I was baptised under the Orthodox Church at an age I don’t remember myself.
My parents told me afterwards that I was yelling like hell, excuse my language. I bet I did! Who wouldn’t when being submerged in water by a strange man, who not only is dressed funny but he is also yelling incantations. Sure, I’ll scream. My mother’s arms were safe. I wanted there. But she was not allowed to come close. Someone else must have held my little trembling self, ’cause I don’t remember a thing!
That was my first experience with religion.
Later on, during childhood, religion made itself known during major holidays. Religious holidays. Easter, Christmas,the Saint of our house…During those festive days we had different rituals to respect and traditional food to prepare. Those where the moments when the family got together visiting each other, in a out-of- the ordinary manner. In the span of a few days we were going to my grandparents, aunts and family friends. One was supposed to eat each time as if getting ready for famine, otherwise the host would think that the cooking sucks. In a culture where food means more than energy for the body (like food usually does), you better not denigrate or refuse to eat. Luckily I was a child then and children were considered innocent little things, flying around. But let me tell you, I had some “evil” thoughts on my mind. I could not talk about them. Nor could I act on them.
But sometimes I allowed myself some freedom, like the times when I would pick up the chewing gum, from the street, and re-chew it. Bhuaa! When you are a child with “evil” thoughts and wanting something sweet, you can do anything.
More so when people tell you not to do it.
Orthodox religion means also having a strong control over the body. One of my grandmothers was very proud of her long fasting periods. Plus attending the service each day. An equivalent from our days (2017) would be the gym/exercise and body image craziness. The focus moved- from an internal obedience to a physical one.
Children were not supposed to fast or have very strict visits at the church. If you did, the grown ups would say that you hear the calling. Other children would laugh at you. As “evil” children do. I was exonerated from attending the religious service (which last for hours) because I had a weak naturel, a weak back and lost my consciousness a few times while being compressed among other women (women and men are standing separately), breathing the heavily aromatised church.
As soon as I was big enough to decide for myself I thought I had enough of religion. For a while at least, until I could find a church where sitting would not be a sin.
But then I met her.
The first friend I had. She was the precious daughter, still is, of a Baptist family. They became friends with my parents. My mother worked with her mother. (And now, after many years, they again work together.) That is how I got to know the baptists. I remember visiting them at their apartment. We were living in the mice house at the time so entering a house with parquet, bathroom and toilet, was such a treat for me. This little friend had a room for herself, toys, colouring books from America and sweets from America. I liked it there.
In time, my parents started to attend the baptist meetings. They had meetings every other day or so, quite often. The father of this friend was the head of the congregation. I don’t know now.
I liked these meetings. There were chairs.
I could understand the words. The man talking on the stage would wear normal clothes. It was cool for a while. Also, there were people throwing themselves to the ground screaming and crying saying that they accept God in their hearts. They want to be saved. The whole room would be electrified. The pressure to say I do as well! was getting stronger. The preacher would go home with a light heart, another soul saved itself right there in front of them.
I would attend, for a period of time, the children meetings when they would prepare a new song. I wanted to belong somewhere, spiritually, so I hoped that all will be fine. One day, there was supposed to be a meeting in the afternoon.So I got myself ready, with a little map under my arm and I got at the meeting house. I waited and waited and waited. No one came. No one had told me that there was no meeting or that it had been cancelled. It hurt so much. I felt such a stupid, hopeless thing that I could not even look or be myself. They had left me out.
I never got back there. Not even if they begged me asking why.
There was a family of Subbotniki just behind our house.
For them Saturday was the holy day, the day when they wouldn’t do anything. Just like a Sunday of ours, I used to think to myself. This family left their house and moved to Portugal. The husband left first. After a few years of pendulating and hardship, the wife and two boys followed. The man was caught one time by the police, held in prison for a while. It was the time when men were trying in all ways possible to get out of Moldova.
I remember people laughing at him saying that while in detention he did eat pork (which otherwise the Subbotniks don’t eat). They made it sound a sin and him a fraud without taking into account the situation.
Their house in Moldova was beautiful and big, two stores, big garden, an alley leading to their front door. It was also empty. I might get in trouble for this but what the hell, I liked to jump over the fence, sneak into the garden and walk around. Look inside. I could do it only during the period when they were away. After a while they never came back.
The grass was so high that strange animals hid in there. I could see the fluffy grass move, hear the steps of the unseen creatures.
Oh yeah, I got to one of their meetings. I remember my father being there, so I suppose it was him who took me. I remember that it was very different from the Baptist church. There were chairs as well, but positioned in a forum like form. At the center would be someone preaching, reading from the bible. I don’t recall anything else other than a feeling of coldness and fear.
I encountered buddhists for the first time in my life in Asia, in China, when I started working there. I will be very honest here and tell you that I did not understand much of it while in Asia. My whole energy was consumed during the stay -alive – job. But I did observe the little altars everywhere, on the streets, fashion agencies, markets.
There Gods were given fresh fruit, incense and the sins of the mortals.
Since my time spent in Asia was consumed by work and running around from one appointment to another (I was part of the white slaves in Shanghai) I only could observe it all from outside.The people I worked with were not talking about religion. But they felt when someone wanted to hurt them. I didn’t.
I respected them, I even liked their cooking (not everything!) thus most of the Chinese people I worked with were very friendly with me.
I looked up some statistics. It seems that :
-185 million people believe in Buddhism and 33 million have faith in Christianity and believes in the existence of God.
-only 12 million people are Taoists, although more than one hundred million have taken part in Taoism activities before.
See you next time with part 2!