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

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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

What Libraries Mean to Me

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Children’s Library in Moscow

Books! Books! Libraries are the place we get books. How could we live without libraries? A lot of information comes from books. When books started to appear someone thought “Where should we keep them?” Then people found the key: libraries! If you need to study a subject (for example), just ask a librarian she/he will help you find the right books. Whether at home or in Russia, we always find our local library.

Nostalgia for Paradise

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Main Gate of Danilov Monastery, Moscow

I will never forget the first time I visited an Orthodox monastery to stay for a month-long missionary school hosted there. I was newly converted to the church and I was still getting used to regular church life. Life in a monastery was like learning to walk on the moon by comparison. I felt the awkwardness of a bum yanked from the street and set before a seven course French Meal. I did not know how to use the knife and fork let alone how to behave in this highly cultured environment. But the hunger and thirst after righteousness kept me from fleeing what was unfamiliar. Continue reading

Russia What is Your 4th of July?/ Россия, чтo есть Твоe 4 июля?

Victory Day! Russia’s great feast! Come and sing: the Allies have won the hard war of the world. Many have died but we are filled with joy for the long, terrible war has ended. The parade shows how the people fought for victory and the fireworks show happiness. This is my favorite Russian holiday.

День Победы! России главный празник! Иди и пой: союзники победили в длинной войне мира. Многие погибли, но мы заполнены радостью потому что длинная, тяжелая война закончилась. Парад показывает, как люди дрались за победу и фейерверки показывают счастье. Это мой любимый Русский праздник.

A Moscow Cup of Tea

May 10, 2015
American Mother’s Day

teaMoscow is principally for us a place to gather as many friends and family as we can muster at any given time, and since the observed holiday for Victory Day is tomorrow (Monday), the Sunday gathering at our apartment is more than usually crowded. My American friend and his family come over with fried chicken wings and garlic bread, while my wife’s local cousins bring their children for a sleepover. It is a grand occasion of East meets West with overlapping conversations in Russian and English. But the capital part of the evening after all the eating and customary toasting is the after dinner tea. It is the most vital symbol of the seemingly endless conversation that ensues. Continue reading