Thursday, October 29, 2009


I will apologize now for the untimely manner of this blog post. I wish I could say that it is because of my busy, busy life, but the fact is, I am lazy. Since my last post, not a lot of changes have come about concerning our English efforts. This will be our last week holding the English club for Anna, as we will start our classes ON TUESDAY!!! Finally, finally, finally. That is all I can say!! I do, however, praise God for doing everything in His time; since the postponing of our class start date, we have found a cheaper venue to rent, and had opportunities to invite more non-believers to our classes. We start our English club on November 9, and we have also been presented with the opportunity to spend some time in a special visual arts school working with the kids and helping the classes practice their English.
The Adventist churches in Kherson are hosting an evangelistic series this month. Stefan Jakovitz, an evangelist originally from Croatia and now living in Australia, is finishing up the series this weekend. There have been about 250 attendants every night, but, not knowing all the church members, I haven’t been able to figure out how many visitors are attending. Emily and I meet with people after the meeting who want to practice English or have questions about the program. We’ve met some really great people that we might not have had the chance to otherwise. Last night, Emily and I had an interesting time trying to get to the program. Ruslan had told us before that bus 49 and bus 47 would get us a street away from the auditorium, and we had made it successfully to the meetings every night on our own. Apparently, however, we had only tried out bus 47. Last night, bus 49 was the first to arrive, so we hoped on and rode. And rode, and rode and rode. Eventually, the bus reached the end of its route, all the riders exited, and Emily and I sat confused. The bus driver asked us what we were doing (at least that’s what we think he asked…we can usually only guess at the exact meaning of conversations) and a variety of other questions. In our limited Russian, we conveyed to him the street we were trying to reach, one we knew was not included in the bus route. He laughed, turned out the light displaying the bus number, told us to get back on the bus, drove in the near complete opposite direction we had come from, and dropped us off at the auditorium door! Thank God for nice bus drivers who take pity on ignorant Americans!
Around all the planning, Emily and I have had a bit of time for play in the past 3 weeks. We had the opportunity to see the St. Petersburg Ballet company perform Swan Lake at the Arts Theater here in Kherson. I can’t say the experience quite lived up to my expectations. The dancers were talented, but, to Emily and I’s great disappointment, the music was canned! I also discovered that in Europe, when the audience approves of something, they start clapping, and after a few moments the clapping synchronizes! It’s so creepy!! I felt like I was in the middle of a cult that, at any moment, was going to start chanting and dancing around the room. Even though the ballet was not the experience I was expecting, it was nice to get dressed up and out of house for an evening.
Last week, Emily and I got the chance to go to Moldova with a couple from our church. Before the invitation, I’m not sure I really even knew about Moldova’s existence. So, for those of you who share my geographical ignorance, Moldova is a small, former Soviet Union country that sits on the southwestern side of Ukraine. The country is known for its grapes and wine. It is the poorest country in Eastern Europe. Vulcanesti, the town we stayed in, was a cute little village with HILLS (something we don’t in Kherson) and random livestock roaming the streets. We spent five rainy days with Maia, her husband Sasha, mother, father, brother, Babushka (Russian for “grandma”), a variety of chickens, and two awesome cats, Luti (meaning “fierce”. He kept my feet warm at night.) and Boris. I didn’t think it was possible for me to be fed more than I am here in Kherson…I was wrong. Between potlucks, wedding receptions and demands from Babushka (“cushat, cushat, cushat!!”), I consumed more food than I thought possible to eat in an entire month, none-the-less 5 days! I don’t think Moldova is a place I would choose to visit on my own. It’s not exactly touristy, but it was a very endearing place to spend time with friends. The trip to Moldova was definitely one in which my blonde tendencies were evident. We took the overnight train from Kherson to Odessa (By the way, overnight trains are awesome!!), and then a Marshrutka (The absolute WORST way to travel. Marshrutka’s are a kind of cross between a short bus and a 15 passenger van. Not smooth. Not roomy. Not cool.) to a small town near the Ukrainian border. There, we piled into a car, and headed to the Moldovan border (Where we were greeted by a sign translated into English… “ATTENTION! Vialations of rules shall involve revelant responsibility pursuant to the lows inforce!” Emily and I had fun with that one….) I experienced a slight bit of trouble with border patrol when I realized that, like an idiot, I forgot my immigration papers. Lucky for me, Eastern European border guards are easily bribed, and I crossed over into Moldova $12 poorer.
Emily and I took it upon ourselves, a couple weeks ago, to become a little less intrusive in Ruslan and Tatyana’s apartment. We rearranged the storage room adjacent to our former location, the living room, and moved in! We love having a door without windows and that the Cheban family can now actually live in their living room. The storage room is also smaller than the living room, so hopefully it will be a little warmer in the winter! Weather is now running about 9 degrees Celsius. It’s cloudy, and often raining. I miss the sun!! I am, however, comforted by the fact that all reports from home express similar conditions. If I can’t have good weather, neither can you!! :)

Tuesday, October 6, 2009


This week has gone by exceptionally slow for me. Although Emily and I have been a bit busier, we still don’t have a lot to do. Our plans to start English classes on October 12 have been deferred yet again, the English club won’t start for a couple more weeks still, and trying to get things communicated to Ruslan makes my head hurt. All frustrations aside, progress IS being made! We have located a potential meeting place for both the club and classes, and have set a permanent (we hope) date for their launch. To keep from feeling completely useless, I have to frequently remind myself that this—getting all the kinks worked out—is part of my mission here. Hopefully, if future SM’s decide to come to Kherson, there will be a program already set up for them to work with.
Emily and I have been continuing our Bible study, which has thankfully improved every week. We seem to have found a system that works, and the people are becoming more and more involved. The conference also purchased English-Russian parallel Bibles, which have helped immensely. We are praying that it will continue to get better and better. We also had a chance to hold an English club this week for Anna, a teacher here in Kherson, and her English classes. We had a great time getting to know them and playing “English games” (Pictionary, bingo, etc.). As with the other university, we are not able to discuss religious topics, but as soon as we have our own English club up and running (in which we can talk about whatever we want) we can invite the students to come to that as well.
Last week, I partook in one of the worst culinary experiences of my life thus far. Emily and I were patiently waiting for lunch; it was almost 3:00 pm and we were starving. Tatyana usually serves a huge lunch, but on this particular day, all that sat on the table was a glass full of white milk/sour cream looking stuff. Apparently “Ryajhanka” is a treat in this household, based on the way the kids were devouring it. I, however, had trouble controlling my gag reflex and wanted to cry at the thought of having to politely drink an entire cup of the buttermilk-like substance. I quickly discovered that when the kids were looking elsewhere, I could dump a couple spoonfuls into their cups, and was able to force down the rest on my own.
Last weekend, Emily and I took an unexpected trip to a Vosnesensk, a little town about 2 and a half hours away from Kherson. The church in Vosnesensk was holding an evangelistic series, and having a religious concert on Friday night. One of the scheduled performers couldn’t make it, and the pastor asked us to fill in. Any chance we get to travel around Ukraine, we take! The concert (also featuring a Ukrainian folk band! So cool!) went really well, and got over at about 8:30; plenty of time (we thought) to make it back to Kherson at a reasonable hour, get some sleep and teach the Sabbath school lesson the next morning. We were sadly mistaken however, and didn’t even end up leaving Vosnesensk until about 11:00. We were planning to stay at the conference office in Nikolaev for the night, but instead found ourselves on a bus to Kherson at about 1 am with a strange man’s head in Emily’s lap (for such occasions that catch us off guard we simply shrug and say “It’s Ukraine”). Needless to say, the next day we could hardly keep our eyes open. God still blessed, however, and we had another good lesson study on Sabbath. Im so thankful that my shortcomings have no effect whatsoever on His ability to reach people!
We have a new family member in the Cheban household. Homer, a skinny little mouse-like hamster, is quite possibly the ugliest rodent I have ever seen. Although I am rather fond of the name (which sounds SO much better in a Russian accent!), I would be happy to be rid of his furry, gray, squirming mouse body. He has already escaped his lidless cage once, and I am terrified of waking up in the middle of the night to his nasty little feet running across my face.