Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Present life in the family

While you've been hearing about other things, let's stop and go back. Starting in January, we'll go from youngest to oldest. Around December of last year, Simon was enjoying the snow and having a great time at Kindergarten. Kerith, however, was also enjoying his snow and his Kindergarten. Problems in the boys' adjustments, rated on a scale of 1-10: 3.

I, on the other hand,
was totally hating Russia and wanted so badly to go home and couldn't stand going out to play at playgrounds, because little kids would crowd around me and saying things that I didn't completely understand. I now am doing very well with being outside and enjoy playing with the littlest children (which I will explain later). Problems back then, however, on a scale of 1-10: 10. I had also just finished an art course in January.

I don't know how well Mom was doing, because, . . . well, she never told me. I think she was both excited about being here and missed her home. Dad, however, was making friends wherever he went, including the farmer's market. I think Daddy was excited about being in Russia and didn't want to go home.

January: mixed feelings. Kerith and Simon are still having a B-A-L-L. I am not even excited about our trip
to Finland to renew our visas - wanting to stay in Russia. When we get back to Russia, I sit down and wish that I could stay forever.

In July, we are in Germany again for visas, and I have made three of my best friends ever. What's amazing is that I never knew any German, and two of them only knew a few wor
ds of English. The other girl knew a lot of English, so she could translate. We came back to Russia on the very same day we arrived in Russia in 2007 for the first time.

Around September, I had my birthday, got my guinea pig, and I'm still totally, radically, wishing to stay in Russia. Updates from March to this point have stayed the same. Points on wanting to go back to America: 4.

I am different now in wanting to work with the orphans a lot more, and I am having a lot of trouble with friends, which I
will now tell you about. From my entry about learning Russia, Zhenya and I have not had a good experience since she got back from her grandmother's, and, unfortunately we've settled on not being friends. Or actually, she has settled on not being friends with me. She is buddy-buddy with another Alena (not the one from my last blog about friends).

The other Alena in the dvor is a consistent friend. The only problem is that I don't see her very often. I have met an
other girl named Zhenya, and she claims to be my friend but is never really available to play. They are pictured here to the right.

So I have settled on the little ones to play with. They go to a Kindergarten that is next door (right). In the morning I try to go over there when they get out for break. The teachers are starting to get to know me there. The children there I think enjoy playing with me. They have started flocking to me whenever I come. All I could do was dodge the snowballs when it snowed a coupld of weeks ago.

I pray constantly for a friend my age, though.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Hushabye Baby

I had been having trouble falling asleep at night almost every night for a long time since moving here. Then dad finally came in to help me pray and fall asleep. We prayed and God gave me a picture of dad leaving and I would tell myself a story of what heaven would look like. So this I did after he left. And you know what? It really worked! The next night I prayed, and God told me to imagine hell. You wouldn't think it would make me sleepy, but it did help. In other nights I have imagined my neighborhood without the beggars and poverty, and it became so beautiful, it felt as it was really true. God has helped me to fall asleep through my prayers (sometimes humming, sometimes singing). Also lately I have been able to talk to God as I go to sleep, which has been a great blessing for me.

Daddy has written about this here.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Learning to love Russia

Yesterday was a day that wouldn't be enough to talk about, so I will talk about yesterday's life - you could say "last year's life." How far have I come? Last year, I was new to Russia. I didn't understand why I was in Russia. What was Russia? The last few months before leaving America were hard to realize that I was leaving and not coming back. I experienced a lot of good-byes during that time. I couldn't understand, why did I have to go? It was difficult, because in those last few weeks, I really started to understand that I wasn't coming back, never. And now here, I think, "Did I really love America, or was I just used to America?" Now here I understand that I didn't love America; I was just used to it. Here I love Russia. I feel like I can love Russia and not just be used to it. I don't hate America; it's my thoughts about America that are different. I didn't know hate in America until I came to Russia. I didn't know love until I came to Russia. In America, people have a sense of what is right and wrong, so they just do it without thinking. They don't really love when they do it. They do it because they know it is most likely the right thing. In America, people don't think about doing wrong. In Russia, most people, not all, don't have an ounce of that sense. They see wrong as right and OK. I can give many examples of things that are sad in Russia, that I see practically every day.

For example (this is reality!), there are two benches in our courtyard. They are very close to each other. Many people sit on them. But there is one guy in particular who sits there all day and goes back and forth between them, sitting on one or the other, one or the other. There is obviously something wrong with him, and my entire family knows the answer. He is drunk; never is he not drunk. He can sometimes be not as drunk, but he is still usually drunk. I shouldn't say "most of the time" but "all of the time." We cannot do anything to help him. He is so addicted, he can't even concentrate on things. During the Easter game we played outside, we all were looking for one of the clues Daddy had hidden, and we found him lying so drunk on the ground, he didn't even realize that his entire forehead was covered in blood. My dad picked him up and put him back on the bench. He looked right into the man's face and asked him, clearly, "Do you want help?" The guy was so drunk, he didn't realize he needed help, so he said no. We probably should have helped him with hydrogen peroxide and bandages. But the guy was so out of it, he didn't realize he was bleeding. But head wounds do heal quickly, but there was a lot of grime in it. So he is still alive, but there are probably thousands of germs crawling in his head.

Another time, my Mother and I were coming to a metro stop along the square and we saw a huge crowd gathered in one area. We could see through the people and saw legs and a face on the ground. This was a guy likely dead from alcohol. The legs were dark purple, and the part of the face we could see was a bright red mass. Then, near there, there was a long line of old ladies, who are there every week selling their last possessions, because the government only gives them about $120 a month. But they have to pay not only rent, food, transportation, and then pay off the mafia who control begging and selling. I could name a hundred other examples, but I have other things to say.

The pain here is undoubtedly noticed by others, but most people can't do anything to help. What frustrates me is that the government most likely notices what they are doing to these poor ladies, because they are the ones giving them the $120 a month, and they don't do anything to stop it. The government here is most likely not all influenced by somebody making them give unjust pensions. They could do otherwise, but they won't. They wouldn't for all the 120 dollars in the world. They probably only do it for 15 millionaires money, which makes me so mad, I want to be in charge of the government, but I know I can't, so I do what little my family can do.

For my birthday, my dad gave me 4 jars with the start of my allowance. One jar is for pocket money. Another is for saving. Another is for the poor. Another is for the church. I get 40 rubles every Sunday, and I put ten in each. You can bet that most of the time the one for the poor will be empty from usage.

You are probably wanting to know how I can love Russia through all this. This is a simple question. How can God love Russia through all this? I love it as God would love it. God loves it more than I do, but I love it as well because He made it. I did not make it, but I love it because it is a unique country, not because of the pain, since many countries have pain, but because it is wonderful to see love. Every day it is a joy to see love because it is not often that you do see love. Would you please pray for Russia to become a Christian country with more love than it has now?

Friday, September 5, 2008

Grandma visit

My grandma came here for a visit a few weeks ago. She came with a group on a cruise. For a few days she had to be with them before she was released. But we saw each other periodically during the last part of her cruise when they got to St. Petersburg. We were very excited to see each other and we spent a few days also with her friends, Elaine and Dennis Connally (left and right). Then after they left, Grandma came over to stay with us - in my room!!!

We went a lot of places. We went to a nearby park, to some cathedrals, a cemetery (right), and a museum (left) that we had never even been in. She explored the city with us, but we spent a lot of time at home together. I wanted to show
here everything I could. I wanted to show her the secrets of our house and the secrets of our neighborhood. These included the special places we like to play at, not necessarily playgrounds like the neighboring Kindergarten where we play a lot on the swing and a soccer field - not exactly with grass and the white markings. It is more of broken glass on sand in a big area in my courtyard.

I liked feeding her food like tvorog (a rough dry cottage cheese). She liked the different pickled salads, jams, and soups like borsch. And then one time she cooked breakfast the Southern way for us, because she is Southern. It was a trip down memory lane. She also cooked a wonderful dinner that was also Southern. It was a trip up memory lane. We took her to our hugongous grocery store called O'Kay. She was very surprised at the variety and how large it was.

It felt weird to be in a place where I knew and she didn't, becasue in America she knew at least the language and the food. There is nothing much to show her there. Now it felt strange. It was odd to show what I knew as home and have someone whom you knew in a place they didn't know but that she was excited about and exploring. We had discovered it all, and it was like trying to be excited when your little sister is going into first grade where you have already been. It was different to see her excited about stuff we knew.

Sometimes it felt like we were in America where she lived because with her there, it changed some things. It made me feel priviledged to be here, but at the same time wishing to go home. When she left it was very sad, but we all knew that soon comes the other grandparents (at the end of September).

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Making friends and losing friends is very hard.

My family had to go to Germany for three weeks because we needed to get new visas in order to stay in Russia. We stayed with some friends in the southern area of Germany in the Black Forest; actually we were 29 steps to the forest. The town was called Oberwaldachtel, and it was quaint. I liked how the houses were big and clean with a cheerful, flowery spirit.

One day
our host's wife took her little girl to the playground. I accompanied her, and I learned the path to that playground. The next day, I wanted to take my family there. On our way there, we saw three little girls in front of a yard. Little did I know that those three girls would change my next three weeks.

When we arrived at the playground, we were soon playing happily on the slide an
d swings. (Dad had brought newspapers so we could slide on them down the slide to go faster.) Those three girls came to the playground and started to play on the see-saw that was empty. I walked up and helped them on the see-saw since they were totally different weights, and it was unbalanced. Soon I started making funny faces and making bunny ears on the girls' heads. They laughed and laughed, and though I could not speak German, my father helped me find out their names and ages.

Jill (right) has black hair and tanned skin. She was seven years old, but during our time there, I helped her celebrate her eighth birthday. The other girl, named Madalyn (left), had just turned eight and had brown hair and light skin. Finally, Tchosey, was around four and had very sh
ort hair. Jill and Tchosey are sisters, and their older sister, who I had not met yet, Angie, became my best friend.

After the playground we went together into the forest and ate blueberries, making them into eyeshadow and lipstick. Then they had to go eat and said that we would meet together after lunch. At the appointed time, I got ready and walked out the door. Upon arriving at Jill's house, I found Jill and Madalyn on the porch by the small pool that they had. We soon were laughing so hard that Jill's older sister, Angie, peeked out of the window. She noticed me and came outside. Angie realized that I could speak English and started using the English she learned in school. She was really quite fluent. Angie (below, center) is 11, but I am taller. The girls were soon feeling very comfortable together. Over the three weeks, even though Angie was still in school, we would meet together almost every afternoon. We would ride her scooter, play at the playground, and do all sorts of fun things with the other girls. Seeing all the girls together was very normal. Neither Jill nor Madalyn spoke any English, but we could communicate better than two English speakers.

The last day was hard for us girls to say good-bye. Most of us were tearing up. We felt like we had lost one of our limbs. I had a desire that I expressed to Jill and Madalyn that every time they met, they w
ould sing our "theme song" called "Nein, nein, bitte, bitte" (no, no, please, please) which we made up together and sing with different styles of music. I have learned to make friends no matter what the circumstances, no matter the languages.

Now that we are back, all of my friends are gone. Zhenya is at her babushka's (grandma's), and Alena I have not seen for weeks. Only boys are left, and all I can do with them is play football (which I know how to do, by the way). But I don't like to play football with a bunch of boys who can't even speak my own language and who tease me about my language. I do miss all my friends. I feel lonely now that I have no one nearby. Zhenya is coming back on the 14th. I don't even know if Alena moved. I hope that in October when we have to leave again for our visas that we go to Germany to see my friends again.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

The Advantages of Learning Russian (but not from Rosetta)

Rosetta Stone is a way that we three learn Russian on the computer. It teaches us some good things, and for a while it taught us pretty well. But it doesn't teach me what I wanted to know. For example, if I wanted to learn an exact phrase, it wouldn't give it to me what I choose. But I have been learning very well my Russian without Rosetta. So I think that make friends is much better than Rosetta.

I first of all have met a girl in the dvor (courtyard enclosed by several buildings) named Zhenya. Another g
irl I have met is Alena. We all share a bunch of the same interests. Me and Zhenya share the interest of dress-up. Me and Alena share the same interest in sports such as roller blading and biking. We three get along well, but we rarely get together as a threesome, even though we all live within a few feet of each other. They are often up at 11pm, and I go to bed at 8:30. We usually meet around 5:30 and my family eats at 6:00. Then after than we have devotions which last about 15 minutes, and then I am allowed to go out a little more before having to take a shower, read with Mom, and go to bed.

Now that school has stopped for them, I see them a lot more. But Zhenya (right) is at her grandmother's now. When she was here, we often had struggles, but we ended up in a better place after them. For example, one time she was resting on a chair, but the boys wouldn't
leave her alone. She got kind of mad, well, really mad, and started chasing them. She managed to yank Simon down by the shirt, but if you know Kerith, he doesn't run from a fight. He fights. He ran after her and also got yanked into the dirt. We all ran home crying. I was crying because she had hurt my brothers. They were crying because they were hurt. We didn't talk to each other for some time, but the next time I saw her, she surprisingly invited me to help her wash charcoal off a house her friends had been drawing on. We got along much better after that.

Once in a while we
still have problems, but we are still much better after that. Sometimes she gets upset for no reason. One time she came home from vacation and wouldn't talk to me. I didn't understand her. Her friend didn't know either. My dad once had to go to her parents to resolve a problem, and her mother sent her over to talk to me. She had been completely avoiding me. Now I am confident we have been through most of the bad trips.

Me and Alena never have fights. I sometimes hold on to the back of her bike while she pedals. Alena has a little sister names Susha who I sometimes play with as well.

My dream is so sometime invite them to church and hopefully have them become Christians because I care about them and I wish them to see the glory of God. When I get to know them much better than now, I will start edging towards talking about Christ and see what they thing about him. Here she is with me and Kerith on Daddy's Easter hunt.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008


We were invited by Pastor Ilya to a youth retreat in Karelia. Karelia - the unknown and gorgeous area of Russia that I didn't know about until recently. We accepted the invitation and went there from the 12th to the 15th this month.

We went on an express electric train type thing, but not a train. And I got to sit next to a
young girl who didn't have her pants pulled up the entire way and was facing the aisle, so her underpants fell down far with me behind her having to look at it. I got to ride in a car that had to honk at the cows in the road. I wanted to get out and have a drink out of our blockaders. We got to our dorm (right) at about midnight, which was fun for me because it was still very light out.

The place was very nice. There were three dorms, right splat next to a lake, so the air felt very cool, especially because we had the water and mountains nearby. There was a volleyb
all court, and everyone was always playing, even though they weren't any good at it. It was a small area with a big atmosphere.

The retreat was fun be
cause it was carefree - no school and everybody could just do as they pleased: play or be lazy, sleep or sit and talk. My dad did a bunch of exercises with the adults one day, and the kids just hung out and did as they pleased. I liked to stay down by the lake.

One time I was sitting on the dock and all the men were in the "banya" (sauna) when all of a sudden all these men came bursting out wearing bathing suits and running down the dock into the lake. And then they were all back out as quick as lightning, including my dad, who was not happy about jumping in the lake. Dad says it was "powerful cold." He told me later they had rubbed him over while in a sheep's wool blanket and said it was torture. I was trying to go home, whenI saw Simon tugging at the life saver so he could get in the lake too. They had been in the banya as well but decided against getting in the water. I went in the banya a couple of times and got really hot but never got the biggest kick out of it. I don't understand why some people enjoy it.

Once we took a wonderful hike up to a lake where there were tons of beautiful wildflowers (left). We got a family picture there (right). We picked a bunch of white coral bells and when we came to the very top of this very tall hill where right in front of you were different colored trees opposite you. In the distance you could see part of a lake. I felt overwhelmed by the beauty of it all.

While I was in Karelia I learned the meaning of "he" and "she" (own and onah) in Russian, which was very useful
since there were plenty of girls and boys there. I made quite a number of friends there and when sometimes watching volleyball games I would point out that "he" and "she" did this and that.

I was the only girl there between the ages of 5 and 12, so I got to know one of the boys very well. He was the only one who was nice to me. The other boys were often teasing me and Kerith. One time I tried to ask a question of one, and he just started walking away with a mischievous grin on his face. When we started to follow him, he went into a dorm and closed a door on my brother's toe.

Another girl I got to know was Vlada, a young lady who was engaged and had very long pretty hair. I would often play with her hair (left) and talk about different hair styles. This picture was taken on the train home.

God taught me a bunch of Russian words in Karelia and gave me relaxation there. D
uring my walks around the camp He taught me to trust my worries about things back at home to Him. I felt very relieved of those burdens.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Becoming an honorary 6th grader

I'm in between 4th and 5th grade, but recently I was in the 6th grade. Let me explain. Dad had been asked to teach the 6th grade at the school where my brothers go because they had been having problems getting along and receiving new members of their group. This was a Christian school, and I was surprised that kids even needed help with that. Dad thought it would be a good idea if I came too. He decided to take us to a park on an island.

When we were on the island, we walked to a specific spot. Dad was going to teach trust in this area. We did "trust falls", which are games where one person stands behind another, and the other has to fall back and trust that the person behind will catch him. We did that for a while before Dad taught us a little lesson on needing to trust people, and we moved on. (Note: I am being ignored at this point. Nobody has talked or looked at me, even though I know a few from church.)

We got to the next area where some pipes were lying around not hooked up yet. The group was supposed to make their way across the top of one pipe without falling off. We had a couple of minutes, and after a couple of tries, we finally made it. After we had finished, we came back to Dad, who asked if anybody felt that their ideas had not been listened to. One girl said that had happened to her and started to cry. We sat down to talk about it. I don't know what happen
ed then because Dad was too busy to translate, but it took over a half hour for the kids to figure out that they had to say "sorry" and apologize to the girl who had cried. (Note: I am still being ignored.)

We next came to a large river where we were given a certain amount of time to get the entire group of ten across in a boat that could only hold two. That game we did not complete since we ran out of time. I didn't know how to use a boat; I was not included; and I was helpless, since Dad had told me that he had "forgotten" English for the day. (Note: I am still being ignored, even when I asked for help.)

We next got to a large concrete cylinder, and Dad told us to get in. We had to get out of the cylinder
without touching the top rim, which was very difficult. Everybody thought that since I was the smallest, I should go out first. I didn't want to go out first so I just firmly said "No, I don't want to. Nyet, nee xhochu!" The kids persisted, first being nice, then reasoning with pressure. When I was left with two boys, they tried asking me, "Why don't you want to come out?" I said, "I want to be last." While they were trying to talk me into leaving again, a much older boy came up from behind and tried picking me up and throwing me out. He is the one on the right in the picture. I struggled to get out of his arms until he let me go with a loud groan. Finally I was the only one left. While I was trying to get out myself by holding on to two girls hands and walking up the side, I touched the top by chance. Dad says the entire group should have had to get back in at that point, but since we had been doing it an hour, Dad let just me go back. I climbed in and let a bunch of people help me like they thought might be best. Finally I succeeded, and that ended the day, mostly. (Note: Even though I was ignored all during the day, after this challenge, the kids started to talk to me, even the older boys. This was a great example of how being stubborn can help sometimes.)

Even at other places, like church and the school, where I see those kids now, I am still not ignored. I have been sometimes very stubborn and only now did I realize I could be that stubborn. I don't know whether this is good or bad, but it certainly has helped a lot. I think I did it because I had been ignored the entire day as a way of saying, "I'm not a small baby that needs to listen to everybody." God told me later on that the way I got their attention was an OK way, but I could have done it some better ways.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Dumb Ways Russia Works

OK. Silly title, but it's really true (like this crosswalk). Everywhere, it's dumb. Let's get to it. The other day at the train station, my mom was trying to go through a turnstile with her ticket. It's possible to go through with someone else, which she was trying to do with Simon. But before she could even get her ticket in the slot, a lady on the other side, who was not even a worker, said, "don't go through over there; come down over here." Mom looked right at her and said, "Why?" The lady just looked at her and didn't answer. Mom repeated, "Is this not right?" The lady didn't answer again. But in the end, Mom did have to go "here."

Another time at the train station, the lines were enormously long, and we were waiting to buy tickets. Just then a lady called out, "come over to these machines where you can buy your own tickets." We headed over there. There were already some people there, but they were not having much luck. Their money was not fitting into the slots. If it did, it would come back out. They would flip it over, stick it back in. No. It wouldn't work. So finally, we just gave up. It was time for our train to leave, and we had to just take the subway. Dumb ways of Russia.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Dreams and Hopes of teaching English

I've always wanted to teach English but have never gotten the opportunity. But since we have come in contact with Orphanage #46, a chance has come for me to do it, and as soon as I heard that I was able to, I was very happy. I never really thought that I would have the opportunity, so you can imagine my surprise at being able to assist my mother in teaching an English class.

The first few times I couldn't go because I was very sick. I was first sick with fever and dizziness, which then turned into Chicken Pox. Then there were a couple of stomach bugs. So if you were to ask me how I was doing back then, I would say very poorly.

I wanted to teach English so much that I had begun to ask my parents if they would go and get me some kids from #46, because I had worked out the lessons and the plans. Here's what they were: they would come around lunch time, and we would have lunch at my house. Then we would go to my room and start out with roll call. Then we would get to the lesson. Lessons would start with the alphabet and pronouncing the letters. After snack and a quick five minute break, the second hour would be putting sounds together to make works. That would be how the class would go. After putting sounds together and pronouncing the words, we would all have dinner at my house, and they would go home. During the meals and breaks we would get to know each other. Thinking about this all always made me impatient for it to happen.

I got to go with Mother for the first time yesterday. When we first got there, two girls came in first - Fareeda and Masha. Next came two Natashas. We started off with cups and cubes. Mother would say, "put the cube into the cup," or "put the cubes underneath the cup." The class went well - not like other classes, Mother said, because the ones she had been at previously had been loud, and not a lot of people paid attention to her.

I was there to observe and not help yet, said Mother.
But I did get to participate in some things. After a while, a boy named Dima came and Mother brought out Bingo. I played with them and got to call out the numbers of the balls. I think Natasha #2 won. The boy Dima was very good at reading, and he read the first page of the book she brought, "Sylvester and the Magic Pebble." I went around taking pictures.

When they noticed a bad cut on Mommy's arm, I drew a picture on the board to help them understand what she was telling them about how she got hurt (she tries not to speak Russian with them). I showed a picture of stairs with a stick person flying on her back downward with her hair streaming out behind her. Mom laughed but told me to erase it.

Now that I see the way the children act and their ages, I don't know if I can do a class. They are unruly; they have no respect for grown-ups, sometimes even my mom. Since they are 12 and up, most of them, I want to be about their age, or they may not treat me like someone who is teaching them English. They may treat me like a little kid playing dolls. I hope that in the future I may be able to have that happen still. I want them to be able to grow to have a relationship with God and to know English.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

For you kids' homework

I got this note from a friend, and Dad suggested I post my answer.

This is Ethan. I needed to get some info for school on what it is like being a missionary.
Here is what I need:

I need to know about what your family's goals are as missionaries,
and how your family's lives are different from other families.
Also about your travels.

My family's goals are to help with the orphans and raise leaders. Raising leaders, from my point of view is supposed to be my Dad. He is raising them, as in, he is teaching them to help them to teach the class over again and so on and so on and the leaders part is when people are raising each other up in Christ.
There are about 10,000 orphans in St. Petersburg, and a lot more in the rest of the country. I want to teach the orphans English with the Russian I know, which is a good amount. Other than that, I am not really sure what we are going to do with them yet. We aren't sure, because God hasn't told us yet.

Our lives are different from other families because
  • it's hard being away
  • it's yucky
  • we don't have a car
  • it's cold
  • we go to a Russian church
  • we live in an apartment
  • I feel very much adapted in my new home
  • we live in a totally different country
It's really difficult at first. You feel really down that you are here. You feel like giving up 15 weeks of dessert just for a plane ticket back. You forget about it during the day, but at night, lying in bed, it's really hard. Once you get used to it, though, it's really not so bad. If you ever read my blog, you can find out about how I feel now. Read carefully!

Life here is terribly dirty. In the street cars, there are cakes of wet mud on a rainy day. Litter litters the streets. Cigarettes and beer bottles litter every step.

We don't have a car. We have to walk to the subway, and it takes about 20 minutes to do that. To get to church, we take a very short train with stops. We use un-private taxis called marshrutkas. We use buses that are so cram-jam packed that you get bumped and pushed and shoved when you get out, no matter how many times you say, "excuse me, I'm sorry," they still push and shove even if they see you coming out, they still come. The Russians have a very sad background from the Soviet Union, and they feel they have to push and shove to get their way. It's all about, "get me in! I don't care if you are still coming. I still have to get my way!"

It's really cold here. It sometimes get to -14 Celcius. In America we would be shivering. Over here, we play outside without scarves, gloves, and hats in this weather. It's snowing, actually, right now. A normal winter temperature for us is 0 or below.

Most of my Sunday School I don't understand. Most of the teachers cannot speak enough English to be able to explain what is going on. I have to wait until the end, which is, it seems, forever.

We have no backyard. The only place we have to play is a little courtyard in-between our apartment buildings. The only things pretty are painted tires, dead plants, and dead trees, sawdust, cigarettes, and beer bottles. There are trash cans in the courtyard, but no one ever bothers to use them. They just throw them anywhere. Lots and lots of construction is always going on, and it is deafening when you go outside.

Please be praying for the Russians, because they have a very sad background, and most of Russia is not Christian.

When we got here in Russia, about a month later, we needed to turn around and go to Hungary, but we also stayed in Austria before and after we went into Hungary for a missionary conference. Then about a month ago, we just returned from being in Finland for a couple of days. We travel here by bus or by plane. I like traveling in Europe because most of Europe is very pretty. Next time we go to renew our visas (which is why we went to Finland), it will either be to Estonia or Latvia. Please pray for us as we do our traveling so that we will always stay safe.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Spiritual and Literal Privileges of a Second Person

You may be wondering why the title of this entry is so long. I will explain why. You should know what a privilege is; I expect most of you do. What I want to write about are the ways I am finding my way around in my mind and in my city.

One privilege is the art class, which is about a half a mile from here. I have just recently been given the privilege of walking there by myself, and I am close t
o being able to walk home by myself. Another privilege relates to a "detsky sad" (Kindergarten) nearby that I can take the boys to and from to play at its playground. Let me explain: you are probably able to go to places very freely by yourself - including you children. So I don't expect you exactly understand the big deal about being able to walk a half a mile. Let me say that I grew up in a neighborhood that was very quite, but I was not even allowed to walk a half of a half of a mile. So now I am walking on a very busy street, crossing all by myself, without my parents worrying.

Now, for the spiritual privileges. Recently, you may have learned, I have started to speak the language a litter easier and start to feel at home here. Before we went to Finland in January, I was all upset. I did not want to go to Finland. I wanted to stay in Russia, now my home. And you may say, "you have deprived my home country; it is no longer your home." That is exactly what I mean; I have deprived it. As I was singing in Russian this past Sunday at church, I realized that I did
n't want to go back to America. I wanted to stay right where I was. And that feeling has grown ever since I knew I had it in me. Second of all, though I may not be able to speak the language fully yet or pronounce things correctly all the time, I feel as though my language has grown a bit. Before I wrote my entry, "Feelings," (pt. 1) I was saying only, "I don't understand" in Russian. Now, after "My Feelings" (pt. 2), I feel that I am speaking it fully, though I cannot, though others can understand me and they correct me so that I understand more. This is a spiritual privilege because it is in me, not around me.

The Second Person part means that I feel like I am a new person, because, though I cannot exactly name it all, I feel that something inside me has changed. I think that if I were in America, I would never have had this feeling. In America, every day after the day that I knew that we were moving seemed like a day of dread. Since I knew that we were having to pack more and more, I felt that my life was being ripped apart by the sudden notion that I had to leave where I had grown up. And now I feel at home, and if I was called out of the country, I would feel e
ven more again like my life was being ripped apart.

When I first heard we had to go to Finland to renew our visas, I knew there was no way out of it, but I was still mad. I was as mad as a horse at a fly that bit him in the nose. Knowing that I was going to come back soon helped make it easier as it got closer. When I got to Finland, I felt better, though, because I had gotten through the hard part of leaving our new home.
When I came
back from Finland, I felt even more at home. You know the feeling, when you have gone on a trip and you come home, you feel at peace, at rest, happy at home. That's what I felt, but even more, because during the last times of my being in America, I traveled a lot. So when I came home, I always felt at home, but not totally at peace, because I would have to go again - I would have to leave forever soon. So now when I came back from Finland, I felt so at home that I was surprised, but it was a good feeling.