Thursday, August 30, 2012

40 Days

Okay, actually it's 38 days. I'm a little behind. But 40 is a much more Biblical number than 38. How many years did the Israelites wander in the desert? How many days and nights did it rain during the great flood?

See what I mean?

Anyway, so with not quite a month left, I'm in this transition phase. Let me tell you, it's an awkward phase too. I go through stages where I feel torn in two. It's like I want to stay here but a part of me really needs to be home for a while. I'm tired spiritually, mentally and physically.

I have trouble focusing. There's a part of me that's disengaging from events and happenings here because I'm not going to be around to see their completion, but there's a part of me that also doesn't feel engaged in the events back home because I've been gone so long.

Although it's not like I'm just completely going to disappear and never talk to people here again. The visa laws are changing. As of September 9th, I'll be able to get a Russian visa that's good for something like three years. I've already determined to apply for one when I get home. That way if I want to come back to Russia, all I have to do is buy a ticket. I told Igor today I'd be happy to continue helping to translate/edit the English articles for ITCM and the newspaper "In Christ" even when I'm back in the States. In addition, I'm planning on taking some more courses with the Institute (They have one on the first five books of the Old Testament starting on the 10th of September). Plus I'm trying to figure out a way and means to come back and visit maybe sometime next summer.

Russia's part of me, these people are part of me. I can't just up and forget that this year ever happened (I tried to do that as a coping strategy for leaving Yakutsk. It was interesting times.) It's hard to when people come up to you and say things like "When are you coming back?" or "Why don't you just renew your visa, raise some more support and come back." They mean well and I love them for it because it's a sign that they're going to miss me, that I'm part of this family. It's hard though too because they bring up good points. I honestly don't know what I'm doing when I get back home. So when they talk about these things a part of me goes "You know, that's a really good point."

But at the same time I'm like "Yeah, but you need to be home for a bit, need to figure out what the next steps are."

The whole situation is just confusing and honestly, makes me a little crazy. You can ask my best friend who has told me talking to me on the phone is a little like being at an amusement park. Happy. Sad. Happy. Sad. Annnndd... we're back on the roller coaster.

I was reading through my reverse culture shock posts from the first time I came back from Russia. It was a nice reminder of what I have to look forward too. At the same time, I was sitting there thinking "I don't think I'm going to have the same feelings about some of this." So that'll be interesting to see.

I guess that's all I really have to say. It's kind of funny because my calendar has switched from Russian events to American events. It's no longer "Well on such and such a date I'll be studying with so and so" Instead it's, "Well on such and such a date I'll be giving my mission presentation to such and such a congregation." I've already been working on that too, which feels weird. I want to get it done so I don't have to worry about it that first week back because I'll be super busy, but at the same time it sometimes feels really strange to be working on it and thinking "I'm going to be back in the States."

Friday, August 17, 2012

Adventures in Cooking

I don't cook.

That's what I tell people.

It's not that I can't. I can read a recipe, I can figure it out.

Okay, there was that time mom asked me to boil eggs and I freaked out because I'd never boiled an egg before in my life and was terrified of messing it up somehow. But that was last year a long time ago.

Anyway, I think part of the reason I don't cook a lot, is because I've never really had to do it to survive. Also because I'm lazy.

Part of it is that it's really hard to cook when you don't have your own kitchen. In college, I wanted to cook more so I got a set of pans for Christmas. It was a pain however, to haul them down to the communal dorm kitchen every time I wanted to make something and so more often than not, I just at those epic frozen meals from Amy's Kitchen.

I cooked exactly once at the apartment where I lived here in Russia. See, the thing is that I learn by watching. Especially when it comes to cooking. If I see the process that goes into making something. I can pretty much duplicate it. But here's the other thing. When I'm unsure about practicing something new, I don't like other people to be around. I guess I'm just weird like that. So part of the reason I never cooked when I rented that room was because more often than not my landlady would be sitting in the kitchen crocheting away like Madame Defarge, except instead of watching the trials of the French Revolution, she was watching the Russian News. Okay, so there's not really a difference.

So that combined with the fact that the few times I made tea there, I fumbled with turning on the gas stove's heat and my landlady reached over and just did it for me. (The worst thing she could do to someone who learns by experience because then I felt stupid) Made me decide I just wasn't going to cook there. Cue the "Ten months of eating at various cafes" montage. Okay, I did *some* cooking at the church.

It wasn't until just before coming to Russia that I realized how much I could get to enjoying cooking. Plus, since being here I've discovered more about the joys of not really following a recipe and that's fun too. Maybe I oversimplify, but I have this feeling of if you know the technique the food just kind of cooks itself. Weird, I know.

The other exciting thing is when I make something that tastes pretty decent. Okay, I've had my share of sticky noodles, or tortillas that weren't fried quite right and I definitely don't cook like my mom but I am quite proud of the results. Even if it looks a mess.

Actually, that might be the most entertaining thing. To look at me in the kitchen you'd probably think I'm insane. You know those people who are super awesome at cooking and hardly spill anything and then say they do spill salt, it's like the salt just piles right up in a nice neat little pyramid, waiting to be cleaned up. Yeah, that's not me.

Today for example (And what prompted this post in the first place) I made baked chicken. So there I am with these four boneless skinless chicken breasts that I wasn't even sure were chicken in the first place because they were just labeled "BIRD" with a word underneath that I didn't understand (Yeah, the other reason I don't always cook in Russia is because every time I do, it involves a lot more thought than it would in the states. "Wait? Is this ground beef? Why isn't it labeled ground beef? What do you mean this could be lamb?") that was definitely not the word "CHICKEN." Anyway, I'm staring at them trying to figure out the best way of coating them in mayonnaise and the breadcrumby things I bought.

After a while of staring them down, waiting for them to just do it themselves, I poured the breadcrumbs on a plate and got to working. There was mayo on the the chicken, mayo on the cutting board, breadcrumbs in the sink, me trying to figure out what exactly I'm doing, bits of chicken that needed to be cut away and me stopping every five seconds to wash my hands because I'm terrified I'm going to spread ebola e coli on to every surface of the kitchen and throughout the entire church and we're all going to die or go blind or something. (This weird quirk to my personality started when I was a young impressionable child and my mother was attempting to teach me the womanly skill of cooking. The first time I handled meat I remember her saying "Now make sure you wash your hands and everything real good after you handle raw meat because you don't want to get sick" which my brain heard as "IF YOU DON'T WASH DOWN EVERYTHING YOU HAVE TOUCHED AFTER HANDLING RAW MEAT AND EVERYTHING THE RAW MEAT HAS TOUCHED IN A CHEMICAL BATH AND BLEACH, THEN SEAL IT IN A VACUUM AND IRRADIATE IT, YOU AND THOSE YOU LOVE WILL DIE A TERRIBLE DEATH!" This was then followed by an ominous soundtrack in my head accompanied by a montage of me wandering the wilderness as a pariah after single-handedly destroying all of known civilization because of the mishandlement of a raw beef patty.)

Needless to say, the point I'm trying to make here is that I'm not exactly neat when it comes to cooking. One of my favorite things to make at home is blini which are the Russian version of crepe or pancakes. That's always an interesting endeavor because it involves flour, eggshells, milk, a blender and in the midst of the carnage, me wildly flipping blini right and left so they are cooked to golden perfection.

Add to that, the fact that chicken is one of the most difficult things for me to cook and it's always an interesting time. It's not that chicken is particularly hard to cook, it's just that it's one of those foods that I have trouble telling when it's actually done. The result is that by the time the chicken is ready to be eaten it's in about twice as many pieces as when I started and looking like it's been through the war. But my goodness, it's better for it to look like it's on the way to becoming baby food than for me to serve up anything raw, right? *Grabs the Clorox and wipes everything down once more just for good measure.* Although even with the chicken being cooked, I can still hear Gordon Ramsey screaming expletives in the back of my head because of the way the blanking chicken wouldn't even be fit to serve my blanking grandmother who has blanking Alzheimer's. Or something along those lines.

The good news in all of this is that despite the way the chicken looked, it turned out to be quite tasty and I will be eating chicken for the next several days which will hopefully satisfy the craving that started this all in the first place. 

Tuesday, August 14, 2012


The following videos are proof of the singing school. Not that you all doubted, I just thought it would be fun to share them with you. The first is my favorite song that we learned that week and the second... well... the second is what really was going on during the week. :)

Monday, August 06, 2012

Strangers and Foreigners

I moved out of my little room today. I was going to be house sitting for the Joel's family while they were in the States but their daughter has been having seizures and so they cancelled. This event has changed plans and my life is a little bit uncertain right now, since I've moved, but am not sure where exactly I am going to be living for the next month. As I told friends and family on the phone last night, I'm not really worried about having a place to live. God has provided in the past, He's never left me in the cold (literally) so I know it'll work out. I'm just very concerned about Donna so I ask that you keep her and the family in your prayers as tests are being run and the doctors try to figure out how to help her.

In light of these events, I was thinking about the uncertainties of life, of being a gypsy and of what the Bible says about being foreign. I guess it all kind of connected in my head, but I apologize if it comes out sounding disjointed here.

The ten months I have been in St. Petersburg have been filled with uncertainties. I mean life has uncertainties anyway, but I feel like living here on my own has given me more uncertainties than most. While the place I lived was generally fine, there were times I didn't feel like I could completely relax. There were times, where I haven't known what I'm doing the next few hours let alone the next day. Russia has a tendency to change plans on you.

But you know, Jesus was the same way. In Luke 9:58, Jesus talks about how he has no place to rest his head. And talk about giving up everything. I mean, even if you don't believe Jesus was the Son of God, you've got to give the man credit. At 30 years old, he left the family carpentry shop and gave up his lifestyle to spend the next three years wandering around and proclaiming what he believed in. How many people today would actually do that?

Then you have Paul. This guy had it all. He was a Pharisee, well educated and then he has this experience on the road to Damascus and he gives up everything to spend the rest of his life spreading the news that the Messiah had come and being persecuted for it. I could go into detail here about Paul's sufferings but that's not really my point here.

If Jesus and Paul could learn to live by wandering, so can I. I'm not saying I'm anything compared to them. Not by any means, but what I am saying is they are examples to me and I feel like these ten months have led me to better understand what it's like to have no place to rest one's head. For ten months, I have been living in a state of limbo.

"Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers but fellow citizens with God's people and also members of his household" ~ Ephesians 2:19

You know, it's funny. Sometimes we read the scriptures so many times that they become rote. I was thinking about this scripture today and it's taken on a new meaning for me. Paul wrote this to the Gentiles. The people who even if they converted to Judaism, would never be completely Jewish. Think about how much hearing these words meant to a people who were excluded.

I have spent two years of my life as a foreigner. It is one of the most confusing feelings in the world. You live in a place that is not your own. A culture that is not yours. Oh sure, you can try to become one with the people of your adopted country, but you never will be. I've had moments where people say things like "You don't count as American, you're one of us." But then the next moment you turn around and it's like "Well, you wouldn't understand because you're foreign."

You are never completely at home living here, but when you go back to your "real culture" you don't feel completely comfortable there either. And I'm just saying this based on my limited experience. I'm sure people who've lived overseas longer could tell you a lot more about it.

My point is that I can understand this feeling. The feeling that people in your adopted country don't completely understand you and the feeling that the people back home don't completely understand you either. My point is that I can understand this feeling of a people looking for acceptance and finally finding it in Christ. I can understand the feeling of being a wanderer and finally coming to a place of security and rest. Praise God for that.