Sunday, February 28, 2010


I have already lived in Russia for six months...which means there's only three to go. It sort of boggles my mind slash makes me feel really excited/weird/nervous/sad. Life will soon be different. However, this is what it's like now.

Currently thinking about:
-My Russian lesson tomorrow
-How many tests I'm going to have to take away tomorrow due to cheating
-How quickly time is passing
-Training for a marathon?
-An article I read about being/not being vegetarian

Currently concerned about:
-My Russian lesson tomorrow
-Fitting into a bridesmaid dress...(uh...yikes)
-Slipping on the ice/slush

Currently addicted to:
-Tylenol PM

Currently excited about:
-The upcoming three day weekend
-Having spent four hours in Starbucks yesterday
-Life changes
-Having made my way through the Moscow metro all by myself to find Starbucks. I've come a long way since my first days in St. Pete!

Currently tired of:
-Skin that glows in the dark
-Going grocery shopping and still never having food
-Being awkward

Currently wanting to:
-Eat cake
-Go running
-Explore St. Petersburg more
-Watch "You've Got Mail"

Currently content with:
-Future "plans"
-The fact that tomorrow is already Monday
-Figuring out life as it comes
-Having spent the last two hours of my life watching a trashy teenage dance movie with my roommates

Tuesday, February 23, 2010


"Let us not underestimate how hard it is to be compassionate. Compassion is hard because it requires the inner disposition to go with others to the place where they are weak, vulnerable, lonely, and broken. But this is not our spontaneous response to suffering. What we desire most is to do away with suffering by fleeing from it or finding a quick cure for it. As busy, active, relevant ministers, we want to earn our bread by making a real contribution. This means first and foremost doing something to show that our presence makes a difference. And so we ignore our greatest gift, which is our ability to enter into solidarity with those who suffer. Those who can sit in silence with their fellowman, not knowing what to say but knowing that they should be there, can bring new life in a dying heart. Those who are not afraid to hold a hand in gratitude, to shed tears in grief and to let a sigh of distress arise straight from the heart can break through paralyzing boundaries and witness the birth of a new fellowship, the fellowship of the broken"

~Henri Nouwen

Sunday, February 21, 2010


Just when I started having hope that perhaps winter was on it's way out, we were hit with another wave of fairly unbearable weather. Today as I was walking from the metro to church, the icy wind was blowing snow into my face and it a lot. My fingers were numb and my toes were burning and I just kept thinking to myself, "man...this really sucks."

In an effort to take my mind off of the self-inflicted misery I now find myself in, I made a list of all of the things I love/hate about winter in Russia. It goes a little something like this:

I hate:
1. Painful hands and feet
2. Wind that burns
3. Wind that blows snow into your face that then burns AND stings
4. Red faces
5. Taking ten minutes just to get dressed to go outside
6. The threat of Death By Icicle
7. Slippage
8. Snot freezing in your nose
9. Darkness
10. Arctic temperatures
11. Lethargy
12. Muddy slush (ew.)
13. Hat hair
14. Incredibly pale skin
15. Did I mention the painful hands and feet? Because that's a big one.

Things I love:
1. Scarves and mittens
2. Hot drinks
3. Watching other people slip on the ice (I secretly find a lot of enjoyment in this)
4. ...?....?.....

Saturday, February 20, 2010

out of the ashes love will be realized

A friend from SPU is currently staying with me here in St. Petersburg. She went to Russia the same summer I went to Ukraine and through our conversations I’ve found my thoughts returning to Bogodukhov yet again. I’ve been in bed for an hour now but my mind refuses to rest. It’s useless to try and ignore it- my thoughts belong to Ruslan tonight.

I think Ruslan was about nine years old when we met him. He and my teammate Sachi really hit it off and they spent the five short weeks together playing soccer, communicating through charades, and learning what love looks like. Ruslan was always smiling and yet, it was clear that naturally there was a deep longing within him to experience the love of a family. At one point, he asked Sachi if she would adopt him. I can’t imagine what Sachi probably felt in that moment. I thank God it wasn’t me. I’m not sure my heart could have handled it.

On the day of our departure, many of the children woke up early to see us off. We stood on the pavement hugging and laughing and crying and feeling emotions I’ve never experienced before or since that day. Ijust kept thinking how quickly five weeks can pass. How quickly strangers can become friends and brothers and sisters. How quickly love can defeat fear. How quickly a heart can break and plans can change. The moment was beautifully heartbreaking.

Some of us brought pictures of us or our families to give to the children as a way to remember us. Not all of them owned photographs so it was a big deal for some of them. Sachi had a picture of her with her mom and brother which she gave to Ruslan and he treasured it. After our final goodbyes, we climbed into our van and prepared to leave. We looked out from behind wet and blurred vision as the children encircled the van and pressed their hands against the window, with tears to match our own. And then from the crowd emerged Ruslan. We watched as he dug into his pocket, looked at Sachi, and pressed the picture of her family against the window.

Helpless… it’s how we all felt. We felt helpless as we looked on at our friend and teammate and watched her heart break all over again. We felt helpless as we looked at Ruslan and so many others like him, knowing that his longing for a family will probably always remain a longing. We felt helpless as the bus rolled away, leaving 120 beautiful, innocent, and wounded children in a place not much different from where we had first met them.

I’m not really sure how a life should respond to such an experience. How do you go back to normal when you’ve held the small hands of children that have called you mama? How do you go about everyday tasks when they feel menial and selfish in light of difficult realities? How do you explain it? Why so much injustice and why children?? How do you use the pain and anger and confusion in a way that doesn’t just add to the brokenness of this hurting world?

I haven’t figured it out. I don’t know where I belong or what I should be doing. I just know that this world is starving for a love that won’t fade or abuse or abandon it. I know that despite my best and (selfish) efforts, I can’t forget about those kids. I know that thoughts of Ruslan, Oleg, Oksana, or Denis won’t just go away. But thoughts and memories aren’t good enough and on nights like these I wonder...where do I go from here?

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Sunlight and Coffee

Last week we had a couple days that though still cold, were sunny and beautiful. One day I realized that if I put my head at the foot of the bed I could look out my window and see nothing but the sun. I spent a good twenty minutes just lying there soaking it in and pretending I didn’t know the ground was still blanketed with snow and ice. It was a reminder that there is light, even in the midst of darkness and that winter won’t last forever. It is strange how something as simple as the sun shining through the clouds can fill a person with the hope and anticipation of change.

This morning I awoke before my roommates, and though I would have loved another half hour of sleep, I forced myself to get out of bed in hopes of encouraging productivity today. I like it when the apartment is quiet and still- there is something that feels very welcoming and safe about it. So I made myself some coffee (okay, Nescafe) and I just sat at the kitchen table to think about nothing.

Sun streaming through bedroom windows, quiet mornings with hot coffee…these are the beautiful things in life. And truthfully, life is too big not to focus on the little things. I’ve done a pretty excellent job lately of looking too far into the future. I’ve found the haze and blurriness of my future to be stressful and unsettling. And really, I’m not sure why. I think perhaps the fact that we don’t know what awaits us should be viewed more as a gift than a frustration. Life will figure itself out, right? It always does. I think today might be waiting to be beautiful.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

We build bridges
Don’t we
Sometimes need a hand

Despite our best laid plans
Don’t we
Sometimes miss what we had

And we struggle
Don’t we
Sometimes lose the reasons

But in the peaceful morning
We can clearly see
Where we’ve been

Oh, and the tide pulls us out, alright
Oh, and the tide pulls us out, alright
Oh, when the tide brings us back
How sweet it is

~Liz Durrett

Friday, February 5, 2010

A Better Way to Go

There are a lot of ways to die in Russia. You could step out in the street (even when you have the right of way) and get hit by a car because it seemed like too much trouble to the driver to stop. You could drink yourself into liver failure. You could slip on the ice and crack your head open. You could even piss off the lady at the cash register enough by not paying with exact change to truly put your life in danger. I mean really, the options are endless. However, with the recent temperature fluctuations, I've come across a new favorite: Death By Icicle.

Now don't laugh. Death By Icicle is a serious matter. In fact, when I was in Dublin I was in a little bookshop looking at a travel guide for St. Petersburg (don't ask me why, I know I went to Dublin to get away from St. Petersburg...) and it talked about how every spring people die from falling icicles. Initially my thought was, "that is a terrible way to go!" But after some serious pondering I've changed my opinion. In fact, if I'm going to die a tragically, I think Death By Icicle is actually my preference now. Everyone dies of heart attacks. Cancer? So commonplace. But icicles? Now that is something special. I already dicussed it with Katie last week and we've got it all planned out. I want it to be really special so decorations at my funeral will include ice sculptures and thousands of sparkly icicle lights. Popsicles and snow cones will be served after the service and there will be icicle jousting to occupy the youngsters. It's sure to be a memorable experience and you're all invited. Date: TBA.

*Note* If, as irony would have it, I do actually die from a falling icicle, please note that the plans stated above are my actual wishes. I want the icicle lights. And the the snow cones...preferably cherry.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Watch and be "wowed"

I found this video on youtube and I think it is absolutely beautiful. Kseniya Simonova is the winner of Ukraine's Got Talent. She uses sand on a light board to express the effects of the German invasion in World War II.