Good Friday: School and a Party and the Father who Loved

In trying to do some justice here to the past semester, I have a lot that should have been posted long ago, including several posts, of which this is the first, written a couple of weeks ago but not until now seeing the light of internet. Of these, I really need to start here, in mid-April, with an epic trilogy that really shows bits of most of what I’ve been doing all year. Easter weekend, in all its glory, is far, far too good to be left unshared.

Easter often falls on different dates in the Western and Orthodox traditions, but this year it is on the same Sunday for both. The whole weekend was full of ways of connecting me to the meaning, and made me think that there must be a reason God spent so much time instituting holidays and celebrations and commemorations for His people: God reigns every day, and on every day it was and is true that He had saved his people from Egypt, as it is true every day that Jesus came, and served, and loved, and died, and rose – but we forgetful wayward humans need times to be reminded of that. I felt that this year; I will need to be reminded again other years.

No way am I going to get this while weekend into one post. So: Good Friday. This is a pretty good picture of a lot of what happens in my life these days. It starts as a normal day, a work day. Two classes. One has shown terrible attendance and punctuality on Fridays, and scheduling a quiz didn’t help. Oh well. In the four hours between classes, I did get some writing, grading, and reading done, and sat down in the window sunlight with my Russian language book. I like when I use that time well. To the later group, a much more active and advanced group, I gave a good lesson about giving advice and infinitives and gerunds as verbal objects and if you don’t know what that means, ask me or another English teacher – anyway, lessons done, teaching day over, busyness hardly complete.

Walking back to the metro, I caught one of my students and asked casually if she knew why one other hadn’t been in class – he never missed. She might know; I was pretty sure they were a couple. I wanted to know if she and he would be at the events later that evening, and if he would be coming on Saturday morning. (Both Friday night and Saturday morning were different this week from usual; I’ll cover them in this post and the next, and later add something to explain more about the usual patterns, which have been really great things as well.) She immediately broke down in tears, and I realized I’d probably brought up the wrong person, but I was able to switch gears and express genuine sympathy for whatever was wrong. And she still said she might be at the party that night.

Home, with about an hour before I needed to leave again, I managed to shower and send a hurried email reply and make biscuits for that night and bake them, and spot clean and put on my pants and get out to that evening’s event: I’ll post later about how good English Movie Night has been, but tonight was a special Easter [/Good Friday] party, with a different location, larger turnout, and proceedings mainly in Russian. I was excited to try as hard as I could to use my nascent Russian.

And mostly I did. For the majority of the time, I probably used as much Russian as English, and certainly more by far than I ever had before, receiving nothing but encouragement from the students whom I’ve gotten to know there, and some new ones. My biscuits disappeared swiftly and earned compliments, I ate others’ offerings, played hard at Musical Chairs and almost won, and thoroughly enjoyed the proceedings. My two students from that day’s group were present: he saying he’d overslept (until 3:00 PM?) and she smiling and cheerful and stuck to his side as always.

There was a movie, but not in English: in Czech, with Russian subtitles (and some hilarious side and background conversations in English). I missed a lot, of course, but I got the main story: a joyful man with an adorable boy whom he deeply loves, working a river railway drawbridge control. Some of you already know how this is going to go: a train comes off schedule with the bridge up; the son, running to his father’s post, falls into the bridge mechanism; the father screams and panics and fights with himself before pulling the lever to save the train, at great cost to himself. A testimony and Gospel message in Russian followed from one of the leaders of the group putting on the event, and the event started winding down.

I stayed, talking to many, code switching (ask a linguist) with abandon, and the girl from class asked why I’d been inviting only guys over to my place on Saturdays. I answered briefly with the reasons I’d had – but, that said, only one had been regular lately, so if he and she didn’t mind, why not have them both over the next morning? They were both thoroughly pleased with the answer and said they’d be coming. Then we traveled back together as far as our routes were the same, stopped to see some fire jugglers on the street corner, and parted.

So I worked as long as the day held work, used every hour of the day well (not common for me, but I try) and combined having fun with reaching out to the students around me. It felt good and I went jumping down my home metro station’s platform to touch the high-hanging signs. Then, tired as I was, I didn’t sleep until I’d read the story of the death of the greatest man who ever lived. Twice I read it – once in Russian, in the New Testament I’d picked up that evening, and had been glad to see my students also take copies of. Good Friday is very very good – even without parties and good lessons and making friends with students, it is a commemoration of about the best thing that even happened to people – something at once terribly wrenchingly awful , as I felt in my stomach watching a man screaming as he pulled a lever, and impossibly divinely wonderful.

As for my weekend, though, it only gets better. Yes, really.