Friday, March 28, 2008


Dear beloved – I appreciate a public platform such as this (indulgent) blog to acknowledge your faith and support and struggles and love on our behalf.

I know all this hasn't been easy for you. For years we've been talking about this eventuality and I'm sure you were hoping that this particular dream would not be realized. I understand that with the addition of grandchildren/niece&nephew this separation makes it all the more painful for you. We think of this all the time and the affect our choices have on all of you and we pray for that great Comforter to be with you and to confirm to you our delicate, earnest wish to proceed with our lives in a careful, prayerful way that always considers but cannot always be swayed by your feelings. WE LOVE YOU ALL SO MUCH!! Thank you God for the nature of family and the potential to be together for the eternities!! Our testimony of this is so strong and we love our God for it. May you each feel his love for you!


Let this battery whirl on. . . it's late and an electrical outlet is not convenient to my recline in bed.

One month ago today we flew out of JFK airport. I have since remained in a continuous state of grateful well being as I remember all the good people in New York City who rallied about us to enable such a seemingly impossible departure from such a beloved place. For months I had struggled with gloom over leaving – not for a home somewhere in NY State or Connecticut or Philadelphia or Utah or even NewJersey (!) as so many we've know here have done – but for Siberia, Russia and ultimately unknownville, Kazakhstan, to some undetermined habitat that may or may not have electricity, or heat, or water; to enter a culture that would require of me a cache of pioneer-like survival skills that I was sure I didn't have; a society that would linguistically isolate me, which was a position I'd been in before while living in Germany over a decade ago and knew well what to expect. I regretted most of all leaving New York, a place where I enjoyed richrichrich sociality, a small but cozy apartment, a job that was, at times, really quite remarkable for a girl like me to find herself in. So counting my blessings over the last 5+ years and feeling so grateful for them – and not wanting to give it all up. Most painful!

But it was ultimately that act of acknowledging the goodness that surrounded me and a really great conversation with my mom&dad that helped me turn the corner (with 5 or so days to go before departure!) When one feels so blessed, one errs greatly by fearing – there is no faith in fear. My mother highlighted this for me and I thank her from the bottom of my heart.

Thank you good friends in the great city of New York for loving us so well and helping us make this difficult transition. May you all feel as blessed as I do by the people who surround you – feelings like these really create true brotherhood/sisterhood and that is what each person and community needs in this world. I pray for this!

Friday, March 21, 2008

Desi Candor

“Do you know how to speak New York?” Des asked of his new Russian friend, Ellionna.

Nate and I were talking about the likelihood of the school admitting Des as a non-Russian speaker and DPJ interrupted with a hopeful, “I can speak Russian. . . Kapish? Kapish? Kapish?!” but Nate informed him that ‘Kapish’ was Italian.

“It’s cold like Russia out here! It’s cold like Russia out here!”
Des began to shout this several times after we first stepped outside the Moscow airport.

Why did I have to go to Russia anyway? Why didn’t you leave me with a babysitter?

“How do you say Spiderman in Russian?”
Desi asked this of a little girl, Ellionna, who was also staying at the ‘hotel’ with her family here in Podsosnovo.

Why don’t they know about Spiderman here?

You know what’s cute mom&dad? Zoe hugging me!

After planting a big kiss on my cheek Des said, “Delicious kiss!”

Don’t scatter your stuff around. I don’t want my bed all girly, I want it all boyly.

“I wish I was a girl like Zoe.”
Des said appreciatively after watching and laughing at her dancing and being silly. [He said this not an hour after saying the above ‘girly’ remark to her! Ha!]

Zoe and I were singing songs early one morning after she joined me in bed. Des was still out on the couch bed snoozing and after consecutive rounds of “Jesus Said Love Everyone”, Des stirred in the other room and muttered, “That heart song makes my head struggle – you need a new song.”

Mom’s more funnier that Dad, he’s more serious.

This morning Nikolai climbed down into the pit he has under the floor boards in the living room and brought up a huge jar of raspberry preserves. The babes and I were in complete ecstasies shortly thereafter, slathering it on bread. I declared, “Oh my heart! I LOVE good food!” Des followed up with, “I think we’re in heaven – in Jesus’ land!” and Zoe sweetly summarized, “Heaven.”

Zoe: Moo moo!
Des: Zoe, you’re not a cow!
Zoe: Cow! Moooomooo. . .
Des: You’re not a cow, you’re a lovely baby, a lovely Zoe!

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

On the Farm in Podsosnovo

We’ve found ourselves a little house and family and farm animals to share the next 3-6months with: Nikolai, his wife (who will join us in a month’s time) and their babyfaced 19yearold son Pavel, who is actually just visiting (curious about us) he goes to university in another city. I’m so grateful to be living with someone – there is so much to learn and I love observing how Nikolai does things about his house. It’s a whole new domestic world here.

Des and Zoe are great (still healthy!) and love Nikolai’s cooking. For lunch this afternoon we had macaroni mixed up with sardines! They ate it! Zoe has become the better eater suddenly and Des the less interested one. She gets treats wherever she goes – the Russians really have great candy and cookies – and Des only sometimes. He’s discovering that having a cute sister around trumps any attention he might get otherwise (though one person commented to Nate that she thought we had two daughters!)

Our goal now is to try and get Desi into the preschool. There was some hesitancy since he doesn’t speak Russian but Nate seems to think they’re coming around esp. since he’s still in preschool. The cost is about $40 a month per child for 5days a week from 8am-6pm. It’s an incredibly long time and I wasn’t sure at first but after such monotonous days together, exhausting all our toy&game resources (and must admit, my patience!), I think going to school will be an important part of his personal experience -- He’s here to learn and grow too. I had envisioned lots of intense family time and having lots of growth in that area – I haven’t given up that dream – but there are a lot of holidays and the weekends, of course. They admit children at 18months and our friends here have encouraged us to send Zoe, and she wants to go too, but I’m still hesitating on that. . . 10 hours!!! Any words of advice?

Nikolai has a sauna and it was wonderful our first night in his place to sit and be seared by such intensely hot air. Ahhhhh. . . really livens up the mind&skin&body! The best part is, after you can’t take it anymore, pouring cold water over your head!! It’s one of those rare uber-exhilarating experiences!

We have found so many good people here to help us and advise us and take us in. Nikolai’s daughter, Anastasia, who lives here in Podsosnovo (different house) with her family and works with Nate’s friend, Alexei (who is the mayor of Podsosnovo), came forward after our other housing plans fell through and offered her father (Nikolai’s) place. Anastasia has since become quite involved with us (she also works for the local German NGO organization so she will now liaise with Nathan in his research) and she is so sweet and pleasant, I love to hear her voice. She’s one more Russian who is helping me do away with my errant notion that all Russians are stoic and unfriendly. I love it when I’m wrong about such miscalculations in humanity! Foolish generalizations!

In sum, we’ve passed through fleeting challenges only to learn that we’re more resilient than we’d known and what a blessed thing being adaptable is. I’ve tried to be honest with my feelings and yet leave my heart open for learning – I don’t want to miss anything I was meant to benefit from. Mostly, as mentioned above, I just want to understand people more and how they live and move and find their being in various circumstances and challenge myself to try and do the same.
I’ve very grateful my children are finding joy in this endeavor and I also want to do all I can to make this experience meaningful for them. Great or small, I thank my God for all.

Perhaps I’ll share a bit of some journal entries on the house we’re now so happy and content to be in. Its as if Nikolai was always preparing for us – where in reality he was most suddenly approached with the idea and 20minutes later met Nate and by that evening the whole bunch of us had moved in and taken over!


The house will take some adjustment but it’s coming rapidly. Transitions seem to stir up emotions for me. But I am on the rise. Nathan and I have our own bedroom with firm shared queen bed. Most cozy. I should be able to unpack the majority of our suitcases (there are over 17peices of baggage in varying sizes) into the wardrobe in the bedroom. The babes sleep out on the converted couch just outside our room and have slept well every night so far. The living quarters are relatively clean, tidy, cozy. The kitchen will do. Small fridge, which was filled when we arrived with all sorts of chunks and boney bits of grizzled red meat. Raw, uncovered. It was a ghastly site. Nate cleaned the fridge after Nikolai removed most of it. Nikolai has been remarkably accommodating. Then there is the bathroom, the bathroom. . . what can be said? [what can you envision?] The odor nearly turned me to stone at first whiff. Now it’s taken on a nostalgic old farmhouse smell which conjures up lots of Grandma&Grandpa Simkins old house in Cedar City memories, which are pleasant. I’m conceiving ways in which to have Nate convince Nikolai to use the first months installment of $200 (for rent) on a new toilet! It’s this short, dark, busted up creature that would make most women scream! I could only acquaint myself with it after Nate did an ace job scrubbing with the various chemicals I acquired after setting eyes on it. There is hot water but I’m not sure I’m ready to approach the bathtub yet (me or my babes) again another cleaning job for Mr. Jones.

The house itself, the layout design, which seems to be typical (I’ve seen two house interiors now), is a labyrinth of compartments – to the left, to the right, lots of passage ways with doors. The inner core is the warmest and the further out you get the colder each room becomes. At least one of these outer rooms seems to function as an extension of the fridge. Nikolai also has potatoes&beets&carrots&preserves under the floor boards in the main living room! The babes and I got down on our knees this morning to peer down into the pit. It was so cool!

Eventually, if you take the right route through the house, you’ll find the banya! Russian for SAUNA! Our first night we steamed ourselves till we were bright and friendly to our new lifestyle. OH! And most surprising of all is yet another route that will lead you to open a door to the barn and be faced, quite unexpectedly, with eager pigs and chickens! I can’t begin to express how my heart warmed when on the first morning Nikolai brought me fresh eggs from the chickens in his own house and milk, still warm, from a farmer friend nearby! The littlest things thrill me!

Nikolai has also proved a ready cook. He’s prepared crepes, in which we drizzled his homemade preserves on top, and ‘Dutch oven potatoes’ for breakfast. For lunch he’s served up a yummy soup and, another time, macaroni and sardines! The babes actually ate it! He goes out and gets bread, baked fresh somewhere, every day too. He’s talked of making the Russian version of peirogies (polish potato dumplings) which I really love and can’t wait to try his version – I’m sure it’s far superior that the frozen varieties we’ve been buying.

I’m so greatful for this hospitable friendly place. I’ve had some moments where I’ve felt unhinged emotionally due to the many transitions and unanswered questions we’ve dealt with in order to get to this place. I can’t think of what leaving here will feel like. Must have faith! God be with me!

Monday, March 03, 2008

The Expat Life

Living like expats in Russia. What a dream! lovely boulevards. Tasty food. Glamorous people. Fantastic museums. Amazing architecture. Does this sound like Russia? Oh, and the internet cafe spellcheck it seems is configured to the Russian language so every English word I'm typing is incorrect and therefore my true limitations in my own language are being exposed with every word. Fogive me. understand me. I'm being charged by the bitmat!

Our journey here a few days ago was intense. We have put our babes through a lot. Truly it was normal, all the waiting around, lack of sleep, decline in regular food and drink. I'm amazed by their resilence and ability to find ways of having fun when the adults around them become increasingly annoyed. Ahhh. . . childhood! I know 12 years from now, were we to put Zoe through this, she may very well chew us up and spit us out -- but as it is she only has had occasional moments of contempt for her adoring family and has very much enjoyed running and exploring.

Don't have pictures to post. Wouldn't know how to work that here anyway. I've left Nate&babes in the hotel room and ventured out solo (I speak no Russian) but feel completely confident in moving around Barnaul which is a city in Siberia.

We leave tomorrow for our farming village (Podosonovo) and I hopehopehope thar I love it or at least find something to ultimately love before our 3months are up and we're on to Kazakhstan. So far I feel quite different from my previous visits to Russia. I'm a little kinder on the environment and a lot more excited. It's been over 5 years after all since I've traveled internationally. I'm ready to embrace anything foreign.

We attended church yesterday. Missionaries abroad are always so eager the help. Blessed youth! We received permission to conduct services at home as we'll be too far away to come to church (at all). :(

Hope to post again soon. Wish me luck on expanding my mono-lingual universe.