I sit now in the basement of the Sheremetovo airport in Moscow Russia, stranded in hour 14 of what looks to be a 17 hour unexpected layover. I say "unexpected" because I had carefully planned my escape from Eastern Europe to give me exactly one hour in Moscow. When I arrived this morning from Kyiv, however, I was quickly ushered through several confusing lines and stripped of my passport by a woman in a power suit (one who, I think, meant business, if you know what I mean). For the next thirty minutes, a young Ukrainian couple and I wandered the airport searching for our passports, frantically hoping against all hope that we would find them before our flight took off in less than 40 minutes. When we did find them, we were screamed at in Russian and sent away to check back in a few hours. Once a few hours had passed we were finally told that for very vague reasons our flight had been cancelled but not to worry as Delta was pleased to try to get us onto the next flight 17 hours or so later. This would be fine news for me, a Moscow lover, if I actually had a current Russian visa; but as is, I am not allowed to leave the walls of the cigarrette smoke-filled airport. I feel EXACTLY like the reverse version of that Tom Hanks movie "The Terminal."

Fortunately the airport has about 20 stores to browse. Unfortunately exactly 18 of them are exclusively liquor stores (which, if this sort of thing happens frequently, seems totally reasonable). After doing some yelling of my own (but in much less fluent Russian), I was sent down to the first class lounge. Not all it's cracked up to be, but a huge improvement from standing in the borsch-breathe angry crowds upstairs.

The trip to Ukraine was one of the greatest experiences of my life. For the last seven days I've slept on trains, wandered cities, reconnected with long lost friends, caught drunk men falling down long metro escalators, chatted with cute old bobushkas on the streets, eaten 30 kilos of vafly and fresh bread, up-chucked 40 kilos of vafly and fresh bread, hit up street bands, and flown by the seat of my pants. And I've loved every minute of it.

I went to Ukraine for the Mormon temple dedication which is a huge deal for members of the LDS church in this part of the world. This is the first Mormon temple in eastern Europe and members all over Ukraine, Russia, and a number of other countries have been praying and hoping for this day for about two decades. A lot of work went into the preparations and construction and the temple and grounds are absolutely beautiful.

On Saturday night a giant cultural celebration took place in Kyiv where members of the church from all over Eastern Europe put on amazing dance and other music performances to tell the history of Christianity and Mormanism in this part of the world. They talked about sacrifices and amazing acts of kindness and courage of people throughout Ukraine. The event was incredibly moving for the thousands in attendance. It was even more special for many of us who were able to reconnect with people we hadn't seen for many years. One of these people for me was a little girl who I last saw when she was 9 years old and I said goodbye to her in a dirty hallway while her mom lay passed out from narcotic consumption inside their rat-infested apartment. I've wondered for five years whether she was still alive and safe. She is alive and well and seeing her again was one of the most emotional moments of my life. After the celebration and before, people stood around as long as they could, hugging and crying.

On Sunday I went out to the temple site for the dedication itself. I sat next to a family I knew five years ago from a tiny Ukrainian villiage several hours away from Kyiv. It was surreal to be there with them and to think about so many of the good and hard times we had together. They sobbed as the dedication took place. One woman from Kyiv told me through tears that never in her life did she think she would ever see this day.

After the dedication I jumped on an all-night train to L'viv with a couple of American friends I knew from Ukraine. We stayed in L'viv for two days and visited old friends and enjoyed one of Europe's most unbelievably beautiful cities.

Yesterday I rolled back into Kyiv just in time for Acia's wedding. (You'll remember, I worked with Acia last summer in Moscow where she became one of my closest friends). After the civil ceremony, the small wedding party drove out to the temple site for the sealing ceremony. We rode in a rented van together out to the site and as soon as the temple came into view off in the distance, the passengers started clapping and tearing up a bit, not quite used to seeing the building there in Ukraine. The ceremony was absolutely beautiful and it was an unbelievable experience for me to be a part of it. We finished the evening with a traditional Ukrainian dinner together.

I will never forget this week. Whether you appreciate Mormon temples or not, it is hard to see a group of sweet people receive something that they have wanted so badly for so long and not feel joy for them. I have been thinking a lot about freedom lately. I read recently in one of my law school books that "liberty is the secret of happiness and courage is the secret of liberty." I couldn't help but think all week of these wonderful people, truly some of the best people I've ever known, and appreciate the incredible acts of courage I've seen so many of them undertake despite mounds of adversity. And I've thought, their courage has given them something that is making them so happy because it is giving them the liberty to worship and partake of beliefs they sincerely hold to. And I've wondered what I can learn from them as I continue to figure out my life and future paths in my consant quest to define liberty, courage, and true happiness.

But for now, I'll just focus on getting out of Moscow.

Love you all.

~It Just Gets Stranger