Monday, October 20, 2014

The Ever Mysterious "Teek-vah"

Here is a little known fact: I love pumpkins! I love the little, cute ones. I love the big mama ones. I love the ugly, warty ones. And I especially love the ones that are pumpkins! I love how versatile the pumpkin is; you can decorate with it, carve it, smash it, chuck it, and eat it. To me, punkins represent everything that is right with the season of fall. Fall is so cozy! In the fall people come together to do things like carve pumpkins. Humans gather together to cut holes into vegetables, well actually punkins are a fruit, specifically a berry. What is not to love?! As an American I have taken for granted how we celebrate Fall in America. The Russians see fall as the time when everything gets colder and it rains and very few have discovered the exponential power of the pumpkin. 

When I first mentioned to a Russian that I hadn't seen any pumpkins here in Siberia they were very confused. Even the best English speakers in our classes had no clue what I was speaking of! So I set off to figure out the word for pumpkin and if it existed in this geographically secluded location. 
Тыква (which is pronounced [TEEK-VAH]) is the word for pumpkin. Now every time I speak of these amazing vegetab-b-berries I can refer to them in the proper term and tell of all of the glorious foods than can be created by them! 

Aside from pumpkins, our English classes have been going amazingly well. Tomorrow will actually be the last time we get to host the group in our home because it has gotten so large. Yay! Everyone always comes ready to speak and I really feel as if everyone who comes is willing to share something with the group. Each person has something valuable to contribute to the conversation. The English Club on Saturday nights has also been going swimmingly. The same people are coming week after week and we are able to build relationships with them. One couple, Katie and Vanya, are now coming over every Monday to teach us Russian. Score! They are a blessing and I am blown away by how patient they are with us as we giggle through each lesson. I really feel like I am learning! Even if my pronunciation is sometimes really horrible. 

Playing games at English Club
I have come to really love our Saturday night English Club. It takes some serious planning but it always ends up a lot of fun. Also, can I brag on my roommates, business partners, and friends? Alissa and Allie have been so vital to my survival. I am so thankful for who they are. I am so thankful for their perseverance and general cheerfulness. 

Alright y'all. Keep praying for us and all the things. Especially our insomnia. And paper writing. Thanks. Truly.  

Monday, October 13, 2014

A New Life

Press play then read.

If I ever needed a large dose of encouragement, it was after this weekend. For the last two weeks, I had been feeling relatively lonely and felt as if the only people I could relate to were Allie and Alissa. I was definitely struggling to love Tomsk and make time to spend with people. There was nothing especially difficult about this past weekend but I could tell that I was fed up with myself. I was fed up with the way that I had secluded myself and stopped reaching out to the people around me. I was fed up with how I was focusing all of my energy on myself and my life in America. I have felt as if I were doing nothing and everything all at once. We are teaching tons of English here in Russia and trying to learn a lot more Russian. I had been making everything about me. Even this paragraph revolved around me. 

Why am I so selfish?

Sometimes I think Satan feeds us lies and tries to get us to forget about the freedom, hope, and new life that we have in Jesus Christ. When I made the decision to follow in the footsteps of Jesus, have a relationship with God, and be led by the Holy Spirit, I died to my former life and entered into a life freedom. 

Galatians 2:20-21 says, "I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.  I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose." 

I had to let that soak in for a moment. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. It is futile for me to be caught up in my own misfortunes and to keep running in circles in my mind over how selfish I am being. Dwelling on my selfishness is still selfish! Duh. It is pointless for me to seek ways to fix myself. My seemingly selfless actions are in vain when I am trying to gain satisfaction from what I am doing. Christ died for a purpose. His purpose is all of us. His grace is for all of us. It was only through Christ that my sinning flesh was put to death. It was only through Christ that I was made whole; in Christ, I am forgiven and made righteous. 

Yesterday, at church, we celebrated Thanksgiving. It was such a joy to take part in giving thanks and praise to a God who loves us. It didn't matter that we speak different languages. God hears each of our hearts and calls out to us. No matter our background or our language, Christ is all and in all. This thanksgiving came at just the right time. I am so thankful for this opportunity to be in Russia: to be teaching English, to be learning Russian, to be making new friends, to be mentored by people like Emil & Jenny, to be living with Allie & Alissa, to be attending a church that is focused on reaching the community, to be eating new foods, to be learning how to live selflessly, and to be gifted with the means to share my life in Christ with others. Mm, praise the Lord!


Sunday, October 12, 2014

The United Kingdom: the one with all the words

If you aren't up for reading  a bunch of words right now you have my permission to check out my other post on the UK which is all pictures. Or just go to my facebook and scroll through all of that. If you are taking the time to read all of this, thank you. Sincerely. I am so excited to share with you all that this last month has held. I spent most of the last month in the United Kingdom taking expensive trains everywhere. I never thought I'd ever see the day when I would be excited to return to the sketchy buses of Tomsk but I did. I saw that day. That day was last week right before our visas came in while we were still in London. It was strange but I know that it was reassurance from the Lord that Tomsk, Russia was the place that I was supposed to be. Tomsk is where God has established us and obviously where He wants now. I am delighted that we had leisure time in the UK but I was ready to be back somewhere familiar.

It has honestly not been the easiest transition back into Russia because I really liked the UK but our dear friends Emil and Jenny have encouraged us to live for the moment and the people here in Tomsk. They told us to envision our last day here and imagine all that God will have us do while we are here. So that's what I'm doing. I'm living in the here and now and letting God to the leading. Each day holds a new adventure and I can trust my Father to take care of me.

The last month has been pretty emotional for me because I have seen the other side. Being in Tomsk has been tough because our supervisor lives 6 hours away by car. There are very few foreigners in Tomsk and we have no real guidance in what we should be doing here. Our program is supposed to be like an apprenticeship and we have had to go out and find our own mentors instead of simply joining one (or some) that are already here. However, in the UK there were TONS of foreigners. Everywhere. And we had supervisors and people taking care of us everywhere we went. It was so nice not having to think about what we had to do and not having to make major decisions all by ourselves.

Enough about transitions and such. Let me tell you about some of the fun things we got to to while we were in the UK! First off we arrived and found out that when we weren't in Scotland we would be living in a house of some Americans who were stateside. Score!! this place had a backyard and a dryer. I could not have been more excited to be in a house after 3 months of apartment living. I guess I like houses... We spent two nights in Horsham, England before we set off for Scotland. The first full day in the UK we got to go down to the coast and see the Seven Sisters white cliffs and dip our toes in the water. It was so beautiful! Then we drove over to the small town Arundel where there was a huge castle and a quint little tea house. Talk about love. I love Europe. I love castles. I love pretty. I loved that Monday!

On Tuesday we caught a very early train to Edinburgh, Scotland. WOWZERS!! That city is one of the most beautiful cities I have ever seen (besides Prague) and was so worth the trip. As we emerged from the train station we saw beautiful old buildings everywhere. The sun was shining upon the Edinburgh Castle that sits on the highest hill in the city. At the foot of the hill was the greenest of parks and Princes Street where our hostel was located. For dinner we went to the upstairs of a nice pub and had some traditional pub food. I had the biggest fish and chips ever. Ever. And it was so good.

While we were in Scotland we walked 5 miles to the beach, toured the Edinburgh Castle, walked the length of the Royal Mile and Princes Street about 7 times, did some well deserved shopping, took a haunted night tour of the city, ate good food, hiked up an extinct volcano, and drank a lot of Starbucks. All in all, Edinburgh was a treat and a chance of a lifetime. It was a place I never dreamed of going and now I dream of going back. Three days was not enough and now I have the travelling itch again. Can someone pay me to travel and give speeches about what it means to serve the community? I could do that! I like travelling and talking and sharing my faith! Until that day comes I'll be satisfied with the places that God takes me.

When we returned to London we met up with Allie's aunt and uncle and cousins for a couple of days in downtown London. That place is massive, crowded, expensive, and has way too many trains. The sights were beautiful and being in a city was fun but my favorite place was Notting Hill. Alissa and I took a detour to Portabello Market in Notting Hill while Allie and the fam took a 3 hour tour of Buckingham Palace. It was a Saturday so everything was jam packed but it was so fun to simply walk the streets and see everything that London had to offer. Lastly we got to climb to the top of St. Paul's Cathedral, take a tour of Hamlet's which is a huge toy store, and eat Chipotle. London was well worth it.

After our time in London came to an end we spent the next week and a half living in our house in Horsham and commuted to Kingston to help out the International Society at the university. In Kingston we got to experience the beginning of the school year at a British University and meet students from all over the world. I loved getting to talk to hundreds of people and use English to do so. It was a great change of pace from the work we have been doing in Tomsk and the vacationing in London ad. Scotland. Something I did notice about the people in the London area was just how friendly they were. People were smiling and laughing and having a good time everywhere they went. It was familiar and I loved it!

The family who took care of us while we stayed in Horsham was the coolest! Tina and Jerry are Americans who live and work near London with their three children. It turned out that the Barnwell family had lived in Russia for a couple years as well as Prague. WHAT?! It was fun to be able to relate with them about life in Russia and be completely understood. Then I found out that I lived in Prague while they were living there and we even attended the same International high school graduation. I was in the same building, the same room, with this couple 5 years before I ever met them! I am always so amazed at how small this world and the people that God will place in your path. Tina and Jerry have the sweetest kids and it was a blast to spend so much time with them. We got to play games, eat pancakes, watch movies, and learn all about Minecraft with Brennan, Reegan, and Karis. Those three kiddos will always hold a special place in my heart. I pray that someday I will be able to have my own children who are super chill with living in different places and that they will be as kindhearted as the Barnwell's. Lastly, did I mention that Tina is the greatest cook ever? Well, she is. If you would like to know more about this blessing of a family you should check them out at

It has taken me a while to actually complete this post because my mindset and my heart were not in the right place to share my experiences with you. I was feeling slightly bitter about returning to Russia after experiencing such bliss in the UK. This was definitely my flesh trying to win over my desire to serve and live for God. It took some time of prayer and chatting with God but I can now say that I am so glad that we are back in Russia. We have been going nonstop since we returned to Tomsk. God has blessed us with amazing friends and I love being able to share my life with the people here. Please keep us and our friends in your prayers. The weather is getting colder and we are getting busier. I ask that you pray that I would keep my focus on the Lord and find time to rest in Him. Also, that I could stay motivated to serve selflessly and give 100% to our English courses. I am so thankful to have such lovely supporters

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

The United Kingdom: the one with all the pictures

It has been nearly a month since my last post and it has been the busiest month of my life! I never thought doing a semester abroad could be so jam-packed with so many places and faces and castles. The last month has taken me to three different countries and brought a few new friends into my life. At the beginning of our trip to Russia we realized that our visa was only good for 90 days. For a minute this posed a problem because we had a visa that could not be renewed or prolonged so we had to get out of dodge or run run the risk of being detained. Yikes! I like Russia but I'd rather not be detained here. After some deliberation a decision was made to send us to London, England to help some folks with the work they were doing there. So for two and a half weeks we hung out in the UK and served the people there as we awaited word on a new Russian visa. But first we had to catch a flight. 

After being awake for way too long we met up with some lovely American who took care of us while we were in the UK. They took us on adventures to see the sea.

After seeing the sea we hopped on a train and headed towards Scotland! It took us a little more than 5 hours to get there and another hour to find our hostel but it was worth it. We stayed in the quaintest of hostel right downtown and for three days we lived at the foot of a castle. We wandered the streets of a city that was built before my homeland of America was even conceived. Just check out Edinburgh for yourself!

For the record: that is FIRE!

It was a bit of a culture shock to go from Siberia, Russia to London to Scotland in less than 72 hours but we managed. We couldn't help but love every second we spent in a new location. Even train rides were amazing to us. After a few days in Scotland we spent a couple days in downtown London with Allie's extended family. They drove up to see Allie and we loved meeting them! It was so fun to kinda be a part of a family unit again. 

AND THENNNNN we spent time with one of the coolest families I have ever met. The Barnwell clan will always have a special place in my heart and prayers. Tina and Jerry are parents to the coolest kids: Karis, Brennan, and Reegan. They love the Lord and are raising their kids to be fantastic young people who love people, love the Lord, love good food, and love movies. They were totally my kind of people. Tina took good care of us and made sure that we were fed well. Like, so well. I ate like the queen when Tina cooked. Also, I chopped nearly 10 inches of my hair off while we were there. Sooo yeahhh....

Then, praise God, our visas came back to us and we hopped on another plane to Russia. I hope you enjoyed these pics and if you would like to know some of the stories behind the pics you can check out my other post, The United Kingdom: the one with all the words.