Monday, February 16, 2009

We're Leaving, On A ...

... train. Wait, that can't be right. How did that John Denver song go, anyway?

Anyway, it's been far too long since we've updated this, and for that I'm truly sorry. We missed our "once a week" goal by almost a full week, but it's been a full one and there really hasn't been much time. Lots of things have happened, and I promise we'll do our best to catch you up in the weeks to come.

However, for now, you'll have to make do with a brief summary, because it's almost 1:00 am and I don't want to be on here much longer. Basically, our friends and future coworkers David and Erin and their kids came into town last Monday, and we've been spending a lot of time with them. They're much more faithful bloggers than we are, and if you want to see their pictures pf our time together just go to their blog linked to the right or click here.

Also, we've been gathering the necessary documents for our trip, so that we hopefully have everything lined up to take to the immigration office once we're there in T-land (that's what we're calling the part of Siberia we'll be making our home, in case you hadn't noticed that by now). That's meant some trips to the lawyer's and translator's office, and a lot of stress by me. Of course, we had our regular language lessons while all this was happening as well.

Finally, the lovely B somehow managed to get herself volunteered to be the main cook at a Valentine's Day Banquet that our family group had for about 55 couples. That means that she's been up to her neck in chicken curry and punch bowl cake since Saturday. I'm sure you'll be getting a post on that at some point, replete with pictures of the events in question, but I don't know when that will be.

That's because we leave tomorrow (!!) on the train for Siberia. It will be our first time visiting the place that will hopefully be our home for the next, well, bunch of years (10? 50? only he knows). We'll be applying for residency there as well as just getting a feel for the town and work there. After two weeks or the acceptance of our residency paperwork, whichever comes last, we'll return, but I'm really, really looking forward to it.

Well, maybe not the actual trip, but just being there. It's exciting to start to feel closer to the final goal, as well as meeting the people we've come here to serve for the first time. The three days in a train with two small children, followed by 6 hours in a taxi with the same children I could honestly do without. We'd really appreciate your thoughts for the trip, that the kids would handle being cooped up in a train that long well, and that we wouldn't have any unexpected headaches with our paperwork once there.

Siberia. Of course, it doesn't really look like this in February, but let's not get hung up in the details.

This has already gotten longer than I thought it would, so I'm sorry but I'm going to hang it up for the night. We love you all and thanks for thinking of us. If we get a chance, we'll try to post from out there but internet access is sketchy so you might not hear from us for a few weeks until we get back. You can check the links to David and Erin's (the "Privyet" blog) or David and Christy's (the "Family Footprints" one) blogs on the right; we'll be spending our time out there with those two families and they have internet access, so maybe you can catch the news about us from them in the meantime. Thanks for your thoughts!

Note: We've arrived, safe and sound, in T-land! Only 81 hours travel time! Our internet connection is very slow, so I'm not going to put up a new post for a bit, but thanks for thinking of us.

Monday, February 2, 2009

25 Random Things by J

Me, circa 1992

OK, so I know a lot of you are on my Facebook friends list and thus saw this the other day, but too bad. It's 7:00, I just finished my homework and the boys are being fussy and I just can't seem to get motivated to come up with actual new content for the blog. For those of you not on Facebook, there's some sort of thing going around where people post 25 random facts about themselves and then everyone gets to learn a bit more about their friends. I was tagged by one of my friends to do it, and so I'm just reproducing the list here for your entertainment (with a few "bonus notes" not included on the Facebook list for those of you who already read it to at least have something new to read, even if small):

1. I have no idea how to answer the question "Where are you from?" Seriously, I usually say "Bolivia," but that's only about 1/3 of the story.

Bonus note: the rest of the story: complex. Born in Brasil, grew up in Bolivia, went to university in the US, married an American, now live in Russia.

I also can't answer the question "Why are women like that?"

2. I have two passports, neither of them actually from Bolivia.

3. If I'm totally honest, I actually speak better Russian than Spanish now. Which is not to say that my Russian has gotten so good, but more that my Spanish has dropped to a totally depressing level. A month or so ago, I was on skype with my parents and an old Bolivian friend of the family was over, so I tried to chat with him. It was scary - it took me 30 seconds of concentration every time I wanted to form a sentence to avoid including some Russian words.

Bonus Note: The word "fluent" is very hard to define, but suffice it to say that I used to be comfortable using Spanish conversationally, even about worldview-type topics. Now, I struggle to get past a sentence without throwing in some Russian. I'm told that once I finish the concentrated study time in Russian, my Spanish will return. I'm hopeful but not expectant, as I almost never get to practice it here.

4. I am fanatical about Liverpool (the football team in England) to an almost embarrassing level. I have downloaded 3-4 programs off the internet so that I can watch their games in dodgy internet streams with Chinese or Danish commentary. I could probably list most of the players even on the reserve roster, if I thought about it. I have firm opinions on which 16-year-olds will turn into good pros (Lauri Dalla Valle!).

Bonus Note: they crushed one of their biggest opponents, Chelsea, in the Premier League at the weekend. You can enjoy some highlights by clicking
here, including two goals by Fernando Torres.

5. My biggest spiritual struggle is with pride. I may act like I've got it all together when it comes to my walk with Him, but the truth is that I'm pretty full of myself a lot of the time.

6. When I was 11, two other students and I designed and built a model volcano that inadvertently exploded during our presentation, destroying a good portion of the chapel roof and sending metal and glass shards hurtling into a large crowd. Not one of my finer moments.

Really? You don't think explosives are a safe toy for 11-year-olds? How crazy are you???

7. I married the absolute perfect wife for me. It is my firm belief that had I married anyone else, absolutely anyone else at all, that she would be miserable. Find someone you enjoy serving and marry them.

8. I come across as a lot more confident than I really am. I worry a lot - about the kids, our finances, will I ever learn this freaking language, etc.

9. I'm about 20 kilos overweight, but I really don't care. I just don't. I'm not sure if I should or not, but I don't. Maybe if I were short it would concern me more?

10. I have eaten a lot of strange foods. You probably would have guessed that, having spent my childhood in the Amazon, but there it is. Anaconda, piranha, capybara, jaguar - I've eaten and enjoyed them all. I even ate a tarantula once.

Bonus Note: Tarantula tastes like shrimp. There's not a lot of meat, but it's there. Oh, and the best meat I've ever had is from a
jochi, which is basically a giant jungle rat.

A sweet, succulent jungle rat.

11. I don't even pretend to have highbrow music taste. Despite all the people out there complaining that popular music is terrible and droning on about the "independent jazz radio station" they like so much, I'm usually tuned to top 40 or a Chr. station (K-Love and their ilk) and think it's OK, if a bit repetitive. I wish I weren't that way, but I am. I'm just not that into music, honestly.
Well, I don't know if that's entirely accurate, as I really like a well-written melody with good harmony, but you don't hear that much any more, so I've almost given up on it. Oh, and if something has really good lyrics, like Phillips, Craig, and Dean or Keith Green I'll listen to it even if the music is so-so.

Bonus Note: My latest band to listen to is Skillet, whom I just discovered. I'll probably tire of them in a month or so, but for now I'm listening to something a bit heavier than usual.

12. I probably spend 2 hours a day, if not more, on the internet. Wow, that looks worse than I thought it would, now that I've typed it out.

13. If I had to return to the US for some reason, I have an idea for a startup business that I think would be successful.

14. I have no fear whatsoever of bats, snakes, etc, but I have a thing against scorpions. Goes back to the time when I was about 7 and my friend Jeff was stung by a scorpion. His reaction seared into my brain the idea that I did not want to experience that sensation.

15. I have killed a piranha with a canoe paddle. It jumped into the boat and was snapping at my toes, and I kind of overreacted.

Bonus Note: Same trip out, we shot an alligator, which managed to flop its way to the river and fall in to die. The natives looked at me and we debated going in after it, finally deciding not to based on the idea, as they expressed it, that where there was one alligator there were likely to be more, and trying to wrest the bloody body of their kinsman away from them was apt to be "dangerous."

Do you want to wrestle him for his nephew's corpse?

16. I'm really, really excited about moving to Siberia. I like Moscow, it's OK, but I've never lived in a big city before and I'm looking forward to the peace and quiet of a smaller place, even if we have to live without some of the conveniences.

17. I really like Russian food. Blini, all the potato and beet salads, piroshki, pelmeni, it's all yummy. That might relate to #9. I hope that T-food lives up to the challenge!

18. I have visited all 50 states in the US. My favorites are Alaska and Montana.

Bonus Note: I have only lived in 4 of them that I can think of (Colorado, Oregon, Missouri, and North Carolina). The rest has been travelling.

19. I never kissed anyone on the lips until my wedding day. My first kiss was at the altar.

20. I have slept in a lot of airports, and I have the rather bizarre ability to tell you where to look for a good spot to sleep if you're ever stuck overnight in a particular airport (ie in Amsterdam go upstairs across from the McDonald's and pull two of the benches together to form a bed, etc).

21. I'm actually pretty lazy (though this is something that He and I are trying to work on!), but I get away with it a lot since I'm a quick learner. In college, I probably could have done a little better if I had put in more effort, but I would often do just enough to get an A- and then relax.

22. I hate mornings. I am a definite night owl. I have tried three times in my life to move my quiet times to a morning practice (just wanted to be like David, you know?) but have failed every time. I'm counting on the shift in my Circadian rhythm that usually happens to people in their 30's to get this done for me.

23. I care absolutely 0 about fashion. It's probably a consequence of my Bolivian upbringing, but I wear jeans and a T-shirt about 99% of the time because that's what's comfortable. I'm hoping I won't have to make any drastic changes to fit in culturally when we move.

24. I have almost killed my wife on more than one occasion. Once, in Oregon, I sent her down a river in a inner tube like we used to do at home, except she had no experience and the river was much, much rougher than I thought it would be. I think she still halfway suspects that I was trying to murder her. Truth be told, we were very blessed to survive that experience; it was incredibly dangerous.

Like this, but without all the sissy "safety" equipment like a life jacket and handles on the tube.

25. I almost died of malaria when I was 13. I caught it when we were in the jungle, but didn't really get sick until we got out to the city. My fever went as high as 106 (41) and I didn't eat for a week, but I did eventually recover.

So, I think that will do it. We're still plugging away at the language and culture study, with not much new to report. Last week, I came down with some sort of sinus-related bug, and then poor B followed suit. Now, both of the boys are a bit out of sorts but at least we're feeling better and can take care of them.

Oh, and we're really looking forward to seeing our friends and future coworkers David and Erin, who are planning to arrive here in another week or so with their kids. We're going to travel with them out to Siberia to take care of the aforementioned (in a previous post) paperwork, so be thinking about their trip (they have some paperwork they're waiting on as well).

OK, I need to go catch up on some emails, on which I'm waaaay behind. Drop us a comment with a random fact about yourself, or just let me know that you want an email, and I'll send you one!
Thanks for visiting and we'll see you again next week!