Saturday, August 1, 2015

Looking Back and a Heads-Up

I've got a pretty old printer. It works fine, just takes its time. So I thought it might be fun to crank out a blog post while each page prints. :) I think my printer probably has me beat at wpm, though.

I've been pretty frantic (to say the least) over the past few weeks with trip preparations. Since it's more of a "destination" (UK) holiday, there has been a lot of general information gathering to do. Even though there will be onsite activities, we also don't want to pass up chances for sightseeing, but with 22 people it requires some initial scheduling if we are ever going to actually get anywhere!

And now I'm printing it all out, and we leave in...less than 18 hours. Very exciting.

Even though we've had lots to do (and trip preparation has taken priority), we've tried to make time for family lately, too. Andrei and I celebrated our anniversary this week, and went on a little date, finally! So for that day we were more focused on celebrating and not doing anything else.

It's been a whirlwind though, and we've been planning for a year practically, so needless to say expectations are high!

We'll be seeing my parents, all of my siblings, and their families. David will get to see his 6 cousins.

I did want to mention, though: I'm not bringing my computer this time around. Trying to cut down on baggage. Check out my Instagram (link in the sidebar) for photos, or contact me via email. But blog posts probably won't be happening until we're back, unfortunately.

See you in two weeks!


Friday, July 24, 2015

Just the facts


I feel like I've been so boring lately as far as blogging goes, and at the moment I'm really focused on getting ready for vacation; so excited, although there is a lot to do. The weather reports for the UK (where we're going) have been the same as here, cool and rainy. Should feel like home! :)

I wish I had some deeper thoughts to share, and I want to believe that I'm continuing to grow and challenge myself, but sometimes it is hard to rise above the everyday stuff and see a bigger picture.

As I was compiling a little list of things to share, I was again starting to feel like it was all sounding kind of banal or self-centered. But at the same time there is a lot in me that's changed since becoming a mother (and it might be a different milestone for different people), and certain topics can be huge emotional triggers. It is hard to read the news or think about some of those hot topics, like abortion... at least without digging deep!

Anyway, a few recent things:


1) Watching Doc Martin. Hadn't heard of it before getting Netflix, and hid it in my list since I didn't think Andrei would be interested. But it's been my company lately while washing dishes. I've enjoyed seeing some of the character development as various people deal with their own personal "demons," and especially the relationships. Not to mention some creative storylines, and the setting is beautiful. Almost makes me want to live there.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Summer as lifetime


"Summer is a mini-lifetime" is my loose translation of a popular Russian saying. I suppose a lot can happen in a whole quarter of a year!

But in general summer usually starts out with a list of hopes and dreams and some grandiose plans...and then before you know it, September is just around the corner. Were your expectations met?

Sorry if I'm getting ahead of myself here...don't worry, I'm not going to talk about Back-to-School. ;)

This has been my first summer in Russia in awhile... probably since the summer we were married (4 years ago), and even then we spent 3-4 weeks in the U.S. I used to focus more on being home for Christmas, and now summer is the best traveling time for our family. But not this year...we'll be traveling for just 2 weeks in August, and other than that have been around St. Petersburg!

I was hoping to get a lot of projects done this summer and we have a lot of friends to catch up with. But we've had a cold going around and have gotten behind on everything. We barely just got caught up on family birthdays, and I'll be lucky if I even hand in my Immigration form before we leave on our trip!

I will say that weather always seems to play a role in how summer goes. Funny, is it that way for other seasons, too? This summer has been cool, and I am incredibly thankful for that. Although we've yet to spend a full summer in this apartment, I can imagine how 2-3 months of heat during White Nights would be a lot to endure. So I have been relishing the cool breezes, admiring the rainstorms (from inside), and appreciating the occasional warmer day. Plus-no mosquitoes!

Friday, July 17, 2015

Downslope and Kitchen Experiments


After the last time I wrote, everything came screeching to a halt as we got a family cold. Andrei felt very sick and David had a pretty bad case, too. David even now seems a little sniffly. I had my usual kind of malaise for a few days and the general feeling that I was fighting a virus, but no other symptoms.

It's been a very mild summer, and right now I am enjoying a terrific summer rain/thunder/hailstorm going on outside the kitchen window. Hopefully it will clear up in another 3 hours when I need to leave!

A blog friend recently did a fun post about some favorite foods and kitchen tips, and I thought I would share a few as well, including things that David is into.


In no particular order...

1) "Korean" carrot salad.

If you've been to Russia, you know this dish. It's the one that's sort of marinated, not the one with mayo. A little zesty, with coriander as the key spice. It's usually recommended that you use a mandoline slicer to get the right-size carrot pieces, with just the right amount of crunch. David loves it! It's good with onion, but we leave it out for picky eaters. We cheat and use a spice mix, but there are some recipes online, like this one: http://shesimmers.com/2010/08/russian-korean-salad-корейская-морковь.html



Saturday, July 4, 2015

Thinking Cap


I had a busy week, but there was something different about the intensity. It was one of those times when it felt like my problem-solving skills had to be on constant alert! I used to have these kinds of adventures all the time, especially when first living in Russia, or during seasons when I would be commuting to all different parts of St. Petersburg each day of the week. Times when you have to be thinking, thinking, thinking. Like when it would take me an eternity to find someone's home; the public transportation route, street name, building number, entryway, apartment number, floor, and door code all in my head or scribbled on one or more scraps of paper.

That was the kind of week I had, including a meltdown halfway through! But it's not meant to be a complaining post, and/or bragging about how "busy" I've been. Just doing some reflecting about some experiences, and thinking about why I might have felt overwhelmed.



Last Friday

-Commenced making a cake for an event, using a new recipe. Failed twice (complete inedible disaster), then ran out of time.
-Was called into the bank to "fill out a form." Didn't understand what/why or how to fill it out. And the bank employee didn't either. Left feeling confused.
-Headed over to worship practice for the first time in the new building, but didn't know where to go! After waiting around for about 10 minutes, received a call from the worship leader, who came out and led me to the new room.
-Got home around 11pm, found a new cake recipe, and finally had success, though I had to calculate carefully since I had very few ingredients left at that point!



Saturday

-Got up early to get ready for the church baby shower: presents and cake all packed up; had to figure out how to stop along the way for fresh strawberries and some other last-minute ingredients; took the metro and then a tram and then circled the buildings looking for the hostess' apartment...
-After arriving, got all the cake layers assembled/frosted/decorated/etc....whew.

Long story...


Saturday, June 27, 2015

Daytime Fire


One day recently I decided to take David for a walk while Andrei was cooking dinner. It was actually after 7pm, but pretty much felt like afternoon, with there still being plenty of daylight.

David led me to a playground that had just been rebuilt, featuring a pirate ship, train, and other various climbing structures. He was ecstatic, and enjoyed looking through the "portholes" of the ship as I pretended to be a fish on the other side.

Then I looked up and saw black smoke billowing out of one of the windows on the first floor of the building that overlooked the playground. I couldn't see or hear anything coming from inside; no one seemed to be trying to put it out. Somebody's home was on fire. Several neighbors were on their porch balconies, but no one seemed alarmed. Diagonally to the apartment on fire, a man and woman stood on their second-floor porch, hanging over the railing, smoking. It was as calm a summer evening as ever had been.

I exchanged looks with a few other adults on the playground...was this really happening?

Then I looked to my left and saw two fire engines approaching, just as casually...no siren or anything. They silently drove right over and up and onto the edge of the playground, parking right next to the pirate ship play structure. The neighbors kept hanging over their porch railings, and the kids kept playing. I was sort of in shock. I guess I would have expected them to evacuate the building, or something. But I didn't see anyone coming out.







As we all stood there gawking and corralling our children, the firemen climbed off the truck and the air was filled with the sound of axes shattering windows. The hose came out.

Several minutes passed before I realized we weren't getting the whole picture. Of course...we were actually looking at the back of the building, the entrances being around the corner in the other courtyard. I managed to get David to come with me "for a minute" to see if anyone had indeed made it out. My heart sank as we came around the corner and I saw an ambulance parked outside. But maybe it was a good sign that it wasn't rushing away.

I'd seen enough. I grabbed David to say a short prayer before we walked away. He could not be dragged away from the playground, so we stayed awhile longer. I glanced up at The Window and saw a disheveled-looking older man stumble into the charred remains of whatever room it was, pour a beverage, and take a sip. Evidently he hadn't been convinced to go to the hospital. Or...what if he had just lost someone?*

We played some more, and then went home.



*A local news station reported that there had been one person injured, but none perished.


Thursday, June 25, 2015

New Venue


On Sunday I visited our new church location for the first time. The funny thing is that there are only so many Protestant church buildings in the city, and along with the Orthodox ones, they were given some other purpose during Communism (I'll get to that later). Now that the church properties belong to the Church again, we attend a range of events in these few buildings. We got married in one, attended weddings in another, went to a concert in the one further down the street...

The meeting hall we're renting now is the one with the gymnasium floor, up at the top of the stairs, where we once sat to hear a poetry recital, as well as attended a Santa Lucia celebration. That's how I remember it, anyway.  And now I'll spend my Sundays there.




Since so many congregations share the space, no one's really taken ownership...not completely, anyway. I don't know all the details and I'm sure that efforts have been made to fix it up at least a little. But it's pretty run-down. Our conversations have been abuzz with discussion about which repair job is most important. Many wanted to focus on the floor, but the floor doesn't bother me. If you went to my church growing up, you know that the sanctuary always doubled as a gymnasium. Ugly, but familiar! So it made me feel right at home. BUT...I keep needing to be reminded that the gym floor in this case is a symbol of oppression and persecution; of a time when churches (in an architectural sense) were not used for worship. I can understand the need to wipe out that memory...to diminish its power, maybe? But at the same time, why not leave it there so that we can cherish freedom all the more? I'm not going to get involved, though. ;)

Can't decide where to embed this,
so I'll just plop it here!