понедельник, мая 29, 2006

Goings on

I realized I haven't posted about what's going on with me in quite a while. My apologies.

This weekend was great. Saturday I took Alana out to lunch. It was a nice day--not too hot, and we did some shopping for folks back home (Whitney and Erin being the main beneficiaries this time). Alana even helped a man use his ATM card for the first time. Then I played baseball with Hillaray and Noah's students for a few hours showing them that one outfielder really isn't enough when I'm up to bat.

Sunday, Alana, Jon and I went to Topar (a lake about an hour out of Karaganda) with a dozen students of theirs. We played in the water, ate shashlik, threw a football, ate shashlik, threw a frisbe, ate shashlik--you see the pattern. I've had a ton of protien in the last few weeks since all the shashlik stands are opening up. Andrei (who's hugeness I didn't truly appreciate until I tried to get my arms arond him from behind playing keep away) did most of the cooking. But instead of burgers, coleslaw, potato salad, chips, and fruit, we had a tomato/cucumber salad with tons of dill, potatoes from the fire, bread and meat. And wine, beer and water. Luckily we couldn't see the smokestacks from where we were on the beach... and the smoke was white, so I could pretend it was clouds. We shared the beach with two other groups--a busload of kids (8th grade maybe) and a dozen Chechen dudes.

The Chechnyans (I have no idea how to say it right) were a friendl bunch, giving us their extra burn shashlik and some wine. The one guy I talked to asked the usual questions in the usual order: 1) Where are you from? 2) What's your name? 3) Where do you work? 4) How do you like the women here? (tied for #4 is why is Bush such an asshole? This in turn brings to light a wonderful paradox one finds in older CISer's minds--Stalin=great leader, Bush=idiot)

Anyway, they let me get by with an "I don't know" to #4, as I'm not so good in the future tense in Russian and I don't know how to explain (in Russian) engagement, celibacy and monogamy wich are all foreign concepts. One of them was either insane, drunk or possesed. Or maybe some combination of all that. The rest of the group kept egging him on to try different stunts (flips, handsprings, etc), all of which failed miserably. But he gave a vailiant, screaming effort.

It is the traveler's illusion that he is the only outsider as only half of us in the beach were from Kazakhstan. I've met people from India, Gerogia, Chechnya, Russia, China, Uzbekistan, Ireland, Canada and the US without even trying this year.

Yesterday was Alana and I's four month engagement anniversary as well. It was also our last Sunday night in Karaganda. Our train leaves Karaganda next Sunday afternoon, so it's crunch time with packing and everything. It's also getting harder to sleep at night, given the stress that's building up and the warmth of the weather.

Okay: final test today, grading tonight and then I'm basically done with classes.

воскресенье, мая 21, 2006

Faces in the Crowd

So... there are two yellow darts stuck to the computer screen due to the fact that I'm being shot at as I type with the "nerf" guns Jon's mom sent out around Christmas time.

Church was great this morning, by the way. It's a much more visual experience than I've ever had before at church--partly due to the fact that I can't understand much of the actual words spoekn during the service. I enjoy the icons and the scoffolding. I also enjoy searching for tiny bits of progress on all the paintings on the upper teirs of the sanctuary every week.

But there are the people to look at too. First, there's the people up front investments you see every week. There are two old priests: one is cranky looking and always does the main part of the liturgy. The other is jolly looking and always behind the scenes. There's also the Kazakh priest who always seems to be late. He's younger--maybe 30 something, like most of the rest of the guys up front. One priest (deacon? Joel, help me out here) has a great bass voice so it's really cool when he chants scripture and stuff. He doesn't look any older than I am, and neither does the other, tenor priest/deacon.

There are two old men who are both pretty short who are the doorkeepers--one is fat and the other skinny. Every Sunday their job is to venerate the three large icons to the left of the big door (open) and then open the smaller door to the left. They cross and bow in unison with each other and are always checking to make sure they're the same.

I'm convinced all the men with ponytails meet at church every Sunday too. There are usually a half dozen to a dozen of them, some with beards, some without. There are some crazy-cool beards to be found at church too. It's like a crazy beard club or something. I like it.

Of course, most of the congragation is neither priests nor ponytailed men. The majority is old women (babushki). Some are tiny--like Grandma Billie tiny, only with a head scarf. One is a dwarf, I swear. She couldn't be more than four feet tall and is super cute with here wrinkly mole face. There are also behemoth babushki--wide as a lineman but with vastly superior moral authority to lecture one on the warmth of their clothes.

Since there are no chairs (except for the oldest and most infirm) everyone stands. Mass, therefore is important if you want to stand in the same place. I'm not a tiny man but I get tossed like a beach-ball in the surf when the behemoths are bulling their way to the bread line or communion. Kids have an advantage when moving through the crowd too, since most of them are tiny and can walk between my legs without ducking.

::side note:: I've mention many times before that the only thing cuter than a little kid is a little kid in a ski hat. Now, I also have to add that "head scarf" can be substituted for "ski hat" with equal cuteness.

So anyway, you've got your regulars that I know by sight, even though we've never spoken. I'm on head nod status with a few. Not with the blind guy who's there every week of course, but, you know. I give money to the same crippled (torso man: he hasn't arms or legs) guy on the front step every week. I leave with the choir singing in my head for hours and hours afterwards.

I'm gonna miss this church.

четверг, мая 18, 2006

Tashkent Special

Uzbekistan continues to be on my heart for some reason. I recently got an email from a friend who was there over Pascha a few weeks back. He says unemployment is at 65%... so kicking out all the NGOs (who provide employment, among other things) really makes sense. Sad. He shared this example with me:

"People who own their own vans/cars and usethem as marshrutkas now are supposed to keep them every night in a government garage. They are not allowed to take home their own van that they bought with their own money! Then they have to pay a fee inthe morning to use their own car which they bought with their own money in order to use it that day. Then they still have to pay the 80% tax on profits tothe government, and then at the end of the day return their vans to the government garage. Most of them just plan to quit, but then the government still wins because then only government-owned vans will be working. And of course then the price can go up because it'll be a monopoly, and then the people are all losers while Karimov sends his millions to ever-peaceful Switzerland for his retirement
(which can't come soon enough). Depressing. Better news than that, however, is that the Church there continues to grow. Perhaps the sucky economy and political
situation help turn people's attention to more lasting things."

Not everything that happens in this world is God's will, but he does use it all for the good of those who love him.


вторник, мая 16, 2006

Locked In

As last night, none of our keys worked in our lock. Same with the neighbors, with whom we share our front door. They had been waiting since 5pm for the specialist (of what, breaking and entering?) to arrive, so I can't really complain. Still, we can't close our door... or if we can, we might not ba able to get it open again.

None of the numbers I've treid calling this morning have worked either. Better than not having a dial tone at all (last night), but all in all, I feel like I'm in Uzbekistan again. Not that that's an entirely bad thing. Last night Noah, Jon and I hit up a shashlik stand on our way home after classes for dinner--good memories of outdoor dining. The beer is better here too.

Speaking of which, pray for U-stan. Government garages. Sheesh.

пятница, мая 12, 2006


Tomorrow is the 1 year anniversary of a messy situation in Andijon. It's still unclear what exactly happened, and unlikely we'll ever know everything. What we do know is that the government has used it to justify clamping down even more on its citizen's freedoms. My heart has been heavy for my friends in Uzbekistan for the last few weeks. Various reactions can be found here, here and here.

On a slightly different note, here's what VOM send in their last update:
"In late April, police officers from Uzbekistan's criminal investigation department burst into the home of a Protestant pastor in northwest Uzbekistan, disrupting 12 people as they were having lunch together. The pastor and another believer were charged with "breaking the laws on teaching religion." The April 24th raid in Urgench, a city in the Khorezm region near the Turkmen border, targeted the house of Pastor Lunkin Sergey of the Union of Independent Churches. In a separate incident, three Christians in Tashkent were arrested on April 21st, while visiting and helping feed patients at a tuberculosis hospital for children. One of them was charged with violating administrative laws against teaching religion. During the past 12 months, Uzbekistan police and judicial authorities have stepped up pressures against Protestant Christians, and even government-registered churches are under heightened scrutiny. Pray God will give Uzbek Christians a fearless confidence in their Savior. Pray for a miracle from our omnipotent Creator to bring peace and justice to Uzbekistan. Pray for an outpouring of the Holy Spirit among those in positions of authority to turn them to the One who loves them and wants them to know eternal peace."
As usual, stay tuned to registan.net for great coverage of Central Asian news and music videos.

среда, мая 10, 2006

Victory Day

Bust out the hammer a sickle baby, it's time to celebrate 61 years of kicking Nazi butt!

Yesterday was a great day. Not because it went according to schedule (ha!) or expectations (double ha!), though.

Word was there was going to be a parade around 10am yesterday morning. I met Alana and Andrea downtown with Noah and wondered how the parade was going to navigate through all the morning traffic. Hmm...

We then walked to the Lenin statue because Lenin = good times. His pedastal had more flowers than usual, but no crowds and no veterans. Then we spen the next hour looking for the eternal flame on foot. On our way, we were passed by a few busses full of soldiers... aparently leaving the ceremony we were trying to see.

Once we got there Alana and I scored some seioulsy cool pictures. Some of the best of the year, I think. Especially since I broke my camera around New Years. Many vets, firends and family were still paying their respects when we got there. In a culture where anger is the only emotion displayed publicly, it was very moving to see tears in many people's eyes. Then a guy with an accordion started singing and dancing. He was 70, at least.

We also ran into the Tuckers but lost Noah in the crowd somehow. Later, back downtown, we heard large guns being fired and after lunch, decide to see if we could find them. We did, only they were covered with little boys. We also ran into the cleaning lady at our school (random) who said, "Look, it's kasha," holding up her plate, "For the holiday!" before wandering off again. Again, many cute pictures of old men and their medals.

The coup de grace was the traveling circus I might have mentioned seeing last friday. They were in the middle of it all. The featured act this time was this kid who did somersaults over broken glass, got picked up by his ears, had a little girl stand on his stomach while doing a back arch and did a funny monkey dance. I was facinated by running into this traveling troupe again, but Alana found it difficult to watch after a while.

Today? Banya and baseball. Dare I say... booyah.

пятница, мая 05, 2006


The new update is out--you should have in in your inboxes soon.

I've also got a new article out, although I wrote it so long ago I've forgotten what I said. Shoudln't be any more embarrasing than what's here. Join me in a journey of (re)discovery here.

Tomorrow morning we leave for our debreifing retreat: pray for us. We'll be back Sunday, when I"ll dive into Steps 6 & 7 with the boys. Pray for John(y) and G-pa Larry, if you haven't heard already. News, anyone?

My fantasy baseball team rocks because it contains no Mariners. That's my strategy.

понедельник, мая 01, 2006

Mai Dai

Four thoughts:

1) We're two for two when it comes to snow on a spring holiday.

2) I just learned there's a city in Japan named Shabuya.

3) Classes start again and I'm in demand as a baseball instructor. This is the life, I tell ya.

4) Thanks for all the responses and support.