Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Mrs. Moses!

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change happens

We found out at school today that more changes are coming. The tuition is changing again. The location is changing. The classes and times may change as well. I like change. I think it can be healthy. We have a family that just kind of rolls with the punches. If we have to go to a different location, we will. If we have to changes class times, we will. If they choose to make the classes start at 8 am... well, one of us will get there on time... bless Spencer's heart!

The reasons for the impending changes are due to the new laws here in regards to Social and Charitable organizations. Our school is an NGO. Here is a link to a definition of an NGO:

Today we learned how to find Bible verses. We are trying to learn ordinal numbers. We learned the word for chapter-- glava and the word for verse is-- steekh.

Our class talked about superstitions today. Here people do not sit on the floor. There used to be the belief that drafts were evil spirits. And if you sat on the floor you were putting yourself in the path of an evil spirit. Women are especially vulnerable to sitting on the floor. Female organs should not be exposed to the cold drafts. I brought up the old belief that Southern Americans "used to" have about talking on the phone during a thunderstorm... one of my classmates told us that it's not a superstition it's TRUE! She says that you might get hit by lightning if you even talk on a cordless phone during a storm. I like the cultural discussions we have at school. Sometimes we Californians feel like we are not from the same country as the rest of the students. Even changing states in the US is a cultural experience!

Monday, January 30, 2006

Another Monday

Tom is at the post office. Nathan and Spencer are playing video games. I found some sweet potatoes last time I was at Metro so when I am done here I am going to make a sweet potato pie.

It is snowing again but it is warmer. Alexei says that we will get used to this weather. He says that Krasnodar is not California, but that Krasnodar is not Salihardt either. Salihardt can get to -50. At -40 C & F are the same so that is cold no matter where you are from.

Tom is up and feeling better. Tania welcomed him back to school today! She was teasing him about missing so much school. He was home all last week. And of course he missed alot when his foot was recovering from surgery.

We watched "The Count of Monte Cristo" last night and everyone enjoyed it. "The Recruit" and "ZigZag" are also good movies. If you are easily offended by language then you might not like ZigZag. It is about the life of an autistic boy with an abusive dad. The language is rough but it is a good movie overall.

I mended Iris's glove. It was not as hard as I expected. It looked like new when I was done. God helped me to get it right I got paid in Peach flavored tea & sour cream and onion potato chips! YUM...

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Russian, English and Swedish

Valodya spoke at church today. I sat next to Maj-lis because Tom didn't make it to church this morning. I never noticed before that Maj-lis's bible is not in Russian. Maj-lis first language is Swedish. So her Bible is in Swedish. I brought my English bible today instead of my Russian one. So as we were listening to the sermon in Russian, Maj-lis was reading in Swedish and I was reading in English. Joyce didn't hear the verse number so she turned around to ask me which verse. She asked in English but I answered in Russian. It is not easy to switch gears that fast with numbers!

Spencer did a good job of taking Tom's place at church. We sat behind Alexei and Lena. Spencer kept poking Alexei and Alexei pretended he didn't know who did it!

Sveta and Valentin were back at church this morning. Sveta is expecting and she is almost at the three month mark. Valentin announced their news a few weeks ago at church. We have known for a while but weren't allowed to say anything. She has been very sick. She spent most of this first three months in the hospital. There is a belief in the medical community that morning sickness is bad for the baby. So women are hospitalized for it.

Our teacher from school, Mila has a healthy baby girl her husband dima made an anoouncment this morning....that they were home from the hospital already. Sasha from the Rehab Center is now a grandfather of a little boy named Timothy. His daughter just gave birth to her first child.

We got a ride home from Lena's house today. Her brother drove us home in his BMW. It is a beautiful car. He got stopped by the police. Why? Because of his car... there was also an Audi, a Honda and a very nice truck that was stopped at the same time. Too bad as he was stopping the Honda he let the Lexus sneak by! I asked Slavic why Constantine was stopped. He said because the policeman wanted some work to do. The policeman told Constantine that there was ice on the road and it was dangerous for him to be driving so fast.
1) he was not driving fast!
2) the road was clear. Constantine asked to be shown the ice!
As it turned out Lena and her brother Alexei got to our building at the same time we did. They took the trolleybus and we were in the car!

Nathan is studying and Spencer is blasting his Maroon5 CD. He finally bought Songs about Jane. It took him two years he said, but he finally bought it. I guess he was looking in the wrong places before!

Saturday, January 28, 2006


-10 degree Celsius = 14 degree Fahrenheit

We are finally warming up here! Each day seems to be getting warmer. Tom is not convinced it is warm.... the snow is still on the ground and it is still cold out there.

Our dog is not convinced either. She does not want to go for a walk. She will potty and go right back inside! Right now she is in our bedroom laying on the floor in the sunshine. She likes to get close to the radiator and snuggle up in a ball and sleep. She is 9 years old so her arthritis could be acting up!

Nathan and Tom are still sick. Nathan has been in bed all week and whatever he has he must have given it to Tom. Spencer just had a little stomach flu and was back up the next day. I am grateful to be healthy. My wrist is much better and I am able to get out and purchase food and come home to cook!

I have to go through my recipes today and see if I can find Mom's recipe for M&M cookies. I bought some M&M's and thought it would be a good treat. I used the chocolate chips I got from Janet to make blonde brownies. Tom let Olya have some and she was surprised... first of all she confirmed that our dog was still alive. Tom told her they were brownies and our dog's name is Brownie! She said every American who had given her brownies before made them dark. Tom had to explain that these are called "Blonde Brownies" and they are lighter in color.

I found split peas here and was able to make Split Pea and ham soup. We can also get cream of mushroom soup here now! Think of how many reicipes you might have that call for Cream of Mushroom soup... it is a hard ingredient to replace!

We were supposed to go bowling today but the bowling alley triples the price on the weekend so we will try next Friday.

Tom had some jewelry sales this month so we are using that money to buy an electric radiator for a family in need of heat. They live on the first floor of their building and close to the entrance where the door keeps opening and closing. They have to wear their coats inside to stay warm!

Friday, January 27, 2006

Hazing Incident

Hazing costs soldier his genitals and legs
Russian army recruit brutally beatenMilitary promises full investigation
Jan. 27, 2006. 01:00 AM
MOSCOW—On New Year's Eve, as Russians across the country celebrated their most important holiday of the year, 19-year-old Pte. Andrei Sychev of the Chelyabinsk Tank Academy was tied to a chair by his fellow soldiers. For the next four hours Sychev's colleagues, including some of his superiors, took turns beating and kicking him repeatedly in the legs and groin.
There was nothing unusual about what happened to Sychev — the demoralized Russian armed forces have long been plagued by bullying and brutal hazing. Seven other conscripts were beaten the same night. But for some reason, Sychev was unable to get medical attention for three days, and gangrene set in.
To keep Sychev alive, doctors were forced to amputate his legs and genitals.
The Russian Prosecutors' Office revealed details of the case this week, and yesterday military investigators arrived in the Ural Mountains city Chelyabinsk, 1,900 kilometres east of Moscow, to begin a large-scale investigation into hazing at the academy. News agencies said eight servicemen — including officers — were detained.
Defence Minister Sergei Ivanov initially played down the incident, telling Ekho Moskvy radio "there is nothing serious there," but later vowed a full investigation. "We won't cover anything up," he promised.
The incident set off a fresh wave of criticism of a brutal military system that promotes intense hazing and abuse and often leads to killings, suicides and desertions.
"In over 20 years of service as a prosecutor, I haven't seen a more cynical crime ... and more heartless treatment of servicemen by commanding officers," Chief Military Prosecutor Alexander Savenkov told the Interfax news agency.
Authorities also failed to notify Sychev's mother, Galina, until after his first amputation. "Why didn't anyone tell me: `Come here, your son is in grave condition'?" she asked.
Sychev, unable to speak, scribbled the name of his most cruel tormentor on a piece of paper, his mother said.
Prosecutors said one of the detained servicemen, Sgt. Alexander Siyakov, had been charged with abuse of power. The chief of the military's General Staff, Col.-Gen. Yuri Baluyevsky, said he was outraged by the crime and promised to punish officers in charge of the academy.
But military experts and activists for soldiers' rights doubt this latest incident will lead to any real changes.
"The military is falling apart and every year it gets worse and worse," says Valentina Melnikova, from the Committee of Soldiers' Mothers. "But the people in charge don't want changes, they don't want to create a normal military because they benefit from the way things are."
According to official statistics, 16 soldiers died of hazing last year, and the defence ministry says 276 servicemen killed themselves.
But Veronika Marchenko, head of the Mothers' Rights Foundation, an army victim support group, estimates 3,000 soldiers die every year from non-combat-related injuries, with more than half of them killed during hazing or driven to suicide to avoid it.
At the system's heart is the brutal code of dedovshchina, or "the rule of the grandfathers." New recruits are routinely beaten and abused by older soldiers, called grandfathers (dedy).
"Our army is like a gulag, where a person is treated like a slave and the life of a soldier doesn't mean anything," Marchenko says.Russia's top brass has for years been vowing to reform the military by shifting the balance between conscripts and contract troops. But Marchenko says few in the upper ranks are truly interested in switching to a professional army. Most, she says, retain the Soviet-era mentality that military strength can be measured in the number of soldiers. And ending conscription — all Russian men between 18 and 27 must serve two years in the armed forces — would also deprive many officers of a lucrative source of income, she contends.
"It's common for conscripts to be hired out as cheap labour," she says. "The officers don't want changes ... it would take money out of their pockets."

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Searching for hidden Crosses

I took this photo back when we were living at the BLTC. When we go out for walks Tom and I notice the hidden crosses now and then. This cross was found as we were just looking at a gate.

Spencer, Nathan and I just reached Lesson 27. It is another spiritual lesson. Today as we were going over the vocabulary for the lesson Madina had us saying names of God and speaking about Christ,his death on the cross and salvation.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Tom reading with Ira

Ira came over this morning to help her mommy clean our home. Uncle Tom got to read and hold all the toys that Ira wanted around her! Since I was at school Spencer grabbed my camera and took this photo.

I managed to get out of the house and make it out to school today. It was very cold again. -16 Farenheit. Nathan made a valiant attempt to get to school. He made it to the bus stop & starting coughing really badly and decided to go back home. Tom had a sore throat and Spencer said his stomach was not so hot!

My bus ride had an interesting passenger this morning. A dog got on the bus. The conductor asked "whose dog is this?" No one answered. She just pet the dog on the head and let him ride! First he was sitting across from and then he changed seats and sat behind me. He was still riding when I got off 7 stops later. Not sure where he was headed.... perhaps he was going to visit a friend! Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

what is going on in Oregon?

Just to be fair that Russia is not the only place with weird news stories I thought I would share this one with you all today!
Oh and we are warming up here... we are at -24 up from -32!

Man arrested for throwing own prosthetic legs
Mon Jan 23, 10:18 PM ET
An Oregon man hurled both of his prosthetic legs at a state trooper, striking him with one, after his son was arrested on suspicion of drunken driving, police said on Monday.
The incident on Friday began when the trooper stopped a sport utility vehicle going the wrong way on a highway in southern Oregon.
The trooper at first detained only the driver, Adam Kackstetter, 26, after he became aggressive. But then his father, Joel Kackstetter, 53, a passenger in the vehicle, grew hostile, a police spokesman said.
The senior Kackstetter charged at the arresting officer several times before the trooper knocked him to the ground, according to the police report.
"Passenger removed a prosthetic leg and threw it at trooper, hitting trooper in chest. Passenger removed second leg, threw it at trooper but missed," the report said.
The father and son face multiple charges including assault on a public safety officer.
"It got to be quite a dangerous situation. I think the officer used a lot of discretion and restraint in the amount of force that he used in this situation," said Ed Caleb, Klamath County district attorney.
A lawyer for the Kackstetters could not be immediately reached for comment.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Snow Day

About half of the students went to school today. As I post this everyone is in bed. Michelle just left about a half hour ago and it is 3AM. This is our current temperature:
-32 degree Celsius = -25.6 degree Fahrenheit.

Michelle came over to stay warm. Our apartment is very toasty. We have double paned glass windows from Germany. They are the best!

Tomorrow is officially a snow day! We have the movie Cool Hand Luke that we borrowed from Janet and Patrick. We finished the first four episodes of the second season of LOST. Janet and Patrick had those also! they also loaned us CSI to watch and some episodes of Invasion. We watched all of the commercials when we were watching LOST. It was actually fun to see American commercials again. Here we see many alcohol commercials. We notice in the 4hours of LOST there was only one beer ad. It seemed weird.

Tomorrow is Tom's birthday. His folks called him tonight and it was great to hear their voices. Spencer was telling people at school that Tom is 403. He is really only 43! I will be making pizza and blonde brownies. I have soup leftover and a pan of cornbread so tomorrow's lunch is already done.

We are 940 miles south of Moscow... and yes it is a record cold here too!

Sunday, January 22, 2006

снег идёт

Snow, snow and more snow! Tom spoke at church today on Trust and did a great job. A few of our classmates from school came to hear him speak. Ann, Robert, Bill and Andrew. Tom said that even he would not come out in this weather to hear him speak. He thanked the crazy Americans for coming to hear him... as we walked home Ann said "I cannot believe we are out here in this weather, Tom is not that good a speaker!" I said "I only came because I am married to him." Tom knows we love him but, it sure is cold out there!

We are wondering if this snow will give us a snow day from school. It has been snowing since late last night and there is no sign of it stopping. I think there is about 6 inches of accumulation out there! Posted by Picasa

What Do You Do With a Drunken Elephant?

Drunk Elephant Wreaks Havoc in Chilly Russian Circus
Created: 20.01.2006 11:59 MSK (GMT +3), Updated: 11:59 MSK
A Russian circus resorted to giant vodka cocktails in an attempt to protect performing elephants from extreme cold. One of the animals got so drunk it nearly destroyed the circus, the AFP reported Friday.
The clear liquor was added to the animals’ water buckets as they began to feel the chill of temperatures as low as minus 30 degrees Celsius (minus 22 degrees Fahrenheit), trainer Andrei Kornilov said.
“This is crisis weather for our animals. It is a climactic shock. We are warming them up with alcohol,” he said at the Around the World circus in the city of Yaroslavl, 250 kilometres (155 miles) northeast of Moscow.
The tipple comprising a bottle of Russia’s national drink stirred into a bucket of iced water had a rapid and sometimes unpredictable effect, he said.
“Yesterday we gave one of the elephants a bucket and the circus lost its heater —- the elephant just tore it off.”
Zookeepers took a similar approach in the town of Lipetsk, south of Moscow, keeping macaque monkeys warm with sweet wine taken three times per day.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Tea Party

Lisa prepared a beautiful table for us and we had a great time at her house. When we were on the way home Mike (Kathy's husband) asked us what we did. We told him we drew pictures, ate, talked and laughed over girl things. He said "okay, don't tell me then!" We really did do all those things, HONEST! Posted by Picasa

Marathon ended!

Last night was the final night of another LOST marathon. Michelle came over around noon and then went home shortly after 1am. Now we need to get the second season from Janet and Patrick. I think they have the first five episodes on video.

The boys joked about giving Michelle a prize for successfully spending 12 consecutive hours with us! It would be like a certificate of achievement.

Today Tom is finishing up his message for tomorrow.
Nathan is still asleep.
Spencer is reminiscing through old photos.
And I have a tea party to attend at 3pm.

What a lazy day!

Friday, January 20, 2006

O Christmas trees!

Here is a babushka burning old Christmas. She kept throwing them on the pile and the flames would get higher and higher. Trash is still burned here on the streets. I remember when I was growing up and my grandmother had an old metal barrel that all the trash was burned in. Then the environmental movement started and people no longer burned their own trash anymore. I remember not being allowed to go near that trash barrel. But, here it is out in the open where anyone can walk by.

This is the field that the trees were being burned in. We watch children play soccer or (now) hockey on this field.

It is very cold here now. And these boys are out there having a good time... while we watch from the warmth of our apartment.

Today's temperature had Olya and Lena complaining about how cold it is. Remember this is the warm part of Russia. Normally, it snows and does not stick. We have had snow on the ground for about two weeks now. Today the wind kicked up and it was "a nightmare"(kazh-MAR). None of us went to work today. Spencer got a call from Judi H. to tell him not to come in for the Children's Home. She had been out with Mikey and it took them over an hour to walk home. We have to walk slowly and deliberately here to avoid falling on the icy sidewalks and roads.

Olya said that Vova had a hard time driving on the ice today. He said it was "OO-zhas" (Horrible). I am sure our friends and family in California are enjoying the weather there. The only person I know who is loving the Krasnodar weather right now is Michelle. It reminds her of her home in Canada!

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Dinner out with Dave and Sherri

The photo shows more of us than of them. It was taken by the host at the restaurant on Old New Year. The people in costume are all MEN! And they all have their drinks in hand. They walked around the restaurant toasting at every table. The guy in the middle looks like he has had waaaay too much to drink... look how big and red his nose is!

Thanks Dave & Sherri for sending the photo so we could show it off to our family and friends.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

HA-konets (finally!)

Last night we finally got our long awaited bookshelves! The guys delivered them and then set them up. This is a piece designed by Tom. It was custom built for around 700$. If we had purchased this in a store it would have been around 2000$. We are grateful for friends who watch out for us. The man who built them also did the Olya's mother's kitchen! Lena and Olya assured me of how the quality of his work so we had him over to measure and give us an estimate. He is also going to do shelves for Nathan and Spencer's rooms. And built Tom and I new closet. We are going slow with the furnishings. Only purchasing things by priority and as we can afford it.

Today at school we spent the whole break time laughing. Tom and Joyce B. kept us all in stitches. They went from quoting movie lines to Satuday Night Live sketches. Some of the younger students just listened and laughed. We have been watching Saturday Night live since the days of John Belushi. Tom and Joyce came up with an idea for a sketch involving sidekicks from various TV shows. They came up with a long list of names like Festus from Gunsmoke and Barney Fife from Mayberry RFD.

Spencer had a hard time keeping a straight face in class. Towards the end of the school day Judi H. waved at Spencer through the glass doors and made faces at him. After Judi it was Tania the director's turn. She waved her arms back and forth really big. You know, like "look over here!" Spencer could barely contain himself. Goar, our teacher noticed Spencer was looking at someone and tried to see who was out there!

We got a package from Andover, Kansas. "BIG THANKS" to John P. for the new 501 Verbs book! Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Common Bonds

I fell today. My wrist is wrapped up. Kathy, a nurse, told me I must have jammed it when I put out my hand to break my fall. My whole body is sore. But, since Kathy is sure it's not broken and it's not quite a sprain I am happy!

All of us have taken a spill now. Last night I thought it was going to be my turn... my neighbor, from downstairs, warned me to be careful as he was on his way home. Then I had Maj-Lis and Joyce H. holding my arms as we walked to the bus stop. I slipped but didn't go down. It was interesting having these women hold me up. I had just left a meeting with the women of BLTC. Joyce had prayed for me and I had prayed for Maj-lis. We were instructed to pray for the woman on our left. We walked to the bus stop the same way we were sitting!

The meeting went well. I had expected the meeting to be in English since all of the women I knew of that were going were English speakers. But, when I got there and saw Lena Rajabov and Larissa I realised that the meeting would be in Russian. I did well. I spent two hours listening and speaking. I gave my first prayer request in Russian.

I asked for myself and my family to speak and understand more and more.

1) A Woman's library has been started at the school. They are open to donations of cash or books for the library. If you purchase books they need to be in Russian.

2) Women will be coming to school in the fall from all over Russia. Christina is going to be researching the cultural background of each woman so that we will be better able to serve each woman.

3) The Christian Preschool is going forward. We don't know at this point how many women are coming with children but there is a two room house that will serve as the building. I will let everyone know what items are needed as we get further along.

4) Most of the women had prayer requests about husbands traveling to teach in various cities throughout Russia. I realized that when language school is over I will be making the same requests about Tom.

Please pray about the new students and families that will be coming to the BLTC in the fall. Pray that the school has made wise choices in who to admit. One of the ladies said that sometimes churches like to nominate people who have been a problem in their home church to "straighten" them out. We pray that everyone who is coming is ready to actually be there and is not just running away from a bad situation!

Valodya is traveling to speak at another church and Klaus is alone. Alexei has been away in Moscow and Jim H. is there too. So Tom has been asked to speak again to give Klaus a break. Tom is preparing a message for Sunday so keep him in your prayers as well.

Tom is speaking about Trust. A much needed topic here! It is hard for people to trust one another and God.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Lost Weekend!

Mich also known as Michelle came over and watched the first half of the Lost series. She left here at one am last night! Today we all managed to make it to school on time despite having gotten little sleep.

Janet says that they have the first 5 shows of the second season and we can hardly wait to get our hands on them. We wouldn't even mind watching commercials in English. It has been 9 months since we have seen any!

I found a copy of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire in English so we are watching that today. Lena came as we were about an hour in so we had to pause it and will start it back up again this evening!

I am going to attend a meeting tonight with the women who are connected with the BLTC. I am excited to be invited to help with whatever project they are working on. I think they are trying to start a Christian Preschool. It will be a great service to the community if we can get this off the ground!

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Holiday Cheer!

Tom read this article to me yesterday and I thought you all might get a chuckle or two out of it! I totally enjoyed the Kwaanza reference!

http://www.themoscowtimes.com/stories/2006/01/13/006.html Friday, January 13, 2006. Page 8.

A Land of Never-Ending Holidays
By Mark H. Teeter

At this point you're almost numb: You've been celebrating holidays for something like a month and a half and you're asking yourself (or your liver is asking you) Haven't we had enough fun yet?
No, you haven't. Obviously. The table was barely cleared after Saturday's Russian Christmas feast when your friends announced that yet another holiday, this one bafflingly called Old New Year, was looming nigh, Jan. 14. Now you're wondering aloud to anyone within earshot: Is there no end to this revelry? Am I stuck in college forever?
Let us help. The first thing you need are facts: The reason January is overwhelmed with holidays goes back to a historical difference between the Eastern and Western church calendars (Julian vs. Gregorian) that created a 14-day "lag time" in the observance of certain holidays here -- so unlike the familiar U.S. version, Russian Orthodox Kwanzaa is celebrated on Jan. 8. Similarly, the always colorful Chinese New Year is marked differently in some parts of Russia, particularly in Khabarovsk, where this December most of the city's population "gathered by the river" to welcome the Year of the Toxic Fire Dog with toasts of bottled water as they waved traditional "fists of friendship" at their Asian neighbors upriver.
Fun is fun, but it's time to prepare your most treasured internal organs for the ordeal of the rest of January. Circle the following events on your calendar so they don't sneak up and mug your intestinal tract in a dark podezd:
United Russia Day (Jan. 15): This is traditionally observed either by small groups of intimate friends wearing bear suits (brown or white) or by large groups of youths wearing matching hats and t-shirts as they spontaneously demonstrate for or against something their leaders evidently like or don't.
Rodina Day (Jan. 19): To an outsider this may look like a simple watermelon eating contest, but to the native eye there is much more: People in imitation bear suits (white only) get together in small groups while large groups of youthful wannabes wearing matching hats and t-shirts spontaneously demonstrate for ... Oh, there is also a traditional game of throwing watermelon rinds at pictures of people darker than you and then denying you did it.
LDPR Day (Jan. 21): We know what you're thinking: Upside Down Day! And you're right, this is the festive day for people who call themselves Liberal and Democratic but hate liberals and democrats; who are ardent racists but accuse others of racism; and who can tie their own neckties but haven't learned to button up their shirts yet. Most participants claim they are intelligent and good looking. Guess what.
Yabloko-SPS Unity Day (Jan. 23): This is one of the few Russian holidays that proudly boasts a tradition of not being observed, as the high-dome celebrants can never agree on when, where, how or even if they should get together for the occasion. If that sounds like about the stupidest holiday for smart people you've ever heard of, you're getting the picture.
Mayor's Day (Jan. 26): A pull-out-the-stops celebration of Hizzoner, featuring everything from academic seminars on patronage distribution and machine politics (the social science known as luzhkovovedeniye) to elaborately uninspiring street festivals that somehow get unlimited air time on Moscow's TV Center (the channel known as luzhkovovideniye). The message is Cheer up or get outta town, ya bums -- Sincerely yours, Richard J., er, Yury M. Luzhkov.
Old Believer Groundhog Day (Feb. 2): Bringing the holiday parade to a merciful end is this one-day semi-religious festival in which a small but persistent Russian sect continues to mark Groundhog Day as they believe it was meant to be observed -- before the Americans, and especially Bill Murray, turned this traditional Siberian shaman ritual into a cheesy Hollywood parody of all that pagan animists hold dear. A great deal of independently produced alcohol is consumed (some by groundhogs) after which holidays in general and strong drink in particular are sworn off by the participants until either Felix Dzerzhinsky Truth or Consequences Day or the next Reformed Shi'ite Kwanzaa, whichever comes first.

Mark H. Teeter is opinion page editor of The Moscow Times
© Copyright 2006 The Moscow Times. All rights reserved.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Love hurts!

Tom is sitting on Spencer's lap. I think Spencer is enjoying (?) the quality time he gets with his papa!

Someone needs to go to the grocery store but no one wants to face the cold and ice.

Tom and I finished making things for the new store. Tom did jewelry and I made some vases and candle holders out of glass jars trimmed with beads. Looks like we are set to deliver on time! Posted by Picasa

Friday, January 13, 2006

Old New Year

What is Old New Year?
Here in Russia it is another reason to get drunk, shoot off fireworks, dress up in costume, get drunk, shoot off more fireworks and holler out
"SNO-vim GO-dahm"
as loud as you can! Oh yeah, and maybe get drunk!

Why "Old New Year" ?
Here is info from the Russian Cuisine website:
The Romans began numbering years from the date when Rome was founded. After Rome was conquered by Egyptians, Julius Caesar introduced the solar year with an extra day every fourth year, based on a Babylonian model.
But then at 527 A.D. a Roman abbot Dionysius Exiguus brought in the new years numbering as Anno Domini, starting from Jesus' birth. However, every 131 years the calendar would be off by one day since the distance the earth traveled around the sun grew shorter from 365.2422 to 365.2419 days.
Pope Gregory XIII commissioned, a friend of Galileo, Christopher Clavius to reform the calendar. And Christopher did it by using mathematics and astronomy to calculate the new calendar year. Unfortunately, his Gregorian reform was not accepted by the Orthodox Church which considered it as a Roman intrusion, and Protestant countries were reluctant as well.
England adopted the modern calendar only in 1751, and Orthodox Russia was forced to adopt the new changes when Bolsheviks came to power in 1917.
So Russians still celebrate Christmas on January 7th, and second New Year on January 13th.

Russian: С Новым годом!
pronunciation: SNO-vim GO-dahm!

Russian: Счастливого Нового года!
pronunciation: shchis-LEE-vah-vah NO-vah-vah GO-dah!

We went out to dinner tonight at Madyar with Dave and Shari. It is a very nice place and they usually require reservations. We found that we were able to slip in "if" we agreed to only stay for two hours. We didn't think much of it. But, we were asked again to remember that we could only stay two hours before we even ordered our food. Well, we sat down and ate then Dave asked for the check at about 8:15. At exactly 8:30 they cranked up the music and people started toasting. Then men dressed in costume came in and people started getting their pictures taken with these guys! Shari had her camera so she took a few pictures. I didn't take mine not knowing it was a holiday.

Shari will send us a copy of the photo. We are posing with one guy who kind of looked like a clown. And the other two were definitely dressed like women! That is part of the joy of being in another culture for New Year's. Shari said the best way to descirbe New Year here is "it's Halloween, Fourth of July and Christmas all rolled into one holiday."

That is exactly it... so SNO-vim GO-dahm everyone!

11 months until 25th anniversary

I have a ticker that counts down to our big event. Unfortunately, I have not been able to post it here. I logged on to a message board today and saw that we have 11 months to go. We are thinking of going to St.Petersburg to visit the Hermitage Museum in December. It is the second largest museum in the world. The Louvre being the largest.

It will be a cultural trip too. We keep hearing how different things are in St. Petersburg even though it is still Russia! Several Russians have told us that it is their dream to go there.

Today we have a meeting with our supervisor Dave and will meet his wife Shari for the first time. I can let you know how it went afterwards. They are here visiting from Moscow. The only reason I am not looking forward to going out is due to the ice outside. It is still dangerous to be walking out there!

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Here's the plan...

Okay, so I’m gonna light the fire and you get on the swing!

Nathan and I were watching these two young teenage boys playing down by the swings. One of them decides to light a fire under the swing set. The other kid is swinging back and forth on the swing.

Why? We have stopped looking for logic where none exists!

sick day

Only Spencer got up to school to school today. I could not sleep last night and when I don't sleep my muscles get tense. Tom had another fall yesterday and he was feeling a lot of pain as well. Nathan choose not to go in since he had several falls yesterday and doesn't really like public transportation to begin with.


We had a meeting with another store owner yesterday. She wants Tom's jewelry but she also wants some of the other things she saw at my house. She is interested in souveniers. I made a few jars with beads on them and Tom worked up some new jewelry. We need to get everything ready by Saturday so it can go into her store before she leaves on her business trip to Moscow. We are gearing up for Valentine's Day and then Woman's Day is March 8th. We are trying to make things from Russian materials that will appeal to the women and the people in their lives who will buy the gifts. We don't really make much of a profit on what we sell. But, we are meeting business people and making some good contacts for our work here. Networking is very important here. Everything seems to be run on the system of "who you know and who knows you". Trust is a major cultural issue and people like to work and do business with people they know.

Olya did a great job setting up the appointment. And she was here for the meeting. Slavic thinks we should open a store. I don't think we are ready for that yet. We really need to focus on school. The business just kind of sprang out of our hobbies!

Hopefully, Tom and I will feel well enough to get the samples made and be prepared for the Valentines Day retail push!

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

You know it's slippery when...

You know it's slippery outside when:

you see the crows sliding on the sidewalk

small children refuse to walk and want to be pulled along

mothers are using sleds instead of strollers

you see blood on the sidewalk and just keep on walking

no one is pushing anyone off the bus at the exits

the taxi drivers are actually going slow

you judge your success by how many times you slipped but didn't fall

The snow that fell yesterday is today's ice on the ground. The sun was actually out for a short time today. That could mean another layer of ice if it gets cold again! Yesterday it was snowing and was -5 outside.

We caught a ride home with Mike and Kathy again. I needed to go to the supermarket so Nathan and I were able to make that trip when Mike dropped us off. The cashier would not take one of my one hundred ruble bills. I think she was just in a bad mood. She didn't look real thrilled that we came through her line. They usually don't scan the hundreds just the one thousands and the five hundreds. But, I don't see what the big deal was...the bill came from the store to begin with. Now I just have to use it again until I can get someone else to take it!

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Danger, Danger!

The streets are very dangerous today. It is snowing and now the snow is covering the ice. Oy! Tom fell twice and Spencer and Nathan each fell once. I was walking very sloooowly and made it home with no mishaps!

I got a ride home from Mike and Kathy. It was nice not to have to walk all the way down the driveway and then up the four blocks to the bus stop. I rode home with Rochelle and Anna and Judy B. Anna was so cute all bundled up for the winter weather!

Judy H. has pneumonia in both lungs. She is not expecting to make it back to school anytime soon. Please pray for her. As a mom of four it is not easy for her to be out of commision!

Class was good today. I remembered a lot and got back into the swing of things. Nathan's class got out early. Tom just got back from the post office. I can't wait to open my box. It is from Anaheim Hills so I think it is Good Earth tea!

Anyway, we are all back from school and for now we are staying inside where it is safe!

Monday, January 09, 2006

Vacation is Over!

Okay, so nobody is ready to go back to school. But, that is exactly where we will be tomorrow! Lena came over today and worked with us on our vocabulary words and verbs. It was a good language time. She also worked with each person on what they needed help with. We are grateful to have her.

Alexei is teaching at a workshop in Moscow. Please pray for that group.

Lena's mom is visiting from Ukraine. She is staying with Vova and Olya. Olya called and said she will come in to work for us tomorrow. She wanted to spend time with her mother in law today. Tom and I were talking about how great it is that Lena and Olya get along so well. You cannot even apply typical stereotypes to their family. Lena and Olya are really good friends. And that is rare to see with in laws here.

Brownie is not enjoying how cold it is here. I agree with her. Spencer is finally wanting me to make her a sweater. I don't know if I am up to it and she already has a blanket that I made for her in her kennel that she sleeps with! It's a dogs life for sure!

The sleet turned into ice on the streets. Just a short trip to the supermarket is very dangerous. Nathan went with me today to help me carry the groceries home and help me up if I fell. They put down sand here on the streets and sidewalks. Salt is reserved for food and considered to expensive to use on the streets. Tom deiced the church property on Saturday with salt. He spent a few dollars on two bags of salt and salted the driveway and sidewalks three times. When we got to church the next morning everything was perfectly clear and easy to walk on!

Tomorrow we will be getting back to a normal schedule. No more movie marathons! We have to be awake and on the bus bright and early. OY!

Sunday, January 08, 2006


I spent about two hours after church speaking with a woman who truly needs Al-Anon. Tom complimented my patience. She just needed to get her whole story out to someone. And then hear if she had done the right thing. I affirmed her and gave her my phone number.

When an alcoholic tries to make you feel like you are the reason they are drinking and only you can help them... it is time to get far far away from that alcoholic until he/she gets his/her head together! Your dollars will not get them sober.

Remember you cannot control someone else's drinking and you are powerless to get them sober! I think it helped that she could see Tom and know that he has been sober for 18 years and I did nothing to make that happen. He did it all by himself. And his recovery remains between him and God. It is not about me and never will be!

We need to get Al-Anon literature in Russian and English. I have to get online and get an order placed. I knew that I would be working here but I didn't expect to be able to speak with others so soon. She spoke English until she didn't know the correct words. Then she switched to Russian. Pray for us to continue to be available when we are needed. And that we will have the wisdom to know what we can and cannot do!

Pray also for our learning Russian and for God's timing on when to start new meetings. We have not started Al-Anon yet but it is obvious how much it is needed.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Merry Orthodox Christmas!

The guys have all gone over to clean the church. It is our turn... very democratic idea they put all the church families on a list and then call you to remind you when you are scheduled to clean!

There is a HUGE Christmas party at the church tonight. People have invited their neighbors and friends who don't go to church. So far I think they are expecting at least five visitors. Not much, but it is a start!

I have to go out into the freezing snow and get the ingredients to make a salad for the event. When there is a party it means food, games and skits. Tonight should be fun. Spencer and I will make sure our batteries are good so we can take a lot of photos!

again, Merry Orthodox Christmas!

Friday, January 06, 2006

Lost Marathon

In the latest paackage we recieved from Tom's folks we found the first season of Lost. The guys started their marathon yesterday and reluctantly went to bed at 1:30 am after watching the first 12 episodes!

Right now they have just gotten started on the final 12 episodes... I wonder what time they will make it to bed tonight? Thank goodness we are on break from school! Lena is coming over at 3 this afternoon so they will have to take a break when she comes. Unless they decide to keep watching and use the language time to translate the show for Lena!

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Don't Tell them the Score!

A group of guys are going over to watch the Rose Bowl game at Robert's house on Friday. We were teasing Spencer yesterday about the fact that since he reads the news daily online that he is probably going to find out and then spill it! He protested but sure enough he found out the score this morning and is about to burst! He tried to tell me and I said no! It will be interesting to see if all the guys can keep from hearing about the game before tomorrow!

Nathan is off at the church today for another rehearsal. They are putting on a skit for Christmas on Saturday (Orthodox Christmas) and it has to be perfect. Nathan has an easy part with no lines! He has played this role before as an infant... his character is Jesus! He played the role at four months old in a play in Kansas. So this is his reprise?

Mom's green chiles arrived today. Now, I can do some of the recipes in the Soutwestern Cookbook she sent me. I guess that means we should have some of the people from Texas over to taste test. They are eager for some of the tastes they have missed from home. Ann even has a Texas shaped pan that she bakes her cornbread in. I think I ate southern Texas when we had chili and cornbread with them the other night!

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Who else is on the bus?

Alexei and Lena traveled back from seeing his parents by bus. They said it was very crowded and that there were people standing the whole way. One passenger who didn't have to stand was a capuchin monkey. He was with his owner wrapped in a blanket.

The monkey was asked to shake hands with his "Uncle Alexei"! Alexei and Lena are thinking about getting a monkey instead of having a baby. Alexei says the monkey won't outgrow his clothes and will be very helpful!


Today we worked with Lena on verbs. We go back to school on Monday and it is amazing how much we have forgotten in just a week and a half!

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Olimp Zamboni

We made it to the ice show early enough to see the zamboni at work. See the men out there on the ice? The have a 2 liter bottle of water and they are checking the ice for divets. Each time they find one they pour water over it. They walked the entire surface before the show!

The Nutcracker was beautiful. Afterwards we took a stroll down on Krasnaya and found a few video's at the new store Pheonix.

One of the movies we found was something that is not out in the theatre in the US yet. We have not purchased it. It is hard here to always find legitmate copies of movies. The copyrights don't seem to mean much. As soon as a "distributor" finds a movie they copy it and make it available.

We ended the day with Robert and Ann. Their sons are here from Texas. We ate chili and corn bread. I took over a peach cobbler not knowing how much Robert loves peach cobbler. I am glad I made a big one. I used the 13 x 9 inch pan. With their two sons 26, 23 and ours 18, 15 along with Robert and Tom eating it up I didn't bring anything home!

We watched The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and Orange County. It was fun to watch movies with them. Ben does digital photo work and their whole family watches for how the digital effects and the sets look as they view the movie. So it seems we are not the only ones who watch with a critical eye. Nathan even got online and looked up answers to questions people had during Orange County.

If you are one of Nathan's online friends I am sorry that he had to say goodbye to you during the evening. I was tired of listening to the typing noise in the background. He can play later!

Monday, January 02, 2006


The fireworks are still going off. Brownie (Spencer's dog) is settling down though. She has had a rough weekend. She was allowed to come into the living room and curl up in the corner on New Year's. Alexei said it was the first time she let him pet her and show her some love. He says it was because he showed up dressed like a Californian. He was wearing shorts, t-shirt and a Hawaiian print shirt over that. It was cold and rainy outside but he was determined to tease Tom!

We are supposed to go see the Nutcracker on ice today. Hopefully, we will actually see the show we paid for! Last time the star was ill so they put on a different show.

Nathan and Tom are still asleep and it is about 10:15am I will let them sleep just a bit longer before I go in and wake them up for the trip across town to the ice rink.

Spencer has showered is dressed and ready to go.... we are not quite sure if he is really a Sharp. Maybe, this getting up and getting ready early skips a generation!

Sunday, January 01, 2006

January 1st, 2006

Lena and Alexei left our home at three in the morning! Spencer went to bed around 11:30 pm. He had a great meal with us but missed the movie and the fireworks outside on the streets below! Tom fell asleep shortly after our friends went on to the next house. Nathan called just as they were walking out the door to say that he was staying out all night. We had assumed that he would. It was nice to get the call confirming that he was safe with his friends.

I made a peach cobbler, apple pie and some Russian Teacakes for dessert. The cobbler was a big hit. Tom said it was almost as good as Auntie Martha’s is. He says I am getting close! I think he just wants me to keep practicing... he likes to eat the results. Alexei also had seconds of the cobbler. I bought vanilla ice cream to go with it and it was tasty!

We watched a traditional Russian movie, took a 20-minute break to watch the fireworks on the streets outside and then returned to the movie. Being on the fourth floor was great. We had a safe place to view the fireworks. Some people were shooting fireworks off their balconies. We just kept our windows closed and watched in awe! Alexei called several different groups of young guys hooligans! They were getting more and more daring as they lit each one. With having the fireworks here for purchase coming from China, it was such a beautiful and powerful array of fireworks. We did not see anything professional like we have seen on the Fourth of July in America... set to music and all. Just groups of families and friends putting on their own shows!

Church was interesting. Klaus was speaking. Loud booming fireworks were going off outside and children were crying in the mother’s room. Try listening to a sermon in Russian while all chaos is breaking loose around you! I think Klaus was talking about being a new person... I told Klaus he did a good job keeping his focus during all that.

Tom and I just got a rough copy of the English version of the movie Klaus is making about the church. Why did we get a copy? Our voices are the doing the English! We are helping with editing. We look forward to being able to share the movie with you all so that you can see what the church is dong!