Monday, October 27, 2008

Excursion to Polotsk

The University offered two free excursions yesterday, one busload going to Grodna and the other going to Polotsk. Knowing nothing, I chose Polotsk because one of my classmates had chosen it. We traveled yesterday and I had a great time.

I wouldn’t generally recommend traveling more than three hours to get to Polotsk. It’s a nice town with some excellent churches and an important monastery, but there’s just not enough in the town to justify that much travel time. I enjoyed tremendously an organ concert in a big old church built in the shape of a cube. While the organ wasn’t as big as the one at Philharmony hall in Minsk, it suited the space perfectly and I preferred this concert over the one I’d heard at Philharmony.

Our tour included a bunch of other good stuff, including a tree-by-tree narration during almost the entire trip from Minsk to Polotsk. I didn’t understand most of this narration, but was able to take note of a few specific sights such as the ski area they made by piling up a lot of dirt and the ski jump that reminds me of a high dive because the top two-thirds of it or more is just a ramp in the air.

What I really enjoyed about the trip, however, was touring with students from around the world. We had people from China, Finland, Holland, Iraq, Norway and who-knows-where. I really liked the Iraqis, and found them very warm and outgoing. I was a little apprehensive about them because America has managed to make such a mess of their country, but here we were all just students on a trip together. The guy from Holland challenged me a bit about his impression of Americans and then apologized for challenging me even though I thought he was right in his criticism. In this little microcosm, we were simply colleagues and nothing more nor less.

I wish it were so simple on a global scale.

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