This church is typical of the village churches. Much smaller than those in town - sort of resembling cheap knock-offs - these churches are nearly always these colors. The domes are painted yellow where those of their more glamorous cousins are metallic; appearing to be gold plaited. When I get my rechargeable batteries back from Paul (yet another visiting guest), I'll stop by the 2 nearby churches for pictures that will better display the disparity.
I still love this little place for it's simplicity...I guess I can picture Jesus here better than in the gold roofed churches.
Now it says about 10 minutes......
I am so excited to once again have a computer that tells me what it wants in English.
About 8 minutes.....
Ok, that's all the play-by-play I'm going to do on this. Get ready for a new post from my new hard drive.
About 7 minutes.....
The drive back was uneventful if you don't count my lower extremities going numb and coming back to life with pain shooting down my legs.
Today I am making my first trip to Simferopol by myself. I will be picking up Paul Dunberg at 4:20pm and then finding a way to waste the intervening 5 hours before my parents flight arrives. It may be tough to see on the map of Crimea above but I will start on the far right side in Kerch and drive to the regional capital in the middle (which on this map is spelled Симферополь). I only know 3 locations in the city - the airport, the train station and the MacDonalds - so I hope to expand my knowledge today.
If you look very closely, the road to Simferopol goes through lovely Feodosia and then through the hills that parallel the Black Sea coast. It has been raining here for the past 2 days so I am hoping that this doesn't translate to snow in the higher areas - it can get fairly treacherous. Please pray for safe travel, wisdom in dealing with the language issues and a supernatural sense of direction so that I can get everyone back to Kerch in a timely manner.
I also got turned on to Rod Dreher that blogs on faith and politics at Crunchy Con.
So this is my T13 that should be good enough to make up for skipping last week: The 13 most awesome things that have happened this week.
13. The weather is getting really nice and spring is in the air.
12. I saw a 140 lb dynamo named Dima demolish a concrete patio 12ft long by 8 ft deep by 3 ft tall (and the 2 staircases that went with it) in less than 8 hours of work...by himself...with only hand tools.
11. I saw Lil' Trucker ride his first tricycle....
10. ...without a helmet! I didn't wear one, he shouldn't have to either.
9. We haven't had liver once this week.
8. I've gotten to have a bonfire almost every day with all the junk wood I have collected.
7. Liverpool won once, Shaktar twice.
6. My parents finally committed completely to coming next week (actually Saturday). Flying standby is tough, but it does get them here!
5. Cam learned with surprisingly few spankings that even though he CAN escape from his crib, he is not ALLOWED to do so.
4. I am on the run of a lifetime in our semi-nightly Pinochle league...I'm talking some seriously awesome hands.
3, 2, and 1. The Hope Center is getting one of these!It's a 2008 Polaris Ranger 4x4 UTV and it represents a serious answer to prayer. About 2 weeks ago I started talking with some people about donating to getting us this little truck. We have a great contact at Polaris who suggested this vehicle to us at a huge discount...he then proceeded to talk with their Scandinavian branch who offered to cover the shipping and customs costs for getting it us down here. We are almost at the amount that was quoted but I expect some tax and other costs. If you would like to donate to put us over the top, let me know and I'll explain how.
Thanks to those of you who have already given, you know who you are and I am truly thankful.
I now do most of my reading via the internet; news, blogs, etc. Now every time I find a great new blog, I get a little bit of that "new author" feeling again. Since bloggers are usually at least semi-obsessed with traffic numbers, I wanted to recommend that you visit and inflate the traffic at the following sites:
a little R & R - This is the blog of Sarah's longtime friend Jenny, dedicated to her twin girls. If you like to occasionally laugh till you cry about hilarious kid stories, stop on by. I still use one of her daughters lines as often as possible; "I'm an expert at everything; except disobeying."
It is Quite Cool - Amanda is the wife of a guy I've known almost my whole life and an English teacher in Greeley. Good writing and funny commentary.
And the Others
BooMama - This is one of the funnier writers I've found. Her topics aren't always up my alley but I sure like how she writes about them.
Global Voices/Neeka - Global Voices is a group of bloggers who monitor news or other blogs for commentary or interesting content which is then reposted/linked. One of GV's people is Neeka, a Kyiv native; I read her personal blog for an English-language Ukrainian perspective. Plus she linked up my Fortress Kerch post on GV yesterday and I thought I should return the favor.
Update: Although I've linked to it before, I forgot to explicitly mention that Slick has a new blog and that his last 2 post are very good.
Since I'm a fairly curious type of guy, I looked around a little bit to see how prevalent human trafficking is in Eastern Europe. In its 2007 report on human trafficking, the US State Department placed Ukraine (along with Russia, Belarus and Moldova) in the tier 2 watch list on their 3 tiered scale. The watch list designation indicates that it is on the verge of being moved to the 3rd tier (worst category). This means that it is currently in the same category as Mauritania, a country that just criminalized slavery last year and is estimated to have 20% of its population still in bondage. That is not a good record.
The State Department report indicates that Ukraine is a source, destination and transit route for human trafficking. Eastern Europeans have historically been highly prized as slaves by traders across Europe, Africa and Asia. During the 300 years of Tatar rule in Crimea, an estimated 3 million Slavic prisoners were seized and enslaved in the Muslim world. Unfortunately, their distinctive physical features (pale eyes w/ darker hair, high cheek bones, etc) make them particularly valued in the areas of sexual exploitation.
Ukraine's economy is improving at a fantastic rate (only tarnished by very high inflation) but the lull of international work for great wages still entices many Ukrainians to leave home in search of greater lifestyle. For many this proves to be lucrative as they earn comparatively high wages which they can bring home to improve their situation here. For others, the lure of work is a trap used by traffickers. Once outside Ukraine, the traffickers can take all identification papers making escape nearly impossible. Last week, someone here was telling me that their father went to Turkey for work and was enslaved as the member of cargo ship's crew for 4 or 5 years before he was able to escape. Tragically, for many of the women caught in this, their work is not nearly so wholesome. Prostitution and domestic servitude (often involving sexual exploitation) are common for those who leave their homeland without a trustworthy support structure as protection.
The report also indicated that there are serious issues of slavery within Ukraine - sort of a mirror image of the situation for Ukrainians outside the country - seeing a growing number of foreigners held here against their will. Due to it's geographic position, Ukraine has become a crossroads for traffickers moving people between Europe, Asia and Africa.
Now, having become more educated on the situation and the dangers it presents, I am glad that we are addressing this serious issue with both students and their parents in the upcoming months.
According to the pieces I was able to hear and retain from our tour guide (who was one of the 3 caretakers of this location), this fortress was built during the Imperial Russian era at some point. I personally saw soldier's inscriptions dated 1890 and have been told that there were some much older. The confusion I had with dates may stem from the fortress having been an ongoing project, constantly being revised, updated and renovated over a long period. At the very least, it was a base for Russian/Soviet soldiers for several major wars in Crimea.
The entire complex used to contain over 300 buildings, most of which were at least partially underground. Today about 150 structures still remain. With its green rolling hills and grassy meadows, the area doesn't look at all like a military base. Part of this is from lack of use (it was closed to the public for a long time), but also because it was intended to be a confusing labyrinth of concealed magazines, bunkers and garrisons all connected by subterranean tunnels. Much of the area has a basement level of additional facilities underneath even the tunnel system. It was designed to be able to withstand an assault by a far superior force through constant troop movement, confusion and pre-determined ambush points. The thought and planning that went into its construction are remarkable. We were told that the walls were as thick as 7 meters (about 22 feet). The masonry is fantastic with large lengths of limestone (I think) walls still standing perfectly straight. I would almost say that with some new windows and doors, some of the structures would be every bit as nice as many of the inhabited buildings in Kerch itself...and that's after the Nazis assaulted the fort!
This place is by far the most interesting historical location I've seen in Ukraine and I will endeavour to discover more about it's background and military significance. Until then, here are some of the pictures that I found or took. Some were "borrowed" from some kind person who uploaded them to Google Earth.
This is the kind of strange architecture that is found in most of the facility. Relatively ornate walls fronting mostly underground buildings. The large opening is a tunnel to another open area of the facility. We have pretty much the same picture but I snagged this one since the grass was a little greener (isn't that always the case).
Structures like this are a dime a dozen here but each is still amazing.
The tour guide is on the far right of the main group in the brown coat. His interest in the fortress is largely due to his father having served there during WWII. At the time of the photo, he is describing an incident in which his father was smoking while standing guard at this gate. A commissar (sort of a Communist Party representative within the Soviet military), thinking he was using the cigarette to signal the Germans, stood him up against this wall, intending to execute him on the spot for treason. His life was only saved by the commissar's discovery that he was part of some secret spy/commando team that was based at the facility.
After walking in the cold sea air for over 2 hours with a tired 2 year old, we were less than pleased to learn upon the conclusion of the tour that the bus wouldn't be back for another hour. Since we would just be waiting by the road and it looked like rain was coming, we decided to start walking back to the camp. I figure the walk would have been about 3 miles had the bus driver not returned early and picked us up about a mile into our trek. I never knew how heavy 35 lbs of child could be after a while...
Does anyone care about these random historical explanations of the Crimea? If not, I can certainly put more time between them.
The other night I was trying to sleep after an evening of tooling around on the site and the thought occurred to me. Someone should invent a "priority filter" that could be installed to only allow the user to cruise around the blogosphere if he/she has nothing better to do.
You haven't played with your kids today? No Powerline for you, young man!
Oh, you haven't read from your Bible all week? Stay off LGF!
Your wife is still strongly hinting that her neck could really use a massage? Ragamuffinsoul can wait till later!
Anybody else think this would shut down blogging worldwide? I love it, but you have to admit, it does tend to sap time like a black hole - not to mention energy and motivation. Since many of you are only blog readers, not writers, you can let me have it without fear of too much hypocrisy...
This little kid (pictured here eating a snack while watching this weekend's HopeCenter soccer game) is awesome! Nothing particularly special inspired me to write this. A few minutes ago he woke up crying as he does sometimes and watching him cling to his mama with all four limbs looking like a chubby, green-clad Spiderman was a happy moment for me. That's it....
- A number of their songs (and many of their more popular ones) are related to high school life and being 30 years old, that could be construed as pathetic on my part.
- They are nothing if not bubble gum punk and my 23 year old self would beat me severely for appreciating their tasty harmonies.
- They are in that no-man's-land between new/cutting edge and classic - sort of like Poison in '92 - where I appear to be trying to be cool like the young kids, but struggling a few years behind.
This is Jim. Jim is one of the coolest guys I know and a fantastic asset to the Hope Center. He was the original American here and has returned (sadly, without his wife Sheri who is in TX helping care for her mother) to teach drafting and woodworking as well as anything else that needs doing. I am trying to learn as much as possible from him before he heads home in May. Having lived in our apartment last year, he is well acquainted with how to do quick fixes around here.
Not to be outdone, Campbell took Jim's lead and did a little repair work on the kitchen chairs. Like Jim's, his beater is also cordless and though it lacks some of the basic components necessary for his task, you can see that he is making the zhhhhhhhh noise as though it does.
We visited the village of Bagrava about 20 minutes west of us to hand out some bags of fruit to some of the poorer children at the school. We normally bring hot food for our feeding programs but we are already doing this at a number of locations and aren't in a position to increase the program yet.
I also didn't mention that Saturday was Women's day in Ukraine, sort of a mixture of Valentine's day and Mother's day. It is a national holiday and widely celebrated. Since I skipped Valentines day this year - saying that since it's not celebrated here, I shouldn't act like a foreigner - so I was obligated to redeem myself on this holiday. I got Sarry a rose that was big enough to use as a walking stick which had thorns like medieval battle axes. Unfortunately their flower-growers don't seem to see the value in actually keeping the flower intact and after 35 minutes it had fallen almost completely apart. This is the last photo of it alive. It actually looks a lot like one of the pictures from our wedding except that one has Sarah staring blissfully out the window instead.
Well, I am definately going to make an effort to convey the status of our projects and the emotions involved in being a part of them. Here are some shots from around camp and Kerch with a little explaination of each. Due to some formating quirks in blogger, these may not be listed in chronological order.
This weekend we had a bit of a cookout for our summer camp volunteers. Usually this means shashlik (the Georgian version of shishkabobs), my favorite Ukrainian dish but I was a bit dissapointed when I discovered it was more of a weinie roast. They did conceed to cook the sala (normally uncooked pork fat) and we had some lovely salads and cakes.
Sunday lived up to its name and was very nice weather. We had a chance to go for a walk to a nearby park where we played (until I had to go home with a full bladder) on the surprisingly nice playground. Minutes after this picture was taken, Campbell purposly went down this slide all by himself! Even at 2, the confidence of facing his fears changed his entire attitude. At first he was very quiet and just watched the other kids play but after the slide, he couldn't tell them all enough about how awesome he was (at least that's what I assume he was saying). That night he even showed off and told us about 20 words in his books that we didn't think he even knew.
We also got to walk around a funny little castle thing but the exploring was cut short when I discovered that "stone playground castle tower" and "homeless and drunk person outdoor toilet" are the same word in Russian.
I spend a few hours with a chainsaw Monday carving this stump into a little throne for the kids this summer. I plan to do a little touch-up later when I have a sharper chain.
This afternoon we finally had a full-on game of football with the IVA guys. During the week we usually have too much going on and the local students go home on the weekends. It was a good test for me as I was required to be humble in a 5-5 draw which saw me at fault for our opponent's final goal.
I have more shots but blogger won't let me add them right now...and the spell check is irritable again. Stay tuned.
"So what are you going to do, spoon me to death?"
Any ideas? I know that at least 2 of you out there know movie lines better than your family's birthdays, so lets figure this one out.
It is music that you can't help but love...yet can't tell anyone. It is:
- ...still trying to learn the words to "Ice, Ice, Baby" well after it started plunging down the charts.
- ...being a 20 something male and singing Sarah McLaughlin in your room when you think no one is at home.
- ...rolling up your car windows so that you can crank up Kelly Clarkson (another one for you guys).
- ...having any fond memories whatsoever about New Kids on the Block.
Sadly, some of these aren't hypothetical!
I'm not counting Marshall's unabashed enjoyment of Pink in this...he has no problems singing it in public. I mean the kind of thing that you fear could ruin budding relationships, get you fired from your job and uninvited from the family Christmas.
I am now giving you all a chance to come clean, expose your secrets and live in the light. Give me a comment on your all-time worst guilty music pleasure. You can even do it anonymously if you'd feel better...
New for this year, while you have just made the change to Daylight Savings Time, most of the rest of the world is still on standard time for another few weeks. This means that temporarily, you mountain folks are now 8 hours behind us while you Michiganders and eastern folks are only 6 behind (Texans are clever enough to do the math themselves).
Calling all Irishmen (or really just one):
If you are reading this and are an Irishman named Chris who is engaged to a girl from Kerch, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. It isn't urgent but I realized that you offered help if I needed it and I never got your contact info. Plus, I'm curious whether you were able to get your copy of "Gladiator" back from my countrymen. Thanks.
Things got a little tense on the return trip when we had to pass the ever-present GAI officer and again when she was yelled at by an old babushka for having the audacity to try to allow her to cross at the crosswalk.
All in all, it was great trip and I was very proud of how well she did.
I started off by congratulating him on the great result and we then proceeded to move into discussing the upcoming Champions League tie with Inter Milan. We were a solid 10 minutes into our discussion before I realized that I was chatting away like we'd been friends for years. To review, this is a guy that visited my house one time 4 years ago and with whom I have not had any contact since. When I mentioned this, Sarah laughed and said, "Only boys..." It appears that the combination of sports and the Y-chromosome make small talk completely unnecessary.
Actually I had a lovely but too-short chat with Tim about where we both are what we've been doing in the intervening years since our introduction. I look forward to cheering the Reds together and getting better acquainted with him and his wife Becky....at least as much as you can via the internet.
PS - Blogger is running stupid today and the spell check is ignoring me. If you see a serious typo, just comment it and I'll fix it. Who needs a spell checker when you have literate friends?
13. When it's normal to be berated on a cold day for not wearing a scarf by a stranger lady with nothing covering her lower half but a mini-skirt the size of a band-aid.
12. When the answer to "is that legal?" is always "sort of."
11. When you know that if you ask 10 people to explain a situation, you'll get at least 11 different stories.
10. When you are told that you must be prepared for something at 5pm, which could either mean 4:15 or 5:30 - but nothing in between.
9. When you are dealing with an office setting and people feel that talking to you and helping you is more important than what they're doing (definitely not an American mindset).
8. When you call your internet provider to learn why your connection is alternating between stupid slow and nonexistent and they just say, "we know."
7. When you are told by a person that will fill his entire sedan to the roof with farm produce that pick-ups are not practical...
6. ...and this makes you start counting the pick-ups that you do see and looking at them longingly.
5. When ping-pong is considered a "man's game" and it sometimes causes tempers to flare.
4. When it's normal to see a lady in stiletto heels move like a ninja across a broken and rubble-strewn street that Americans would use 4x4s on.
3. When you have 'salad' for every lunch and dinner but can go 3 months without having a scrap of lettuce (I love mayonnaise).
2. When you have to get a new drivers license every month.
1. When you can't learn the language right because even your own name changes spelling depending on the context.
Please add your own little pearls from any of your international experiences.
\\\\perhaps instead of a long rectangular left shift key, there are 2 keys...the closer of which is the forward slash key. \\\\\\\\\\thus every time you try to capitalize a word or select a question mark, you actually just create a long series of \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\. \\\\\\\\it's not that \\\\\\\i am experiencing this, \\\\\\\\\\i just wanted to see if any of you have struggled with this issue recently.
In all seriousness, we have been completely blown away by our friend Tanya's generousity in lending us her personal laptop until we can resolve the issue with what will now be known as "My beloved Macbook" or MBM. She has allowed us to maintain contact with all of you through this brief tech struggle and we are very greatful.
Oh, I also forgot how a non-automatic spell checker works and since Tanya's computer has \\\\\\\\\russian \\\\\\\\\windows, \\\\\i can't figure it out. \\\\\\\\\sorry for any typos.
If this was your answer, you win the door prize!!!!!!!!!!
My 5 month old MacBook has bought the farm and done so roughly $400 in shipping away from the closest Mac service location....and that's one-way.
I tell you this to explain that this site, which I have spent so much thought and effort to maintain, will likely slow down considerably in the next few months until I can get our laptop back the US, repaired and back in my hands. Just thought you might like to know.
What I used to think
- ► 2009 (151)
- How Pilots Should Talk
- Campbell Pictures
- Record Setting Month
- New (Old) Churches in Kerch
- Am I addicted to our iPod or just World Soccer Dai...
- Thursday 13: Best things about having parents vis...
- I'm getting too old for this...
- Welcome Back!
- Time Remaining: About 11 minutes
- I made it
- Off to the Big City
- A video idea I wish I'd thought of first
- Ranger Update
- Thursday 13: The most awesome things that have hap...
- What I'm Reading
- Ukrainian traffic problems
- Fortress Kerch
- How long have I been sitting here?
- Congrats to Corey and Bucknell Women's Basketball
- Lil' Trucker
- High culture and low standards
- Program, Hope Center and general goings on
- Every day here is like everyday life
- Urgent request for expertise
- Guilty Pleasures
- News and Updates
- Back in the saddle
- Only boys...
- The Vagueries of the Innermet
- Thursday 13: How you know you're in Ukraine
- New Keyboards
- Unwanted Vacation From Blogging
- And while I'm at it...
- Lazy (Malaise-y?) Saturday, pt 2
- Lazy Saturday
- ▼ March (35)