Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Parhomenka School

Yesterday Spencer, Nathan and I went over to Lena's house for our language helper time. She asked us if we wanted to go to the kitchen table or stay in the living room. Her couch was still let out to a bed and Nathan was sprawled across it. He annouced he was staying there. So she joined him and Spencer and I followed. By the time Alexei got home we were well into our lesson and we practiced our new dialogues on him! Then they helped us with our 8 culture questions such as:

How do Russians greet each other when they meet?

How do they keep conversations going?

Is there a difference in the way children, men women and young people get aquainted?

One by one we discussed the answers to the questions. the best part was when Lena and Alexei did not agree on the answers! If you are wondering the answers are pretty much standard. Hello, my name is, what is your's? What do you do? What about this weather we are having...

Women get aquainted quickly, men are slower, children just start playing, young people share common interests....

People are pretty much the same. The only difference I really notice is the "you". It is either formal or informal depending upon how well you know the person and their age. Children use the formal you with me because of my age. And so on! It is a culture of showing deference to age and to women when making introductions.

As we were discussing getting to know our neighbors and asking them to help us practice Russian.... Alexei was busy printing a sign in Russian and had pinned it to Spencer's back. Loosely translated into English it said "people, help me! I am studying Russian."

Spencer took it to class today for show and tell. You can tell why Alexei and Tom are friends.... they have the same sense of humor. And if GrandDad Sharp were still around he would have like that one!

Sunday, August 28, 2005

translating and retranslating

On our bus ride to church today Alexei was speaking to me in English and Lena was translating his words into Russian for me!

Tom was speaking to Alexei in half Russian and half English and I helped Alexei translate it into Russian for Lena. Sometimes Nathan will translate for us. It just depends on who knows that category of words....

I actually understood the worship music today and most of the sermon. It was on a familiar passage. And I was able to keep up. It is good to see progress after 5 months of study and immersion in the language.

Our apartment has everything now but a kitchen...

We are all sleeping in seperate rooms and are grateful.

School is going well... we are all working HARD!!!!

Tom has worked these past two weeks to keep up with school and get us into our apartment at the same time.

Spencer has Brownie to take care of and school to keep up with.

Nathan had a friend at KBC (our church) tell him to day she could only hear in Russian. So he spoke only Russian to her today.

I am still reading the dictionary before I go to bed and am dreaming about the day when we can bring our Russian friends to America and I can translate for them!

Oh, and for all you Napoleon dynamite fans: "Dai menyeh tebyah kartoshka" (Give me your tots) Alexei and I translated my keychain!

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Our first night

We are grateful for friends! Spencer wanted to go to the bathroom last night... a simple request for a parent to fill. I had him ask our friend Judy from Alaska. She lives across the street. Not only did Judy offer up her bathroom; she fed us dinner too! She had a pot of chili, salad and a special treat for dessert; bananas with peanut butter. Such an American delight! After we had finished eating Judy mentioned to us that she had won a contest in Missouri for her Road Kill Chili! I chose not to ask what the chili was made of that we had just eaten!

Before we left Judy's home our contractor Alexei called Tom to say that the bathroom was done and Tom said "how do I know it works? You must use it first!" So he did! Tom heard a loud flush!!!! Alexei then told Tom he would leave the lights on for us so we could find our way home! It was comforting to walk home and find the lights on...

I checked the American Embassy website here and found out that it is possible to apply for an extension on our visa. Tania was told by me this morning to use my fibromyalgia as the medical reason for the request. I really am in a higher amount of pain with not sleeping in a real bed. I just don't whine about it! But, I would appreciate any prayers you could send our way...

My friend Erin found out that her mom needs surgery and her dad had a stroke. Please pray for her as well.

Today our home has more new light fixtures in...
The kitchen is being finished and the air conditioner or the fridge can be plugged in if we chose in the living room. Tom chose the fridge! We need to eat...
Slowly we are feeling peace within our new home!

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

another moving day!

"kazhdeh dyehn... mailenkee suupreez!" Everyday... there is a little surprise. Our contractor said this to me yesterday. He said "These little suupreezes were going to give him a heart attack". Today we have to leave the dorms as there is a contigent of students coming in from around the area for a week long seminar which starts tomorrow.

We also found out today it will be a four week process to get a new letter of invitation for our new visa. Our visas are up for renewal on September 10. We are supposed to leave the country on the 9th! I said today that it would be impossible for us to leave on the 9th. Valentin and Sveta are counting on us to be there as Valentin's parents. We are going to the official court house with them and everything. (church weddings are not recognized by the government) Her mother just had surgery and everything seems to be coming unglued for this young couple! We are praying for an extension. The wedding is the 10th.

School is going well. We have homework daily. We start grammar on Thursday. Tom says he could teach 'grammar' his lives in Newton, Kansas!

Our downstairs neighbor thinks the contractor robbed us of 5 centimeters off our ceiling! We had him put up sheet rock! She also thinks the apartment is too heavy and that it might crash in on her! We had the floors leveled so there is a new layer of cement! The neighbor across the hall thinks we are spies and is convinced we are putting in a security system. Really, I just want spot lights in all the rooms!!!! She has approved of the light violet color I chose to paint the apartment and she has asked for ALL the left over paint!

Until we get a phone line we can only be reached by cell or by email. Nathan and I try to get here everyday but it is not easy.

But, who said it would be easy?

Saturday, August 20, 2005

just dropping by

We love being able to converse with our new friends and neighbors. Having people stop by for a chat is not a time for anxiety but a time of language aquisition, fellowship and cultural enrichment. There is know better way to learn the language and culture than to speak it with native speakers!

It is interesting that the longer we are here we depend less and less on the English speakers and Americans around us. We find that our closest relationships are with Russians. And that is how it should be. That is why we are here. We have the dearest of American friends in America! We have made great connections here with Americans.... that is not my point. My point is that we are here to study language, culture and be a part of the Russian speaking Alcohol and Drug recovery community. And so we are seeking to actively reach those goals!

Our language teachers grandmother died. Nathan said the typical American "I'm sorry" She said that is not what they say here. 'I'm sorry' makes it sound like it was your fault she died. I sent her a text message and wished her a safe journey as she traveled and said we would be praying. She text me back saying she would miss us and to make sure we get our home work done! Especially Tom!!!

Friday, August 19, 2005

work, work, work

aaaaah! Learning the ABV's is hard work. We have had to learn the sound, letter and how to write the letter in cursive. For three months we have been printing. And no one cared if we could recite the Alphabet... but now we are in school and we have to get it done. Tom can do it to the tune of Rudolph the Red nose Reindeer. Mine is more of a rap song... We are also studying Russian intonation. There is a difference between the way Americans speak and the way Russians speak. Today when I answered my cell phone in Russian... Alexei hung up on me! He called back and had to ask if it was me! Erin told me that my voice sounds different when I answer in Russian... I think that will make my teacher happy!

We went for our third HIV test since last August. Test results cannot be more than 6 months old. So we had the test done again here. The hemotologist was very efficient. Spencer has veins that are hard to find... in America that is. The Russian gal found them on the first try. I think they have a few things to teach Americans! We saw excellent hygiene practices and brand new packages of needles opened in front of us. It was amazing.

The other day I was very tired on the tram-vi and I wanted to sit down so I asked this woman if I could sit beside her. She got up and let me in. The conductor saw the whole thing and when he came over to ask me for my ticket he said "and you, Princess?" I love Russian humor! Our teacher says that when you get the jokes you have moved to another level of understanding! Our friends Lena and Alexei taught me how to make jam yesterday. After we finished we ate dinner and had watermelon. Alexei showed me that he breaks the slice in half and uses each half to pick the seeds from the other. Lena says she just eats them! In half Russian and half English I told them that when I was little I was afraid to eat the seeds because I thought a watermelon would grow in my stomach. Alexei laughed so hard! Then he translated the part that I said in English to Lena. She was so suprised that he understood me! He has come so far in three months just like we have!!!!

It is so hot here that there are no air conditioners or fans to be found in the entire city!!!! We feel like we are back in Kansas or possibly Texas take your pick!

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Our new son

Tom has decided to "adopt" one of his students that graduated last year!

Valentin has been a good friend to Nathan. He has walked him home and called to check on him.

He and his fiance' are getting married in September and due to the major distance his parents would have to travel ( about the distance California is from New York) we will be standing in as his parents for the wedding. It is possible for him to be our son... he is only 22 and we have been married for 23 and a half years!

I have been shopping for wedding decorations and having a blast... Tom has been helping Valentin with a few other things and we have planned our visa trip around the wedding. We will not spend a week in Budapest when we are needed here. We will go to Ukraine and come right back! We will just get our passports stamped and come home!

It is so great to be parents of the groom!!!!! He is great young man and she is a wonderful young lady.... oh, sorry, her name is Svetlana. She is now a professional seamtress; for her final exam she made her wedding dress!

Monday, August 15, 2005


Monday, monday, monday! I have tried everything I know to make this work!!!!!

Monday morning blahs!

Some days are easier than others to get out of bed and get to school.... today was not an easy day!

There is one thing that makes going to school early on Monday exciting!

Sending text messages to people who forget to set their cellphones to silent!

I sent one to Judy (from Alaska) She thanked me later for helping her learn how to change the volume on her phone! Tom tried to get me by sending me two consecutive messages admonishing me to get to class... but I kept my phone on silent all day even during the break. Maybe another day I will get caught but not today!

Spencer and I tried to go to a futbol game tonight it would have been our first professional game outdoors. But, the opposing team was a no show. Kuban won by default 3-0. Our taxi driver told us we were supposed to cheer for Kuban. We purchased all the required paraphanalia to look like true Kuban fans.... the tickets we purchased can be used for Thursday & we will try again!

Oh, we heard we may be able to move in to our new flat on Monday.... but I have heard that before!

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Nathan is 18!!!!!

Who would have ever thunk he would live to see the day!

There were days when we were just not so sure.... we took Nathan and 9 friends to the movies today! You should have seen me on the trolleybus paying the conductor for everyone. She thought it was funny. She and I counted heads to see how much I had to pay. We both laughed because we lost count and had to start over...

At City Center we let everyone chose up at the Food Court what they wanted to eat. Tom went with half the group and I went with the other half. Of course most of the girls went to a place that had salads! We had to put four tables together to accomodate everyone. We saw Island with Scarlett Johanssen and Djimon Hunsoo. It was action packed. I think some of us watched with one eye... there was a lot of gore!

Nathan received some of the best gifts he has ever gotten. Valentin gave him a flash light; a must for when you walk late at night! Nastia gave him a scripture verse that she had embroidered and framed.... and from us he got a lap top....
The Sharp family is rejoicing that we no longer have to share a computer with Nathan!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Oh sorry, we are just a tad excited about not having to wait in line anymore!

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Sorry for the typos!

You will have to forgive any typos during my time here at the internet cafe! I pay by the hour and I have to check my email, Tom's and post here! So when the little note pops us that says I have one minute left I push publish and how ever something is spelled that is how it stays! I can fix it later... but whatever happens happens!

The other night at Melanie and Jody's I was staring at the fridge and wondering why I could not read the letters... it's because they were in English! All of us are so in tune with Russian right now we are making a lot of English mistakes! We write the wrong letters or says things in the wrong order... it's funny.

We finally figured out how to make a long distance call that will last for more than just 3 minutes on our cell phones... I loaded up my phone with about 1000 rubles. (-/+ 40.00) And then used a 500 ruble calling card. With the cost of the card and the cost of the minutes on the phone the call was about 26 cents per minute! Not bad... Tom says we are using it for emergency purposes only though not just to chat... But calling Mom was a must. And it was so great to hear her voice and know that she was up and moving around. The boys are both very connected to her and Dad since we lived we them for 5 weeks before coming here. Nathan said if anything ever happened to them there would not be much of a reason to go back to the States!

Yesterday Spencer and I went to the Orthodox Church for a visit. We went to an old one and to a newly built one. You will enjoy the photos I promise! I was told not to take pictures by a few different people. However, before leaving home Tom said "Don't take any pictures, just like in the Sistine Chapel". Well, I got that coded message loud and clear...

Lena was shocked when we came out of the first church and I showed her that I had taken four photos in there without anyone knowing. We had our heads and shoulders covered, and long skirts on. Spencer had to wear a dress shirt and no hat! At the second church I was much bolder with the camera. I took a dozen or more shots. We even got some Holy water in my water bottle just like I did at St Peter's in Rome! In fact I thought both churches could have been Roman basilicas. The art style was similar...

I made dinner with Lena and Alexei's daughter Nastia. We made bulochki. Alexei says it was not a traditional Russian dish... it is more like a Russian Big Mac! You use rolls of bread and cut them in half... then take out the bread inside and stuff it with meat, dill, mayonaise etc... and crack an egg on top. Bake for about 20 minutes until the egg is done. My recipe is in Russian so the oven temp is 200 C.

I have been buying Russian cookbooks and translating the recipes. I have a food vocabulary now and that helps at the market! Alexei loves to cook so he looked through my books and found a recipe he liked so Lena copied it! Yeah.... Lena copied it not him! Husbands..... well at least he made a great eggplant salad that we all loved!

Friday, August 12, 2005

A Break

Whew! This was a long week at school. Getting up early is not the Russia Sharp's forte... we like to sleep until around ten or so... and eat then start the day. We stay up late. But we are up at 7 or 7:30 showering, eating and leaving by 8:20 to catch the bus and be at school by 9AM! OI!

We are all learning to write and read Russian cursive. It is an adjustment since for three months our family has been reading and writing in block style print. But, we are managing.

Spencer and I went with Lena back to the new supermarket. They have International foods there. Things I recognize having lived in California where there is an international community! It was actually fun getting to explain things to Lena for a change! She saw the bedding typically used for hamsters or rabbits. It was shrink wrapped and packaged nicley... she looked at it very puzzled and said "Alida, Shto Eta?" what is that? I told her what it was for. And then she laughed at herself saying "Alida, yah govareet, Alida Shto eta?" I love her ability dto laugh at herself, to say I don't know when she doesn't know and to ask questions when she has them. I am so grateful we get to work together and that she and her husband are our dearest friends!

Today our cultural excursion will be to visit an Orthodox church. I have not have to dress up for church sinc Easter. But, today we will. We must dress modestly no earrings and the body must be covered appropriately. Similadr to the Catholic Churches that I visited in Rome. Very traditional.

Mama Tom is doing well she is recooping from surgery. She had her appendix out. And is up walking I hear. We will try to call Dad when the time is right for them. I do remember that we are twelve hours ahead!

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Taxi drivers!

Last night a group of us from the school went to shop at the newest supermarket in town. How exciting... huh? Well, for us it was. We found all sorts of treasures we had not seen since leaving the States. Honey nut cheerios, small packages of Skittles, Microwave popcorn... you know non- essentials that make life fun! I have some great photos to post once we get settled in our new place!

After shopping our little hearts out in this great place we had to take a taxi home. Well, make that two taxis. One was not large enough to hold our haul and us! I negotiated with the first driver to pay one hundred fifty rubles. When the second driver got there he wanted two hundred and was not budging. I said I would just take my stuff and call another taxi. Melanie told them either we pay 150 for both or no one goes with them... so they took the one hundred fifty! They thought the American women were going to roll over. Excuse me; we know better.

We also knew what was being said when we were being talked about! They didn't realize that soon enough or they would not have tried to strong arm us!

So, if you need some muscle when you are traveling abroad... just get a few well traveled women together and see what they make happen!

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

School days....

Today was our first real day of school. Tonya our teacher (me and Nathan) said that our first phonetics lesson was to learn the difference between her name and Tania's. Tonya is like the O sound in Boat and Tania rhymes with Sonia. Like, don't get any 'on yah!' Tania is the Director of the school and Tonya is one of the teachers. Tonya said that Tania will forgive you 3 times for saying her name wrong after that.... you may be asked to leave the school! Remember, this is RUSSIA!

Most of us from the US are used to writing in print. However, here in Russia they learn as very young children to write in cursive. Tonya said that some people cannot even read printed writing very well. So along with learning the name of the letter, the sound it makes, and how to correctly pronounce it we are learning to write it in cursive.

Tom's mom is doing better. Thanks for all the prayers.

We are now the only family left in the dorms; everyone else has their apartment ready so they are gone now! We got up and had breakfast and hot showers!

We each have to do a culture report... so Spencer and I were just going to pull photos off of our blogs to write about. Today on the way to school I got two shots of a woman out walking her goats.... they were following her like puppies! I guess it won't be hard to get this homework done!

Monday, August 08, 2005

Going to school

We got out the door and to the school on time! That was a major accomplishment for us! Maybe tomorrow we can even add breakfast to the routine. At least everyone can have a shower. There are just two families left. Four adults and four kids. When there were four families in the dorms it was not a done deal to think that we would each get a hot shower. 8 adults and 9 children can use up a lot of water and of course the hot goes first!

Today was the last day of Orientation at school and tomorrow we start in on two weeks of phonetics. It was good to get some cultural questions answered. And to get more familiar with our class. Everyone had some sort of difficulty over the weekend. From no water, or electricity to ATM machines eating bank cards or being locked out of access to funds it was a joyous weekend for us all. Oh and the temperature was over 110 degrees F.

I just found out about Peter Jennings death. How sad. His voice will be missed.

Tom's mom is still in the hospital... we are praying for her to be relieved of any discomfort and they try to discover the source of her pain.

Our remont is still ongoing and we are ordering the kitchen today. It should be done in a week we are told.

Dorm life and school work will go on!

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Seven Churches!

Seven churches in the city came together today for one large service! It was great... the music and the fellowship what more could you ask for? The churches also decided to adopt a children's home for the day and took an offering for its benefit. The offering came to over 22,000 rubles (over 700.00) !

We are still in the dorms... I cooked from a Russian recipe last night. I will post it another day. Larissa, my neighbor helped me with a few of the instructions I had not yet translated. She had copied the recipe from my book! It was good to sit and talk with her and her family. We rode the bus to church with them this morning. She asked me what was hard about learning Russian. I said pronunciation. I asked her what was hard about English she said words like is, at, the, an...
They are not used in Russian and it is hard to remember them!

Please pray for Tom's mom... we just found out she had not been feeling well. She is doing much better now but we hope that we hear a another good report soon!

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Internet cafe in Krasnodar

At last! I FOUND IT... if you want to know where something is you have to ask the guy who leaves next door to the language school! Jody seems to know where everything new is here! Maybe because it is so easy to stop by his house and ask him questions or tell him about the lastest thing! Anyhow, I knew if I started my search at Jody and Melanie's house I would get to an internet source today and I was here within an hour!

We are still at the dorms. We hope to be in our new flat by next week. We were told 5 days just yesterday. But, I was informed that the babushka kept her old phone number and we have to get a new one. So it may be a while before we have a phone.

We had our first language class. We met the other new students at the school. There were about 11 of us I think. One lady is from Beaumont, California... she most likely went to school with Erin's mother. They are the same age! Two other students in the class a woman from Alaska and a guy from Texas found out they are distant cousins. He said there was "a lot of intermarriage in the Assemblies of God Church!" He also knew the parents of a young woman who was one of my tellers at Bank of America in Newport Beach. The church they worked at years ago in Moscow is still active...

Spencer and I were walking to the school to take our learning style assessments when I was appraoched by a man who wanted to know what company I am with. I was taken aback by his question so I repeated it. He asked me again following up with "aren't you a missionary?"
I thought 'is this a weird trick?' "No, I am a language student"I replied. He thought that all Americans that speak english as well as I do are missionaries. So, I repeated that I was here to learn Russian and that I needed to get to class.

Our school is not a religious organization. However, many church groups do send people there. It is registered as a social organization. We will each have to choose a social project to participate in two times per month.

I plan to teach English and music in the elementary school. Tom might work in the children's home or the hospital; he is going to wait until we visit to decide. More fun days lay ahead as we begin our first week of full time learning and study next week!

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Dorm life pt 2

We are slowly getting used to being here. Tom and I have the first room as you enter the dorms. I have decided it is like being on the front row of seats on a train. The door opens all day long and it is not quiet until 11pm. However, it is still not quiet outside. The tram-vi is still running out there!

We had to order one of our medications that we needed from Moscow. It had to come from Italy. We were grateful to find it. I had originally spelled it wrong. then Tom tried and he came home with something for dysentery! Then I looked it up in another book and we finally got it right.

Tom is meeting today with a woman who is just finishing up her pyschology degree. She has to defend her thesis. He is meeting with her because she is also interested in helping with recovery.

We are looking into putting airconditioning in at the church. Temperatures have reached into the hundreds here and the church has no air conditioning. Not even a window unit. Our next distribution of funds should be in our account and we should be able to find a split system on sale. They are quieter than a window unit and more efficient.

Lena just got here for our language lesson so I must go!

J--if you read this I tried to answer your email and the computer froze! I will try again tomorrow!

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Dorm Life

Finally.... we are settled here in the dorms at the BLTC. The boys have a room and Tom and I have a room. I walked over here with Brownie so she did not have to come in a taxi and petrify a driver! But when we got here she did not want to go up the stairs. Have you ever tried to make a forty pound dog do something they do not want to do? I had to carry her up the stairs. We stumbled on the way up and I was pleading with her to just try but she was resigned to stay on the second floor. And we needed to get to the third. I finally got her up there and took her to the room that Spencer had prepared for her and when she saw her things there... blanket, food dish and Nathan got her some water she relaxed. I, however was wiped out!

Tom and I saw the new place today and were told it was two weeks away from completion... Tom called Alexei 'Pinnochio'! Alexei laughed pretty heartily at that! Whether it is two weeks away or not we will be here until it is done... hopefully.

Monday, August 01, 2005

updates on friends

We love getting updates on friends. We heard from several over the past few days...

... namely one who we just found out is a Grammy nominated producer!

Yeah, I told Nathan this guy used to lick his finger and stick it in my ear in highschool! Nathan said "impressive!" What would you expect from one of Tom's freinds who was the best man at our wedding?

I cannot wait to meet his kids and tell them all about their Dad... oh wait he is THEIR dad... they already know!

Tom did disconnect the computer but, as you can see, Nathan hooked it up again... some of us diehards just cannot live without cyberspace for too long.

Spencer is standing over me with a box waiting for me to sign off... so until next time!