Saturday, August 25, 2012

life flows on

So it's been well over a year since I last posted and although there have been some changes since then, I feel a sense of consistency that I haven't had in a long time. Maybe it's due to the fact that I've had the same job for two years (it'll be two years starting this Monday!), been making car payments for a year, and signed another one-year lease for my apartment. These milestones may seem short-term to many, but for me they are big steps. Don't get me wrong; I'm looking forward to what's next and still dream about places to go, people to meet. Sometimes my spirit still wants to run to new places, but I've learned to appreciate the here and now.
Here are some pictures of adventures from the past year or so:
                                                         Spring II students...a bright group!
                                           GA Half Marathon in March                 
 Richard at work on a farm outside Athens
 seeing tanks on the streets for the first time, Victory Day, Moscow
 Mt. of Olives, my favorite spot in Jerusalem
 caught camels outside the Treasury, Petra
 visiting Rachel and Philip, Amman, Jordan
I always come back here, Fernandina Beach, FL

Thursday, January 13, 2011

So 2011 has begun and I'm holed up in my Decatur flat waiting for the ice to melt. I've had 4 days of being "snowed in" here and all the Russians are laughing for sure about our snow/ice predicament in Atlanta. But it's been a nice time of reflection, tea drinking, and skype conversations.

It's been a while since I last wrote and I thought I'd take the opportunity to write a bit about some new experiences I had this past year*. I've recorded them in a journal but would like to share a few highlights. It's been an awesome privilege to travel around the world and hear stories from people of such diverse backgrounds. I'm still trying to process all the things I've seen, heard and smelt.

I'll begin with an excerpt from my last day in Moscow 07/21/10:
"My last day! It's really been the last week that's left the biggest impression. Spending my last weekend in Vladimir and reliving so many memories there with friends is something I'll cherish forever. What a blessing to have meaningful friendships here that have lasted 10 years! Going to dacha, eating shashlik and swimming in the zagorod lake, dancing the night away...Then switching to my newer friendships in Moscow and getting to spend my last night with fellow colleagues and friends there. I could have walked all night if not for that darn metro closing at 1am!"

Here are excerpts from my Balkans trip immediately following my Moscow departure:
"First impressions of Serbia (well, Belgrade really): dirty, gray and Old World with a burst of color and excitement here and there. Alina and Andrei met me outside our hostel in Belgrade and so began our Balkans journey. I had no idea then how memorable and adventurous this trip would turn out to be...we caught a bus to Novi Sad (New Garden) where we met up with our Slovenian group with the rental car. Andreja and Ales had rented an 8-passenger van for our trip and driven from Slovenia along with Ales' cousin Ana and Andreja's schoolmate Barbara. We drove all afternoon through Serbia and came to Bosnia through the mountains--beautiful countryside! By nightfall we'd arrived in Sarajevo and found a campsite outside the city. With the mountains surrounding us, I can see how pedestrians were sitting ducks for snipers(in Russian I learned the expression goes "prey for wolves") during the Bosnian War.

Sarajevo impressions: places of worship and bullet holes everywhere. I bought a collection of short stories recalling personal histories of people who had lived during the siege here. I still find it hard to imagine the mass slaughter and chaos that happened here 15 years ago. Locals say Sarajevo is at peace again but it's hard to understand how people can move on. During this trip I came to realize my misinterpretation of the Balkan people I met; their seemingly reckless attitude and free-spirited behavior was also probably a coping mechanism during the war. My new Slovenian friends confirmed this idea on a number of occasions. I learned so much from them and the stories they shared about growing up in Yugoslavia and the aftermath..."

Montenegro: "Barbara had suggested climbing Lovchin mountain, the burial site for Njegosh, the famous spiritual and political leader of Montenegro who happened to be a prolific epic poet. Lochin is probably the most beautiful mountain view I've seen EVER. Never have I felt more aware of God's creation as I felt on that mountain top. It brought me to tears! Songs of praise escaped my lips as naturally as breathing in that place. Alina and I then found ourselves in Njegosh's tomb (great acoustics) taking turns singing old Slavonic Orthodox and Protestant hymns."

Croatia: "Barbara and I went for a morning jog near our campsite along the Adriatic coastline at Kupari, 10 km south of Dubrovnik. There we discovered shelled-out hotels and former resorts, long abandoned and rusting into the mountainside. We had watermelon for breakfast and then spent the day touring the colorful and tourist-congested city of Dubrovnik."

Slovenia: "After a day of hiking the Juianski Alps outside Ljubljana we went to visit Andreja's grandfather, Albin Noch, a former alpinist and mountain rescue worker, confined to a wheelchair after years of mountain climbing took their toll on his knees. He told us fascinating stories about World War II; how he dodged the "draft" into the Nazi army that was headed to fight the Soviets and how the partisans in his family had to hide out in the surrounding mountains during the war. The local villagers came over to meet us and we shared a cup of homemade tea and some type of local moonshine that tasted like paint thinner. The next day our group swam across the famous Lake Bled before escorting me to the airport. I'm writing this entry on the plane to London with lake water in my ears and a love for the Balkans in my heart."

*I hope I haven't bored you to death. If not, stay tuned for more stories from India!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

signs of spring

Spring is trying to make an appearance here but with the continual dusting of snow we've been getting lately, it might be a few more weeks before I can venture outside without my warm coat. But today the birds are singing and the sun is shining through my window as John Denver's "Sunshine On My Shoulders" plays in my head.

I celebrated my one-year anniversary in Moscow a few weeks ago and have been reflecting how fast time has flown by here. I get asked all the time how long I've been in Russia and the explanation gets a little complicated. When I reflect on how this country has been a part of my life for the better part of a decade, it just blows my mind. Recently I visited an old friend in Vladimir who showed me recent pictures of orphan 'kids' I worked with my first summer here. All of them are young adults, some married with children (!). My mind immediately flashed to the picture on my bedside table of my 'family group' from the first summer I worked with these same kids. What memories!

The past few months have been a time of decision-making: deciding to make the trip home for the greatest surprise party for my parents 60th birthdays, deciding where to go for New Years (Finland!), and whether I should stay here another year or head back "home." It was with much prayer and reflection that I made the decision to go back to the US after my teaching contract (and work visa) expires this July. I don't know exactly where I'll be/what I'll be doing but I've been given these words: "Be still and know that I am God." That's all I need to know for now so I wait with anticipation for what comes my way (and any contacts/ideas people want to throw my way!).

turtle riding on the Bay of Finland, Helsinki

with a Swede and two Finns, Stockholm

the gang's all here! surprise party 01/30/10

after record snowfalls in February

Kameshkovo "family group" at Krutoyak camp, 2002

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

лето и осень (summer and fall)

So it was a crazy summer and oh how I had great intentions of writing an update last month but time got away from me (that and traveling home for Abby's wedding). For anyone interested, here's a brief update:
My brother Michael and I had some adventures together on his 'last hurrah' trip/internship before he gets married this May. He helped me to stop and admire areas of Moscow I'd never had the chance to explore. From shopping the markets together his first week here to the last pub crawl his last weekend, I will always treasure the time spent with him in Russia. I hope he will too!
I also had some adventures in July when I traveled to Ukraine for vacation in Crimea and an unexpected visa run to Kiev. It was nice to relax on the Black Sea but Kiev was the real highlight of my trip. What a wonderful city! I met some amazing people through a contact of Michael's at couchsurfers. And the girl I stayed with just happens to work for UNHCR in Kiev so I got to visit their office and learn more about the refugee resettlement process from the other side. I also enjoyed 24-hour train rides across the country, meeting interesting people and understanding why they called Ukraine the bread basket of the USSR (miles and miles of gorgeous wheat and sunflower fields).

So we're now in the last week of October and I was hoping there'd be snow by now. My students tell me it'll come in a few weeks. In the meantime, I've been enjoying the leaves changing around town; especially the birch trees. This is truly my favorite time of year.

"premium" Ukrainian countryside

swimming in the Black Sea, Crimea

beautiful birch trees changing color

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Russia Day weekend

Last weekend Russia celebrated its independence. Instead of trying to figure out from whom this great country became independent, I decided to grab my brother Michael and head for the countryside. I wanted him to get a taste of the "real" Russia outside of Moscow and St. Pete. Here are some pictures from our adventures in Kostroma and Vladimir:

at Ipatyeski Monastery, Kostroma

on the banks of the Volga River, Kostroma

making chili with friends one stormy night, Kostroma

swimming and shashlik with friends on the outskirts of Vladimir

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

birthday, etc.

Traditionally on the 30th birthday one reflects on the past three decades and what has been accomplished up to that point. Maybe I've just been a shallow thinker lately (listening to bad English and correcting pronunciation mistakes 24/7 will do that to you) but all I can think about is how blessed I've been in my 30 seemingly short years of life. All this reflection started last Wednesday when I picked up a hefty package at the local post office from the USA. Inside was a photo album my family had put together with pictures from each year of my life. Looking back over the years to all the people and places that have shaped who I am--what an amazing stroll down memory lane it was! After that things got crazy and there was much celebrating this past weekend. I missed having family and friends from home here but my friends from Moscow, Vladimir, and Kostroma made it very special.

Celebrating at the Hard Rock (they actually didn't allow us to eat the cake on the premises. ahh Russia...)

so we took it to Starbucks where the staff happily provided us with forks to eat it with

friends from Vladimir and Moscow

currently listening to: Club of Sons, new Conor Oberst and Mute Math (thanks, Tim!)

Sunday, April 26, 2009

весна (spring)!

Spring is finally here! We had our (hopefully) last snowfall last Monday and now I can leave the house without a scarf and wear tennis shoes without fear of babushkas yelling at me for not dressing warm enough.
Top 5 ways you know it's spring in Russia:
1. your neighbors are all out painting the miniature fences around the building neon pink, green, and yellow (hey, after long winters here people want to see color!)
2. your shoes are caked in mud/dirt/anything that's been under the snow for 6 months
3. Orthodox church bells are ringing (one of my favorite sounds of the city)
4. All talk at work is focused on how one will spend weekends/vacation
5. One can run in the park without fear of drowning in puddles of melted snow

*Be looking out for my next post with some pictures of ultra chic fashion trends I've discovered here in Moscow. But first I need to find a USB cable for my phone so I can upload the pictures. My phone is a newer model but all the cell phone salespeople in town say they don't make a cable for my phone. Ahh...Russia.