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Showing posts from December, 2010

Meanwhile, back in Massachusetts...

Well, I got my Christmas miracle...

That is, I made it home in the midst of snowstorms in Europe and before the snowstorm hit here (not that either of them were huge, but they certainly affected air travel).

After a long journey, I was paged at the baggage claim to let me know that my baggage was still in Paris. But on Christmas morning the AirFrance guy showed up with my suitcase, just in time for me to wrap my gifts!



We'll see what happens next week when I try to fly out of here...

Adjusting expectations

I should have been on a plane last night instead of in my bed in St. Petersburg!

But...I was glad to not be stranded in an airport somewhere.

It all started with the snow in Europe. As usual, I didn't pay much attention until I realized that it might affect me personally.

The timetable didn't show any changes, but when I got all the way through security and up to the check-in desk...2 hr delay. Okay, I'll deal with it. Then they asked if I was sure I wanted to check my bags all the way through. Were things THAT bad?

I weighed the consequences: a) get stuck in London for a few days with no change of clothes or b) have to lug my suitcase around everywhere and possibly recheck it during my increasingly short layover.

I decided I would rather be grubby and just buy whatever essentials I'd need if I got stuck. Computer cable+Kindle recharger in my suitcase could spell potential boredom and frustration if lost, but I just did not need my carry-on to be any heavier than it w…

The Russian President and I

Is it possible that I actually agree with Medvedev on something? (not that I watch his every move)

Every once in a while, I'm alerted to something in the media that gives me hope that Russian orphans are going to receive some justice.

A ministry serving orphans in Moscow published a translation of Medvedev's recent comments to this effect.

"Unfortunately, in our country there are still 130,000 children remaining without family care. They have neither parents, not guardians, they are deprived of what's primary – the warmth of the family. And there is still very much left to do to make sure that the very concept of "throw-away" children is removed from our life. There should be guardianship/foster organizations focused on placing children with families and supporting those families. In general there must not be children in our country that are "nobody's".
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"The so-called 'correctional' children's homes are faced with such …

No bargaining

I opened up a magazine (delivered from the States recently) and was shocked to see the words "Negotiating with Evil."

My first thought was, we do not bargain with Evil.

I really had a flash of end-times panic as I pictured Americans "negotiating" for their souls. The Bible is pretty clear that we are not to have anything to do with Evil.
"For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord. Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them." (Eph. 5:8-11)Then I looked up the author online, and my feelings changed...
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It turns out that there is a book called "Negotiating with Evil: How to Talk to Terrorists" by Mitchell B. Reiss. I believe that these kinds of books are written more out of fear than from love for mankind.

The production description explains, &q…

How I decorated for Christmas

I know it can be boring to look at someone else's Christmas decorations, but you also find ideas in there, so I thought I would post a few photos and explanations of what I have around the apartment.

I haven't lived in one place for long enough to warrant buying specific decorations, but I like to use the little treasures I've collected over the years. No Christmas tree here as we wouldn't put presents under it anyway. But the ornaments I do have help me feel more at home and excited about the season.

Step 1. Removal

The first thing I did was take down a lot of the pictures and other decorations that had been hanging in my bedroom. I was thinking about even using the frames and replacing the images with Christmas pictures for this season, but I haven't gotten much of that done. Still, it's nice to have a different look for now. more/-

Step 2. A little hardware goes a long way

My roommate is quite handy and put up a shelf on our kitchen wall. It immediately mad…

Advent opposites

I've read a lot of uplifting personal reflections on Advent this year. Cultivating Advent traditions seems like a great way to help kids (and enthusiastic adults) find meaning in the period leading up to Dec. 25th each year.

Of course, as we get older, we realize that it's not about the presents, or the yummy food, or even the beauty of the decorations. We start to listen to the words of the songs we love so much, look up the meanings of the candles, maybe abstain from the more materialistic aspects of the present-day holiday. We meditate on themes like darkness and light, God's love and glory, the circle of life.

And we find that that the period of waiting actually holds plenty of joy, itself. But what does this mean for daily life? I've been musing about the following:
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The Wait

While some Christian denominations may fast somberly during the Advent period, I find it to be a joyous time, even if toned down with thoughtful reflections.

I was watching the "Na…

More nuggets from Russia

The things you learn while living in Russia! A few ideas I've encountered lately have been eye-opening.

1) Opening your mouth outside when it's cold can make you sick. I observed a mother on the street telling her crying child to close his mouth because it was cold outside! From what I figure, it's pretty annoying to have dried tears, etc. frozen onto your face. And I guess it's not very good for your vocal cords to be breathing cold air a lot. But I don't know if it really makes you sick per se.

2) You're not supposed to rub your belly when you're pregnant because it could squish the unborn baby or traumatize him or something. I didn't really understand the explanation, and I've never been pregnant, but sounds kind of silly to me. Anyone?

3) Changes in barometric pressure make people feel yucky and depressed. read more/-

I had just finished a shower singing session when I heard sobs coming from my flatmate's room. Worried that someone had died…

Freedom!

Well, after getting my residency permit and registration (which I never did finish writing about), I went right away the next week to apply for an exit visa. I wanted to get everything over with so I wouldn't have to see that office again for awhile.

This time, I didn't have to get in the registration line. This was a different category. How refreshing! I went in on a Friday when there was almost no line. In fact, it was a "live" line and I had to negotiate with everyone verbally to get into the office, but it worked out.

The lady gave me a two-sided application form and a little list of requirements including photocopies of passport pages, and passport photos. I left the building, planning to return the next week with the forms.

Wait a minute.

This was easy stuff, compared to what I had just done the week before. And there was no line. I kicked into "rush" mode, found the nearest photo place, filled out the form, and was back at the place just before they c…

Some of my characters and their destinies

I've probably mentioned before that there are a few kids at the orphanage that are rather skittish and seem afraid of me. This is probably a combination of the trauma of being orphaned, teenage angst, and apprehension about practicing English with a native speaker (not that I push them too hard, but maybe they expect it). Whew.

I'm often drawn to shy kids because I can identify with them, but there are times when you recognize fear and not just a quiet nature. With the boys especially you long to see them sitting up straight, making eye contact, finding something to be confident about.

There are a few teenage boys that have slowly gotten used to interacting with me over the years. One of them seems quite wounded and childlike sometimes. I've written about him before. The good news is that a family in the States is potentially adopting him and his younger sister. I'm excited that they'll be able to stay together, and that they'll have a home.

But there are other…

First day of winter in the northern capital

The view I see when walking home at 3 pm...


It's unusually cold for this time of year, but a little frost is much preferred to slush!

Shedding light

The beginning of winter feels like a roller coaster. On the one hand, I'm falling in love again with the beauty of the low winter sunlight reflecting on the snowy city. A Russian kind of winter wonderland.


On the other hand, there is the depression of the darkness. Were our bodies even designed to live this far north? Everything in me screams "no" each time I prepare to go outside. Every day during the daylight hours (from about 10-4) I force myself to look out the window or maybe take a little walk if possible, just to remind myself that daytime still exists.

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But on a positive note, I find it a gift to prepare for Christmas in this part of the world. Maybe Christ wasn't born in winter in a cold climate, but it makes waiting for the Light so meaningful when it is dark outside. Maybe my life isn't shrouded in spiritual darkness, but the metaphor works. When it is dark, we feel miserable. Therefore, I can imagine the feelings of despair when one has not y…