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Showing posts from January, 2010

Passages that make you think

Sometimes just the NIV section titles alone can fill one with a sense of dread when reading the Prophets.

Take the book of Ezekiel...

Chapter 8: Idolatry in the Temple

Chapter 9: Idolaters Killed

Chapter 10: The Glory Departs From the Temple Yikes! I don’t know if I would have wanted to be around when the glory of God was on the move!

But Chapter 9 turns out to be not only about the idolaters who were killed, but also about the remnant that remained.

In verse 4, the Lord instructs the man with the writing kit to “go throughout the city of Jerusalem and put a mark on the foreheads of those who grieve and lament over all the detestable things that are done in it.”
Meanwhile, the guards of the city are instructed to kill anyone who doesn’t have a mark, beginning with the elders who were “in front of the temple.”(v.6)

The ones with the mark are spared.

How many people read this passage and wonder, “would I have had the mark?” Of course if we are believers we consider ourselve…

Almost done

Part of my continuing series on applying for a Temporary Residency Permit...

I have all my documents now; I just have to finish filling out the application and pay the fee at the bank and make sure everything is in order.

On Friday I am supposed to have my document review at the FMS.

I couldn't help but note the irony when they gave me my appointment. After lecturing me about how everything had to be perfect, my "appointment card" was scrawled in cursive on a piece of scrap paper. Hmmmm.

Making an effort

A couple of kids whom I know in one of the orphanages are both expecting to be adopted soon, after having spent some time with American families.There is a light in their eyes now, or maybe a sense of confidence, that they will soon belong to someone.

It's bittersweet, because as teenagers, they are making a huge life decision, and they will be missed here.

They come up to me now chattering in English, eager to hone communication skills.

The other day, I was helping Lena write a letter to her potential family. She wanted to write about the rough plane ride home.

I was dictating the words. "Difficult. D-i-f-f-i-c-u-l-t."

I didn't look at her paper until she was done.

She had written, "Diff I see you lt." :)

Herzen University

I have to admit, it wasn’t the most interesting of lessons. “Conversation” class had turned into an individual lesson on various symbols of Russian culture. The teacher and I were both tired and dragging a little.

Valentina asked me if I liked to sing, and I replied that I did.

“Which folk songs do you know?”

“Ummm…Katiusha?” I couldn’t remember any others.

She left the room and came back with some song sheets. “Go ahead and start. You said you liked to sing.” click to continue reading/-
D’oh! I didn’t really mind, though. We sang a little duet and then she taught me two other songs.

“You can use these with the kids in the orphanage,” she said. “They’ll like it.”

I reflected later on how she was making a deposit in my life. In fact, this is one of the main objectives at Herzen.

The story goes that the pelican was considered to sacrifice its own flesh to feed its young. Out of sacrifice, the young are fed and are able to thrive. This became a symbol not only of Christ, but of the sacri…

Run away, run away!

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

Summary of this episode:

-the medical evaluations can be done in several clinics throughout St. Petersburg. The FMS has a list which can be found on this page. In the clinics they know what you need for the temporary residency permit...
-if you don’t know Russian well, it’s best to go to an English-speaking facility, as a clinic isn’t always the best place for playing guessing games
-find out what documents you need before you go (I needed my passport, passport translation, and registration)
-allow a few days for the certificate to be prepared

And now for the long version.

I was not thrilled at the thought of entering any sort of medical facility, and my legs literally almost turned and ran the other way a few times as I was walking down the street. But I had already spent the first part of the day being nervous, and I didn’t want to waste another day in that condition...
read more/-

I entered th…


Consecration means the continual separating of myself to one particular thing. We cannot consecrate once and for all. Am I continually separating myself to consider God every day of my life?

The scripture reference accompanying this Oswald Chambers quote (My Utmost for His Highest, Jan.26th reading) is Matthew 6:30.

If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?

What is the connection here? What exactly is the continual separation that takes place? Is it our choice to trust? Is it a willingness to be simple? Is it a choice to find God in the world around us? Or all of the above?


Playing around with new Blogger features...

I recently learned that there is a new version of the post editor in Blogger. Just check out the "Basic" page in Settings.

I wanted to check out the new format mainly because I heard that it has a version of the "read more" feature, called "jump break."

I tried it a few times and it didn't seem to work, but then when I clicked "refresh," it showed up after all. It seems not to show up in the Preview, so you have to publish to see what it looks like.

Although I don't really like the look of the new post editor, it will be nice to have a one-click button for expandable post summaries.

Teaching kids: In your pocket

When I took the TESOL course, we talked about having some conversation starters “in your pocket."

While I can improvise with adults, it’s harder to entertain children “on the fly,” especially without visual aids.

I realized lately that some of the challenges that I have with teaching both at church and in the orphanage come with capturing all the kids’ interest at the same time and starting the lesson with everyone together.

The “presentation” part of the lesson is often the most important since everything else builds off of it. If a few kids are late or don’t tune in right away, then the rest of the lesson probably won’t go very well either...

If you only have one attentive student at the beginning of the lesson, and you decide to wait, you may lose your one enthusiastic student. On the other hand, if you use up your introduction material right away, latecomers will be lost.

So I was thinking that I need to have some back-up activities on hand: something that is educational and…


This is a part of my series on applying for a temporary residency permit in St. Petersburg, Russia. Check out posts labeled "residency" for previous installations.

In case anyone is interested, here is the list of documents that I have to prepare for the FMS for temporary residency:

Note that these could vary across cities in Russia, and are subject to change.

-Passport; notarized translation (sewn together)
-Packet of medical tests
-HIV test (separate)
-Migration card; copy
-Registration; copy
-Copy of visa (they also need the original even though it isn't on the list...I had a copy with me and had to get the original from the university where it was on file)
-Criminal background check from home country (notarized, apostilled)
-Marriage/Divorce certificate, if applicable
-4 photos: 3.5x4.5 cm, matte finish, black and white
-2 copies of the application form
-Proof of having paid the government fee (1000 rubles, just raised from 400)

Culture and communication styles in the classroom

“Okay, that was a dialogue. Now I want you to deliver a monologue.”

What? Hellllp!

Have you ever been in this situation? Being back in classes has once again turned on my sensitivity to learning styles. But I’ve also made some surprising discoveries about culture in the classroom.

Here are the two concepts that I’ve been pondering lately:

1)    The effect of personality type on language learning.

I have touched on this briefly in other posts. It concerns the idea that those who are extroverts or simply more talkative will receive more speaking practice. The teacher must find ways to engage everyone.

On the other hand, those who spend more time listening will take in valuable observations that their peers may miss.

2)    The effect of culture on language learning. continue/-

I will have the same conversation teacher for the rest of January. In class she asked me to retell a text that I had read. I hesitated.

“What exactly do you want me to tell you?” It seemed completely pointless to de…

Psalm for today

Blessed are they whose ways are blameless, who walk according to the law of the LORD.

Blessed are they who keep his statutes and seek him with all their heart. They do nothing wrong; they walk in his ways. You have laid down precepts that are to be fully obeyed. Oh, that my ways were steadfast in obeying your decrees! Then I would not be put to shame when I consider all your commands. I will praise you with an upright heart as I learn your righteous laws. I will obey your decrees; do not utterly forsake me. How can a young man keep his way pure? By living according to your word.

I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands. I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you...
Ps.119: 1-11

Stretching the academic muscles

I started my classes again this week. It’s sort of an inter-term because the new semester doesn’t really start until February. Since I paid for classes in January, I figured I’d better go.

Can you tell I was reluctant? I dragged my feet so much on the first day, but I actually had an enjoyable time.

I arrived at 9:30 and found out that I didn’t actually have class for nearly two hours. I hadn’t been able to find out the schedule ahead of time. However, I had known this was a possibility. I headed to a café next door to have a second breakfast and finalize my question list for the FMS.

When I entered the classroom, there was a stack of books on the table, but no sign of anyone. Finally an elderly woman poked her head in. I recognized her from the back of one of my textbooks. She said hello and then disappeared for a few more minutes. Eventually she returned, bringing with her a priest from Argentina who has been in a few of my classes. He was supposed to have an individual class, but e…

Lucky number 13

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

In this post: an initial consultation at Federal Migration Services (under the quota).

After class today, I stopped to get my passport photos done before heading over to the FMS. They had said not to come early, but I didn’t have anything left to do to kill time.

The day was one of the coldest, but the sky had been an amazing color, perhaps a cornflower blue. Now the sun was starting to go down but it was still light. I was so glad to be going at 5pm rather than 5am!

I got there about half an hour early, and there were already a few “customers” standing outside. I recognized a nun who was also studying Russian at my university. continue/-
I inquired about getting in line, and learned that the “keeper of the list” was sitting in one of the cars nearby. Just then he emerged with the list. He was French. I put my name on the list, #13. Emerging from another car was a Polish priest who had studied briefly i…

Getting into the FMS

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

I had heard about the crazy lines, and read detailed descriptions of success stories, but I still didn't know exactly what it would take to get into the building where the Russian government deals with foreigners seeking temporary and permanent residency.

My first attempt was rather feeble. Then, as I had heard from another American that I would need to get in line early in the morning, I decided to go check out the morning shift and at least see how things were handled.

It wasn't the crack of "dawn," but it was shortly after 8am as I approached the facility. I actually got a bit lost since I was paying more attention to snowbanks and icicles than the street names. more/-
There was definitely action when I arrived. There was a sea of people, mainly men, with darker skin. They were assembled into groups of some sort, with a man in the center holding some papers (a list?). People were si…

Giver of Life

While I was tutoring someone in the orphanage, there was a boy lying motionless on the couch nearby. He wasn't sleeping, but he seemed pretty tuned-out.

This boy is younger than the others and was moved from another group-maybe because of learning/behavioral problems, maybe so his older sister can keep an eye on him. I'm not sure. But it seems so rare to see him happy; enjoying something; engaged.

I was thinking about him later in the evening. "Lord, give me a scripture," I prayed.

"I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly." (Jn. 10:10)

Children, I pray that you might have life!

Wanting to help

Sitting at home thinking about Haiti?

Here are a few relief funds that were personally recommended.

1) "Only a Servant Ministries" (in memory of a young missionary who died of cancer)

2) "Heartline Ministries" (recommended by friends who visit Haiti often and are adopting)

A woman from my home church is in Haiti on a medical mission. She arrived just as the quake hit. You can read her thoughts here.


I had a bad feeling as the week was beginning. Too many things up in the air, for my taste.

On Monday and Tuesday I was feeling sick and ended up forcing myself to lie down for certain periods of time.

On Monday afternoon I did venture out to the Immigration Office, but that just created more confusion.

Tuesday is a blur.

Meanwhile, I had e-mailed one of my teachers asking about the schedule for this semester. On Wednesday evening, I learned that classes had started on Monday, so I had already skipped 3 days.

Then today I finally got through to the Immigration Office by phone and learned that my window of time is Mondays from 5-7 pm. So if I had just stuck around a little while on Monday, I might already be on my way to getting my residency permit. It will have to wait until next week.

So it's been one of those weeks, a little shaky. It seems like the timing for everything is off...but I'm trying to be prayerful and remember that HIS timing is perfect.

"Avatar" vs. "Hotel Rwanda"


I'm going to skip the special effects and skip to the plot. Avatar's plot was fairly unoriginal, although it had some interesting twists. My mind and emotions felt torn as they struggled to understand the genre. Was I watching a video game? A Disney film? A drama?

I have trouble becoming emotionally invested in a film unless I can identify with the main characters. Here, it is possible to sympathize with the protagonist, yet he does a lot of stupid things. Who cares if he gets eaten by a wild beast or not, while exploring a mystical jungle?

And then the romantic sub-plot begins to develop. Sure, "sex sells," but is it really necessary in this film? It seems like his decision to help the Na'vi arises solely out of his love affair with one woman. If it weren't for romance, where would he be? Still wandering in "Pandora"? +/-This brings up the a love affair reason enough to do something like leave your countrymen and defend …

TRP: Day One

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

In this post: I visit the Office of Federal Migration Services, but don't get inside yet.

January 11th. The government offices are open again.

I woke up this morning feeling like I was coming down with something. So much for conquering the world...I couldn't even manage to get myself dressed until about 2pm.

I grabbed some combination of documents, including my passport, which had been mixed in with materials from my last trip to the orphanage: worksheets, flashcards, and a ton of stickers. continue reading/-
The address of the Federal Migration Services was written down, and I had checked out its location on the map. 3 metro stops. Of course, once I got out of the metro, I was disoriented. I'm one of those people who has to turn the map in order to find my way. I picked a direction and started walking. Within the snatches of conversation, I kept hearing people saying the name of the street…

A Tale of Two Christmases

(in photos)

I finally got a photo of one of our window decorations. We ended up with 7-8 different pictures telling the Christmas story. There were a few casualties, but we still had enough to decorate each window.

On Christmas Eve we had a little service at church. Dec. 25th is a work day, so we just had a short service and then lingered for some refreshments. Also, some ladies from church made handmade gifts for the children, which turned out wonderfully.

The kids made the angels hanging in the background. :)

And finally, January 7th was Russian Christmas. Our Bible study decided to observe the occasion by creating a manger scene out of clay.

We also had a concert on January 9th to wrap up the holiday season. We heard hymns, poems, and other meditations on the meaning of Christmas.

As you can tell, I had a very creative holiday season! What's next? ....Easter?

Of drafts and health procedures (an incomplete research project)

"Is it blowing on you?"

"Is what blowing on me?"

"Is the air blowing on you from the window?"

Was it? I hadn't noticed. And it wouldn't have made a difference. But to some people, it makes a big difference.

I have this association of a stuffy British lady in the 19th century whining "Shut the door! There's a draft!" But in fact keeping track of various air currents is still in practice in Russia, and perhaps in other countries.

This article describes it well: continue/-"...All of these dangers to your health, however, pale in comparison to The Draft. Not the kind where the army comes to take your sons away, but a current of air in a room coming from a window or colder hallway, сквозняк. «Не сиди на сквозняке - простудишься» (Don't sit where there's a draft, you'll catch a cold). The root of the word seems to be сквозь, the preposition meaning through, as in: the cold air will go through the room and lead you to an early …

Russian logic

Some stores now have automated lockers for parcels, which is a lot more efficient than waiting in line for a lady to give you a number. The only problem is that the directions are a little confusing...

The top notice says "Do NOT place things in open lockers."

The bottom one says "Place your things only in the locker that was OPENED BY YOU."

Maybe it isn't confusing to native speakers. If the top one had an EXCEPT OPENED BY YOU statement it would be a little more logical, in my opinion.

Past and future adventures

This time last year, I was "exiled" in the U.S. Well, the holidays were over, and I was ready to come back to Russia. ;)

I waited several months for a work visa that never came through. And I made it back to St. Petersburg in the spring.

In the next week or two I should be able to find about this year's quota, determine whether or not I can apply for temporary residency, and learn what the requirements are for me specifically. I am not really looking forward to it, but at least I have the study option for another 5 1/2 months, so I don't have to worry about visas simultaneously.

Oddly enough, the company that had wanted to offer me work in the spring has recently resurfaced.

I think an adventure is coming...

The Holy Vigil

Did you think I had written my last Christmas post? Not so! Today is Christmas Eve in the Orthodox Church.

While Advent is a cheerful and even jolly time in the Western Church, working out the wonder of Christ’s birth, Russian Orthodox believers have been fasting. I don’t know what percentage of them actually follow this fast, but some of them adhere to the church standard, abstaining from certain foods even on New Year’s Eve.

Tonight, they have one more meal with restricted foods, and then have a Christmas feast the next day.

Christmas was widely celebrated in Russia before Communism, and most traditions have been forgotten by now. Here’s one description of how the celebration goes. But there are many variations.

The book written by my twin

"I made lists of languages that I wanted to learn by the time I was fifteen, twenty, twenty-five (the most distant age I could imagine at the time). I dreamt of keeping multilingual diaries so as to confound even the cleverest snoops. I made up my own languages, which I practiced on my cats." (Little, 16)

When I got this book, I turned to the back blurb to find out about the author. I have to admit, I was a little disappointed. There went my chances of being can there be another young woman named Elizabeth who wears dark glasses and is a language fanatic?

As far as I can tell, the main task when writing a book like "Biting the Wax Tadpole"* is organization. How to compile all these interesting tidbits about languages of the world? Here, she uses parts of speech. continue/-
Whether or not you've studied linguistics, there is something for everyone in this book. The concept of noun gender alone is mind-boggling to the native English-speaker.

You get a…

Winter recreation

...otherwise known as "how many people does it take to remove an icicle?"

This is the method that I have observed on the streets of St. Petersburg:

continue/-In the photo above, there is one guy on the roof hacking at the icicles with an instrument. There are a few ladies on the street holding caution tape out (you can see one of them in the photo) to make a barrier so people won't walk too closely and get hit by the gigantic icicles. The ladies themselves are wearing no protective gear, unless you count the orange jackets.

It seemed kind of crazy to me at first, but on the other hand it could be quite convenient to just walk with the caution tape instead of having to tie it up and then take it down all the time.

It is funny, yet humbling at the same time. I imagine it's hard work, and probably doesn't pay very well.

Funny translations

Seen in St. Petersburg recently...

(a trash receptacle labeled "self-cleaning area")


Doesn't this picture make you glad to be inside at your computer?

While the temperatures have been bearable, St. Petersburg has broken a 130-yr record for snowfall. A photo essay can be found here.

One of the captions that is telling is this one: "St. Petersburg’s mayor noticed that in Europe residents helped the authorities during extreme snowfalls."

Shoveling! What a great revelation! I have to admit that I don't really know what happens to the snow in places like NYC. But I sort of assumed that property owners would take care of their own sidewalks, which isn't always the case here...

New Year's in Russia, Part 2

The analysis...

I had only been in Russia once before on New Year’s Eve. On that occasion I had arrived something like Dec. 30th, and with the combination of jet-lag and culture shock felt like I had landed on another planet…

So this year I got ready to “embrace” Russia’s biggest holiday.

I haven’t gotten used to the fact that the same feelings of magic and nostalgia that we associate with Christmas are in Russia associated with New Year’s. Of course the importance of holidays here was shifted due to Communism, but that is beside the point. It is a shock because I always thought all of the warm holiday feelings had something to do with faith. But perhaps it is more about tradition. So what is left of the Christmas season that is faith-related? Just a question I am asking myself...

full post/-
At first glance, the “holiday season” feels the same as in the U.S., because the decorations start to go up around the end of November, and people start a flurry of preparations...

But then Dec. 25th …

New Year's in Russia, Part 1

I decided that I'm going to do the photo post first, and I'll do analysis later. :)

First we did a lot of cooking...

Then we did a lot of eating...

We spent plenty of time talking and hanging out, but we made sure to turn on the tv before midnight to catch the president giving his annual New Year's speech.

Then, more eating and talking until we crashed. Happy New Year!