Friday, August 28, 2015

Smiles and Drinking Water

I kind of gave away the post with the title there, but I wanted to start from the end of our trip when we'd already come back to Russia.

Visiting the UK was like visiting the West for me. Sure, British and American culture are not one and the same, but when compared to Russian culture they are very similar. I even ate most of my favorite foods while in London. Yum.

I know the "smile" thing is controversial, but upon return to Russia, I realized that I had enjoyed the friendliness of Great Britain. You can analyze whether or not smiling and being friendly is "natural," but since it was instilled in me from an early age, I feel like I'm myself when I can make eye contact with strangers and greet them, or make some random comment in commiseration, or even crack a joke. Suddenly it turns out I'm not so socially awkward after all. I saw an article recently about expats who turn into introverts while abroad, but I didn't even read it since I consider myself an introvert to begin with. And yet...there is definitely a goofy side of me that doesn't come out unless I'm reeallly relaxed.

So now I'm back to the old dilemma of how exactly to be a polite and gracious individual, while living in another culture! If I behave like a friendly American, I might actually win someone over, but I wish I could be culturally-appropriate, like the young lady that came to visit today bearing a bouquet of flowers and some cakes wrapped in a box with a ribbon. What is selflessness? Does the Golden Rule transcend cultures? Is it better to be stiff and follow cultural norms, or let go and just be your clueless, bumbling self? It is so relevant to missionaries and other cross-cultural workers, as we often put passion into serving people the way we know how, acting with completely pure intentions but a moderate degree of naivete.

And the other item, the drinking water. How nice it was to just put a cup under the tap and have water to drink. Like a small wedge in my pie chart of daily stress was lifted. When I don't have drinking water with me, I worry about being thirsty suddenly, being stuck on hot public transportation or walking somewhere without water...or getting a migraine, or feeling sick to my stomach. On one of the planes we were on, we hadn't purchased water again after security, and David was thirsty already when we were boarding. He kept asking and asking for water, and we had to wait. I was more careful after that to always buy some. That is one of my hang-ups, I guess. I have to add, though...I had some intestinal troubles while traveling. So perhaps I was TOO casual about the tap water, but it was nice while it lasted!

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Summer in the 11th hour

Earlier this month, we were traveling in the U.K., so fun! Even though traveling is challenging, I have to admit it was quite nice to go somewhere a little bit closer. No overnight flights or jet-lag or anything like that. I'll be giving more details in some upcoming posts.

It's been harder to motivate myself to blog since I joined Instagram. You can look at my photos even without signing up. I've been trying to post there every day and it reminds me of the regularity of blogging and of the journal aspect that used to be more prevalent. Like those "Day in the Life" photo projects.

It's been a very mild summer and just in the past week it's gotten close to 80 degrees a few times. That's a hot sun, so I tend to wait until evening to go out walking with D. I feel like we've been attacked on all sides by various insects who have just been waiting for the perfect moment to party summer-style. I realized that it's not as much of an issue when it's light at night both outside and inside. But now that the evenings are darker, the bugs gravitate toward whatever lights are still burning. Not having screens on the windows makes for a pretty populous kitchen ceiling when I'm in there late at night!

David has been sleeping horribly, so obviously we have, too. I'm still kind of waiting for him to be a good sleeper. Lately he wakes up in the middle of the night and announces that he's "all done." No idea what happened there. Crying fit and eventual surrender to sleep. Then he wakes up still too early for our liking, has meltdowns all day, and cries hysterically at naptime. He had tummy issues last week and I suppose the flea bites (neighbors with cats...) are bothering him now, but I can't help feeling there is something else. I'm realizing that this is making its way to the top of my prayer list. We're tired, and Andrei will be teaching again, potentially in less than a week.

More trip stuff and news soon.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Looking Back and a Heads-Up

I've got a pretty old printer. It works fine, just takes its time. So I thought it might be fun to crank out a blog post while each page prints. :) I think my printer probably has me beat at wpm, though.

I've been pretty frantic (to say the least) over the past few weeks with trip preparations. Since it's more of a "destination" (UK) holiday, there has been a lot of general information gathering to do. Even though there will be onsite activities, we also don't want to pass up chances for sightseeing, but with 22 people it requires some initial scheduling if we are ever going to actually get anywhere!

And now I'm printing it all out, and we leave in...less than 18 hours. Very exciting.

Even though we've had lots to do (and trip preparation has taken priority), we've tried to make time for family lately, too. Andrei and I celebrated our anniversary this week, and went on a little date, finally! So for that day we were more focused on celebrating and not doing anything else.

It's been a whirlwind though, and we've been planning for a year practically, so needless to say expectations are high!

We'll be seeing my parents, all of my siblings, and their families. David will get to see his 6 cousins.

I did want to mention, though: I'm not bringing my computer this time around. Trying to cut down on baggage. Check out my Instagram (link in the sidebar) for photos, or contact me via email. But blog posts probably won't be happening until we're back, unfortunately.

See you in two weeks!

Friday, July 24, 2015

Just the facts

I feel like I've been so boring lately as far as blogging goes, and at the moment I'm really focused on getting ready for vacation; so excited, although there is a lot to do. The weather reports for the UK (where we're going) have been the same as here, cool and rainy. Should feel like home! :)

I wish I had some deeper thoughts to share, and I want to believe that I'm continuing to grow and challenge myself, but sometimes it is hard to rise above the everyday stuff and see a bigger picture.

As I was compiling a little list of things to share, I was again starting to feel like it was all sounding kind of banal or self-centered. But at the same time there is a lot in me that's changed since becoming a mother (and it might be a different milestone for different people), and certain topics can be huge emotional triggers. It is hard to read the news or think about some of those hot topics, like abortion... at least without digging deep!

Anyway, a few recent things:

1) Watching Doc Martin. Hadn't heard of it before getting Netflix, and hid it in my list since I didn't think Andrei would be interested. But it's been my company lately while washing dishes. I've enjoyed seeing some of the character development as various people deal with their own personal "demons," and especially the relationships. Not to mention some creative storylines, and the setting is beautiful. Almost makes me want to live there.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Summer as lifetime

"Summer is a mini-lifetime" is my loose translation of a popular Russian saying. I suppose a lot can happen in a whole quarter of a year!

But in general summer usually starts out with a list of hopes and dreams and some grandiose plans...and then before you know it, September is just around the corner. Were your expectations met?

Sorry if I'm getting ahead of myself here...don't worry, I'm not going to talk about Back-to-School. ;)

This has been my first summer in Russia in awhile... probably since the summer we were married (4 years ago), and even then we spent 3-4 weeks in the U.S. I used to focus more on being home for Christmas, and now summer is the best traveling time for our family. But not this year...we'll be traveling for just 2 weeks in August, and other than that have been around St. Petersburg!

I was hoping to get a lot of projects done this summer and we have a lot of friends to catch up with. But we've had a cold going around and have gotten behind on everything. We barely just got caught up on family birthdays, and I'll be lucky if I even hand in my Immigration form before we leave on our trip!

I will say that weather always seems to play a role in how summer goes. Funny, is it that way for other seasons, too? This summer has been cool, and I am incredibly thankful for that. Although we've yet to spend a full summer in this apartment, I can imagine how 2-3 months of heat during White Nights would be a lot to endure. So I have been relishing the cool breezes, admiring the rainstorms (from inside), and appreciating the occasional warmer day. Plus-no mosquitoes!

Friday, July 17, 2015

Downslope and Kitchen Experiments

After the last time I wrote, everything came screeching to a halt as we got a family cold. Andrei felt very sick and David had a pretty bad case, too. David even now seems a little sniffly. I had my usual kind of malaise for a few days and the general feeling that I was fighting a virus, but no other symptoms.

It's been a very mild summer, and right now I am enjoying a terrific summer rain/thunder/hailstorm going on outside the kitchen window. Hopefully it will clear up in another 3 hours when I need to leave!

A blog friend recently did a fun post about some favorite foods and kitchen tips, and I thought I would share a few as well, including things that David is into.

In no particular order...

1) "Korean" carrot salad.

If you've been to Russia, you know this dish. It's the one that's sort of marinated, not the one with mayo. A little zesty, with coriander as the key spice. It's usually recommended that you use a mandoline slicer to get the right-size carrot pieces, with just the right amount of crunch. David loves it! It's good with onion, but we leave it out for picky eaters. We cheat and use a spice mix, but there are some recipes online, like this one:корейская-морковь.html

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Thinking Cap

I had a busy week, but there was something different about the intensity. It was one of those times when it felt like my problem-solving skills had to be on constant alert! I used to have these kinds of adventures all the time, especially when first living in Russia, or during seasons when I would be commuting to all different parts of St. Petersburg each day of the week. Times when you have to be thinking, thinking, thinking. Like when it would take me an eternity to find someone's home; the public transportation route, street name, building number, entryway, apartment number, floor, and door code all in my head or scribbled on one or more scraps of paper.

That was the kind of week I had, including a meltdown halfway through! But it's not meant to be a complaining post, and/or bragging about how "busy" I've been. Just doing some reflecting about some experiences, and thinking about why I might have felt overwhelmed.

Last Friday

-Commenced making a cake for an event, using a new recipe. Failed twice (complete inedible disaster), then ran out of time.
-Was called into the bank to "fill out a form." Didn't understand what/why or how to fill it out. And the bank employee didn't either. Left feeling confused.
-Headed over to worship practice for the first time in the new building, but didn't know where to go! After waiting around for about 10 minutes, received a call from the worship leader, who came out and led me to the new room.
-Got home around 11pm, found a new cake recipe, and finally had success, though I had to calculate carefully since I had very few ingredients left at that point!


-Got up early to get ready for the church baby shower: presents and cake all packed up; had to figure out how to stop along the way for fresh strawberries and some other last-minute ingredients; took the metro and then a tram and then circled the buildings looking for the hostess' apartment...
-After arriving, got all the cake layers assembled/frosted/decorated/etc....whew.

Long story...