Friday, June 25, 2010

On Chores, Meals, and Bandaids

Ahhh…the lazy days of summer!

This has been an unusual summer since we don’t have a team of volunteers coming this year.  We were hoping to be busy with orientating, preparing, and working alongside a group of N. Americans in leading an evangelistic English camp.  Unfortunately, there was only one response to our request and even that fell through.

So, instead, I’ve been sleeping in until my kiddo alarm goes off around 8am (when Elizabeth and Matthew wake up).   Since there’s no school to start on time, I slowly sip a cup of coffee, read email, and check Facebook.  Then the morning routine of pouring a bowl of “Kosmostars” or “Honey Nut Cheerios” (we can buy them here), getting dressed, giving Matthew his morning steroid inhaler, and brushing teeth.  By 10:00am, we’re usually more or less prepared for the day – whatever it may hold.

The kids enjoy playing outside before it’s terribly hot.  Abigail is usually found on the swing, Matthew playing with a stick or rock, and Elizabeth oscillating between the swing and sandbox.
While George is at meetings or busy preparing for a sermon or Bible Study, I usually turn my attention to the  laundry.  We have a great little front-loading machine (top-loading ones are non-existent), which holds 6 kilograms of wet laundry.  I have no idea how much that is in dry laundry so I usually just pack it in with a little headroom left open.  It takes over 1 1/2 hours for a load on the “express” cycle so that’s the only cycle I use.  (The “normal” is more like 2 1/2 hours.)  When the weather is good we hang our laundry outside to dry.  We have a stackable dryer which my grandparents generously provided when they heard we were expecting a baby and couldn’t imagine how we would survive without a dryer (although I would wager that most of the world survives without a dryer and a washer).  In the winter it can be a godsend for drying socks, underwear, and towels although it makes a horrible screeching sound before it ends and I have to turn it off.  

I’m blessed to have Kati-neni who comes weekday morning for 3 hours to help me vacuum and mop all the floors, hang the laundry, clean the bathroom, etc.  She’s been a tremendous help, especially during the school-year when I spend the first half of the day teaching.  She, in turn, appreciates the extra income since she and her husband can’t survive on their pension alone.  It took me a long time to accept the suggestion of hiring house-help, but after many of my Ukrainian friends were doing the same and most people couldn’t believe I had three children and no help, I gave in.  Besides, it costs very little.
We have become European-enough that we eat our main meal at midday – 1:00pm to be exact.  I cook a variety of foods from Thai chicken, Macaroni and Cheese, and Hungarian porkolt.  When we have guests over I often cook something unusual (like lasagna) for them since there’s not much exposure to international foods.  What I don’t do, which almost every other home in country does, is prepare a soup every day.  Instead we get our vegetable intake from a fresh salad (when fresh vegetables are available) or from the frozen variety in winter.  At suppertime we have sandwiches, pancakes, or perhaps a homemade pizza.

The wonderful husband that I have does most of the shopping at the only supermarket on the edge of town.  We get most of our vegetables and fruit at a vegetable stand across the street from our house.  We used to rely on the “green market” for our fresh goods but it takes a lot of time to go through the stands and haul the goods back home on foot.  I’m thankful for the newly opened vegetable stand.  And our shopping wouldn’t be complete without a stop at the bread bakery just a few doors down from us.  Abigail is now old enough to be sent out to buy a steaming loaf of bread for the equivalent of 37 cents.

And our day wouldn’t be complete without the application of a Band-Aid somewhere on Elizabeth.  It’s amazing how a wound, bug bite, or scratch of any kind can be healed by a Mickey Mouse Band-Aid.

Bedtime is 8:00pm during the school year but in summer they’ve been going to bed around 9:30 or 10pm.  All three share a bedroom and go to bed at the same time after a routine of teeth-brushing, pjs, devotions, and prayer. 

After a few hours of sleep, another day begins….

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Conflict of Cultures

Expectations.  Respect.  Honesty.  Consideration for others.  These are issues that are approached quite differently by Ukrainians and Americans.  This week we've been confronted with a conflict of culture.  What we expect as Americans (and even more so as Christians), what we consider the truth and a lie, measures that we consider respectful and considerate - all of this has been challenged.  Ukrainians may say, "This is normal."  But our response is, "This is ridiculous." 

We have spent the last week preparing to sign the papers, repair, and move into a 3 bedroom house.  Anticipation and excitement was high.  The kids couldn't wait for us to get the keys so they could see their new home, discover the backyard, and pack their toys for the move. 

Now those plans have all fallen apart.  We're disappointed and discouraged.  I'm annoyed by the way we were treated and pessimistic that we'll ever be in a slightly bigger house with space outside to throw a ball.  Why is it seemingly so impossible to find a home that is in good condition?  Why do people just look out for their own interest with no consideration for others?  Why do we have to waste time because the other party isn't prepared with basic information to sign papers?  Why are we told one thing when we know it isn't true?  What other things are we being deceived about?  I just want to trust and not question everything we're told.  I can't do that here and I'm tired.  I'm tired of trying to second guess and read between the lines.  I'm tired of trying to figure out where is the lie and where is the truth in what we're told.

It's no wonder people turn to alcohol to escape the "normalcy" of life in Ukraine.  It's also no wonder why we teach and preach over and over again that God transforms our lives and we live, think, and behave in a different way.  If we are living according to God's plan, his culture, then everyone will notice the difference.  We will put others before ourselves.  We'll be honest and trustworthy.  I hope someday we will see more of God's culture in Ukraine.  That's the place I want to live.  But for now I will take it a day at a time in a very different culture and do my best to bring God's culture to this place.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Choose Life

In a rare display of unity, the Roman Catholic, Ukrainian Orthodox, Reformed, Greek Catholic, Baptist, and Russian Orthodox joined together to bring awareness to the plight of the unborn in Ukraine - specifically in our town of Mukachevo.  There is an alarming rate of abortion in our town alone.  One statistic is that 98% of women have had an abortion.

In a country where birth control is frowned upon (and considered a sin by many churches), and adoption is a near impossibility, mothers of unwanted pregnancies are left with very few options.  Most choose to abort without knowing any facts about the development of the baby growing inside them.  A doctor in our town told a pro-life advocate that he routinely performs abortions but does not consider anything under 10 weeks gestation an abortion (and does not report them as such).  He said that these procedures are nothing more than "regulating the menstrual cycle". 

In an effort to bring awareness to the development of an unborn baby and the facts surrounding abortion, hundreds of people gathered today in their churches for prayer and then before city hall to advocate for the protection of the unborn.  Together we walked to a woman's consultation clinic where bishops from the various churches spoke and the mayor himself shared words of support.  A young sapling was planted in the yard of the clinic and balloons saying "Choose Life" were released into the air.  Hundreds of pamphlets describing a baby's development in utero were passed out.

My good friend who is taking on advocating for the unborn and counseling women considering abortion as well as those who are suffering with post-abortion syndrome, had one good story to share with me.  A young woman met with her doctor to schedule an abortion.  She went home to find a new poster on display challenging mothers to choose life.  At the scheduled time for her abortion, she returned to the clinic and told her doctor that she had decided not to have the abortion as a result of seeing this poster.  It is our hope and prayer that many more women will be informed that a life is forming inside them and CHOOSE LIFE!  As George spoke with the mayor and other church leaders he advocated for medical reform, adoption law reform, and general improvement of life conditions in Ukraine.  As Christians we have a responsibility to uphold the sanctity of life for all - the elderly, working class, children, and unborn alike.