Tuesday, December 15, 2009
Sunday, November 15, 2009
6:30am: I woke up, grabbed my mp3 player, a couple of books and the documents they asked for. I ate some breakfast and was out the door by 7:30.
8:00am: I arrived at the office. I knew it wouldn’t be open. There were several men and women standing around, so according to the local custom, I walked up the group and said in a loud voice, “Who is the last one?” One man answered, “Which office?” I answered, “Office 8.” “Your last!” He said, then laughed and said, “Your also first…I’m going to 2, he is to 5, she is to 10 and so on.” So we waited. Several people showed up before nine and this little scene replayed itself. I just stood and read my book.
9:00am: Office opens and we walk in to a little waiting room – hallway really. There is another door with a guard. The guard says, “Who is going to 1?” the he lets someone past the door, “Who is going to 2?” lets the next person in, etc. Of course he skips 8 and goes to 10. Meanwhile people keep walking in and asking who is last. They receive similar answers to the one I got but this time from 5 to 7 people at once.
9:30am: Guard comes out and says, “Who is to 8”. I am standing about two feet from the guard and an old man rushes forward (I’ve never seen an old man move so fast), pushes me aside and says, “I am.” As I am saying that I was there first, he is already through the door. Then another woman walks in and asks, “Who’s last”. After some confusion she agrees to go to 8 after me.
10:05am: Old man comes out the door and guard lets me in. But the man at desk 8 is not ready so I wait in a less crowded hall.
10:30am: Woman peaks her head in and says, “Are you still waiting?”
10:45am: Desk 8 is ready. I walk up to the desk, hand the man my papers. He looks at them for about a minute and says, “Let me explain what we need.” I said, “You already told me what to bring, it is on the little strip of paper.” He says, “It’s good that it is written there.” Everyone’s a comedian today. He makes a list of six documents I have to find and bring back to him.
I have most of the documents at home. One of them I have to get from another office about 20 minute walk away. The office is called the Zhek. They are like an association.
11:30am: I arrive at the Zhek. At the zhek office I need to go to the “Passportist”. I walk in the little hallway/waiting room and ask, “Who’s last?” They say which passportist? I answer and there are three people in front of me. Amazingly there is a chair available so I sit down, pull out my book and start to read.
Noon: It’s my turn. I stand up to walk into the office and a woman runs in before me. I guess I’ll wait.
12:10 I make it into the office. I explain what I need. She pulls out a form. Spends about five minutes filling it out, I hand her 2 grieven and I’m off. But wait. The form needs a stamp and another signature. I have to go to the accountant for the signature and then the boss for the stamp.
12:15 Who is last waiting for the accountant? Much confusion and I decide that I’m after that grandmother. I announce that I am after her and sit down to read my book. I start reading and the old man next to me wants to talk and complain about waiting.
12:45 The account walks out of her office and as she is walking by asks, “Why are you waiting?” She grabs the old man’s form, signs it and walks off. Before I can speak…she’s gone. When she walks back, I block her way, hold up my form, smile and say please. She takes it and signs it.
12:50. The boss’s office door is closed. I’m tired and feeling a little bold. I knock and open the door. The boss is on his cell phone and someone is sitting at the other side of his desk. I walk in and show him the form. Without stopping his conversation, he takes the form, signs it, stamps it, hands it back and I’m outta here!
12:55 I walk out of the Zhek office and breath the free air again! But I’m not done. I need documents from home.
1:00 – 1:15 I gather documents from home.
1:25pm I go to the copy place and have copies made.
1:45pm I arrive back at the first office.
They are on their lunch break and there are a lot of people waiting. I can’t even get into the hallway/waiting room. The man said I could go to the front of the line but this crowd does not look very friendly. If I walk in and go to the front there could be bloodshed. What to do? Ha…I see the guard standing outside talking on his cell phone. I go to him and explain that I was told that I can go to the front. I even show him the note. He looks at the crowd and says, “Don’t worry, we’ll figure something out.” So I stand near the entrance and read my book. About 10 minutes later, I hear a voice. “Did you bring everything I asked?” It’s the man from desk 8. “Yes I did.” “Follow me”. He leads me through the crowd…they probably think I work there so no harm done.
2:05pm Back at desk 8. He looks through the documents, asks me some questions (boy he talks fast), fills out some more documents and then says, “Did you bring the current readings on your water meters.” “No, you didn’t ask for those.” He looks at his list, “No problem.” He shows me some documents and says, “sign here and here, date here, wife name here, sign here and here and here and there and here…… “Now, when you get home, call this number, it’s an answering machine, say your wife’s name, address and the water meter numbers.” “OK” then I ask, “Why are we doing this?” He answers, “The law says that we must have a personal contract with each household.”
3:00pm Home. There is a piano lesson going on in the living room. Julie walks out of the girls room and says, “Where have you been all day.” All I have to say is, “Water office” and she fully understands. No details necessary. I gather the water readings, call the number, leave my message, and then file our new agreement with the water department.
3:30pm I’m hungry, time to get something to eat and start my day.
The funny things is the book I had with me is called “Russka” and as I was hurry up and waiting all day a passage caught my eye. This part of the story took place in 1844. The setting is a little fictional village of Russka. Two brothers are talking late into the night. Sergei is a lighthearted Slavophile and an optimist. His older brother, Ilya is an intellectual, loves Europe and wants to transform Russia into a country that has European efficiency. The conversation ends with Sergei explaining why Ilya’s grand plan to change Russia will never work.
“…Which brings me to my second objection. Your prescription for Russia comes from the head. It is logical, reasonable, clear-cut. Which is exactly why it has nothing to do with the case. The Russians will never be moved by such things. That is what the West will never comprehend. It is the deep weakness of the West, as we see it, that it does not know that to move Russia, you must move her heart. The heart, Ilya, not the mind. Inspiration, understanding, desire, energy – all three come from the heart. Our sense of holiness, of true justice, of community – these are of the spirit: they cannot be codified into laws and rules. We are not Germans, Dutch or English. We are part of Holy Russia, which is superior to all these. I, an intellectual, a European like yourself, say this to you.”
“You are one of this new group then, who claim a special destiny for Russia, apart from the rest of Europe, who people call Slavophiles, I take it,” Ilya remarked. He had read a little of this group lately.
“I am,” Sergei said, “and I promise you, Ilya, it’s the only way.”
And so at last, their minds full of these grand and universal thoughts, the two brothers affectionately embraced each other and retired to their beds.
Saturday, November 7, 2009
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
Saturday, October 10, 2009
Thursday, October 8, 2009
Tuesday, October 6, 2009
Wednesday, September 30, 2009
It started as an ordinary day. There was a medical team here from the US. They arrived the Saturday before and because of my schedule I was not able to accompany them. While I was busy in Odessa they were running clinics in small cities and villages in the northern part of the Odessa region. I was getting good reports and on Thursday I had the opportunity to join them. There was a group of three public school teachers and a missionary making the three hour drive to the city of Krosnii Oknii to present a ministry opportunity to the local public school. The medical team was going to be in the same city so the plan was for me to catch a ride with the teachers and meet up with the team. When we met that morning, one of the teachers, Tanya had a headache. She took a couple of advil; we got in the car and were off. The trip started out normal enough. Two of the teachers I met just that morning so the conversation was just “getting to know you” stuff. After about an hour Tanya didn’t feel any better. She asked to stop the car. We stopped and she got sick. The next time we stopped at a pharmacy and purchased some more medicine. Well the medicine didn’t help and Tanya got worse and worse. She developed a fever, her neck began to hurt and she felt weaker and weaker. When we got to Krosnii Oknii we went straight to the hospital. When we took her in she could barely walk. The doctors were very attentive but she kept getting worse. They needed to run some tests so we went and did the presentation. We figured that we would decide how to get her back to Odessa once we know more from the tests.
The presentation went great. But, by the time we returned to the hospital, Tanya had been moved to the infectious disease unit and had lapsed into a coma. The doctors were not sure what was wrong and said that she needs to get back to a hospital in Odessa right away. As we were discussing options, I began to wonder if we were going to have to take her lifeless body back to Odessa. This was an unsettling thought. I have never faced a situation quite like this. Well, we kept exploring options. After several discussions and phone calls we realized that the only way to get her back to Odessa that same day was to hire a private ambulance company. We called the company and they said that they could come and get her but they wanted the money up front. Her husband didn’t have any money so that started a new flurry of phone calls. Thankfully, Julie was in Odessa. She was able to gather the money and get it to Dima, Tanya’s husband. He got the money to the ambulance company and by 3:00am on Friday, Tanya was in Odessa. We hear that she is doing better. She, at least, is not in a coma. We are praying for her and waiting on test results.
This certainly was not a typical day, but I rarely have a typical day. In fact, my point is, “What is a typical day?” Each day I think I know what will happen but I am learning to hold those plans loosely.
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
Monday we rested and that evening took the train to Odessa.
Tuesday, we cleaned, organized and visited with guests all day. That evening, Julie and the girls slept while Alfie and Joseph had dinner with friends from IMB and SEND. We enjoyed bbq’d fish, chicken and all the trimmings. Thank you Mliakoff family! After dinner we had a small impromptu concert in the yard and then Alfie and Joseph went home.
Monday, August 3, 2009
Salt Lake City to Chicago went fast. We had a six hour layover but no-worries; we met with Inga and Brittany, our future team-mates. Alfie wanted to go to the Sears Tower and check out the glass balconies, but we opted for a leisurely lunch. We found a food court in the international terminal and had a great time of connection and fellowship.
The Chicago to London flight was long but uneventful. We had our personal movie screens and too many movies to watch. Joseph and Micah got the most sleep; the rest of us kept watch movies and paid for it later. Anya especially had a rough time in London. Her ears hurt during the descent and she was too tired to do anything but cry.
Wednesday, July 1, 2009
Well Sunday morning comes quick. We get ready go to church, have a good time at church and return home. Let’s pack, oh wait…we planned to go to Chuck and Lois’s house to celebrate father’s day and we still need to burn Chuck’s DVD (his father’s day gift). I sit down to burn the DVD and realize the DVD burner is not working. Two hours later, the CD is ready and we leave for Fullerton. We enjoy some more good food and family comedy and return home at 11:00pm. No we have to pack because we leave tomorrow morning. OK, so this time we have to stay up late and pack. Will we make it and if we do, will we be able to drive? Did I mention that Julie has a doctor’s appointment at 8:00am?
Friday, June 5, 2009
Of deep Timbuktu,
I’m Henry M Stanly,
Prey, tell, who are you?
I’m in search of a man,
Dr Livingstone’s his name,
I hope he’s safe from man-eaters,
That hunt, thrash and maim.
Would you care to come with me?
We’ll search far and wide,
A journey’s less difficult,
With a friend at your side.
So take courage and come,
No beast shall we fear,
Yet keep your gun ready,
If roars you do hear.
The journey’s been long,
Yet now in this room,
I believe that I’ve found him,
“Dr Livingstone I presume.”
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
Far within the jungle gloom,
Lay the signs of city’s doom,
Like a body, ruins rot,
Spiders feast on flies they caught.
Crumbling idols, in once grand halls,
Stone eyes inspect their ruined walls,
No longer worshiped, or revered,
Their bodies cracked, their faces smeared.
Abandoned palaces, in past ages,
Had been abode, to kings and sages,
Now are home to wild things,
Through the halls, a beast’s roar rings.
Perhaps mimicking lords long dead,
Who, as I’ve heard it has been said,
Would bellow, yell and then cry,
“That man displeases me, and so must die!”
But all a memory it is today,
How long ago, I cannot say,
It was when men first went to roam,
Sunday, April 26, 2009
Here is a picture of our little girl (LG), the catcher, intimidating the third base runner. You can just hear it, "Go ahead...run...make my day."
Monday, March 16, 2009
In October, after receiving $85 billion in bail out finds, AIG spend $440,000 hosting a corporate retreat at St Regis Monarch Beach resort, on the California coast. (see http://www.wisebread.com/the-aig-retreat-pictures-why-its-worse-than-you-think). Today we are surprised and indignant that AIG is paying bonuses.
Let me get the big picture in focus. AIG executives manage to loose $61.7 billion in the fourth quarter of 2008 taking the prestigious record for the largest corporate loss in history. The US government gives these same executives $170 billion in bail out funds to save the company because the company is "too big to fail." Now everyone is surprised that AIG turned around and paid out more than $165 million in bonuses to these same executives. I don’t know who I am more disgusted with: the people who give out our tax dollars, the people who receive them or the people who are suprised that business practices haven't changed. If we give billions of dollars to people who have mismanaged billions of dollars, why are we surprised that the money is mishandled again?
The $165 million was payable to executives by Sunday and was part of a larger total payout reportedly valued at $450 million. The company has benefited from more than $170 billion in a federal rescue.
AIG reported this month that it had lost $61.7 billion for the fourth quarter of last year, the largest corporate loss in history. The bulk of the payments at issue cover AIG Financial Products, the unit of the company that sold credit default swaps, the risky contracts that caused massive losses for the insurer.
http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2009/03/16/lawmakers-target-aig-executive-bonuses/ (March 16, 2009)
The Sunday shows have paraded a number of solutions:
"Maybe it's time to fire some people," he said, adding that the bonuses were "rewarding incompetence." Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass
Paul Kanjorski, D-Pa., chairman of the subcommittee, said in a statement that lawmakers would investigate the bonuses at the hearing.
http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2009/03/16/lawmakers-target-aig-executive-bonuses/ (March 16, 2009)
Maybe it’s time to fire some people? Let’s investigate? I propose a very simpler solution.
- Demand the $170 billion back
- Resolve that AIG will not get one more cent of bailout money.
- Make it a deal breaking condition that any company that intends to pay bonuses, or does pay bonuses will receive no bailout money.
How hard is this? If you want help…don’t pay bonuses, don’t take corporate vacations, no raises, use every cent of your capital to strengthen your company until you can stand on your own and pay back what you borrowed. Then you can do what you want.
I can hear it now. But we have contractual obligations! Answer: Not our problem!!! If you want the money, those are the conditions, you figure it out.
The formula is easy:
Pay bonus = LOSE BAILOUT MONEY!
Monday, February 16, 2009
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
At these moments, America has carried on not simply because of the skill or vision of those in high office, but because We the People have remained faithful to the ideals of our forbearers, and true to our founding documents. (President Barak Obama, January 20, 2009).
In the year of 1814 Caroline and Mary sowed a huge flag. They gave it to For McHenry. The battle began. The British started firing their rockets and bombs. A little before the battle started, Francis Scott Key got a prisoner free, but they had to stay on Frances’ boat. Anyway, they British began firing. But the ships were too far for Fort McHenry to shoot back! In the middle of the night some boats from the ships were sailing to the shore to attack the fort from behind, but someone saw them. Fort McHenry began firing at them and they went back. In the morning, Caroline and Francis (both from a different direction) saw the flag. Francis begin writing the poem (song).