You guys, SEVENTEEN days till I get to be back in sunny So Cal and the good ole USA! Ahhh, I can’t even tell you how excited I am. It feels like it’s been FOREVER since I’ve been home [reality = 6 months].
There are so many things I am looking forward to, but surprisingly this time around I’m not already listing all the restaurants I am going to visit, meals I am going to make, etc. [After my first 3 months here I was literally listing the exact things I wanted to eat first when I got home!] Maybe I’ve just adjusted, I don’t know. But what I AM dying to do is see my family and church! Miss those people so much.
I can’t believe it’s already December and that I’ve been here since Feb! This year has really flown by and it’s literally been THE most incredible year of my life. Who knew that when I made the decision to come and do this, half nervous, half excited, but 100% knowing that God was in control, that He’d create such an AMAZING year here. You all know the reasons behind coming here, and how one of the reasons I even came in the first place was to live by faith, so I won’t go into all that again. But looking back and knowing I came thinking that it’d would be one of the hardest years of my life, yet knowing God would take care of me, and seeing that not only was it a good year, but a surprisingly FUN year and that God made it a wonderful year, makes me laugh. I knew God would take care of me, but I honestly didn’t expect Him to spoil me so much. I can honestly say that this year has been complete proof that living by faith is the most amazing way to live. Sure it’s not always easy, but it’s sure exciting when you have to rely completely on God to work things out and then to see how He does it.
There’s so much I want to say, my heart is so full, and yet when I sit here to write it…it’s almost too overwhelming to even begin.
So I’ll just say this: Try it. Try completely giving EVERYTHING to God, holding nothing back. Go where He wants you to go, pursue what He wants you to pursue and give up YOUR dreams to Him. Honestly, for me, traveling is a huge dream. I LOVE it. This world is so amazing and I love seeing it. When I quit my job and moved here, I thought I was giving up the dream to travel as much as I wanted. I came with no travel plans, with simply the intent to stay in Russia for however God wanted, and yet He let me travel to 13 countries this year! More than any other year in the past. Unbelievable. So don’t buy the lie that God doesn’t care about the little details of your life. He not only gives us good gifts as the Bible says, but He always spoils us. I read a facebook status recently that asked the question, “Many people want to pursue God’s blessings, but how many want to pursue God’s heart?” But the truth is, when we pursue God’s heart, we GET God’s blessings, as a side benefit, and I love how it works like that. Our God is simply amazing and I am so thankful.
So thankful He loves me, so thankful He knows the big picture even when I have no idea, so thankful that He cares about all the little details, so thankful for this past year. It has taught me SO much! Who knows how long I will stay here, or what will happen next, but I know I can trust that wherever He leads, He WILL provide.
Happy weekend, friends!
1. My flatmate is a garlic Nazi. All you have to do is think about cooking with garlic and she practically comes running from her room, asking “чеснок?” and wanting all the windows in the house open. Never mind the fact that I learned long ago to always open the window before making garlic bread, she still has to come check on it anyways.
2. This country never ceases to amaze, amuse, intrigue, delight, bewilder and fascinate me. It can also frustrate me at times. I have never before been to a place that can totally frustrate you one minute, and then inspire and amaze you the next.
3. I have spent time in 13 different countries over the past 9 months. Pretty sure that’s a record for me.
4. Overnight this country transforms itself into a beautiful winter wonderland and the change is simply amazing. It’s breathtaking what one simple snowfall can produce!
5. When completing a successful grocery shopping trip to Auchan brings about as much a sense of accomplishment as completing your graduate degree did, you know there’s something to be said for the intensity of the shopping experience here. I have a whole new appreciation for the ease and simplicity of the American grocery shopping scene.
6. I now consider 30 degrees (with no wind) “good” weather. It’s even enjoyable when walking home accompanied by huge falling, swirling snowflakes.
7. I can’t even count the number of marshrut, bus, metro, trolleybus and train rides I have taken since coming here. I wonder if I will even know how to drive a car again when I get home!
8. Since arriving back in Russia the beginning of June, this is the longest period of time I have spent outside the US (6 months) and I think also the longest single stretch of time being away from CA – even counting the 2 years of grad school.
9. The travel bug has NOT gone away and I can’t keep up with my daily-growing list of places to see. I think this is a serious addiction.
10. Living in a Soviet apartment isn’t as bad as I thought it could be. Or maybe I’ve just adjusted and I’m really crazy. (Having Russian roommates, well, that’s another story ;P)
11. Today I rode in a “gypsy taxi” for the first time since coming here. (Gypsy taxis are just people who pull over at bus stops and pick up people who are waiting for the bus that hasn’t come yet. If the bus is taking a while you can give 100 rubles (3xs the bus fare) to the person who will then take you to the agreed upon destination (usually the nearest metro). I was always intrigued when I’d see people wave down gypsy taxis, but never wanted to pay 100 rubles myself when I knew if I waited long enough the bus would come eventually. Today, however, I JUST missed the regular bus and knew it would be a while before a marshrut came. I still wouldn’t have waved anyone down, but a lady came up to the bus stop and soon waved someone down. She asked if I was going to the metro and if I wanted to pay 50 rubles to split the car with her. I told her/showed her I only had 30 rubles out for the bus and then said sorry. She made the arrangements with him and then gestured me over to come with her. So I got in, gave her my 30 rubles, she gave the guy 100, and away we went. Ended up working out nicely for me. =) I won’t ever do it by myself though, or with anyone who seems a bit shady. She was a very nice Asian lady and I felt quite safe with her along.
12. In other news today…sigh…I managed to mangle the tiny little bit of Russian I tried to string together in my head while on the marshrut. Usually I don’t stray far away from the set phrases I know, unless I first preface my sentence by telling them that I don’t speak Russian. Then I continue on, knowing they have been forewarned and hopefully will be kind enough to try and understand me. Well, this time I didn’t do that. I got on the marshrut and there was only one seat left. Instead of waiting up front for my change and then finding a seat, like normal, I decided to grab the seat and wait for my change to be handed back to me, like they normally do. However, my change never came, and we were quickly approaching my stop. I made my way up to the front and told the driver I needed the next stop. Then I mustered up enough courage to continue on. I said, “Excuse me please but where is my 20 rubles? I paid 50.” Simple enough, right? I mean, I knew all the words to say it, so I was hoping it came out ok even though I had never used that exact phrase before. I mean, it was only 8 words in Russian. He handed me 20 rubles and I got off the bus. And realized I was shaking slightly. Ok, I do tend to get nervous when I have to use my Russian in front of an audience. I don’t mind one on one conversations too much, but when a whole bus full of people is just sitting there listening, it’s a bit nerve wracking for me. Because I just know they are listening to everything, and trust me, they do. As soon as I speak, even if I say the correct words, my pronunciation will always give me away as a foreigner, something I try to avoid when possible. Anyhow…I made my way to my destination and was glad I had worked up the courage to at least get my money back instead of just cutting my losses like I do sometimes. It didn’t hit me until an hour later that I had NOT told the driver, “Excuse me please but where is my 20 rubles? I paid 50. ” I had said, “Excuse me please but where is my 20 rubles? I paid 15.” Big difference. Now, in English if you mix up 50 and 15 they sound similar enough that most people might not even notice. Unfortunately they sound quite different in Russian, so everyone on the bus clearly knew I was a crazy foreigner who told the bus driver she paid 15 rubles for a 30 ruble fare and wanted 20 rubles back. Ha. At least the driver understood what I meant. Jen, Jen…this is why you need to work on your Russian! Seriously, I always mix up the teens and 20s when it comes to numbers. I haven’t actively studied them at all, just picked them up, so that’s my problem.
13. Yesterday while walking to the metro, I reached up to fix something (my hat? I forget…) and when I started to bring my hand back down, it was stuck, and it yanked on my earring, hurting my ear. What in the world? I tried again and my gloved hand was clearly stuck on my earring. I couldn’t figure out how it had gotten stuck (they are leather gloves!) or how to untangle it! I finally managed to free my hand from the glove, leaving the glove dangling from my earring (classy, I know) while I worked with both hands to free it. I was still walking, and trying to carry my heavy bag while doing this. I am sure I was quite the spectacle along the sidewalk, but I was too busy to notice. Ok, in hindsight it would have made sense to TAKE THE EARRING OUT, JEN. I realize that now. But at the time, it didn’t cross my mind. Somehow I managed to get it untangled and only then I realized how it had gotten stuck in the first place. The gloves have three tiny little decorative buttons on the side of them, with little loops to hook through, and one of the tiny loops had somehow caught my earring as I passed my hand by it. Painful lesson to learn – keep your gloves away from your earrings. My ear was sore after that!
14. Yesterday I had a drunk guy (I am assuming he was drunk) sit down next to me on the metro after I accidentally looked up and made eye contact with him (big mistake). He then proceeded to lean into/over me and look at my phone to see what I was doing. I immediately just shut off the screen and closed my eyes to ignore him. He continued to lean on me and talk to me. It was SO annoying. At the next stop I jumped off and ran down to the next car and got on. Bleh.
15. I am getting tired of Russians always thinking it’s funny to talk about “fat Americans.” For one, we are NOT all fat, period. But two, I have had enough fat men and women squeeze in next to me on the metro (where there is clearly not enough room for them) that I want to tell them all, “Sorry, but there are a LOT of fat Russians too, so stop saying Americans are fat. Russians are fat too.” Because, seriously, there ARE a lot of fat Russians here. I feel better just getting that out in the open.
16. Can anyone, ANYONE tell me why I keep attracting guys I am NOT interested in? Or maybe I don’t want to know the answer to that? Sigh. I should tape Tom’s “you can’t date a Russian” contract to my coat. What do they think I am, a green card dispenser? Sheesh. I’m not flattered, people. I’m not. Amused, yes.
17. Tonight while on the 17th floor of a building I started hearing loud popping noises and thought I saw a flash of color. I looked out the window and yep, there were fireworks! (Only about 20 total, and just medium sized ones) I have no idea what they were for, but it made me smile anyway.
18. This entire year has been one amazing gift from God and He has proven over and over again just how faithful He is and how AMAZING He can make something. I’m still in awe, daily. Really, I am sure people get tired of me saying this, and I probably sound like a broken record, but it’s true…I really am awestruck.
19. I hope I get to spend the rest of my life doing something amazing like this.
One thing I’ve gotten really good at while here in Russia? Ignoring my blog. Also, procrastinating. [ But I was already really good at that.]
Today, however, I have time to blog, so here we go. =)
I have absolutely nothing specific to say here. All the wonderful, composed-in-my-head posts have long since been forgotten and so we’re just winging it here. Which is too bad since there is so, so much that could be beautifully written about life here in Russia. I’m afraid I’ve been here long enough that I have lost the wonder of it all in my day-to-day routine. No longer do I stand shocked, amused, intrigued, baffled by everything around me. Even if it’s something completely random or off the wall, the fact that it is random and off the wall has become normal and routine. Does that make sense? I have become so used to seeing odd things, that it doesn’t even surprise me anymore. I mean, I do smile as I pass, or laugh about it, but I don’t write home or journal every little detail. Which is a bummer because with my great memory it means I will totally forget all these funny moments.
I do try to snap iPhone pics from time to time as I see things, and of course, I always say I wish I had my real camera with me right now… On Sunday night after church, I went with a friend to see a show that I had wanted to see when it was in LA but never had the chance to. Somehow it (or a version of it?) came to Moscow so we went to see it. Having both seen shows like the Peking acrobats and such, we were quite underwhelmed at the beginning and wondering what we got ourselves into [the word hokey came to mind quite a bit], but thankfully it got better as it went on. But the reason I mention it is because as we were trying to find our way to the theatre (which was quite underwhelming inside, the Bolshoi it was not. Although it did have at least two (that we saw) restaurants inside, which I found interesting since even at our fancy theatres in the US I have only ever seen small snack bars) we noticed the full and gorgeous moon hanging over the lit up skyscrapers of downtown Moscow and it made for a breathtaking scene. Cue my infamous line.
Another time I wanted my camera this week? Tuesday night’s sunset over Moscow. It was fabulous and the view from where I was on the 17th floor of a beautiful building only made it seem even more unreal (“is this really my life?”). The room that I was having the lesson in has two whole walls of windows and the views are simply stunning from there. Yes, I was a bit jealous.
All of Tuesday ended up being an adventure due to the fact that I head south after lessons to go to a Bible study and it’s during rush hour. In the middle of the city. NOT a place/time you would purposely choose to head down to the metro. If you ever want to see a crowd like you have never seen before, head down to Moscow’s metro during rush hour in the city center. I promise you won’t be disappointed. Again, another time I always wish I was able to capture the crowds in a photo. I am stealing two from Google just to show you. This is what it looks like.
Anyways, so I shuffle (literally) my way down through my connections to get to where I need to be by 7. This particular night just made me laugh because it was the first time I was actually thankful for the crowded metro since it meant that after two stops we were so full that the guy who kept smiling and winking at me couldn’t see me anymore. He did make me laugh, but it was just awkward.
Then, after Bible study, on the bus home (10 pm), at the stop right before mine, the driver stopped for a while and turned around to ask where everyone needed to go (that much I understood). There were only 3 of us left at this point. The two guys behind me answered first, so then it was my turn. In my super stellar Russian I managed to say that I don’t speak Russian and that I needed the next stop. Then I sorta pleadingly looked back at the two guys and asked what the driver was saying. They told me we all had to get off, while the driver handed us back our 30 rubles. We got off and I asked them why we had to get off. They told me “that’s it, that’s all.” I again asked why and they said that the “driver is finished. Go home. Wife. Kids.” It kinda made my night because it was so funny and because I got my 30 rubles back AND because it was only one stop away from my stop. I would NOT have been smiliing had it been 10 pm and in the middle of nowhere lol.
Life is never boring here. In the interest of keeping things lively, my upstairs neighbor is also in the process of remont. (Home repair, which is the second most favorite Russian activity. Besides staring people down on the metro.) So that means I wake up to the sound of drilling or hammering or…other loud noises. It also means that at times our hot water gets shut off. Which of course is my favorite part of the whole process. Today I went to wash the dishes and realized the hot water was off again. I checked back about an hour later and was happy to hear gurgling sounds as I could feel water start to rush out. Then I screamed a bit because the water that came out was dark brown. It splashed all over everything, leaving drops of brown water all over my hand, and it made our sink look like I had just dumped coffee in it. I have seen rusty water many times in my lifetime, but never this chocolatey brown! I quickly turned it off and ran for my camera. Of course by then the water was already lightening in color, and soon it became clear[ish] but you can kinda see in this picture what it looked like.
In other news…I am counting down the days till I get to see my beloved So Cal (and consequently my church family, family, friends, THE SUN, etc) again. 5 weeks!
And also? It’s starting to look like Christmas around here. =)
Still no snow around here…not like we are in a hurry for it to get here, since it will stick around for a while when it does finally arrive. =)
And…that’s it. =)
So Russia is letting me access the back end of this blog (the dashboard) but still not letting access the homepage. Weird. Anyhow, once I realized I was able to get back in again, I promptly became lazy and stopped blogging again. Naturally.
While I haven’t been posting much, I have actually been doing quite a lot, and am still over here enjoying myself. =) Russia still keeps me on my toes, and there are still days that end up being an adventure!
I’m also over here counting down the days till I get to see sunny So Cal again! I can’t believe it will have been over 6 months since I last stepped foot on American soil, when I get home next. This has been my longest stretch of time away from the US!
I can’t wait until I can understand everything that is going on around me again. And understand all of the signs around town. Here it’s a small victory if I understand an entire sentence that I read (it does happen!) and it just makes my day. =)
Here are just a few random iPhone pics from the past few weeks:
A few pics from Sunday’s train adventure =)
Oh, and SNOW is finally starting to pop up in our forecasts over here. Wondering how long we have real snow that lasts on the ground. Not entirely sure I’m ready for it just yet…
About a month ago, a friend in Moscow invited me to go to a young adults’ Bible study that he goes to in the city, and I went. And I am so thankful that I did. I have gone back each week since (Tuesday nights) and it’s such a blessing and fun time to hang out with other expats and share ideas/advice/stories and worship God together (and eat a yummy meal!) Last week was the last night that it was held in the city center since that couple that hosted it is moving to Switzerland and so the group’s location is moving a bit south in the city (close to my place!) to the new French couple’s place. To celebrate the last night there, they had a cake with candles (to celebrate the 96 times they had hosted the group) and we also had a “service auction” with fake rubles. The night was so much fun and full of lots of laughs! The idea behind the service auction was to get people to hang out during the week, instead of just at the Bible study. So to that end, the leader gave us each 200 fake rubles, and had us each write down on two pieces of paper, 2 things that we were offering to do for someone else (ie bake a batch of cookies, take them to a museum, free childcare, etc.) and then he would read off the things one at a time and we would bid on the things we wanted to win. Some of the entries made us all laugh and wonder which person had written them. Two papers (written by different people) just said “swimming.” One offer was “I wil write a magic little song about you.” Due to the many different nationalities and native tongues represented, we got a lot of good laughs out of the various offers.
One offer was a batch of brownies and so I saved my entire 200 rubles to bid on them. If you started the bid at 200, you automatically won the item since no one had more than 200 rubles. However, another girl had the same idea and she beat me to them. So I bid on the next food item that came up (a batch of chocolate chip cookies). (And I am sitting here eating them right now since I got them last night at the BIble study, yum)
The two items I offered were mini photo shoots, since I had no idea what else to write. Olga won one of them, so on Monday, thanks to the holiday, we were both free and able to meet up. She wanted to go to Afimall where the huge matroyshka dolls are located. I had been to that mall before, and didn’t remember it being too photo-shoot friendly. However, due to the rain, we had to be inside, and that’s where she wanted to go, so that’s where we went. Plus there’s a Pinkberry there, so…
There were a lot of people up there with the dolls. And a lot of people were doing photo shoots as well! (Russians, I have learned, love to do photo shoots. Or at least so it seems. I see them everywhere.)
After wandering up to the 6th floor to the dolls, then realizing we should have checked our coats downstairs, cramming back into the elevator to go all the way back to the entrance, then back up for our pics, and doing the pics, we ended the day down at Pinkberry where the line was constantly out the door (that’s a good sign!). Olga hadn’t tried Pinkberry before, or any frozen yogurt at all, but she wanted to, so it was a nice end to the day. Eating Pinkberry makes me feel like I am home. I just try not to look at the prices. Or think about the fact that mochi is no longer there (perhaps no one ate it?). It’s not quite the same without mochi on the menu but oh well, I’ll take what I can get.
And? 6.5 weeks till I am home yay!
Ok, enough rambling. Here are the pics:
If there is one word to describe Russia it is unpredictable.