Monday, March 23, 2020

The week that felt like a thousand years

Last Sunday, we went to church. I kind of figured it would be our last for awhile. By the way, we usually get around 15 people...but we do have to travel public transportation to get there. People were making plans and it was awkward feeling like we wouldn't likely follow through on them.

Anyway, that was a weird day, but not for the reasons you'd think. On the way to church, the tram wasn't working...then on the way home, the escalator broke down when we were halfway up! And I had the beginnings of a migraine. We stopped to eat on the way home...also probably our last time for awhile.

I was still checking the news every 5 minutes at that point. In the tram on the way home, I heard someone on the phone explaining that they were unable to drop something off at the orphanage because it was under "quarantine." First time I'd heard that word used around here in regards to COVID-19, although it's common to quarantine orphanages during a seasonal epidemic.

There wasn't much news all weekend, but I got a sense of something brewing under the surface...come Monday, something was going to surface.

And I was right. 

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Coronavirus in Russia Q&A (personal observations from a resident)

Hello from St. Petersburg! This isn't supposed to be a strictly factual OR deeply philosophical post... just a little journal entry during this strange life episode.

How many cases are there in Russia?

-Officially around 150, but it's unclear if there are enough tests available and at what point people are seeking medical attention. Pneumonia wards are pretty full, though.

Is there panic?

-Something shifted over the weekend and people started panic-buying, and some new quarantine measures were introduced at the beginning of the week. At this point people seem more skeptical and annoyed by it than scared. But a few people are nervous, especially if they have older relatives.

What are local people stocking up on?

-Mostly toilet paper and buckwheat. Other popular dried goods are oatmeal, flour and pasta. I found it interesting to see empty bread shelves in pictures of U.S. stores. What do you do with extra bread, put it in the freezer?

What protective measures are in place?

-You can read about it online, but the borders are closed and schools/universities are mostly switching to distance education. Behind the scenes there are vaccines and testing kits being worked on. Stores, restaurants, and other businesses are still open.

How are you keeping busy?

Friday, March 13, 2020

And so it begins (Lent and Lethargy)

A week or two ago I felt like I was coming down with something. It was a weird combination of symptoms: fatigue, sore throat, but also a bit of a GI bug.

It wasn't really progressing, but it was the middle of the week and I figured I had picked up something at church on Sunday. I just couldn't get my energy back, though! And suddenly I recognized the feeling. In the spring every year I usually have a period where I'm totally dragging all the time. Not the same as winter malaise, a special springtime variation where the sun is out, everything is good, and yet I just want to sleep all the time. I've been attempting late afternoon couch time, but that also happens to be Sophia's neediest time, go figure...maybe it makes her nervous when I lie down.

I have a few old posts on "avitaminosis"...I just checked them and they were written in May, BUT with the mild winter, maybe things are just happening a bit out of order this year?

To get some energy back, I determined to get more sleep. Sometimes I think it's ridiculous that I don't get enough sleep, since I don't get up early for work,'s always something.

Of course as soon as I decided I was going to sleep more, there were needing a cuddle, or the bedroom being too hot because it was warmer outside and the heat was still going full-blast. Etc. And then finally one night Andrei took over with Sophia, and when David got up early he quietly went about his business...a miracle! And I got some sleep. And then a few more nights after that I got probably 7 hours.

Monday, March 2, 2020

The month of change

I keep trying and failing  (timewise) to type up Finland notes, but meanwhile a month has passed since our trip, so it's time for an update. (Side note: Been having terrible trouble with Chrome, had to download Opera before I could get images to show up on here. Anyone else?)

I'm liking our schedule right now, and usually there is much more daylight by the end of February, so there is a different feeling in the air as the seasons change.

Spring sunshine/ The "clean" version of the living room...

Andrei has fewer class hours this semester, or at least they're scheduled differently. He's home most days by 6 instead of 8 pm. He teaches at 2 universities and even has a few foreign students that need instruction in English, which is great practice for him.

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Bureaucracy Update: Roadblocks

My children are 7 1/2 and 3 1/2 and have lived in Russia all their lives on guest visas! They were born in the U.S. and only have U.S. citizenship.

Last fall, the government passed some new laws allowing foreign minors to apply directly for permanent residency on the basis of one parent already having permanent residency. That's us!

As soon as the law came into effect, we began to make preparations to start the application process. From my last few posts about this, you can see how the individual documents can be difficult to get.

One of the things we were advised to do was to switch the kids' registration to our flat instead of Andrei's parents.' Everyone living in the Russian Federation has to have an official address where they're registered, which might not be the place where they actually's confusing. Currently I'm the only one registered in our flat.

We were going to switch the registration to my name, but that was going to be a complicated process via immigration authorities...whereas Andrei could supposedly do it in a different place, since he's a citizen.

Anyway, Andrei went back to the Main Center for more info, and what they told him was that the kids' applications could get rejected completely. Since the kids have one parent who is a Russian citizen, the government could deny them residency and force them to get Russian citizenship.

I guess I don't know many countries where someone might pass up the chance for citizenship, but the thing with citizenship is that it's a lot harder to cancel than a residence permit.

But the other downside is that David could get drafted into the Russian army...and who is to say that they couldn't change the law in a few years to include females, too? The length of the mandatory service can always get changed, too. Right now it stands at 12 months. Putin promised to reduce or eliminate conscription...but when my husband was serving, the term was increased to 2 years, effective immediately; he had to serve an extra year. With many Russian youth looking to emigrate, is it likely that there is enough interest in a professional army in order to end the draft?

Sunday, January 26, 2020

Bureaucracy Update: Tuberculosis Tangent

Last month I had my meltdown over the kids' medicals. Maybe it's good that I didn't know another month would go by without getting them done!

We were sick until early January, then everything in the country was closed until January 9th. As soon as offices opened back up, we were at the clinic with the kids.

We went to the kids' section of a fancy private clinic down the street (not the same one that failed to diagnose my appendicitis in a timely fashion). We consulted with a pediatrician first ($$$) per the rules, then got the kids their Mantoux skin test which rules out tuberculosis. That's what is required by immigration authorities, and it has to be entered into a vaccine booklet, which we didn't have yet.

Speaking of tuberculosis, one of Andrei's students got sick with TB this year, and he (Andrei) had to go to the infectious diseases hospital and get all the tests done to prove he wasn't infected! The student likely had had a latent form anyway, though.

Since we got the skin probe, we were thinking about going ahead and getting the kids a TB vaccine (BCG). It's given at birth or shortly thereafter in Russia and some other countries. Our kids were born in the U.S. and we hadn't gotten around to getting them one. The BCG is not given to adults because 1) it hasn't been shown to be effective beyond a certain age and 2) it doesn't prevent the form of TB that affects the lungs. (some new research is currently coming out, though!)

There are some pros and cons to getting the BCG vaccine...

Blurting things out

Are there any topics that you find yourself arguing about and then regret it later? (mine are down in the second half of the post)

I find that with social media especially, I am always sticking my foot in my mouth.

Before there were faster methods of communication, reticence tended to save me from saying anything stupid, except around people in whose company I felt totally relaxed. Yeah, I got into ridiculous arguments with siblings, but nothing out of the ordinary. A friend and I had this game called the "random game" where we would just say the first thing that came into our heads. Innocent life before Internet...

Then came chatting via instant messenger, where it was just silly banter.

For emails and blogging, I would always take the time to choose my words carefully. In some ways I still prefer those forms of communication, and that's why I hang on to my blog here. Since I type on my laptop, the effort of powering it up and finding a quiet moment to sit down and write acts as a buffer for some of the crazy thoughts that are coming out.

But really, before social media, I didn't weigh in on heavy topics in a public way. And now I'll hit send without giving it a day to mull it over. Discussions move fast, and I wouldn't want to deprive anyone of reading my opinion on it...ha!

Seriously, though...there are times when I cringe seeing that notification that someone has replied to one of my previous arguments. Why did I write that? What was I thinking? What must people think of me now? And then I sit down and write another rebuttal...ugh! I'm sure I'm not the only one who does seems like a new sort of addiction these days.

I don't necessarily regret the things I write. I own those words. But, I have to constantly remind myself that satisfaction in life doesn't come from knowing you're right and are able to enlighten other people. ;) Time and time again I'm reminded that the delivery of a message is important, and sometimes that means just not saying it. And also, I don't have to worry that someone will be lacking wisdom if I don't give them my superior point of view...we have the Holy Spirit to lead and instruct, and we have to trust that other people will get the message at the right time, too.

This evening I'm writing this blog post instead of delving into other corners of the Internet. By the way, I'm not on sounds stressful!

Here are a few of the topics I have commented on in the past without thinking...

Friday, January 24, 2020

January term oddities

One of these days I'm going to do a photo dump and give these posts some visual appeal! Today is not that day...

I was going to write about how weird our schedule is in January, but then I realized it sounds like a normal family's schedule: work in the morning-afternoon, then errands.

It's different for us since Andrei leaves so early. David has been getting up and listening to audiobooks while Sophia and I sleep a little more.

Okay, that doesn't sound so weird, but how about this: since Andrei is teaching an intensive course that fits in all the credits in short sessions a few times a year, he has been teaching for stretches of like 8-10 days, including Saturday and Sunday. It was really confusing at the beginning of the month because there were the holidays, and then Andrei jumped into teaching, so he went from being home every single day (for like 2 weeks) to being not home every single day. So it's very disorienting not dividing up the days according to a work "week."

On Sunday he was supposed to teach all day and then go straight to church, but then he got out early and was able to come get us and go to church together. That definitely helped restore my sanity a little!

Lately I've just really wanted to be alone. I can't really say it's a stressful season with the kids, despite occasional bickering. We definitely have screentime quiet times during the day, but I still get to this point where I just don't want anyone to talk to me or need me! The kids are getting older and more independent, so I can't figure out what's bothering me. Maybe I'm in dialogue with them more than before? What if it just gets worse?

As far as homeschool, we still haven't really started up a full day again yet. But since Andrei is still giving exams (along with the intensive course) for the first semester, we're pretty much just in sync with him. We actually have 2 weeks before we're "halfway" done. David has been asking about some of his subjects, but we've been just doing Language Arts and Math.

Meanwhile, the errands we've been needing to do are related to bureaucracy! I'll do a more detailed post with an update on that. Andrei gets home from work, then we go adventuring in search of the latest form. It's actually kind of fun having an excuse to go and do something as a family. We were going to go to the movies as a reward for getting some medical tests done, but that's been delayed, so we still have that to "look forward to" in February.

Long story short, we're probably going to Finland next week.

Friday, January 3, 2020

New Year's Eve in the suburbs

Okay, we don't really live in the suburbs, just a residential area, kind of on the outskirts of town. We've got lots of stores and banks and public transportation. But, that's about it.

Meanwhile, we were sick on Christmas...then New Year's Eve rolled around, and we were STILL sick and STILL didn't want to pass it on to the grandparents. And hadn't gotten to the store to buy groceries, let alone presents.

Some good friends of ours (Russian) just emigrated to Canada. Like, in November-just over a month ago. I've been keeping up with their teenage daughter on social media, and she wrote this heartbreaking post about not being able to find the holiday spirit. Now...this was after Christmas. So, most people had done their celebrating already, in North America. But when I read that, I realized that she was sitting there, still waiting for the holiday like we Americans wait for Christmas. In Russia, that holiday is New Year's Eve. And if you've ever been in Russia for New Year's Eve, you know that American New Year's celebrations are pretty lame low-key. AND these friends are out there in rural Canada, where everyone is likely hibernating until school starts up again (probably this week, whereas Russian schools are off until January 9th). And she's still waiting for the holiday magic.

I know I wrote a post recently comparing Thanksgiving to Russian New Year's, because it has that overall non-religious/political open table warm fuzzy feeling. But, the holiday magic, and the tree, and decorations, and gift exchange-those, of course, belong to American Christmas/Russian New Year's.

By the way, I'm looking out the window right now late at night, and the Lakhta Tower (you can read about it) is lit up like a Christmas New Year's tree: Green with little glowing yellow lights.

One of our local shopping malls has a big open foyer where there is usually a fun holiday display. A few days before Christmas, I dragged the kids there, even though we were all sick, to see the holiday decorations. Silly me, it was almost Christmas but still more than a week until New Year's, so the holiday decorations were under construction. We got our gingerbread ingredients and I pretty much died carrying it all home.

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...