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Showing posts from June, 2007

Vladimir #3

On day two in Vladimir, we continued our seminar with a tour of the organization's main building, where they have both offices and a drop-in center for orphanage graduates.

Orphanage graduates can come here to receive free services like teeth cleaning and help with paperwork, or just to socialize. The center sponsors fun projects such as crafts and field trips. It would be great to have something like this in St.Petersburg, although we obviously can't do everything all at once.

We also visited one of the sponsored family centers out in the suburbs. They live in one side of a duplex and have a big fruit/vegetable garden out back. Their home seemed really pleasant and natural, in spite of regular monitoring by a psychologist. We liked the garden. :)

At the end of the day, we finally had time to get a bite to eat, and treated our driver and guide (and ourselves) to a nice meal.
In the photo below, we look a little disgruntled because the photo session is interrupting our delicious f…

Vladimir #2- Lakinsk

On the first day of our training seminar in Vladimir, we visited the grounds of a former orphanage in the town of Lakinsk. The children have all been moved into either family centers or individual families.

The buildings of the orphanage have been converted into family centers or administrative offices.

The kids were leaving for the summer, but the house parents took time to speak with us.

The orphanage workshops are still open and available for kids who want to come and develop their creative skills.

I had already visited Lakinsk in the fall, but this time they treated us more like ministry partners and gave us the inside tour. We met the orphanage director and other administrators. We had a discussion with one of the psychologists on staff, who explained how they screen foster parents and prepare them and children for the children joining the family. She gave us many documents that they have and a training manual.

We also met with a social worker who takes care of the legal issues. She w…

Vladimir #1- birthday

(Most trip photos courtesy of Anna or Marina)

I can't seem to find the time and write down my full analysis of the Vladimir trip, so here's an introduction in the meantime. I actually find people's travel journals a little boring sometimes, so I'll try to make it interesting.

We traveled to Vladimir by overnight train. The day we were arriving was my birthday, and Marina congratulated me from the top bunk.

We arrived at 5 in the morning.

After a full day of touring ministry centers, which I will write about next time, we hit "downtown" Vladimir to get a glimpse of the historical surroundings.

After that we bought some snacks and headed back to the hotel. I sat down to relax, but Anya called me to go out on the balcony and feed the birds. She loves animals and wouldn't even let us kill bugs in the room.

"I don't want to feed the birds," I said, concentrating on my book.

"But Liz, the poor birds are hungry. Let's take our chips and feed the…

What time is it?

I read an article recently about how Americans and Russians confuse each other in how they divide up the day into time periods. I remember being very surprised the first time I noticed these differences. I’ll write my own observations here.

Americans determine the time of day by the hour. At midnight a new day begins, and therefore 1:00 is already “morning.” Afternoon or daytime is precisely that, after 12:00. Evening starts around 5 (6?) p.m. Nighttime is sometime after 9 or 10 p.m., but not necessarily when you go to sleep.

American English:

Midnight-Noon= morning
Noon-5:00 p.m.= afternoon
5:00-9:00 p.m.= evening
9:00-midnight= night

Okay, now the Russian system. Night is when you sleep, about midnight-6 a.m. Morning is when you wake up. Daytime is when you’re at work. According to one of my friends, you should say “Good day” even if it’s before noon. Because morning is when you’re still at home, having just woken up. Evening begins around 6 p.m., and lasts until whenever you go to sleep. …

Off to Vladimir

I'm off to Vladimir for a week. Marina, Anna and I are traveling there to visit a Christian organization that has a lot of experience in helping orphans to break free from the cycle of institutionalization. We hope that they will be able to give us some advice in implementing these sorts of programs in St.Petersburg.

What Vladimir looked like the last time I was there, in November:

I'll be back next Friday.

Personal space

It was perhaps, inevitable that I would write about an article about “personal space,” that aspect of human nature that is treated differently across cultures and can thereby cause quite a bit of confusion.

A general observation is that Americans prefer more personal space than Russians. I did a little research and found some writings on the general topic of personal space. Many of the articles contain a lot of interesting cultural observations, but I tried to limit the topic here so as not to get sidetracked.

One article included a chart of different characteristics of several nationalities around the world. I’m not sure exactly where these people got their information, but if it’s true, then personal space needs around the world vary from approximately 5 centimeters to 1 meter. I’ve compiled them here and tried to make the units match, since they didn’t in the original…
U.S.-no closer than 2 ft (.6 meters)
Colombia-no closer than 30 cm
Mexico –no closer than 2 inches (about 5 cm)


The secret to getting Seva to practice his English? Make board games together!

(It's a very serious activity)

Today Seva cried because I was pronouncing the name "Tom" like the Russian word meaning "over there," so he thought I was saying "His name is over there." He got mad at me for not changing it to sound more like a Russian name.

We moved on to games. Seva cried because I was making the board game spaces too large. Then he made lots of "go straight to Finish" and "lose a turn" spaces while I filled in assignments such as "name two sports" and "sing a song in English."

He beat me five times (out of six), got his stickers, and was happy. Then I wouldn't let him exchange his "boring" stickers for the new, shiny ones. He sat in his room growling as I left. I guess I'm a pretty mean teacher.

Vince gets a bath

In honor of the school year ending, I've decided to wash Vince, the "English-speaking" Sock Puppet.

He's also going to get a face-lift. Stay tuned for the new Vince!

Journey and arrival

Continuing the story of my ancestors, headed to Hawaii…

Amos and Juliette Cooke were onboard the Mary Frazier from Dec.1836-April 1837. Juliette’s journal and letters tell of their journey in great detail.

The missionaries might have had little time to train before their departure, but the voyage itself provided plenty of time for preparing themselves in many ways. Juliette received much practical experience in homemaking as she learned to be creative in dealing with limited resources onboard the ship.

Mr. C. having lost his cap overboard has been obliged to confine himself to his palm-leaf hat. It occurred to me yesterday that I could make him one from the cape of his old cloak, which he could spare very well. I have succeeded so well that the Captain says that he thinks I shall make the best missionary wife on board. I suppose that he means to make caps, but I hope that I shall have some better qualifications than this, as caps will not be wanted at the Islands. (91, Juliette)

Some mor…

Strange sights

Who needs television when you have the everyday entertainment that comes from living in a foreign country?

Some things I observed today:

-An S.U.V. drives up on the sidewalk and parks without even using a blinker or any other kind of signal.

-An old woman, walking with two canes, takes one of them and, sticking one end into a trashcan, uses it to compact the contents.

-Fashion watch: Old ladies wear huge bows in their hair, and everyone wears socks with sandals.

-I’m walking home and some construction workers are coming through the archway trying to transport some pipes on a backhoe. They’re blocking the way for passengers and motorists. I’m annoyed, but coming through the archway behind them is a little boy grinning away, just delighted to witness this macho work in action!

An honest citizen

Today I was riding in the mashrutka and we stopped to pick up two women traveling together. When they were seated, one of them noticed a purse that had been forgotten there earlier in the day. She immediately called the phone number that she found in the documents, and arranged to meet with the owner later to return the purse. The driver was helping too. I was encouraged by what seemed like an act of kindness.

I write about public transportation a lot here. It seems to be where many Russian adventures take place. I will wait for the next one...

Orphanage graduates

Rather than present the situation with grim statistics, allow me to introduce a few of our friends, who, like all Russian orphans, had to face the day when they left the orphanage behind and went out into the world. For most of us the transition to adulthood is hard enough, but imagine having to do it alone...

This is Nastia. She is a very affectionate young lady and enjoys smiling at you and staring into your eyes intently about 80% of the time. After graduating from technical school, Nastia moved into a room in a communal apartment. Many Russians live in these conditions, but for a young lady alone it is not a very safe situation.

Nastia is faithful at her job and can follow a routine very well, but sometimes makes spontaneous decisions that have dire consequences. She also has been swindled several times and calls me sometimes in a bind....the latest was renting out her room to 10 or so gypsies. She called me as she was signing the papers....Thankfully the tenants have now moved out,…

Repair season

They're turning our hot water off until the end of the month. Time for the alternate shower system....

Even further back into history...

Grandchildren, Great-grandchildren and Great-great-grandchildren of Amos Starr Cooke and Juliette Montague Cooke: Here they are, your first ancestors in Hawaii, as they revealed themselves in their voluminous letters and journals. What they penned was meant for their contemporaries, but so vividly are their personalities carried across the years by the faded ink on the yellowed paper that their associates cannot have known them much better than we can know them from these writings….(Richards, 20)

So begins the story of Amos and Juliette Cooke, missionaries to Hawaii from 1837. Oddly enough, they were both from New England, where I grew up. They were my great-great-great (...) grandparents.

These are a few excerpts from a book about their lives: "Amos Starr Cooke and Juliette Montague Cooke-Their Autobiographies Gleaned from their Journals and Letters." By their granddaughter, Mary Atherton Richards. First printed in 1941. Reprinted by The Daughters of Hawaii in 1987; Honolulu…