Thursday, July 31, 2008


Eric - whom I have written about before - often drives me home after our lessons. He loves St. Petersburg. and He knows a lot of the history and he really enjoys talking about Russian history and St. Petersburg in particular. Well, last week while he was driving me I asked him about one of the historical buildings we passed and he told me about it. Then all the sudden he said, "Hey! What if I organize a tour for you and Sam with my car and I can hire an English-speaking guide to take us on a tour of the city and tell us about the history. Then I can have more practice with my English and you and I can have even more to talk about." He was really excited, and to tell you the truth, so was I. I have been to a number of the sites in the city, but I don't know much of the history and its a lot different and more interesting to see with a guide and a native of the city telling you things about it.

We arranged to go on Sunday, which turned out to be Navy Day. (You see, during Soviet times, practically every profession was given its own holiday and these holidays still are celebrated today. So on Sunday there were many people in the city, especially along the Neva River where there were a number of Navy ships and a submarine and there was a big parade. It made navigating the city a bit more difficult, but it was kind of cool to see the special ships in the Neva.) So, on Saturday Eric arrived to pick us up at 11:00 and we drive to the city centre to meet our guide, Sveta. We got there a bit early, so we found a place to have some coffee while we waited. Let me tell you a few things about Eric - he loves coffee and he is extremely generous. he ordered coffee for us all (cappuccino for Sam and I) and he and Sam chatted about life in communist countries - seeing as they have both lived in them: Eric here and Sam in Angola.

At noon our adventure began. We spent the most part of the day seeing the sites: St. Isaac's Cathedral, Peter and Paul Fortress, The Neva, Marinsky Ballet Theater, and my favorite cathedral: The Church of Our Saviour on the Spilled Blood. The day was so much fun. The basic idea of our day went something like this:

* Eric and Sveta told us all kind of things about the city and argued all day between the two of them (very good humoredly) about the correct perspective on the history

* We drove all over the city, in circles sometimes, because of so many streets being blocked for Navy Day

* we got to do things we probably wouldn't have because Eric paid for us without even so much as a word.

* we got to park places we shouldn't have because Eric is very...Russian. Let's just say we got a primo parking spot, and as Sveta was saying, "I don't think we're allowed to park here..." Eric was getting out to have a nice 'chat' with the guard, then came right back smiling and saying, "see...immediately we have reached an agreement."

After our touring around we said goodbye to Sveta and Eric treated (AGAIN) to coffee and amazing freshly squeezed orange juice that we got at this restaurant beside the Church of Our Saviour. While we talked, Eric called his wife to see if she needed him to come home and as the phone was ringing he was saying, "i hope she doesn't pick up!" (I guess Sam and I weren't the only ones who were having a pretty good time). It turned out that she didn't pick up, so Eric turned to us and said, "Let's go get something to eat!" we ended up at this place called Hemingway, after the famous poet. It was a really nice-looking place and it's one of those places that judging by looks, Sam and I would never even think about going. Because to me, it just looked too nice! But we had some great food and more great conversation. Sam and Eric both had steak and we all shared some fresh veggies, I had tacos! (they were quite fancy tacos, and they tasted great) and i got some hash browns with sour cream. and to give you the feel of the place, it happened to be the birthday of the restaurant so they brought us each a free glass of champagne. After dinner, Eric offered, "desert? coffee?" We were both full, but assured him it was fine if he got more coffee, which he did.

After dinner he brought us home and along the way invited us to go to Petergoff and Pushkin next weekend. (these are two quite beautiful, old suburbs of St. Petersburg that I've heard a lot about) We eagerly accepted, so that's in the plan for the upcoming weekend.

We thanked him profusely for the day (I can't even imagine how much money he must of spent on us that day) and he simply said, "Well, I got to speak English all day, and that was my aim." and he smiled. It is really cool to see someone as excited about learning English as he is!

Below is a link to a slide show on Flickr of all my photos from the day. It was a beautiful day weather-wise so the pics look great. Enjoy!

Monday, July 21, 2008

picnic in the rain

The All Nations Christian Center annual picnic was yesterday. And of course, it rained. Not only did it rain, but it rained ALL DAY. It rained hard and it was cold. With that said, I'd like to tell you that we still had the picnic and we still had a lot of fun, even with being soaked, frozen and having no place to sit down. We met at a lake on the outskirts of the city. it took about 2 hours to reach there, when you consider the walk to the metro, time in the metro, the bus, and then car that shuttled us from where we got out of the bus to the where the picnic was being held by the lake. When we arrived at the site, everyone was huddled under two small open tents on the beach. After talking to the man who was operating a local shop/bar across the street, (who apparently had pity on us) we moved the tents across the street and combined them with several outdoor tents used for the shop/bar which were completely empty, seeing as it was 11am on a Sunday and it was pouring rain. so we huddled under the tents and wrapped in blankets and tried our best not to have to stand in the puddles. and we had a time of worship. we sang and played music and heard a short message from pastor Kukuli, which he began by saying, "This is the first time I have ever preached in the rain under a tent advertising beer." See picture below. Funny.

There was food, soccer in the rain, and yes, there was even swimming - well, if you can call it swimming...i have never seen so many people that don't know how to swim so excited about being in the water. Sam and I (Sam from the water, and I from the shoreline) did our best to teach Fola and Chuks how to swim. They were so was like teaching two 8-year-old boys how to swim. We could barely get out a few sentences before they were off trying to do what we said! it was hilarious. Quote of someone watching from the beach, "Are they swimming or drowning?" You can judge for yourself...because of course, I took photos and video.

Some photos that capture our day:

And soon as we got home, it stopped raining. Go figure.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

a typical day

i thought i'd take you along with me on my trip to work.


24 hour Flower kiosk
24 hour flowers
If i had a nickle for every time I needed to buy roses at 3am...I'd have, um...
no nickles. But apparently this is a needed service here, because this kiosk is one of many.

Looking back
Blue and White Metropolis
we live in one of those huge blue and white buildings in the back.

path towards the metro
so many people cut through here that no clover grows in those worn areas.

Teremok - Russian blini kiosk

almost at the metro

Atmosphera Mall
mall/shopping complex with 7 floors. it stands across from the metro station which is nearest our flat.

Komendantsky Prospekt Metro Station
if you look closely you can see the blue "M" which marks the entrance to the metro.

Metro Komendantsky Prospekt

rush hour in the metro

poster wall
poster wall
i don't know what its advertising, but...

i found it humorous. in case you can't read it, their signs say, "give us money. we are pretty."

Cofe Xayz
Cofe Xayz
the coffeeshop i frequent because its close to work and it tends to be less crowded and smokey than most.

My class
My class
Intensive English class - Intermediate level

thanks for joining me!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

My picture is on the ALM website in case you haven't seen it. It's a photo of one of my pre-intermediate English classes.

go here: ALM

Monday, July 14, 2008

Thunder and Lightening, oh my!

I love thunderstorms. but they're not as fun when you have to walk home in them.

Thursday, July 03, 2008


the problem with long lapses in posting is that i feel obligated to recap everything i missed because of not posting in so long...and of course i can't think of everything i missed, so i put it off longer and longer thinking that i will remember and be able to organize my thoughts, but it never happens and its a vicious cycle. so, with all that said, i'll just begin with where things are these days.

it's July now and the white nights have passed - i can already tell that the days are growing shorter again. i'm working quite a lot right now. there is an intensive class that i teach 3 nights a week. this class is offered in the summer and students take class from 7-10pm 3 nights a week, instead of the regular 2 nights a week and can therefore finish a course in 5 1/2 weeks instead of the normal 8 weeks. i'm also teaching an evening class at Lenta (basically Russian Wal-Mart) for their corporate business people. so i teach the intensive class on M W F and Lenta on T Th. i also have individual students in the morning/daytime on M W F. things are great with teaching. i still really enjoy it and my students seem to enjoy my classes as well, so that makes me happy. i have been able to have some great talks with one of my individual students, Eric. he is in his 50's and owns his own international shipping business. we have a wonderful time talking in our lessons twice a week. He loves to talk and we never have a shortage of topics to discuss. we have had some great talks about Jesus, in particular. we've talked about sin, about God and i've been able to share the gospel in short as well. please pray for Eric. he is so open to hearing about the Lord. he is very interested in the things of God. for those of you who don't realize, the USSR banned religion and it was not allowed to read the Bible and hear the things of God, and people were told again and again that God didn't exist. Eric lived through this time and when the USSR broke apart and Russia opened up, things like AA came to Russia. this is where Eric first was challenged and presented with the idea that God did indeed exist. he told me that although he's not a Bible-reading or church-going man that he knows God is powerful because even just allowing himself to believe that God was real, changed his life. he hasn't had a drink in over 17 years. pray that Eric will continue to be challenged by God to more than mere belief in His existence, but that he will take the next step and surrender his life to him. and if God wants me to play a part in that in any way, pray that i will be attentive and aware of the opportunities He presents.

Sam passed all his exams and is now doing his practical work at the hospital. he has a certain number of hours he must complete during the summer. he is assisting in the hematology and transplantology departments. he has been changing IV's and learning other things and finally getting the chance to put his theoretical knowledge into action, hands-on.

We have been married for just over 11 months now. it's amazing how fast this year has gone by. so yes, next month is our first wedding anniversary. we're hoping to get out of Russia for a little time to celebrate, but we aren't sure about my visa registrations situation. i had some difficulties when i came back from Estonia at my 6 month mark, because although i have a year long visa and was registered for the first 6 months of that, the visa rules changed during this time and now, not matter how long your visa is for (unless you have a student visa or work visa, which I don't) you're only allowed to stay in the country for 190 days out of the year. it's being dubbed the "3 months in, 3 months out" rule by the foreigners here. well, anyway when Ala, (the lady who helps with my visa stuff) went to get me registered for the rest of my year, they refused to register me because they said i had already used up my days and had been here illegally. the short version is basically that we were able to finally register me, we just had to go through someone else and i had to pay more. thats Russia. but now that we want to go out of the country there's a fear that i won't be able to come back in, or if i can come back in that i wont be able to register, which would effectively mean i'd have to leave. so we're weighing our options. if getting out of Russia won't work, maybe we'll just take a trip inside Russia somewhere, maybe go to the South. the 2014 Olympics will be in Sochi, in the South and i hear it's nice there, so it's at least an option if all else fails.

i have posted pics on my Flickr. hopefully those of you who are faithful readers on my ramblings here have seen them. if not, you can check them out now - including the pics from our 3 weeks without hot water, to our first dinner guests, and the sun shining at 11pm.

in random news:
Zenit FC - St. Petersburg's football team (soccer for the Americans out there) won the Champion's League Cup. and let me tell you, people are crazy about Zenit here. you can always tell when there's a game because everybody wears their blue and white and wears their Zenit scarves and you see people with painted faces on the always can tell when there's a game. see, unlike Moscow, St Petes only has one football club, so everyone supports them and it kind of brings the city together. the people in this city as a while tend to seem rather individualistic and self-focused, but Zenit is the one thing that seems to unite people. After they won the Champions League Cup, a spontaneous celebration broke out on Nevsky when people poured out into the streets and waved their flags and set off fireworks and sang and shouted and celebrated into the wee hours.

then Russia made it to the semi-finals of the Euro Cup 2008, but they lost to Spain, (who eventually went on to win it).

back in May, Sam and i went to the VE Day parade on Nevsky and that was kind of fun. it was another really unifying thing. WWII is a very important war here and VE Day is a huge holiday, with numerous parades and celebrations and festivities around the city (and the country for that matter). later I will try to post some pictures that I took. but as for now, it's almost 1am and i should pull this to a close.

my apologies for the lapse, and i'll try to remedy it over these next few weeks!