Strangers in a Strange Land

205001.pMonday, June 17, 2019
Day of the Holy Spirit

I have blogged before about the challenges of culture shock, dealing with the strangeness of visiting a culture not your own. Just as we expect to find many things we love from back home but don’t find them, there are many things to discover in the new culture that pleasantly surprise us. For example, I had been coming to Russia for several years before I discovered the American ex-patriot community in Moscow, those raised in America who for whatever reason, either personal or business-related, have chosen Moscow as their primary residence. It’s a reminder that there are more reasons to live here in Russia besides the desire to collude in American elections. Continue reading

Pentecostal Pizza

nypizzapieSunday, June 16, 2019
The Day of Pentecost, Birthday of the Church

Funny how when one visits somewhere on the other side of the planet, there is simply an expectation that everything you know and love where you are from will be waiting for you there as well, or at least it will be available in a similar sort of way. This is my sixth time visiting Russia, and each time I attempt to make New York style pizza for our guests/hosts with varying degrees of success. Continue reading

Freedom and Fervor

261648.pFirst full day in Russia. We succumbed right away to our American need for daily coffee, although, when we are in Russia, we drink a lot more instant coffee because it is kind of a thing here if you drink coffee at all. To this day, no matter where I am in the world, if I drink freeze-dried, instant coffee, it takes me to Russia (even more than vodka or tea).

But seriously, I feel so grateful on my first day back after four years of being away. Grateful for this land and culture that raised my wife and, at least partially, is raising my children. Grateful for a local program here that allows families of our size discounts and perks to encourage others to have larger families. It is a very positive place to bring kids: visiting museums, traveling to interesting places, and eating authentic market-purchased food. We even toasted last night to Russian cows for their delicious dairy products, some of which Americans are just now discovering. Continue reading

Reveling in Russia and Zigzagging through Zurich

russia-03_3298060bOur family flew to Moscow, Russia recently in 2015. We journeyed there in order to meet our aunts, uncles, friends and family. For a month, we rode the subway, peered at old monuments, and celebrated the 70th anniversary of Victory Day, the day when the Allies won World War II. Our family’s visit to Russia will always be memorable. Continue reading

All Things To All Men

pentecost_kirillo-belozerskSunday, May 31, 2015
Feast Day of Pentecost

It always happens to me as we near the end of our time in Russia. The battle fatigue sets in from being constantly surrounded by a culture not my own, hearing another tongue I can barely speak myself, and meeting people with whom I miss so many unspoken cultural cues and gestures. In its most extreme form, it is called culture shock, and even the most seasoned travelers are subject to it. The best remedy for it is a kind of cross-cultural humility that’s hard to come by for most Americans, and especially for this one.

Growing up in a small town in the midwest, I found excursions to the big city of Toledo to be enough of a thrill. When we wanted to visit a foreign country, we traveled several hours north and crossed the border into Canada (in those days, they did not even require a passport). With our country surrounded on two borders by oceans, it is easy for us to think of ourselves as the center of the world. The farthest most Americans I knew traveled was down to Florida for Disneyland. But there was one exception to this general rule, and that was those who had accepted the call to be missionaries and spread the Gospel throughout the world. Continue reading

Domestic Wilderness

Central Park, NYC

One of my favorite figures of the 19th century urban renewal and nature conservation is Frederick Law Olmsted. His head office Fairsted, located in Brookline, MA, is a lesser known National Historic Site, and he is most famous as the founder of American landscape architecture and the chief designer of New York City’s Central Park. Olmsted’s idea of a metropark was different from the highly cultivated gardens of Europe and Britain. He wanted his city parks to be easily accessible by all people from multiple points, but have the feeling like one has just stepped into a remote, but protected wilderness. Kolomenskoye is a city park in the southern part of Moscow that reminds me the most of Olmsted’s vision, for it is accessible but not overly cultivated, wild but well kept enough to let the little ones roam freely. Continue reading

A Town Full of Family/ Город Полной Семи

IMG_2590Surgut! Mama’s home town full of friends and cousins. Everywhere is close, even the airport! In a small town it is easy to find a store or church and there are many sites to see. Surprises like snow in May is quite normal and extreme weather all year round. Come see it for yourself, but bring warm clothes!