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Showing posts from May, 2008

My Twilight Zone

Getting ready to go to Africa is a very strange feeling! I don't know why it seems so different from the rest of the world, but I will soon find out.

Today, however, I found myself outside of St.Petersburg at the site of a future camping ground. We were clearing the area to make it usable. While we were there, everyone starting receiving phone calls that there had been a radiation spill. Another call confirmed that it had been on the news and that Russians were being advised to stay home and drink a special milk concoction.

Meanwhile, we had a cookout and got acquainted with a lizard named Sasha (so named by the 5-yr-old) whose mother tongue is Finnish.

I started taking anti-malarial pills yesterday. There are warnings written all over the container, and I thought it would have a strange effect on me, like turn me into a frog or something. But so far, all is well.

Now I still need to gather my things, and more importantly, my thoughts!

I'll see my family soon! :)

Summer farewells

I visited the orphanages for the last time this week. The kids are off to camp soon, and I am off on my own travels.

The orphanage I visit on Wednesdays has felt like a battle zone lately. There were a couple kids who were behaving particularly badly, and after I prayed about it, those kids didn’t come to the lesson for a few weeks. That wasn’t exactly the result I was hoping for. But I continue to pray for them.

This Wednesday, I made a board game to use for the year-end review session, designed after “Chutes and Ladders.” I decorated it with stickers, hoping that the visual presentation would draw the kids’ attention. The kids were fairly cooperative about participating in the lesson, not counting the usual interruptions. I had a few new kids visiting. One, a girl of 10 or 11, played the game with us despite not knowing any English. The other visitor was a 6 yr old whom I first mistook for a boy, but turned out to be a girl with a shaven head (head lice???). She sat and grinned as we …

Airport procedure

I'm still waiting to be enlightened on what to expect when I land in Kinshasa. So I decided to do a little investigating on my own, with the help of Google.

Here's the first article I opened:

"Legend has it that when an aircraft becomes too sick or too old to manage on it's own, the other aircraft in the herd sense its distress. At an appointed hour they accompany it on a very long journey to the hidden aircraft burial grounds somewhere deep in the jungle. That hidden aircraft burial ground is called: Kinshasa Airport..."

Ummm. Reading on...

"Upon arrival at Kinshasa, you find your way into the large arrival area. There are four or five immigration booths where immigration officers stamp your passport. After working your way through the line you will pass through a large door into the customs/baggage claim area. There will be numerous apparent loafers around the door, and they may ask to see your passport. Some of these are, indeed, loafers and others are securi…

C'est une Americaine!

Per request, the details of my Moscow excursion:

I boarded the night train to Moscow and found my place in the lower bunk. It wasn't a bed yet, it was a sitting area. Then one person climbs up to the top bunk and the other converts the sitting area into a bed. My bunkmate helped me with this. I had been unsure at first if she was Russian, but then something about the way she ate her apple confirmed it. Plus, she was reading the Russian side of a Russian/English guidebook.

Keep in mind that I've been reading Chesterton's detective stories. This will come into play later as well.

After arriving in Moscow at about 6:30 am, I waited about an hour before going into the metro. Once there, I found it much less intimidating than expected. My previous experiences consisted of traveling in big groups with luggage, with people falling over luggage and getting separated by the automatic doors closing. I found the metro fairly easy to navigate, although on one of the lines they didn't…

Night train to Moscow

A few months back, someone asked me if I would travel to Moscow alone (as a young woman). I said that I wouldn’t.

But now, it has become necessary. I have to visit the Congolese consulate there to get my visa to Africa.

I will be back on Wednesday, hopefully with a good report!

Currently reading

Gilbert Keith Chesterton was born in Kensington in 1874. He was a late developer, only reaching adolescence in his late teens, and this gave him a somewhat skewed perspective on life.

What a description! Have you ever wondered what people will write about you when you’re gone?

The quote above is from the blurb in Father Brown: selected stories (published by “Collector’s Library”), which I’m currently reading.

It’s been awhile since I’ve read fiction by Chesterton. In fact, it’s been a long time since I’ve read any fiction! I enjoy the humor and little snatches of Christianity. I also enjoy expanding my vocabulary, since the early 20th century British style offers a few more sophisticated words than my beginning English classes!


Happy Mother's Day!

Love you, Mom...

Victory Day

On May 9th, Russians celebrate Victory Day, the end of WWII in Europe. It is a somber holiday in light of the number of lives lost, but national celebrations are nonetheless grandiose.

On Thursday, I was in the orphanage and attended their Victory Day performance. Along with the usual music and dance, there was a play about a women's combat unit in which 5 girls became friends, and were all killed at the front. It was quite a lengthy drama in 2 parts, acted out by some orphanage graduates and directed by an elderly gentleman, himself a war veteran. All the children from 9-up sat and watched.

The end of the play featured a young descendant of one of the slain ladies talking by cell phone in the 21st century, recalling to a friend how it's important to continue to keep the memories alive.

Afterwards, the orphanage director got up and thanked the elderly theater director, tears streaming down her face.

The orphanage has a few veterans whom they've "adopted" and who go o…

Russian currency

One of the aspects of culture shock (for me at least!) is dealing with a new monetary system. Perhaps it seems like a minor issue, but if you knew about my fear in the checkout line and the bags of change in a drawer, you would think differently.

In many ways, Russian currency resembles American money. There is a basic unit, the ruble, which is distributed in different quantities in coins and bills.

The coins consist of .01 ruble, .05, .10, .5, 1, 2, 5, and the occasional 10-ruble coin. The basic bills consist of 10, 50, 100, 500, 1000, and 5000-ruble notes (I’ve never dealt with anything larger).

For simplicity’s sake, let’s say that 1 dollar=25 rubles (although it’s a bit less).

Now here’s the shocker: cashiers often can’t or don’t want to give you change. In fact, cashiers can dictate whether you should pay in larger bills or in itty bitty coins, based on what’s in the cash register and what the amount comes to. As they announce the bill, you start to take out certain bills, only to he…


I have always liked the phrase, "Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" from the Declaration of Independence. Ambiguous, yet it has a nice ring to it.

I'm sure that thousands of studies have been done on the topic of happiness, both scientific and theological. And with varying results. Earlier this year I read "Desiring God," by John Piper, which represents one model of a Christian pursuit of happiness.

I've tried to write about happiness here a few times, but my little problem with wordiness and the abundance of existing publicatons prompt me to be brief. I will simply note, for your interest, the results of one of many recent studies:

"The 20 happiest nations in the World are:

1. Denmark
2. Switzerland
3. Austria
4. Iceland
5. The Bahamas
6. Finland
7. Sweden
8. Bhutan
9. Brunei
10. Canada
11. Ireland
12. Luxembourg
13. Costa Rica
14. Malta
15. The Netherlands
16. Antigua and Barbuda
17. Malaysia
18. New Zealand
19. Norway
20. The Seychelles

Other notable results incl…


I recently visited my friend Olya at her workplace. Olya is a seamstress and is making my dress for the African wedding.

Olya works really hard, and she never complains! They get paid based on how much they finish in a workday. The pretty dresses made here are sold in popular stores throughout the city. Olya worked all three of the recent days off, finishing up a big order. She and two ladies were alone in the workroom when I stopped by.

They use scary cutting machines like this one.

My dress is being made from African fabric, using an American pattern, by a Russian seamstress. Here’s a sneak preview.


The other day I was visiting some Russian friends and the mother was really worried about dressing her child for the weather. It was hot, yet a wind could suddenly develop. The child was sweating in a hat, but without her head covered, she would surely catch a cold immediately. Finally my friend found a light bonnet that was a little small but would do the job. Saved!

Meanwhile, it has been in the 70's and sunny for the past few days. Combine that with holidays, and you can guess that Russians spent a lot of time outside. Today was the first day back at work (actually today was Friday since Friday was Sunday), and you could see a lot of people walking around with sunburns. They obviously hadn't applied sunscreen. And I wondered, why are Russians so meticulous about dressing their children, but careless about sunburns?

But at the same time, I realized that Americans are just as foreigners, I mean. I wonder what Africans are like?

Labor Day

May 1st is Labor Day in Russia. It’s an official holiday, and the government decided to mess with the calendar by switching Friday and Sunday so that Thursday, Friday and Saturday could be days off and Sunday could be a workday.

Sometimes I dislike the way that holidays disrupt everyday life. I never quite know what to do with myself. I feel guilty not working on a workday, and I’m afraid that if I relax too much, I won’t want to go back to work after the holidays. I would rather there be a steady schedule of 6 days to work and do chores, and 1 day to really REST (not 1 day when you’re “free” to do things like go to the store or cook food or do all the other things that you don’t have time to do during the rest of the week). A lot of people work a lot harder than I do, though, so I don't have much reason to complain. Perhaps God gives me these little breaks in routine so that I don't get worn out.

As it turned out, when I woke up on Thursday to beautiful weather, I was quite tha…