Archive for the ‘Russia’ Category

A View from the Top

November 4, 2009

— Written by a Teacher in Russia —

Since coming to Russia, I have found myself hooked to the television show, “Criminal Minds.” We have all four seasons on DVD and it has become a nightly routine to make dinner and watch a couple episodes. I highly recommend this show, but let me warn you…it goes to your head. I have had several dreams where I am tracking down bad guys or caught in a crossfire. One night we were walking to the guys’ flat and we saw a laser pointer shining on the wall in front of us and I was sure it was a sniper. My heart literally started beating faster and I prayed that God would protect us. Just on Monday there was a man working on the roof of the building across from us, and I thought I should get a good look at his face so I could describe him to the police in case he was actually planting bombs up there. Ridiculous.

But the other night I made a startling realization. As I was sitting in my green chair, enjoying the show, a bit of dread started to creep up on me as I thought of the long day of teaching that awaited me in the morning. So I told myself, “Don’t worry. You just need to make it through the day and by this time tomorrow you will be back in this chair.” Whoa. That is a scary way of thinking. Snap out of it, girlfriend.

Here is the problem. I didn’t move to Russia to sit in a green chair and watch American television.
I’ve been here a month and only now am I really starting to experience moments of homesickness. And this homesickness… it’s not even a feeling of wanting to return home, it’s just a feeling of wanting things to feel comfortable and normal. I so admire people who thrive in the face of change, adventure, and the unknown. I am not one of these people. I can continue on, but I am aware of the effort it takes to advance each step of the journey. Unfortunately, transitions and change are not easy roads for me.

Currently, I am missing fall in the northwest. I miss changing leaves, scarves, friends, family, and coffee shop chats. I find I am craving all things cozy. More than that, I am craving things that seem familiar, comfortable, and safe. I want to be in a place where I can understand and be understood…the first time. I long to not worry about getting lost, or doing the wrong thing, or making a fool of myself. Truth is, I don’t consciously worry about these things but I feel my mind and soul relax the moment I walk through the door of my flat and I can stop trying so hard. Perhaps that is why my green chair and “Criminal Minds” have become my place of refuge. It’s on days like these when things seem too difficult, I find myself longing for home; for time spent with family and friends, perhaps over a cup of coffee in familiar surroundings. I long for such things not because they seem better, but sometimes when you’re tired, and cold, and a little bit lonely, they just seem easier.

I guess such obstacles are to be expected and hear me out-I’m not complaining. What good is an easy adventure? Where are the lessons, sense of accomplishment, and growth in walking a paved, flat, clearly marked trail? I’m not asking for easy. Give me a mountain and let me climb. Let me work, and try, and sweat, and cry, just so long as I know there is purpose in the pain and effort. And I know there is. I suspect the view from the top will be the most beautiful I’ve witnessed so far. So thank you, God for this mountain. Give me strength to continue to climb when all I want is a break from the trying. And when I fall, help me to fall back on you.

Nine weeks in…

November 3, 2008

— Written by a Teacher in Russia —

It has been NINE WEEKS since I arrived in St. Petersburg.  This milestone has special meaning to me.  It marks the longest time that I have been outside the USA.  The last time I was out of the country for more than a couple of weeks was the summer of 1986.  I spent seven weeks in Amsterdam and one week in Frankfurt during a college summer missions trip.

A lot has changed in nine weeks.  Today, dawn was at 8:15 AM with darkness by 7:00 PM.  In eight more weeks it will be dawn at 9:15 AM and dusk or dark no later than 4:50 PM.  Think Alaska!

Sunshine is scarce and it rains a lot.  It is also humid/damp here with humidity always above 80%, usually above 90%.  Think Seattle or Portland, but in a few weeks it will be MUCH colder.

A couple of weeks ago, six girls from one of my management classes took me to the Russian Museum.  The paintings and sculpture are spectacular!  I plan on a minimum of one monthly trip  to the Hermitage beginning in November as well as going on other museum adventures.  There are so many to visit.

I am still settling in.  Teaching is becoming enjoyable and I am looking forward to many more opportunities to spend time with my students outside of the classroom.

The Internet is FINALLY available consistently and I am keeping up with all of the US election and economic news.  The silver lining for me is that the dollar is substantially stronger against the Ruble and the Euro than when I arrived.

The Salt Lake Tribune, NPR, CNN and FOX are never far away.  I am also keeping up with college football.  Go UTES!

leaving the states

October 9, 2008

–Written by a Teacher in Russia–

It is a quiet Monday morning in St. Petersburg, but the past four days have been a whirlwind!

  • LA-Atlanta-Moscow-St. Petersburg on Thursday and Friday.
  • Lost ALL checked luggage.
  • Dinner on Nevsky Prospekt and a long walk on Friday night with some Brits, Russian students, and one of my roommates.
  • Luggage found and trip to International airport to retrieve on Saturday.
  • Shashlik (shish kabob barbecue) on the “beach” with a few Americans, Russians, and an Aussie on Saturday night.
  • Church at a small Vineyard Church on Sunday afternoon. (Planning to attend a Calvary Chapel next Sunday evening.)

I am focusing on the Russian alphabet early this week.  It will make it so much easier to navigate the city on the Metro, buses, and on foot if I can actually READ signs.  Shopping will also be much easier.

The schedule will be light for the next couple of weeks.  Teaching will not start until September 8th at the earliest, possibly September 15th.  I am taking advantage of this time to focus on Russian language and to become a more proficient at shopping.

In late September, I will move into a smaller flat that is some distance from the large flat (apartment) that I am sharing with three other American guys.  I will finally be able to unpack then. It is probable that another American working in St. Petersburg will share the flat with me.  We are discussing the details now.

Weather in St. Petersburg is quite different than Salt Lake City.  So far it has been overcast most of the time with a chance of rain.  The humidity is high and the temperatures range between 55-65 degrees.  The constant daylight of June and July are gone, but it still gets light early and is not dark until about 10 PM.

I am thankful for the weather since the cold, damp, and dark days of winter will be here soon enough.