Stepping off our calm, clean, air-conditioned Lufthansa flight it’s severe culture shock in the Domodedovo airport.
It’s late, late at night. The sun has set and the lights are yellow. Someone is cleaning the floor. Flights from Germany, Kyrgyzstan and France have come in and the lines for passport control are outrageous.
I know it’s bad when I can hear the Russians and Ukrainians complaining around me. One woman on her cell phone next to me says loudly in Russian, “It’s only this horrible in our Russia.”
I’ve just left the line from the Bishkek flight to stand behind the flight from Germany. The Kyrgyz, with their dark, slanted eyes, dirty fingernails and sun-weathered skin aren’t complaining. They do, however, seem completely incapable of standing in a civilized line. The waiting area from their plane is a massive, pushy, sweaty swarm.
Some people in front of me – Russian – are laughing about the whole thing, but I think they’re a little intoxicated.
One of the workers, sulky, tries to slink off for a 11:45p.m. smoke break when – no joke – about seven people start shouting at her – “What is this? Are you mocking us?” I’m not kidding, they’re actually screaming. About three people leave their bags and take after her, yelling at her to get back to work.
“What on earth is this? There’s nothing like this in Europe. People are standing here and it’s midnight,” I hear more muttering in Russian.
It’s like the Bolshevik Revolution, with half of passport control ready to storm the Winter Palace.
Just when I think that it can’t get much worse, another flight shows up and begins yelling at the border guards, at the janitor, at each other, into their cell phones at their taxi drivers waiting outside, and at us, for not letting them skip in line. Why are they so aggressive? Why can’t they just wait their turn in line like everyone else? It’s really not so bad to just stand there without the pushing – I’m really close to joining in the yelling.
Somewhere behind me there’s a baby crying
I’m alternating between swear words and laughter. The level of daily stress here is so freaking high. Russia is not civilized – I want people to know this about my life. Maybe because I want them to feel sorry for me or admire me or maybe just understand me, and understand that sometimes it’s really, really hard.
I also realize that it’s an intensely crucial moment for me right now. I need to start turning my complaining into thanks or prayer really quickly. If I don’t, I know that I’m going to start sinking. Self pity makes life really, really miserable.
So I remind myself: the great thing about being a Christian is that I have the chance to focus on Someone besides myself. Also, that Someone has given me three important promises 1) He will never put me in a situation that’s too much for me 2) He will ALWAYS turn every situation I face into something good, and 3) No matter what I face, I know He has faced the same or worse.
So I remember – Jesus’ culture shock was bi-zillions of times worse than mine ever has been. If I think the shock of Russia after a European vacation was bad, imagine how rough the transition from heaven, where everything is light and love to earth which is dark, confused, and where a large majority of people hate each other.
So there’s my praise – God, how did You do this? How did you survive that horrible transition while not only keeping Your love, compassion, righteousness, grace, and beautiful character intact, but actually managing to transform the world to a better place around You?
And there’s my prayer: God, help me to be (even just a little bit) like You!
And really, this is the thing that gets me through and makes me thankful (and not just in Russia!)