Sunday, June 25, 2006
Thursday, June 22, 2006
I just shook Desmond Tutu's hand!!
One of my colleagues here at the United Nations who knows when all the VIP's are coming and going, tipped me off (per my long ago request) and I darted to the lounge where I was told Archbishop Tutu was sitting.
He was all alone on a white couch, dressed in black with the purple shirt underneath -- the Anglican dress. He had his head resting on his hand, looking world-weary. He saw me from afar off and watched me approach him. It was daunting but I was driven by adoration!
I began by saying, "Sir... may I shake your hand?" And he extended it. Overcome. The hand of a man who has worked so hard for peace and understanding. A hand that has been in the trenches of human injustices and lifted so many to find peace and reconciliation in their lives.
I rambled on a bit about waiting for him to visit the UN again so that I may meet him -- then said how much I admired the work he's done for our world... then got around to saying that because I was so grateful and inspired by him I named my son Desmond. He raised his brows ever so slightly. I wanted to tell him more about the reasons why but he stopped me mid-sentence and asked me if I lived in NYC (I suppose one can only take so much passionate outpourings from strangers!) I said yes but that I was originally from Utah. I hoped to get a response from that but didn't. He then said to say hello to his namesake for him. I warmed joyfully to this and said thank you. He pressed his hands together, smiled and bowed to me and I with my heart full returned the gesture and then left, nearly in tears.
What an honor. A blessed man. I wish now I would have sat down on the couch next to him and talked with him about what is concerning him these days.
The first time I heard Desmond Tutu was during our Philadelphia days. I was at home listening to NPR (I'm a junkie for good reason!) and heard the following interview with Alex Chadwick. I cried, I laughed, I wrestled with his ideas -- there was something about him and what he was saying that made him unforgettable to me. Here is a link to that interview: Morning Edition, October 7, 1999
Nobel Site on: Desmond Mpilo Tutu
A good synopsis of his work and views: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Desmond_Tutu
The Desmond Tutu Peace Center -- a non-profit group for nurturing visionary leadership
A perfect time to share one of my favorites passages from his book, "No Future without Forgiveness" (1999)
We are bound together in what the Bible calls "the bundle of life." Our humanity is caught up in that of all others. We are human because we belong. We are made for community, for togetherness, for family, to exist in a delicate network of interdependence. Truly, "it is not good for man to be alone," for no one can be
I think the restored Gospel of Jesus Christ exemplifies this thought so beautifully in the principles it teaches about our family relationships being ETERNAL. Archbishop Tutu is driven by the Spirit of God, to be sure. I can't tell you how happy this makes me. To have an individual like him in our world leading us all to love and forgive one another. In my mind there are two very great men in our world, who lead us so lovingly: the Prophet Gordon B. Hinkley and Archbishop Desmond Tutu. I wonder if they have met each other? What did they talk about? I suppose it would likely be about us, Gods will for us.
Many times in the Scriptures the prophets talk about how important we should be to one another:
Individuals who give and believe so much really influence me and direct me toward more openness with humanity. I want it to be said of me that I loved humans, that I was good on humanity. The more I experience things the more I feel that a part of the meaning of life is not what happens to us, but what happens between us.
BLESS ALL OF YOU!
Sunday, June 18, 2006
Saturday, June 10, 2006
Click the screen then the play button at the bottom.
Friday, June 09, 2006
Well, as indicated above, I had quite an adventure a couple of days ago. On Wednesday, I still hadn't been able to track down Professor Mathis and I was wondering what to do -- should I stay and see if I can find him or should I just leave? I had called him at his home and office several times, spoke with his secretary, and even went by the university, and I was getting tired of it -- I also felt a pressing need to get back to Kazakhstan -- so I tried to spend all of the rubles i had left on snacks and drinks and hopped on the next bus to Semipalatinsk.
About an hour into the trip I began to doze and was later woken by a "pop" sound followed by the bus coming to stop. The driver got out and looked around and eventually climbed back in and told us that the bus had broken down. He tried to drive us to the next "bus stop" but the bus was only moving at about 1 mile per hour -- at this rate we would reach civilization by August. I was gradually becoming quite concerned -- we were in the middle of nowhere and I didn't have any rubles! Suddenly the bus stopped again and the driver quickly jumped out. When he came back he said there was a bus behind us going to a town called Rubzovsk and we should all get on it. We all climbed on this small dirty bus, and I started to panic -- where is Rubzovsk? How big is it? How long will it take us to get there? How far is it from the Kazakh border? How will I get to Semipalatinsk from there? What am I going to do for money -- I spent all my rubles?
I finally saw a mileage marker and ascertained that it would take a couple of hours to travel to this town Rubzovsk and I kept my fingers crossed that it would be large enough to have a bank with an atm, a good bus station, and a hotel if necessary. As I mentioned, the bus was pretty small and old and slowly puttered along like the "train-that-could" -- every time we approached a hill, I began reciting "I think we can, I think we can."
After about four hours of that, we reached Rubzovsk, and I breathed a sigh of relief as I saw a bank with an atm on the way to the bus station. I checked at the station and saw that there was a bus to Semipalatinsk the next day in the afternoon, so I was going to have to spend the night here. I saw one of the guys who was on the bus that broke down and struck up a conversation with him -- he was pretty shocked to meet an American and was happy to chat with me for about an hour. It turned out that he lives in a village nearby and was able to point me in the direction of a cheap hotel. I thanked him and headed to the town square where the hotel was supposed to be.
I soon found the hotel, walked in and told the lady at the desk that I needed a room. She looked at me suspiciously and said "you can get a room if you have the proper documents!" I assured her I did and gave her my passport. She looked through it very surprised and said she didn't think that she could legally provide me with a room since I am a US citizen (this town obviously does not get to many international visitors). I explained to her that I was on my way to Semipalatinsk, but the bus broke down and I was stuck in Rubzovsk until tomorrow. She sympathized with my predicament and decided to call the local migration police to see if would be okay for me to stay. The officer said it would be fine if I supplied a photocopy of my passport, visa, and Russian migration card. I said I would do it and had to run out and find somewhere to get my passport photocopied. When I returned I was given a small room in this rather large, but very old and run down hotel. The place was huge but there wasn't to many guests staying there, so it had the feel of a haunted house. To get to my room on the third floor, I had to venture up an old grand staircase (complete with cobwebs!) and walk down a dark hallway with dozens of chairs, tables, and beds stacked along the walls. My room looked liked it hadn't been occupied in a decade and the bed had one of those noisy coil-spring mattresses. As uncomfortable as the place sounds however, I was happy to be there and was able to relax after my scare with the bus breaking down.
So its Friday now and I am in Semipalatinsk -- the trip from Rubzovsk to Kazakhstan went smoothly thank heavens. I am leaving for Almaty in a couple of hours on a train and I will arrive tomorrow afternoon. I will check back with you when I get to Almaty.
I can't wait to get home -- I am beat! Love you guys!
Wednesday, June 07, 2006
Tuesday, June 06, 2006
I made it back to the civilization yesterday after spending a week in various villages in Kazakhstan and Siberia -- I am now in Barnaul in Siberia, and will travel back to Kazakhstan tomorrow -- to a town called Semipalatinsk. I have done so much over the past week, it will be impossible to give you a thorough account so I will summarize. My first stop was a village in Kazakhstan called Uspenka. I just wanted to visit the village because I knew there were many Germans left living there. I received a pretty warm welcome from the locals, and got a quick tour of the town and was fed lunch. Later, I was taken to a meeting for people who were subjected to repression during WWII -- which means that they were deported to Siberia and Kazakhstan and forced to labor in what was called the "service army" -- in which many people died during and after the war. Most of the participants were Germans, but there were other groups represented as well. During the event I managed to meet and cozy up with the mayor of the village and the president of the county, as well as a member of the local senate. I stayed with a family affiliated with the local German center -- who were very nice. When I arrived at their home, we spent the evening chatting. I left the next morning for Sharbakti -- another Kazakhstan village which dislocated just a few kilometers from the Siberian border. I have chosen this town as my eventual research site in Kazakhstan (after checking out Uspenka, I made that decision). The reasons are its size (it’s much larger than the other villages and has more resources), my contacts there (I am well acquainted with the assistant to the Akim/major which helps), its proximity to my Siberian research site Podsosnovo, and finally because of the presence of the Catholic church. The father here is an American, and there are some other Americans priests here as well as some European nuns (the head nun is a very nice lady from Austria). I think that it will be good for you and the kids to have some people around who seem much more familiar and speak your language. The church runs a center for abandoned and neglected children, so there are always a bunch of little kids running around the church. After I arrived to Sharbakti, I met with Gulnara who is the assistant to the Akim, and explained to her that I wanted her to help me find a place to live when I move there next year. We discussed a few options and she suggested that I go and speak with the Catholic father, because the church has purchased a number of houses. I spoke with him the next day; however his only suggestion was for us to buy a house (we can get a nice big one for $5000 -- haha). Gulnara indicated that there are other options -- we can probably find someone to rent to us -- and I should check back with her when I arrive to Siberia next year. I feel pretty good about the situation because it appears that my contacts there are totally prepared to help us.
After Sharbakti, I crossed the border and traveled to the Siberian city Slavgorod and then later to the village Podsosnovo. This time I didn't want any help from the German org. here but instead I wanted to make my way around the region myself (in the past, the German org. has provided me with transporation). Unfortunately, there is no bus service to Podsosnovo from Slavgorod, so I had to take a bus to the closest road to the village. When I climbed out of the bus, I was disappointed to see a distance marker indicating 15 kilometeres to Podsosnovo (I think about 8 or 9 miles). I began walking and stuck my thumb out every time a car passed, but no one would pick me up. After about 40 minutes an older guy and his wife stopped and let me climb in their car. The couple quickly realized that I was not Russian, and after telling the driver that I am from the US, he almost drove his car into the ditch along the side of the road. He said (what is an American doing wandering around in the middle of Siberia!). Anyway, I finally got to Podsosnovo, got set up in the local hotel, and got Alexei (my buddy the mayor) on the phone. I met with him and his family later at his house, and we went back over my plans -- which are totally all set. He said that there are several houses that have been kept by Germans who have moved to Germany, and they would be glad to rent them. Fortunately, all of the houses here have central, electrical heating and indoor toilets (as opposed to Sharbakti which uses coal, meaning we will have to pay for coal deliveries and figure out how to use a coal burning stove, and outhouses -- meaning a small wooden enclosure with a hole in the floor). The only concern is furniture, which he says we can buy in Podsosnovo or Slavgorod. Of course, I told him that us moving there is totally conditional, however if it works out, I will write him and he will spring into action providing the necessary paperwork. The rest of my time in Podsosnovo, I spent visiting some acquaintances, and going to the local German church (I went to 4 hours of church on Sunday!).
Yesterday (Monday), Alexei drove me to Halbstadt (the county seat), so I could register my visa and where I could catch a bus for Barnaul, to where I arrived last night. I spent today trying to track down people. My main concern is to find Professor Matis at the University of Barnaul. I need to talk to him about getting academic affiliation with the university for my research period in Russia. Unfortunately, I have not been successful -- I have been to his office and have called his office and home phone several times today, but have not been able to track him down. I am
leaving tomorrow and don't think I will be able to get him. Darn! I did pay a visit to the local German House and checked with my contacts there about getting ourselves officially registered when we arrive in Russia. After calling the local migration authorities, I was told that the procedure had totally changed from what I was told last year; and they explained how I need to do it (hopefully it does not change again next year when we get here!) Anyway, it is evening here and I am little disappointed about not finding professor Matis. Oh well - I am going to call him at home tonight, and maybe go by the University tomorrow before I leave. My plan is to leave for Kazakhstan tomorrow morning -- unless I can arrange a meeting with Matis tomorrow afternoon -- and if so will take an overnight bus tomorrow night (ughh!!). This trip (which has been quite fruitful) is winding down -- really meeting with Matis was the last thing I needed to do -- other than getting to Almaty for the flight home.
Sunday, June 04, 2006
I am in Pavlodar and am leaving for the country villages tomorrow morning -- and will probably not have email access until I get to Barnaul next week.
I was really blessed yesterday. I arrived to Pavlodar and quickly found a place to stay. Then I went looking for food and accidently took the wrong bus. I got lost for a few moments and then recognized the street I was on and began walking in the direction of the restaraunt I wanted.
Suddenly I heard someone calling my name, I turned around and it was my friend Oxana who works for Rebirth. It turns out that the organization moved their office to the other side of town last year, and I just happen to be walking by the office, and Oxana just happened to be there late teaching a German class, and just happened to open the door for an instant for some air as I just happened to be walking by!!!! Had that not happened, I would have had a bear of a time finding them!
Anyway, they have me all set up to visit two villages tomorrow and the next day -- and after I visit them on Friday, I will make for Russia. The last village (Sharbakti) that I will visit, I really like (I was there last year). I am going to visit with the mayor's assistant and see about living accomodations for us if we come next year.