Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Getting a Russian Visa in Kiev, Ukraine

So I was totally going to do a post about how to get a visa in Kiev, and my experience there, however when I was looking up a link to the visa application form on the Russian embassy website, I discovered that they have changed the process as of February 1st. So what this means is that I could give you the information, but it will be obsolete tomorrow.

Previously, you would fill out all your paperwork, take it to the consulate and stand in line until they called for anyone who was there to get a visa. As of tomorrow, however you will be required to have an appointment in order to get a visa. Not only that, but you also will have to fill out the electronic visa form and print it out to take with you (Much like when you're in the United States getting a Russian visa.)

The information about the change, and all of the information about the paperwork you need to have with you when you apply for a visa can be found at the Russian Consulate in Kiev's Website

One thing I will tell you that you should know before going is your visa fee is to be paid in cash and also must be paid in U.S. Dollars. The website does not list the fees for visa processing, but I feel like if you have $300 or so on hand, you'll probably be okay. (But I take no responsibility if it's not) I got a year-long multi-entry business visa and it cost me $250. Also, they say that visa processing now takes place within 7 days though it can be longer for U.S. Citizens. I would make sure that you plan for it to take 10 business days, so if you plan two weeks for the wait, that should be enough. Also, when you actually go for visa processing, make sure you go to the consulate and not the embassy. The consulate is located on Kutuzova street.

Sorry I can't be more helpful, but you gotta love it when all the rules randomly change. If any of you want more details about this process, you can leave a comment or send me an email and I'll do my best to help.

Friday, January 27, 2012

The Grass is Greener

So here's the irony about my trip to Kharkov to visit with the mission team there.

Before I left there were some things that, I wasn't really complaining about, but that I would've liked to be different in regards to the mission work I'm doing.

First off, there was a part of me that at times thought it would be a lot nicer to be working with a church plant rather than an established congregation. Why? Because I felt like there would be more for me to do, more ways to reach out, to get involved. Not that I don't do anything at Neva, but sometimes you don't feel like you're being effective or really doing anything.

Secondly, I thought it would be awesome if there was a team here. Or, rather, that I was part of a team. It would be so nice to have the support of a group of same-culture people who had shared experiences and could be there when I got down. In turn, I could help and support them. And we could all work together to help the church here.

So I went to Kharkov because I wanted to learn about the work the team was doing there and one of the biggest things I learned is that the grass is always greener. I mean, we knew this already, but it's interesting in the way it was reinforced. I think God was trying to tell me something because I had several conversations with people that specifically addressed these specific things.

I learned that being on a team has its own set of problems. Sometimes it can cause you to want to stay insulated with the people who are like-cultured. Sometimes it can keep you from interacting more with natives. And as with any family, sometimes you have to do things you'd rather not  in order to accommodate your teammates. It's a give and take.

One evening, I was talking with some different people about what they liked and didn't like about working in Kharkov. One person specifically said "Sometimes I wish we were working with an established congregation instead of a church plant. I think there'd be more for us to do" which again made me stop and think. The irony was not lost on me. And I think I even said something about how sometimes I wished the opposite.

I'm not saying people who go on teams or on church plants are wrong or should do it a different way. Nor am I saying the way I'm doing it is the best way either. What I'm saying is that the most important thing I learned is to be content. God put me here for a reason and he put the team in Kharkov for a reason and though there are times we all want things to be different, the bottom line is that there are advantages and disadvantages to every situation. So we need to take a step back and look at those things.

Besides, at the end of the day the most important thing is that God is glorified and people come to know him. After all, that is our ultimate goal. 

Thursday, January 26, 2012

The Great Ukrainian Adventure

Oi my hoodness.

I got back from the "Great Ukrainian Adventure" last night. Three weeks is entirely too long. However, it was a busy three weeks but not in a bad way. It was really great to have an opportunity to relax a bit and not have to think or worry about things. Once I got my visa application in that is. I'm going to be doing a separate post on the visa process when I get a chance

I felt very much New Testamenty because during my time in both Kharkov and Kiev I stayed with families in the church. Before my trip, I wasn't sure how I felt about doing that, but honestly it was a really good experience. I recommend doing it. It gets you connected to the church, you have people to hang out with and the common experiences of being a Christian and (in this case) being missionaries makes for good times.

I stayed with the Noyes family in Kiev. Since it was over Orthodox Christmas, we had an awesome dinner on the 6th. During this dinner, I met a couple of girls from the congregation and we hit it off. Since I had to wait for the consulate to open and the girls had time off work due to holidays I got to spend some awesome times hanging out with them. It was great to just kick back and have a great time.

On January 10th the consulate opened so I went in the morning to drop off my visa paperwork. As I mentioned, a more detailed blog post will be forthcoming. Despite my fears to the contrary, everything went smoothly and I was told to come back on the 24th to pick my visa up.

The evening of the 10th, I took a train to Kharkov to meet with a group of American missionaries there and spend some time with them. The first two days in the city, I did nothing but rest since I was trying to get over a cold. It was actually a really good couple of days. I read, and slept, and ate. I'm really grateful to the Price family for letting me crash at their place and for feeding me tastiness. Once I felt better, I got involved with some of the activities that the church is doing there.

It was great because there was no pressure. I could participate or not as I chose (As it turned out, I very much enjoyed participating in everything I was invited to) but there was no pressure to have to participate in anything. It was a great vacation. For real.

The trip also gave me some different life experiences. I became more confident with my Russian, I got experience riding on trains, and most valuable of all, I got to see how some other churches on this side of the world function and the things they're trying to do in order to reach out.

After spending about ten days in Kharkov, I headed back to Kiev. They were having a seminar for unmarried women about how to avoid problems on the path to marriage. In other words, how to make good life choices when it comes to guys. Even though I'd heard a lot of the information before thanks to my mom and the church people back home, hearing it in Russian put a new perspective on things. Plus I feel like now I'm at a stage in my life where the information is more useful to me and I'm more willing to apply it.

Through this seminar, I got to know some other girls from the congregations in Kiev and again, it was fun although by this time, I was getting pretty tired. Thankfully, Monday I had a chance to relax and recover. Tuesday, I gathered my things and in the afternoon picked up my visa from the consulate (again without problems). Then I took an evening train from Kiev to Moscow.

Let me tell you the one advantage trains have to planes is at least you feel like you're going somewhere. With a plane, not so much. But the train ride back was super super long. Too long. I left Kiev at 6pm. I arrived in Moscow at 9:30 the next morning. Then, at 1pm I took another train to arrive in St. Petersburg about 10pm. I was so ready to get off the train and just be done when I got in.

I was also really excited to get back to Piter. I'd really missed the city and more importantly, I'd really missed my church family here. It was a good trip, like I said, and I really needed the break but at the same time three weeks was too long. 

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Leaving on a... Choo-Choo Train?

Well, tomorrow's the big day. The day that I've been alternately looking forward and dreading since October. Namely my trip to Ukraine. During this trip I will be getting a second visa and hopefully this will keep me from having to go to Ukraine again. I will write about the whole visa process in more detail upon my return.

Anyway, so it's really strange to be thinking about this. On the one hand, I'm really looking forward to the trip. I get to have an adventure and meet new people and so I'm very excited about that.

On the other hand, I'm nervous. I feel like there are a lot of "What ifs." I also feel like I'm going to forget something. Maybe it's because I haven't completely packed yet. I have some stuff that I can't actually pack until tomorrow morning.

In any case, it will be an adventure, and for those of you who know me you know I like adventures. So please pray that the visa aspect of this one goes perfectly fine and I can enjoy myself.