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21 February 2007

Blini and Maslinitsa

One of the most celebrated Russian holidays just finished this past weekend, Maslinitsa. This holiday is based on the pagan tradition of ushering out winter and welcoming the spring. The main event of this holiday is a week long spree of eating blini. This is when you can find blini everywhere! And I love Russian blini. They are the thin crepe like pancakes that get smothered with cream, jam or sweeten condensed milk. Yummy! They even sell it on the streets in Moscow, with all the nice goopy stuff running onto your fingers and the sweet cooked smells wafting up around you!

It turns out that blini are actually used to represent the sun, which is the symbol of spring. The fact that this holiday comes right before the 40 of intense fasting in the Russian Orthodox Church is not 'coincidental'. The Russian Orthodox Church seems to be very supportive of this semi-pagan holiday as it helps to bring focus to the preparations of Lent.

As I cooked my own blini this weekend, I started contemplating the symbols of spring and the true purpose of Lent. Eating blini or not didn't make any difference in my desire to see winter end - as that is more due to the very low temperatures outside my apartment! However, it was actually rather rewarding after eating blini to remember the purposes of Lent.

I'm not a participant in Maslinitsa nor the Russian Orthodox 40 day fast, but I do know that laying aside something during this to celebrate the real purpose of Lent is an idea that resonates deep with me.

Perhaps I'll lay aside coffee?

16 February 2007

Cough medicine and movies

Having the flu is not that bad really, when the number of books and movies that can be read and watched are counted. But I have to say that I much prefer being active and feeling well, to being at home 'resting'.

Since I returned from Greece I've gotten to see many friends and tell them about the amazing things that God is doing to free people from slavery. And being home sick for a week, has given me a rather lazy introduction back into the world of Russia.

I don't have anything earth shattering to share, but it got to be such a habit to 'talk' on the blog about life, that I couldn't help but keep it up. So I thought you might enjoy you the bevy of medicine that my Russian friends have piled on me to help me recover from this flu.

09 February 2007

Frozen travels

Travel is a rather funny thing in my opinion, as within the space of a few hours I found myself in a completely different world. In the morning I was writing in my journal enjoying some light spring breezes and the sun. That evening I was bemoaning how frozen your nose can feel after only a few minutes outside!

I suppose that is what to expect when you go from Athens, Greece to Moscow, Russia in one day!

This week my time in Athens came to an end for now, and I headed back to Moscow. I was greeted by friends and teammates with hugs and work. I felt as if I was visiting old friends instead of returning 'home', and am thinking that even this feeling is something God is doing to prepare my heart. Whatever happens next however, I am glad to be here amongst friends and a great team.
The snow on the other hand is not such a welcome thing!

05 February 2007

Happy Birthday to me!

Today is my birthday!

Not to toot my own horn or anything, but seriously yeah!

And I got to enjoy some great time with the gals at Starbucks. There are few greater ways to celebrate in my humble opinion!

02 February 2007

M and socks

Dinner at M's last night was full of fabulous peppery meatballs covered in sour yogurt topped with tomatoes and complimented with traditional rice plof. It was fabulous!

We sat on the floor around a tablecloth for several hours of fellowship, food and laughter. M is a Turkmeni refugee married to an Afghani. I met their family in September on my last trip, and fell in love with their little daughter R. She is turning 1 this March 8th. And she is expecting a little brother or sister this summer!

M speaks Russian and loves to chat about nothing and anything. In fact, it brought tears to the eyes of the gals when she said that she had learned to help others by watching them at Helping Hands reach out to the refugees. M grew up sympathetic to faith but very Muslim. Her spirit is very sweet and she has a heart for others, yet is very painfully aware of her inability to meet the requirements of her faith. She should be praying five times a day, but can not seem to do that. She should be helping others, but can't find the time nor resources. As she lamented this downfall, we offered to be her hands and her prayers.

"Would it be ok then if I prayed in place of you?" we asked. And M did not deny that others could take her place if they were so willing.

On our way home I realized that it had taken a year of visiting Helping Hands for M to see the love pouring out, and to understand it. Yet she noticed it. She still noticed it.

Amazing really that pouring tea and doing it weekly with a smile is a way to reach out. Who knew?
Trivia for you - I just found out last night that if I die with my socks on, then according to the Turkmeni superstition I am more full of sin than if I were to die without my socks. Interesting little tidbit eh? So much for cold nights and socks!

01 February 2007

Day Programs and Job Creation

Much of this month's work for me has been in discussion of where do we go now? And how can we really be involved in helping those who are trapped?

One of the biggest needs faced currently is job creation. If these gals had other ways to survive, would they leave and could they leave?

Even now there is one Nigerian gal who has asked to get out, but needs to be able to survive and support herself. How can we make that happen?

So today we (me and International guru Jennifer with intern Melana) are spending time focused as a 'team' on setting up ideas for an Athens Pilot Project of job creation and day program. What would that look like? Who would need to be involved? How would it be set up? Who would run it?

It is one exciting meeting let me just tell you!

Street smarts

“Everyone agrees that justice is a good thing. But what price, justice? You see apartheid, prisoners of conscience, political hostages, and it’s easy enough to pay your subscription to Amnesty and sign the occasional petition, but would you go to jail for any of those things? What would I have done if I were…? Would I go to jail for…? I don’t know. If I’m ever faced with such a dilemma, I hope, by God’s grace, that I will keep my promises, do my duty and make the right choice. But nowadays, you can hardly expect anyone to sacrifice everything for a mere principle. And why should we? We’re just ordinary people. Like…., we’re just normal.”

Foreign Bodies
Hwee Hwee Tan