Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Our Train Adventure

We're ready for a long ride!

Well traveling by train has been something Marvin and I have both wanted to do. There is something about it that is slow and deliberate and allows you plenty of gazing out of the window. Before we departed life was moving about 100 mph, so we were anxious for a few days at a slower speed. Our ride up when well and we were able to see a lot of country side. We rode in a cabin with four bunks. We were fortunate to get the lower bunks on the way to Moscow as it gave us prime window seats. There were two other guys in our cabin and one departed early in the morning and slept most of the time he was with us, but the other guy was a very nice guy and very patient with our language. He even taught Marvin a few card games; he had plenty of time to learn. We were a bit sore after our 36 hour ride but very thankful that we were able to go on such a journey.
Our return home was a little more on the adventurous side. Our tickets were for the top bunks so this meant that I had to figure out how to get up on my bed, there is no ladder. I took an interesting approach and every time Marvin watched me flop up to my bed he would shake his head and laugh. I am sure it was quite the sight. I woke up the next morning and needed to use the bathroom and wearily walked into the toilet near our cabin and discovered someone had thrown up everywhere. Obviously this sent my whole body convulsing and I about lost it as well. So it took about 4 hours to recover from such experience.

As you can see they provided us with a bed rolls, sheets, blankets, and a pillow. The heat was on during the night, so we were nice and toasty as we slept.

Soon after this recovery our favorite people the police came to our car to check everyone’s documents. Surprise, surprise they needed to ask us some more questions. They asked us to follow them to the train attendant’s car. We gathered our documents and followed them. They started asking questions about our visa and how it didn’t match our job. Then they started in on leaving our city without permission and told me that they were going to kick us off the train. This is where I start to panic a bit, because I have no idea where we are or how we would get home if they were serious. So I start to tear up and he immediately looks at Marvin and says can he speak? I said yes and then told me to leave because he didn’t like emotions.

Marvin's chilling in his top bunk, while I am breaking a cultural rules by putting my feet on his bed. Don't worry my feet are pretty clean because we brought our house shoes for the ride, so everytime we walked anywhere we made sure we had them on.

So while Marvin was talking to this police guy I talked to the other guy and he was quite nice and didn’t think there was a problem. Well this other guy persisted. We called our lawyer and she talked to him, and still he persisted. This whole time I knew full well what this guy wanted but since we had done nothing wrong made me a bit angry. He told us that he needed to smoke so follow us to the smoking area. This is when he decided to tell us that he could make this whole thing go away if we gave him something. I played dumb and called a translator and our lawyer and they both translated what I thought he was saying. While I was on the phone trying to decide how much money to give this guy, he looked at Marvin and crossed out our information that he had written down. We had no idea what to do, so we finally decided how much we thought we had to pay and went to his cabin where he told us to meet him, but when Marvin said thank you he told him he didn’t need to pay, end of story. We made it home without getting kicked off the train. But you better believe we were very glad every time we left a station.

Here is a picture of the toilet. It was locked during stops, and we quickly found out why. When you flushed it just opened up and dropped everything outside.

The last part of our fun journey home happened around bedtime. Apparently someone decided it was a good idea to play rap music very loudly when it was time for bed. After enduring an hour of being blown out of our beds and searching for a volume control, Marvin went to ask the train attendant how we could lower the music. Surprise the answer was in our cabin all a long, we just didn’t see it. Overall we are glad we had a train experience, and yes we would do it again, but we are very thankful to be home.

Soul Food

I decided that there should be a new definition for the word soul food. We are not talking down home southern cooking, but food that perks your mood. We were so thankful that we were in a place where we could find some "soul food" this past weekend. For us it meant McDonalds, Sabaros, Chinese food, and a fat juicy restaurant burger at TGI Fridays. We also had to make some difficult decisions this past weekend: cheesecake or Baskin Robin’s Ice Cream. (Just so you know cheesecake won, it was the real deal too. Not this stuff they call cheesecake where we are from.)

It was also fun to find a bit of home in Moscow. We will admit that we ate at TGI Friday’s twice while we were in Moscow, things that good are hard to pass up. But during our second trip we noticed a bit of home right beside our table, a Kansas Flag. It was the only flag in the whole restaurant. It is so neat to see how father touches us with these little gifts. PTL.

Saturday, February 17, 2007


The last few weeks have to be described by nothing else but pure craziness, lots of things that we were looking forward to have crumbled. This is how our world has felt like, imagine you are around 6 or 7 years old and you just built this rockin’ structure out of blocks and you were really excited to show your mom and dad then a bully came and started pushing one block off at a time and then finally, kicked the tower over, spreading your blocks all over the place, some are now laying across the room, under the couch, etc. Well that is how I am feeling like right now. All of the stress and disappointment has knocked me over today. It’s been a weepy day.

I will begin by the order in which they occurred:
First we found out that a meeting that was planned in August won’t be happening. This isn’t that big of deal, but August is a month of misery in Nineveh due to my allergies, so we were looking forward to getting out of the country for a little respite and now that no longer will happen.

Secondly we found out we have to move pretty soon, we have less than a month to figure out where we are going to live, it’s a good thing that people don’t plan much more than a month in advance where we live. When we moved into the fortress we knew it was a temporary thing, but this latest change threw us for a loop. We have to move so that another family can move into our house, and then when they go back to the states this summer we move back in to the fortress. We were a bit disappointed, but understand the reasoning behind the decision that was made about us moving. Being in transition for that long is something that we aren’t looking forward to. I think it is harder for me than Marvin because as a woman I feel this sense of importance of setting up a home for our family, and right now looking at the next 8 months I can’t see it as a place we can call home. In a little way I feel like I can understand how the women must have been thinking as they were wandering around in the desert.

Finally the one that broke the camel’s back, Marvin’s brother was planning on visiting us and so we decided to take a little vacation and meet him in Moscow before John came to Nineveh. So we got on a train and spent a few days traveling to meet him in Moscow. Once we got to Moscow we were waiting at another train station, making our way to the airport when John called us and told us they wouldn’t let him get on the plane because his passport would never get through customs in Europe. So he had to get a new passport and obviously since it was new it didn’t include a visa to our country, so his trip had to be canceled.

So after all of this stress I am pretty bummed and a bit homesick, and asking for a better understanding of all of these events that have just unraveled. Many people who know me know that I am a bit of an idealist and when I am looking forward to things it is hard when they don’t turn out.

Valentine's Day Trip

Since John was able to make it to Moscow we decided to call this an extended Valentine’s Day trip. Complete with trips to McDonald’s, Sabaros, TGI Fridays, and a Chinese restaurant. We are thankful that we were able to enjoy a few of these treats. Here a few views of the sights we took in. It was pretty cold and I almost wiped out on more than one occasion. Walking through the snow and on ice was a strangely familiar and reminded us of spending several hours in the market on the ice buying things for our apartment last year.

There is an ice skating rink in the middle of the Kremlin. It looked like there were a lot of crazy people who were taking up such a friged pastime.

Views from where we stayed

Saturday, February 03, 2007

PORK for dinner…shhhh don’t tell anyone

Yes we had pork for dinner, and I have never been so afraid to buy anything in my life. Our market doesn’t sell pork inside but there are a few places you can find it on the outside of the market, I just have never been brave enough to buy it. The local peoples are not the ones who buy it because they are Muslim, so I didn’t want anyone to see me buy it. I actually had to walk by the stall that sells it because I saw some of my students. I was very thankful that there was a blanket over the awning that day I quickly made my purchase and placed it in my bag and was on my way. I am such a rebel.

So after that experience I didn’t think I would be buying pork again anytime soon, but I just got home from the grocery store and what did I find, BACON, real sliced bacon! Now I am not a big bacon fan, but Marvin loves it. So what did I do? I put in my cart and quickly covered it up with the yogurt. Whew. Grocery shopping has never been more adventurous.

Sporting Event of the Year

Monday several of Marvin’s friends called to invite him to a wrestling match between the U.S. and the country we live in and the U.S. and the locals. After one of his friends told him that his friends could get him free tickets and that his wife was going we thought we would accept his invitation and go as well. It turned out to be quite an event. First the minister of sports promised our friend’s friend would get actual tickets, what really happened was that we had to have someone with an event badge come to let us through 2 sets of guards. (Security was everywhere at this event.) Once we made it through the first set of guards we had to go to a different entrance where the important people get in. Now here we found a bunch of people trying to convince the guards to let them in. A lot of local people were trying to speak English to pass them selves off as Americans, it didn’t really work. (Most of these people were men so it was a little awkward being a woman in this crowd.) It was literally like a mosh pit, we were so crammed together, and at one point I was pressed up against a guard’s gun. The three of us women locked arms and I pushed from behind as and we eventually made it through the crowd, but our husbands were still left outside. About 10 minutes later Marvin came into the stadium and said it got a little worse because the president came and they had to clear a path for him. I was very glad that the ladies were not there at that point. The good news was that everyone made it in without having to pay.
The crowd packed the house, every aisle was filled and eventually people who wanted a better view decided to sit up in the rafters.

It was very interesting watching a sporting event where you can understand both languages being spoken. At one point the American who was getting beat gained a couple of points and the announcer said, a present for the American. When the American team finished getting smoked by the national team (who had about 6 Olympic Gold Medalist on the team) the announcer told the crowd there would be a 5 minute break for the Americans took on the locals which turned into a 30 minute show of dancing and singing. This "5 minute break" was followed by 20 minutes of presentations to important people in the box seats (pictured above). It was also funny watching how the Americans were always ready to go immediately after the previous match ended; they did a lot of waiting around for the locals and the national team, being prompt is not valued in this culture. We were very glad we were able to make it to what the papers said was the “Sporting Event of the year.”

Latest Pastime

My grandmother taught me how to crochet right before we left the states and shortly after arriving here this hobby got pushed aside by the craziness of life, and the fact that I wasn’t very good. I made a few pot holders before we made it to Nineveh that turned out to be trapezoids instead of squares. The scarf I made took on a circular shape, but I didn’t give up. I found some incredibly soft yarn in Turkey and decided I wanted to make a blanket, that project disapated quickly. A couple of weeks ago I was cleaning out a cabinet and found the yarn and decided it was finally time to master crocheting. I started out better than last year and I have actually figured out why I was making trapezoids and circular shapes. But I quickly learned that if I was going to make a blanket I would need more than 4 sheaves of yarn, so it was off to a market in town that sells knitted and crocheted items as well as yarn. They sell the yarn in these loose huge bunches and they sell it by the kilogram, for half a kilo I only paid $2.00! Now I got home and was pretty excited about adding my new colors so what did I do? I found the end to the yarn and start yanking away, and quickly came up with a knotted mess. This is where my new pastime started. 6 hours later I had a nice ball of yarn ready to crochet with! Now it get’s even better because I bought two of these huge bunches and I knew there must be an easier way to do this. It was sitting on the table and Marvin was sitting down ready to study and he decided he was going to figure it out; it took him 5 minutes to discover that if you just lay the bunch on a table and make a doughnut shape you can make a ball of yarn in no time.
This yarn experience tells a lot about our personalities, I tend to get a little excited and I just dive right into things and get started, where Marvin is a little more observant and carefully plans things out before he begins something. I guess there is a time and place for both, I only wish I hadn’t spend 6 hours of my free time this week untangling yarn.