Wednesday, September 26, 2007

In other news....

Lisa Jackson bought Sam a desk! In some email I wrote her I had mentioned that Sam was having a hard time with studying because his desk that he had used in his old room was not sturdy enough to survive the trip from upstairs to our new room – due to being held together by lots of screws and just barely hanging on. And because we couldn’t afford to get a desk, he was trying to study at our little table or with his books on the bed and he was really struggling because he needs that structured study area. And she wrote back and told us she wanted to get us a desk. We ended up finding one on sale for $999Rubles – and even with having to pay to have it delivered, it ended up being very reasonable. it’s a very nice desk too. I have seen God provide already in ways I have never seen before. Mostly I think because I never opened myself up to being so subject to NEEDING Him to provide. I’ve often had a back-up plan. Now, there IS no back-up plan. God will provide, or we won’t make it. We have a really strict budget set up for our year. And all the purchases we had to make this first month necessities like a bed, stuff to clean the place, dishes and utensils, and all the things that go along with getting set up for the year of living here just were not well, in the budget. And we ended up spending just over $500 I think. And then there was this week about 2 weeks ago – it was the week Lisa told us she was sending $ for the desk – that week we learned that I had recived $95 (the money from selling my couch and tv). Also, a check for the mattress I sold in Ohio - $300. and also came a check for the old trunk. I had written apex about the money still left in my overage account and they put that in my account – along with some money that came in from 2 supporters who were still sending money in for me. we learned of all this in one week, different days…and at the end of the week I started thinking about all the different mentions of money coming in we had heard of and I started writing them down and I totaled them up. $679!!! God covered our set-up expenses and then some, in one week. I was humbled and realized how blessed I am to be in a position where I have to trust Him this way, because otherwise, I might have missed it.

I bought a winter coat, hat, and scarf in Finland. I think I look very Finnish now. (better to look Finnish in Russia than to look American, though I think.) It’s a black wool coat with a hood, sort of like a pea coat, but not exactly. I’m sure you’ll probably see me in it a lot in the future as it gets colder and colder. I still need to find boots soon. No snow yet, but lots of cold rain. I just need to find warm, practical boots…which could be harder than you’d think here in Russia. It seems to me that the standard footwear for Russian women is leather boots up to the knee with stiletto heels. Not exactly what I have in mind. There is an outdoor market on the weekends just a few metro stops away and there’s quite a lot to go through, and tons of boots, so I hope to find something there.

Sam’s desk: (thanks, Lisa!!)


Me, in my new coat:

My new coat!

Finland and Back

Ok, I’m still alive. The internet connection at the hostel has been pretty much non-existent. Its been down so much that its almost not even worth making the trip upstairs to try to get online at all because every time I do, it just is disappointing.

So….I went to Finland. And now I’m back. Finland was nice. The people were friendly and all very helpful and it is just a very different feeling than in St. Petersburg. Finland feels more like any of the other European cities I’ve been in, and so it was a nice breath of fresh air.

check out my pics at

About a week or so before I was to leave for Helsinki, I got an email asking if I needed a place to stay in Finland, because Jimmy D has relatives there and there might be a way of finding me a place to stay with someone. I hadn’t booked a hostel yet or anything so I said sure, go for it. Well, jimmy D wrote me and said that there was a Cedarville graduate who was leaving that same week for Helsinki as a missionary with Greater Europe Mission. He got me in touch with this guy, Kyle, who was going to arrange a place for me. So, it was about 5 days before I was to leave and I finally connected with Kyle through email and he said that he had just arrived and he was still figuring things out but that if I could trust him, he was pretty sure he could line up something for me by the time I arrived. I decided to trust him, (more so trust that God would use Kyle to find me a place in time). So I was leaving on Tuesday, and by Sunday I still hadn’t heard anything from him, and I had not been able to get online, he didn’t even have my arrival info or anything, just that I was coming on Tuesday. So, finally on Monday afternoon I was able to get online and I saw an email from him that said that his pastor (at the church in Finland) had a couple that I could stay with in Esboo (a town just outside of Helsinki). That was all the info I got. No contact info, nothing. So, I still decided that I was trusting God. So that afternoon, I met with a lady who is working on getting me a cultural visa, and as I was coming home from that meeting, I got a text message from Kyle, giving me the names and phone number of the people I was to stay with. I finally got in touch with them via text message late Monday night. I was to meet them at the train station and they told me the name of which station to come to, and what color car they would be driving. And I left for Finland the next morning. So I arrived at the airport, and asked how I could get to the train station. From the airport, I took a bus to the central railway station. And then from there I caught a train to the station they had told me about. I had just enough airtime on my phone left to send a message to Saara, (the wife of this couple) that I was on the train and arriving soon. (because I was roaming, the text messages cost A LOT and used up my time really fast). So I arrived at the station and had no idea where to go from there. I didn’t see the car yet and there was a big mall type place at this station, so I wasn’t sure if I was to meet them inside or outside or what. I had no more airtime and I just kind of walked around for a while thinking and praying about what to do next. I found a cell phone store and decided that maybe I could see if I could add airtime to my phone there (not sure because my server is in a different country if they have the same or not), and as I was waiting, I got a message from Saara saying that she was outside at the platform. PRAISE GOD. Saara and Jukka are probably a few years older than my parents. They have 3 adult daughters. I am the same age as their middle daughter. Sam kept telling me, “Remember there are Finnish people, so they’re going to be cold, not all warm and welcoming, ok?” But they have been wonderful. They have been so accommodation and hospitable. They have a huge, beautiful house in the woods. I had my own room, we ate dinner together, they told me how to get the embassy and which busses to use, Saara looked at my wedding pictures and showed me pics of their youngest daughter’s wedding (she got married this summer also) and Jukka even let me use his cell phone to call Sam to tell him I made it here safely, since I was out of airtime. Jukka (the husband) went out of town yesterday for a seminar overnight a few hours away, so last night I was introduced to the Finnish tradition of Sauna. Apparently its pretty common in Finland to have a sauna in your house, as Jukka and Saara do. The other night they were telling me all about the tradition and how it began and they asked if I had been in sauna and I said, “well, a couple times in nice hotels” and Jukka was like, “a couple times in your life??” =) ha. Yes. So he said, “Well, now its settled, tomorrow night you and Saara will have Sauna.” They have a wood-burning sauna, and so it takes an hour to heat up. After dinner Saara started the fire and then an hour later we began. Lets just say, it was very…European. Ha. It was seriously hotter than any sauna I have been in in America. It was over 80degrees Celsius….which in case you are Celsius to Fahrenheit illiterate as I mostly am…is over 200 degrees Fahrenheit. When I breathed in (which was hard to do in such heat) it felt like my nose and lips were burning. I’m also very sick right now (Sam gave me a terrible cold…ah, the joys of marriage right?) so the breathing thing I think was even more difficult. But the sweating was probably good, get all the bad toxins out….hopefully. Jukka says that when he has been sick and gone into the sauna it usually makes a decision….either he starts to get better or it gets worse, I don’t exactly know which decision has been made for me, but I started antibiotics today, so perhaps the sauna didn’t really do any wonders, and if it did, maybe I’ll never know if it was the sauna….or just the meds!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007



Yes, we went to IKEA. We moved into our room and the bed that was in there was….GROSS. And the springs in the mattress were so old that they groaned and creaked so loud every time one moved that it would wake TWO up! So we got a bed. Actually, we found a couch/bed/futon-like thing that is actually quite comfortable. We did really well, finding pretty much everything we got on sale, the bed included. We also got plates and bowls, mugs, kitchen knives, a frying pan, utensils, spatula, peeler, and bedding. I had never been to IKEA in the States, so I have nothing to compare it to, but I can say one thing, the place is HUGE. To get to the complex that IKEA is in, we go 5 metro stops away from the school, go out from the metro station, cross the street and catch the free bus to MEGA, which is about a 5-10 minute ride to where the mall complex where IKEA is. The mall is very western and, as Sam remarked the other day, “If you lived near there, you’d never even know you’re in Russia…well, until people starting talking and you didn’t understand anything.” It is a nice mall; complete with a food court with an indoor ice-skating rink, McDonalds, Subway, and a huge store called Azhan (which isn’t spelled that way at all, but I don’t have a Russian-alphabet keyboard), so that’s how you pronounce it. It looks very new, and Sam and I just discovered it because I wanted to check it out and see what the prices were like, and we now refer to it as “Russian Wal-Mart”. It was awesome. We also went to the market this weekend. It was enormous. Street after street of vendors and shops. We went to find material so I can make curtains for our room. Prior to this we did the ghetto thing and taped newspaper over the windows, so I’m very happy to actually have curtains.


I’m still feeling a little like a prisoner because, even though I could go out if I wanted, I’m not very confident because I don’t know any Russian and even though I could probably find my way around ok, say, getting groceries on my own or something, I don’t know what I would do if I ran into a situation buying something at a shop or something. Although after a few more days of being trapped inside I may just develop the confidence and brave it anyway, just to get out. I have at least figured out that when you go through a till at a store, they ask #1 if you have a card for that store, #2 if you are buying a plastic bag, #3 if you have the exact change or close to it. And Russians aren’t much for small talk, so if a clerk did say something to me, chances are it would be one of these things and I could fake my way through it.

On a random note: We have been able to watch a little of the Rugby World Cup. I like rugby. Its so much more interesting to watch than American football. But its not exactly widely televised in the USA. So, for those of you that get those obscure ESPN channels, I highly recommend it.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

RUSSIA – the story continues…

The first 3 days we stayed in Deepthi’s room (friend of Sam’s who hadn’t returned to school yet). When she came back, we spent 3 nights in Sam’s old room (his roommate stayed in someone else’s room for those nights) because we hadn’t worked out things for our room yet. Finally we ended up giving the commandant of the hostel $100USD so she won’t bother us about me staying here for now, because technically unless you are registered at the school I guess you’re not allowed to stay in the hostel, although there are a number of people with significant others, families, etc, who live here…and although we are trying and trying to go about things the honest way, and go through all the right channels, it seems that people just want bribes in order to do their jobs, and/or help out another human being.

We moved into our own room on the third floor. It was nasty dirty. We spent the better part of 3 days cleaning. We basically bleached it from top to bottom. (and that’s not to mention the bathroom). Sam went in full force there…gloves, mask, everything. It was impressive. I didn’t take “before” shots, but you’ll probably be thankful for that, because it was really gross, and you probably wouldn’t want to look at that. The “after” is quite nice though, (you can surmise then, if I feel the “after” is quite nice, how the “before” must have been). I feel like we have some semblance of “home” with a somewhat live able bathroom. (the ones on the 6th floor, and 7th floor, where we stayed before moving in our room were unbelievably hideous.) Think of the ickiest gas station bathroom smell you have ever smelled and multiply. The one here is non-smelly and I am ever grateful. Up till 2 days ago we thought we had our very own stall to ourselves, but then the Indian guy next door told us that he had been using the middle one. See, the way they do the bathrooms here is that there are 3 stalls. And 3 rooms on each side. 6 total. When we moved in the two side stalls both had locks – signifying that people from other rooms had chosen that one and split up keys accordingly. The middle was NASTY. No seat. Brownish black gook staining the bowl….GROSS, and it was Unlocked. That and the decrepit-lookingness signaled to us that more than likely no one was actually using this one. The guy who lived in our room before said that we could ask to get a key for one of the other stalls with the other rooms, or we could fix up the middle one since it seemed no one was using it. We chose the latter. So once it was all nice and clean and fixed up, we put on our own lock and it was just ours. Yay! That is, until this guy comes and says he had been using the middle one. Seriously? ICK. So we gave him a key and now we have to share with him. Sam put a lot of work into that though, so if this guy isn’t clean, we’re changing the lock!

Sam started classes today. We don’t have internet in our room yet, but we can usually just go up to the 6th floor to Sam’s old room and use the net there – his roommate from last year, Faisal, is still staying there and has told us we can just keep his key and come and go as we want.

People here go to sleep really late and wake up late. Which is perfectly fine for me usually, but has been hard to get adjusted to, since for so long I have been trying to get out of that habit and recently finally succeeded, only to have to switch again! Things are still in limbo, still working on visa stuff, still putting our room together. We have this huge couch and two big chairs that came with the room that are fine and all, but they are really BIG and taking up way too much space and I can’t wait to get rid of them. We know someone who wants the couch, but we can’t really afford to buy new stuff for sitting on, so we have to keep at least the chairs for now I guess. Once we get rid of those things we can finally put the room the way I really would like to have it, and we can fit a desk in for Sam, which with the couch plus two chairs would be very difficult. So hopefully we can move out the hefty thing soon. Until then we’re kind of halfway there. It’s ok though. Starting to finally look like a home, rather than a dorm room. For which I am thankful.

Today I made tortillas and we had faijitas for dinner. It was an all afternoon process – walking back and forth from our room to the kitchen. Actually, when I first went to the kitchen today there was a bird inside. Yes, and that’s actually not too uncommon. People leave lots of trash in the kitchen and then leave the windows wide open, so birds just fly in and hang out. Yes. Thankfully there was only one bird, ( I walked past a kitchen on another floor a few days ago that had 3 birds in it!) and thankfully when he saw me he made a quick effort to get out, and after only a few attempts of running into the ceiling and window, he made it. I was glad to not have to cook with a bird eyeing me.

I’ve been learning the Metro. I’m getting the hang of it, although at the beginning I thought I’d never get it. Its all in Russian, so it’s not exactly tourist-friendly. But once you ride it enough, you figure it out. And you learn how many stops to go and which line to get on. No one talks or smiles, people crowd as many as possible into metro cars and busses, and EVERYBODY STARES AT US.

I like Sam’s friends from the hostel. We have been going to his fellowship group which meets here at the hostel in Deepthi’s room. (Sam lived below her last year). the hostel is like a labyrinth of hodge-podge cultures. Indians, Arabs, Chinese, Vietnamese, Africans. Very….interesting. Oh, here’s one for the “pro” list, Lisa Jackson: all the Indian food I get to eat, from real Indians….Mmmm. =) We had Chapatti and vegetables the other night. And before that we had a night where a bunch of people brought different things and it was really good. There was something that the Indians called “cutlet” that was very tasty.

It’s fall weather here now. No changing leaves yet. But I am looking forward to getting to experience that this year! It is getting cold though. I am going to need to buy a coat soon. I don’t have one. Hopefully I can find a warm one that isn’t too expensive. In a week I have to leave to go to Helsinki to apply for another tourist visa. God totally provided a place for me to stay there! I am so happy and we are so thankful that we get to save like $100 that we would have had to spend on lodging. Jimmy D hooked me up with contact info for this Cedarville guy who just left to become a missionary in Helsinki with Greater Europe Mission. And he said he can hook me up with a place to stay. Very exciting. Especially since I will have to go there a total of 3 times by the time this is all over. Sigh. So maybe I can stay there a few times if it is ok with them. We’ll see how it works out. I’ll just be glad when all this moving about is over with. It’s very unsettling. I love to travel. But this is so much more WORK than travel. And it’s costly, which sucks. But, hopefully I can get everything arranged quickly for my second tourist visa and can relax a little to enjoy Helsinki a bit while I’m there. I’ll have the camera, so look forward to Finland pics. I'm having issues with uploading all the pics i want right now, so you'll have to look forward to more. Here are a few for now:

JFK Airport

Welcome to Russia

Thank God for pictures on products!