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Showing posts from February, 2010

Another appointment

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

In this episode: I find out whether or not I can still make the quota.


Jan. 18, 2010: I get on The List
Feb 5, 2010: First document review: problem with FBI check (everything else okay)
Feb 11, 2010: Get fingerprinted in Moscow to start new background check
Feb 26, 2010: Second appointment

After I came back from Moscow, having sent my new fingerprints off to the FBI, a friend of mine said that the quota for St. Petersburg had been filled. continue/-

Well, that was interesting…but what did it mean for me? When I was at Immigration in early February, they hadn’t told me I needed to hurry up. In fact, they advised me to give myself MORE time, just in case ( I didn’t listen).

I e-mailed someone who had gotten temporary residency last year. He assured me that if I had an appointment, I was definitely on the list.

Okay. Time to wait for the FBI check. No sign of it, but not much time has pa…

More extremely useful information

Russians are a big fan of information boards. You used to be able to read the newspaper on the street each day as each page was opened flat and mounted in a glass display case.

Well, in the university where I take classes, I recently took a closer look at what was displayed. Next to the illustrated CPR instructions, I suddenly noticed some images of armed men.


That's right, they were terrorism instructions! That is, what to do if you are caught in a hostage situation, how to recognize a bomb, etc.

And don't to survive in the basement!

As I've been abroad for awhile, I'm not sure if there are similar displays in the U.S. Probably not quite as graphic. It could be that in Russia the educational facilities are regarded as targets because of the Beslan incident.

Revisiting domestic adoption in Russia and Eastern Europe

To be honest, I haven't devoted a lot of time lately to researching the adoption/foster care scene in Russia. There was a time when I regularly sought information and was up on the latest laws and statistics.

We ran into a lot of seemingly dead-ends while trying to push for adoption in St. Petersburg. There were a lot of obstacles, such as the endless paperwork and the impossibility of providing a bigger home for each potential family. The law says that there must be a certain amount of living space per person, but offers no solution for obtaining such housing if the family's income is too low. That's one example. This is not to mention all of the emotional, psychological, and social implications.

As part of our research, we had traveled to Vladimir to learn more about a ministry there that had been fairly successful in "redistributing" children in families and group homes. But I was shocked as we got in the van the first day for the tour, and our guide, herself …

Extremely useful information

I'm always a little irritated when people try to translate untranslatable proverbs and the like into another language, word-for-word. Way too awkward. "Neither fish nor meat." What? Probably the best approach is to say "There is a Russian (French, etc.) proverb meaning ......" That gets rather long-winded, though.

Perhaps there's a reason why the people from the translation agency never called me back about the job!

In the meantime, I'm going to break my own rule and translate a Russian proverb, just for fun.

"Назвался груздем-полезай в кузов."

Since you've called yourself a (particular kind of) mushroom, now climb into the basket.

See what I mean about awkward? The meaning relates to putting your words into action.

Such are my deep thoughts for the day.

Not love

"If human love does not carry a man beyond himself, it is not love. If love is always discreet, always wise, always sensible and calculating, never carried beyond itself, it is not love at all. It may be affection, it may be warmth of feeling, but it has not the true nature of love in it."
-Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest Feb. 21st reading 

"We have to get rid of this notion - 'Am I of any use?' and make up our minds that we are not, and we may be near the truth. It is never a question of being of use, but of being of value to God Himself. When we are abandoned to God, He works through us all the time. " 

(same source, continuation)

The elephants in my prayer life

I wasn't sure what to call this post, but then I remembered that my church in Massachusetts is doing a sermon series on "elephants" in the Church.

When there is something obvious that no one is mentioning, we call it an "elephant in the room."

I find sometimes when I am praying that there is something huge that I am neglecting. It is as if God is saying to me, "Put down your prayer agenda and tell Me what's really bothering you" (or "...tell Me about that sin that you're forgetting to mention").

It doesn't have to be something scandalous, just something that needs to be addressed. And the Holy Spirit brings it to our attention and helps us to come before the Father... more/-

If you have a chronic health problem, a good doctor will help you get to the root of the illness. He will take the time to investigate your history and lifestyle, along with your symptoms.

There are so many times in the Bible when someone's underlying need…

Change in the air

There comes a time when you have to look for a new job, or housing, or make some other significant decision.

There are also times when you have to deal with it all simultaneously! In the next few months, I'm anticipating some changes in several areas...

1) Residency-the quota

I heard recently that the quota for St. Petersburg has been filled. As of now I should be on the list.  However, my documents aren't going to be ready before my appointment. So hopefully they will give me a little more time. I'm not quite sure how it works.

2) Visa

It's the same old is up June 30th, and residence permit will probably not be ready by then. What to do? Extend the student visa? Get a 3-month business visa? Get a work visa? Go to the States?  read more/-

3) Work

Maybe there's a reason that job opportunities have been coming up recently. However, I can't imagine taking much on while I'm still enrolled in classes. Maybe once the kids have gone to camp and I won&…

The dog ate my homework

I went into the kitchen and noticed that Zhenya had left two tea candles burning on the table. I saw the napkins and loose papers nearby and thought "hmmmm..."

Then I sat down and started to do my homework.


Checking the calendar

Holidays. Overseas.

Whenever a holiday comes along, I try to remember where I was the last time I celebrated it; with whom; etc...

Last Valentine's Day, I was still in the States, where I had been since shortly before Thanksgiving.

I had just had my Debit card account hacked into.

I'm pretty sure Feb.14th was the day that I ordered a plane ticket, in anticipation of returning to Russia. Then I sat down to dinner with my parents.

Later in the month, I laid out some plans, some of which would be fulfilled, and others of which would be modified.

And now, a year later, it's time for plans again. continue/-

March 2010- Hand in application for Temporary Residency Permit (???)
Wait 5 months for processing (???)
June 2010- Student visa expires at the end of the month
Get new visa (???)

It seems like every week I get some sort of job offer, or at least make a contact. I can't really commit since I have to study at least until the end of June. Yet soon I will have to think abo…

Didn't the Lord deliver Daniel?

Now when Daniel learned that the decree had been published, he went home to his upstairs room where the windows opened toward Jerusalem. Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before.-Daniel 6:10

Let’s face it, most of us are not under persecution as Christians. We are not likely to be killed for our faith. Yet in the minor moments of discrimination, we often fall short.

I think Daniel’s interaction with people who oppose his faith is overshadowed by our emphasis on his lion’s den experience.

The thing is that Daniel’s choice to defy authority is obviously the right one, because we know what happens next. The king’s decrees are a test, so that Daniel can be thrown into the den of lions, and not die, and then we can all talk about it at Sunday school...  read more/-

But are tests of faith really this clear, in general?

Have you ever eaten a certain food out of politeness? You didn’t really want to, but you did it anyway. Or…

Hitting "restart"

If there is one thing I can be thankful for about Moscow, it is that it helped me step back from life a little bit and get a fresh perspective.

There’s nothing like sleeping in a bed (after a train compartment), having a home base (rather than wandering around), not needing to consult a map constantly, having friends to share impressions with… just to name a few blessings!

I had to go to class on Friday after my arrival, where it was business as usual. Sometimes it’s nice to have a regime. We’ll see if I am still thankful about it on Monday morning. ;)

18 hours in Moscow (on very little sleep)

My mission in Moscow was 3-fold:

1)    Get fingerprinted
2)    Mail the fingerprints to the FBI
3)    Pick up some conference materials for my roommate

Mission #1

I arrived by train at 5:30 am. The fingerprinting was at 3 pm;  you do the math. I tried to sleep for a bit in the train station, but I found it freezing cold. So I sat down in a café with a cup of tea and tried to keep from nodding off.

After a few hours, I headed into the metro and went to Red Square and made myself take my mittens off long enough to take a photo. At least there is material evidence that I was in Moscow. continue/-

It was cold and I was going to hang out inside somewhere, but the shopping centers all opened at 10. I was an hour early. I decided to see how long it would take to walk around the Kremlin. Meanwhile, I got distracted by a large church in the distance and wandered over to take a photo. But my camera battery had died.

I walked back toward Red Square…10 am on the nose. Hooray. Only 5 more hours to…


"Любовь к родине начинается с семьи."

"Love for one's country begins with the family."

-seen in apparent public service announcements all over Moscow

At first I thought it was some sort of Russian "motherland" pride campaign, but then I noticed that it was attributed to Francis Bacon. Has anyone run across the original? I just translated it back into English.

What does it mean exactly?

I take it to suggest that the overall good of one's country is the end goal and having a happy family life is one of the factors that will contribute to a better atmosphere in society. That is what I can deduct from the wording of the quote, but I'm open to other interpretations.

Or maybe the idea is something like this: cultivate a happy family, so that your country will be a better place, so that your children and grandchildren will have a nice place to live... continue/-

But honestly, it still doesn't make any sense to me. Maybe I'm just cynical and t…

Cultural notes

1) I've noticed that some Russians use their middle finger to point to things! While it's still not a good idea to stick your middle finger in someone's face, I noticed that even children as young as 1 year old use their middle finger when asked to point to various letters, numbers, etc. To me it feels so awkward! Does that mean that this is something learned?

2) Totally different topic: customer service. I rarely meet a Russian store employee who is visibly overjoyed to be helping a customer. You don't get the impression that they want you to make a purchase. On the other hand, what's surprising is that they try to help you find a bargain. Everyone understands that the cost of living is really high here. I was buying a train ticket and asked for a certain train number and the woman helping me said, "Oh, that's going to be really expensive. Let me look for an alternative." Maybe I looked like someone who didn't have a lot of money! Or maybe she ha…

A rock and a hard place

I have somehow found myself in possession of an FBI background check that cannot be authenticated, for various reasons. I started the process back in the summer, got my results in plenty of time, and now...they can't be used for anything.

As I mentioned, there is now a new system and the FBI will authenticate if the service is requested with the fingerprint submission. So I can start over again.

The only problem is that I have to go to Moscow for new fingerprints...


One of the most surprising things about God is how He displays emotion. Perhaps this is biblically correct if we regard Him as a person, but it is still amazing that a person who knows and sees all can experience feelings. Can we use the word experience with regards to God? Can we say that He reacts to things, when He knew before time that they would occur?

Along with loving us, God displays anger, jealousy, sadness.

-Do not worship any other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God. Exodus 34:14

-The LORD's anger burned against Israel and he made them wander in the desert forty years, until the whole generation of those who had done evil in his sight was gone. Numbers 32:13

-Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked? declares the Sovereign LORD. Rather, am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live? Ezekiel 18:23

It is easier to imagine Christ having emotions, since He took on flesh. One of the first examples that comes to mind is His w…

To God be the Glory

I can't think of anything to write about besides paperwork and bureaucracy. Rather sad.

In the meantime, here is some uplifting music. I discovered the Oslo Gospel Choir on Youtube, and I love their singing! In this particular video there is a special soloist.

Almost, but not quite

In pursuit of a Temporary Residency Permit...

I presented my documents at the FMS today. They approved everything except the apostille on the FBI check. I asked for 3 weeks to try to figure something out.

I still have the original, so I can try again to get it apostilled, but I don't whom to ask since the standard U.S. procedure is to apostille a notarized copy (which is not accepted as valid by the Russian government).

Meanwhile, the FBI has JUST begun apostilling background checks that have been initiated after Jan.25, 2010. I could start over with the background check, but wouldn't receive it within 3 weeks, so I would have to ask for more time...

Another kind of anniversary

This week, Russia celebrates 20 years of....McDonald's!

I would like to leave the fast-food (health) debate for the moment and comment on the culture implications. This kind of anniversary is interesting when looked at in the light of what was going on the world at the time.

1990: I was almost 8 years old and probably didn't know that the USSR existed. And I barely knew what McDonald's was, as I wasn't raised on fast-food.

Meanwhile, in Russia, an interesting "cultural" exchange was taking place. I enjoyed reading the accounts in Monday's local paper (Metro) about people's memories of the first McDonald's opening in Moscow. They speak of the lines, the intrigue, the scent of a new kind of food. People who had worked as servers describe the pressure they felt, then the relief as the idea took on. read more/-

I don't know exactly which characteristics of American culture are represented by McDonald's cuisine: Convenience? Mass-marketing? Con…

Paying the bills in Russia

You've received a what do you do with it?

There are some forms of electronic payment cropping up in Russia, but the traditional way is paying through the bank. I suppose it's the counterpart of writing a check in the U.S.

Since I've never rented my own apartment, I've never had to deal too much with the bills, but the need arises every once in a while.

In order to pay, you take the kvitancia (bill) to the bank, get in the proper line, hand it to the cashier with your money, get your receipt, and leave. I have to admit that it isn't THAT complicated, but I have a bit of a phobia about having to interact with someone while there is a glass window between us. I suppose it is a fear of miscommunication.  Of course language plays a role, but I distinctly remember being afraid of buying movie tickets in the U.S. because of the same window scenario. I guess it is just a communication preference...more/-

One of the items on my list is paying the government fee f…

The complexities of Russian family trees

If you've studied Russian, you probably had to make a family tree at some point, and discovered that the Russian language is a little more complicated in this aspect.

When someone is married, there is no such thing in Russian as simply adding "in-law" to the end of everything: mother-in-law, father-in-law, dog-in-law, etc.

Nope, they each have their special name. Your husband's mother has one title; you have your own title in relationship to her; your husband has his own title in relationship to your sister...etc. My conversation teacher couldn't even remember them all.

But as long as you're able to describe the relationships, it isn't such a big deal. BUT...continue reading/-

...another confusion that arises with Russian families is that they often shorten the term meaning "cousin" to either "brother" or "sister." I'm often surprised to hear a friend talking about her "brother" when I thought she was an only ch…