Spring is in the air and the trees are being painted!
Apparently, painting the trunks of trees white helps prevent sun scalding, splitting, bug bores and animals feasting on the bark. It has been fun though to watch groups of people in the community painting trees for spring clean-up.
We do have lots to update on but it seems that our blog would turn more into a book. So, here are a few highlights and to start, the top foreigner blunders to date:
Blunder #1 - So, in a previous post we mentioned that on our way up to our new flat/apartment, the elvevator went out or blacked out inside but our driver and facilitator somehow helped us through the mess. Well, on our first venture out of the flat, we decided to brave the elevator (envision a dark movie, concrete walls, iron clanging doors... something to that effect). We get inside, I put the card in the slot to give us authority to run the thing, and start scanning the wall for the correct button to push. The only problem is that the numbers were worn off. It was a guessing game until suddenly the dim light went out and it was pitch black. The only thing we could here was this nice pleasant calm voice through a speaker somewhere saying, "something something.. tri pozhaluista" which translates as "something something three please." Then it was quiet and very black. The only thing I could say was "were screwed". But alas, my wife came to the rescue. As I was pondering the situation, she began to frantically hit every button she could feel on the wall. The door thankfully opened and out we went. We laughed and laughed so hard all 7 flights down the old concrete stairwell until we finally made our way into the light of our blessed sun. Needless to say, we are now getting our exercise in.
Blunder #2 - So, after escaping into the sun we went to the market and back to get groceries. Upon coming back from the market, I turned to go into our stairwell to begin the journey up to the flat. Stacy, however, kept going down the road. But being a good and obedient wife, she saw that I turned and followed me. We passed a group of locals as we went through the iron door. They were all looking at us with peculiarity. Well, after about 4 flights of stairs we began to think that the stairwell had improved. There was paint on the walls and didn't smell too bad. It was the wrong stairwell. Again, we were laughing all the way down the stairs and into the crowd of onlookers as we had to pass by and just smile. So much for blending in :)
Blunder # 3 - The train ride. On our 12.5hr train ride through the night I had to use the restroom. Those things happen from time to time. So, I confidently went out of our cabin in search of the restroom. By the way, I never realized how challenging things can be when one does not understand the language let alone the foreign alphabet. Good times! Well, I found the restroom but could not find our cabin on the way back. I didn't check which number we were in. I would like to beleive that I would normally have noticed, for example, on our tickets which number we were in but I couldn't read the ticket and our facilitator just said " you go in here." So, I started to try to open doors and knock on doors. Didn't work... just weird looks. I then found the train attendant to which I had to humbly make hand gestures and speak my limited Russian... "uhhh, me no know where my own cabin is... you show me?... spaseba." Thankfully, she did not understand and just thought I locked myself out. She showed me to our door and how to unlock.
Blunder #4 - McDonalds. Yes, believe it or not, the golden archs looked pretty good after a few days of trying to find food (see blunder #5). Stacy walked right up to the counter and said "big mac, fries, coca-cola" the lady said "dah" and got her order. After looking at the lucious hamburger pictures with scrambled words on the wall I said, "whopper, fries, coca-cola" to which she looked at me with puzzled eyes. I thought, hmmm, whopper must not translate... bummer... then I looked at Stacy who had puzzled eyes too. Then Stacy informed me that McDonalds does not sell whoppers... that's Burger King. It all came flooding back to me.. ahh, yes.. Burger King. Dumb American does not know difference between McDonalds and Burger King. So, I just said, "big mac, fries, coca-cola." I got food and was happy.
Blunder #5 The first night we arrived, our driver took us around and pointed things out like, "grocery here, you get groceries her, McDonalds here, you get good American food here, TGIF here, you get good American food here." The whole time, I am thinking, whatever, we are going for the local stuff. We are adventerous, we can figure this out. When we arrived at our flat, the driver went over about a half dozen times how to get around outside. "You go through doors, down drive, turn left, turn left, grocery on left. You get food their." Oh brother, I thought, when is this overprotection thing gonna end. He left, we fell asleep, woke up and ventured outside. Everything looked different in the daylight. Hmm.. well he said go left, so lets go left. Then we came to a Y. I guess we stay left, I confidently told Stacy. Then we came to a T and we stayed left again. It worked! But we did not recognize anything. Foreign language and what seemed to be a lack of windows and pictures left us guessing what was inside these buildings. So, we just started peeking our heads in the stores occasionally to see what was inside. We eventually managed to find groceries and some toilet paper. But now we were getting hungry. We need to find a restaurant. After a long time of walking and looking around, we managed to find a place that had an appearance of a restaurant. We went in and what luck, it was a buffet! We could just point to food and they would dish it up for us. No need to speak! So, we saw some good looking dumpling stuff, pointed and they dished it up. We sat down, took a big bite and discovered that we picked out a cherry dumpling dessert! So, we unintentionally went for the dessert first. It was very good though.
It has been a great pleasure to get to visit and know our girl. We have had the priveledge of going to two orphanage events this last week. One was a spring festival available to the public in their "community center" where they had an open market for purchasing plants and trees. This was very encouraging and inspiring to see. The people, leaders, teachers, etc.. really do care for and love the kids.
Yesterday, the orphanage had their own festival or play for the springtime. We got to see our girl recite a poem and be a part of the play. After the play, we had lots of visiting time. At one point, while Stacy was with our girl, I got to attempt to communicate with one of her very close friends. After staring at each other for a while, I said "wow, I really wish I knew how to speak Russian" to which she said "wha?" but then she tried to tell me something. After the third attempt, she said in English very slowly, "do you love God?" to which I quickly responded "dah, dah!" (yes, yes). I asked her if she loves God to which she said "dah, dah!" This conversation spoke volumes to me knowing that our girl best and close friends big concern was whether or not her new parents loved God. It was very encouraging to hear.
Also, we got to talk to our girl a lot yesterday through our translator. We found out that she loves music. We asked what kind of music she likes to listen to and she said Christian music. She loves Christian music in Russian and she seemed very sincere.
Please be in prayer this week for some final paperwork to go through by Wednesday so that we can have our courtdate this Thursday. We have one document for clearance that is either missing or held up somewhere. Please pray that this gets resolved soon and that we can proceed.
Also, please continue to be in prayer for our girl. Pray that the Lord will continue to work in her heart as well as the hearts of her friends and children in the orphanage. They are well cared for but are without momas and papas.