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).