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Showing posts from July, 2009

Back to the Motherland

With the wedding behind us, I've finally got my visa wheels in motion. I was getting nervous about it being the end of July, but I wanted to wait until the wedding was over and the relatives had left.

After a few emails back and forth with Herzen University in St. Petersburg, they have agreed to get me an invitation for a student visa. It is going to be for 9 months. It sounds like a big commitment, but it will be great to not have to renew my visa during that time! And maybe by that time I will have temporary residency and won't have to have a visa at all.

I think that the classes are going to be a bigger commitment than I realized, akin to a full academic load. That makes me wonder if I should see if the credits will count towards a degree program. I want to see about getting my diploma apostilled just in case I need it to prove I have a Bachelor's.

The invitation will take about a month to get here, and then I will still have a few weeks to get my visa before departing on …

Can't help it

I have resisted posting recipes on here, because I don't want this to turn into a food blog. But what can I say, it's one of my passions. I'm American, after all!

I am going to make a rule, though. I'm going to post one healthy recipe for every fattening one. I'm going to run out of healthy recipes pretty quickly, so it will be a good challenge.

Recipe #1- Raw Beet and Carrot Salad

+/-I love Russian salads, but it always seems like there is so much chopping and/or boiling to do. I do not have the patience for that sort of thing.

So here is a simplified version.

-raw beets
-raw carrots
-fresh herbs (parsley, dill, green onions, cilantro, etc.)
-salad oil
-vinegar to add a little tang (optional)
-salt and pepper to taste


-Wash and peel the veggies; grate; dress with oil, etc.
-You can add the herbs ahead of time or wait until you're serving.
-You can make the salad ahead of time for flavors to mingle, but the vitamins will be at their best early on.

I didn&#…

Reader's Block

You've heard of "Writer's block." But what happens when you just can't bring yourself to sit down and read something? I was disappointed when I found that the term "Reader's block" has already been coined, but maybe I will help to popularize it. :)

After doing a lot of reading this summer, I seem to have burned out. I normally jump at the chance to read, but lately, nothing I pick up is interesting. I'm hoping the condition is temporary.

Maybe my intellect has been dulled by the Internet. But I think the situation is actually the opposite. I think I am looking for something top-quality to read. It's like when you're so hungry that you don't know what to eat (I'm not sure if it comes before or after the phase when you eat everything in sight). You reject one thing after another. When choosing a recipe, you, that takes too, we just had that one last, not in the mood for that.....

Nothing fits the crite…

Getting the docs

This is part of my series on pursuing temporary residency in St. Petersburg, Russia (look under label "residency").

I haven't gone to get fingerprinted yet, although has a really helpful forum thread related specifically to Americans getting a criminal background check. They tell it mostly from the point of view of getting it while in Russia. I am hoping to obtain it while in the States so I don't have to deal with the international postal system. But a lot of the information is still applicable.

In the meantime, I do have one document that I can check off my birth certificate! It's here (a copy), in notarized form.

Wedding wrap-up

My sister Anastasia got married on Friday, July 24th, 2009.

The rain held off for much of the evening, which allowed us to go ahead with the outdoor ceremony, as planned...

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One of the biggest problems was how to keep Angelica occupied during the ceremony since she's in a Mommy-only phase. She made her appearance carrying a basket of crackers.

The microphone wasn't working, but I heard most of what the pastor said as he led the couple in their vows before God. Angelica could not be distracted any longer as the final prayer was being uttered.

After that, there was the usual social hour and photo session.

Then we were seated in the banquet hall for the familiar program of toasts, socializing, dinner, and dancing. I was seated at the table with the youngest children, but it turned out that they didn't really sit the whole evening. They only came back to check in for a bite to eat or to fight over the glow-sticks. A plus was that I got a pretty good view of the dance floo…

It's over! (or just beginning)

The wedding yesterday went fine. What a relief! I will share a few more photos later.

(click to make it larger)

*photo courtesy Mark Keating ;)


I got this email today that was so obviously a scam that it made me laugh. Of course, I don't mean to poke fun at anyone who is in a desperate financial situation. But this is just classic....


My dear I am writing this mail with tears and sadness and pains. I know it will come to you as a suprise since we haven't known or come across each other before, but kindly bear with me at this moment. I have a special reason why I decided to contact you. My situation at hand is miserable but I trust in God and hope you will be of my help. My name is Akia Ibrahim Bare 25years old girl and I held from Republic of Niger the daughter of Late General Ibrahim Bare Ma?nassara the former President of the Republic of Niger who was ambushed and killed by dissident soldiers at the military airport in the capital, Niamey with his driver and a former Prefect. You can see more detail about my late father here [they included a link for my convenience)...]


I am constrained to contact you beca…

Cross-cultural weddings

"My wedding is going to be the first that's in only one language," my sister Emily observed the other day.

She may be right. Last year we were trying out our French in Congo at Nate's wedding. Yesterday, a "Bienvenidos" sign was posted in our kitchen yesterday to welcome Anastasia's groom's family, primarily from Bolivia and Colombia (though not first-generation).

I didn't feel any cultural differences as we gathered...although we were the hosts, so who knows how our guests were feeling? It was a fairly casual cookout, with a tent to provide some additional seating. The kids ran around with bubbles, or tiptoed into other parts of the house and claimed that they had seen "monsters."

Nastia was very insistent upon putting details of the schedule (including reception) into the wedding program. I didn't think it was necessary and she really wanted everyone to know what was going on...that the ceremony would be 45 min; that the receptio…

It's wedding time...

(Angelica and the tent, at the rehearsal dinner)

Red tape, continued

This is my series on pursuing temporary residency in St. Petersburg, which officially begins here, but has been mentioned in other posts under "visas."

The local police check seems to not be sufficient. Or if it were, I would have to find a way to get it apostilled.

After inquiring of a few different people, the consensus seemed to be that I needed to go through the FBI, but that it was "easy."

A guy at my church does background checks and was trying to find out for me, but he can only do them when an employer orders it. He can't independently run a check on someone, which seems to be the case with most agencies.

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So I did a little searching about getting an FBI check done on yourself, and it seems pretty easy. According to one site, all you need are:

1) The cover letter (which they provide)
2) Fingerprints
3) Payment ($18)

Send them to the FBI and it takes 3-4 weeks to process, which would mean I'd get it before leaving in September.

I just have to get th…

Puppy love

Max is sooooo glad that Masha's back!

In the town where I was born...

Actually, I wasn't born here, but close enough.

It's interesting living in a place where everyone "knows your name." That's a slight exaggeration, but it is small.

Today I kept running into people from church, for some reason.

First I saw a group ministering to the homeless. We had just prayed for them at a meeting recently, so I went over and said hi. As I was continuing on my errands, I thought about how it certainly wasn't my calling to witness to male drug addicts. At least, I think it isn't. But maybe I could bake some cookies or something since they said they often run out of food...

Then I was looking for a dress shop and walked by another guy from church who did some construction for us. I did not stop to say hi. However, I missed the address and had to turn around and go by him again. "Home's that way, Liz!" he called out to me. "Don't get lost!" I couldn't help but grin and thank him.

Reading (or not) in the original Russian

My dad gave me his copy of "The Master and Margarita" to read after finishing it recently.

I haven't read it before. I read "Heart of a Dog" (also by Bulgakov) in Russian in college. We had 1-page reading assignments which would take me 1-2 hours, with the help of a dictionary. Then the professor would explain a lot of the culture points since we didn't have much of a clue.

Anyway, I feel a little silly for not reading "Master" in the original. I've always felt that literature should be read in the original language, if possible. I love reading Bible excerpts in the original. It makes me feel so much closer to the writer and original context. Around the time when my Russian became proficient enough to read novels, I decided to cut down on reading fiction. Prior to that, I had wanted to become better acquainted with Russian classics, and had read some of them in college.

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IfI ignore the question of fiction for now, there is still the mat…

Wedding countdown

Nastia's wedding is on Friday...

My mom decided that the rehearsal dinner needed a personal touch, so she's creating some surprises out of African fabric.


That's along with the cleaning and cooking. Dessert is top priority, of course.

Dad has been fixing things and "purging" the basement and garage, which is not necessarily related to the wedding, but adds to the flurry of activity. He's been advertising things on Craig's List or putting it out on the curb, and people often stop by to look.

Meanwhile, I heard some noise on the roof the other day and later learned that it was the Wildlife Removal Personnel, AKA the "Bat Man." Those little critters are going to be gone soon!

Also, someone came and was looking at the gutter. And on Thursday the tent people are coming.

A relative passed away over the weekend, and my father went to Long Island to do the funeral, which is tomorrow. Unfortunately, we can't all go because we have wedding guests arrivi…

Unintentional affliction?

I was reading Lamentations and nodding in agreement about the painful (as well as hopeful) truths written there.

Here's a passage that I agreed with, then suddenly noticed that it seemed like a contradiction.

Take a look:
For men are not cast off
by the Lord forever. Though he brings grief, he will show compassion,
so great is his unfailing love. For he does not willingly bring affliction
or grief to the children of men.-Lam. 3:31-33


Verse 32 says that He brings grief, yet verse 33 says that He does not willingly bring affliction or grief. * But can God do something unwillingly? Wouldn't that imply that He's going against His own will? Is it by accident? Is someone forcing Him to conflict grief? This brings us to one of the so-called "omnipotence paradoxes": Could God make a rock so big He couldn't lift it?

An illustration that probably fits a little better is to see God as the Father here, disciplining His children. Does He want to cause the…

Meeting an illustrator

My mom and I went to an opening of Tomie dePaola's original illustrations. It's good timing because I'm working on a drawing project at the moment. The exhibit is at the Eric Carle Museum, where a lot of Eric Carle's originals are displayed in the main gallery.

Here I am with the "Very Hungry Caterpillar" who is perched on top of a big "cake" (my arms are of equal length in real life).


I love Tomie dePaola's books (Strega Nona, Pancakes for Breakfast, The Quilt Story...), but the original illustrations were even better. I wish I could post some images, but there was no photography allowed in the gallery. I saw that he used acrylic paint for most of them, and it made me want to start over since I've been using watercolor and it's coming out a little...well, watery.

Oh well, he is turning 75, so I still have a chance. After looking at the paintings, the artist gave a little interview. He has a youthful demeanor that explains why he's s…

Making sense of love languages

I wrote a post about love languages once, and then at a conference recently I had to practice-teach a lesson on the topic, using Gary Chapman's book as a basis.

I have been wondering whether or not the "language" analogy works. For one thing, I don't think it's true that we naturally give love in the same way that we would like to receive it. I mean, I may need words of encouragement, but what if I am not very eloquent myself? I might even avoid that particular form of communication, although wishing to receive it from others. I also wonder how we can be expected to give in a different language if it's not a strong area of ours. What if I know that a person whom I love likes to receive gifts, but I'm not good at picking them out?

Is it better to excel at using your own language, or to struggle along trying to speaking another person's "language" in order to put him first? I am really not sure about this.

Is using "foreign" love lan…

Ancient Consensual Scriptural Teaching

When I first quoted this book, a lot of people thought I meant Russian Orthodoxy. The thing is, that I didn't really know what I was talking about myself. You see, the title of the book* is written in all capitals, so by merely glancing at the book, you can't tell whether it is about "orthodoxy" or "Orthodoxy." And I capitalized it in my blog title, which was misleading (I have fixed it now. However, "today" could also be written with either a big or little "t," depending on what you mean).

It turns out to be "orthodoxy" with a little "o." I think. It took me awhile to make sense of this book.

full post/-As I searched for a passage that might explain what this book is about, I came across the following, in the third chapter:
"By orthodoxy (in its lowercase form) I mean integrated biblical teaching as interpreted in its most consensual classic period. More simply put, orthodoxy (as defined by both Jews and Christians…

Engaging an introvert in the classroom

This is not a scientific study. I'm just writing about classroom activities from an introvert's perspective.

Although many teachers noted my "lack of participation," there was one teacher who tried to help. He caught me one day after class.

"Why won't you talk?" he asked. I didn't know. I couldn't answer. There is no answer. It just doesn't come naturally.

"How about if you start out with saying just one thing a week?" I agreed, although I was skeptical that it would work.

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I walked home with tears rolling down my face, because I knew he cared. I didn't begin to speak more, but sometimes he called on me during class, giving me the floor so that I could enter the discussion. I remember the strange feeling of people listening to what I said. And for the most part, disagreeing. But that's another story.

You can't change the whole configuration of your class for one student, but it is meaningful to let him know you car…

This is what I was talking about.

"The light comes forth"

"Sense of community"

"An intimate atmosphere"

"...flow with grace..."

If you glanced quickly at these phrases, they could describe a Christian gathering.

But they actually belong to an article describing the opening of a new yoga studio.* This is an example of how the language we (or others) use can be misleading.

full post/-I called attention recently to an Episcopalian presiding bishop who has a focus on peace and working together.

The problem is that, to me, "community" is not the Gospel. Being in "light" as an isolated experience is not the Gospel. Living in harmony and living for the Truth are often contradictory.

The point is that we need to be careful of how we speak. We need to be clear and specific. Love, peace, fact, all of the fruits of the Spirit are valued in many religions, not just Christiani…

An introvert at church

I don't see intro/extroversion as an astrology-type analysis that is supposed to dictate your actions and foretell your future.

But the first time I read testimonies of other introverts, it was like reading about myself. It's the little mini-panic attacks when you have to sit in a circle and introduce yourself, and waiting for your turn is just agony....

When I was a child, I used to whine, "Don't look at me!" at the dinner table. I would like to say that it is about not liking to be the center of attention. But we all seek attention, in our own way.

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Who came up with the idea of "ice-breakers?" For some of us they can be traumatizing and send us further into our shells. In my teacher training (TESOL), we learned many "ice-breaker" type games to use when getting to know a new group of students, or as a warm-up. I have a whole booklet of them.

The ironic thing is that when I had to participate in these mixers myself at a con…

Can a relationship with God be egotistical?

I posted a link on another site recently that referred to an Episcopal leader calling a focus on personal salvation a "heresy" and encouraging more of a focus on collective harmony. It is not my intent to make her into a scape-goat, but it left me fairly confused as to how this fit into Christianity.

A few commenters agreed that her statements were off-base; others thought she had a point.

Evangelicals do focus on a person's decision to accept Christ as his "personal Lord and Savior." If a person were not convinced of his own faith, what reason would he have to invest his life in serving the Lord and others? Many people can perform acts of kindness without having repented, but God knows the true content of our hearts, and in the end these deeds will not be fruitful if they are not coming out of a heart devoted to God (Matt.7:17-20).

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Humaneness and a life of harmony, if they can be tied to Christ, are fruits of salvation, not salvation itself. After all…

What I'm doing

In reference to my recent varied book reviews, someone asked (jokingly) what I was up to with all this research into different churches.

I am not planning anything, nor doing serious research. It's just a season I'm in. While I have a little more time and better access to libraries and books in English, I am soaking up information through reading.

I do enjoy reading books on the church. I normally look for books that seem to have solid doctrine, in line with my own. I don't usually continue reading a book if I can tell from the first few pages that I don't agree with the viewpoint. If I want to learn more about that viewpoint, I read a review or synopsis, so as not to waste time and energy on something that I am just going to argue with. But I do try to make sure that I have trustworthy sources so that I don't misrepresent anything.

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As I wrote last fall, I don't always understand what churches are looking for when they make changes to their services, o…

Christian Femininity 101

It's always a little awkward reviewing books by Christian authors. Well, it's always awkward reviewing any book if you picture the author standing over your shoulder. But when it's a Christian author, there is a certain pressure to say something nice.

Meanwhile, I don't have any caveats about the book I'm about to review. That is, in contrast to the last book I reviewed (which had a questionable tone), I don't find anything unedifying in this one.

I had seen Elizabeth George's A Woman After God's Own Heart* recommended on various blogs and in women's circles. I was ordering some Christian books anyway and decided to add it to my "cart." The cover says "over 900,000 copies sold," and the author explains her wish that her readers will carry a copy around with them.

Suffice it to say, my expectations were high as I cracked open the pink cover. In the introduction, Elizabeth George promises "practical insights about what it means t…

Is orthodoxy for today?

While I'm working on a longer post, here's something to chew on from a book I'm currently reading:

"The most salient feature of orthodoxy is not its rigidity but its flexibility. Since orthodoxy is centered in life in the eternal Word, it is free to enter willingly into infinitely varied cultural settings on behalf of its all-embracing vision of the truth." (Oden, Thomas C. The Rebirth of Orthodoxy, p.38)

Another kind of Fourth

My parents don't really celebrate national holidays. But our neighbors (also friends from church) invited us over and we shared a meal together, along with a few other guests.

It was a pretty typical evening. Except that, a year ago on this date, my dad fell ill and had to go to the hospital. It was nice to have a healthy Fourth of July.

How to pronounce Russian names

(if you are looking for an actual chart, here is a starting place with some given names that are all transliterated for you)

Wow, my blog has certainly been a potpourri lately. I haven't done a linguistics rant for awhile, and I'm feeling inspired, so here goes...

One of the fascinating things about the English language, or perhaps American culture, is the extreme inconsistency in (mis)pronunciation of foreign names and phrases. Let's face it, we're not known for our sophistication in this area, as a nation.

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A program on NPR today was pronouncing "Khrushchev" very oddly. It made me wince each time. I thought to myself, "Why can't Americans pronounce foreign names correctly?" But I immediately realized that 1) I would be making mistakes too if it weren't Russian (or possibly Spanish). I suppose English spelling is conducive to pronunciation errors. 2) It does sound know-it-all-ish when a person does know all the correct pronunciations…


The black lab on the left, Max, is ours.


I've been in the States for over a month now. I think that the time passes more quickly if it is over a month, because you don't have to count each day (although each day does, of course, count for something).

Today I got a letter from Russia! It is so nice to receive something in a friend's handwriting and to see the smudges where your friend touched the paper. Also, I think she mailed it out before receiving mine, so maybe they crossed somewhere over the ocean...

Sir, more than kisses, letters mingle souls, /For, thus friends absent speak. (John Donne)

Contract or covenant?

I finally saw Fireproof. But I'm going to refrain from reviewing it since there are probably a lot of reviews out there.

I have to admit, I was impressed at the end when they slipped in the point about marriage being a covenant, not a contract.

I liked it because it reminded me of one of my favorite sermon illustrations-the same concept, but in terms of our relationship with God. For example: a contract is between two people who do not have a close relationship or trust each other, so they draw up the document to protect themselves. A covenant is a relationship of trust, in which each person gives of himself. A contract is signed for a certain period of time...a covenant is for life.

And so on.

May the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and …

Women in the kitchen

Louisa helped me make dinner last night.

She's dressed in various African garments; I'm looking sort of Russian with my slippers on. Except that a Russian person probably wouldn't be wearing a souvenir from Russia. But you never know.