Sunday, May 15, 2022

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 and realized that it has been about 5 years since it all started. At the time, Sophia was a baby and I wasn't able to be involved much in the discussions that followed. It was painful to feel cut off at such a crucial time! 

If you read my blog a long time ago, you probably remember that Andrei and I both were involved a lot in our church even before we were married and had kids. And the church played a big role in our courtship and wedding.

I look at the kids now and imagine that in our old church, they would have both been attending Sunday school by now, and I would have probably been involved with music again or been attending a small group.

If we had all stayed in the same church, I had imagined the kids growing up with "church friends," who would possibly become friends for life. The year I had David, 4 other families were expecting babies. They were girls, but still could have been playmates for him.

-One family emigrated to Germany on a heritage visa, after their second child was tragically born at 24 weeks and passed away in the NICU here.

-One family emigrated to Canada, after years stuck in a cycle of poverty here.

-One family went back to the church the wife had attended before they married.

-And the other family started attending a more modern church with an impressive children's program, as that was something important to them.

If the church split had happened 3 years later, the pandemic would have been starting, and church would have been online. The arguments about music and lighting and coffee hour wouldn't have happened. But...maybe we would have argued about masks and whether or not to meet in person. In fact, I'm pretty sure the large group who broke away did in fact keep meeting, and gave each other Covid.

If the church split happened now, 5 years later, the kids would be old enough to entertain themselves as we attended the discussion sessions. I'd probably get too emotionally involved...even more than I was when it actually happened. 

Sadly, the church split probably would have happened over Ukraine if it hadn't happened already by then. I think that there was already some disagreement over the Crimea, not enough to really cause great offense, but I think that it would be hard to worship together while sharing different views on what is happening today.

It's probably good that people went their separate ways, but I always wonder if there's a way to address disagreements in a timely manner so as to prevent church splits. Or is it inevitable that churches eventually have a big conflict? Or should churches do some "pruning" periodically? Or just plan to split into smaller groups once they get to a certain size? For example, outgrow the space? Instead of looking for a new building, just split up?

Do you ever think about how life would be different if something happened in a different year?



Thursday, May 5, 2022

Border Trips in the time of Covid, Part 3 (Armenia)

 I noticed that I often neglect to write about our interesting travels. A certain amount of time passes and then the initial impressions are lost. Sometimes it's just a matter of getting the photos off whichever device...

It's been 6 months and everything has changed again. This started out as a commentary on travel with coronavirus restrictions, and now there are many other restrictions. If Covid math for the past 2 years has involved PCR test processing and validity along with quarantine length, we now have to worry about closed airspace and places where we aren't welcome as a family.

But, back to November 2021 when it was still Covid but pre-conflict. 




...after our night in the hotel in Yerevan, we woke up for a day of tourism before heading to the airport. We enjoyed a full hotel breakfast buffet in the style that I've grown to love. None of that toast and jam here...try some hot porridge of your preferred type, make your own sandwich with a variety of cold cuts, or fix a plate of steamed hot dogs (David's favorite) with your choice of pasta dish or potato casserole. And then come back for more! I will admit that I like Scandinavian breakfasts a tiny bit more because there is usually some yummy smoked or salted fish. But any filling, savory breakfast is fine with me.

After breakfast, we had an hour to "get organized," which for me is always a pretty important/focused chore. I had also planned to map out our itinerary, figure out airport transportation, etc.

Then Andrei was looking at his phone and his bank had been reporting dozens of charges, leaving his balance almost at zero. Neither of us likes to handle these issues, but I also had to focus on packing everything up, so it really wasn't good timing. 

I mentioned in the last post that we were having trouble keeping track of the exchange rate, and as we rushed to make calculations, the numbers seemed way too high for having withdrawn a little cash and eaten dinner. Armenia is fairly cheap, in general. So that didn't make sense. Meanwhile, we got a call from the front desk reminding us of the checkout time, which was fair, but didn't help the overall mood.

Our time was up, so we headed down to check out and get directions into the downtown area. Did I mention Yerevan is rather hilly and the streets are sort of on top of each other? We went the way we were told, down a hill by an abandoned amusement park that we hadn't seen in the dark the previous evening. Then we were supposed to get to town via a pedestrian tunnel. That tunnel....I'm glad we weren't walking through it at night, because we couldn't get out of there fast enough! At first, the end wasn't even in sight. Lots of graffiti, trash, etc. We emerged to see a cluster of dilapidated Soviet buildings. A few steps further and we were at a lovely park with fountains that would have been turned on if it weren't November. But some adorable fuzzy green sculptures made up for that. It reminded me of seeing cow sculptures in Budapest. It was really warm, by the way, probably in the 50s. 





Tuesday, April 5, 2022

Children

Types of energy come in waves. I feel drained of physical energy this week, but more in tune with my emotions. And there are a lot of things to process this particular week. 

On to the topic...we are still homeschooling these days, of course. I actually share some visuals on Instagram (the handle is ourhomeschoollife_overseas), but it's not a "blog." Homeschooling offers some flexibility in the midst of a pandemic, family sickness, changing work schedules, international travel needs, and attempts at a social life. 

When a local friend recently mentioned keeping his kids home from school to skip a lecture on the current political situation, I thought...it's a good thing we homeschool. Our kids don't have to wade through all that conflicting information. Not yet, anyway. But they will still encounter it in the world. And although I thought we had time, I suddenly realized that their potential PLAYMATES are all getting an earful at their own schools. They ARE the world. We can hear them all playing on the playground right outside our window. They might wake up in the morning and get a glimpse of whatever news source their parents choose. Then they go to school and compare notes with their classmates and maybe hear a little from their teachers. And then they are outside our window, each one carrying the weight of all that information.

No, I haven't heard anything, per se. It's just where my imagination went last night as I was preparing to sleep. Perhaps the kids are just playing innocent playground games and not thinking about war. Not playing at refugees like my daughter did with her dolls one evening. 

My friend and his wife are quietly selling all their possessions so that they and their children can start a new life elsewhere. The future is now. The next generation is here. Kids are soaking it all in. In other countries, people will move on. They will vote on their next president based on a perceived notion of their own sense of freedom and security. But for a certain few countries, the effects are long-lasting, for the next generation and beyond. Freedom and security are a far-off dream.


Monday, March 7, 2022

Forgiveness

 Let the blogging continue.

Easter Sunday in the two church calendar traditions has just a 1 week difference this year. Ash Wednesday happened during Pancake Week in Russia.

Yesterday was "Forgiveness Sunday" in the Orthodox Church, marking the final day before the Lenten Fast. You can look it up, but it's meant to be a day of repentance and asking other people for forgiveness. Sometimes I might get a text from an Orthodox friend saying "I'm sorry, please forgive me if I've wronged you." In the age of social media, people make general posts saying they're sorry if they've offended anyone.

I like the idea of making relationships right. I don't like ignoring the elephant in the room. I mean, there are generic apologies and there are specific wrongs that no one acknowledges. I did see some of my local friends lamenting publicly. But we are not really allowed to comment at this point, so, I just pray that those who are repentant for their part will follow their convictions to act accordingly, and receive the gift of forgiveness.

I have a mom friend in the neighborhood. Lena is her name. We bump into each other once a month or so and actually talk to each other! I can't take credit for the friendliness though, because I noticed that she knows everyone and asks how each person is doing. 

But anyway...Lena is a bit older than me and has a new baby! I was excited to spot them recently with a baby buggy instead of burgeoning belly. She even let us take a peek, which is a no-no sometimes in Russian culture due to superstition. No showing the baby's face initially.

Lena told me about her disappointment visiting church a few days before. She paid the offering amount to get a few candles and light them, with the understanding that her prayer requests would be voiced. But someone extinguished her candles after just a few minutes. Then she was trying to pray and meditate and another member of the church staff approached and invited her to give another offering. And she said she just never got that peace of feeling that her prayers were actually heard.

Trying not to sound prideful, I said that at our church, needs are prayed for right away, out loud. So we do get that feeling of our burdens being shared and lifted up to God. We also have quiet time for repentance at each service. So while I mentioned Forgiveness Sunday, it's something that we incorporate each week. 

In Russia, it's against the law to proselytize. But I can at least share my own faith journey. As we said goodbye, Lena asked me my name. We parted knowing each other's names, for the first time.


Friday, March 4, 2022

Border trips in the time of Covid, part 2

Traveling to Armenia...(part 1 here)


Public transportation was already running by the time we left the house, so we opted for the metro instead of a taxi, since we were traveling with just carry-ons. It was kind of a long trip, 90 minutes or so. Sophia starting throwing up when we were almost done with the metro ride, not sure why because she hadn't had breakfast and hadn't really been tossed around much. But at least that meant there wasn't much to clean up.

Back then, the delta wave of Covid-19 was still in progress and omicron hadn't started yet. At the airport, certain seats were roped off so that people wouldn't sit too close to each other. On the plane, of course, all the seats were occupied and many people wore their masks on their chins.

The flight was about 3 hours, and it was dusk as we were landing in Yerevan. I looked out the plane window and saw a snow-capped mountain peak. This was pretty exciting since there aren't any mountain views in St. Petersburg. Come to find out, we were seeing Mt Ararat. I made a big deal out of this being a "field trip" since we were skipping school and hadn't been able to go to any museums due to the pandemic.

Anyway, the mountain against the setting sun was absolutely beautiful!

After landing came the confusing part, one of those situations where you can't tell if you've actually exited or if there's something yet to come. We weren't sure if/when our PCR tests would be looked at. We also needed to withdraw some cash and get new PCR tests to use for re-entering Russia.

Even though I'd read about the diagnostics labs in advance, it was still pandemonium. In the testing area there was a crowd of people, a gatekeeper of some sort, and a "take a number" system. But one of the perks of visiting Armenia was that we could use Russian, so Andrei could do the inquiring. After a few false starts, we sorted out which lab we wanted by looking at the information boards, determined which testing station corresponded to that lab, and were able to get a number to be admitted to the testing area. There really wasn't much of a line, just not straight-forward. Since the PCR tests have to correspond to passport information, it took a long time to get our information entered into the system, figure out payment, etc.

We also went to withdraw some cash and had a hard time getting familiar with the exchange rate. I kept finding a good point of comparison (rubles to drams? drams to dollars?) and then forgetting right after. We got enough so that we could at least pay our way to the hotel.

Surprise! After all that, we still weren't technically clear yet. At the very end of it all was a checkpoint, where they collected our PCR tests for entry to Armenia. Otherwise, we would have had to self-isolate.

We walked over to the traffic island in ground transportation, to wait for the bus. I had read that it came on the hour and had free Wi-Fi. I pictured something pretty modern and comfortable, with big windows. The taxi drivers started taking turns coming over and trying to haggle with us, claiming their rates were the best and they'd give us the best service, etc. The same thing happens in Russia and we prefer to book through a more official route. The taxi drivers were friendly, but some haggling definitely would have been in order. The bus came after awhile. It was not at all what I expected: it was a crowded mini-van similar to the route taxis in St. Petersburg several years back (which have since been converted to mini-buses). It was also NOT an express route, with people getting in and out every few blocks and yelling out where to stop, and somehow we were in rush hour. It was also dark at that point; so much for getting to know the city. It reminded me of arriving in Kinshasa! We started asking fellow passengers where we should get off, and they gave us some advice and agreed to talk to the driver for us. Armenian hospitality!

Thankfully the kids didn't get carsick. We eventually got to a neighborhood where the nice couple advised us to get out, so we found ourselves on a street corner...somewhere. I don't think I would recognize it now! I had grabbed a few free maps at the airport, but the street signs were in Armenian, which actually uses a different alphabet. Beautiful, but completely foreign. So we started off on our way, asking for directions every few minutes. It felt like many other similar trips. 

Did I mention we had skipped lunch? All I could think about was food, and thankfully I'd made sure the hotel we booked had a restaurant. We stopped to grab some lavash at a bakery, and then I noticed that we were getting farther away from downtown and all the little cafes were shutting down, even though it was only around 8 pm or so. That always feels so different after living in St. Petersburg! Our flight had landed close to 6pm, so despite the smaller scale airport and urban area, it had taken a long time to get everything sorted out.

When we stopped to ask directions, people were starting to tell us to go "up" or "down" the street. That felt so funny to me. What about "left" or "right" or a compass direction? I knew we were in a mountainous area, but it was too dark to see any sort of topography. Supposedly the hotel room would have a view of Mt Ararat. 

Eventually, we got to the hotel, dumped our bags, and headed down to the restaurant for some FOOD. The hotel was cheap, by the way. Much more reasonable compared to Europe, Scandinavia, the U.S., etc. The food wasn't very exciting, but palatable, and my son was excited about the plain hot dogs...lol. That sold him on Armenia as a destination.

And so we had made it out of Russia in time and were able to rest our heads on the hotel pillows, ready to wake up the next day and see Yerevan in the daylight.


Wednesday, March 2, 2022

Picking and choosing

In these tumultuous times, hug your Ukrainian, Russian, and Belarusian friends. If you have friends of Slavic descent in your community, ask them if they still have family over there. Everyone needs to know that they are loved. 

Even though we are called to pray for peace, part of me resists. I don't think my heart can catch up, nor my mind...what would a "ceasefire" look like, in this situation? What would the conditions be? Of course I hope that even as you read this, maybe by the time I'm posting this, a ceasefire will be on its way. I pray for an end to bloodshed.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect." (Matthew 5:43-48)

Yes, I pray for my adversaries, but I don't want to gloss over anything. I pray also for misinformation and lies to cease, so that the truth can be made known. And I pray that all victims of violence would be believed and shown compassion. Even without being a victim, I don't want this part of history to be buried yet.

I read a few sobering articles about how Ukrainian refugees are getting so much more attention compared to those from other (non-European) countries. This was especially noted in Europe, where no one wants to be the Good Samaritan and open their doors to refugees of certain descent. For various reasons, it's easier for us to love certain groups than others. However, I'm sure that this plays out in the U.S. also in a similar way. 

The fact is that only certain stories make the headlines. On social media recently, I pondered the disappearance of Kazakhstan from the news, as Ukraine became the main story. I don't have any special interest in Kazakhstan, other than as a neighboring country, fairly large, and the birthplace of a few of my friends. However, when I brought it up on social media, a friend asked, "why should I care?" And indeed, some countries simply lack strategic importance and therefore will not be reported on in Western media. 

I think that we should pray as our hearts feel led and not feel pressured to either jump onto a trend, OR find something unique to care about. Pray for the big story, and pray for the forgotten ones. Done with my soapbox for now, but I do think we have to be aware of how much our emotions can be driven by the media and not by the Holy Spirit. 


Sunday, February 27, 2022

A Sad Week (in this part of the world)

I will continue my Armenia series very soon, but I needed to post something about world events, to hold space during this time and to look back on in the future.

I go back and forth between being heartbroken for Ukrainians and then for Russians. Amid the pain caused by the reality of war and violence, there is the deep ache of a seeing a generation of progress threatened and hopes for the future dashed. 

Here is my post about our visit to Kyiv (preferred Ukrainian spelling), in 2013-just one year before conflict broke out. This is the one with photos. Having been there made it even more surreal picturing what was happening. Being in Ukraine back then did have more of a European feel, but it ended up going off in a different direction.

We have visited Odessa as well, though I don't think I posted about it at the time. Andrei visited the Black Sea as a child. I think it's hard for us Americans to get our heads around what it was like to live in the Soviet Union as well as live through the changes that came afterward. What do the borders feel like? Who is a foreigner? Does it feel at all like traveling through different regions of the U.S.?

Both countries in this conflict (as well as some of the neighboring countries involved) have endured so much suffering through the years at different times, but I was personally called to serve in Russia. Even though I've studied Ukrainian history as well, it's Russia that has been on my heart since 1996. And the local needs as this tragedy unfolds will be different. I can tell you that Russian people are broken right now. Our hands here are tied just the same as everyone's across the ocean. I remember discussing with ministry partners how Russia gets hit by turmoil again and again and again, and you can go through so many of the Psalms, praying them with Russia in mind. 

We are nowhere near the border with Ukraine. We live in St. Petersburg, the Hero City of Leningrad, which once endured a 900-day siege (Kiev and other cities in Ukraine actually got the Hero City title later as well). I know so many brave and resilient people, which is needed in a land whose citizens often experience oppression. We anticipate hard times once more, but the needs aren't as tangible and obvious as donating to refugees (which is so needed right now for Ukrainians). There will likely be financial hardships, though, as the world imposes sanctions on Russia. For now, we look forward to coming out of Covid quarantine in order to reconnect with our local friends and support each other emotionally and spiritually. 

Friday, February 18, 2022

Where were you when...? (Olympics edition)

 If there's anything that makes an expat nostalgic or homesick, it's the Olympic Games.

As a child growing up in the 80s and 90s, I amassed a set of memories from before there were Internet spoilers and the ability to rewind (besides via VHS). It was one of the few times where family members of all ages would watch TV together. It was (often) live action. And as an American, the NBC Olympics commentary and theme song will always be tied to those memories. 

We rolled our eyes at the commentating and "behind the scenes" extras, but the heartfelt stories made it even more interesting to watch. We witnessed not only the breaking of world records, but "firsts" from certain countries and regions, great comebacks, and performances poignantly dedicated to a loved one's memory.

Sometimes I go down a rabbit-hole of "where are they now?" of former Olympic champions and their contemporaries, following one Wikipedia link after another to jog my memory and get caught up.

The first event that I remember must have been the Calgary winter Olympics in 1988. I can still hear the music and imagine my 5 year old self running in when the ad break was over. The next ones are easier to remember: Barcelona, Lillehammer, Atlanta...

My best friend then was a gymnast (still is) and there were lots of role models for little girls in the sports world. On an early trip to Russia, someone asked (through an interpreter) whom kids looked to as role models in American culture. Athletes were the first group that came to my mind. The Atlanta Olympics were actually in 1996 around the time of our first Russia trip, with the bombing happening on our way home.

Then there were the years when I didn't have TV access, although my mom got to go to Salt Lake City in 2002! It was fun hearing about that from my dorm room.

I remember watching the marathon in Greece when the crazy spectator ran out and spooked the competitors. That was so unexpected and upsetting!

Then I moved to St. Petersburg, where the lady I was staying with the first few years actually did have a TV. We rarely turned it on, though we sometimes watched old movies on VHS. One year I came back from Christmas break to find her daughter home on break for an exam session. It turned out she was a big sports fan and I remember her raving about the "biatlon" (biathlon), a previous unknown sport to me. We are all good friends now, by the way...the daughter is married and lives in Montenegro.

There was the Michael Phelps year when I was home visiting and my sister gave me some swim goggles for my birthday, after we visited the YMCA pool a total of one (1) time to get in shape.

For the next 2 Summer Olympics, I had new babies! You'd think it would have been the perfect excuse to sit on the couch watching sports. But somehow the timing was never right. My days consisted of chasing birth certificates, diapers, and lactation consultants.

(Insert intermission here for the World Cup hosted in Russia in 2018, which was fun! We didn't watch a single match but got to see the fan zone and visitors from around the world infiltrating our city.)

Then we got to 2020....delayed to 2021. I was getting that itch to get in on the Olympics action, so I did some research and fiddled around with my internet settings until I was able to get some streaming coverage, which I did again for the Winter Olympics this month.

To be honest, though, the viewing experience just isn't the same as back in the 80s. Is it the news spoilers? The computer instead of a TV screen? The company? With the option to replay some events, I find myself unable to commit to a couch-sitting session. There are plenty of ads to preserve that opportunity to grab a snack or fold some laundry. But there isn't that same feeling of everyone who's awake watching the same event together.

What controversy? My son and I have read all about Ancient Greece and the first Olympics for his classwork. The Olympics were supposed to be a time when wars temporarily ceased. Alas, that tradition has not been preserved. :( And everyone has their reasons for taking one position or another.

Next time, I do still plan to try to get some access, in order to create some new Olympics memories.



Do you have special Olympics memories? Do you remember any of the ones I mentioned?



Monday, February 14, 2022

Border trips in the time of Covid

We still do border runs every 6 months, which has been complicated by Covid-19! In 2020, foreigners' documents were extended so we were able to skip it once or twice. In 2021 (one year ago), we went to the U.S. for new visas...that's another story.

In November (2021), we'd been back for 6 months and needed to cross the border again. Sadly no Finland or Estonia this time as the border rules were a bit ambiguous. We really miss being able to easily access neighboring countries by train or bus! Finland was not accepting the Russian vaccine for entry, and Andrei didn't have an Estonian visa so we weren't sure he could get in with just a Finnish one. In non-Covid times, I could go across with the kids by myself. But I really didn't want to get stranded without Andrei.

Also, Russia requires a fresh PCR for entry. Now, if you are going out and in within 24 hours, how do you get the PCR test for re-entry? Many were simply getting the PCR test in Russia and using the same one to get back into Russia. Sounds easy enough, but logically...you could have picked up Covid during those few hours out of the country. We decided to call border control to confirm, and they said we needed to get a fresh PCR test from outside of Russia. Of course if we hadn't called, we might have just done it no problem.

So we determined that the safest thing would be for the 4 of us to find a visa-free country and spend a night while waiting for a fresh PCR.

With time ticking, we started hunting for direct flights to Georgia, Armenia, Serbia, etc. The cheapest direct flights left were for Yerevan (Armenia), so Andrei went ahead and made a booking.

When we came home from getting PCR tests (making it just as the lab was about to close), we had received a message that the booking had been changed. No big deal...but a short time later, it was canceled. So I took to my computer to redo the booking.

Upon check-out, my bank card was rejected. I tried again with another card and it worked out.

The next morning, one of the flights was canceled and the other wasn't. I went ahead and canceled the second one since it was within the 24-hour grace period. Now we were back at square one and needed to leave the next day so that we could be back in time for Andrei to go to work the next day.

Andrei and I had both lost track of our booking attempts, but our bank accounts were being charged each time. I looked at my balance and saw a PENDING notice even though my purchase had been rejected. Andrei was getting texts about hundreds of thousands of rubles being withdrawn. He transferred the last of our funds onto his card and set out for the airport.

The airport is pretty far by public transportation, 90 minutes or so. Andrei got there and went to the airline offices to ensure that he was making a legitimate booking. I kept my phone nearby in case he needed to call to verify something.

At that moment, my ringer stopped working. I have no idea what was going on, but my phone was silent, even though it was not in silent mode. The sounds in other apps were working. By the time I finally picked up my phone to look at it, Andrei had called 10-15 times. Of course we were both upset! But he hadn't given up and was able to book the tickets one-way. 

After that, he went to the other airline (a different one) to book the return ticket. He was successful...and it was cheaper than booking online, though the other charges had not been refunded yet.

My phone continued to not ring, probably up until the moment when Andrei arrived home, after dark, having spent the entire day at the airport. And we had to be there again the next day for our flight!


To be continued....

Tuesday, February 1, 2022

When there's too much on your mind

 Our conference ended yesterday and I need to catch my flight home. But what time is my flight, and from which airport? I open up my email to check, but search terms like "flight" and "airport" yield no results, which is weird considering not even previous trips show up.

I know there was something about taking a ferry to another airport that has direct flights. But I can't confirm since I don't have my travel itinerary. Meanwhile, the bus is leaving now.

I get on the bus and explain the situation to the driver, who answers in broken English (though I'm not sure where I am). He hands me a self-administered Covid test, but I have to decide when to take it. If my flight is today, I have to do it now. If my flight is tomorrow, I'll have to do a repeat. Maybe the driver can give me an extra? The bus is already moving and it's going to be pretty hard sticking this thing in my nose without incident. Maybe if I wait for a red light. Some passengers have already done theirs...

By now, I'm pretty sure I'm heading in the right direction. Instead of a ferry, I'm taking a bus to the next closest airport, which will get me a direct flight home. I just hope they will have me in the system since I don't have any flight confirmation. The guy next to me says that he can't find his, either!

The trip coordinator comes over to me, leans down, and hisses "where are my lunch receipts?" He keeps mixing me up with someone else and thinks I'm the one who made purchases for the group. I tell him he's mistaken.

A door opens and I hear running footsteps. My son is awake and we've all overslept. I'm exhausted from these types of dream segments! 

Sunday, January 30, 2022

Here we go again

Last year (2021) we updated Russian visas; now my husband's U.S. visa has expired.

In the old days he didn't even need an interview in order to renew it. He just mailed it off via a courier there and back. And good for 3 years. 

But 2022. Surprisingly, Covid-19 is not actually the problem. It's diplomacy...or lack thereof. The Consulates and even Embassy in Moscow have ceased issuing visas due to lack of staff due to conflict between the U.S. and Russia. The one in St. Petersburg is completely closed.

If you've lived abroad, you may have relied on your Embassy or Consulate for help with renewing a passport, issuing birth certificates, notarial services, etc. U.S. expats don't have that available to them in Russia anymore. It's so strange because it's not like we're in a war zone or natural disaster area. Just bad international relations. 

We went to the U.S. last year for several months for new passports. It was a good trip except for Andrei needing to stay in Russia for work.


2021 Family Portrait


So now we are looking at countries where Andrei could ENTER in order to apply for a U.S. visa and stick around long enough to get his passport/visa back. It's pretty tricky because countries give precedence to their own residents. You might wait 6 months for an appointment...or you might jump on and see that there are a few slots available in one week's time. But first, you have to pick a destination and indicate that on your application form. You can't choose one country and then get an appointment somewhere else.

And here, coronavirus does play a role, because all countries have different entry/quarantine requirements at the moment AND we can't predict what those requirements will be by the time of the appointment. It could all get cancelled.



Did someone say "Covid"?

P.S. I'm fiddling with the design on my blog, but as you can tell there are some technical difficulties...

Tuesday, January 4, 2022

Still here


Wintry postcard from St. Petersburg during some recent colder temperatures...


I don't even remember how to edit on here! I hope to update soon, though...for now, check my updates on Instagram. I have a regular account and a second one for homeschooling thoughts.

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...