Thursday, September 30, 2010

The green stuff

Medicine is such an interesting concept to observe in another culture.

I don't think I have written about chicken pox on here before.

But before I get into that story, I must acquaint you with a staple of Russian first aid: the green stuff. It's a popular antiseptic here that is BRIGHT GREEN. In fact, its Latin name translates literally "Brilliant green." And it doesn't wash off right away. Before I knew this, I thought Russian kids really liked to play with markers...

I didn't want to embarrass anyone I know by taking a photo, so I swiped one off the internet...

And that brings me to the chicken pox. A friend of mine (a college student here) recently became infected, and we went to visit him after church, since we'd all had it in childhood. Hospitalization is more common in Russia, but our friend also lives in the dormitory, so that made it even more necessary for him to be quarantined. continue/-

The hospital is one of the bigger facilities in town, and instead of being divided into wings, the wards are all in separate buildings, probably built at different times over the years.

We had a fun time finding the ward where our friend was staying...

We didn't have to show ID, but we did have to have shoe-covers and were not allowed to enter the ward wearing a coat (although one could carry said coat over one's arm).

When we finally made our way to the right place, we saw our friend, and he Most of his face and neck and then selected spots were covered in the green stuff.

But he wasn't the only one! A few older guys were shuffling around, with sections of their head and scalp dyed green by the ointment! Think rock concert meets nursing home.

We sat in the hallway for awhile hanging out and playing with balloons leftover from Sunday school, when the nurse wasn't looking.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Into the furnace

The story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego (I always liked saying those names) is one so familiar from the Sunday school days. But even now, I'm amazed each time I read this testimony of the Lord's power and favor.

It struck me recently that the story isn't only about what happens when we trust in God, it's also about what goes through the mind of someone who does not yet believe. And that's a perspective about which I sometimes lack understanding.

While reading Daniel 3, something made me examine the king's point of view. This isn't a fairytale-God gives us examples in the form of humans who really lived and experienced real emotions that we can relate to. It might be obvious who the "good guys" are, but the "bad guys" sometimes aren't too far off from our flawed selves. Here is a king, full of power, grasping at human answers to a problem that only God can solve. more/-

King Nebuchadnezzar has already been shown what will be in the future, and now he tries to somehow change his fate.

What I saw in these measures was fear.

And then my mind flashed to all the presidents and other leaders of the world's nations, who make such decisions...when to go to war, how to deal with enemies, how to keep the peace...

All of this "policy," "tolerance,"...whether on a local level (in the workplace, school) or international, it all comes down to fear, and the ultimate fear is fear of death. How many people around me live with this fear? How much does my own lifestyle subscribe to this fear, when I should instead have an eternal perspective?

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

A new bundle of joy

A year (+ a few days) ago, I was attending my sister's wedding, and crying over visa woes.

Yesterday, my sister gave birth to her first child, a boy! His name is Benjamin. :)

Hooray for this miracle of life, and thanks be to the Creator!

Saturday, September 18, 2010


The table (AKA my workspace) in my room was peeling, and I didn't really feel like repainting it...too time-consuming and boring. Then I was looking at an "IKEA hack" site and got the idea of decoupage. I liked the idea of having something personal and unique, and some scrapbook paper did the trick. Who cares if it clashes with the other furniture? :)

To paint or not to paint the legs?

Thursday, September 16, 2010

The return of the red tape

It's mid-September, and that means it's time for my residency permit! Time to go from "passive" to "active" bureaucracy mode.

Last week I went to the regional authorities to try to ask some questions. I thought if it wasn't ready then I could at least get some information in advance. My prayer was to get just one bit of helpful information.

Well...does finding the building count? Thankfully, I had checked the website and it said "entrance via hotel." Otherwise, I would not have guessed that the windowless door under the hotel/cafe sign would lead the way to a government office. It surely did not look like it had anything to do with passports or citizenship. Yet, beyond those very doors, people were taking care of  important-and even life-changing-matters. read more/-

The hallway/waiting area was blissfully uncrowded. Too good to be true. As usual I was too shy to break the silence by asking who was last in line. So I played it cool and pretended I was interested in the information posted all over the walls. Actually, I WAS interested. I was hoping that I would see samples of the forms that I would need to fill out for registration.

I was also trying to figure out if I was even there for the right category of documents. There were several timetables posted, and I could not make sense of them.

As I sat down on the bench and tried to figure out what to do, I happened to glance at the man on my left, who was holding...a list! He was the keeper! And it even happened to be the right one...for temporary residency, not for passports or whatever else was going on.

And there were just a few people ahead of me...but....when did they close?

Nobody knew if they would close at 1 or stay open until 3 or some other time. Toes were tapping and thumbs were twiddling nervously as it got closer to 1. There was only one person ahead of me...and they closed for lunch.

(McDonald's break)

I came back at 2....instead of the practically empty hallway, all the seats were filled up! A new batch of  "customers"!

A few people came in as I stood there, and asked who was last in line? "Which line?" was the response. Uh oh. Now there were even new categories of people. The guy who had been in front of me was still waiting; apparently, a few people who had been in front of him had now resurfaced. I was still in line, but everything was going very slowly, and time was ticking.

Besides that, I listened in a little bit as the others compared notes. They were there for their yearly review that comes with having residency...and it seems that regulations for that change each year too; there is a minimum income that you have to report. I suddenly realized that having residency won't be much easier than having a visa, after all...

I didn't care anymore if I was in the right line or not and what the status of my documents was. I just wanted to talk to a live person and get some answers.

FINALLY, my turn. I walked in and showed a representative my sheet of paper proving that I had turned in the application in April. "They said 5 months," I told her, "but I haven't received notification yet."

"6 months," she said, literally yawning at me. "October." What? I had been told so clearly, at the central office, that it was 5. One month makes a big difference when you only have a 90-day visa!

"Well, what happens after that? How do I get registered?" I was going to make my visit worthwhile. "After you have the permit, they give you the forms to fill out."

"So they'll give me the forms here, at that point."


Grrr...why could they not give me the forms now, then I'd have them all ready? Makes no sense...

I went home very frustrated...and worried. I didn't have any "Plan B" for not getting the permit in time. I had built in an extra 3-4 weeks until the end of my visa, but not a whole month!

Now I've calmed down a bit. I talked to someone who got his permit last year, and he advised me to wait until the end of September to start checking on it again. It's possible that everything will come together in plenty of time. And by "plenty," I mean...with an hour or two to spare. Does it ever happen differently? ;)

Wednesday, September 8, 2010


I have a new roommate...

She is given to creative outbursts, but I guess I'm not one to talk.

When she asked me if she could post something on the refrigerator, I thought it would be fine...I like the refrigerator to display little snapshots of life.

And then she elaborated..."I have to remind myself to go to the woods to gather pinecones." :)

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Back to pedagogy

Before I even had time to think about fall activities, an opportunity presented itself. Someone contacted me to ask if I would like to teach Business English part-time to some corporate clients. It seems like a good fit: reasonable pay; a reasonable amount of hours; a sound contract.

I'll be starting up at the orphanages again this week and next, and private lessons are underway.

I was nervous that I'd lost my skills over the last year as I was more of a student than a teacher. But as I begin again, I can feel inspiration rising and the lesson planning machine whirring to a start in my brain. :)

Here's to a new semester...

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Not vacation anymore

I'm still here...sort of.

Unfinished repairs+the beginning of the school=CHAOS! Life is not dull at all around here.

For instance.

Saturday, 9pm

I arrive home and ring the doorbell. Instead of my roommate, a man (a friend from church) lets me in, covered head to foot in grease and grime from working on the plumbing. My roommate is at the hardware store.

 I can't find paper to print the handouts for Sunday school. more/-


My roommate arrives. She unrolls a large piece of paper to begin making a poster for Sunday school.

The other Sunday school teachers decide to start calling each other and editing major portions of the lesson. Could I type up the new version?

I found some old handouts...maybe I could print on the other side?


Our plumber friend is getting a taxi home. We have cold water, but no hot. The bathroom looks like a war zone.


It's past my bedtime. My roommate decides she isn't feeling well enough to go to church the next day, but is feeling well enough to keep talking. I retreat into my room and close the door.


My printer is slow...


Time to get some (warm) sleep under my new comforter. I wonder when the central heat will come on?

Sunday, 8:30 am

I'll get up and finish preparing for the Sunday school meeting. Or not...

8:45 am

I think I'll check my email...

9:00 am

I have to get dressed.

9:30 am

I have to leave. I'll read my notes in the metro?

10:00 am

The metro ride is too short...I'll have to wing it.

Sunday, 10:45 am

The service starts in 15 minutes. I pick up my flute, start to warm up, and...did I forget my scales? My flute is...broken? It is not sounding the notes that my fingers are playing.

Sunday, 10:55 am

There is no computer to project the words to the songs. But I don't know the words myself! Could we maybe pick some different ones? Or I'll just...use a cheat sheet....and pretend that those long pauses are on purpose and not the places where the flute solos were supposed to be.

Sunday, 5pm

Text message: Are you going to meet up with us?

Nope. I'm going to sit right here and enjoy the quiet for a moment :)

And try to fix my flute.

Sunday, 6pm

The plumber is back...

Friday, September 3, 2010

Back to school

We did some shopping with kids from a local orphanage. I met the two oldest girls shortly after I moved to St. Petersburg in 2004. Coming up on the 6th anniversary! :)

5 years later

 After my latest  weird dream sequence , I found my mind wandering to an alternate scenario where our church never split up . I did the math...