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Friday, April 18th, 2003

This Is Siberia?
Where's all the snow?

We touch down in Novosibirsk, Siberia, at 4:00 a.m. Novosibirsk is a city in south-central Russia, on the Ob River, east of Omsk. It has a population of one and a half million and is an important transportation hub on the Trans-Siberian Railroad.

Peering through the window into the dark, I do not see a whole lot of snow. The airplane taxies to a halt and we descend on a staircase inside the converted military aircraft into the cargo hold below, and out a door almost at the bottom of the plane, under the wing.

I'm a little surprised. There is no snow at all on the tarmac. I do not have any gloves on, but my hands do not feel cold. The temperature is a cool 25°F (-4°C). This is Siberia, right?

We board a yellow bus which I presume is going to ferry us to the arrival terminal, but we are unceremoniously dropped off near a fence with a large metal gate. We walk through the gate and Naradev Prabhu (whom I met in Govardhan last month) Premananda Prabhu and Ananda Niketan Prabhu are there to meet us.

We drive for about fifteen minutes to the third-floor apartment that the devotees rent in the suburb of Leninski, where we are introduced to Dhananjaya Prabhu, Krishna Mishra Prabhu, Rasa Priya Devi Dasi, Lilashakti Devi Dasi, and her daughter Malini Devi Dasi.

Goswami Maharaj is still a little tired so he rests for a while. I have something to drink, the Russian devotees gather around, Ananda Niketan Prabhu asks a question, and when I next look at my watch, it is nine-thirty — we have been talking for four hours!

I take a shower, have some breakfast, then the lost hours start to catch up with me (Novosibirsk is three hours ahead of Moscow) so I take a little nap.

At six o'clock we go to a: "Predictions of Vedic Sages — What is the future of modern civilization?" (!) program that the devotees have arranged at the Institute of Hygiene, in downtown Novosibirsk.

I tell the audience something about my spiritual odyssey from Africa to India to America to Russia. Goswami Maharaj starts his lecture with Rene Descartes' famous dictum, "I think, therefore I am"...

The lecture hall is warmer than the temple room in Soquel! I only have a T-shirt on my upper body, but I'm perspiring; people in the audience are fanning themselves with books and pamphlets. By the time we reach the question and answer stage, somebody turns on the overhead fans!

This is Siberia?
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