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!