Snapshots from Russia

Yesterday we attended the wedding of two dear friends — Andrei Sukhovsky and Liz Hulley. The ceremony was held in an old Finnish Lutheran church in St. Petersburg.  It was great to witness this wedding and also to have time with old friends.

Another kind of anniversary

Another note from Stoneworks missionary Liz Hulley

This week, Russia celebrates 20 years of….McDonald’s!

I would like to leave the fast-food (health) debate for the moment and comment on the culture implications. This kind of anniversary is interesting when looked at in the light of what was going on the world at the time.

1990: I was almost 8 years old and probably didn’t know that the USSR existed. And I barely knew what McDonald’s was, as I wasn’t raised on fast-food.

Meanwhile, in Russia, an interesting “cultural” exchange was taking place. I enjoyed reading the accounts in Monday’s local paper (Metro) about people’s memories of the first McDonald’s opening in Moscow.

They speak of the lines, the intrigue, the scent of a new kind of food. People who had worked as servers describe the pressure they felt, then the relief as the idea took on.

I don’t know exactly which characteristics of American culture are represented by McDonald’s cuisine: Convenience? Mass-marketing? Consumerism? At any rate, in some ways this was a little crack in the cultural barrier. Something that could be “shared”?

An interesting excerpt from Metro (Feb.1, 2010).

How many hours do you have to work, to buy a Big Mac?

-in 1990: 2 hours, 10 minutes
-in 2010: 30 minutes

-in 1990: average salary was 297 rubles a month, a Big Mac cost 3 rubles, 75 kopecks

I asked a friend recently what her favorite restaurant was, and she said “McDonald’s.”

I suppose it is cheaper than other establishments in St. Petersburg, but it is still considered “eating out,” not something most people can afford to do regularly.

A Look Back at Soviet Medicine

Here’s an interesting post from Liz Hulley

bookI figure a trip to the library is a success if at least one book (out of 5-6) is a good read. This time I enjoyed “Inside Russian Medicine: An American Doctor’s First-Hand Report,” by William A. Knaus, M.D. (New York: Everest House, 1981)

The book is an autobiographical account of an American doctor who is sent to Russia to accompany an envoy of Americans traveling with an exhibition. Since a delegate once died on the trip, they now must have a doctor with them at all times.

From the inside cover: “When a member of [Dr. Knaus’] group fell ill, he insisted on accompanying him to the hospital, and thus became one of the very few American doctors to work in a Russian hospital and operating room. Fascinated by the contradictions in Russian medicine that he found, Dr. Knaus made several return trips to study the Russian medical system.” Continue reading

Early in the morning

This is from Liz Hulley, a friend and co-worker here in St. Pete. She has a great blog; I encourage you to visit it.

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Who likes to get up on a cold, dark morning? Not me…although in the summer I would probably find another excuse.

But as I was going about my morning routine, an excerpt popped into my head:

“Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance…” (The Gospel of John, 20:1)

What does morning mean to you? Perhaps it includes a lot of moaning and groaning before you begin your day. But how many wonderful discoveries have been made in the morning! The main one, of course, the discovery of our Risen Lord.

That is my encouragement for the day.   🙂

Challenge

Here is another encouraging post from Liz Hulley, a Stoneworks missionary in St. Petersburg —

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Looking back at previous blog posts, I noticed that I often post something from Oswald Chambers in October. I wonder why that is. Perhaps the autumn brings about a kind of desperation that makes me reach for something uplifting.

“The challenge to the missionary does not come on the line that people are difficult to get saved, that backsliders are difficult to reclaim, that there is a wedge of callous indifference; but along the line of his own personal relationship to Jesus Christ.

‘Believe ye that I am able to do this?’ Our Lord puts that question steadily, it faces us in every individual case we meet.

The one great challenge is – Do I know my Risen Lord? Do I know the power of His indwelling Spirit?”*

I don’t have a problem asking myself “What would Jesus do?” I think it is a good idea to follow Christ’s example.

However, we can get into a pattern of striving to make ourselves like Christ, by our own means.

Maybe it’s better to ask ourselves, “Do I trust God in this situation? Have I surrendered this to Him, or am I still trying to do it all myself?”

*Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest -reading for Oct. 27th

Journalism and exploitation

Here is another thoughtful post from Liz Hulley:

A recent New York Times article described the problem of male rape in Congo. The piece was accompanied by photographs of four of the victims, framed by striking blue backgrounds. The caption read, “… All are Congolese men who were recently raped and agreed to be photographed.”*

I had to wonder…why was it significant that they had their photographs taken? And what was the incentive? Is this “good journalism”? Would the story have held as much weight without it?

At a conference on orphan ministry that I attended in the spring, they told the story of some orphans who had been visited by a team of Americans. The Americans quickly won their trust and interviewed the children. The children were eager to share their stories and agreed to be videotaped.

These tapes were later aired on TV, and the kids eventually saw themselves on TV. Their personal lives became a sensation, something used to produce a reaction. It was traumatizing for them.

This leads me to the question…when does an attempt at advocacy become exploitation? The U.S. journalists recently freed in N. Korea had been investigating the sex trade. Their research was surely a worthy cause. Yet I wonder how they would have chosen to publish the results. Continue reading

Queuing

Another good post by Liz Hulley:

I was very amused that my automatic Russian-English dictionary correctly translated the title of this post when my mouse hovered over it. The dictionary is rather incomplete and sometime supplies the wrong contextual definition, or it recognizes only the lexical form and won’t translate if word appears in a different form. It had no problem with “queuing,” so I suppose the concept must be an important one in the Russian language.

While traveling in foreign countries, I can sometimes be quite good at blending in. But while I can skillfully hide certain American mannerisms, I’m not so willing to take on the customs of the new culture. There are certain Russian customs that I simply ignore and hope that no one will notice.

One of them is the “waiting in line” conversation. If anyone asks me, I try to be accommodating, but I refuse to initiate a discussion about who’s last in line. It’s just too strange. Here’s a typical dialogue:

“Who’s last in line here?”
“I am.”
“Then I’m after you.”

This is a perfectly normal conversation occurring in Russia. The question I have as a foreigner is, why on earth do they have to discuss it? Continue reading