Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Joys of Traveling

I have come to a realization. I hate traveling.

I'll pause a minute while the laughter dies down.

I agree, I think it's funny too, that the girl who has constant wanderlust, frequently goes walkabout and lives in Russia hates traveling. But I really do.

I like adventuring. I like seeing new places and doing new things but what I don't like? Getting there.

I feel like I'm pretty well versed in traveling. Especially since I've had to travel a lot for my visa this year. Planes, trains, cars, buses. Pretty much the only way I haven't really traveled is by boat. I'll have to remedy that situation.

I used to absolutely loathe flying. It was my least favorite way to travel. You sit for eight hours breathing recycled air and watching bad movies while the guy next to you snores away and keeps invading your personal space by taking over the armrest on that side. (okay, this is actually a problem I've noticed on other transportation types as well.) If you're lucky you get an aisle seat that allows you to kind of stretch your legs a bit. If you're not, you're crammed in by a window for all that time which would be cool except this is an airplane we're talking about and so it's not like there's anything to see out the window anyway. That's one of the worst things about airplanes. You spend eight hours feeling like you aren't going anywhere. Yet the advantage is that airplanes are relatively fast. So after eight hours of this joyful journey, you stumble into the light of day in a completely different country, completely confused by what time it is (And if you're like me, you run panicked to the gate where you're next flight is because you think you're late when in reality you really have a four hour layover) and completely dead tired because between the guy next to you and the can of coke you drank, sleep on the plane did not happen.

As bad as the airplane is though, it has recently been replaced in my mind by something even worse... the train. Now I've traveled on the train before and it's not been too terrible, but honestly, the worst time to travel on the train is summer. I recently got back from a trip to Donetsk, Ukraine and train travel was involved. The ride down was absolutely terrible. Stuck in a wagon for 18 hours with no air conditioner and only one open window in the entire wagon. For some reason, everyone else thought it would be a great idea to not open their windows and so I spend 18 hours melting and dehydrating. It was definitely a unique experience. Especially when you combine it with the way Russians travel. You have babushki setting out picnics and people running around half naked. I mean, what else are you supposed to do? Not to mention the lovely toilet experience which is ridiculously scary.

I've developed a coping strategy for traveling. Especially because I travel alone a lot. Basically, I put in my music, and mentally shut down for however long it takes to get where I'm going. Actually, mentally shut down isn't quite the word for it. It's not like I'm not thinking or anything, but I kind of shut down to the outside and think very philosophical thoughts. Okay, Okay, I'll admit it. I'm usually just daydreaming.

One of my favorite ways to travel in this part of the world is by Luxe Express. Now Luxe Express is a bus, but I call it by it's name because it's not your ordinary Greyhound. Luxe Express is a company that runs buses through the Baltic States. When I go to Estonia I take Luxe Express. Why? Well because they are comfy, roomy, I can drink all the coffee, tea and hot chocolate I want absolutely free and they have free wi-fi on the bus. Yes, that's right. Free wi-fi.

None of this applies of course if I'm traveling *with* someone, because let's face it, having a traveling companion or companions is what turns a trip into an adventure.

Thursday, July 19, 2012


I feel like I owe you all a more substantial post. During my last post, I was all set to write everything out and make a point, but I got tired halfway through so it was like "eh." I haven't felt much like writing of late. I think it's because the unordinary has become ordinary. Or something.

Summertime is a slower time and I've enjoyed that. Most of the evening activities at the church have slowed down for the moment, so I've been engaged in a lot of individual studies. There are lots of people wanting to learn English, but it's difficult to get them going from English to Bible, even though the texts we use are Biblical. Even though I like interacting with people, I've discovered that my least favorite thing to do is study English using Biblical texts. Maybe because it just feels weird to me, or maybe because I feel like I'm not doing a good job. What I do when I feel that way, is focus on the little things. A particularly good conversation, gifting a Bible, making people think. This last one especially is what I strive to do every time I meet with someone.

I've also gotten the opportunity to do some traveling this summer. As I mentioned in my last post, I spent a week at camp in Estonia and tomorrow I'm heading to Donetsk, Ukraine where I will be participating in the annual Singing School held there. It's a chance for Russian Christians to learn new songs, singing in parts, and music theory and practice. It should be an interesting experience.

One thing I've been trying to deal with recently, and maybe this is why I've not felt much like writing, is the fact that I will be heading home in 80 days, for those of you (Like me) who don't feel like calculating it out, I'm leaving October 8th. This is one thing I'm not looking forward too. Okay, that's not entirely true. I'm looking forward to seeing my family and friends, but it's going to be really really hard to leave here. I've spent the last year integrating, building relationships and now it's like "peace out." Whether I were to go home or stay here, I'm disappointing people and so either way I feel kind of like a jerk. In addition to that aspect of leaving, there's the whole transition aspect. I'm not particularly looking forward to that either. I know it's going to be rough for a while.

So what do the next 80 days look like? Well when I get back from the Singing School, I'm going to be packing my bags and moving out of this room. Yes, that's right you heard me. I'm going to be spending a month house-sitting for a family from church and I am super super excited about that. Especially since there have been some things happening around here in recent weeks that have just made me feel like it's time to go somewhere else (nothing dangerous, so no worries). In September, I will be moving back into the church building and spending my last month there. Funny, but it's like I'm coming full circle.

As to other things happening, well we'll see what pops up. There are some events happening, things to organize, people to study with, so we'll see. The key is to make the most of these 80 days. 

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Adventures with Children Part 2

Those of you who read this post, you know about the relationship I have with children. You also may recall that back in May I went on a short trip to Estonia to relax for a few days. While I was there, I learned about Camp Balchyoca. This is a camp that takes place every year the first week of July. It is a Christian camp and is located just outside of Estonia. 

While in Estonia, I was invited to come to said camp in July and to herd counsel children. Now, knowing my previous experience with children I gave the most brilliant answer possible. "I'll think about it." And it was left at that. 

I really did think about it. In fact I thought about it on and off for weeks. Weighing the pros and the cons. I was like "It would be so nice to get out of the city for a week. " But then the thought of being a counselor for children just caused me stress. 

I then proceeded to talk about it with a dear friend of mine who coerced suggested I go. So I thought about it some more and one morning I quite literally woke up and decided that I should go. 

Let me tell you, it was an interesting experience. One thing about this camp is that a lot of Americans and Canadians come to help out with it. That was interesting, let me tell you what. The first night I get in, fresh off the bus and there's all these Americans and they're loud and they don't understand and it was just totally weird for me. It was also kind of funny. 

I was totally nervous about the whole thing before I left, but once I got there, the nervousness disappeared and I legit had no real expectations. When I asked about the kids who were staying in my cabin, Nicolaj, the camp director, informed me that I had difficult children and part of the reason I was assigned to them is because I speak Russian. I was like "Okay." All the while thinking They can't be that bad right?


Actually though it could've been a lot worse. Despite feeling like I did nothing but yell at people the first two days, it got better towards the end of the week. I hate feeling like I'm super mean and I feel like the girls probably hated me, but we survived and that's the important thing, right? 

Plus as an added bonus it was really nice to get out of the city and the daily grind for a while. Nice to be out in nature despite the massive amounts of mosquito bites and the sunburn. The camp was on the Baltic Sea and so even though it was too cold to swim, we still got to go and hang out on the beach every day which was awesome. It was a good time to hang out and talk with people, play games and play guitar. 

Generally, going to camp was a super good experience despite it not being something I would usually do. I'm proud of myself for getting out of my comfort zone and I hope to be able to return and help in the future.