Saturday, July 20, 2013

People and Places I Encounter on My Daily Jog

Comrades,

This was a long week -- it always is after a long weekend away (in Kazan). To let off steam at the end of the day and clear my mind, I like to go for an evening jog/power walk. In this post, I will share some highlights from my daily jogs:

A poster that says "Marathon for peace and human rights 2013." Then in black text "Human Rights should be realized and not an idealistic dream." This poster appeared on the side of a restaurant in one of the central squares of the city, not far from the university BGPU (where I study). It is financed by a private company.


My new pravoslav (Christian Orthodox) friends. As I was jogging one day, a mass of bicyclists in red and yellow t-shirts swarmed pass me -- I felt like baby simba in the lion king when he was stuck in the stampede of hyenas. It turns out, it was a youth organization that was representing the Eastern Orthodox Church. They were distributing anti-abortion pamphlets and CDs and wore t-shirts that read on the front "My family - My church" and on the back "New Generation Against Abortion."
I went up to these gentlemen and asked them about their cause. One of them handed me the CD and pamphlet and said "take this, you'll need it." I of coursed smiled and graciously thanked him, but deep down inside I didn't know if I should be offended or not. Was he judging me? I was wearing my running t-shirt and spandex leggings, but certainly that does not imply that I will need this literature on abortion. I asked him why I will need this information and he responded that it is good for my family. I asked them if they were all pravoslavs. One responded that they were not all pravoslavs but were members of different faiths who shared a belief in this one cause. I said thank you, asked them for a picture and went on my merry way. They were very friendly.

Pravoslavs in the park. While I  do not necessarily agree with their cause, I do applaud them for using a peaceful means of demonstration to promote their cause. Religious organizations are a great way for people to be involved in their community, or to use political science jargon, "civil society." After the collapse of the Soviet Union and the dissolution of the komsomol, youth and sports leagues, a lot of kids turned to violence, drugs and gangs. Organizations like this are ultimately a healthy and safe way for people to be involved in their communities and build leadership skills. Plus, under the Soviet Union, abortion was the only form of birth control. So this view against abortion is not necessarily inappropriate. However, I personally would like to see a more balanced discussion with  other peaceful groups promoting alternative contraception options for women and serious couples. My views aside, the fact that there are grass-root, peaceful civic organizations is a productive development in Russian society. 

View of the skate park and white river from the jogging track. A major hang out place for Russians at night. 

Track. There is a nice track and field area downhill from the monument of Salavat Yulaev. I always see Russians jogging there or playing soccer. On Fridays, we Americans play frisbee with our Russian tutors. The other day, there were some older men racing toy cars.

View of track and field (with my hand in the corner).

Anyways, that's all for now folks.  

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