Tuesday, July 29, 2008


I had an argument with myself about whether or not I need to take plastic bags with me on the plane for impromptu grocery shopping.

See category: You Know You've Lived in Russia Too Long When...

The solution (as it appears now)

Background: They passed the new Russian visa law in October 2007. At first I thought they weren’t going to enforce it, but I started doing research right away to find out how it would affect me. I thought that if I was subjected to the 90-day rule under my charity visa, then I would go for a work visa, rather than a study visa.

I didn’t look in a lot of places for jobs. I didn’t want to commit and then find out that the law didn’t apply. I also thought that maybe certain employers wouldn’t understand that I still have a commitment to the orphans, although there are some local businesses that try to help non-profit causes.

Time was of the essence...

It was one of those open-ended prayer requests that I skimmed over daily, wondering if I should be more proactive about seeking an answer.

I had a certain time-frame in which I wanted to have my plans set. In May I was busy planning my Africa trip. In July I would be busy at camp and getting ready to leave for the States. So I was hoping to make a decision by the end of June. That didn’t leave a lot of time, especially if there were interviews or paperwork involved.

By the beginning of June, having returned from Africa, I was still uncertain. I had a few options, and it seemed logical to just go with the "best" fit, even if it wasn't ideal. But I still couldn't bring myself to make a commitment. It was already seeming too late to start applying for a work visa for the fall, but I still wanted to have some defined plans, even if the timeframe wasn't what I had planned on.

An idea...

Then one day I was praying about something else entirely and God suddenly impressed it on my heart to check out another option one more time. It was an option that I had given up on after trying unsuccessfully to obtain the contact information of a woman that runs an ESL center here. A mutual acquaintance had promised to give her my contact information, but I never heard from her, and assumed that they weren't looking for teachers. But I knew that another missionary was getting a visa from there, so I asked her and she said she definitely recommended this language school. So I sent an email to the address she gave me.

Was it the right idea?

I waited for an answer to the email, and it didn't come. I looked up the company online and emailed them and they didn't answer. Finally I looked up the director of the school and found her home phone number and called her. She recognized my name and said that she had emailed me offering me a job a few months prior, and never heard from me. Now the connection had finally been made.


The language school sounds like it was what I was looking for, and I agreed to work there. I will still come on the charity visa in the fall for a maximum of 90 days, while the work permit is being processed, and then I will transition into teaching. I will have to teach 15-20 hours, and I'm hoping that I will still be able to visit the orphanages in the afternoons, but not if it conflicts with the teaching quota. I'm sure it will all become much clearer in the fall.

On the same day that I reached the director of the language school, I learned that my charity visa will indeed be under the 90-day rule, so I definitely need the work visa to be able to stay here full-time. I sent off my paperwork just in time to leave for camp.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Qualities of a Christian

I have a good friend who is a devout Orthodox believer, and I spent some time with her the other day. She doesn't talk a lot about her convictions, but it's easy to see from her lifestyle that she's a Christian. She doesn't preach, but she has plenty of non-believing friends whom she loves and nurtures. I have never known her to drink alcohol, but I've been invited ice-skating on many occasions or simply to go for a stroll.

Now a first-time mother, my friend invited me for a walk in the park with the baby. We met up with her other friend, who also has a new baby. And my friend shared comforting baby advice with the other mother.

It struck me later as I was thinking about our time together that she doesn't gossip, and rarely complains. She shares news about her friends and family, but there is nothing malicious or fanciful about it. She's newly married, but has never said anything negative about her in-laws or the living situation. She's a new mother, but hasn't mentioned anything about being tired. As we walked, she told the baby gently not to fuss while she gave a little attention to Auntie Elizabeth.

She doesn't gossip, and here I am writing about her. I hope I'm not gossiping!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Just for fun

Did you know that Russians sneeze differently than Americans? They say "Ap-CHEE" instead of "А-CHOO." Recently I was torturing my roommate with questions about why this is so. She argued that we sneeze the way we are taught, but I thought that if it was an involuntary action there shouldn't be variation.

From wikipedia:

Some common English onomatopoeias for the sneeze sound are achoo, atchoo, achew, and atisshoo, with the first syllable corresponding to the sudden intake of air, and the second to the sound of the sneeze.

A similar linguistic approach has been taken with several other languages; in French, the sound "Atchoum!" is used; in Finnish "Atsiuh!"; in Swedish "Atjo"; in Danish "Atju!"; in Hebrew "Apchi!"; in German "Hatschie!"; in Hungarian "Hapci!"; in Polish, "Apsik!"; in Russian , "Apchkhi!"; in Turkish, "Hapşu!"; in Italian, "Etciù!"; in Spanish "¡Achú!" or "¡Achís!"; in Portuguese, "Atchim!"; in Romanian "Hapciu!" and in Japanese, "Hakushon!". In Cypriot Greek, the word is "Apshoo!", incidentally also the name of a village, which is the cause of much mirth locally.

In Howards End, by E.M. Forster, a sneeze in polite society is "a-tissue" - a nice allusion to its respective remedy.

I was wondering if perhaps coughing or clearing your throat also varies across languages. What is the Russian equivalent of "ahem"?

But of course the animal noises are the most amusing. I still laugh when I hear how a Russian horse whinnies....

"I GO GO."

Here are more examples:


Tuesday, July 22, 2008


When we took the American team into St.Petersburg for the day, I left the group to run an errand. When I returned, I met a procession coming towards me head-on down the Griboedova Canal.

I’m not an expert on Orthodox holidays, but I know the main ones, and I couldn’t figure out what could be happening on July 17th. I couldn’t let this opportunity go by, so I stood and watched the Orthodox believers, young and old, as they walked by and chanted prayers, holding icons and other various “holy” relics. They had caught a clearer moment during the rainy day to make their march, beginning and ending at the Church of the Savior on the Spilt Blood.

Sometimes Orthodoxy seems so foreign, irrelevent to my faith. Why do they march with icons? Why do they make the sign of the cross? What do they want to proclaim with these public demonstrations?

When I asked a vendor at the nearby souvenir market, she said that it was the anniversary of the assassination of the royal family. Indeed, Wednesday marked 90 years since that day, and the final remains have only recently been identified. The royal family was canonized in 2000, but perhaps the final identification helps to make their sainthood legitimate.

Sometimes I forget that I live in a famous city. It’s never dull!

Monday, July 21, 2008

Summer weather

It's been a RAINY summer. Every day I set out a nicer outfit hoping for a change in the trend, but then after looking out the window I go back to the same long pants and heavier shoes.

This evening I noticed that it was raining out but that there was light showing through. Then I happened to look out the window a few minutes later to catch sight of the first rainbow I've seen all summer.

This is probably the ugliest rainbow photo ever taken, but if you look really hard, you can see it:

Just felt like sharing.

One I will miss

At camp there was an 8-yr-old named Angelica. I’m not going to lie, she was a little obnoxious. But for some reason she made an impression on me.

She always showed up and followed us around. It didn’t matter which group we were supposed to be meeting with, she was there. But she was always interested in an activity other than the one we were offering. If we were singing, she wanted to draw. If we were playing Frisbee, she was asking for the Uno cards. And she wasn’t going to take No for an answer.

When we did face-painting, she always wanted to be a cat. And we had conversations consisting entirely of “meows.”

The day before the session ended was a stressful one, especially for the younger kids. Everyone had to pack up all their things and put them somewhere. Even those who were staying for another session had to do this, as they were being moved to other groups.

We comforted many a child who came to us sobbing about his/her friends leaving, or about not receiving a present, or another such matter.

I was supervising the crafts table alone when I heard the sound of sobbing coming from outside. I turned to see Angelica coming towards me, crying hysterically, and with a stream of blood running down her chin. Uh-oh. Where had an innocent ping-pong match gone wrong? As far as I could understand, it was something with her tooth. I started asking the other kids if the infirmary was open. Just then, a passing counselor stopped, took a look, and said, “Oh, you’re just losing a baby tooth. Go rinse your mouth out.” Whew. Once we did some rinsing, Angelica was still convinced she was dying, so I escorted her to her counselor, who would deal with it further.

The next day, as she left to go home, Angelica was all smiles, minus one tooth.

And then as we got to know the new kids, I realized that I missed a certain 8-yr-old very much!

Friday, July 4, 2008

Christian music retro

Recently I was in a Christian bookstore off of Nevskii and on impulse bought an old Amy Grant cassette. This was partly because it had one of my favorite songs on it, "Old Man's Rubble."

Although Amy's career got a little murky later on, I love these older lyrics of hers, and I much prefer them to contemporary Christian music's more cryptic lyrics (which, while edifying, are not always straight-forward about the Gospel and about which god they are supposed to be portraying).

I like how she puts simple biblical truths to music and asks questions that are convicting to believers. Sometimes I need that more than singing the same two words about God over and over and wondering if I actually mean them.

Are you living in an old man's rubble,
Are you listening to the father of lies?

Are you walking with unnecessary burdens,
Are you trying to take them upon yourself?
If you are, then you're living in bondage,
And you know that's bad for your spiritual health.

And are you trying to live by your emotions,
Are you putting your faith in what you feel and see?
Then you're living just to satisfy your passions,
And you better be careful 'cause you're being deceived.

Are you living in an old man's rubble,
Are you listening to the father of lies?
If you are then you're headed for trouble;
If you listen too long you'll eventually die.

Are you living in an old man's rubble,
Are you listening to the father of lies?
If you are then you're headed for trouble;
If you listen too long you'll eventually die.

Are you puzzled by the way that you're behaving,
Do you wonder why you do the things you do?
And are you troubled by your lack of resistance,
Do you feel that something's got a hold on you?

Well deep within you, there's a spiritual battle;
There's a voice of the darkness and a voice of the light.
And just by listening, you have made a decision,
'Cause the voice you hear is gonna win the fight.

Are you living in an old man's rubble,
Are you listening to the father of lies?
If you are then you're headed for trouble;
If you listen too long you'll eventually die.

If you're living as a new creation,
If you're listening to the Father of Light,
Then you're living in a mighty fortress,
And you're gonna be clothed in power and might.

But are you living in an old man's rubble,
Are you listening to the father of lies?
If you are then you're headed for trouble;
If you listen too long you'll eventually die.

If you're living as a new creation,
If you're listening to the Father of Light,
Then you're living in a mighty fortress,
And you're gonna be clothed in power and might.

Terms of Endearment, continued

Dear Disappointed Reader who got to my blog by searching for "Terms of Endearment in Russian" (as evidenced by my stat counter),

I'm sorry if you didn't find what you were looking for. If you're planning on finding yourself a Russian bride, I hope that your intentions are honorable. I also hope that you learn a little more Russian than "terms of endearment," so that you will be able to communicate with her Mamochka and Papochka and Babulya.

I'm sorry if you're a linguist and were hoping to find a treatise on the richness of the Russian language. Although I majored in Russian Studies, I'm far too engrossed in trying to perfect my everyday survival Russian to meditate on the wonders of this Slavic tongue. I also teach English, so unfortunately a number of my posts focus more on my own native language and how to make it accessible to Russians.

If you're still interested, welcome to my blog!

That is all.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Going to camp soon

On Sunday I'll be going to camp for two weeks with a team from my church in Massachusetts. The camp is called Uni stroitel ("young builder"), and I've been there once before. We traditionally visit a different camp. If you look in the "camp" labels in my sidebar, you can read more about the history of our visits.

Here's a photo from the last time I was at Uni Stroitel, three (I think) years ago. The girls on the far right were sisters, working in the camp kitchen. They're in college now and I keep touch with them via one of the social networks online. Some of the other kids in the photo are from two orphanages that I visit.

I'm hoping I will see some familiar faces this time!

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Visa situation

The 90-day visa rule is indeed being enforced, it was confirmed recently. It's a good thing I was already researching work visas.

I've got one option that seems reasonable, and hopefully I'll have the details straightened out in the next few days.

It's still not clear how this will affect the overall presence of foreigners in Russia. There are ways to get work/study visas, but work visas can be pretty costly for the employer, and applying for a license takes several months, so many people will probably experience a delay while waiting for all the paperwork to come through. In the meantime, those without a work/study option are trying to figure out how to space out their 90 days within the 180-day period...

Song of ascents

I love this Psalm! I think it has the most beautiful imagery. Of course if it sounds nice in English it must sound incredible in the original.

Psalm 126
A song of ascents.

When the LORD brought back the captives to Zion,
we were like men who dreamed.
Our mouths were filled with laughter,
our tongues with songs of joy.
Then it was said among the nations,
"The LORD has done great things for them."
The LORD has done great things for us,
and we are filled with joy.
Restore our fortunes, O LORD,
like streams in the Negev.
Those who sow in tears
will reap with songs of joy.
He who goes out weeping,
carrying seed to sow,
will return with songs of joy,
carrying sheaves with him.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Lighter reading

I decided to catch up on U.S. Politics, and found this interesting article about a group of Christians who have a slightly different approach to the presidential campaign. With their "Jesus for President" motto, they encourage Americans to think about what it really means to follow Jesus, from a political point of view. "[Claiborne] is quick to say the call of Christ has more to do with how people live their lives on November 3 and 5 than how they vote on November 4."

And here's a news story that gave me a laugh. It's like something straight from a Disney or Pixar movie. http://edition.cnn.com/2008/WORLD/europe/07/01/netherlands.circus/index.html?iref=mpstoryview The CNN headline reads: Giraffe gathers troops, leads great escape from circus

(if only there were an accompanying photo)

Ancient texts

This is an interesting website: http://www.lib.umich.edu/pap/exhibits/reading/

You can look at old Latin and Greek papyri. The University of Michigan has set up a nice site with some background information and tips for deciphering the handwriting.

One of the current texts featured is the Pauline Epistles.

June 2022

So, we are 4 months into what's happening in our part of the world...though, of course, we live pretty far from the border!   Currently:...