Sunday, December 31, 2006

Happy New Year!

Tom and I got up and went to church. It was beautifully decorated with Christmas decorations, which are New Year's decorations here. Afterwards Nathan, Tom and I went out to Krasnaya Ploshad to look around and shop a bit. Spencer stayed home because he had a cake in the oven and he didn't want anyone else to watch it for him.

We all pitched in to make dinner, ate the huge dinner, watched a movie and a few episodes of LOST and throughout it all our neighbors were setting off fireworks.

At midnight President Putin came on the TV and we listened to his speech. I think no matter where you live all presidential speeches are the same. He recapped the year, gave a vision for the future and closed by wishing everyone success and health, and so on!

Once Putin was done the fireworks started up with a vengeance! Not just little ones that pop but huge stuff... like you would see in a professional show. Most of the fireworks come here from China and it is overwhelming. Things are thrown off balconies, off roof tops and there was even a group of our neighbors down in the field where the kids play soccer. We are grateful nothing was set on fire!

It is almost 2am here and there is very loud music going on in our building. This is a party that is not going to end anytime soon!

Heat update:
Thanks to the electric radiator we are borrowing from Tim and Joy our home is warm. It also helps that today was a warm day.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

now what?

On Firday we asked Joy if she would call our building manager for us to let him know that the apartments here in the building are cold. When she found out that we were cold, she offered an electric heater for us to use until we get the radiators fixed. Our apartment feels much warmer now.

Saturday morning Spencer heard a commotion out in the stairway. He heard yelling for about 15 minutes straight... then a knock at our front door. The knocking at the door was the building manager. He asked if our apartment was warm. Then he asked Tom where the radiator was. He touched the radiator in the living room and pronounced that it was “fine”. He touched the floor, said “perfect”, and then walked out the door. As he got out the door, the neighbors were still screaming at him. We heard him saying things like “it is not that cold right now” and “it is going to be a warm winter”. He argued with one woman for another 15 minutes. Does this mean he is going to fix it? We don’t know.

As you can imagine it is frustrating not to understand every single word. Because of that, we don’t know what the resolution is... if any. Spencer and Tom tried to ask the upstairs neighbors when it was all over but no one would open their doors. Maybe they were tired of the controversy and did not want to invite more in! I found out later from Joy that she had not been able to get a hold of him. So, his coming out was at the request of another neighbor in the building. We are glad to know that our neighbors were upset about the cold too and that they were willing to fight the battle and not just us!

Later in the evening Olya called and wanted to know if we had electricity. Hers was out and so were her neighbors. I told her we still had electricity and invited her to come down to our place. She said that she was okay at home and she just wanted to know if the whole building was without lights or just their entrance. Almost two hours went by and then our power went out.

Tom and I both had the same thought. We wondered if they cut our power because of the complaints about the heat. As the power went off, I was putting a casserole in the oven. Fortunately, we have a gas oven so I was able to finish making dinner. I got out my cell phone and called Olya to let her know that our power was out too. She said that someone should be coming out to fix it soon if the whole building was down. We lit candles and then I called Joy to let her know that now we didn’t have lights. She said she was glad to hear me laughing about it. What else could we do? As I was on the phone with Joy, the lights and everything came back on. Spencer called Olya to see if her power was back and it was for them too.

What a day! Wonder what tomorrow will bring?

Friday, December 29, 2006

fixing up the place?

As reported earlier this week, our stairwell is being painted. We thought that they were done after they did the bottom half of the walls blue... the top half is white. However, they came along this morning and did this brown trim.

while the windows remain broken...

Hopefully, they are finished with the painting in our stairwell and will move on down to the next entrance. We live in entrance number 1. Olya doesn't think they will get to her entrance, number 9, until February!

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Alida's Pumpkin Cookies

I am still figuring out creative ways to use up all the pumpkin I froze. These are the cookies that the guys gobbled up for dessert last night. If you like soft cookies then these are for you!

I was going to take a photo of the cookies but they were all eaten before I got out the camera.

Alida's Pumpkin Cookies
1 cup sugar
2 cups pumpkin
1/2 cup butter,softened
2 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup chopped nuts ( I used pecans)

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Mix sugar, pumpkin and butter. Stir in flour, baking powder,soda, spice and salt. Stir in raisins and nuts. Drop by teaspoon fulls onto ungreased baking sheet. Bake until light brown 8-10 minutes. Immediately remove from baking sheet; cool. Spread with a cream cheese frosting if desired. Makes about 4 dozen!

Prayer request:
Please pray for those of us living in apartments here. Our homes are heated by radiators and we have no way to regulate the heat in our rooms except to open a window. Last year we opened the windows as soon as we got home from school. This year the radiators don't seem to be putting out as much heat and the apartment is colder. Spencer and Olya talked with the upstairs neighbor and their apartment is colder than ours. We have double-pane windows and insulated walls. But, our neighbors are not as fortunate.

long day

We had a Social Ministries Team meeting and then a meeting at the BLTC following that.

We came home in the dark, both of us (Tom and I) tired and hungry. I made dinner and some pumpkin cookies for dessert and then we decided to watch a movie.

We watched Reds... although it has good reviews it is one of the most boring movies I have ever seen. Spencer said it was THE MOST boring for him. He went over to Judi B's today with Sonja to watch part of the marathon Judi was doing with the Lord Of the Rings trilogy. He says he only stayed about 4 hours and just saw one of the 3 movies! Nathan didn't go because he did his LOTR movies over the weekend!

We have snow on the ground and it is cold outside and in. We are wearing light jackets or sweaters in the apartment. Transportation here is slow. This morning we took a taxi over to the meeting at Tim and Joy's so that we would not be too late. Our taxi driver got confused and took us a little too far. I recognised we were going the wrong way and he apologised and only charge us the minimum fee for the ride. Which was a blessing because when the weather gets bad they will charge extra for using up gas for the heater!

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

minus zero activities

The staircase in our apartment building is being painted today. Tom says that they are using a petroleum based paint. It sticks to high heaven. I was awakened by the fumes.

We are not sure why they waited until it was below zero outside and snow is on the ground but such is life here in Russia!

Monday, December 25, 2006

Just a Little Bit of Service...

Today was our first snowfall of the season. We awoke to a soft, white covering everywhere. It snowed the rest of the day & turned into an icy mess by late afternoon. Beautiful? Yes. Comfortable? No. Today I (Tom) took 4 tolleybuses, 2 marshutkas & did lots of walking to get to the police services facility to speak to prison psychologists of our region. I left at 10:30am even though I wasn't scheduled to be at the facility until 12 noon. With numerous accidents due to the weather, I arrived at 11:54...certainly time enough to spare... on a trip that usually takes about 25 minutes.
Between 40 & 50 prison psychologists & police officers had also braved the elements to arrive for our first training. I spoke for a couple of hours on general issues for working with addicts & alcoholics. Many of the professionals in attendance work in very small communities & villages, & this was the first type of training that they have received. The attendees were very interested & engaged, & stated that they would like to have more training of this type. I answered as many questions as I could, dispelled myths & misconceptions about the disease of addiction, & tried to provide some practical tools for this group. Many of the attendees had questions about what kind of statistics are available about alcohol & drug problems in Russia. It was surprising to me that they lacked some key information about the very population they are working with. It showed me the great need for on-going education & training. Katya did a great job translating & said that it was very interesting for her as well, as it was all brand new info. I shared with the group that it was great to be in a room filled with police officers & prison personnel, & NOT be in trouble! They appreciated the humor.
I'm not sure how everyone did with having a 'civilian' at the facility, let alone an 'American.' I was escorted everywhere, even to the bathroom! Still I look forward to other opportunities to be just a little bit of service!

Merry Christmas!

The guys say that today has been fun. We got up and went out to Krasnaya Ploshad (our mall) to shop for Christmas presents and for our movie for the day.

Tom came home with a new electric razor and some music CD's.
Nathan had new head phones, movies and some music too.
Spencer has new music.

I will have to go shopping another day because they don't sell yarn at the mall. I will be purchasing some cashmere to make a sweater.

Our family movie was.... Serenity. After watching the series on DVD we had to get the movie to answer all the questions we had from the series. The movie is action packed and did not disappoint!

We had dinner at McDonald's and everyone was stuffed to the gills and there was nothing to clean up afterwards.

It is very different celebrating in a country where Dec 25th is not Christmas. There has been nothing on TV, no celebrations and all businesses were open.

Orthodox Christmas is January 7th. You can read more about how Russians celebrate here:

So far all of you who do celebrate today... Have a wonderful Christmas!

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Holiday Fun

Last night we were with the Watson family. Nathan, Spencer and I went over for dessert and to watch A Christmas Story. Seeing how Joy decorated for Christmas made us feel very festive. And it was like Christmas is "actually real" for someone other than us. Everywhere else we go we realise that the decorations are for New Year's (including the trees) and not for Christmas.

However, seeing an American home decorated for the holiday actually reminded us that we are not the only ones celebrating on the 25th.

Tom joined us after his AA meeting and then we all came home together. Tom and I stayed up way too late and missed out on the church serivce this morning.

I think I was in a funk and really didn't want to go and that is why I didn't set my alarm. This is our last Christmas with Nathan at home. Tom says that I have already started to grieve and that is healthy. We do want to send him off in a healthy way. And it is also important that I acknowledge how I feel about losing him. The only consolation is knowing that he is going to be with Mom and Dad.

Alexei and Lena stopped by to wish us a Merry Christmas. After that Olya came over with her friend Luda (as in Ludmilla)and her two teenage girls. Anya is 13 and Nastia is 14. They are studying English and wanted to practice. We asked and answered questions in a mixture of Russian and English for a few hours. We had to remember to speak slow so that they could understand us when we spoke English. We drank tea and ate a cake that they brought over as a hostess gift. Thirteen year old Anya likes to write and has written some fairy tales. While 14 year old Nastia likes cars and wants to be a designer. Luda is currently studying to be a psychologist so she had questions for Tom as well.

Both the girls and Olya were suprised that I knew who Dima Bilan is (a singer who came in second in Eurovision). I was watching the night he won and have heard his song on the radio and on TV since then.

After everyone was gone we were pretty tired. We decided to order pizza and watch some movies. We checked out the delivery menu for our favorite pizza place and decided to try some new things. We ordered:
barbecue beef pizza
salmon pizza
assorted meat pizza
chicken pizza

The barbecue pizza was more like a chopped steak pizza. The salmon pizza was salmon, green beans and cheese. The chicken pizza was chicken, cheese and olives. Tom was not real thrilled with the salmon pizza even though he is a big salmon fan... just not on pizza!

It is just after midnight and Spencer is already in bed while Tom and Nathan are watching the 3rd Lord Of The Rings movie. This is Tom's first time seeing it!

Friday, December 22, 2006


Spencer and I were back at work today at the Detsy Priyut. We had fun with the kids. We, along with Sonja, arrived before Oksana did and the kids were very surprised to see us so we got huge hugs.

I was glad that the gaurd at the gate opened up for us immediately after I told him why we were there. Then I was able to ask a different worker where we could set up to spend time with the kids. I know that I still make grammar mistakes but I am understood and that gives me the confidence to keep on talking and allowing myself to make mistakes so that I can learn to say it right.

The kids had visitors before we got there and they had large bags of candy from it. They were so happy with their new wealth that they were all giving us candy.

It was very touching. Can you imagine? These kids have so little and yet they wanted to share!

I had the kids making snowflakes from 3 different patterns that I found on the internet. Girls and boys jumped right in and got to work after one explanation. And when Oksana arrived she had them make Christmas trees using plastic cups, glue and garland. It was cute.

One of the boys, Losha, wanted Spencer and I to see his room. He had decorated it and hung his snowflakes and Christmas tree up for all to see.

One of the games we played was:

we separated into two teams. Each team stood in a straight line holding hands. The first person in line had to watch Oksana as she flipped a coin. If it landed with the number side up the first person in line had to sqeeze the hand of the person next to them and so on...transmitting the "signal" to the end of the line. The person at the end of the line had to pick up a package of gum when they received the signal. It was funny how many times a signal was wrongly transmitted or the kid at the end picked up the gun as soon as the coin was tossed. When the game was over the team who had done it correctly the most times won the package of gum to share. There was enough gum in the package for everyone on both teams to share!

We left tired and happy. Spencer and I had babysat for Ira and Yanna yesterday and he went back again today to sit with Yanna while Olya took Ira to a playschool session. He said that he had been taking care of children for "two whole days and was worn out!"

Thursday, December 21, 2006

lookie what I got!

Thanks Mom for the new cookbook!

I am looking forward to cooking my way though this one. I used to watch Rachel Ray when we still lived in the states. She was my inspiration for actually following a recipe. I love the idea of having 365- 30 Minute Meals to choose from for dinner. The guys are actually prepared to try some new things.

Last night I read some of the recipe titles aloud for the guys and we talked about what we could and could not buy here. Substitutions may have to be made. That is okay, we have learned to adapt.

Spencer and I went shopping today and we found most of what we needed to make the very first recipe in the book. Scramblewiches. I thought I already had the cheese we needed but I was mistaken. I will go out tomorrow for Swiss cheese. One good thing about living here is the cheeses imported from around the world.

Speaking Engagement

Last night Tom received a phone call from Natasha. She is a prison psychologist. She had asked Tom on Sunday if he would be able to speak to the regional prison psychologists if she were to set up a day for them all to come to Krasnodar. She called last night with the date and time of the event. I took the phone to firm up the details and I think I understood most of what she said. Tom will be speaking on Tuesday, December 26th, for 3 hours on the subject of how to work with alcoholics and addicts. He was asked to focus on dependency issues. Katya will be there to translate. (She was our very first translator in 2004 when we visited for a month)

It is interesting that she has only heard Tom speak one time. She was invited by Jim and Joyce to come to our church when Tom spoke there for the first time. He does of great job of integrating theology and psychology each time he speaks. She told me on the phone last night that she felt that Tom had more experience and knowledge of how to work with addictions than what she and her colleagues here in Russia have.

I was talking with Lena today and telling her about Natasha asking Tom to speak to the area psychologists. Lena told me that Natasha is not just one of the prison psychologists in the area... she is the Regional Head Psychologist for the entire prison system. Now it makes since why she was able to call a meeting for all the area prison psychologists!

Tom is looking forward to being able to speak to this population. This is why we are here and it is exciting to have this door open for us!

Wednesday, December 20, 2006


As Spencer and I were on our way to school yesterday we were greeted by our neighbor that we met on the night on the Kuban Cossack Choir Concert. She said that she hoped we would be able to spend time together soon.

Spencer and I had all the good intentions of going down to her apartment, she lives in the same entrance as Olya, but... we didn't make it. Then as time passed I felt like it was weird to just show up. Now since we saw her again and she renewed the invite I will have to do a better job of getting over there this weekend!

Part of my fear about going over there was the possibility of not being able to understand and fully participate in a conversation. With our friends we are able to use a dictionary or they will explain things in a different way to help out. I know that she is aware of us still being in the learning phase... I just don't want to fumble and stutter! But, I will humble myself and get down there. Really, I will!

Tuesday, December 19, 2006


I have not been able to post all the photos I would like too. I made the switch on my blog to BloggerBeta. And since then Picasa won't work to post photos. So I have to post them one at a time. Spencer still has the old Blogger account so he can post mulitple photos without a problem.

Please enjoy our banquet photos at:

I am off to school soon with the guys but I am not going to wear pajamas... even though Tom asked us all again before he left this morning!

Monday, December 18, 2006

practical jokes!

Yesterday Tom was teasing me about today being Pajama Day at school. He tried to tell the boys about it and of course, none of us believed him. This morning Madina called to let me know that Dima my teacher was ill and wanted to know if I could come to class tomorrow instead... she had already spoken with my classmate Elizabeth. I told her that I could come in tomorrow and that it was not a problem to change days.

Madina called me again late in the afternoon. She apologized for forgetting to tell me something this morning. She went on to say in Russian that tomorrow is “Den Pajam”. I asked her “what?” I thought I misheard her. She said in English “tomorrow we will all wear pajamas to school” For a split second I thought she was serious... after all this was Madina calling, she is usually serious! I told her “NO!” and I started laughing. She tried again to convince me that she had simply forgotten to tell me this morning. And I could not stop laughing. I asked her if Tom had told her about Pajama Day. And she said “yes. She admitted she was joking with me. We said good-bye and I went in to confront Tom. He was in the other room cracking up!

He told me that he actually took the time to explain to Madina what Pajama Day is in the states. He explained about Spirit Week in schools. He said that one day everyone might wear the same color, the next dress as farmers or even wear pajamas at school. She said that if people did that here they might be arrested!

I don’t think the school and our teachers will ever be the same after having our family, especially Tom, at school!

Sunday, December 17, 2006

another photo

setting the head table

I set the table using the platinum trimmed China that Tom gave me for our 20th anniversary. He took a full place setting with us to Hawaii and I was shocked to receive it! This was the first time we have used it. I have been told that we need to do a better job of using our "good stuff". We have service for 6 so I plan to take it out for Christmas, New Year's and whenever we have guests!

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Russian Post Starts Delivering Letters, Parcels Sent From U.S. in 1999

Russian Post has started delivering 4.5 tonnes of letters and parcels that were sent from the United States in 1999, Reuters news agency reports.

The state-owned postal service said the delay was not its fault — a shipping container with the mail inside had languished at a port in Finland for years.The container finally reached Russia on December 8.

“The loss of mail usually happens because of force majeure circumstances, such as natural disasters, traffic and other accidents,” Russian Post told Reuters via e-mail.“All of the mail has been very well preserved because the container was hermetically sealed.”

Friday, December 15, 2006

head table

Tom made the heartshaped ornaments. Now they are on our Christmas tree here at the house and the garland is adorning the top of our bookcase decorated with silver balls.

I just talked to Spencer about posting our photos on his blog. He took all the pictures that night so the few that I have posted this week are ones that he took!

Thursday, December 14, 2006

tired and happy

Tom and Alida , circa 1964

Tom and Alida age 18
Dec. 13th, 1981

Tom and Alida at age 43
Dec. 13th, 2006

Thanks to everyone who contributed to Tom's gift for me. It was such a surprise and a wonderful blessing to read all the letters and remember the times I have spent with each of you.

Nathan is sick. Madina called this morning and asked Spencer to tell her honestly if anyone at our house was feeling up to coming to school. He told her no and she was not surprised.

Olya came over to clean the house today. It was so nice to have her here to help with all the dishes that didn't get done yesterday!

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Let there be light!

Here is one view of our cake. Our names are spelled out in Russian!

Our evening went well. We are very grateful to Valodia and Klaus for getting the electricity back on in time for our banquet!

Tom went over to a store not far from our home to pick up candles this afternoon for "just in case". While he was there he saw Klaus with the electrician. The church needed a new breaker. Tom paid for the breaker and then came home to tell me that we were going to have lights.

I will write more tomorrow. Spencer took pictures and Robert did a video. We feel blessed to have shared our evening with others. It was very humbling to recieve gifts from people who have so little. I can remember thinking that it was hard to shop for Tom's folks because they "have everything"... well that was said about us a few times tonight. Here in Russia it does seem as if we "have everything". We own our apartment and it is beautifully furnished. We have money to pay our bills and purchase food and that makes us well off.

It is all a matter of perspective!

D Day

As I sit here typing this we are waiting to find out if the church will have electricity or not. If not, we will have a candle light dinner for 40. If yes, then all will go as planned. Hopefully, they will get everything fixed in time.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Christmas party

Today is the day before our anniversary and we have already attended a Christmas Party. We were able to tell Ded Moroz aka Santa Claus what we wanted. He looked a little bit like Jim H....hmmmm. Snegoruchka was cute. She is Ded Moroz’s helper. She looked a bit like Jim’s daughter Hannah. Oh well. I liked the fact that she gave us lots of candy. She even gave me a handful to take home for Nathan.

The highlight of the party was Joseph. He taught us about Korean culture. He told us about Kim-chi and for each ingredient that he added, he had someone sing it. He put together a “beat box” of the voices. On top of all that he sang Angels We Have Heard on High in Korean. It was so cool! In Russian we would say “klassna!”

Here are the words in case you feel like singing:

Angels We Have Heard on High in Korean

Chun sa dree no-rae ga, Ha-ne-pae-so duh-le-nee.
San gwa de-rae du-ra-sa, me-a-pee-cha oo-len-da.
Yo-----ung. Kwang eul na-pee ge-seen chookay.
Yo-----ung. Kwang eul na-pee ge-seen choo-neem-kay.

Since we have students at the school from Korea, Germany and America we were able to hear Silent Night sung in all Korean, German, English and Russian. The Christmas story was read in sections by four different people. It started in Korean, and on to German, Russian and ended in English. It was a touching moment to hear the Bible being read in each of the four languages represented in the room.

Our evening was just getting started after leaving the party. Tom, Spencer and I met up with Olya, Ira, Lena and Joy to decorate the church for our banquet tomorrow night. It looks very pretty. I am pleased with how it came together. Spencer will take pictures tomorrow. And he will be able to feature them on his photoblog the following day.

Please pray for us all tomorrow night. We realize this event will not be what we would have done in the states. It will be us celebrating Russian style. There is culture stress related to that for us. There won’t be people there who have known us our entire marriage because all of our family and close friends are in America.

God is God and we do believe that this event is supposed to happen here. It will be a time for us to bond with our Russian friends. And ours is not the only anniversary in the church. We will be here to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Valodia and Lena Rajabov in February. I actually had them in mind as I was purchasing silver items, knowing that they could get used more than once!

Monday, December 11, 2006

counting down...

Spencer, Tom and I got up this morning and went with Tim to get tables for our anniversary banquet on Wednesday. We started at our church. We had to survey what was there... we then went over to the BLTC and picked up what they had, then we were off to Tim and Joy's and got a few more tables there. I was dropped off at Joy's while the men went back to the church to unload all the tables and set them up.

Joy and I had a cup of tea and some Thera-flu and chatted for awhile! When the guys came home we ate lunch together. And then Tim drove us to school. Today is TJ's actual birthday and it was fun to see him be so excited about being 9!

After school Spencer and I went to Krasnaya Ploshad to pick up an imitation fir garland. And we found some little 8 inch Christmas trees decorated with silver ornaments and ribbons. I was glad that they had those there just for our 25th anniversary... I wonder if they planned it just for us!?!

Spencer was excited to see that the skating rink opens for business tomorrow. It will cost 150 rubles ($5.71) for an hour on the ice on a weekday. Or 200 rubles ($7.61) on the weekend. Spencer is hoping to give lessons to some of the kids here and make a little money. Krasnaya Ploshad will provide a teacher for 150 rubles for a half an hour... Spencer is willing to do it for 100!

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Bad cold blues

I have been hanging around the house watching TV. Tom didn't sleep well last night and neither did I. So our family ended up missing church.

I watched Dancing with the Stars... our Russian version. So we don't know the celebrities who are participating. Last night we saw Stars on Ice and Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?

I talked to Joy and found out that she and Hannah were not feeling well either. She had TJ's party yesterday and I hear that was a big success. Spencer had a great time there.

Our big news story of the day was the fire in Siberia killing 9 in a mental health clinic the day after the fire in Moscow in the drug rehab center and the death of 45 women.

You can read about it here:

The plans for the banquet are coming along nicely. Spencer and I got the tablecloths washed and dried. Now they need to be ironed which we won't do until just before we put them on the tables.

Lena and Alexei stopped by this evening. Alexei is very tired. He just finished up a training session on Codependency at OPORA in Moscow. He is preparing to do the informational seminars that we will have before we start the Al-Anon meetings here and in Artirka. Anyway, he stopped by to tell me how he would like the tables arranged for the banquet. He says "for games". He also had a secret with meeting with Spencer. Spencer has come along way from being the little boy who could not keep a secret. I don't know what he and Alexei have in mind!

Please continue to pray for us all here. This winter is warmer so far than it was last year. But, we still seem to be struggling with health again. I would like to be able to enjoy the banquet and not be coughing and/or nose blowing mess!

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Leading killer in Finland? Alcohol.

Leading killer in Finland? Alcohol.

Associated Press Writer

Alcohol is now the leading killer of Finnish adults, with consumption reaching an all-time high last year in the Nordic nation, officials said Friday.

More than 2,000 people between the ages of 15 and 64 were killed by alcohol poisoning or illnesses caused by alcohol consumption last year, the government's leading welfare and health agency said. Nearly 1,000 people died in accidents or violent incidents caused by alcohol.

"This is truly a worrying trend," said Kristiina Kuussaari of the National Research and Development Center for Welfare and Health. "The serious negative effects will continue to grow for years to come."

Alcohol was responsible for 17 percent of all deaths among 15- to 64-year-old men, surpassing heart disease for the first time, the agency said. Alcohol also caused more than 10.5 percent of all deaths in adult women, alongside breast cancer, for the first time.

Since 2003, the cost of treating alcohol-related illnesses has grown by 14 percent, peaking at $1.1 billion last year in this nation of 5.2 million known for heavy drinking.

The government has traditionally kept a tight control on alcohol consumption with high prices in its Alko monopoly retail outlets, and supermarkets do not sell beer with higher alcohol content.

However, in March 2004 it slashed alcohol taxes by more than 40 percent to discourage growing "booze cruises" to Russia and neighboring Estonia, where alcohol is much cheaper.

The move caused an outcry from health officials who warned of negative health effects, and police who reported a rise in public drunkenness and anti-social behavior.

Officials reported a 10 percent growth in binge drinking among 17-year-olds in the first six months after the tax cut, and general consumption began to grow, reaching new records.

Last year, Finns drank the equivalent of 14.5 million gallons of pure grain alcohol — a 14 percent increase from 2003, just before the alcohol taxes were slashed.

Friday, December 08, 2006

end of the week

We received movies in the mail. We have already watched 2 episodes of CSI and still have Cars and Cirque De Soliel to see.

Spencer went to City Center on his own to purchase a birthday present for TJ. He had an adventure getting on a bus going to the wrong way. But, like the trooper he is he stuck it out until he finally got there and back home. He said it took 5 buses and one marshutka to get there and back!

I have a cold so I am not feeling my best. Today has been a pretty gloomy day. There has been a layer of fog so thick in our region we cannot see the street or the playground underneath us.

Our friends left for the states yesterday and they were supposed to leave at 11:30 am but, because of the fog they were grounded until around 2:30 in the afternoon. Tonight on the news they interviewed people who had been in the airport for 24 hours.

Alexei is heading back here to Krasnodar by train. We pray that he gets here safely. Volva and Slavik made it home safely by bus this morning. Olya came to work and told us that everyone was asleep at her house! I don't think Volva slept much on the ride home.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

job switch

Volva has been in Moscow working with his brother Slavic for the past two weeks. He was supposed to come home today. Olya needed a break from being a single mom of two so she switched with Lena and was our language helper today while Lena stayed with the kids.

It was fun to work with her. She has lots of interesting stories to tell. I don't blame her for needing time off. I remember those days when Tom was traveling and the kids were little. I could handle all day being with the boys when I knew he was coming home later that night. But, when he traveled the kids got their routine upset and it was always frustrating for us all.

Hopefully, Vovla and Slavic will make it home tomorrow. Getting train tickets is always an adventure. One never knows if they will be available for the day you need them or not!

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

dinner with Dave

anniversary gift from Dave and Sherie

We had dinner with Dave H. (our field supervisor from Moscow) tonight. We enjoyed laughing and joking with him. It was good that he came later than he had planned. I was late getting home from school so I got a late start making dinner.

I made Shepard's Pie which was very easy to put together really quick and was a filling meal for everyone. For dessert we can thank Judi H. She made peanut butter fudge and also some chocolate fudge for our family for Christmas. We really like the peanut butter fudge. I said I need to ask her for the recipe... Tom said I just need to ask her to make some more!

Dave came bearing gifts. He gave our family a DVD and he gave Tom and I this beautiful candle. He and Sherie had been in Spittal, Austria. That is where the candle and holder came from. You can read about that city here:

It will be a nice addition to the table at our banquet!

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Spencer's haircut

Spencer has needed a haircut for awhile. Tom told the guys they were going to have to either cut their own hair or find someone else to do it for them. Spencer called Lena our language helper and asked her to help him fond someone. She took him to a place not far from our home. The woman there did an excellent job. And it cost him 100 rubles ($3.82)

When he came home he announced that this was our anniversary gift. Him looking nice for the banquet!

He said it was a different experience from going to a barbershop in the US. He said that no one really talked to each other. Back at Joe's Barbershop in Irvine the men talked about sports, news, watched Court TV and Oprah. All the while cutting hair and laughing with the customers. If you have ever seen the movie Barbershop... Joe's place was like that. And I don't think that Spencer will find that here!

Monday, December 04, 2006

another Monday

Tom will be in class alone this month. Please pray for him. It can be intensely draining to be the only one doing the excercises and drills for an entire class period. Many students are heading out to various destinations for the holidays. I thought I was going to be alone but I am not. Elizabeth joined me today and that was nice. She is such a sweet lady.

I went out to purchase new internet cards. We are buying a month's worth at a time and doing well rationing our minutes on the internet.

While downtown, I saw more pig figurines. I asked Olya why there were so many pig figurines dressed up like Santa Claus. She said because of the horoscope. 2007 will be the year of the pig.

We started watching a TV series that Nathan borrowed from Jim. It is called Firefly and so far we are enjoying each episode!

Sunday, December 03, 2006

communion sunday

I woke up with a headache. I was tempted not to go to church. However, when I realised that our neighbor was going to play her TV at top volume and our other neighbor was going to keep on hammering... I decided leaving was better than staying home. So after taking two extra strength tylenol I left with our whole family for church.

It was a great morning. The music was good, Valodia spoke, and we had communion.

The exciting part of communion was that today there was juice instead of wine! When we got here we asked if juice could be served. It could but we had to buy it. We purchased it for over a year and then last month it was purchased by the church secretary. More and more people kept choosing juice and leaving the wine. This month... no wine at all only juice. We see this as a sign that things don't always have to be done the way they have always been done. There is room for change!

With the number of alcoholics present here in Russia and within our the church it is indeed a blessing to see this type of support.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

just another day

Earlier today I went over to the grocery store and when I left I forgot the 8 roll package of toilet paper I had purchased. Tom went back over to pick it up taking the receipt with him. He talked with the manager, who went to get the security officer. The security officer asked what was wrong and the manager simply nodded his head toward Tom and said, "Toilet paper." The security officer opened up locker number one and took out a key for locker number eight. He gave it to a cashier who asked, "What's this for?" The security officer nodded his head towards Tom and simply repeated, "Toilet paper." The cashier laughed, opened up locker number eight and handed Tom the paper, telling him to tell his wife to enjoy it.

We're grateful that they so carefully guarded our 8 roll pack of toilet paper, and were so diligent in their honesty.

Friday, December 01, 2006

25 years of memories

Tom spent 5 hours today over at Robert and Ann's house scanning old photos. He will be putting together a powerpoint presentation of our memories.

Nathan is 8 and Spencer is 5.

Here they are at 9 and 12

and this is the most recent photo and they are 16 and 19!

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Holiday Cheer

last year's tree

this year's tree!

Christmas Tree- yesterday Tom came home with a small artificial tree. He found the tree in a little store where they sell children’s shoes. The guy only had three trees. Tom decided he better buy one before they were all gone! Since this is our first tree here in Russia, we can truly say (as the Sharps always do) “this is the best Christmas tree we’ve ever had!”

Christmas cookies- Spencer was able to pick up a package from the post office by himself. He said that the postal workers got a kick out of his passport. He has lost all his baby fat since that photo was taken and he always gets a comment or two when someone looks at it. It was exciting to receive Christmas cookies on the same day that Tom brought home a tree.

(Thanks Mom, for lovingly preparing this special gift for us!)

Christmas ornaments- We left most of our ornaments in storage in the states. Tom has begun making some small ones for the tree we have. The small burgundy hearts look great against the green of the tree. I can take another photo once we get all the ornaments on the tree.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

a slow day

Everyone but Nathan went to school. He was not feeling well this morning.

Slavic came by to print out something that was supposed to have been emailed to one of us but we could not find what he was looking for.

I went over to help Brenna with her knitting. She is getting faster. Today we were together for 30 minutes and she did 3 rows with minimal help from me. She had done two rows on her own this week and she only dropped one stitch. And fortunately it was an easy mistake to fix. It is so great to watch her excitement grow about the scarf she is making. She is doing at 8 what I could not do until I was 10!

Tom and I were on the bus together going to school and he decided that he was going to get off at the depo and purchase our monthly passes for December. He left his briefcase with me and said he would be right back. However, the bus left without him. I knew he would catch the next one so I took his briefcase on to school for him. It was funny to hear the teachers fuss about Tom "making me carry his books to class". Tom got an earful from Madina and Tonya when he arrived just two minutes after me! We passed each other as I was on my way to the old campus... his class meets at the new. It was funny we met back in highschool... and today was the first day I ever carried his books to class!

Nathan and I both keep notes on language mistakes people make. Today my teacher was trying to say "If". In Russian it would be "yeslee". What she ended up saying was "if-lee". She laughed at herself and we went on.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

pasta maker usage

I was lying in bed not feeling well today. Nothing major is wrong with me just the changing weather causing my fibromyalgia to give me problems.

I could hear the conversation in the living room that Tom was having with Olya and Lena about the pasta maker.

They were surprised to find out that the machine Tom is using to make his new beads with is actually supposed to be used in the kitchen. Who would think of such a thing!

Olya was impressed with how Tom's angels came out and she suggested that he make them into magnets. It is a great idea. People love to buy little gifts for New Year's.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Banquet invitations!

Tom designed and made our invitations. He made the beads for each one and the photo was taken by Spencer last year before I got my hair cut!

front of invitation

inside invitation

We had to cut back the guest list to only 50 people. This was very difficult as we have gotten to know many people since moving here. But, we have to stick to the budget for the cost of the dinner.

I met with the caterer on Thanksgiving Day... it is not a holiday here so she was working. And I picked up some decorations from Maj-Lis. She has table cloths and materials for curtains in a large variety of colors. I was able to find the burgundy that I like and now all I need is silver ribbon to decorate the columns at church. It feels like everything is coming together!

Sunday, November 26, 2006

73rd Anniversary

When our family was in Kiev we visited a memorial to the genocide victims. The news story today is a long one but it is worth reading.

Ukraine marks 73rd anniversary of famine


Associated Press WriterSat Nov 25, 4:24 PM ET

Holding candles and standing silent, thousands massed on a fog-shrouded square Saturday to mourn 10 million Ukrainians killed by a famine orchestrated by Soviet leader Josef Stalin — an ordeal many insisted must be recognized as genocide.

Some 33,000 people died every day during the 1932-33 famine, wiping out a third of Ukraine's population in a calamity known here as Holodomor — Death by Hunger. Cases of cannibalism were widespread as desperation deepened. Those who resisted were shot or sent to Siberia.
"I do not ask — I demand that the Ukrainian parliament recognize Holodomor as genocide," President Viktor Yushchenko told the crowd on Mykhaylivska Square in a short address followed by a minute of silence and the tolling of bells.

Stalin provoked the famine to coerce peasants into giving up their private farms and joining agriculture collectives being formed across the Soviet Union.
Villages were ordered to provide the state with set amounts of grain, but the demands typically exceeded crop yields. As village after village failed to meet their quotas, officials seized all food and residents were barred from leaving — condemning them to starve.
Farmers in Ukraine, which was the breadbasket of the U.S.S.R., fiercely resisted and bore the brunt of the man-made disaster.

Russia's government has warned the leaders of this former Soviet republic against using the term genocide, saying the event should not be "politicized." Some Ukrainian lawmakers agreed, proposing it be termed a "tragedy" instead.

The Kremlin argues Stalin's campaign did not specifically target Ukrainians and also affected Russians and Kazakhs. But historians say the overwhelming majority of victims were Ukrainian, and the famine coincided with Stalin's effort to crush growing Ukrainian nationalism.
Yushchenko appealed to Russia to "stand by our side" and recognize the mass starvation as genocide. "With this high example, demonstrate the human empathy that is inherent to the Russian people," he said.

"How can it be called anything but genocide," said Kateryna Kryvenko, 78, who recalled crying at the feet of Soviet officials as they ransacked her family's village home, carting off what little food her family had managed to hide under a floorboard. She said authorities took everything, and her father and three brothers and sisters died.

During the Soviet era, the mass starvation was a closely guarded state secret, but information trickled out over the years.

Ten nations, including the United States, recognize the famine as genocide, a crime under international law defined as the deliberate and systematic destruction of a racial, political or cultural group.

Ukraine's parliament speaker, Oleksandr Moroz, said Saturday that he supports recognizing the mass starvation as genocide and said the president's bill calling for that designation would come before parliament this week.

Some lawmakers from Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych's Russia-leaning Party of Regions suggested adopting a more moderate term, but party member Taras Chornovil predicted the president's version would pass.

Yanukovych joined Yushchenko in Saturday's commemoration, which included a silent procession by people carrying white banners representing every Ukrainian region. Black ribbons hung from the banners.

"The tragedy is of such a scale that it is hard to even imagine," said Oksana Yatsyuk, 18.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

lost and found

Tom and I are going through 25 years worth of photographs. Trying to decide what to put in a slide show for our banquet is a major undertaking. Both of us found other items along the way.

I found a CD that Nathan thought Michelle had taken back to Canada with her by mistake. I also found some jewelry that I had been looking for and some belts.

Finally after searching through all of the boxes that had not been unpacked since we moved here to Russia I found our wedding photos. And guess where they were?

That's right "the Last place I looked!"

One of the things Tom realized as we have looked at family photos is how happy we all are. We have pictures of people being tickled, people laughing, riding on roller coasters and so on. We have had fun over the course of 25 years. And we hope to have a lot more fun in the years to come.

Friday, November 24, 2006

A First for Spencer

The first time I rode in a taxi by myself
by Spencer Sharp

Daddy and Nathan were sick today and I needed to go to a party at the Watsons. I didn't really know how to get there by bus so I had to take a taxi alone because my mom was already at the party. So anyways, I asked the taxi driver if he "was available" and he said "yes, of course" and he asked where we were going and I gave him the street address. Then I got into the taxi and sat on the left side behind the driver.

As we were going there was a checkpoint we had to go through where the police were stopping people. As soon as we stopped I felt fear because I remembered that I had my pocket knife in my right pocket. And thought that might be a problem if I was asked to get out and was searched. Luckily, the police just asked to see the driver's official documents. The driver was allowed to go without paying a fine because all of his documents were legit. While we were searching for the Watson's house we passed Car World and we found the address and he asked me if that was correct and I told him I thought so. And he waited to leave until I was inside. The taxi driver was polite to me even though I am a teenager and the ride was only 60 rubles (about $2.40) which wasn't bad.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

absolutely stuffed

Happy Thanksgiving!

We have had a fun day... eaten way to much and enjoyed some movies. And we get to do it all over again tomorrow with the Watsons!

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Thanksgiving prep

Spencer and I went shopping today for all the goodies we need to make our family Thanksgiving dinner. We decided to stay home rather than go to a party that we were invited to. We have a Thanksgiving party to attend on Friday and I knew my guys would not want to be out two days in a row. Well, Spencer is always ready for a gathering... that is a different story!

I spent time with Brenna again helping her to knit. She is doing very well. I don't think I could have learned at 8 years old. I was 10 when I started.

Tom is still battling his cold. He stayed home from school and worked on the banquet invitations. They look wonderful. He is making some heart shaped beads to embellish them. When he finishes I will post a photo.

We watched the Muppet Christmas Carol tonight. Nathan and Spencer are already in bed. They both wake up so early.

I am grateful to Melissa for a pumpkin cookie recipe. Spencer and I tasted the cookies at her house today and they were yummy! I know that Tom and Nathan will enjoy them too.

Here is the recipe she uses from

Old-Fashioned Soft Pumpkin Cookies
Estimated Times:
Preparation - 10 min Cooking - 18 min Cooling Time - 2 min cooling
Yields - 36 cookies

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup butter (1 stick), softened
1 cup LIBBY'S® 100% Pure Pumpkin
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 Glaze (recipe follows)

PREHEAT oven to 350° F. Grease baking sheets.

COMBINE flour, baking soda, baking power, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt in medium bowl. beat sugar and butter in large mixer bowl until well blended. Beat in pumpkin, egg and vanilla extract until smooth. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Drop by rounded tablespoon onto prepared baking sheets.

BAKE for 15 to 18 minutes or until edges are firm. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely. Drizzle Glaze over cookies.

COMBINE 2 cups sifted powdered sugar, 3 tablespoons milk, 1 tablespoon melted butter and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract in small bowl until smooth.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Hey Lady!

As I was walking home from the supermarket today I heard a woman behind me yelling “zhenshina!” “zhenshina!” That means 'woman' or 'lady' in Russian. When she first said it, I thought, “What woman is she talking about?” And when I turned around, I realized it was me! I had dropped one of my leather gloves. She was standing there holding her bags of groceries concerned about me coming back for my glove. Tom said that she saved me the price of a new pair. I would not have noticed until I wanted to put them on that one was missing.

Alexei stopped by tonight to ask questions about our anniversary banquet. He wanted to know what we want to happen that night and how long it should last. I told him I was scared of what might take place that night. I don’t normally like surprises. The good thing is that Alexei doesn’t either!

Monday, November 20, 2006

It's beginning to look like Christmas

At our big shopping center, Krasnaya Ploshad, they are already selling items for Christmas. Well, actually they are decorations for New Years. Americans would use the same decorations for Christmas.

Wreaths, Christmas trees, ornaments, Stars, Angels, Santa Claus, garland, ribbons. Tom and I also saw pig figurines in Santa suits. Not just a few but many of them. I forgot to ask at school today if there is some significance to the pig figure. But, there must be something, right?

Today I picked up some canned sweet potatos from Joy. I realized 5 years ago when Tom and I had our 20th anniversary in Hawaii that the thing I wanted the most for Thanksgiving was Sweet potato pie. I found one in a market there and was thrilled. For Nathan Thanksgiving is stuffing... we all have an idea of what Thanksgiving meals have to include. Don't you?

Thanks to Mom and Dad for the Christmas package. Everyone is thrilled with their gifts! We love you both!

Sunday, November 19, 2006

cold front

It is getting colder here. It has not yet come close to the temperatures we had last year but it does feel cold enough to snow.

Tom has a sore throat. He is taking it easy today, drinking tea and sore throat medicine.

Spencer and Andrew found out yesterday that the ice rink is not open yet so no skating for them.

Nathan had a great time at the English club. They talked about Thanksgiving and had a meal prepared. He came home raving about having had stuffing. Simple joys!

Tom and I watched "Capote" last night. I am interested in reading his book "In Cold Blood". Maybe just because of the Kansas connection. It doesn't sound like something I would want to read otherwise. Tom remembers that his grandparents gave him a copy in his teens. He thought it was a great book.

I wish we would have made it out to church today. Valodia and Tim are back from their trip to the states and it wold have been great to hear Valodia's impressions of America. Or at least of Arizona!

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Hard at work!

Here is another photo from yesterday. A few of the kids from the orphanage hard at work on the frames for the their photos.

Nathan is going to an English Club today to help with learning English.

Spencer and Andrew are off at Krasnaya Ploshad. If things work out and the ice skating rink is open Spencer is hoping to start giving lessons.

Tom and I are starting to look forward to our 25th Anniversary. With the help of some friends we are putting together a banquet. We wish we were celebrating this day with all of you! Right now we are grateful that we still have both our sons living with us. It wouldn't be the same if one of them could not be here with us. Life is really going to change when Nathan leaves for university next year.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Friday Fun

Spencer and I had to go to work again today. Just before we left Olya dropped Yanna off for us to watch her. It was hard to walk out the door! I fixed a bottle and Tom fed her while I finished making dinner for him and Nathan.

Nathan and Yanna had a little conversation while she was thinking about taking a nap. He read to her from the current book he is reading "Picture of Dorian Grey" She still wouldn't go to sleep!

Spencer is giving a lesson on how to fly an airplane! Tonight we had a more manageable number of kids to work with. The kids made frames for photos that Oksana had taken of them. They also made some teddy bear puppets with Judi. It was a great evening. We had our full team there tonight so the kids got a lot of attention. Donny, Blythe, Angela, Ted, Judi, Bill, Andrew, KaLynn, Bekka, Spencer, Okasana and me. I think it was almost 1 child per person. Last week it was just Spencer, Oksana and me with 40 kids!!!

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Thursday's news

Teaching 8-year-old Brenna to knit was the highlight of my day. She wants to “make something”. I got her started on making a scarf. She told me several times that knitting was easier than playing the piano!

Tom decided to take a treat to school for the teachers to taste. It was a blend of apple juice, cinnamon and vanilla. It tastes like the apple cider we are used to drinking from the states. I found it at the supermarket and our guys really like it. Tom said that the teachers enjoyed it. Arina said that she could drink 2 liters a day!

Spencer finally got an email from Igor. Igor and his family live in Crimea and he is studying with YWAM in Kiev. Spencer was excited to hear from him.

Nathan went to school early and the doors were locked. Charles saw him and invited him to come into his house to wait. It was cold and rainy today. Nathan was thrilled to see a large bookcase in the front room. Charles told Nathan he could choose something to borrow if he wanted. Nathan has never turned down an opportunity to read. He found a treasure to bring home!

We have some Christmas movies to enjoy tonight:
White Christmas
Santa Claus is Coming to Town
Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Arguments and Facts

Popular here in Krasnodar, this newspaper has been mentioned in several of our lessons. While shopping at the supermarket I decided to pick up a copy to see what we could read. This weekly paper has a TV schedule inside, various articles and lots of ads!

Articles include:
* “Did Bush pay for Saddam's ropes?”
* a "photo fact" showing Putin practicing shooting at a firing range.
* People who “really” do earn $100,000.00 here in Russia.
* Madonna pictured holding her new son from Africa.

Someday we will be able to fully read the paper without using the dictionary but today is not that day!

***Special thanks to Bonnie and Randy from Eugene, Oregon for sending us a Christmas package our first Christmas card!

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

How many ways can you go?

In the Russian language, there are many different motion verbs. We have learned to go by foot, to go by vehicle, to drive, to go regularly, to go and come back, to stop by, to drop off, to leave, to turn, to return... and there is still more to learn!

Monday, November 13, 2006

Women's Tea Update

It was a great event.

There was a time to get to know each other...

A time to eat!

Becky had us sing hymns which many of us had not done in years. And we all got to hear about the work the other women are involved in. We came from different countries to be here. Germany, Sweden, Canada, Japan, Greece, and all over the US. Some of the women grew up in families that lived abroad. There seemed to be a running theme of not knowing how to answer the question "where are you from?"

I always pause over that question. My dad was in the military and we lived in England (where I was born), Maine, Massachusettes, Vermont, New York and Kansas. Tom and I have lived in Kansas and California.

I hope we get a chance to get together again. It was an enjoyable time to relax and speak a language that we are all completely comfortable with!

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Women's Tea

Becky is having a Tea for all the expatriate women in town. It should be a fun afternoon. I already cooked for the guys. Although they are never pleased when a dessert item leaves our home! I did make them a blueberry pie so that soothed them savages somewhat.

At church today Spencer and I understood most of the sermon. Sasha spoke and he is very clear and doesn't talk too fast.

Ruslan led the service. It was my first time seeing him up front. Although, he and his wife Lilia have been at the church since July.

Valodia is speaking tonight at a church in Arizona. He is not feeling well and could use our prayers.

Ira walked up to me after church and gave me a big hug. She was looking for her buddy Tom and he didn't make it out this morning. He was not feeling well. It was so cute to look down and see this little girl's arms wrapped around my legs!

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Korean Dinner

Spencer and I attended a dinner at Donna and Rob's this evening. It was prepared by Sonja (Sun Hwa) who is a new student from Korea currently studying at the language school.

We had meat and rice that we wrapped in lettuce leaves to eat.

Grilled sausage, crab and veggies. Along with a side dish of fried oysters.

It was funny to Spencer and I, that we, the non-seafood eating half of the family actually had seafood and enjoyed it!

Sonja gave an explaination of all the dishes before dinner.

Joseph (Choong Sung) gave a demonstration on how to prepare and eat the lettuce wrap!

Sonja taught us to make rice cakes. They were made from rice flour. And then steamed. Then we had different toppings to dip them in and eat!

After dinner we played a Korean game that was kind of like Sorry! It got a little competitive but I think everyone had a good time.

Donna made a pumpkin pie... she had also purchased a pumpkin from Slavic like we did back in October.

Poor Spencer tried to make a comment to garner sympathy for being a pastor's son. He told about one time when he stayed with Tom as he spoke for three services straight. Leigh, Charles's daughter asked "you only had to do that once??!" Joseph said that his father preached for "7 hours straight" one time and he and his four siblings had to sit through the whole thing...

Spencer didn't stand a chance in that crowd!

Friday, November 10, 2006

back to work

Rainy evenings are great for watching movies. Tonight as the rain poured down outside we were watching Superman. Brandon Routh made a good Superman. He looked enough like a young Christopher Reeve to make him seem like the REAL Superman...

Spencer and I returned to work today. We were back at the Detsky Proyut. It is a temporary shelter for children. Like a foster home, they can stay there for up to three years before they are sent back to their family or on to an orphanage. Oksana (from the BLTC) has been going there alone for the past month or so. We had a short planning meeting before going over to help her out tonight. She had told us before we walked over together that there were very few children there right now. Most of them went to the other location just outside of the city. As we were setting up, more and more children piled into the room. We had over 40 kids tonight. And there was three of us! Oksana called me when she got home and said that she had no idea where all of those kids came from. She thanked Spencer and I for helping her.

We had twenty little ones (2, 3, 4 year olds) and all we had for them were coloring sheets. I caught two of them fighting over an orange crayon. I asked them to stop and they looked at me with huge eyes. I am sure it does seem strange to a small child to have a foreigner speak to them in their own language! I complimented them on their coloring and one of the little boys stroked my hand and smiled. Tom thinks he was trying to show me that he could be gentle and not hit.

Next week we should have our full team and it will be easier to manage all the kids. The older ones need some type of physical activity along with craft time. Although, they were good helpers at the end. One boy (we think his name was Victor) got the broom and handed me the dustpan and we worked together and cleaned up the floor.

Another young man, Vasa, was grilling Spencer afterwards and I asked him why he wanted to know so much about us. He said he was just curious. I told him I thought he was a spy! He laughed hard and said “no” he was not a spy... he just wanted to have a time to get to know an American better. He kept on asking Spencer about where he came from and how many brothers and sisters he had. One little boy asked Spencer how old his brother is. Spencer told him 19. The boy said he could only count to 12 in English. Spencer asked to hear him and this boy did it perfectly. He could also say please and thank you. Before we moved to Russia that was about all we could say in Russian. “Please” and “Thank you!”

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Eye Exam

Yesterday I was able to get an eye exam and order new glasses.

It was a little different to have my eyes checked here. I had to read the eye chart in Russian! She didn't have the large machine that we are used to in the states. You know the one that you sit in front of and the doctor changes the lense choices by turning a dial. Instead, she put a pair of glasses on me that was capable of holding two sets of lenses. She manually changed the lenses and asked me which was better.

The eye exam cost 30 rubles ($1.12)
The frames were 730 rubles ($27.34)
The lenses were the most expensive part at 1250 rubles ($46.82)

I used the most recent exchange rate of 26.70 Rubles = 1 USD

So for a grand total of $75.28 I will be able to pick up my new glasses today at four in the afternoon!

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Splendid or Well Done!

Ve-li-ka-lep-nee is Tom’s new favorite word. It means splendid, magnificent, excellent, and marvelous. Two of the new teachers, Marina and Tatiana, use this word. It is exciting when you here it said after you get something right.

Most of the other teachers use: Mal-a-detz (well done!) or Ot-leetch-na (excellently, perfectly, extremely well) either way we are still being told we are doing a great job... it is just interesting to hear new words to express the same meaning!

Tuesday, November 07, 2006


Tom called Slavic to come over and check on our Radiators. He had to bleed the air out of each one until water came through. Now they are all putting out heat.

We are grateful to have Slavic help us out with things like this. Next year we will know exactly what to do.

The talk at school was about who went to McDonalds and who didn't. Was it crowded when you were there? What did you order? Is it cheaper than the one on Moscow? Does it taste the same as in America?

When we were having the discussion Spencer was the only one in the room that had eaten in Moscow... here in Krasnodar and in America. He says that in Moscow, McDonalds was more expensive. But, McDonalds taste like McDonalds. One of our teachers who has a very busy schedule went there at 4am. McDonalds was taking a break and so she and her friends had to go back at 6am. They had been out dancing and then she was supposed to go teach an English class. Oh to be 23 again!

Prayer Request:
Our school director, Tanya, needs our prayers. Her mother is very ill and is not doing very well. Please keep her in you prayers.

Monday, November 06, 2006


Summer is over and fall is here. The days are getting chillier.

Here is a link to see what our weather is like for the next several days:

At least it is not going to snow anytime soon. We don't feel as cold as we did last year. Coming here from California when it got below 60 degrees we thought that was freezing. Having experienced -35 last winter we have a new definition of cold!

Saturday, November 04, 2006

McDonalds Opening Day!

Spencer and I decided around 6:30 Saturday evening that we wanted to go out to Krasnaya Ploshad. We hopped on a bus and were surprised to find two seats together all the way out there. When we arrived, there was a give-away going on. While we were inside the mall, we heard fireworks.

With the new wing of Krasnaya Ploshad finished, Spencer and I felt like we were back at South Coast Plaza wandering around! We found McDonalds and it had a line out front of at least 100 people. It was hard to calculate. We decided we would shop for a while and come back later.

We purchased some movies:
Anna and the King
It’s A Wonderful Life
To Kill a Mockingbird

After we got our movies Spencer asked if we could try McDonalds again before going home. We got in a much shorter line than the one we had seen before. They were keeping the doors locked and only allowing groups of about 20 in at a time. We were in line outside the doors for about 10 minutes and then waited in lie to get our food about 5. We picked up four Big Mac’s, two orders of fries and two strawberry shakes. It cost 370 rubles. ($13.86)

We saw Christine and Murat (from the BLTC) and some people from KBC church were there too. Opening day of the first McDonalds in our city will only come once and we were there for it!

lazy day

A cold, wet morning.

Spencer is watching movies from his childhood or "old Movies" as he calls them. Nathan is writing in his room. Tom just got up and I am checking today's news.

I got a call this morning telling me there was a warning issued to Americans not to be in places this weekend with large crowds. This is a holiday weekend. I found articles on demonstrations planned for today that were cancelled. Most of them say that the demonstrators plan on gathering anyway and the police are being told to be firm.

So I guess we will stay close to home this weekend!

Friday, November 03, 2006

Social Ministries Team

Today we had a meeting for the Social Ministries Team. It only lasted for 3 ½ hours. Normally our meetings go for much longer. It felt as if we accomplished a lot. We were able to work on priorities for the team and on the budget for next year. We met in a basement room without lights and without heat. The workers had shut off the power to the basement to work on the new addition. We opened up the curtains to allow as much natural light in as possible and went on with our meeting.

Tom and I are here to help with Alcoholics/Addicts and their families. We never expected to have to make decisions about purchasing farm equipment. However, since the rehabilitation center we are affiliated with is located on a working farm, we need to be concerned with such things. Therefore, spending 20 minutes or so talking about purchasing a baler and another 15 talking about a shredder is vital. The farm is 40 % self-supporting. We would like to see it support itself 100%. Purchasing new equipment to help the farm run more efficiently is important. After purchasing the baler for example, they will be able to bale hay for others and make money through that avenue as well.

Tomorrow is a big day out at the rehab center. A butcher is coming to the farm to kill a bull and butcher it. Then they will take it to the market to sell. It takes two years for the livestock to be ready for sale. Tom M. told a story about having a book with a picture of an animal with dotted lines on it for where to cut the meat. He said that he went hunting and caught a deer but the deer didn’t come with dotted lines to show him where to cut. So he was happy that they hired a butcher and he doesn’t have to take his book out to the farm!

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Guess who came to dinner?

Tonight Lee and Marilyn came over to our house for dinner. It was great to spend an evening with them again. We hope they decide to come here. They are very nice people. We had no idea that people from Fresno could be so much fun! They had been reading my blog before they came to get an idea of life here in Krasnodar. It was fun to meet people who got aquainted with us through the cyberworld!

Lee and Marilyn were in class with Tom and Ann this afternoon. Afterward they came home with Tom. Nathan and Spencer did a great job helping me with cleaning the kitchen and bathroom while I cooked.

When I was out today shopping at Krasnaya Ploshad, I saw where McDonalds is going in. Monday is a holiday here. McDonalds has chosen to open on Saturday just in time for the long weekend. Our family is not planning to go on opening weekend. I think we will wait awhile...maybe a week or two. Although we are interested in French fries and strawberry shakes!

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Dinner Out!

Tom and I just returned from Madyar Restaurant.

We met Lee and Marilyn from Fresno, California. And even though we are “Southern” Californians and they are not, we ate with them anyway! Maj-Lis and Joy were also there and we all had a great time together.

Tom and I got there first and we looked around for the rest of the group. Joy had said which room we were going to be in but when we asked, there was no reservation under her name. So I took out my cell phone to call her. And she gave me a membership number to give to them. He heard me repeat the number back to her while I was on the phone and when I got off the phone he said that number was Brian’s. We realized that the BLTC must use this restaurant a lot!

Tom and I were at Madyar last year with Dave and Shari from Moscow back in January. Tonight both Tom and I tried new foods. I had a salad with duck, star fruit, cranberries and cucumbers. It was quite tasty. Tom ordered a hors d’oeuvre that was fried cheese with bacon wrapped around it. We also had Czechoslovakian flat bread with garlic sauce that everyone shared. The food was beautifully prepared and so good to eat.

Earlier in the afternoon, I had an interesting cultural experience when Judi H. and I went out for coffee after class. I asked for tea with honey and cream. I was told “no honey” and I said, “Fine, with cream then.” He said “no cream” and then asked if I wanted a latte. I asked if he could make a chai latte (tea) he said he could only make the latte with coffee. So, I had plain green tea.

We have had the experience here in Krasnodar of trying to special order a pizza you know, something exotic, like ham and mushroom. The ham pizza does not come with mushrooms... if you want mushrooms you have to order a different kind of pizza that is already prepared with mushrooms. We heard of others who tried to order ice cream a certain way with no luck. Food items come the way they are “packaged” with no exceptions.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Happy Reformation Day or Happy Halloween!

Spencer and I just returned from a Harvest Party. There had to have been thirty kids at the Watsons house! Joy asked me to take pictures. So I was busy the whole party.

Becky came up with all the games, my favorite was when the kids were shucking corn! There was a pile of corn set in front of each team and they raced to see who could finish their pile first. Next time I buy corn on the cob I am going to invite some kids over!

I have some photos from the party and of Yanna today,but, Blogger is not letting me load them as fast as I would like. On top of that I loaned my camera to Joy because Hannah has a program at school tomorrow and Tim has their camera in America with him.

We had Yanna today for four hours while her mom was at the doctor. She is two months old now.

Nathan had a really bad headache today. He spent the entire day in his room. Their teacher's mother is in the hospital and their class was cancelled for the day... but they have to make it up on Friday!

Monday, October 30, 2006

a wonderful monday!

More packages! Thanks to Del and Marge for the movies... we just finished watching Monster-in-law and really enjoyed it. Thanks also to Mom and Dad. We received the box of goodies and have already divided things up. The pop tarts worked out to just the right number!

I used some of the pumpkin today. Mom reminded me of the recipe I used to use all the time when we still lived in California. It took a little work but I found it.

Monastery Pumpkin Bread

3 1/2 cups sifted flour
3 cups sugar
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons salt 4 eggs, beaten
1 cup oil
2/3 cup water
2 cups solid-pack pumpkin
Walnut pieces

Sift together flour, sugar, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt.Combine eggs, oil, water and pumpkin, mixing well. Stir into dry ingredients. Turn into 3 greased 9x5-inch loaf pans and top with several walnut pieces. Bake in preheated 350-degree oven 1 hour or until cake tester inserted in center comes out clean. Cool before slicing.


Sunday, October 29, 2006

sunday, sunday

Alexei spoke in church today. Our whole family went to support him and to hear his message. We didn’t understand everything that Alexei spoke about but we got the context and overall meaning.

We understood:
He was reading from the book of Judges
He talked about Gideon
Sometimes God gives us difficulties in life
Fear affects our ability to serve God
Difficulties cause us to turn back to God
God was merciful to Gideon and gave him a miracle when he asked for one.
What we go through in life affects our faith

As we gathered in small groups to pray our family came together and prayed in English. It still amazes me that around the church several different languages are present. Russian, English and German to name a few.

The needs mentioned this morning were:
Weather changing is causing many people to be sick
Volodia Rajabov and Tim Watson leaving for America today. They will be away from their families for three weeks
The church’s neighbor has a bad attitude towards the church being next door to him.
Three different people are having surgery this week
One person is going to Pakistan to have a heart transplant... he wanted to have it here in Russia but that did not work out.
Our church’s soccer team as an outreach tool
A new teen group is meeting at the church
For us as a church to not just hear God’s word but to obey it.

Last year Maj-lis had to tell us what the prayer requests and announcements were and this year we understand better for ourselves. We pray that each year it will get easier and easier to understand what is said...including the jokes that we miss now!

As the service was ending, Pastor Vadim spoke about the importance of cleaning your shoes before coming into the church. He wanted all of us to notice the shoe cleaning area outside and to “get acquainted with it!” He said that if we couldn’t clean our shoes then to use a pair of house shoes that the church provided or bring some from home. Keeping the floors clean is serious business here in Russia!

Saturday, October 28, 2006

online friends...

Nathan got a package today from an online friend that he’s known for over 4 years. He was expecting something small like a music cd. She sent him a late birthday present, the cds and some sugar cookies! We like Ruth’s cookies... Nathan treated each of us to one cookie. Thanks Ruth!

Nathan was able to pick up the package by himself with no problem. He showed the package slip and his passport and she went to get the package and handed it over. As we were on our way home from the post office, he says, “Now you have to believe that my friend is real!”. I acknowledged that I do believe that Ruth exists. ‘I do believe in Ruth, I do believe in Ruth!”

The online world is great for meeting people that you might never have met otherwise... even though you live in the same area. Nathan, Spencer and I have all met people online. My friend Joan is a woman I met online from my days on the original Starting Over message board. She actually lives in the same city where two friends of mine used to live. I think Sadie may have lived just a few blocks from where Joan is. I drove there plenty of times... did we ever see each other and not know it? It is possible. I look forward to meeting her.

Andrew is here playing video games with Spencer. The rest of us are trying to stay out of the living room and not embarrass Spencer. It is so tempting to go in there!

Friday, October 27, 2006

the adventures of public transport

Spencer and I went to hear Jill and Stuart Briscoe speak for the ex-patriates in town. We decided to take the bus over to Shane and Melissa's house for the event. On the way over there we ended up taking two buses. Which is no big deal because we have bus passes. It was a big deal to those who did not hear the announcement that the bus was going on break. So it only went as far as the University and then stopped. When one young man realised that he was going to have to pay to ride another bus he started yelling at the conductor. She yelled back at him and finally got out of her seat and walked up to the front of the bus to get away from him.

He would not stop yelling so the driver stopped the bus and got out of his seat to come and yell at him. The driver yelled that "everybody heard the announcement" and that the young man needed to listen better. That was when pandemonium broke loose. Several people joined in the argument saying that they didn't hear the announcement either. Spencer and I seemed to be the only people that actually heard the announcement as soon as we boarded the bus. It ended with the young man writing down their names and I.D. numbers to report them.

Spencer and I enjoyed the time with Jill and Stuart. Hearing their stories of life in ministry and their world travels was inspiring. They have gone to teach in places where it is illegal for Christians to gather.

I think the thing I will remember the most is Jill saying that "you have to unpack your bags into the situation or you will always have regrets". She was referring to a young wife who had spent two years on the field of a four year term and had not unpacked her bags and was ready to give up and go home. It applies to literal bags as well as emotional bags. It is difficult to move forward in life without having fully unpacked all that you brought with you.

We met some people with Campus Crusade who are here in the city attending school and serving. It was nice to meet some new people. One of the young ladies is from California. I talked to her even though she was from Berkeley!

On the way home Judi B. joined us. The soccer game had let out and there were six drunk young people who were singing a Kuban cheer over and over and louder and louder. And playing the music on there cell phones loudly. It is interesting to note that when people are drunk they sing "La La La" a lot!

As Spencer and I were getting off the bus Judi whispered to me to be careful. Spencer and I walked slowly along the path to let that group get ahead of us. And then came safely on home. If they chose to harass anyone along the way it was not us!

Thursday, October 26, 2006

why did the Sharp men stay home from school?

Nathan was feeling ill. He felt sick to his stomach. Spencer had a stuffy nose. And Tom wanted to stay with me while I babysat for Yanna and Ira. (Eera)

Ira was only here while her mother was shopping at the outdoor market. She showed up with her little raincoat on and her little yellow umbrella in her hand. She and I read some books together. I have a book called "The First 1000 Words in Russian”. All the language students have it. It is an Usborne book. I read to her in Russian and she repeated after me. It was cute. After about an hour her mother called and was ready for her to come home. I got her dressed to go outside and Spencer walked her home. He said to her “give me your hand” in Russian and she had her umbrella in one hand and Spencer’s hand in the other!

Yanna and Tom took a nap...Yanna on our bed and Tom on the couch. When she woke up I got her bottle ready and then Tom fed her. Spencer and I took a few pictures of her wearing a hat I crocheted last night. She is such a joy! The boys marveled at her little hands, feet and face. We just sat and held her for two hours until Olya came to pick her up. She was trying her best to talk to us. Each of the boys took a turn talking with her and holding her. Plus since she is just 7 weeks old we could speak to her in English. What a great way to spend a rainy day!