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Showing posts from May, 2010

The most dangerous profession

Have you ever noticed how teachers are often portrayed as martyrs? This was one of the main themes of La lengua de las mariposas, a Spanish language film I watched recently.

What can be more poignant than an educator pouring out his life for the sake of his pupils?

Dead Poet's Society,Stand and Deliver...classics! The teacher unlocks the imagination; sets new standards; brings the misfit out of his shell. And let's not forget the frontier schoolmistresses who could do everything: teach all the grade levels at once, keep the fire going, and handle a rifle to stave off wolves and other more/-

Though dramatized by Hollywood, the expectation on a teacher is great. He must navigate a web of relationships. Parents want their children to succeed. Children want to be entertained. The administration wants those kids to be meeting national standards.

What is a teacher to do? If he sticks to the rules, he is boring. If he thinks outside the box, trying new approaches to …

Expressing intentions

When you are “planning” to do something, what is your degree of intent? I’m just curious because apparently in the Russian language, “planning” is tentative. That is, “planning” to do something means that you still aren’t sure. I don’t know if this is a linguistic distinction, or cultural, or both.

In class today we asked the teacher what the difference was between “thinking” about doing something and “planning” to do something. She said they were synonyms. We asked how you could express “planning” to do something, but when you are sure. She said that didn’t happen. Hmm, okay…

Here’s how I picture the English verbs working:

1)    I’m thinking about going/I might go to the beach tomorrow (tentative).
2)    I’m planning to go to the beach tomorrow if the weather’s nice (conditional: I’ll go IF x happens).
3)    I’m planning to go to the beach unless it rains (conditional: I’ll go UNLESS x happens).
4)    I’m going to the beach tomorrow (no question).

I would definitely view option 3 as …

Menu fun

I suppose it isn't fair to criticize the Russians for their translation skills, because after all, they aren't the only ones, and Americans might make the same mistakes in their position...

And actually, this isn't really a translation problem; more of a context issue....

Just what is Daddy ordering?
This next one, though, definitely needed to be checked in the dictionary one more time. That's not tea we're ordering, it's chicken.... continue/-

...with herbals???
Oh well, it certainly gives tourists a more memorable time.

Conspiracy Theory?

I'm not quite sure how I feel about the topic that I'm about to discuss, but here are some initial thoughts, at least.

I was visiting a children's hospital the other day and someone handed me a pamphlet to read (in Russian) entitled "The Truth About Vaccinations." It seemed to be put out by the Orthodox Church and was all about how vaccinations are evil (literally).

The person who read it before me had helpfully done some highlighting, so I scanned those sections to get the gist of it. In addition to accusing the rest of the civilized world of deliberately leaving Russia in the dark about vaccination risks, it quoted some U.S. public figure as saying that we ought to reduce the world population by 90%... with the vaccination risks being a key part of that. read more/-

My first thought was, leave it to the Orthodox Church to accuse us of systematic extermination.

But the thing is that it isn't good to blindly believe (or doubt) any point of view. I needed to i…

That time of year

It seems like such a shame to go to bed with that light streaming in the window!

Interceding for the dead

How are YOU celebrating the holiday?

I didn't remember, either. There are times when I'm more in tune with the church calendar, and times, obviously, when I'm not.

Today, many churches around the world celebrate Pentecost.

A cluster of holidays around this time in the Russian Orthodox Church include "Soul Saturday" and "Trinity Sunday/Pentecost."

Although I had heard bits and pieces, I finally decided to try to find out a little more about "Soul Saturday." Continue/-

It took me some time to even determine a proper search term, as in Russian it is called "Parents' Saturday." All I kept hearing was that everyone went to the cemetery on the Saturday before Pentecost, and I didn't see the connection.

"Saturday is a traditional day for prayer for the dead, because Christ lay dead in the tomb on Saturday...These days are devoted to prayer for departed relatives and others among the faithful who might not be commemorated specif…


Okay, I'm just posting this for the shock value...this is what my new toothpaste looks like:

Hope I didn't spoil anyone's appetite! ;)

ESL with a bunch of monkeys

I finally got out to the orphanage again. The kids had been out on one excursion or another the past several times.

I was a little early and made myself take a stroll through a small park in appreciation of spring. Yesterday it was sunny all day and in the 70's. The park was very clean and peaceful, what a gift!

We had to get the kids inside somehow for English. I know, it isn't nice to deprive them of sunlight, but we were just going to have a quick lesson. Besides, it would be a good lesson in patience and rewards.

Katya roller-skated back and forth between me and the counselor. "Don't you want to go to the park?" Did I want to go to the park? If the counselor was offering, I didn't have any objections.

"Sure." She skated back to the counselor.

"She said yes! See?" Oh. I had been tricked into disagreeing with the counselor, who had suggested going inside. Eventually we got the tearful tykes inside, promising that they could go …

Daily dose of paganism

Today in my Culture class we made little folk dolls. There was a lot of giggling as we tried to follow the directions in the book to make the proper Russian peasant clothing. We spent about twenty minutes trying to wind the kerchief just right around the head. Interesting how none of the guys showed up for class today...

Of course it's a fun craft, but then the teacher said, "Every Russian house had 12 dolls, to keep away 12 specific illnesses." Oh my.

Towards the end of class, we talked about the purpose of studying cultures in general...


Is it important to preserve cultures? It's an interesting question to consider. Of course in order to sound like respectable people we should answer "yes." But the follow-up question (Why?) stumped me for a minute. I feel the occasional twinge of sadness when hearing about a tribe that has become extinct or a form of folk art that has been lost. But I have to admit that I find it hard to express a reason why any…

Consider it all joy

Doesn't it seem like joy is a very abstract concept? It is such a beautiful word, and there are so many nice things written about it, but... how about practicality?

So many songs about joy are upbeat and just make you want to clap your hands and stamp your feet, but is that because you really FEEL joy or because the songwriter did a good job with the tune? And that brings me to the joy something you FEEL or DO or what?

For lack of a unified statement, I have here a collection of thoughts.

Joy in Children

Christ directs us to be like children (Matthew 18:1-4), so when tackling any sort of perplexing topic, why not simplify it by studying a child's reaction? read more/-

Joy in a child is momentary, based on an event. He has received a present; seen his favorite person; discovered something new. He is able to put aside other things and delight in this one thing. It is unplanned and it is temporary. But at the same time it is simple and the child does not analyze why …

A Russian emergency

I was helping the kids in the orphanage with their homework, when suddenly a siren began to wail.

“A fire has been detected. Go to the basement of the building,” said a voice over the loudspeaker.

Then I woke up, but the voice was still there. It sounded over and over again.

I roused Zhenya.

“Zhenya! What are they saying?”


“What are they saying?”

“They’re saying….there’s a fire…please evacuate the building.” Continue/-

“So…should we leave the building?” I already had my bathrobe on, ready to follow instructions.

“I don’t know.”

“Well, how can we find out?”

“Call someone?” I gave her the phone, but she was drifting back to sleep.

“What should we do?” I repeated. We tried to figure out where the loudspeaker even was. Our window was open and it seemed like it was coming from another building.

I looked out the window to see if I could catch a glimpse of fire trucks and people fleeing in terror. There was not a soul to be seen. Nobody had business to do this early on a Sunday mornin…

Euro-fied (it's all in the name)

"Euro-." Often refers to the currency, but is also just short for European.

If you've stayed in a hotel while traveling abroad, you might have noticed their "Euro-standard" option. Or maybe, you've had the privilege of being a "Euro Traveller" on-board British Airways.

Russian marketers have taken this idea and run with it. Sticking "euro" in the front of any product or service suddenly makes it 100 times more appealing. I guess "Amer-" or "Am-" don't have that same ring to it. (Or maybe they have TOO many associations... Amway, perhaps?)

The term "Evro-remont" or "European-style remodeling" has become really popular, although from my observations, it refers more to giving a place a "face lift" than something more extensive. Faux wood paneling, anyone?

Then I was in the store the other day and caught sight of some cleaning supplies that had our new favorite prefix. "Euro-cloths f…

You are (not really) special

There was something rubbing me the wrong way about some Sunday school play scripts we were looking at. The message of almost every scenario was either "You are special in God's eyes" or "Everyone is special in God's eyes."

I'm not sure why, but to me this seemed like an incomplete representation of God's love for us and of how we should relate to others.

For one thing, take out the “in God’s eyes” part and you could have any bumper sticker or maybe group therapy message.

The typical scenario goes like this:
All the animals (flowers, letters of the alphabet, etc.) are arguing about who is more important.

A mediator enters the scene, tells everyone to hush and work together, then they collectively make a pretty rainbow/bouquet/picture, and finish with “EVERYONE IS SPECIAL!” more/-

Now, when the disciples were arguing about who was greatest, Christ said something a little different.
Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, "If anyone …

How we choose books to read

Have you ever read a book (besides the Bible) that actually changed your way of thinking? I have a hard time thinking of examples for myself.

In the school days, there was a cumulative effect. We read a little here and there over many years and gradually it added up to what we know now.

But what about in adult life when we consciously make a choice to read certain books? What criteria do we use?

I came to the realization recently that I primarily choose books whose main point I can agree with. continue/-

That is, I avoid books with whose message I assume I will disagree. This is logical in a way, but it means that I limit my exposure to new ideas since I want to read something that I can nod in agreement with, writing down quotes to use in defending my personal philosophy. Maybe I'm not looking for a challenge.

What does this say about me? That I like to read thoughts which resemble my own? Am I closed to other viewpoints, or simply to other viewpoints which I disapprove of? Are t…

Are they waiting?

Oh, how confused we Christians are sometimes about evangelism! Do it this way, don't do it at all, follow these steps, follow the Holy Spirit, use these Scriptures, leave it to the professionals... 

Some conversations lately have renewed my hope that people out there are looking for Jesus. One girl testified that she had given her life to the Lord and had really been waiting for some Christians to come and talk to her....and then they showed up at her dormitory.

How many people are waiting for someone to knock on their door or look into their eyes and tell them about Jesus? Maybe a lot, maybe a few. But isn't it worth being rejected a few times to reach those few? Knocking on the wrong door a few times before we are actually invited inside?

read more/-

At the other side of the argument, it does often seem that people are completely uninterested and unreachable. To be more "efficient," we divide them into "open" and "closed" and don'…

Sideways photos

Certain Blogger glitches have been driving me nuts.

-The new photo editor, as far as I know, does not let you adjust the size of the photo manually. Sometimes I choose "small," but there is no way to to click and drag at the corners to make it even smaller or to get a custom size in between the prescribed "small" and "medium."

-Photos sometimes upload sideways. If this has happened to you I'm sure you understand how aggravating it can be. They blame it on a Canon incompatibility, blah blah blah. I experimented with some file formats in Paint, and .PNG seems to fix the sideways problem. You can do your editing elsewhere and then just open the file in Paint and save it with the new extension. I'm sure there is probably a more sophisticated way to do it, but this works for me. :)

Rumor or reality?

When Russians tell me that they have to pay for some sort of service, I'm not usually surprised. Pay for a trip to the doctor? Music lessons? It is hard for me to imagine that these things ever came free of charge.

Then I was having lunch with a friend recently and she said, "Did you know that Russian schools are going to start charging tuition?"

WHAT? It makes sense for higher education, since people take different paths... but public elementary school? Has someone gone insane?

continue reading/-

The particular proposal being tossed around suggested that a few hours of Math, Russian, Phys Ed, and "Religion" per week would be free, while additional subjects would cost a certain amount per hour. By one person's estimations, this would cost families about 5000-6000 rubles per month for a basic set of lessons. That's about $200.

Here are a few observations:

1) The Russian Constitution* states that "The basic general education shall be free of charge.&…

Times are changing

I had anticipated that the first half of this year would be fairly hectic due to applying for residency. I put some things on hold for that reason.

My normal policy had been, when I had a free day or half a day, to fill it with some sort of activity. And I usually didn't have to look for long, as there was always some task to do or a dear friend to spend time with.

For the past few months, however, I haven't been as eager to get out and do things. My classes are mid-day and it's a bit hard to work around that. I had to do some phone-calling and investigating related to getting my documents in order, and that took quite a bit of emotional energy, I guess. I think it was good for me, though. Maybe I've reached a new stage of independence. read more/-

So since handing in my documents I've been trying to go down that list of opportunities and start saying yes again.

-Last weekend, I had some friends over for a pizza party.
-I met up with some people during the week and …

The truth about Russian orphans

I've been saying it for a few years now. It was the topic of a presentation that I gave at the university last month.

Russian orphans are well cared for in the facilities here. They love their counselors and group-mates; they pursue normal childhood interests; they give performances and create amazing works of art; they grow into beautiful young men and women.

And then they are alone. In fact, they always knew they were "alone," but the orphanage helped them to forget, at least for a little while.

My friends have been passing this article around. If you haven't read it yet, you should. It gives an excellent analysis of current conditions. Let me know what your impressions are...

Only time

Since when is 27 "almost 30"? I have been getting a lot of comments lately... but a lot can happen in three years! After all, you wouldn't call a 7 yr old "almost 10," would you?

Has time sped up?

I was marveling recently at college students' ability to keep a vibrant conversation going up until 10:30 pm. At first I attributed my bewilderment to personality differences. For some of us, it can be so draining to engage in hours of intense fellowship. Right?

But then I thought...wait a minute...I used to love to do that, back in my "youth." I recalled, particularly during freshman year of college, our habit of lounging in the dorm parlor until 4 or 5 am, mostly on weekends, but on weeknights too. There was so much to talk about, and it was so interesting to get to know new people.

Joie de vivre?

Maybe I don't have the stamina anymore for all-nighters, but this season of life must hold something special, too. Right?

Dealing with weaknesses

“Accept him whose faith is weak.” (Rom. 14:2)

“Love covers a multitude of sins." (1 Peter 4:8)

Rather than dividing the Body between the strong and the weak, we often talk about encouraging each other’s strengths and covering each other’s weaknesses.

What does this mean in a practical sense?

I think teaching tends to give more attention to the development of gifts, emphasizing the “building up.”

But what are examples of weak areas in a brother that we can protect, and how so? If we have weak areas in our own lives, how can we ask for help?

Yulia's gift

I had a little friend at camp who captured my heart, about 7 or 8 years ago. She was just this shy little thing that would always beam at me in greeting.

In “Russia-A Love Story,” I posted a photo of us together. That was a day when we were saying goodbye as our group left for the airport, and Yulia gave me a little parting gift. It was her own purse, with my name scrawled on a piece of paper. Inside, a note addressed to me said “Farewell.”  Continue reading/-

Just what was in that purse? An icon (Saint Tatiana), a hair elastic, and a 2004 calendar. I have no idea why this particular assortment was given to me. Were they her dearest possessions? Ones she thought I could use? Or the quickest ones she could find before running to see us off?

We met again at the orphanage in the fall. When you have a reunion with orphans, it’s not what you would expect. Yes, there is some joy and exchanging of hugs, but it isn’t like a happily-ever-after feeling. I was happy that I had the opportunity to …

The One God

Since ancient times no one has heard,        no ear has perceived,        no eye has seen any God besides you,        who acts on behalf of those who wait for him.
-Isaiah 64:4

Fortune telling- is it cultural?

Is your native culture superstitious? Do people rely heavily on fortune-telling? We might associate divination with certain cultures and religions, but I think there is evidence in all cultures to suggest that we all long to know what our future holds…

When I took a quick look at my own culture, I realized that there are quite a few forms of entertainment that have a link to fortune telling, and, directly or indirectly, devil worship.

American culture
-Ouiji boards
-Daily horoscopes and other forms of Astrology
-Chinese fortune cookies
-Tarot reading
-TV shows and other portrayals of psychics...
Continue reading/-

-“MASH” and other games to find out about one’s future spouse, etc.
-Chain games which involve uttering certain words; passing on a message to get a certain effect...
-Misuse of prophecy in the Church
-References to bad luck and bad omens
-Personality “tests” and a multitude of other attempts to analyze one’s behavior and chances for certain outcomes in life

Russian Culture