Based on my journal, Sunday, June 14, 2009:
I'm sitting on a mattress stuffed with sweet-smelling hay, in a room decorated with wildflowers, in the eastern Belarusian village of Belaya. Uncle Kolya calls this his barn (there are cobwebs everywhere), but it is really a delightful country house. The town consists mostly of nice brick houses with indoor bathrooms (brick and indoor plumbing are still luxuries in some villages) because it is a planned community for evacuees of the Chernobyl region. Little kids walk their baby sister in a stroller on the road outside. Cows are led down the street in late afternoon. A friendly gray cat stalks the big overgrown backyard that also hides strawberries and potato plants.
I can't remember when I last wrote. Did I mention Vilnius in Lithuania (June 8-10)? Many churches, winding stone streets? The Virgin Mary gazing down out of a painting in a chapel high in the Dawn Gate, protecting the entrance to the old city?
Hrodna (June 6), where we visited more churches and an old, abandoned synagogue, where the curved streets were a bit wider and more recent, where the ruins of a castle perched on a steep, protective hillside overlooking the river. On a big screen in the main square, people gathered to watch a soccer game--Belarus versus Andorra--and I bought the fluffiest cotton candy I've ever eaten.
In Mahilyow on Thursday, the 11th, Rashed gave a speech and was honored by a Belarusian journal he writes for. People kept coming up to me and telling me how excellent his speech was, that he is a genius, that only a couple of other people in the whole country have such a wide base of knowledge and the skill to articulate it. One of the journal's editors says that there is a contingent among the other editors that doesn't believe that Rashed himself writes his articles in Belarusian--he must be getting them translated: look at his South Asian name! It's nice to see other people's opinions of the man I berate for sleeping in too late and procrastinating. He's going to be mad when he reads my bragging...