Friday, November 30, 2012

Whimsurfing (Part II)

The call was from my friend Johnny, at whose house I stayed for last Thanksgiving. He had invited me to come again this year, but I wasn’t sure how I would swing that, since he lived in New Jersey. Thankfully, he goes to school in Massachusetts, so all I had to do was take a commuter rail to his school and then go South with him. The one thing I was worried about was actually being able to go down. Johnny was going to go down with his roommate and his roommate’s mother, so there might not have been enough room for me in the car.

The phone call changed all that. Johnny’s mom herself was going to come pick him up. All I had to do was get to Worcester a day earlier than expected. So, I packed my bags once more, and readied to depart from Fr. Victor’s. He was at work, but Matushka was there to drop me off at the T, where I made my parting gestures.

It was noon. I had four hours in Boston to get on that train. I wandered around Boston with my heavy pack. I walked around the downtown area and Chinatown, where I enjoyed some decent and cheap food. I got on the train and occupied myself with reading War and Peace.

When I looked up from my book, I saw an emptied train. In a panic, I looked and looked for an exit, and finally found one.

I waited in the train station for a bit and Johnny’s mom came by to pick me up. “I had such trouble getting here, everything’s so circuitous,” she said. We went to campus and sat in the Campus Center and had something to drink. Johnny was still in the Robotics Lab and would not be out until seven. He came before too long.

After a delicious dinner, we then got in the car and drove four hours to New Jersey. Johnny and I slept most of the way so it didn’t feel like much.

The days afterwards were relaxing and uneventful. I had a comfortable guest room and spent time reading and going on the Internet catching up on things. Thanksgiving itself was very nice, with a meal with all the fixings and convivial guests from England.

On the weekend, Johnny had to go back to Worcester for a concert, so I stayed with Fr. David Straut and his family. Pete and Kate were also staying there with their baby Lucy. I hadn’t been to Fr. David’s parish since Nic and Victoria’s wedding. I heard both the vigil and liturgy in English for the first time in a long time, a very pleasant experience. I also met a few friends I haven’t seen in a while.

It was my namesday on Monday, so I wanted to go back to Jordanville in time to catch at least a little bit of the Vespers/Matins service. I said my goodbyes and prepared to leave with Pete and Kate. At the last minute, Fr. David offered to do the whole vigil service for St. John Chrysostom for me after lunch. I readily agreed. The vigil went by so smoothly it felt like half an hour. Afterwards I stayed for dinner and then went back to Jordanville with Pete and Kate. It was the end of a long week.

There’s something to be said about traveling at the seat of one’s pants, which a friend of mine referred to as “whimsurfing.” The essentials of life become clearer, and it becomes easier—indeed, necessary—to live each day to the fullest. Travel reminds us that we are ultimately pilgrims in this world, and that we ought to receive even the smallest kindness with immense gratitude. My week in Boston and New Jersey put in touch with many wonderful people, and I am very thankful for all the help and support they gave me.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Whimsurfing (Part I)

“An adventure is an inconvenience rightly considered.” —G. K. Chesterton

I was sitting in a Greyhound bus headed to Boston. Night was coming and I didn’t have anywhere to stay for the next week. It was going to be a very lonely Thanksgiving.

As you may know, we get the entire week of Thanksgiving off to make up for not observing secular holidays. This year, unlike the previous two, I had no set plans. No invitations. And I was getting a little stir-crazy. (It happens.) So, at the last minute, I decided to go to Boston. Any further planning than that was beyond my powers.

My vacation began this way:

On Friday morning, I woke up early to go to an English liturgy in the lakeside chapel. Fr. Luke told me to take care of organizing it. I had the music and epistle readings ready and went with a few other seminarians, one of whom read the Third Hour in Chinese. Liturgy went smoothly, and the Kursk-Root Icon was even there. After liturgy, I did some errands and prepared to leave. My teachers canceled class that day, so my departure was more relaxed than usual.

My friend Stefan dropped me off in Albany, where I caught the bus. I was expecting to stay with a certain deacon, Fr. Alexander, but when I called him I found out that he was unable to host me. Undaunted, I called up my friend Chrysostom, whom I know through the Orthodox Inter-Seminary Movement (he’s President, and I’m Secretary). Chrysostom got in touch with a couple of guys he knew from Holy Cross, and I ended up having a place to stay for the night.

Meanwhile, my bus arrived at South Station. Fr. Alex picked me up, and graciously offered to take me where I needed to go. We got dinner—at Trader Joe’s!—and went on a late-night excursion to the Harvard Science Library. “There’s this book I’ve been meaning to get, though there is a possibility that I might have already checked it out and it’s on my shelf.” Of course, as always, we had the most interesting conversations.

Fr. Alex dropped me off at the place I was staying, in Newton. I thought it was going to be a small apartment and was well-prepared to sleep on the couch or even the floor. To my surprise, it turned out to be a very large house with a huge guest room with four beds (!) for me to choose from. The size of the room was about 24 x 24 ft, nearly four times the size of my room at Seminary.

My hosts, John and Nicholai, rented their rooms from a very pleasant nonagenarian who lived on the first floor. As it turned out, both John and Nicholai and I had quite a few mutual friends in common, and I found them to be very hospitable.

I ended up staying the weekend in Newton. I spent my time walking around Cambridge (and Harvard Yard!), reconnecting with an old college friend, and making new friends at Holy Ressurrection Church.

Although I had a great time, I wanted to adhere as much as possible to Franklin’s adage: “Houseguests—like fish—begin to stink after three days.” So, I packed my bags on Monday and arranged for lodging with Fr. Victor Boldewskul, the rector of Holy Epiphany, the Boston ROCOR Church.

I left on Monday and ended up—on my first actual day of vacation—going to another seminary and attending classes there. I had a good experience at Holy Cross, and was glad to make lots of new friends. The classes (Old Testament, Dogmatics, and Byzantine Chant) were interesting, as well. I particularly liked the great Byzantine chanting at the chapel services.

That evening, I went to Holy Epiphany, sang a baptism with Fr. Victor, and went to his house for dinner and conversation. I had a pleasant stay and felt at home. Fr. Victor is a Jordanville graduate, so he knew what it was like to be a seminarian and I had a good talk with him in that category.

Soon after I retired to bed, I got a phone call. And then my plans changed.