Saturday, December 29, 2007

Tom's 1st Seminar @ Open Door Church

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Today was the final day of Tom's 1st seminar at our church. He taught every Saturday for 8 weeks without a break!

Here he is with Dima, an excellent translator!

Tom is planning to do more teaching times at our church and at the BLTC. We need to sit down and make out a schedule for 2008. This seminar went very well and was well received by all who attended.

The themes Tom focused on were:
The Family as a System
Understanding Shame
Overcoming Shame
4 weeks on Character Development
Stage one: Bonding and Attachment
Stage two: Boundaries and Autonomy
Stage three: Accepting both Good and Bad in Myself and Other People
Stage four: Resolving the Parent/Child Position (Becoming a Responsible Adult)

Tom has discovered the need for teaching parenting skills, communication skills and personal boundaries are universal topics and these topics are all on tap for 2008!!

Friday, December 28, 2007

Alida's Caramel Apple Cider

Friday, December 28, 2007

Here is a recipe I came up with yesterday...

Alida's Caramel Apple Cider
About 16 oz. Apple juice
1 stick of cinnamon
Caramel sauce (the topping for ice cream is what I used)
whip cream

Heat apple juice with the cinnamon stick until it just starts to boil. Pour into mug. Add caramel sauce and whip cream to your taste. It serves two!

Tom and I enjoyed this last night... it reminds me of the drink I used to order at Starbucks, only it doesn't cost as much to make it myself!

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Nothing much going on here

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Spencer and I went over to help a new family clean the house they are moving into. It was a fun time of shopping for cleaning supplies, cleaning, taking a short break for pizza and then getting back to work!

We truly enjoyed spending time with Carrie, Tim and the kids... they can already speak Russian so they are going to do great here.

We came here not even knowing the alphabet!

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

You’re going where?

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

"Alida, where are you and Tom off to?"

"The circus"!

"no, WHERE are you two going?"

"to the Chinese circus!"


"The Chinese circus!"

"ooooh, you mean CIRCUS?"

"Yeeees.... wait, what did I say?"

"You said Chinese cheese!"

"Ooooh! I’m sorry, I thought I was saying circus!"

I said “sear” and what I should have said was “tseark”… the joys of speaking Russian! At least I gave someone a good laugh for the day!

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Ded Moroz and Snegurochka!

Tuesday, Christmas Day, 2007

I decided to post a few photos from Tuesday's party at the BLTC.

Here is Ded Moroz(Grandfather Frost) with his helper (and granddaughter) Snegurochka. This year Ded Moroz is Alezander and his granddaughter is the lovely Miss Hannah H.

Have you ever seen little ones work so hard to get presents! First they had to shoot baskets, then they had to win a game of tug-o-war and finally they had to sing or recite a poem!

Monday, December 24, 2007

Merry Christmas!

Monday, Christmas Eve, 2007

Of course posting this photo makes me miss Nathan! This is our first Christmas photo with just the three of us. We were at a party today and will be with our East West team tomorrow.

We pray that you and your loved ones have a very blessed, love-filled and merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 23, 2007

our humble little tree

Sunday, December 23, 2007

I put up our tree this weekend and finished up decorating for Christmas. It is difficult to get into the spirit of Christmas here in Russia. Orthodox Christmas is not until January 7th. The most popular gift giving time is New Year's Eve. Trees are put up for New Years and Ded Moroz makes his appearance that evening.

Our tree is special to us. Tom found it in the market on his way home one evening last year.... he made the silver and burgundy ornaments last year for our 25th wedding anniversary decorations.

The santa is from my dear friend Erin, he is Russian Santa Pooh! And today is a special day in Erin's household... her oldest daughter Rhianna is three years old! Happy Birthday Sweetheart!

Saturday, December 22, 2007

I can make sushi!

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Sushi with crab, black mushrooms and cucumber.

Joyce conducted a sushi class today! There were eight of us together, Russian and American women... Joyce walked us through step by step and each one of us had a turn rolling them up.

I love how encouraging the Russian women are. As each one of us went up for her turn the Russians were quick to make comments like "good job!" "perfect" "great!" "you are a master!"

The supportive and warm environment made the experience a fun one. And I for one was amazed at how easy making sushi really is!

Friday, December 21, 2007

early spring cleaning

Friday, December 21, 2007

Our bookcases were a mess. We had books double stacked and laying sideways on top of books standing up... I decided that before I could decorate for Christmas, I had to do something with that bookcase! This was no small task. The bookcase is floor to ceiling and goes the full length of the wall.

I organized the books by subject matter and as I cleared a shelf I dusted it off. Tom and Spencer also helped with deciding what to keep and what to give away.

We ended up with six bags of books to give to the International School for their library. It was a relief to get it all done and we have decided that we should do this as a yearly project!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

slip sliding away!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

There is a thin layer of ice covering the ground. My new boots that I thought were so lovely have no traction. I am thankful that I stayed up right as I was coming home yesterday evening.

It is -1 right now... and we are certainly feeling it deep in our bones!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

wish list 2007

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

I didn't post a Christmas list this year... I am not sure why. I think I started a list and then time got away from me. Then there was the whole visa thing and not being sure of where we would be for Christmas... and now Christmas is almost here and I went another year without watching my favorite Christmas movies... if anyone is interested in some of the things we dream about having here is the list. Just click the button!

My Wish List

If you are interested in furnishing us with some supplies we could always use some of these!
Chocolate chips
Chocolate Kisses
Blank CD-R’s
Pure Vanilla
Spices: Cream of Tartar, Fennel Seeds, Anise, Pumpkin Pie Spice, Sage, Taco Bell Taco Seasoning, etc.
Cake Mixes (no chocolate)
Instant Pudding
Scented Candles
Thank you notes, note cards, stationary (anything like this)
Gift bags or wrapping paper
Reality TV like The Amazing Race!
Women’s socks white
Men’s socks black

that's not appropriate

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The lesson we just finished at Language school is about what is not appropriate to talk about. Apparently some of the same subjects that people don't like to talk about in the US are the same ones we should not bring up here.

Painful Past
anything too personal

Of course the rules are different for close friends. But, think of what you feel comfortable sharing in a circle of friends, at church or at an office party.... we don't always lay it all out there for the world.

We try to have boundaries and say what is appropriate. Isn't it interesting to know that others do it too!

Monday, December 17, 2007

baby it's cold outside!

Monday, December 17, 2007

Transport was running slow today... and it is zero degrees outside! Spencer and I walked almost a mile and half home from where the bus stopped. We could not see anything wrong with the bus, the driver just made an announcement and told us "something happened" and he was pulling into the depot.

As we were walking home a man jumped out from behind a building and I screamed... it was Tom. He saw us coming and waited to scare me. Spencer had no reaction; he saw his Dad and didn't warn me.

Aren't I lucky?!

Saturday, December 15, 2007

calling in sick!

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Tom is teaching again today... and I could not make it out the door. I think I have the stomach flu that Tom and Spencer had last week. What fun! I don't like missing out on anything but I could not get myself out of bed to go and help out with the seminar.

Tom has two more Saturdays until this seminar is over... please keep him in your prayers that he stays healthy and strong until the end!

Friday, December 14, 2007

glimpse of Christmas!

Friday, December 14, 2007

Each year the New View Language school has its Christmas early. We do this to include as many students as possible since December is a time when many are traveling for various reasons. This year we had 98% of the students and their families together... only two students or families were not represented!

This year Blythe, Sarah and I planned a very low key celebration. Brennen and Stephanie opened up their home which was a great location. There was room for everyone to move around and be in the same room. Everyone had a great time and it had the feel of a big family get together... take a look at some of the fun!

Tom feeding Joseph

Shari and Ted leading the caroling

Spencer dragging the little ones around!


O Christmas Tree!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

26 years...

Thursday, December 13, 2007

26 years ago today we got married at Pawnee Ave. Church of God. It was a rainy Sunday afternoon.

Last year we had a large banquet and celebrated the day with friends here in Russia. This year all we have planned is attending the Language School Christmas party.

Happy Anniversary to us!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Who is Ded Moroz?

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Russia's Gift giver is called Ded Moroz. Ded is short for Dedooshkah. Which means grandfather and Moroz is the word for frost. So he is Grandfather Frost.

... you can read about him here:

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Visual aids

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Not long ago Alexei spoke at the service and was giving an illustration about the types of gifts God gives. He spoke about God giving us gifts like: peace, joy, wisdom and things that are intangible. Alexei pointed out that God is not like Santa Claus or Ded Moroz.

He gives us the gifts we need to do the work He has called us to do.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Supermarket Surprise!

Monday, December 10, 2007

After seeing the ads on TV and hearing that other people had found it in stores near them... I finally tracked down a bottle for us!

I am sure some of you cannot imagine such a fuss over a bottle of soda. But, it is the simple things here that make us feel comforted. If only we could find Dr. Pepper or Rootbeer. Life here would be grand!

Saturday, December 08, 2007

new garage

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Tom saw this the other day and asked me to get a photo. A new garage was just added to the field across from our building. We have been told that for a Russian man a garage is his sanctuary. Some men go there to avoid being at home, to hang with other men or just to have their own space.

The silver garage was lowered in by the crane and then moved forward to be even with the rest on that row.

Friday, December 07, 2007

gifts galore!

Friday, December 7, 2007

We just recieved our gift package from EastWest! We have a new movie with candy and popcorn for a movie night, Tom got a memory stick, Spencer got a CD and I got shower gel and a candle. What a treat!

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

what happened to Wednesday's post?

Thursday, December 6, 2007

I ran out of time! I had school and then we had a string of three visitors.

No, not the ghosts of Christmas.

Vlad came at 5:45pm , Sasha came over at 6:15 and then Vova came over at 10 and stayed until 12:30am. According to Vova he was leaving early... he said that Russians can easily spend time with friends talking to 3 am!

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

EastWest Day of Prayer

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Our team is getting together to pray this afternoon. The day that Tom and I interviewed with EastWest was also a day of prayer for the staff. We were able to pray with them before having our interview. We both felt that was a great way to begin our relationship with EastWest!

Please take some time today to remember EastWest employees world wide, their families and their work.

If you have questions about EastWest just click here:

Monday, December 03, 2007

Election results

Monday, December 3, 2007

It looks like United Russia has over 63% of the vote giving them control of Parliament. Followed by the Communist Party 11%, Liberal Democratic Party 8.5 % and Just Russia (just as in fair) 8%. My statistics came from a news program I watched here this morning.

Here is a more complete article:
Putin's Party Overwhelms Russia Election

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Election Day

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Today is election day for the Duma (parliament). Please pray for the direction of this country. Voting started in the Far Eastern regions of Chukotka and Kamchatka while we here in Krasnodar headed to bed Saturday night.

Here are a few links to news articles about the election:

FACTBOX: Key facts about Russia parliamentary election

Russia's election under fire

Voting starts in Russian election

Friday, November 30, 2007

dirt or mud?

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Stephanie made two birthday cakes for Megan. One called "dirt" and the other called "mud". And as you can see they both had gummy worms in them!

After Steph explained to the kids what kind of cakes she had to offer she asked one child which he would prefer. He thought for a while and in a very serious tone he said " I'll have the dirt!"

The dirt was good, but I like the mud better!!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

a mighty wind!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Cold biting winds and snow flurries filled our morning. The snow didn't stick but the cold has set in... our teacher Madina says that winter has finally come!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Krasnodar Votes for Putin

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The elections for parliament (Duma) will be held here December 2nd. We noticed the other day that there are signs, billboards and banners up all throughout the city saying:

"Krasnodar Votes for Putin"

There are commercials on TV, Debates on TV daily and we get flyers in our mailbox regularly. Still it doesn't seem to have reached the level of media coverage that we experience in the US!

Here is an article that gives an outline to what is going on here:

Russia's election at a glance

By The Associated Press

A glance at Sunday's parliamentary elections in Russia:

WHO'S VOTING: 107 million people eligible to cast ballots for one of 11 parties to fill 450 seats in parliament's lower house, State Duma. Polls predict United Russia, Kremlin-backed party whose ticket is topped by President Vladimir Putin, will win as many as 80 percent of seats.

WHO'S WATCHING: Officials from several international groups will monitor the vote, but none from Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, whose election reports are considered authoritative in West. OSCE blames excessive Russian restrictions; Moscow accuses Washington of pressuring the organization.

WHAT'S AT STAKE: Vote will be less a competitive election and more a referendum on Putin's nearly eight-year presidency. If United Russia achieves expected overwhelming sweep, Kremlin could take that as mandate for Putin to lead Russia in some capacity after his second term ends next year.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

rainy day...

Tuesday, November 27th, 2007

Yesterday as I was leaving class I noticed a rip on the side of my boot. I knew that if it rained I would be out of luck.

I came home and made dinner for Tom and then Spencer and I went out shopping. He was looking for a birthday gift for Megan and I needed boots! After going to four different stores and trying on ten different pair I finally found some that met my requirements. Black, low heel, good traction (for icy sidewalks) and comfortable!

Today they were put to the test. I was able to walk outside in the rain without getting my feel wet!

Monday, November 26, 2007

end with a bang!

Monday, November 25, 2007

At the end of our two week session at the BLTC we had a party! Lena R and Tania are working on an apple tower whoever could stack them the highest wins!

Joyce judges as Oksana and Irina keep stacking!

Vika is working to get the longest apple peel!

Our final task was to make people out of the apples... these became our center pieces!

Friday, November 23, 2007

Just the gals!

Friday, November 23, 2007

Tonight our team had a holiday dinner. It was a pot luck... we pooled our leftovers from yesterday.

Joyce, Sveta, Stephanie and I are supposed to be acting natural as Sveta's husband takes our picture with my camera!!

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving

Thursday, November 22, 2007

May your day be a joyful one!!! And if your family and friends are close by be Thankful!!

Alida’s Bread Stuffing

1/4 cup finely chopped onion
1½ cups chopped celery, with leaves
2 cups butter
12 cups bread, cubed
1 tsp rosemary
1 tsp thyme
½ tsp parsley
½ tsp pepper
2 cups chicken broth

Cook and stir onion and celery in butter until the onion is tender. Add chicken broth and spices. Place bread crumbs in a lightly oiled baking dish and cover with liquid mixture. Toss well. Bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Pre-Thanksgiving errands

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Today Spencer was able to bring home some sweet potatoes for me that our friends purchased for us. That means we get to have sweet potato pie for Thanksgiving.

Tom and I went out after his AA meeting and picked up the rest of the items needed. Stephanie and I are making the dinner together. I am doing the stuffing, pies and a salad. It will be fun to spend the day with them.

Although, when I play with 2 year old Gabriel, I may have to weep a bit. He reminds me so much of Nathan when he was that little.

I want for us to have fun tomorrow. It is Spencer's last time with us and I want him to have some good memories just as we did with Nathan. However, this is also our first major holiday without Nathan. So, I imagine the day will be bittersweet.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

gifts of thanksgiving

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Today I asked our language helper Sasha what she thought of our family. She told me that she enjoys us and feels free to be herself with us. Olya was here today too... both of these young women left with headaches from laughing so hard.

I am grateful for that. I am thankful that those who come into our home can laugh and feel at peace here.

In the spirit of Thanksgiving I can honestly say that today I am thankful for the gift of laughter!

Monday, November 19, 2007

time for school

Monday, November 19, 2007

Spencer was back at work at the International school. I was back at the BLTC and we were all at language school today.

After school we worked with Sasha translating Tom's teaching for Saturday... we are all looking forward to Thursday and Friday. No school and a few days to rest!

In other news... tonight we learned that Krasnodar recently held it's First Zombie Parade.

Ten young people covered in red paint and acting like zombies strolled down Krasnaya Street. Why? Your guess is as good as ours. They didn't stay in character though... when the TV cameras were on a few of them started smiling!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Russia vs Israel

Sunday, November 18, 2007

We all managed to drag ourselves out of bed and get to church. Last night we were up late watching the soccer game between Israel and Russia. Russia lost 2-1. At church we learned that others had been watching the game too. It was amazing that church was full this morning!

England alive after Israel beats Russia
Sat Nov 17, 11:46 PM ET

England's bid to qualify for next year's European Championship is still alive. Israel beat Russia 2-1 Saturday night, preventing the Russians from climbing past the English into second place in Group E with one game remaining.

Russia had put itself in control of gaining a berth with a come-from-behind 2-1 victory over England in Moscow last month. But now England can qualify with a tie or victory on Wednesday against first-place Croatia at Wembley.

Croatia (8-1-2) clinched a berth because of Israel's win despite a 2-0 loss at Macedonia and leads with 26 points, followed by England (7-2-2) with 23. Russia (6-2-3) is third with 21 but England has the tiebreaker because of a better goal difference in its two games against the Russians.

Russia could have virtually eliminated England by beating Israel but now win at last-place Andorra on Wednesday and hope the English lose.

"Of course we are very, very disappointed," Russia coach Guus Hiddink said. "We were close. We were the team who was dominating the game."

The English enter Wednesday's game missing Wayne Rooney, Michael Owen and John Terry because of injuries and Rio Ferdinand due to a suspension.

Elyaniv Barda gave Israel the lead in 10th minute, but Diniyar Bilyaletdinov tied it in the 61st. Dmitry Sychev, who entered early in the second half, nearly put Russia ahead in the 90th, but his shot hit a post. Omer Golan then just stayed onside when he took a pass in second-half injury time and scored the tiebreaking goal.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

two down and 6 to go!

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Today was the second in a series of 8 lessons that Tom is presenting at the church. Today's topic was shame.

In English Tom uses the acronym:


Since he was teaching to a Russian audience, he had to have the word for shame translated so that it would make sense in Russian. Стыд (stid) is the word for shame here.

Our language helper came up with a saying using those letters that we really love. I will put what it translates to in English here:

You've Suffered Enough

so in Russian it looks like this:


It was an impactful talk. Tom was asked for a copy of the PowerPoint by one of people who attended. Tom gave him a copy of the PowerPoint notes that were printed out for Spencer to follow along with.

I would love to be able to tell you all who came and what their professions were but I don't want to break anyone's anonymity. I will say that we had a diverse group of professionals, homemakers, couples and various churches were represented.

Friday, November 16, 2007

nice warm day

Friday, November 16, 2007

Coming out of the UTK building after paying our internet bill I saw...

a man standing and talking to his friend wearing a t-shirt, shorts, socks and his houseshoes.

This may not seem unusual to you but it has been very cold, rainy and people have already begun dressing for winter. So everyone else who was out today was wearing their winter coats, hats and boots.

It reminded me again that you can't say "all Russians do..." Even older people here are willing to be different, do what makes them comfortable and not just follow along with what everyone else around them is doing.

And guess what Tom was wearing when I returned home? Yep, t-shirt, shorts, socks and his houseshoes!!!

dinner out with friends

Thursday, November 15, 2007

We just returned from an evening out with our newest Russian team mates, Sveta and Alexei H. Alexei is the Director of the BLTC. Sveta coordinates the Social Programs for the BLTC; they have lived in Krasnodar for 5 years now. We found out this evening that they only live across the street and up a few blocks from us. We had a great time eating, laughing and drinking tea.

We learned that back in Soviet times, you were only allowed to make a certain amount of money. Everyone had to be the same. So people who were blessed with an entrepreneurial spirit who decided to buy something cheap in another country and sell it in Russia could be put in prison!

Sveta told us that to purchase an item for one price and then sell it for a higher price was illegal. Therefore, the shame attached to being a sales person was pretty huge. I am glad that Sveta was able to overcome the negative feelings associated with sales… she is the one I buy Avon from!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

things that make you go hmm....

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

What lies behind us
and lies before us
are small matters
compared to
what lies right to our faces.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

can I have another cup?

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Tom went out today to get his testing done so that he can apply for a work permit. There was a group of 10 people who went together so all of their paperwork could get processed at the same time. They took two cars and left at 8 am and Tom returned home at 4 pm.

They had five different stops to make so that they could be tested for things like:
AIDS/HIV, TB, VD, and a few other initials!

At one of the stops Tom was handed a cup. He said that in his experience you are supposed to head for a bathroom and give a sample in it. Well, when he stepped out of the bathroom his 9 companions were in stitches from laughing so hard.

It turns out that cups are not always for urine samples in Russia.... he was supposed to spit in it!


A man came out from the back to see who had urinated in the cup. Tom said "I did" and then asked for another cup... the man rinsed out the cup and handed it back to Tom.

What a day!!!

Monday, November 12, 2007

What are Tom and Alida up to?

Monday, November 12, 2007

Tom began an 8 week seminar. It started on the 10th and continues every Saturday until the end of December. This means our whole family is working together to make this seminar successful. Tom is teaching, Spencer is doing the Power Point and Alida is preparing the tea and snacks for the seminar. We all came home tired but happy on Saturday afternoon!

It was good to see the people really soaking up all the information and on Sunday our Pastor shared his thoughts on a few things he had personally learned. He invited everyone to come out for the remaining sessions and had us all pray for the teachings and about who we could invite to be a part of it.

Alida is currently attending a woman's session at the BLTC for the next two weeks. She had her first class this morning. So far all the instruction is in Russian and Alida is hanging in there.

With us being busier than normal, please pray that we will have the energy and good health to make it through all of our obligations.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Russian singer tours North America

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Star Russian singer tours North America
By VERENA DOBNIK, Associated Press Writer

La creme de la Kremlin is touring the United States.

Russia's Academy of Choral Art, along with the Moscow Chamber Orchestra, is accompanying star baritone Dmitri Hvorostovsky on a 13-stop North American tour.

"This is the full range, the full journey, of Russian music," the Siberian-born baritone says of the repertoire sung by the chorus that has performed with him "for many Kremlin occasions."

The 40-member group, dubbed the "creme de la Kremlin" in the Soviet era, has endured more than half a century as an artistic force. The current singers, most in their 20s and trained at the Moscow-based academy, have "the most excellent sound that anyone can produce from choruses in Russia," says Hvorostovsky. "And they have great spirituality."

The Russian musicians are to perform in Los Angeles on Sunday, followed by New York, Miami, Washington, Montreal, Quebec City, Toronto, Chicago and Boston.

The tour started in Mexico, with stops last week in Berkeley, Calif., and Dallas.
The program, with San Francisco native Constantine Orbelian conducting, is billed as a retrospective of Russian vocal art from the 19th century to the Soviet era.

In the first half, the baritone will sing centuries-old Russian sacred works from the Christian Orthodox rite, plus opera arias from Tchaikovsky's "Queen of Spades" and "Eugene Onegin," and from Rimsky-Korsakov's "The Tsar's Bride."

The rest of the program features romances of pre-Revolutionary Russia and popular songs of the Soviet era that speak to the heart of Hvorostovsky's homeland — from the poignant "Nezhnost" ("Tenderness") and "Gori, gori, moya zvezda" ("Shine, shine, my star") to more recent music from the rock 'n' roll era.

Accompanying some of the songs is a traditional instrumental ensemble including a plucked psaltery called the "gusli," a rounded string "domra" and a balalaika.

The choral academy was opened in 1944 to restore traditional Russian choral education, which was interrupted in the early 20th century when the communists came to power.

Friday, November 09, 2007

An anecdote from Olya

Friday, November 9, 2007

There were two gentleman sitting down to tea.

The host asked his guest, "how many spoonfuls of sugar do you put in your tea?"

The guest replied, "at home I put in two, when I am a guest... I like five!"

The host replied, "make yourself at home!"

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Business trip!

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Jim, Brennen and I walked into the travel agency each with a black brief case, looking like a team of business partners with drive and a mission!

We have a five day conference to attend in Cyprus in January. The tour package that we were able to book was a wise use of our funds. Jim located a package tour for two weeks with hotel and one meal a day included that was cheaper than just flying there for the 5 days.

Here in Russia under the old laws we had to leave the country every six months for registration. Which means that we need to go somewhere in January anyway. We are excited that the conference coincides with the time we have to leave. In the past we have gone to Ukraine to do our registration trip, this will be our first time doing something that will be refreshing spiritually, mentally and physically. For this we are very grateful!

Wednesday, November 07, 2007


Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Our lesson this week has been on superstitions. I am not saying that all Russians believe these but these are a few that we were taught or were told to us by our Russian friends:

If you spill salt it means you will quarrel with someone
If you find a horseshoe on the road that is lucky
Whistling in the house means you will lose your money
An empty bottle on the table means someone will die
If you give someone a tissue they will cry
If you give someone something sharp there will be a quarrel
If your eyes itch you will cry
If your left palm itches you will receive money
If your right palm itches you will meet someone
If your cat washes himself that means guests are coming
If you break a dish that is lucky
If you hand someone money over a threshold that is bad luck
If your cheeks are burning someone is saying something positive about you
If your ears are burning someone is speaking negatively about you
If you wash your hair before an exam all the knowledge you have acquired will be lost
If you have not studied before an exam, sleep with your textbook under your pillow and you will wake up with the info
Newborns cannot be shown to people for 40 days or someone could put an evil eye on them
The number 13 is unlucky
If a black cat crosses your path you have a go a different route
If you leave home and forget something and you decide to go back and get it… you have to look in a mirror to avoid bad luck
If your son looks like his mother and your daughter like her father your fate promises to be happy
If you were talking about someone or you happened to think about them and then see that person, he/she will have a long life

What superstitions do you know about?

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

turning cold

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

The weather has definitely turned cold. We have had several cold, rainy days in a row. At some point the radiators kicked on... for this we are truly grateful.

Tom and Spencer "bled" the radiators yesterday. Fortunately, there was no air in the pipes, only water. Our apartment feels warm and cosy and although there is no fear about the coming winter, we certainly are not looking forward to the day when the temperature drops below zero!

Monday, November 05, 2007


Monday, November 5, 2007

Today is the Day of the National Unity. This is the newest Russian holiday. I read an article that said many people don't know the real name if this holiday. The Kremlin has attempted to give today historical significance by relating it to the 1612 expulsion of Polish and Cossack troops who briefly seized Moscow at a time of political disarray.

I am thankful for a day off from school...this rainy day was spent lounging around the apartment and watching movies!

Tom did some chores, Spencer listened to music while cleaning his room and chatting with his friends, I did some knitting. Just another lazy day in the Sharp house.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Election monitors in Russia

Saturday, November 3, 2007

OSCE to send monitors to Russia
Fri Nov 2, 5:45 PM ET

An international security organization said Friday that it will go ahead with plans for a "restricted" mission to monitor Russia's parliamentary election, and urged Moscow to cooperate fully.

Russia earlier this week significantly curtailed the number of international observers it would accept for the Dec. 2 vote, limiting the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe to 70. The organization initially reacted by saying it was unsure whether it would send any observers at all.

However, on Friday, the OSCE branch that organizes observer missions said it would "attempt to observe the upcoming Duma elections by deploying a restricted election observation mission."

The OSCE's Warsaw-based Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights stressed in a statement that time was running short to monitor the election campaign — although "we hope that we may still be able to offer some assessment of the legislative framework and the very last stages of the campaign."

It urged Moscow to offer "full cooperation" in processing visas, issuing accreditation and providing other logistical assistance. It called for "full and timely access to all relevant officials and other election stakeholders."

The Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights has requested 20 visas for observers and is planning to seek 50 more, spokeswoman Urdur Gunnarsdottir said.

The OSCE — which includes 56 countries from Europe, central Asia and North America — sent 400 observers for the last parliamentary election in 2003. The observers described that vote as a step backward for democracy.

Dmitry Peskov, President Vladimir Putin's spokesman, said this week that past OSCE missions had been "unsatisfactory." He refused to elaborate, but Russia has accused Western election monitors of bias against Russia.

On Thursday, U.S. Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns said in Vienna that "we regret very much" the Russian decision to curtail the number of international observers, which he described as "rather unprecedented" in the OSCE's history.

Russia's Foreign Ministry criticized Burns on Friday for making what it called "a series of tactless statements directed toward Russia" in the Austrian capital, where the OSCE is headquartered.

"Such statements, having no basis in fact, speak only to the allergies in certain circles in the West in connection with the sovereign character of the Russian democratic system," the ministry said in a statement.

Friday, November 02, 2007

what is in your stairwell?

Friday, November 2, 2007

We are not quite sure what our neighbors are up to... fixing their piano? Anyway this has been in the stairwell for the past three days!

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

New Visa Laws

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

I have hesitated to post about this only because we don't know for sure how this new law will be applied.

Basically, the way the law reads now... with a multi entry visa we would only be able to stay in the country for 90 days, then would have to leave for 90 days and then could come back for 90 days. We would be required to apply for the visa in the country of our citizenship, which means going back to America.

Our school is actively working to find out all they can and make whatever accomodations needed to be made for us to stay in the country. We currently have a visa that is valid until July 2008.

Please pray with us about this issue!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

rerouting traffic

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Despite the rain and the weather turning colder... this machine is still in residence on our street. How long will he be there... your guess is as good as ours!

Monday, October 29, 2007

friends and family

Monday, October 29, 2007

What a day! A letter from my mother, a package from Tom's parents and a phone call from my best friend... those are the things that make our life abroad easier to bear!

Friday, October 26, 2007

Kuban Choir

Friday, October 26, 2007

We enjoyed a great concert tonight. I wish we had taken our camera... in fact no one in our group remembered to bring a camera. You can get the idea of how the costumes looked from a few publicity photos that I found online.

The dancing was lively and the singing was beautiful! Wish you could have joined us!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Russia told it is losing AIDS battle

Thursday, October 25, 2007

AIDS in Russia

Richard Holbrooke, former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, told Russians on Thursday that their country is losing the battle against HIV/AIDS because of government inaction and a lack of public awareness.

"You are in terrible, terrible danger here in Russia," said Holbrooke, who now heads an international group that promotes partnerships between the government and private sector to combat HIV/AIDS and other infectious diseases.

"I'm terribly sorry to say this — this is not a political statement."

Officially, Russia had about 390,000 registered cases of HIV infection as of August 2007. But international experts say the true number of HIV carriers is closer to 1.6 million and is expected to grow by 30 percent by 2010.

With 80 percent of Russia's HIV cases among 15-30 year olds, the disease poses a threat to Russia's economic competitiveness, according to the Global Business Coalition on HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.

Clyde Tuggle, Coca-Cola's president in Russia, Ukraine and Belarus, said businesses are major stakeholders in the global battle against AIDS.

He said his company had a "very selfish motivation" for joining the Global Business Coalition initiative in Russia.

"My business is dependent on one thing: the sustainability of this community, on a successful, healthy and prosperous Russia. Without that I will have no business," he said, speaking with Holbrooke at a conference in Moscow organized by the GBC.

HIV/AIDS is spreading faster in Russia and Ukraine than anywhere else in the world, and 90 percent of HIV carriers in these countries will not know that they are infected until they get full-blown AIDS, said Holbrooke, who heads the GBC, an alliance of 220 international companies.

"Over the next few years, they will be spreading it unintentionally, and on, and on, and on," he said. "It's a bottomless pit."

Vladimir Pozner, a prominent Russian journalist who moderated Thursday's event, said he was upset by the notable absence of Russian business leaders.

"They did not come because they were not told (by the authorities) to come. Otherwise, they would have come," he said. "But partnership isn't when the government tells business what to do."


On the Net:

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

My favorite question

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Are you Tom’s wife?

When we lived in California I was asked this question frequently…at the end of an Al-Anon meeting or in the supermarket. At first this used to make me angry. After all I am my own person.

I went to an Al-Anon meeting tonight. This group was started a year ago and it meets in a church on the other side of town. I called on Saturday to find out all the vitals, you know what I mean; where, when and what time. I asked my language helper to come with me, she speaks English so I thought if I had any problems understanding what was being said I could ask her. She called to get directions and find out what type of transport would get us over there.

We went into the meeting and immediately we were asked if we were the ones who had called. Then she asked us how we knew about Al-Anon. I told her I knew about the group from America. I have been involved for 7 years now. She was very excited. She asked me where I lived and I answered in the Slavinsky region.

Here is what happened next:

“Do you know Tom Sharp?”
“Yes, that’s my husband!”
“Oh my God, I have been looking for him!”
“You met him two years ago right?”
“Yes! Right after I attended a conference. I was looking for someone who would know how to start an Al-Anon group and I found an AA meeting. I was given his number but I didn’t call right away and then I was told he went back to America”

Can you imagine the joy on her face? She said this several times tonight:
“Look at how God works! In walks Tom’s wife!”

After Sasha and I left she asked me “how do you feel when people ask you about Tom?”

I think it is funny that we are in Russia, a long way from California, and I am still being asked this type of question!

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

tragedy averted!

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

We were down to our last jar of peanut butter! I asked my friend Stephanie to let me know if she was going to Metro (our version of Costco or Sam’s) so that I could get peanut butter.

Today after school Spencer and I stopped by their house just to see how they were doing and Stephanie gave us a gift: a jar of peanut butter! Spencer was so excited he carried it home himself.

Tom and Spencer have already enjoyed a sandwich or two for dinner!

Monday, October 22, 2007

that's a fine kettle...

Monday, October 22, 2007

People carry buckets onto the bus all the time… most of the time they are filled with fruits or vegetables. For the first time we had a woman on the bus with a bucket of fish! How would you like that ride?!

Sunday, October 21, 2007

under construction

Sunday, October 21, 2007

The street that we live on is closed. This is how it looks between the supermarket and the pharmacy.

When they finish widening the road and extending the trolleybus lines further out... we may actually be able to catch the bus closer to our apartment instead of having to walk 4 blocks to the bus stop!

See Nathan, I said there were lots of changes here... so much happened while we were gone!

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Botanical Garden

Saturday, October 20,2007

wedding cars at the front gate!

view from our seat!

Tom noticed the etching on the side of the monument right away!

monument of Ivan Kusenko
a professor of the agricultural institute

map of the grounds

men are still working on the fence and the path

sign at the back entrance
it says Botanical Garden
it was created in 1959
by Ivan Kusenko

Walking in the park with Tom is one of the month relaxing things I have done in a long time. We had errands to run today…one of them was to photograph the entrance to the Botanical Garden.

The garden is still under construction. Many of the paths are still being laid. Painted bricks in various designs line the paths that have already been completed. There were many young families out today with strollers, kids riding bikes, teens sitting on benches reading, grandparents out with their grandchildren and Tom and I taking it all in! We found a park bench to be a nice place to catch up with one another and just chill for a bit.

We both decided we were definitely going back there. It has the feel of the botanical garden that we used to visit as a young family when we lived in Pasadena, California. One of my favorite photos of Nathan as a little boy was taken at Huntington Memorial Gardens there in Pasadena. When working as a nanny I would take Nathan and Kelsey over to the park when nap time was over. Tom, Nathan and I would walk there on Sundays from the campus of Fuller Seminary.

We hope that you enjoy the photos as much as we enjoyed being there!

Thursday, October 18, 2007

tastes of home

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Krasnodar has a Subway… not a subway as in transport, but a Subway as in submarine sandwiches!

Sasha and I went over there tonight for dinner. Spencer went over to Murat's house to play video games with Steve, Seth and Murat. Tom stayed home to enjoy the peace and quiet.

It took a 20 minute bus ride and a 15 minute walk to get there. Sasha asked me if it was worth it. I thought it was. We had a new grammar lesson today at school that left me feeling frustrated. So, I decided some comfort food was in is comforting to know that there are places like Subway, Baskin Robbins and McDonald’s where we can get a “taste” of home.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Nah-kah-nets! Finally!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Our toilet is fixed… after having a few friends come over to try and fix it, our friend Olya found a good plumber in the newspaper! Our problem was that after flushing the toilet the water kept running, sometimes for hours. We had to turn the water off to the toilet between flushes so as not to run up a huge water bill!

Olya called several numbers but Oleg was the only one who was available to come this week. At first her concern was that he would be too expensive. But, when she told me that his labor would be 500 rubles (about 20 dollars) and we that we had to pay for the part that needed to be replaced, I let her know right away that we could afford that. The part needed ended up costing 350 rubles (about 14 dollars) so for 34$ we have a toilet that works!

I left for school while Oleg was still working. When he was packing up to leave Tom asked him in Russian if he was finished… Tom just used the Russian word for done with the intonation of asking a question, the plumber answered using one English word “finished”!

I just got off the phone with Olya, I was letting her know that everything had gone well and that Tom wanted to keep Oleg’s phone number for future reference, she was thrilled. It is not often that you can find someone who does quality work from thumbing through the paper. It is better if you know someone who knows someone. You know?

So if you are ever in Krasnodar and need a good plumber just call me and I will pass on Oleg’s cell phone number!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

culture questions

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

I was going over the culture questions from our lesson with Sasha. They were about setting goals, complaining and what makes a quality life... one of Sasha's answers was intriguing to me.

She told me that young men are told to do three things:

1) plant a tree
2) build a house
3) have a son

I love the imagery involved in this answer, for me it illustrates the path of patient endurance, stability and leaving behind a legacy.

There was one question that she didn't know the answer to. Spencer's language helper Vlad was also here so we asked his opinion. He couldn't answer the question either.

What does the "ideal Russian" look like?

Tomorrow I will ask my teacher at school. If you were asked about the "ideal American" or the "ideal____ fill in the blank with whichever country you are from", what would you say!?

Monday, October 15, 2007


Monday, October 15, 2007

Last week we had a lesson at school on jealousy. This new lesson we have is on complaining. I suppose today's lesson was very appropriate. The weather has changed and it is cold now. No more over 100 degree weather for us for a while.

I got an SMS from my friend Judi in Moscow, they have snow already. People around here say that we will have Moscow's weather in about a week.

Normally, our radiators are tested during the second weekend in October, but this has not happened yet. After they are tested (by running water through them to make sure no one in the building has a leak) in roughly two more weeks the radiators are turned on for the winter. They all come on at the same time and are turned off at the same time. The only way to regulate the temperature is to open a window!

If our radiators don't get turned on before the snow hits... then you will hear us complaining!

Saturday, October 13, 2007

plates, Russian or American size?

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Tania set the table using what we Americans call a salad plate. Of course we were all able to refill our plates over and over again so we didn't go hungry. I still struggle with remembering not to use my dinner plates when we have Russian guests!

*** For you foodies: The tall greens in the background behind the water bottle are green onions, that cup was filled with fresh herbs to add to your own food.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Russia's bounty

Friday, October 12, 2007

diced potato with fresh dill

sliced tomato

One of my favorite things about life here is the vegetables... here is a photo of some of the fresh produce found on Sasha and Tania's farm! I sure wish you could taste them!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

blah, blah, blah!!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

I have a cold.

Our internet has been down.

Tom is going to change classes and leave Spencer and I.

I don't like being sick. I have been home alone for the past few days, but being without an internet connection made that no fun. Although, thanks to Mom and Dad, I was able to pop in a few DVD's and watch some reruns of CSI, Shark and Grey's Anatomy. Today I even got to spend some time with Yanna. She is sick too so I told her mother to just bring her on over.

Tom is going to be changing classes so that he can slow down and learn at his own pace. He is ready to be more active in ministry and will be starting an 8 week seminar at the church in November. He had a meeting with Valodia and I was able to translate for them. Valodia said I made a few grammar mistakes but that he understood me. I won't be translating for Tom when he does the seminars. Our teacher Dima has a agreed to do that.

Hopefully, tomorrow will bring on health and high speed internet!

Monday, October 08, 2007

what a weekend!

Monday, October 8, 2007

Vika's birthday cake

Samson Fitness Center

The church in Artirka meets in a fitness center owned by Tania and Sasha. Tom and I both spoke yesterday out there. It is a two hour drive there and then 2 hours back.

Tom spoke in the morning service and I spoke in the afternoon. He spoke on weathering the storms of life and I talked about codependency. During the break between the church service and the women’s group we celebrated Sasha and Tania’s daughter Vika’s birthday.

Vika is now 8 years old. Sasha killed a lamb and made shish-ka-bob with the meat and Tania prepared several different salads. Of course there was a birthday cake and lots of hot tea! We enjoyed spending time with Sasha, Tania and their three children. Tim and Joy were also there with their two children, another couple; Lena and Andrei, were there with their two children. Sasha and Tania’s oldest daughter also had her daughter with her. Sasha said that he doesn’t get to see his granddaughter very much due to his work schedule out on the farm and at the rehab center. So he kept telling his 8 month old granddaughter “I am your grandfather, the husband of your grandmother!”

Saturday, October 06, 2007

surprise, surprise!

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Tom went to prayer meeting for the church leaders last night. He said it was a great meeting. They prayed for all of the ministries of the church, for each of the new ministries and for the leaders involved.

Just before the meeting started Tom found out that he was going to be speaking on Sunday in Artika at the church service. Which means tomorrow Tom and I are doing a double header. He is speaking in the morning service at church and I am speaking in the afternoon.

Please keep us in your prayers!

Friday, October 05, 2007

mountains, caves and waterfalls

Friday, October 5, 2007

Spencer and I went with our fellow classmates from school on a field trip to the mountains. We had a great day, hiking, sight seeing, purchasing honey from the side of the road and taking lots of pictures...


Spencer with Dima, one of our teachers

Alida with Arina, one of our teachers

river view

We left the school at 8 am and returned at 9pm. One of the highlights of the day was on the hike to the waterfalls. There was a Russian man who saw Spencer slip and fall on the rocks. He showed Spencer how to position his feet on the rocks to get better support. I thanked him for his advice and he said "we all walk together in one world".

How true!