Thursday, June 30, 2011

"When David slew Goliath (yes!)...

....that was a miracle, too."

Today I was on the way to get the decision from Immigration about my new passport. I was really trying to walk in faith, and I remembered the "Miracle of Miracles" song (from Fiddler on the Roof), which I have never found very appealing musically. But suddenly, the lyrics seemed appropriate. I needed my miracle.

The waiting area was as tense and sober as usual. I thought to myself, even if I were completely confident about the state of my own documents, I would still be nearly brought to my knees out of compassion for all of the others. So much confusion and despair and frustration. Where to go, what to write on the form, how to get some answers when the line is so long and the working hours so few. I feel raw inside each time I go there.

As a Christian, shouldn't I be immune from fear? But I can't live without emotions. We are IN the world, even if we are not of this world. And the words came to me: salt...yeast...just a little bit and the whole batch will be different. Just one person in a crowded waiting room can make a difference.

My last name was called and I saw down at the desk across from an inspector I hadn't seen before. "You're here because of a last name change?" "That's right, as well as middle name."
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She didn't even flinch.

"Okay, I'll need a copy of your marriage certificate." I handed over all the documents one-by-one as she asked for them. I had had them ready since May 20th, when I first tried to do the transfer.

"And we'll need your Explanation." I didn't have that. The Boss had taken it.

I explained that it should be in their files, and she promised to look. Then I got a piece of paper to sign and was supposed to come back in 2 1/2 hours.

That was it. No questions, nothing to fill out. No arguing or explanation of what they had all decided when renewing my documents. No condescension towards my "unorthodox" ways.

At 5 pm, we were back with my signed release form. When we were called by name, she handed me my new passport to inspect. It already had the new stamps in it. After a month and a half of running from place to place, it was all settled in just a few hours! Hallelujah!

I do have to apply for a new exit visa, as expected. I'm assuming it will take 4 weeks again. I will probably get it a week or two after the wedding and then we'll be able to travel somewhere.

Oh, and I'm getting married one month from today. Heh heh.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011


"We have sad news in the orphanage." I felt like my heart stopped when Galina told me that today during our weekly tutoring session.

I immediately started thinking of the "older" ladies who worked at the orphanage. I hoped nothing had happened to one of them.

"It's Liosha," said Galina. "His parents are not coming to get him. The adoption is not going to happen. Liosha cried when he found out, and he went to camp yesterday."

My heart was breaking for Liosha at this news. Out of all the wounded kids, his pain and loneliness gets to me the most. Galina said that when he came to the orphanage he used to just sit under a desk, afraid to come out.

He was afraid of me too, for a while. But nowadays I can get a playful smile.

Getting adopted seemed like the best thing that could happen to Liosha. He is so fragile emotionally, though he is a kind, smart boy. I just can't picture his future after graduating from the orphanage. A new life in California, on a farm, in a family...that sounded like the perfect answer to prayer. I want to believe that he still has a chance to find a family, but I am despairing.

You see, Liosha is 16. I'm pretty sure this is the cut-off age for adoption.

And I also wonder if he will be able to trust again, after this disappointment. My heart hurts for him right now.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Yes and maybe

Today was a somewhat crucial day as far as some of the goals we've been working towards for the summer.

1) At 8:30 in the morning, Andrei had his visa interview at the U.S. Consulate. We had heard rumors that spouses aren't guaranteed non-immigrant/tourist visas since they might be just using their new marital status as an excuse to emigrate. The general approach is that the Consulate assumes the applicant will be tempted to stay in the U.S., and therefore he should prove that he has ties to his home country.

Andrei and I got a few letters of recommendation and could have taken some steps to prove our relationship is legitimate, etc. However, Andrei felt that he just needed to tell the truth and not embellish, nor hide anything. So he headed into the Consulate at 8:30 this morning and emerged within an hour with an orange card...that means YES.

2) After picking up the translations of my latest documents (including the letterhead and stamp of a few documents that were otherwise in Russian...just in case...), we headed over to Immigration to try to get my documents approved. It's now been about 6 weeks since we've been circling among various offices.

We went right to the boss again even though we technically were supposed to visit the regular inspector. The boss still couldn't commit even though we had done things the way he had asked. Thought it over....checked upstairs...nope, still not sure. He told me to wait for a phone call, but I had my doubts, so we convinced him to submit my documents to the committee which meets tomorrow, and then they'll call me by name on Thursday. This is it! I feel that I have exhausted all options, and if I still get rejected, I will have to look into changing my name back.

3) Andrei leaves on the train at 10pm for his annual summer expedition with students from the university where he teaches.

We're thankful that a few burdens have been lifted in time for Andrei's departure. When he comes back, he'll be on "vacation"...except for wedding planning, that is. ;)

To sum up: Andrei is now allowed to enter the U.S., but I do not currently have an exit visa. So we're still not sure whether or not we'll be able to travel anywhere outside of Russia anytime soon.

It will be fun to look back on the time when Andrei was allowed to travel to the U.S. and I wasn't. :)

Friday, June 24, 2011

When candids go wrong

Ummmm....not quite what Andrei and I had in mind when we were looking for a home appropriate for having guests over...:)

Too stuffed to move (at my birthday party last weekend).

Don't I look like the most welcoming hostess? Tea, anyone?

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Andrei, are you sure you want to get married?
But in the end, everyone was full and happy...

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Old life meets new

My college professor is in town! We met for coffee today and I got to show off my fiance, who always has lots of interesting cultural facts to share. :)

 Andrei and I were asked to speak to the group of students from my university that are here for a summer exchange program. Stay tuned for part 2 in July...

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Rejected again

I had the idea of going to the Consulate again. After all, they got me my (currently disputed) passport, and they can intercede for citizens, even when it's outside the realm of their usual services.

At the same time I wrote an e-mail to the Embassy in Moscow, thinking that since there are more U.S. citizens there, they might have seen this problem before.

The lady from the Consulate in St. P. called me right away and suggested a few options. It was nice of her to be so responsive. She described another letter that she can get for me, but I explained that it will not be accepted without legalization. It turns out that the problem with getting it legalized is that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs can't confirm the signature of the Consul in St. Petersburg!

She said she would make some phone calls and get back to me. Today, the word was that she had called both the Wedding Palace and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and once again, both offices refuse to do what Immigration has dreamed up ordered.

So basically, there is a 0% chance of meeting Immigration's demands. Unless...I could get a letter from the Embassy in Moscow, which could be legalized. I'm waiting for a call back about that.
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Meanwhile, the lady at the Consulate suggested just getting a new passport with the name that Russians view as logical.

The wheels in my head are turning as I ponder if this will work. The thing is, that Passport #1 (with all original names) has a stamp in it saying that it's been replaced by Passport #2 (with the name that the Russians think is bogus because I changed my middle name to my old last name).

Hypothetically speaking, if I get a Passport #3 (with the name that the Russians want), then it will technically replace Passport #2. Therefore, I won't be able to prove the connection between Passport #1 and Passport #3, without introducing bogus Passport #2.

Still with me?

I'm furious disappointed that all this time has been "wasted." I'm upset not only for my sake but for those who will face a similar problem. I had hoped that we would find a solution to this loophole in the Russian system, and that those who come after me would be able to benefit from it. That's part of why I wanted to keep fighting. But I keep coming to a dead-end.

The implications are that I can't leave Russia for awhile until I can get this cleared up. It will probably take at least a few more months. In the end it will be fine, but I'm disappointed that we won't get our honeymoon outside of Russia as we had planned. I'm sure we will still have a good time wherever we do end up going, and it will make good memories regardless.

We're doing everything we can, and believe that the final result is in God's hands.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Bureaucracy at its "best"

The officials have done a really good job this time, sending us from office to office without anyone wanting to take responsibility and give an answer. Apparently our case is strange and perplexing. Who would have thought?

3 weeks ago (seems like longer), I spent the day at Immigration, having spent a month collecting all the documents they'd requested. Since then, we have tried several different options, none of which have been fruitful (yet).

Week One
Friday: Immigration: they are confused. I am distraught.
The following Tuesday: Immigration: they still are confused. I am calmer, but longing to be understood.
Thursday: The committee at Immigration gives us two options: We can go to Moscow (they already told us no) or go to the wedding archives. The people at the wedding archives are confused and send us to get a document. The document guy won't be in his office until Monday.

Week Two
Monday: Meet with professor guy who can get us the document.
Tuesday: The document isn't ready until evening, so we won't make it to the wedding archives. We will have to go on Thursday.
Thursday: The wedding archive lady only works 2 days a week, and isn't in her office. We talk to her assistant, who promises that we'll get a phone call.

Two weeks, one document...a little bit of progress.more/-

Week Three:
Tuesday: Still no word from the wedding archives, so we pay a visit in person. She hasn't even looked at our documents. She promises to call again.
Thursday: Still no phone call. We call and are told to come and collect our documents and try another division, as they can't do anything for us. The other office can't take us until next Thursday.

So basically Immigration thought and thought, and couldn't help us, and then the Wedding Archives thought and thought...and couldn't help us.

We were realizing today that this could take MONTHS. We might have to get the documents reviewed by several different committees without ever hearing anything definitive! Somebody somewhere needs to just tell us what to do and stick to it.

I don't have legal registration in my new passport, but I can't very well leave the country at this point either, not even a little skip across the border into Finland. So much for honeymoon plans!

A glimmer of hope: Maybe the professor's document will be enough to appease Immigration. It's worth a try. I'm going to go there first thing in the morning to get in line and try for a little negotiating.

I have been hearing about David and Goliath everywhere I go lately. It is my inspiration for now.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Letting go

I got a new phone the other day because my other one was dying, and it took a certain amount of effort to transfer the contacts between the two. But I actually received an unexpected blessing going through those contacts, in the form of memories.

My tendency to accumulate things extends even as far as my address book, and I looked at the list and decided it was time to prune...why was THAT person still in there? Surely I could do a little pruning in this area of life, at least.

But it wasn't so easy. My first year here was FULL of encounters with various interesting people. I was very prayerful about how I spent my time, and about each relationship. Perhaps it happens for many missionaries or any Christian servants, that they expect miracles at first and look at each day with such hope and anticipation...

No, I know it was hard. I didn't know Russian as well then, and everything was new and strange. But I sought the Lord, and He was with me.

And I look at the names of people whom I don't see much anymore, and I think...when did I stop praying for that person? Or seeking the counsel of that other one? The dear interpreters from camp; the former English students; an orphan or two who put me on their cell phones just for fun. What if I wanted to suddenly renew those relationships, and couldn't call because I erased their numbers? What if they wanted to call me, and I wasn't prepared to talk to them, not recognizing the number?

Maybe it's just another time now and there are different individuals I'm meant to serve, with a different focus. But I felt God's voice whispering to me not to give up. So I erased hardly anyone at all, and decided to leave the doors open to possibility.

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...