Siberian Chameleons

I became canary-yellow. My camera? Yellow. Chameleons, having shed their typical skin for indigo-emerald-vermillion-violet, painted the square. Puffs of bright chased on the breeze. Hot. Sweaty. Pleasure.

Yellow Holi High Jinks on Soviet Square, Ulan-Ude, Siberia.

Yellow Holi High Jinks on Soviet Square, Ulan-Ude, Siberia.

Multicolored selfies. Yes!

Multicolored selfies. Yes!

A color filled grin in the midst of pandemonium.

A color filled grin in the midst of pandemonium.

Holi has hit huge in Russia. The festival of colors is extremely popular with the youth culture across this country. I mean, who doesn’t want to spackle your mates multi-color? Holi powder is colored rice flour, or a synthetic equivalent. Here in Ulan-Ude, suppliers are selling 3.5 ounce bags at $3.00 a pop. An expression you hear often in Russia is: “Деньги на ветер”, which means spending money on the wind. I imagine many a sober minded grown-up here has uttered that expression in judgement of Holi. It is a racket, they are making money hand over fist, but, try quelling youth’s enthusiasm for a grand time! When the central square of your city becomes a frolicking rainbow mass of adolescent exuberance, you catch the wave.

A purple haze rises off humans celebrating.

A purple haze rises off humans celebrating.

I caught the wave, with a bunch of bright smiling teens/pre-teens who I met in the party on Soviet Square. They happily included me, quite pleased to have someone highlight their high jinks. In Russia, sharing is second nature, and I am always impressed with the generosity with which I am treated. Holi was no different. The crew I hooked up with made sure I had Holi powder to throw. Everywhere I looked, young people furnished Holi powder to whomever lacking. In Russia, people make sure everyone has fun. For photographers, Holi holds fantastic visuals, and the likelihood of maiming your camera. I know many of the photojournalists in Ulan-Ude. They were all up front, shooting from the stage, protecting their money-makers. Having thought about it, I knew the middle of the action was the place to be! Nikon D-60 resurrect!

Sprinkling citron satisfaction.

(*Note the photographers in the background safe on stage. :) Sprinkling citron satisfaction . . .


is fun . . .

on you! The camera takes a hit.

on you! My camera and I take a direct hit.

Holi transports everyone back to the joy of youth. You forget worries and laugh with strangers. It crosses barriers that are generally uncrossable. Life becomes a kaleidoscope of movement, vivid colors and grinning teeth. Possibly Holi is hot tinted nirvana!

Managing a dapper look, while painted green.

Managing a dapper look, while painted green.

My embed with the kids was indelible. If I see them around town, will I recognize them without the bright sheen of Holi pasted faces? The only one who didn’t crack a smile was Lenin, looming over Soviet Square in Ulan-Ude. Inside his stone facade, I wonder, was he red with indignation, or green with envy?

This is my favorite shot of the day. I love the contrast.

This is my favorite shot of the day. I love the contrast.

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Other festivals on Word Press. The colors of the blogosphere are here: ROY G. BIV

Youth Sports Camp

I had to score! My bat cracked, the ball soared over the center fielder’s head. We were playing a hybrid version of baseball. I was the last batter, our team would go to the field whether I was safe on base, tagged out, or scored, so, I was going to score! As my fleet feet rounded third, the ball bounced in from center, and Cindy, the catcher stood in my path, waiting for what she assumed would be an easy tag out at home. At the last instant, I dived. Headfirst, I slid safely across home plate. I rose to the cheers of our Russian campers. “Now that, boys, is how you play baseball!”

Staff and kids spelling out "iCamp".

“Love of Christ” church holds a Christian sports camp for youths every summer. This year it was called “iCamp”.  Yes, it was a shout out to everything “i” these days. Every year we teach baseball, football, ultimate Frisbee, and several other sports. This year we also had boxing, taekwondo, and rock climbing and repelling. We kept very busy! When we weren’t playing sports, we were escaping the sun under cold Baikal waters. Morning and evening we gather to praise God, hear testimonies, watch dramas and learn about who Jesus is, why he came to live among us, and his mind bending love and sacrifice for us. This year ten young men and women asked him into their hearts!

I was this year’s emcee, and let me tell you, speaking Russian after a full day of sports and a beat-down by the sun made for some funny language mistakes. We all came back three shades darker, God was praised, and new eternities founded.

The girls of summer, showing their baseball spirit.

Sasha, or local boxing expert (in red) giving Stas some instruction.

Outdoor kitchen at the camp.

Putting taekwondo lessens to use!

Our itsy-bitsy cabin.

Getting our Russian baseball on.

One of Baikal's many changing moods.

We learned rock climbing and repelling while at iCamp. All with a smile!

Learning a little taekwondo.

Make the catch, Misha! (One of my boys.)

Building friendship.

Games at our evening gathering.

Our first day we hiked into the mountains on the west coast of lake Baikal.

Our first day we hiked into the mountains on the west coast of lake Baikal.


Anya's got game. Nice pass!

Mountain top view from west coast of lake Baikal.

Letting go.

Stepping out.

Hanging on for dear life.

The boys, takin their Ultimate Frisbee seriously.

Girls just havin' fun! (No animals or insects were injured in this photo session!)

Stas, our worship leader, kneeling, and some of our kids under the bright Baikal sun.

Vera, Anya, and Alex batting coaches extraodinaire!

Marina and Alex, in the first of many impromtu planning meetings. Marina is a "can-do" girl. She gets 'er done!