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Tuesday, April 8th, 2003

Heading North
On to St. Petersburg

It's a slow morning; the sun pokes its head out briefly; it's the first time I've seen it since I arrived. I spend the morning blogging.

At two o'clock Bimala Kanchan Prabhu and Nitai Chand Prabhu take me over to the Jagannath Express where I pick up my train ticket to St. Petersburg from Sundarananda Prabhu. I am going to take the express (not the overnight) train. I have a cup of dahl soup and we leave for the train station.

On the way out of the restaurant, some guy (I think I saw in the kitchen earlier) says something to me in Russian, and stuffs some bills into my hand. I'm like, huh? Sundarananda Prabhu tries to explain, but he explains in Russian. Jai Devi Dasi (who was in Govardhan just a few days ago) steps forward and says, "It is donation."

I am dumbfounded. My first donation. What do I do with it? I ask the young man (who has to be a devotee) his name and he says, "Alexi."

I can't believe these Russian devotees! I have only been here for three days but I can state unequivocally that the are the most generous, hospitable people that I have ever met. They won't let me pay for anything! It is all very humbling...

We drive to the train station in Yadhu Krishna Prabhu's tiny car. Bimala Kanchan Prabhu and Nitai Chand Prabhu carry my bags from the car to the first class passenger car of the long, green St. Petersburg express.

My sole travelling companion, Madan Mohan Prabhu, arrives just before the train leaves. He speaks even less English than Nitai Chand Prabhu (who knows all of two words)...

The train leaves precisely at 4:30 p.m. We clatter slowly through the railroad yard and pick up steam (metaphorically, since it's an electric train) as we enter the outskirts of Moscow.

A light dusting of snow relieves the stark countryside. Quaint rural cottages and occasional coniferous trees provide patches of color to the cold, dreary landscape.

All this snow is a novelty for one who was born in Africa and who spent the second half of his life in California. ("The coldest winter I ever spent was the spring in Russia" :)

Our passenger car is nice and toasty though; it gets so warm that I have to take my coat off. I take out my powerbook and write most of today's blog.

The train arrives in St. Petersburg a little after ten, and we are met by Amrita Krishna Prabhu and his wife, Amrita Mayi Devi Dasi, who speaks fluent English. I haven't left the train station yet, but my first impression of St. Petersburg is that it is much nicer (and cleaner) than Moscow. We take the scenic route to the temple, and that impression is confirmed.

I recognize the temple from the pictures on the web: it's gorgeous! After a quick tour, I am shown to my room, given some milk, fruit, and chapatis, and told that mangala arati is at 6:00 a.m.
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