Monday, December 28, 2009

Help *Pamper* Russian Orphans!

Say, care to help *pamper* Russian orphans? A nearby orphanage in Rostov-on-Don is home to 100 abandoned babies from birth to four years of age. Caretakers there buy disposable diapers for the children out of their own meager salaries. During the daytime, they economize with cloth diapers but use disposables at night.

Recently one of the caretakers sat me down, fixed me a plate of sweets and told me how much they would appreciate help with diapers. So, several of us jumped in and helped out. You might enjoy the video of diaper delivery. You can see for yourself how thrilled the caretakers were! I'm telling you, I felt like a rock star leaving the orphanage that day, even though the contributions were from our whole church there in Rostov.

Would you care to join us in this effort? I figure that we can diaper one group of children for a week for $30. There are 10 groups, if I'm not mistaken but my immediate goal is to help with three groups, the older children. So that runs about $100 a month, including taxi transportation to the big discount store where diapers are sold cheapest.

If you would like to make an end-of-year donation, here's how to do it: Make out a check to Prestoncrest Church of Christ and make a notation on the envelope and on the check "Rostov Orphanage Donation." Mail it to the Prestoncrest address: 12700 Preston Road, Suite 210; Dallas, TX 75230-1824. (Oh, and in the near future, I'll want a photograph of you or your group - so that we can post that at the orphanage and give credit to whom credit is due. You can easily contact me about that at

Thank you for considering *pampering* Russian orphans! It's the one thing the orphanage really needs.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Silent Monks Sing Hallelujah!

Just in case you've missed it, here's a super-creative take on the Hallelujah Chorus! This is worth watching several times!

Insomnia: While Angels Watched Their Flocks

This song and the fabulous a cappella harmony absolutely thrills me. And that's a good thing. Because it's 3:32 a.m. local time and I'm awake with this song going through my mind. . .

Oh, what absolutely magnificent harmony. Presented by the Church of All Nations Singers of Boca Raton, Florida (2005).

Monday, December 21, 2009

Of Masks, Furs and Frosty Reflections

Does the staff at your McDonald's wear masks? Just wondering. Because in Kharkov, Ukraine the current McD's uniform includes face masks. And I knew that you would want to know about this. But first things first.

(Click photos to enlarge) So they're featuring this neat menu item Grill Lavash, which looks very much like what was dubbed the Greek Burger, as I recall, during the 2004 Olympic games. At least at Russian McDonald's. Makes perfect sense, right?

Here's a close-up look at the Grill Lavash. Figured we'd better shoot it quick before any more disappeared. And yes, I'm quite aware of what this bite reveals about orthodonture and such, another topic altogether. . .

So here's McDonald's staff en masque. It's something to do with swine flu. Or politics. Or maybe it's about keeping warm on a very cold day.

After lunch, or maybe before, I happened upon this sculpture just outside McD's. Bet those two kiddos wish they'd worn their knickers. Or even a strategically-placed mask. Or two or three.

In the same spot are architectural feats of local buildings. You'll forgive me for not researching the names of these places. Because, for one thing, what is more interesting is the street scene in the background. This was around 2:30 pm, approaching dusk local time.

Another local building. More traffic backed up. Oopsie: Remember to turn off your flash, gypsy girl.

Later, picking my way along Pyhskinskaya, a store window with winter hats. Each degree the temperature drops, the fur hats with ear flaps look that much more fetching.

Speaking of fetching, here's a lovely blue coat in the window. Oh, and mercy me. . . there's a familiar face too. Say, the idea of a face mask sounds pretty wonderful right now. Just simply for keeping warm. Later learned that it was -6F.

Monday, December 14, 2009

While (Scottish) Shepherds Watch Their Flocks

Amazing the artistic feats Scottish shepherds, sheepdogs and sheep can pull off ~ with the high-tech help of cell phones, digital cameras and LEDs in a pastoral setting. If you're like me, you'll watch this again and again.

This creativity is so worth sharing. And so. . . a very Merry Christmas to you, dear blog-reading friends!

Monday, December 07, 2009

Fire Safety: Philosophies Differ

Several years back, I frequented this neighborhood school here in the center of Rostov-on-Don. Interestingly, the school saw use as a German hospital in the early 1940's when the city was occupied by Nazi troops.

Nowadays, seven hundred-plus students attend this school, children from early elementary school up through high school.

On Sept 1st, children and families gather for the back-to-school ceremony, called the first bell.

The grand finale of first bell is a first grader's being carried around the area on the shoulders of a strong senior guy.

The young child gets to ring the first bell of the school year.

So, back then I went regularly to the school and helped out in English classes. I delighted in seeing the similarities and differences between schools in the U.S. and Russian schools. Eventually, I began noticing subtleties. For one thing of four big doors leading into the building, only one narrow door was unlocked during school hours. And in the back of the school, there was a single door and it was low and narrow. Students lined up to use either the front or back door.

Eventually I noticed stairwells and exits on the wings of the H-shaped building. But those stairwells were kept padlocked shut. What would you do in case of an emergency, like a fire? I asked an administrator one day.

We have keys for that very purpose. Someone would just unlock the doors, she said confidently.

It made me wonder, is there a fire marshal who makes unplanned visits? Are there regular fire drills? Chances are, nyet.

With last week's tragedy in Perm, reports say that the owner has been fined several times lately for not meeting fire code. But nothing had changed. Chances are that he paid the fine and slipped a few thousand rubles to the fire inspector and that was the end of it.

Interestingly, fire inspections can go the other direction too so that a building is shut down for reasons unrelated to safety. I've seen this first-hand. A certain facility located a block west of the school, had met Rostov fire code 9-plus years with nary a problem. Then a dispute arose in which the city wanted to purchase the building and property for a fraction of its value, and a conflict arose. Within days, the fire inspector arrived at the building for an unannounced inspection and announced that the flooring, for starters, was not up to code and he padlocked the whole 2nd level of the building.

The thing is, significantly more people die each year from fire-related deaths in Russia than in the U.S. or other western countries. Seems that there's a different outlook on fire safety: on the laws and on enforcing them. Beyond that, the bigger picture is a different outlook on the value of human life. Today is a day of mourning across Russia for the 120-some victims of the night club fire in Perm. Can't help but wonder if the fire inspector or the owner lost loved ones in the blaze.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Easing into the Monochrome of a Russian Winter

As the days shorten, the late afternoon sunshine gives a muted, gray look to the streets here in Rostov-on-Don. Care to join me for a quick look at highlights around the city?

Meet Alexander Pyshkin, (1799 - 1837) beloved poet of Russia. His statue above overlooks his namesake thoroughfare, Pyshkinskaya Boulevard. It's likely that every city across Russia has a street named in his honor. (Click photo to enlarge.)

A block south of Pyshkinskaya, on Voroshilovskii Street we see that the Planet of Languages awaits ~ if per chance you're interested in language study. English is first on the list there, followed by German, Spanish, Italian, French, Turkish and Greek. How about that flag on the tongue! It makes perfect sense to the speaker of Russian. You see, in Russian, one word - язык - means either language or the physical tongue. So it's a visual pun.

Now we're on the main street through town, Bol'shoi Sadoviya Street - that is, Big Garden Street - which runs parallel to the Don River, several block south. Before perestroika, this was called Engels Steet. And during World War 2 when Rostov was occupied, Nazi troops marched along it on their way to work. Nowadays, all that is mostly forgotten as young folks stroll along listening to their iPods.

Zipping east a couple miles on Bol'shoi Sadoviya, we come to Theatre Square. This area is a hub of community activity. You see the fountain, the Tractor Theatre on the left, Stella the obelisk in the distance overlooking the Don steppe. Notice the boys running on the right. They've got plans and we'll catch up with them in a minute.

Tractor Theatre, there on the left, yes it's really named that. Simply because of its shape, a salute to the value of agriculture in the area. Seen from the air, the tractor shape is more discernible. Well, surprise, surprise! I happen to have an aerial shot here handy. Especially for You!

Please click to enlarge. Beyond Stella, the white boxy building is the theatre. The wheel wells are there on the right and left. And the machine is headed this a way!

Back down on earth, let's zoom in on Stella, the golden girl who commemorates the end of Nazi occupation of World War 2. She's taller than the Statue of Liberty, as I recall, and is built overlooking the Don River and wide open steppe beyond that. Stella is visible for miles as a person approaches Rostov from the south.

Remember those boys? Well in the last few minutes they realized the fountain was perfect for climbing. A little muddy but that makes it all the better.

And now for a quick look at posters on display in an underground walkway. On the left: To sell in a civilized, cultural manner ~ (is) honorable work! On the right: Come comrades! Come join us at the collective farm!