Monday, June 29, 2009

*Stranger in Moscow* by Michael Jackson

I was wandering in the rain
Mask of life, feelin insane
Swift and sudden fall from grace
Sunny days seem far away
Kremlins shadow belittlin me
Stalins tomb wont let me be
On and on and on it came
Wish the rain would just let me

How does it feel (how does it feel)
How does it feel
How does it feel
When youre alone
And youre cold inside

Here abandoned in my fame
Armageddon of the brain
Kgb was doggin me
Take my name and just let me be
Then a begger boy called my name
Happy days will drown the pain
On and on and on it came
And again, and again, and again...
Take my name and just let me be

How does it feel (how does it feel)
How does it feel
How does it feel
How does it feel
How does it feel (how does it feel now)
How does it feel
How does it feel
When youre alone
And youre cold inside

How does it feel (how does it feel)
How does it feel
How does it feel
How does it feel
How does it feel (how does it feel now)
How does it feel
How does it feel
When youre alone
And youre cold inside

Like stranger in moscow
Like stranger in moscow
Were talkin danger
Were talkin danger, baby
Like stranger in moscow
Were talkin danger
Were talkin danger, baby
Like stranger in moscow
Im livin lonely
Im livin lonely, baby
Stranger in moscow

(kgb interrogator -
Russian to english translation)
Why have you come from the west?
Confess! to steal the great achievements of
The people, the accomplishments of the workers...


Ran across this song last week, searching for information about if and when Michael Jackson was ever in Russia. I had understood from Russian television that he was in Moscow in either 1996 or 2006. It's dangerous to understand Russian less than perfectly - as I do - and so I often find myself needing to confirm or clarify what I think I heard.

Anyway, never managed to find the answer to that question. Got derailed by this song. Quite poignant. . . so sad.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Carpe Diem. . . Seize the Carp!

Watching this fish-cleaning action and what comes to mind but that matra, carpe diem. Seize the day. . . seize the carp . . . seize the opportunity.

This filleter of fish took his eyes off his decapitation work just long enough to flash a smile our way. Nice of him. By the way, do you know how to clean fish? Wish I knew. . . but I just watched and documented the action. Decided it's a task that takes guts intestinal fortitude.

Here are more carvers of carp. So nice of them to let me nose into the action. Scraping of scales, whacking off heads, slitting the tummies and pulling out the innards. Looked easy enough. You will forgive me, will you not, for not sharing the photo of the entrail bucket? Carpe diem, but enough is enough. Alrighty then.

This was all part of a fish boil along the Don River. These folks seized the Saturday by standing in line waiting for a bowl of this classic Russian soup. Sometimes potatoes, carrots and greenery are added. Do you go for hot soup for a summer picnic? If you do, you might be Russian at heart.

This Carpe Diem idea is center-front in my mind. I find myself thinking, What can I be doing here and now to make any difference in this congregation? What can I be doing this week, this month, this summer that will be a wise investment here? Especially considering that there is never a guarantee about visa renewal and my 3-month visa expires September 2nd.

Seize the kids! That's it - aren't they cute little carpies? Here are three sweet girls who used to come to church. But it's been a long time. So this summer, at least this week and next and so on, we're doing Camp Stitch. I go to them and we stitch up a storm in the back courtyard. And we're easing into Bible stories and such. And their mothers want to learn to cross-stitch too. And we're playing UNO, soon to add some English to the mix. What we're really doing seizing the opportunity to make connections.

Time passes so quickly, we hardly notice one season blending into the next. Perhaps you've seen this video: The changes in nature through a year: one year captured in 40 seconds.

One year in 40 seconds from Eirik Solheim on Vimeo.

The cycle of life whirls faster and faster. It's summer now and in the blink of an eye, it will be autumn and then winter.

Reminds me of something that great philospher, Dr Seuss said,

How did it get so late so soon?
It's night before it's afternoon.
December is here before it's June.
My goodness how the time has flewn.
How did it get so late so soon?

Oh dear Lord, open our eyes so that we may Seize the Day. Make us your fishers of men. . .and children. . .and a few fresh carp might be nice, too.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

The Most Amazing Man Alive

Police often question him just because they find him interesting.

He uses Tabasco sauce instead of Visine.

There is no loofah in his shower. He uses an SOS pad.

Delightful! (With a nod to Trey Morgan for sharing on his blog.)

Friday, June 12, 2009

A Salute to the Salutatorian: Our Heather

There's lots to celebrate today. Besides President Ronald Reagan's famous Tear down this wall! speech at Brandenberg Gate, Berlin on this date in 1987 and besides today's being Russia Day across this great land, today is the day that Heather Anita Emch graduates from high school. She's quite accomplished at 18 years of age and I am one very proud auntie.

Heather's a smart cookie. . . she's salutatorian out of 230 students, graduating from a school in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. English is her best subject - although her only B came from Honors English 11 - but she's okay with physics and chemistry too. (Where on earth did all that come from?)

Heather's more than just bookish though. She is quite the athlete and runs cross-country. And she loves God. For years, Heather found ways to get herself to church, catching rides with childhood friends who were going. Now she's active in a friendly little country church there in rural North Carolina, busy with youth activities and teaching children's Bible classes.

A couple years back, Heather showed her absolute determination, announcing that she wanted to go to Peru on a mission trip. She had read in Brio magazine about a Focus on the Family sponsored mission trip to Lima and she said, Well, why not? She would be one of 600-plus other youth going together and doing community outreach, orphanage work, puppet shows and lots more.

Never mind that she would need to raise $3,000, get a passport and connect with others she'd never met before. But what a trooper. Heather busied herself collecting funds - people just handed her donations and she sold boxer shorts, of all things, door-to-door - and it happened. She went to Lima for two weeks and it is was life-changing. Into a new culture, out of her comfort zone but who would've ever known it? The girl's got grit, I tell you. ;)

What are you reading there, Heather - a telephone book? I asked her recently. It's a Bible of course and that's the photo Heather chose for her graduation announcement. See, she knows a good book when she sees it. Heather plans to study English at Erskine College, South Carolina. I understand there's quite a nice scholarship awaiting her there. (Quick update: I just got off the phone with Heather and now she's thinking about science education ~ another great choice.)

Some advise to Heather, just in case she were to ask me for words of wisdom (I suppose it could happen, that she would ask. . .):

*To whom much is given, much is required. Keep on using your gifts to the glory of God.

*Keep on making smart choices. Seems that our enemy, the devil focuses on destroying (or derailing or distracting) the smartest, most capable folks, those most inclined to make a difference in the world. Keep an eye on him ~ he's one crafty serpent and it's likely that he's got his eye on you.

*Please drive carefully. Your brothers say that you drive too fast and too close to the mailboxes. Please be careful Heather.

* Enjoy these years. Study hard, make friends and have fun. Challenging as college is, it's good preparation for the rigors awaiting in world of work and/or mommying or whatever.

*Remember Who loves you even more than your parents, your brothers or any of the rest of us. Walk ever more closely and more intimately with Him. May I recommend keeping a prayer journal.

Love you so very much dear, precious Heather. You know, now that I think about it, I want to be just like you when I grow up. ;)

Monday, June 08, 2009

Trippin' on Back to Russia

Last Thursday I caught the 10:40 a.m. flight out of Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport through Atlanta and then on to Moscow. Care to have a look behind the scenes?

(Click photos to enlarge.) Dear Gail, left, and her husband Robert (behind camera) dropped me off around 8:45. What a blessing to overnight at their place which is between my hosts' home in Garland on the east and DFW on the west of Dallas. Makes lots of sense to anybody familiar with early morning traffic on LBJ.

Got to admit that I missed lots of interesting shots on The Big Trip. The thing is, photography falls into 2nd place priority sometimes. Priority one was ~ just trying to keep it all together!

Here's my second-favorite scene at Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson Airport. The most touching scene is the dozens of military folks being deployed out of Atlanta. That tugs at my heartstrings in a personal sort of way ~ so much so that I haven't found it in me to ask for a photograph. But above is my second-favorite. Got a whole slew of photos of these Buyer Beware displays, complete with athletic shoes made from sting-ray skin, for instance. But that's a whole 'nother blog topic complete with lots of photos.

The Delta flight Atlanta to Moscow departs is scheduled to depart at 4:15 p.m. Sunset happens soon because we're flying into the night. Thanks to the child prodigy sitting next to me, we have this photo. Elijah was his name. And he noticed earlier when we left the east coast of the US. Above we're probably over Newfoundland. Atlanta to Moscow is 10 hours. On these long flights, I like to wear a 2nd watch, a runner's watch with chronograph to show how far we are into the flight. Somebody's gotta keep track of the time, right? ;)

Prior to landing in Moscow, we were advised about swine flu precautions. Before deplaning, each traveller would need to complete a document about our health and such - including how many piglets we had kissed recently (wink, wink) - and get our temperatures taken. I was dreading the idea of all of us sitting there with thermometers poking out of our mouths.

Not to worry though, airport officials made it oh-so-simple. The gentleman heading this way down the aisle is bearing a special temperature-sensing devise. He just pointed it at each person's face and instantly pronounced approved or nyet. Seemed as though we all passed.

Here he is in action, the thermometer fellow. He was actually quite pleasant and professional. Which helped since after 10 hours of being cooped up together, deplaning was sounding so good.

Then later after clearing passport control, getting through customs, changing some $ to rubles, going to the internet cafe and the Aeroflot office to make a decision about my connecting flight to Rostov, I happened upon the best scene: This is so very Russian.

Here's the baggage-wrapping station at Sheremetevo airport, Moscow's premier international airport. This wrap is thought to discourage people from tampering with baggage. It slows them down anyway.

Cutting a slit in for the handle. This guy knows what he's doing.

Out of the airport. En route to Vnykova airport, southeast part of town. Past the Ashan and IKEA complex.

Barricades on the outskirts of Moscow in the spot where Nazi forces were stopped in their tracks.

Traffic was slow. Fortunately my taxi driver know some alternate routes from Sheremetevo airport in northwest Moscow to Vnykova in the southeast. I left the driving to him. All for like $125. There has to be a better way. . .

Eventually on Aeroflot-Don headed south to Rostov-on-Don. Here's the view out the west window, courtesy of the folks sitting over across the aisle.

Oh, and here is a prize. I wasn't prepared for this view. Dug around fast and furious for the camera and handed it to young lady seated near the window. Next time I'll want to ask for that seat, myself. Beyond the river, the Russian Orthodox church with gold cupolas is visible toward the right.

Sailing right along we have Rostov's Theatre Square. Gorky Theatre is the large white building just left of center. This side of the theatre is Stella, the obelisk taller than Lady Liberty. Oh this sight does my heart good. How I love Rostov-on-Don and the opportunity to return here and serve.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

FedEx Comes Through

Joy to the world! Here's my new best friend, Desiree of FedEx. She brought me my passport with new visa into Russia. Delivery time: 8:30 this morning.

I'd been glancing outside for the truck FedEx truck way too often, wishing I had a tracking number. But the VIP visa service in Houston assured me that delivery would happen on Wednesday, and so it did.

FedEx: They really do bring The World on Time. Thank you, Desiree! Thank you FedEx! And thank you Dear Lord for another chance to serve in my beloved Russia. I'll be there in a jiffy! As per Plan B . . . or would that be Plan C, D or E? . . . I plan to depart Thursday and be in Rostov-on-Don before the week is out!