Monday, March 28, 2011
In the seven years that we have lived in Nizhny Novgorod I (Karen) have become familiar with the different regions of the city and quite seasoned at getting around. Before we had a car I knew public transportation routes like I knew my middle name and could get to any point without problems. Some of my Russian friends were highly amused that I knew the city better than they did it seemed. That was before we owned a car.
Three and a half years ago we were able to buy a car and since that time another bridge was built across the river, an existing bridge was shut down for extensive repair, tram tracks were removed from streets and bus routes were changed.
I wanted to play my flute on the worship team for our big conference and to do that meant I had to get there by public transportation. Mike needed the car for teaching at 2 centers and that of course took priority. He would have dropped me off in the vicinity of where I needed to be, but the timing of our schedules didn’t mesh at all.
The rehearsal was clear across the city from where we lived. I went with Mike as far as I could and he dropped me off at a cafe where I had a cup of tea and read for a while. It was dark when I went out and at the bus stop where I stood waiting the buses were not stopping. They merely looked for passengers to flag them down as they rolled past. Because it was dark and because they were moving I couldn’t easily read their placards telling me where they would go. As bus after bus blew past I grew frustrated. Finally one slowed down enough that I was pretty sure I read the name of my destination so I flagged it. Buses in Russia often times don’t come to a complete stop. If you are the only person and you look able bodied they will roll through and you have to jump onto the moving bus when they open the door.
I found a seat, paid the fare when the lady came by to collect, and settled down with my nose to the window to see where we were going. At this point I was still pretty sure we were going where I needed to be. About halfway to destination I knew I was in trouble when the bus got in a Right Turn Only lane and I knew that I needed to be going left. From that point on the trip became an “adventure.” Mike and I have learned to call our traveling mishaps Adventures. It helps to relieve stress and to keep our thinking positive.
In a general sort of way I knew where I was. I was still in Nizhny Novgorod. In a relative sort of way I knew what area of the city I was in, but it was an area that I was not at all familiar with. I also knew that if I got off the bus, crossed the street and got on the same numbered bus going the opposite direction I would go back to where I came from. The problem with this was that we were on a one way street so there were no return buses. The other problem is that there were seemingly no stops at all on this endless route which had fewer and fewer buildings and fewer and fewer street lights. I began to wonder if I had accidentally gotten on an intercity bus and was headed to who knows where.
Finally after what seemed like eternity the bus stopped at an unlit bus stop in the middle of … WHERE? I was the only person left on the bus and the ticket lady told me bluntly to get off. We were at the end of the line. All I could see was forest. OK! Single, older woman. Lamentable language skills. Alone. Dark. Snow. About 10F. Unknown location. Alone. At a bus stop. Somewhere. Alone. At this point I began to feel a bit panicked. I can’t call anyone to come get me because I don’t know where I am. Sometimes at these remote bus stops the buses only come by once an hour. Anyone driving by in a car looking for mischief would see a woman by herself.
Of course prayer, and the presence of my Lord is solace in an impossible situation. Though fear persisted in trying to squeeze into my thoughts I didn’t allow it to rule. After six or eight minutes (six or eight hours? or was it six or eight years?) a bus came by and though I could clearly see that it wasn’t one I wanted to take, the fact that a bus came by cheered me up. Becoming chilled at this point I decided to just take the next one back into the city. I decided that I could figure out how to get home from where ever I ended up as long as it was in a populated and well lit place. Any place with people and lights would be better than this remote spot.
On the next bus I again sat with my nose pressed to the window searching for familiar landmarks. As we came back into city limits I kept asking the Lord to please help me to see Something, Anything, that I could recognize in order to determine where in the city I was. Finally things started looking familiar and the bus actually took me back to the route I needed to be on in order to get to practice. I was able to change to the correct bus and I even made it to practice that night. With all that had happened I was only an hour late, and practice was late starting so I didn’t miss much. Thank you Jesus!