathedral in St Petersburg.10

Both of the cathedrals had been badly damaged in WWII, and weren't being restored until now. The first was just barely a building: it had walls and a roof. Most of the inside and outside were bare brick. Inside, the floor was a bunch of wood slats, the light hung on two wires from the arched ceiling. The altar and sparse decorations showed that the church was in use, but looked out of place and bordered on ridiculous. While we were there, workmen were pounding away, doing something on the far wall.

The second cathedral was much nicer and over half had been repaired on the inside. Most of the walls were smooth, white plaster, except for one alcove on the left.

In the cathedrals, small thin orange candles are sold to the churchgoers. The people light a candle in front of an icon to ask that particular saint for help. It reminded me a lot of the time I went to a Greek Orthodox church.

After the Cathedrals, Olga needed to pick something up at the tailor's, but it wasn't ready yet. Yala (I don't really know how to spell her name) made "pizza" for dinner. It wasn't very much like pizza (she said it didn't come out the way she expected), but it was good and I ate two pieces.

9 This guy was so cynical and I was so naïve. He must have had a field day. At least I had (and have) a decent sense of humor about myself. I'm still pretty sure he was being sarcastic. I wonder what he'd think of me now-- still Christian (though I like to think a lot wiser spiritually), still non-smoker, a coupla notches above a teetotaller-- but not without my own little vices, and certainly much less of a prude.

10 The Russian Orthodox religion seems very mysterious to me, although maybe paradoxically in some ways similar to what I'd come up with if I invented my own religion (and by that I do mean religion-- the trappings and structure of ritual activity-- not theology or spirituality). There's a weird mixture of austerity and the ornamental. I've seen a fair variety of places of worship, but there's something specially awe inspiring for me in those elaborate huge cathedrals-- and yet, there wasn't even a pew to sit on.

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