Archive for the 'Family' Category

Five Years in Russia!

Yesterday, Maya and I celebrated my five-year mark in Russia. It is hard to believe that I have been here that long. Everything has changed for me/us during those five years. Among those changes are:

  • Maya and I wed on September 15th, 2001


  • David was born on September 2nd, 2002


  • Hannah came along on March 21st, 2005


  • I learned to speak Russian, and then to teach/prch in it.
  • We moved to a new city in September, 2005.

And that is probably enough sentimentalism for one post.


The Big 0-1!!!

Our little Hannah is almost all grown up now that she has become a one-year-old. A child’s first annual milestone is a great reason for adults to celebrate in this culture. For some reason, it is a really big deal. I think it started when life here was a lot harsher. A child’s first birthday meant that he had made it through his most fragile year. The harshness has eased, but the tradition lives on.

Random question: Want to see a picture of Hannah's one-year-old feet? 🙂

After the B. study tonight, we served dinner to about 16 people (friends, neighbors and those from the study), enjoyed ice cream, compared baby pictures and just chit-chatted the evening away. We had a great time.

Another tradition on the first-year mark is to shave the baby bald. It is a home remedy of sorts; the child’s hair is supposed to grow back thicker. Maya and I were not sure what to do, follow the culture, or just leave Hannah's pretty little head alone. I think we made the right decision, though I fear the following picture is bound to generate angry comments from my family :-).

Relax, it will grow back!!! Besides, it might prove interesting. You see, I have tons of photographic evidence to test whether this home remedy has merit, or is pure quackery.

In other news, the study went well. Eight people showed up. After singing several songs together, I taught on the first four days of Creation. They seem very interested in this teaching.

Random Anti-cerebrations

We arranged for a driver to meet us at the train station and take us back to the city (the station is four hours away from the city where we live). The train arrived at 4 A.M., and the driver had obviously not slept. I thought he might have a hard time staying awake on the lonely road home, and I was right. My task was to keep him awake. I settled on a strategy of asking questions at key moments: when his head nodded forward or when he forgot to steer. About two hours into the trip, I ran out of material. The substantial conversational themes had run their course and my questions fell into randomness (e.g. What were the Soviets trying to accomplish with the Berlin blockade?). He got us there safely, but he seemed a little annoyed at me for keeping him up.

So, what is the difference in English between the word complex and complicated? Life is usually complex, but the last two weeks were crazy (i.e. complicated). I think that the difference is this: complex degrades into complicated when the structure that keeps the details orderly erodes, leaving chaos and migraines in its wake. Maybe I am too tired to write about this now.

A few words about productivity while on vacation. When we left here, I had high ambitions. I planned to complete a few reading projects and to begin a study/writing project. I packed 700 books for the journey (an ESV Bible, Henry Scougal’s The Life of God in the Soul of Man, and 698 others that happen to reside on my laptop’s hard-drive). However, to my great disappointment, I read very little on this trip. Only on the train did I manage some meaningful reading time. Here is a cool Scougal quote:

Love is that powerful and prevalent passion by which all the faculties and inclinations of the soul are determined, and on which both its perfection and happiness depend. The worth and excellency [sic] of the soul is to be measured by the object of its love…

And, to make sure that this post is sufficiently random, here is a picture of Maya and her grandmother (and Hannah) in Chita.

On The Train Again

Not many opportunities for blogging presented themselves in Ulan-Ude. We shared the apartment with 9 (on average) others and from morning to night it was beehive-like busyness.

Our highlights in Ulan-Ude were many. We especially enjoyed the family time. It was probably the best time with them so far in our married life. We celebrated Maya's dad's birthday with a large dinner and a rare family reunion of sorts. It will probably be years before we will all be in the same place like that again.

We left on Tuesday for Chita, and arrived there yesterday morning. In all, we spent only 8 hours there before boarding this train to head back west.

In Chita we visited with Maya's grandmother (the one who suffered a stroke last year). For someone who the doctors said would only survive days after her stroke, she is in amazingly good condition. She still cannot walk, but her speech skills returned and she remembered us well. I sat with her for two hours and listened to amazing stories about life here during and after WWII. She shared her experiences during famines and other calamities. She also mentioned the Japanese soldiers who were required to work in Chita after WWII. Steve commented about that in my last post.

She was born in 1917, so she does not remember the revolution, but she remembers Lenin's death, the terror of Stalin, and the horrors and lingering hardships of WWII.

She is an amazing woman. She bore and raised 9 children (she has over 20 great grandchildren already). When we left, she presented us all with small gifts and blessed us. I am so glad that we could make the trip to Chita to see her.

We just passed Irkutsk. We arrive home on Saturday. This train is nice and clean, and there is another family travelling and their kids and ours can play, which adds a lot to bored children.

They DO!!!

Chingis & Ksusha’s (Maya’s sister) wedding was beautiful. About 100 people came to the ceremony, and the same number for the banquet. They did much to honor Christ on their wedding day.


I witnessed everything through the viewfinder and took 400 pictures (@ my usual 10% success rate). We set up one photo after the ceremony at the city museum (where Chingis works) and aged the colors with Photoshop.


Tomorrow, I plan to head to Mongolia. After renewing a document, I hope to return the same day. Maya and the children will stay here with family. If all goes well, we leave here on Tuesday night and, after a quick layover in Chita, we will be home by the weekend.

The Rehearsal

Last night, the wedding party gathered for the first rehearsal, and it went well. It is going to be a very nice wedding, specifically aimed at bringing God glory. Many of those who plan to attend are not Christians, and this will be new for them.


Since I am supposed to be the photographer, I went to get a feel for the light and the program and to scope out some nifty angles. I only shot about fifty pics. The lighting is hard to work with. The ceiling of the building does not bounce flash the way that I like, and I need to figure out a way to make it more natural. The second rehearsal is tonight. The wedding is Friday.


As far as vacations go, this time is busier than normal. Each day, we have lots of family events and people to see; but we are enjoying it very much. David and Hannah are having a ball with their grandparents.

Rolling Existence

There is much less free time on trains than one might expect. The kids need near-constant entertainment; an outlet for their spring of energy. David takes to running up and down the hallway. Hannah finds her boredom release in sorrow, and cries inconsolably, even though her needs are met. You gotta love trains.

We just arrived into Irkutsk. No more from-the-train entries, since this is the last GPRS 'hot spot'.