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Showing posts from September, 2009

Avoiding desensitization

It was too windy for my umbrella, and it took three tries to find an ATM that worked. Sometimes the day starts out like that. I usually ignore the distractions, but today it struck me that in tuning out these nuisances, I was tuning out people as well. My protective measures were TOO protective.

Maybe everyone experiences this in a big, bustling city-I don’t know.

I have to keep asking God to help me lift my eyes up to look in the faces of the “people going by.”

“I see friends shaking hands, saying ‘how do you do…’” (sings Armstrong).

No, it isn't a warm, spring day. But there are still a lot of pleasant moments to appreciate.


I was at the orphanage, and the counselors were in the hallway, blocking the way to the kids. They were whispering together while at looking at me. They said the kids were busy.

“You want to play at being their mother for a little while, is that it?”

“Well, I came to teach them,” I said. “Help them with their homework.”
The counselors snickered unkindly.

“And teach them English.” Again they snickered to themselves, mockingly.

When I woke up, it felt like my dream had been about a real situation. I wonder if I am afraid of such a situation in real life, or was it just a test to shake my confidence?

Those Russian names

Perhaps the Russians would say the same thing about us with our Matthew's and Joshua's and Sarah's. But isn't the stereotype true, that Russian first names repeat far too much?

In my cell phone, the numbers that I recorded from my first few years here have simply the first name written in Russian or English with no other identifying characteristics. Once I got to the second and third occurrences of the names, I started adding last names and other clues to help me remember which one it was. However, even the first initial of the last name isn't very helpful. Obviously I know my friends' voices; but nevertheless it is helpful to know in advance who is calling. +/-
So now those numbers are lost to me...the ones that are listed only as "Nastia" or "Olga." I will probably never remember which one.

I had a dilemma the other day. I was falling asleep in front of a movie, having a case of the Sunday-afternoon sleepies.

Suddenly my cell phone rang, disp…

First Day

I got up yesterday morning to register my visa at the university. I couldn't wait another day since it was Friday. It seemed like it took a long time to get light, but then it turned out to be a gorgeous day.

I knew roughly where the right department was because I had been there once to inquire. But it was the kind of situation in which I knew I was at the right building but could not figure out how to get inside. I went into one building labeled "dormitory" which looked familiar.

"Miss, how can I help you?" asked the receptionist.
"I just arrived yesterday and I'm here to study..." I said.
"So what did you want?"
"Do you need housing?"
"Then you probably want the department for foreign students. Go through the courtyard and turn right." +/-
Well, I searched for that courtyard. It seemed like the instructions were so easy. The first courtyard was locked and the second one was a reside…

Time warp

If you're visiting for the first time: I've just returned to St. Petersburg after a summer away.

Everything is familiar yet strange at the same time. I do everything automatically, because I have learned it...yet it feels like I'm in a dream.

I know I've slept in this bed before. But I got used to the other room. I wake up confused because instead of the wall being on my left, there is a wardrobe. And instead of a desk to my right, there's a bookcase.

The people are the same too, except for the fact that four months of life have gone by...

At last

I'm finally leaving for Russia! I bet you're tired of reading about my trip preparation, and I'm tired of writing about it!

I can't wait to blog about something else.

Packing has been as much of a chore as usual. I'm not sure if I'm more excited to be going to Russia or to be done packing!

In other news, my sister Anastasia's downstairs neighbors were robbed at gunpoint last night. :( I hope she's okay! She was alone with Angelica since her husband's at a funeral.

Anyway, I have to leave for the airport. Hopefully my next post will be from St. Petersburg!

More on apostilles

This is a part of my series on applying for temporary residency in St. Petersburg, Russia.

I'm trying to get my documents organized before I go so my parents can mail some of them out as it gets closer to January.

Here's what I learned today about authenticating birth certificates:

-The Secretary of State actually has a few offices. I don't necessarily have to send the birth certificate to Boston, or Worcester (where I was born). The nearest office is not really close enough to hand-deliver the documents, but there is that option.

-The turn-around time is only about a day or so. At least, that's what I was told. So in general this is one of the easiest documents to get, as long as you have a certified copy of your birth certificate accessible. If you don't have a copy, it will just be an extra step.

Travel prep

Nothing too exciting going on around here! I made a lot of packing progress today, but I still have some organizational details to take care of, that I have been putting off.

While my relatives were here this weekend, we got to talking about jet-lag. It's one of those things where you forget how it feels until you have all the symptoms yet again and finally realize...THAT'S why I feel so weird.

But the nice thing about jet-lag is that it goes away. So I am making a note to myself in advance that it's okay to feel disoriented for a few days...

Good news and bad news

Wow, what a day! The first half consisted of my sister's wedding festivities. We got up at 6:30 to get our hair done, and the day continued from there. The wedding was beautiful, and I expect to have some photos soon.

I managed not to cry during the wedding at all. Then I got home and my visa was waiting for me on the kitchen table. I opened it up, and...

+/-See that date saying September 24th? That's the entry date. But I was supposed to arrive in St. Petersburg on September 22nd.

I had been so pleased with the travel company for being prompt, and here was this big, glaring mistake. I have never had any trouble with a visa like that before.

I am not sure where the glitch's possible that you have to wait a certain number of days after the visa is issued to actually enter the country. Usually it is only about 1 day, but the rules may be different with student visas.

Anyway, regardless of what went wrong, there is no changing the date in a visa. It's not like you can…

Counting down

I got an e-mail from the travel documents agency with a Fed-Ex tracking number for my Russian visa, so it should be here shortly!

In the meantime, my sister's wedding day is almost here. Relatives started trickling into town on Wednesday. We are spending the night in Connecticut since it's a morning wedding, and returning Saturday evening.

That do everything else before leaving for Russia. :) I lost a lot of time last week waiting for the mail. But that doesn't matter now. I just have to somehow prioritize, and stay...on...task...

[Photo: The bridal party (plus mom of the bride) takes charge...]

Teen with a mission?

I have mixed feelings about teenagers and missions trips. And I've had mixed experiences. One observation is that because of a certain amount of immaturity, teens are subjected to special rules, which may in turn drive them to feel like less is expected of them because they are young.

On the flip-side, teens often lack a lot of the analyzing that we do as adults. I can remember being bolder about witnessing, because I wasn't worried so much about offending someone because of culture, religion, or otherwise. Again, it's both a plus and a minus.

I can remember a lot of occasions when my teenage peers and I displayed behavior that, when looking back, was not the best witness for Christ. The interesting thing about my situation was that the Russian camp staff watched me grow up, in a way. Although I was aware of being "set-apart," I still went through all the normal teenage struggles. But I was sincere in wanting to serve the Lord. Some of us hide our "ugliness&…


When autumn comes, I bloom anew;
The Russian frost does wonders for my health;
Anew I fall in love with life's routine:
Betimes I'm soothed by dreams, betimes by hunger caught;
The blood flows free and easy in my heart,
Abrim with passion; once again, I'm happy, young,
I'm full of life - such is my organism
(Excuse me for this awful prosaism)

И с каждой осенью я расцветаю вновь;
Здоровью моему полезен русской холод;
К привычкам бытия вновь чувствую любовь:
Чредой слетает сон, чредой находит голод;
Легко и радостно играет в сердце кровь,
Желания кипят — я снова счастлив, молод,
Я снова жизни полн — таков мой организм
(Извольте мне простить ненужный прозаизм).

Whom better to quote in the fall than Pushkin? :)

(from the poem "Autumn")

At the bookstore

I went to a local bookstore recently to redeem some old gift certificates that I had found while cleaning my room. I felt a little guilty that I wasn't going to be spending much money, but I think I've done my part lately to support the economy. ;)

The gift certificates I'm talking about are not the modern plastic card with the bar code, which you can use to buy things online. This was a calligraphed form on regular cardstock.

As I handed over the gift certificates, the clerk looked closely at one of them and asked,"Have you had this awhile?"

"Yeah," I said. "You don't make them like that anymore?"

"It's just that it's the handwriting of the original founder, who died in 2001." He nudged the other clerk who had also worked there for several years.

"Wow, look at that, " she murmured, shaking her head. They both paused in remembrance of their friend who had passed.

I got a few cents in change back, so I hadn't given…

Breaking up

Play Nice or Go Home

I was shocked to read an article advising people how to "break up" with those who annoy them. See the original article here (it's pretty short).

The article suggests taking steps: first issuing a warning, then gathering ideas and evidence to state your case, then cutting ties if the person refuses to concede.

I find the aforementioned method condescending, to say the least. I can think of a few situations where a person is an addict or has otherwise destructive habits. In that case, intervention is important... +/-
Check Your Motives

...However, the article seems to be referring to people who annoy you personally. And in that case, you would have to be very careful to point out mistakes in a way that is not merely serving your own needs, but is constructive to the other person. There is a fine line between what is simply a personality difference and what is inappropriate behavior.

How do you know that you aren't the crazy one? Think carefully about th…

Waiting for the mailman

The vigil is over.

I waited by the door for 4 days. I hadn't realized how often a mail truck of one kind or another comes down our street!

On Tuesday, I didn't get my invitation. But I still needed my HIV results, so I could wait one more day.

On Wednesday, I waited all day, and still didn't have either by evening, until the doorbell rang. It was the doctor from church with my lab results. No invitation that day. But another discovery I made was that many Russian Consulates no longer accept individual mailed-in applications. You must use an agency. So I called the agency to inquire and quickly went about gathering the additional 3-4 documents that they specifically require. +/-
On Thursday, I woke up to the sound of a mail truck. I have learned to recognize the sound! I ran to the window and saw a white truck with the "Fed-Ex" emblem pulling away from our house. After throwing on my bathrobe, I ran downstairs to check the mail basket, but there was nothing there. T…

What if the Russians don't come?

We have a songbook at home called "Rise Up Singing." It contains a lot of folk songs, oldies, etc. that are good for sing-alongs.

I often laugh when I come across this song:

What if the Russians Don't Come?

My town has a plan for its civil defense
So we'll all take Route 70 when it gets tense
My wife sewed directions in my underclothes
So I'll know where to run when the big whistle blows
We held a rehearsal last Saturday night
And all things considered our town did all right
Except on the ramp when that truck tried to pass
And it took us three hours to clean up the glass..+/-But-
What if the Russians don't come?
What if they like where they're from?
What if they're not in the mood to invade?
What if they're tired, or drunk, or afraid?
What would we do if their generals just said, "This is dumb"
What if the Russians don't come?

I've heard about Russians since I was a tyke
So here's what I know about what they are like
They don't believe in G…

Finishing up summer projects...

Getting a student visa to Russia

I don't have my student visa yet, but I'm making progress. There were a few surprises along the way, and it's been harder than I initially thought.

The basic procedure is:

-contact the university/place of study to find out your options and start the invitation process
-while waiting for your invitation, find out from the consulate what else is required
-send the invitation with everything else to the travel agent or consulate
-upon arrival in Russia, register within 3 days
-check in with the university to determine your class schedule/settle fees
-if you want to stay longer than 90 days, apparently, you arrive on a 90-day visa and extend it once you're already in Russia (haven't done this yet)

Here are a few things I was not expecting: +/-1) Invitation processing time=at least 4-5 weeks. They told me 1 month and it has been over 5 weeks. Make sure you factor that in. Invitations are pretty hard to expedite, unless you use a travel agency, and even then it's limited to …

Labor Day Weekend

Today our church had its annual service outdoors in a local park. The weather was beautiful! I sang in a choir that had been arranged for the day, which was fun since I barely did any music all summer!

Afterwards, the whole church headed over to a picnic site for a cookout. My sisters had come, and my parents gave rides to some international students who have just arrived back in the area for the semester.

Clockwise from left: Emily, Me, Raquel, Paola, Dad, Angelica, Shawn, Anastasia, Ngozi, and Mark.
Bottom picture: Staying warm.


Vision and visas

I had forgotten how intense going to the eye doctor can be! Everyone was very kind, but it was disorienting. Meanwhile, the drops dilated my pupils so much that I could barely see to check out (even in glasses). And they stayed that way the rest of the day. I could not think of anything to do that didn't involve reading, writing, or drawing. Even cleaning my room is sight-intensive because I have to sort through a lot of papers. My pupils were still huge at 10:30 pm and I decided to just go to bed early. They were fine in the morning.

The doctors did not feel that my prescription had changed. I'm not sure if that's good or bad. It's good that I don't have to buy new contacts or glasses. It's bad that I don't know why I've been having trouble seeing! The contacts specialist was trying to think of possible solutions, and gave me some aspheric lenses to try, with the prescription slightly tweaked. They are comfortable so far, but I am still having trouble f…



Eye problems

Over the past few months, my vision has deteriorated. I haven't had a check-up for a few years, but I didn't really think it was necessary.

Except for the fact that I can't see.

Lately I have been having a lot of trouble reading on my computer screen, as well as any kind of text. I can't think of any medications or anything else that could be affecting my vision. I had thought my vision had "stabilized" (at a whopping -6), but maybe not.

Anyway, I'll probably be writing less until I get a new prescription, if that's what the problem is. It's one thing to type without looking at the keyboard, but it's another when you can't see what is coming up on the screen...

Who am I?

Anybody know what this is? It reminds me of a kangaroo rat or something. It was in our garden.

Special delivery

The rest of my brother's luggage arrived from Congo.

This is going to make my Russia luggage seem like nothing! :)

Improvisation (a tip on staying organized)

This concept has popped up twice in one week, so I thought I would record it as an idea to use. And maybe it will be useful to someone else as well.

The first time was at choir rehearsal. It was phrased something like, "The better you prepare, the easier it is to improvise." In the context of music, I can confirm this. You might not know how or when the plan is going to change. But if you know it might be coming at some point, you can be ready. You can listen to recordings and role-play and hone your skills. If you play accompaniment, knowing those chords helps you to make something up if necessary. You need to know the ingredients and basic rules. +/-
In the King's College choir's Nine Lessons and Carols, one boy each year is selected to sing the solo in "Once in Royal David's City." However, he is not told in advance. They are all ready to sing the part. He is following the plan, of course, but with a degree of uncertainty.

A piece on a blog also caught …

Hither and thither

I really need to go to bed, but I wanted to post a quick "weekend update" before it's already the middle of the week!

Yesterday (Sunday), my sister and I went to a bridal shower that was being thrown by her future in-laws.


The shower had a "Hawaiian" theme, can't you tell?

We were at a house in Connecticut right on the water. I dipped my feet in the water for the first time all summer. Kind of sad with the ocean so close! I also got sunburned for the first time this summer...I guess I have been inside too much!

My mom couldn't make it because she was at the airport picking up my brother and his wife, who were flying in from Congo. Meanwhile, my dad had also been in Boston at a baseball game with the guys. So we were all scattered. But that's typical, I guess. There is always something going on!

Tomorrow we're celebrating three (I think) summer birthdays. Have to fit it all in before the wedding and next round of birthdays!

Must be Monday

Our tenants in the basement seemed so impressed by the clean-up job that they moved right in!

I'm a little more lenient with basement spiders* than in my bedroom, so I made sure he got to safety before turning on the machine.

*I realize that daddy long-legs isn't really a spider, but he's a creepy arachnid nonetheless.