Thursday, September 29, 2005

letters of invitation

Tania finally called yesterday to let us know that our letters of invitation had finally arrived. She is sending them to us by DHL. Our friend Judy B. says that DHL took about one week to get to Kiev... hopefully they will find their way to Odessa much faster!

We were so excited at the news we celebrated by going to the zoo! Our family has enjoyed spending afternoons at the zoo since Nathan was a little squirt! He knows the place so well he can identify many animals without reading the signs. And that is a good thing since these signs were written in either Russian or Ukrainian!

Nathan was very concerned over the health of some of the fish, the crocodile and the lion. We discussed the zoo's condition. It was a cross between the LA zoo and the Santa Ana zoo. If you have been to these places you know that the Santa Ana zoo is small and does not have much funding but it is clean! And the LA zoo is large but has lost animals in the past because of neglect. We don't know if neglect or lack of funds is the cause of the condition of the animals at the Odessa zoo. It is very very clean. The animals seem happy. The elephants were very happy. We watched them play for a long time. The parents were very protective of their baby even when he was playing with a metal rod that he found and the keepers were trying their best to get it away from him; the parents circled around the baby and would not let the keepers get close. They had to entice them all away with several loaves of bread.... and then the baby dropped the rod and a rake went in and the rod was swept out of the pen!

The lion needed a larger cage. His pacing was unnerving and his growl kept the other animals on edge. His roar.... well it shook the ground!

Tom watched the baboons for awhile and told us about his study in psycho-dynamics! Noone would dare eat until the leader ate. Noone made a move until the leader made a move.... Gang mentality was at work!

I took some video of a weasel... we have a friend we want to rib with it! We should not be so mean but we could not resist the chance to poke fun at a friend! He is still undergoing rabies shots... maybe we will celebrate the final round of shots with a gift CD!!!!!

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Yah tseh loobloo

I'm loving it! We found McDonald's!! Everyone had a great meal and we are very happy! The sign on the wall at Mickey D's said "Yah tseh loobloo" which is the slogan I'm loving it! Of course it was written in Russian and I can only type it phonetically!

We took a taxi since we did not know exactly how far away it was... turns out it was just on the other side of Baskin Robbins! We just did not walk far enough on Saturday. Oh Well! We had intended to go to the zoo afterwards but there was a street that was blocked from traffic and across from that street was a park where artists and crafters hangout. I purchased a cream colored handmade sweater that is absolutely beautiful and Tom has a new painting. We also found some smaller treasures we could not live without!

We keep telling people we are from Krasnodar when they ask us where we are from and one woman finally said "why do you speak Russian so badly if you are from Russia?" We told her we have only lived there six months and before that we lived in California.... " OH, then your Russian is VERY good for six months!" Perspective makes a difference!

We found out that the teacher that Nathan and I have, Nellie, had a bad accident. She impaled her foot on a wire. But somehow she is still managing to climb the flight of stairs to the classroom and teach! Our friend Judy B. ,the nurse from Alaska, is concerned about infection... I would be too. The city is pretty dirty. I don't think I would leave my house until it had scabbed over!

Our friends Robert and Ann are falling for Spencer's dog... Brownie is warming up to them. They are dogsitting for Spencer. Robert is doing well... he had an incident with a weasel and is undergoing rabies shots. Let's just say he won't be helping anymore little girls get their pet ferrets back! Especially, if that ferret turns out not to be a pet ferret but a wild weasel instead!

Monday, September 26, 2005

How we spent our weekend

Saturday- We found a mall. Not just any old mall. Galleria Afina. Athena in English. It is an exquisite building. Marble, glass & the architecture on the outside reminds me of some of the buildings I saw in Rome.

We all found treasures at the mall. Books, sweaters, long sleeved shirts.... the only thing we did not find was McDonalds. However, the Baskin Robbins made up for that! It was great to find a familiar logo and taste the icecream again. Russian ice cream is good. Sometimes though we just want the tastes of home!

Tom found a fabric store on the way home and it had yarn and beads inside! Of course we went in. And it's a good thing too...

Because on Sunday...

Have you heard the one about the black woman who went to a conservative Baptist church dressed in lime green (shoes too) but did not have her head covered? .... Well, let's just say that she left church to go and crochet a head covering for next Sunday! Just in case someone noticed her. Tom says maybe they noticed me because of the camera around my neck... I am not convinced! It was their Thanksgiving. They had children dressed in costume and there were skits and poems, lots of songs. Children played violin and sang it was wonderful....

I had a translator. I sat on the side to take photos.
And this woman looked at me and said " do you speak English?" (In Russian)
I answered (In Russian) "yes I do."
"How can you understand what is going on? (In English.)
"I am studying Russian" (in Russian)
"would you like me to translate some things for you?"(in English)
Yes, that would be nice" (In Russian)

So if I had a confused look she translated for me! Which was great. There were 3 sermons. This seems to be typical in the Baptist services that we have been to. Our church will have two speakers normally. I was glad for the translator on the second speaker. It generated a bit of controversy. The speaker used the word "negro" he had been told if he used the word "black" it was derogatory. Because that word is used here to discriminate against the Chechen population. Chechens are darker skinned Russians. I was not offended by the word "negro" there is a sign downtown on a store called "niger sports" And it is most likely from the country Niger or Nigeria. The African population that I have met can tell I am not African. And the label African American is humerous to them. It was interesting that this sermon was on embracing those who are different from you and it was a Jewish man who was upset about one word that was not even directed at him!

Friday, September 23, 2005

Rained in

Yesterday was a wonderful brisk autumn day! Today it is raining... So we are stuck inside. Nathan came up with a wonderful idea; he suggested that we wait out the rain at an internet cafe. That does make the rain easier to bear. Although I know when I leave here my umbrella may still be wet and the walk home will be awkward; the time here connecting with life on the other side of the world is worthwhile.

Nathan finally convinced Leta that he does like her cooking.... he just does not eat much. She served Nathan and I smaller portions today. Which was a great relief. It was not easy to put away all the food she wanted us to eat. We just keep telling her it is "ochen koosny" (very tasty) and patting our stomachs. Tom asks for seconds and the rest of us can slide away!

We had hoped to find the famous Ptomkin steps today, he is the writer who killed himself by walking down the steps and straight into the sea! But it will be better for photography if we do this on a day when it is not so dreary. Or maybe today would have been the right day given the subject matter!

It still looks like we are here until October.... We have not heard from Tania today. We think maybe she wanted the school to be quiet so she is holding onto our letters of invitation for awhile... I keep wondering what Tom and Spencer did to her while they were in her class!!!!!!

We did receive a text message from the Parkhomeko's last night. They were checking to make sure that Nathan had said "hello to Ukraine" for Lena!

We heard that Houston may be in for a hurricane and that gas prices are going up. It helps to keep things in perspective as we just sit here in a resort town waiting to go back to school and work... maybe we should accept the rest and recovery time we are being given and not be in such a hurry to get back.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Black Sea

What a brilliant sight. It is hard to describe the "radost" (joy) that we feel when we are at the beach! Spencer thanked me for taking care of his soul. He said he "needed" to be near the water again. I know the feeling. He said he thought that this is what heaven will be like. I know that some of you might be desert people or mountain people... but we are beach people and I agree that my ideal heaven will have the sound of waves crashing onto the shore!

Is this a path or not a path.... Today we found the beach in a roundabout way. Since when have the Russian Sharp's ever done anything the easy way? We followed the main streets and the smell of the water for a while then took out a map to get our bearings. We found the sanitorium to walk through but could not find the break in the fence that the map showed. Thanks to a cat and Spencer's looking out we found the way. We had to climb down some hills on some well worn foot paths. It was not too steep; however, the guys were all concerned about me making it down and back up again. I did it. Breathing hard at the top on our way home but, I did it!

We got word that our Letter of Invitation is still not ready. They are hoping to get it next week. So we are still here UNTIL..... At least they speak Russian and the sights are spectacular.

Now if I don't get going Leta is not going to be happy.... she is already upset that Nathan does not eat enough! Dosvidonyah!!!

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Welcome to the city of Odessa

Nathan hates looking like a tourist. And Tom & I needed to look at the map to figure out where we were in the city and which direction we needed to go. Well, as soon as we pulled out the map on the busy street some teens walked by and said "welcome to the city of Odessa, it was founded in...." I started to laugh. Nathan says that only encourages them. I still thought it was funny. He turned around because he was being a smart aleck and didn't realise that we speak Russian! When he heard me laughing he blushed!

OK... Nathan and I have been talking each night about new words and what we are learning. Well our cook, Lita, keeps using words we are not familiar with and some of which I can find in the dictionary and some I cannot. I thought it was because I only brought the 10,000 word dictionary not the 120,000 word one. It was too heavy to pack. Believe me, I debated with myself long and hard over the value of having that dictionary here with us for two weeks! Anyway, we found out today when our contact person arrived that the cook is not speaking Russian.

Lita is speaking Ukrainian.

Spencer and Tom are off in search of a bank to get American dollars. We have tried several bankomats and one currnecy exchange and no luck. All we can get are grivens. Grivens are going about 5g=1 dollar. So it is a sign of a stable economy for Ukraine....but for us prices have gone up in comparison from Russia.

We did purchase a new keyboard here for our computer. It was only 29 griven. About 4.18 USD. It has Russian and English letters which will make it easier to type in Russian. We can each do it now but it is hunt and peck.

Last night for dessert we had bliny, Russian pancakes! She (Lita) put apples inside and topped them with blueberry sauce. She is working hard to fatten Nathan up. She is always trying to get him to eat more. She is very concerned. But then most babushkas are like that!

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

in love with Ukraine!

Odessa,Ukraine is:
very western
has great shopping
good food

It seems like we are in a whole new country... oh, we are... this used to be a part of Russia before the fall of communism. But, Ukraine wants the dollars that the tourists bring in. When we make purchases we are paying taxes. It is worth it. Did I mention how clean it is here? I see why Lena is so proud to be from Ukraine. And why she wants to retain her Ukrainian passport. I would be proud too. Parts of California are not this clean!

We went shopping today. We found a store that is sort of like a Walmart it just does not have enough clothes to make it "just like a Walmart"; otherwise it has everything else a super Walmart has. We stocked up on needed items. Now we know we don't have to go to Italy or Budapest to find supplies!

The guys bought some very nice winter clothes at a store downtown. The sales girl even talked Nathan into some clothes that are not black... We started off looking at "tolka chornee" and slowly moved on to other colors he might "nravitsa" be pleased with! He now has some good quality and fashionable winter clothes due in part to them not being chosen by his mother but by a gorgeus & smart Ukrainian sales girl! Whatever works; I am just happy he tried them on and said yes! Spencer got two new jackets and went down a size! Tom even found something he was pleased with. Then she turned her charm on me! It would have worked but we had reached our spending limit! Darn that cash only!!!!! I will have to go back!

When we came out of the store we were across from the giant ceramic hamburger so we crossed the street and entered the submarine... so here we are in the internet cafe!

My friend Cathy L. from Kansas told me in an email that she and her husband had used a landmark in Africa that was a rock shaped like a hamburger... she said I brought back to her memory the times they turned at hamburger rock! It really is a small world Cathy.

Monday, September 19, 2005

How far would you walk?

I think Spencer and I walked about a mile and a half to find this internet cafe.... we just stumbled across it. We were laughing about me telling him to remember "we have to turn left at the big hamburger on the way home!" and I looked across the street and there it was! Just like in Rome this one in downstairs. Why do some people think us computer nuts like to be in basements? At least this one is well lit!

It is designed to look as if you are in a submarine. Very clever... I feel silly sitting here at this station. I feel like Captain Nemo is watching me from somewhere!

The bus ride was quite an adventure.
The first time we went through passport control was leaving Krasnodar.
I dropped somethings as I was getting my passport out and the militsia picked it up for me. I thanked him and he said "you are welcome." He stared at Nathan's passport for a long time and then gave it back. But, he took this guy from the back of the bus off for questioning. The second stop was a little more exciting. Tom had to be awakened by the militsia... I did'nt know he was asleep back there. And his passport was carefully scrutinized... but the same guy as before was taken off for questioning. The bus driver asked him if he was a foreignor! The answer was this was normal. Spencer thinks he was from Daghestan... he kind of looks like our friend Murat.

From the bus we saw some vegetable stands Nathan and I could not believe the size of these cabbages. They were the same as a large watermelon! It was unreal.

When we got to Novorosissk I forgot to take in my toilet paper when I got off the bus. Yes our friend Kurt gave us a roll of toilet paper for the trip. We did not know we would need one. So I went to a market to purchase another before heading off to the ladies room. Well it did not matter that I had my own roll. I still had to pay the attendant 5 rubles for a strip of her paper just to get in! 5 rubles is what I paid for a whole roll...

Anapa was gorgeous I wish we could have stayed.

We got to the ferry and of course this time it was us who got pulled out of the line. We chose the lady who had never seen visa extensoins before and she did not know how to enter the dates on our passports. So the superviser was called out. Well the ferry was held for the AMERICANS and until then no one onboard the bus knew we were the AMERICANS. We try hard to balance speaking English and Russian and just being quiet! Once I the last to arrive came onboard; everyone who could speak English was using us for practice!!!!

The couple in front of Nathan and I have a daughter in the States for an exchange program. She asked me how to say daughter in English. She was speaking Ruglish... the half English/ half Russian that we still do some times if we don't know the Russian word. Only she was speaking English and throwing in Russian when she did not know the English word!

Anyway once we got across to the Ukrainian side we went through passport control again!!!!!

The busdriver and the militsia collected everyone's passports and when they brought them back they did it roll call style the first time the busdriver came to a name he could not pronouce he just yelled the country "Ukraine!" Someone yelled "here" it was funny. He told our family there would be a delay everyone groaned.... then he said it was just a joke; the computer was slow and they would be out in just a minute! Six months of immersion in the Russian culture and language and everybody is a commedian with us now!

We love Ukraine; it is very pretty here. And everyone speaks clearly and precisely like Lena. so we can understand what they are saying. It helps having a Ukrainian language helper. Her Russian is great. In Krasnodar the accent is lazy and the speak is unclear. Can you imagine learning English in the remote hills of the south somewhere! That is where we are comparatively!

When we arrived at church Tom told the taxi driver he thought this was the right one... the taxi driver told him this was "exactly the right church.... there is only one baptist church here in town." There are apartments behind it. And for 15$ person we get two rooms and 2 meals a day! Not a bad deal... our friends Kurt and Rochelle have stayed here with their kids. They came to our rescue once again!

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Don't know what to expect

Tomorrow morning at ten we leave for Odessa. We don't know if we will be able to call from there or not. We don't know if we will have internet access or not. We have never been there before. I remember that when I flew to Rome I had forgotten to turn off my cell phone and I got a text message from their satellite welcoming me. Possibly, I can use it to do text messaging or make phone calls. Ukraine is in my roaming area! But, then so was Italy and I could receive but not call or text back. Now, I have a larger amount of rubles on my phone so hopefully it will work!!!

We will have to exchange money in Ukraine they use another form of currency there.

We can only take one bag each and they need to be small. We will try not to look like tourists but, hey! I always stand out in a crowd! I usually dress like those around me so if I remember to speak Russian I should be okay. Most people only travel with a small "paquet" a small plastic shopping bag. If we use our school bags we will be okay.

Our friends Kurt & Rochelle have found a place for us to stay and we are going to try and connect with some friends of Lena and Alexei as well. It is going to be an interesting trip! I will have my camera and so will Spencer to document it all. This is such a new experience to us all.

We have never had to renew a visa outside of America before so we will be going to the Embassy to do it in person. Keep us in your thoughts and prayers as we continue our adventure!

Friday, September 16, 2005

Social project day!

Nathan got up and went to school and taught his 9 am English class. I was late to teach my 1 oclock class. Spencer worked at the Orphanage at 4pm playing games with the children and Tom was at the Rehab center by 1pm. Everyone had a full day.

I burned a CD for Valentin of the Wedding Preparations and the wedding. I will make them another soon; I left our kitchen photos on there! Who wants that?

Tom and Valentin went to the train station to purchase our tickets to Odessa. We will have to pack very light. One bag each! And that means backpack size!!!!

Lena's brother Slavic will stay at our house while we are gone. And Olya will still come to clean. What a great sister in law she is to him! It is great how people take care of one another here. I got a phone call from Lena to make sure that I got home safely. Spencer got a phone call from Tabby at the orphanage to check in on him as well.

Brownie is going to stay at Robert and Ann's house while we are gone. I hope she does well for them... They are missing their dog, Sadie. They saw her on a video call the other day and it made their day... of course they were excited to talk to their sons too!

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Oy, Mamochka!

Tonight a group of us women from school went over to Ann's house. Let's just say that one of the things we had in common is that we are past the big 40! When we got off the elevator there was a darling little boy standing there with his mom. He saw four grown ups get out of the tiny "lift" and his EYES got huge and he exclaimed "Oy, mamochka!" It was pretty cute. His mom just smiled and they got on the elevator and took off.

Today Judy H. and I finally had the chance to go shopping at the warehouses I had talked about. I took her to buy office supplies and yarn. It was all very good prices. She probably got 50$ worth of yarn for only 200 rubles. Which is around 7$ depending on the exchange rate. I love this place. She asked me why I didn't buy anything & I had to tell her that I had enough yarn at home to start my own store! Shopping wholesale is sooooo tempting!

We started in on verbs in our class. Nathan and I can speak using present tense actions now! Some of them we had heard as we go along in our day to day lives... such as when someone stands up on the bus to offer me the seat and says
"siditeh" (formal you, imperfective aspect, present tense)
or we hear a mom tell her child to
"sideesh" (informal you, imperfective aspect, present tense)
I know they have conjugated the verb "to sit" which is sideet. It is interesting. We are grateful that it follows a pattern and should not be too hard to memorize by Monday. Now just so you don't go around thinking we don't have this in English. Russian has only three tenses... past, present, future. Supposedly,Enlgish has twelve!

Be sure to take a peek at the kitchen photos!!!!

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Swan Lake

Tonight I saw my first ballet in Russia. I saw the Bolshoi Ballet in California. And they were great. But to watch the ballet here was incredible. The costumes and the sets were extravagant and magificent. The Swan Lake version we saw had a happy ending. Only the evil sorcerer dies and not the Prince. So the lovers can be together.... depending on where you see the ballet done or who the choreographer is will determine the ending. Judy B. had just seen it Kiev, Ukraine and the girl who turns into the Swan dies at the end. I wish I had photos to share but I don't; for once I obeyed the no photos rule. I did not want to embarrass Lena.

I took her with me. I had to explain to her "Tom neh loobit balet" he does not like the ballet! When I went to pick up Lena at her home Alexei was there with his friend Andrei and they were giving us a hard time about two zhenshinee going to the ballet alone! I told Lena that in America this is "narmalne!" no big deal! It happens all the time! When we got there we saw one of Tom's former students and his wife. Larissa is Ann's language helper. And so Stas was dragged along. Robert was telling me that Stas had not seen a ballet since he was ten. Stas had just asked me where Tom was. I told him the same thing I had told Lena about why I did not bring Tom. So Stas procalimed loudly "Yah neh loobit balet tozhe!" he does not like it either! Oh well so much for our night of culture... Jody looked like he was bored to tears... maybe because there was no car chase or wrastlin! He and Melanie cleared out very quickly when it was over. JB did not even come in with Iris we saw him later across the street and he said 'He was sorry he missed it'. I was not convinced. I didn't see how Patrick looked; I will ask Janet at school tomorrow.

I had a hard time concentrating during the second half. While in line for the bathroom Ann mentioned that the male lead had a 'Michael Jackson' thing going on! It was too true! It was hard to tell what gender this person was. If it was truly a man or a woman dressed as a man. Neh Iznaiyou. I don't know! I spent the second half wondering each time he appeared...

Nathan went to Nastia's 15th birthday party tonight. It was held at the church. They made pizzas and baked her a bithday cake. Again it was all girls and Nathan. Such is his life!

Spencer and Tom spent the evening studying at home.

More things are appearing around the apartment.... boxes are disappearing and it looks more and more like home each day!

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Kartoshka and cir

Tom likes Ira. Ira has finally warmed up to Tom. This afternoon Olya stopped by to pick up our laundry. What a blessing to have a friend and housekeeper who lives 8 doors down! She was out walking and brought Ira by with her. Tom followed Ira into our kitchen I had just finished making meatloaf & mashed potatos with cheese. Ira loved it. She ate half a bowlful while Tom held her and drank some apple juice from a 'big cup'. She is such a sweetheart. Right now she can "govareet tolkah papa!" understand... she will only say daddy! Even in Russian it is a baby's first word!! Next she will likely say "DyahDyah" which is Uncle. I'm not sure about Olya. But, I know several guys around here who will be thrilled!

Monday, September 12, 2005

monday, monday

Today is such a strange day. I typed out a full post and then it disappeared. Sometimes I can click on recover post and it all comes back. Not today. It has no intention of reappearing.

Lena was quite suprised to discover that she has an accent. I told her about my encounter on Friday. She thought it was very funny.

My taxi driver was from Houston, TX on Sunday night. He is here to spend time with his family before going back to work in America. It was wierd when he asked if I spoke English and what country I was from. He started to sing about America...

We had a new student come and visit from Canada today. We are hoping that Jody did not scare her away. He starting talking Southern to her... you know he says stuff like "you might could" and "wrastlin" Only today he was realllly pouring it on thick! Her name is Michele and she is 21. Hopefully, she will come back. Surely, Grand Prairie has a few people with a strange sense of humor like his!

Tom spoke with Kurt today about our trip this weekend. We are taking the bus to Odessa. It is cheaper and faster than the train. It is supposed to be a very beautiful city... right on the Black Sea. Maybe it will seem like home. Southern California gets to be very pleasant in the fall and spring! No smog...

Nathan has been buying movies this week from the guys at school. He is able to watch on his lap top with his head phones on. He likes being able to come home from school and unwind that way.

Spencer has arranged his room the way he wants and Brownie can go in his room and the hallway. Keeping her out of the living room and other bedrooms has cut down on the dog hair all over the house which is nice!

Our home smelled and looked wonderful when we came home from school today. I was able to write Olya a note in Russian telling her what I wanted done. She did everything and more. She even wrote out her hours on the note for me. I get practice writing in Russian by text messaging a friend. It helps me with grammar and adds to my vocabulary when I see what she writes. So I was glad that Olya could read my writing. We all just learned to write in Russian cursive a month ago!

I hope that you are enjoying the photos of the wedding. Tom thinks I may be asked to do more weddings while I am here. It won't be the death of me if I am. It will just be our wedding gift if that is what happens. This wedding gave me an experience I will treasure for a lifetime! Lena went through some of the photos with our family today. It took two hours to get through about half of what I took. When Sveta gets back from the honeymoon she can come and tell me what she likes and what she wants copies of!

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Day after wedding day snooze

Spencer was the only one to get up at a mormal time today. Tom, Nathan and myself all woke up this afternoon around 4:30pm. So much for making it to church. I did clean up in the kitchen... a new housekeeper starts tomorrow and I did not want her to be scared away on the first day!

Ола is her name and yes she is the mom of the little girl whose party I posted pictures of. Olya speaks a little English but we both have to do the same thing for each other when we speak our native languages... SLOW DOWN! I don't always realize how fast I can talk. I know that Nathan does it but I didn't think I did it too! Anyhow, Olya and I agreed on a wage and a time for her to come over. She has my house keys which I was thinking of giving them to her anyway since she lives in the same building as us. She is in number 98 and we are number 8. It is an extremely large building!!!

She came over and got two loads of laundry and will bring it over tomorrow all dried and ready to be put away. Since school started those of us who thought we could get by without house help are learning fast the reality is we can't. I have to be in class and/or studying for 8 hours a day. I barely have time to shop and cook. I spend a lot of time just sitting on tram-vi's and trolley buses. I am grateful for my MP3 player so I can listen to my Russian lessons as I commute. Tonight I was away for almost 4 hours just going to the supermarket!

Tom finally found the time to get on the somputer and aswer some emails toinght. Thanks to those of you who were so patient.

Please pray for some dear friends of ours in Wichita, Kansas. Terri Cowley just had her father pass away on Saturday. He had been ill with pneumonia the final week of his life. Remember Terri and her family this week.

Make sure you check the photo blog for wedding photos!

Saturday, September 10, 2005


Svadba... That is what a wedding is called. Marriage is vrach. Today we witnessed the wedding and the beginning of a marriage! Sveta and Valentin included us in every part of the day. I started the day off at 9am decorating the cars and finally got to leave after the bride tossed the bouquet. We got home around 9pm.

The bridal car is the fancy one; the lead car acts sort of like the lead car for a funeral procession. We stop the traffic and alert everyone that a wedding party is coming through. It was an adventure being in the lead car. The camera crew always took the lead! Sveta (another one) and I were together all day. She videotaped and I took photos. I have over 1100 photos of the event. Tomorrow I will start weeding through to edit them for printing. Tom and I will put together an album for them as a gift.

We went to Zachs. The official office to get married in. Tom stood in for Valentin as his Dad. Sveta's mom is still in the hospital so she was not present but there is enough documentation of the event to make her happy; I am CERTAIN!!!!

We went to various parks around the city to take photos. I took all the posed shots they asked of me. Everyone gave me instructions in Russian only the videographer spoke English. I was able to comprehend most everything they asked me to do. At the church there were a few English speakers so we had a translator during the banquet. But did I sit down... well, just long enough to eat. My name was called everytime they wanted another shot and off I went. Tom got to eat but then he could not sit back and enjoy the show instead he became a part of it. The emcee for the banquet was Alexei so of course he dragged Tom up to speak. Well, after the Best Man heard Tom's sense of humor we all kept hearing "Toam, Toam!" He was in every game or extra skit they had for the audience to partake in.

It was truly a great day. I have never seen Sveta so happy nor so beautiful. I saw other gals with dresses that looked like they must have paid a fortune for them. Sveta is a professional seamstress and hers far outshined anything else I saw today!

Are they not the most handsome couple? Posted by Picasa

One more shot; how cute is this! Posted by Picasa

The girls set this one up nicely. I understood exactly what they wanted me to do... & all my instructions were in Russian. Posted by Picasa

Friday, September 09, 2005

The Day Before!

Tomorrow is Sveta and Valentin's BIG day. He is very nervous. I have not seen Sveta yet. She has been calm whenever I see her. Maybe, she just hides it well! We have to go over and decorate the church for the wedding. We need to decorate cars, the inside of the church and make sure the outside is clean too!

<=Tom is showing where the sink will go!

The kitchen still needs a few finishing touches...

Nathan and I went back over to the school we visited for September First today. He and I are going to be helping one of the fifth grade teachers. Her name is Tamara. (tu-mar-uh) And she has traveled more than we have! She taught Russian in Japan for two years. And she has been in Italy, Great Britian and the United States. She has been to Washington D.C. and I have not!

Yesterday I had a new experience. I was purchasing produce from a guy who had set up in front of the doughnut shop. (smart man) And as I was finishing up he asked me "Ukrainka?" I thought I heard him wrong so I repeated it "Ukrainka?" He said "Da, Ukrainka?" I smiled and simply said "nyet" He was asking me if I was from Ukraine! I hurried home as fast as I could because I was about to burst out laughing. I finally got home and told the story to Tom. You see Lena is from Ukraine. So we have Ukrainian ACCENTS!!!! She is our language helper and she is the one who corrects us when we speak! I remember Erin telling me a similar story this summer. She speaks Italian but with a Roman accent. Her Italian teacher in California noticed it when she was speaking with Erin after she had returned from Rome!

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Phone line!

We have a phone.... we are back on line in our own home. No more internet cafe. I can post photos again!

Please take a look at my photos of the September First celebration:

It is so good to be back!

Madonna's English Roses in Russian! Posted by Picasa

Two aunts and they are both named Lena! This is Olya's sister. Our friend and Language helper Lena P. is Olya's sister in law. (Olya married Lena P's brother!) Posted by Picasa

Snapped this shot precisely at the right moment!  Posted by Picasa

The babushka.... really, she may look young; but she is the grandmother! Posted by Picasa

The spread was fantastic! Posted by Picasa

Adeen Goad! One year old!  Posted by Picasa

Blowing out the candle! Posted by Picasa

"Hey Tom, I don't have any socks!" says Anna.... she is very friendly; and filled with information like most two and a half year olds. Posted by Picasa

The cake has been cut and served! Posted by Picasa

Cups have been filled with gareeachee vadah (hot water) They are awaiting Chai (tea) or kofee (coffee) whichever you prefer. Posted by Picasa

They are making a break for the door! Posted by Picasa

She figured it out of course; two year old Anna has tenacity! Posted by Picasa

Moroshenah! We like ice cream very much! Posted by Picasa

Yummmm....... Posted by Picasa

Priceless... I will leave you to guess what she just said to me! Her name is Kayla and she is five years old. Posted by Picasa

All babies put things in the mouth! Posted by Picasa

Photo albums are traditionally shared at gatherings when in Russia! Two of the albums were done with Creative Memories supplies from someone in the States. Posted by Picasa

Ira is getting sleepy; it is hard work being the Birthday girl! Posted by Picasa

This is Ira's mama; her name is Olya. Posted by Picasa

We watched their home movies; Ира (eera) met this little girl on the ferry ride to Ukraine! Posted by Picasa

What in the world?

Last night we were at a birthday party for a one year old... It was a blast! Ira (eera) can run, chatter and screech. She followed the big kids around like a pro. She has a friend, Anna, who is American and she is 2 and 1/2. Together they managed to set off someones car alarm, empty out a purse and unlock the front door! You have to move quick with fast thinking toddlers around.

Our friends showed us their home videos of a trip they took to Ukraine. They told us they were near the home Mike Tyson bought. There was a place where they could put on German military uniforms and pose for photos in a vintage German automobile. It was funny to see these Russian guys dressed up like Colonel Klink from Hogans Heroes. But, the hilarious part was when one of them put on the Mike Tyson mask and flashed a peace sign!

I am glad we had this cultural experience after we had been here long enough to understand what was being said. Otherwise we could have easily misinterpreted a lot last night!

The kitchen is coming together...the cabinets are in; all we need now is a sink and stove. (just a minor detail!)

We will have to leave here for about a week to renew our one year visas. No, we have not been here a year but our visas were issued a year ago and they have to be renewed. The government has granted the extension. So we can stay for the wedding on Saturday. We are planning to go to Odessa, Ukraine. It is supposed to be inexpensive and simple to take care of everything there. We saw photos of how beautiful it is which makes the decision easy to make!

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Ditching school

Tom and I had to duck out of our classes today. We are supposed to be having our kitchen cabinets built. So we had to come downtown to get money and get back home in time to meet the workers.

My class was going shopping. I thought it was interesting that Patrick said to me "do they think YOU have not shopped for four months?" I don't speak Russian fluently and I don't claim to. But, I can shop. I have a food vocabulary. Alexei likes to cook and so do I. So, when one of us makes something it is fun to guess what is in it! And so my food vocabulary grows when we share recipes and cook together. He teaches Lena and I both new things. It is great that he was a bachelor for so long!

On the bus this morning there was a woman who made Nathan give her his seat. She let us all know she was on her way to the hospital to have an operation. She was going from one side of town to the other. She made everyone close all the windows around her and when someone tried to open one as the bus filled up she would protest. Eventually the conductor stepped in and said she had 50 people to worry about and not just one. Then adamantly told that woman she should take a taxi if she wants comfort! Two younger women started joking about this lady wanting the comfort of a taxi for just 4 rubles... In April this conversation would have been lost on us. Today it was as clear as a bell! Where I come from this is called "loud talking". You say rude things about someone not to their face but just loud enough for them to hear it. It is done frequently here! These young ladies even looked her direction.

Poor Nathan; he was not even feeling well today. The last time he gave up his seat was to a nice little babushka who rewarded him with an apple. Today, no apple! I was praying he would not loose his breakfast on the hospital bound passenger! Finally someone opened up a window and we all breathed easier; much to her frustration.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Saturday Night

Eventful. How else can I describe the night. The drunks were out in full force. It was a major party night.

2 women fell up the stairs getting on the tram vi.

Tom saw a woman step out of her underwear and brush it aside as she stepped on the bus....

Nathan met Mr Mumbles from the Dick Tracy show. He got so flustered from talking to that guy he left his candy on the bench. We decided it was a rouse by that man to get his Twix!

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Social projects

It is time to do decide on where we will do our Social work. Since we are here on Student and Cultural visas we are required to be involed in projects while we are enrolled at New View. Nathan and I are considering teaching English as a second language at school number 23; the school that we visited on September 1st. They have had as many as nine of our students in the past working at the school. The kids there learn English, French and German. The English they study is British English not American. Stop and think... do you say elevator or lift? Do you say apartment or flat? You decide if you speak American. Spencer may work at the Children's home or the kindergarten. Both places are in need of males to be around the kids. Tom is working at a Rehabilitation Center.

Tom toured the center yesterday. He took Valentin with him because he was told to bring a male interpretor. At one point there were a few addicts that followed them from room to room. This guy asked Tom if he had heard of Americans sponsoring people financially to send them to the States. Tom was not willing to do that for him... so the guy said "well, then will you buy me some cooookies?" Tom laughed heartily. The word he comprehended first was 'cooookies'. Valentin asked Tom if he needed a translation. Tom said he got the message! And no; he was not bringing back cookies either!

We are looking forward to having a phone on Tuesday.

We are eager to get the kitchen cabinets and counters done and that is supposed happen on Tuesday as well. After that the oven and sink will go in!

We are finally hearing news about New Orleans. It sounds unreal. I may have relatives there I am not sure. It is hard being in a place where news is not about the United States exclusively.

Today there was a memorial downtown for the children in Beslan who were killed during the hostage crisis last year. That happened on September 1st,2004.

The children in that city will not start school until next week so they can make new memories; although like the kids from Columbine how can you ever forget....

Friday, September 2, 2005.
Lawlessness Hampers New Orleans Rescue Efforts

By Adam Nossiter The Associated Press

NEW ORLEANS -- The evacuation of refugees from the Superdome was suspended Thursday because of fires and gunshots outside the arena, authorities said, as National Guardsmen in armored vehicles poured into New Orleans to help restore order across the increasingly lawless and desperate city.
An additional 10,000 National Guard troops from across the country were ordered into the hurricane-ravaged Gulf of Mexico coast area to shore up security, rescue and relief operations in Katrina's wake. That brought the number of troops to more than 28,000, in what may be the biggest militєary response to a natural disaster in U.S. history.
"The truth is, a terrible tragedy like this brings out the best in most people, brings out the worst in some people," said Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour on NBC's "Today" show. "We're trying to deal with looters as ruthlessly as we can get our hands on them."
The first of 500 busloads of people to be evacuated from the hot and stinking Louisiana Superdome arrived early Thursday at their new temporary home -- another sports arena, the Houston Astrodome, 560 kilometers away.
But the evacuation of the 25,000 or so storm refugees was abruptly suspended by the ambulance service in charge of taking the sick and injured from the Superdome and by the military, which was overseeing the removal of the able-bodied. Richard Zeuschlag, chief of Acadian Ambulance, said shots were fired at a military helicopter, making it clear that it had become too dangerous for his air-ambulance pilots. And National Guard Lieutenant Colonel Pete Schneider said the military suspended the ground evacuation because fires set outside the arena were preventing buses from getting close enough to pick people up.
On Wednesday, Mayor Ray Nagin offered the most startling estimate yet of the magnitude of the disaster. Asked how many people died in New Orleans, he said: "Minimum, hundreds. Most likely, thousands." The death toll has already reached at least 110 in Mississippi.
Nagin called for a total evacuation of New Orleans, saying it had become uninhabitable for the 50,000 to 100,000 who remained behind after the city of nearly a half-million people was ordered evacuated over the weekend, before Katrina blasted the Gulf Coast with 233-kilometer-per-hour winds.
The mayor said that it would be two or three months before the city was functioning again and that people would not be allowed back into their homes for at least a month or two.
With New Orleans sinking deeper into desperation, Nagin also ordered virtually the entire police force to abandon search-and-rescue efforts Wednesday and stop the increasingly brazen thieves.
"They are starting to get closer to heavily populated areas, hotels, hospitals -- and we're going to stop it right now," Nagin said.
In a sign of growing lawlessness, Tenet HealthCare asked authorities late Wednesday to help evacuate a fully functioning hospital in Gretna after a supply truck carrying food, water and medical supplies was held up at gunpoint. "There are physical threats to safety from roving bands of armed individuals with weapons who are threatening the safety of the hospital," said spokesman Steven Campanini.
Tempers flared elsewhere across the devastated region. Police said a man in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, fatally shot his sister in the head over a bag of ice. Dozens of carjackings were reported, including a nursing home bus. One officer was shot in the head and a looter was wounded in a shootout. Both were expected to survive.
On some of the few roads that were still open, people waved at passing cars with empty water jugs, begging for relief.
The floodwaters streamed into the city's streets from two levee breaks near Lake Pontchartrain a day after New Orleans thought it had escaped catastrophic damage from Katrina. The floodwaters covered 80 percent of the city, in some areas 6 meters deep, in a reddish-brown soup of sewage, gasoline and garbage.
The Army Corps of Engineers said it planned to use heavy-duty Chinook helicopters to drop 6,750-kilogram bags of sand and stone into a 150-meter gap in the failed floodwall.
But the agency said it was having trouble getting the sandbags and dozens of 5-meter highway barriers to the site because the city's waterways were blocked by loose barges, boats and large debris.
The seventeen Russian university students who had been stranded on a rooftop in hurricane-flooded New Orleans have all been rescued, the Foreign Ministry said Thursday.
© Copyright 2005 The Moscow Times. All rights reserved.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Septemer First

Today is a big celebration. It is the first day of school. Here, for grades 1-11 it is a major day! The school we visited had the mayor of Krasnodar in attendance. And some of our students were delayed getting back to school by a motorcade that held some of the officials going to the opening of the school that Putin was participating in!

I am eager to post my photos of this event. One little girls mom spent time designing her daughters hairdo... it was very long and had several different colored ribbons braided into it. We saw at least 5 different Television cameras, radio reporters and print reporters there. Having watched my oldest brother do reporting over the phone or into a reocorder I am familiar with this reporting technique! I spotted a young woman dictating her story into a microphone in a corner and I used my camera to zoom in on her bag. She was from a Radio Station for the Deaf. Her bag had Russian sign language on it. Nathan studied American sign Language so he was facsinated with this photo.

The processional of the kids was exciting. The older kids came out first and then the little ones. There were dancers in bright costumes and speeches made by politicians.... sounds a little like in the states during an election year! oooops did I mention that the city elections are coming up soon! The ceremony ended with fireworks followed by the tallest boy of the 11th grade putting the smallest girl of the first grade on his shoulders and parading her around the courtyard as she rings a bell high above her shoulders.... signaling the beginning of the school year!

Then picture time begins and kisses are given and children march off to class! Teachers are decked out in their finest clothing and they looked grand!!!!!

Parents were in tears!

Children were grinning from ear to ear!

We stood back amazed at it all!

Ok... I am still having to come to an internet cafe; the ddd key is sticking so I have to go back and take out the random d's when they show up. And I just broke up a fight. These boys were most likely about 10 or 11 and they were smacking this one boy on the back of the head because he did not have money to play. I yelled "ostaroshnah" at them which means stop. So they left my area and took it over near Tom. He just told them the boy was his friend so they are leaving the kid alone now!