Sunday, November 29, 2009

Tanya Grows Up

These are a selection of pictures from Tanya's childhood to the time she first came to Canada in 2000 with the other top students from the 1999 CUBFD program.

Tanya at 1 Year.  Soooo cute!!

Tanya at 4 years, in Kindergarten which is what they call daycare/playschool.

Tanya at 11 years, 1969

Tanya at 12 years with her three room-mates and two friends.  She boarded at school from Grade four on.

Tanya at 14 (back row, left), camping in the Taiga at a hunter's cabin, summer holidays after Grade 8.

Tanya at 17 (2nd row, 4th from R), graduating from Grade 10, the end of highschool in Soviet times.

Tanya 1984 married, two children.

Tanya in Canada at a Chinese Restaurant 2000.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

DYI or Home Groan Computer Skills

My computer started acting up three of four days ago.  S.L.O.W.  Scrolling is  painful to say the least as the screen ripples through one click at a time rather than a nice even movement.  Drag a dialogue box across the screen and it leaves a ghostly trail.  Of course if I had a brain I would have immediately gone to system restore and solved the problem.  Instead I tried to fix it myself over the past three days which created more problems.

Our local IT tech told Tanya that she should not be afraid of her computer, it should be afraid of her.  Mine is afraid of me...VERY afraid.

I am seeking professional help. For both of us.

Masha in the Box

Masha and Tanya came for the afternoon.  So my Tanya dug out all the Christmas stuff in preparation for decorating next week.  Masha duly admired all the decorations. She decided the storage plastic tub was a good hiding place.  So she climbed in and I put the lid on it and carried her to another room.  She would hop out, bring the tub back and we'd do it over again.  Apparently putting her out on the balcony was a no-no.

In other news, Tanya went on a cooking spree yesterday and today. Ground liver and onions meat balls (I love them, sorry), Bliny with mushrroms and onions, smothered in butter, Roast pork and Plove.  She kept calling me downstairs every couple of hours to eat something new she had cooked.  Finally I begged off and kept the Plov for supper at 6:00 instead of 3:00 pm snack.

She also made some delicious soup from the juice of a very cheap beef roast.  She is my dollar bouillon baby!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Christmas is a'comin'

Last Sunday we went to the market and bought lovely large fat goose which we will roast for our holiday feast, likely New Years. 

That is THE big festive date in Ukraine with many families.  Instead of decorating for "Christmas|", people decorate for New Years.  Father Frost and Snow Princess are the Santa equivalents, parties are held, visits made and gifts are exchanged.  Orthodox Christmas Day tends to be a solemn religious occasion.  In a way that makes some sense.

Tanya is itching to get at decorating the house.  A couple of years ago you couldn't find much for decorations and now the stores are well stocked with items.  Tanya brought home a couple of small things a few days ago.  Yesterday we were in Dnipropetrovsk in the Dafi (the Dolphin) Mall at the Big Spoon supermarket, they had two aisles filled with Christmas/New Years decorations and she bought a few more, which she set out when we got home.  Next week will be full decoration mode, I expect.

Found a few more things in the Supermarket - winter windshield washer fluid.  No more vodka and water in the washer tank.  And Teriyaki Sauce, $8 for a 250 ml bottle.  We are going to make Teriyaki chicken kebabs.  May-B made them for us when we were there so Tanya wants to try it herself.  Tabasco sauce, 350 ml bottle for about $35.  And real Heinz ketchup and salsa which I didn't price out.

We'll be back to the big city next week again and more Christmas stuff.  I love how Tanya decorates the house.

Happy Thanksgiving, America

Happy Thanksgiving to my American friends, relatives and readers.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Transmission Troubles on my Keyboard?

Bought a new wireless keyboard and mouse today for about $40.  Considering my old one cost $200 a few years ago, I like this one better. It is a full size keyboard with number pad.  The reason I bought it is that it has the Cyrillic alphabet built right into the keys. I used stick on ones on the other keyboard and the lettering wears off in no time.  Of course, like any new keyboard and mouse it will take a while to get used to it.  The left SHIFT key is half the size of one on the other keyboard so I keep getting \i or \d or whatever letter \i am  trying to capitalize.  I am having trouble shifting, so to speak.

The set up instructions came in 27 different languages.  Which tells you something about Europe.  No wonder Europeans speak 6 or 7 different languages.  Every 25 km you change countries. And languages.  Ukraine is the biggest country in Europe not counting Russia of course and it is the size of Saskatchewan.  Europeans have no concept of distance, like Russians and Canadians do.  "How far do you live from Moscow?" "Not far, only 10 hours by train".  Only a Russian could say that and only a Canadian understand it.

Monday, November 23, 2009

This one is for Demeur

This one is for Demeur who would rather be correct than right.

A man a hot air balloon realized he was lost. He lowered his altitude and spotted a woman in a boat on a lake below him.

"Excuse me, can you help me?” he shouted down to the woman. "I promised a friend I would meet her an hour ago, but I don’t know where I am.”

The woman consulted her portable GPS and replied: "You are at 31 degrees, 14.97 minutes north latitude and 100 degrees, 49.09 minutes west longitude at an elevation of 2,346 feet above sea level."

The man rolled his eyes and said, “You must be an Obama Democrat.”

"I am," the woman replied. "How did you know?"

"Well," answered the balloonist, "ask a simple question and you give me this left wing liberal gobbledy gook to show off your college education. I have no idea what to do with your information, and I'm still lost. Frankly, you've not been much help to me."

The woman smiled. "You must be a Republican," she said.

"I am," the man replied. "How did you know?"

"Well, you don't know where you are or where you are going,” the woman said. “You obviously have no qualifications for what you are doing and have risen to your current position because of a large quantity of hot air. You have made a promise you have no idea how to keep. You're in exactly the same position you were in before, but somehow it’s now my fault and you expect me to solve your problem and save your a$$.”

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Remembering the Farm: Cavell School 1953-1960 Grades 1-7

My father and I attended the same one room school Grades 1 to 8 in Cavell, the little village two miles north of the farm where I grew up.  My father, specializing in trouble and recess, fell out of a tree while collecting magpie eggs (on which there was a 5 cent bounty), breaking his arm and thus missed writing his grade 8 exams.  The teacher offered to give him his grade if he promised never to go to school again. Grades were never my problem.

My mother could not wait to send me to school as I was making her crazy at home.  However once I got to school and learned to read she never heard froom me again except at meal time.  One benefit of a multi-grade classroom is that you automatically learn what the older kids are learning.  By Grade 3, I was reading all the library books of the higher grades and couldn't wait for the new box of books to come from the school office each month.  With 8 grades to teach and all subjects, we were left to work on our own most of the time, which suited me anyhow.

Dad drove us by car or team and sleigh until I was old enough to handle our own horses. I was in about grade 4 and my brother Ross in Grade 2 when we started riding a pair of old horses to school.  In grade 6, we bought brand new CCM 3 speed bikes with our own hard earned money which we rode in summer.  We drove the old team and sleigh in winter. Two other families also came by horse. In winter we hung out in the barn sometimes as it was warm and and it was not inside the school.

Rules were different in those days.  Recesses and noon hours were unsupervised.  All the boys carried jack-knives.  When I was 10, I bought a genuine Stockman 3 blade knife that today would be over $100. We played "Stretch" quite a bit and no feet were stabbed.  If there were enough kids we played softball with teams and if not enough we played "Scrub", everyone supposedly getting a turn to bat of the noon hour.  The school had a high pitched roof and we played a game called "Anti-I-Over".in which two teams one on each side of the school would throw a soccer ball over the school and hope the other tean never caught it.  You couldn't cheat because you could hear it bounce.

Every school has its bullies and this one was no exception.  My grandfather fought on the School Board with their grandfather; their father and uncle made my father's life miserable and the two brothers made my life hell.  They were athletes and I was anything but, therefore easily beaten upon.  Although in a sports day event in Grade Three, I won a third prize in high jump, proving that at least young elephants can jump.

Of course we had a Christmas concert every year just before Christmas Holidays.  Early in Dec our fathers would show up and set up the stage against the windows while we crowded our desks to the other side of the room.  We practiced plays and drills and songs enough to more or less get them down pat. The year we did a Teddy Bear's Picnic marching drill and all our masks fell down so we couldn't see, the effect was far more entertaining than the teacher had hoped for.  Santa always came at the end of the concert and brought all the students bags of Christmas candy and oranges. The students drew names and exchanged gifts also.

Winters were cold in the school. There was a big coal and wood furnace in the basement but there were mornings the school was so cold we would all huddle around the big square register in the floor.  Once in a while a rubber eraser would get dropped down the register "accidentally" on top of the furnace and we would have to flee the room until the smoke died down. We all packed lunches (and somewhere is my black metal lunch box that I carried for 12 years, still in good condition).  In winter we would bring a jar of stew or soup or something and at recess we would put the jars in a boiler with a couple inches of water on the register and by noon they would be hot.  Thermos bottles had glass liners and were short lived so never used.

All rural schools in our area were closed in 1960 and we were bussed to a larger school.  Six rooms and twelve grades.  That is another story.

This cairn marks the spot where the school once stood

Classes of 1956.  That is me (Grade 3) far right seated and Ross (Grade 1) far left front row in love with Linda Watt also Grade 1. The following is a list of students in the picture.  There are 23 visible and two hidden students so obviously I am missing a couple of people.

Students I remember

Bleier - Georgina, Eileen, Leonard
Galbraith – Jack, Tom
Hingston – Allen, Ross
Huber – Fred
Kamer – Joe
Krause – Vince, Carol, Barbara
Thomas – Elton, Willie, Mike
Uland – Alma, Donna, Betty
Ward – Ralph, Elaine
Watt – Gary, Donald
Watt - Linda


Ed Bitz (Gr 1)
Arelene Jeffries (Gr 2)
Irene (Veit) Bleier (Gr3-5)
Hilda Ulrich (sub end Gr 5)
Mrs. Smith (Gr 6)
Mrs Barr (Gr 7)

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Clean Bee and the Drone

E'er dark tonight, the house will be spotless.  Tanya went into clean mode yesterday and attacked the kitchen.  Our mouse infestation may have had something to do with it.  The kickboards came off and under the counters thoroughly cleaned and the mouse bait returned.  Nibbles on one package indicated some success.  All the drawers came out and contents cleaned and returned, sorted and organized.

Today Katya came to help finish the rest of the house, arriving about 9:00 and the two of them have been hard at it ever since.  Other than a bit of fetch and carry, cleaning the junk off my desk and making lunch for the ladies, I am uninvolved in the process.  Well, I did go to town for cash and to buy some bread and water.  The water has turned muddy again, indicating repairs somewhere down the line so we use bottled water for cooking and tea until it clears up again.

Last night, Tanya made compote.  She boiled up apricots and strawberries from the freezer and fresh apples in enough water to make a drinkable juice.  Nice red, needs sugar but otherwise very good.  Katya was working upstairs and it was warm so Tanya said to bring her a glass of compote.

We have this cheap Cherry liqueur, $1.50 per half litre.  Tastes like sweet Cherry Kool-Aid with 20% pure alcohol added.  Definitely "end of the party" stuff.  I poured Katya a tall glass of compote and added a generous dollop of this cherry hootch for good measure.  She drank half the glass, pronounced it excellent and then backed off when her face flushed red.  I had to explain to Tanya what I had done and was instructed "not to help" anymore.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

More Old Photos

Tanya dug out her box of old photos for me to scan.  Tanya wanted to send some to her old school mate (family name Bengert) now living in Germany.  Here are a few of them.

This is Tanya's Grandfather Franskeyvich.  He and his two brothers were all killed in The Great Patriotic War, Tanya's GRandfather at the Battle of Kursk.

Tanya, her Babuska Franskeyvich, sister Lyudmilla (Luda) and mother Maria (Masha) getting ready to work in the potato garden.  Notice the two girls cling to their grandmother. Their mother was a veterinarian and worked long hours while their grandmother was at home with the family.

This photo of Tanya's Aunt Natasha, Uncle Kolya (Nikolai) on the left and their oldest daughter Nadia, third from right, with their neighbours was taken about 40 years ago in the Taiga area far to the north of Krasnoyarsk.  Tanya's folks lived there too for the first five years of Tanya's life before moving back to Kolyegina village in Khakasia. The truck is to drive to the next village where there was an airport.  there were no roads only trails.

Four Brothers-in-Law.  This photo was taken in Kolyegina about 10 years earlier than the one above as that is Nadia sitting in the wagon between her Dad Kolya on the right and Tanya's Dad Pyotr, with the bandage.  Her dad had fallen on ice and split his head open, hence the bandage. The men are married to four of six sisters: Valya, Masha (Tanya's Mom), Anna and Natasha. 

...and then the fight began

Wife: Whenever I am down in the dumps I buy a new outfit.
Husband: I wondered where you got them.

This month has been a bit stressful for a number of reasons.  We have stayed close to home, conserving our cash.  The weather has been cool and damp; while it has not rained much it never warms up enough to dry things up either.  Fall is mouse season as they move indoors for the winter.  There was one in the drawer under the stove, which was the last straw.  It was mouse hunting time.

We stopped at the local garden shop and Tanya went in to buy mouse bait.  A five minute chore if ever there was one.  Thirty minutes later she comes out with a new house plant.  One she had never seen before so couldn't resist.  It is called Crossandra Fortuna and is just lovely.  I found these two pictures on Wikipedia and Flickr as it will be a while before ours is this big.

For $5, it is a pretty cheap pick-me-up for my wife. I promised to keep her in roses. House plants are even better.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Remembering the Farm: Little Church on the Prairies

My sister, Evelyn, in front of the little church we attended from birth until we left home.

My sister sent me a picture taken this fall of the old church we used to attend and many of her memories of it. That got me thinking about the many years I attended services there.

My Grandfather Freke  Wolfe Hingston (who was also DC Power's grandfather) was a sincere man of God and minister of the gospel. He immigrated to Canada from Skibbereen County Cork Ireland in 1906 at the age of 21, settled on his homestead and then began holding church services in the Landis Saskatchewan area. A Pentecostal Church was established in Cavell in 1926 and the following year, my Grandfather took over as Pastor while continuing to farm on the home place two miles south of town.

Ad from The Landis Record c. 1910

In 1946 the building pictured above, a former butcher shop, was purchased and renovated and served the local assembly until 1987. The name Beulah Mission on the front was missing the first S for as long as I can remember. My grandfather retired in 1952 and my father took over in the position, as it was then called, of Elder, where he was later joined by Floyd Nasheim. The little flock, never numbering more than 20 to my recollection, which attended faithfully every Sunday, were now followers of the North Battleford based “Move of the Spirit” and that is the faith in which my brothers, sister and I grew up.

My father or Floyd led the services and along with my Uncle Cyril led the singing too. Hymns were all acapella as the old pump organ rarely had someone to play it. Dad would start on keys that were comfortable for him to sing and had a fine singing voice. Mostly we sang the old hymns, without aid of hymnal. At the Cross, It is Well with My Soul, The Old Rugged Cross, Great is Thy Faithfulness, I am Thine, Oh Lord and dozens and dozens of others.

Services were long for young kids and to pass time we would look out the window, trying not to get caught, and count the rail cars as the trains went by or watch the birds in the caragana hedge or anything that moved for that matter.

We looked forward to visitors, especially the “Traveling Ministries” who would come from North Battleford to minister to the little assemblies all over the country. One was Brother Hunt (we were all Brothers and Sisters in the Lord) who was a Greek scholar among other things and very interesting to listen to but also very long winded. Apparently I told him one Sunday that if I had known he was coming I’d have eaten a second bowl of cornflakes. He was the man who convinced me that education was important and that cattle were an integral part of a well managed farm environment. He set me on my life’s journey as a beef cattle specialist. I owe him for that.

Another favourite family was the Hinchliffs. Their son Mark was my age and we would always have a great time playing in the afternoons while the folks visited. And (my future in-laws) the Livingstons. They were Aunt and Uncle long before they became Mom and Dad. Ella came with them the first (and only?) time when she was seven and I was eight. I was smitten and she was less than impressed. Seventeen years later she married me anyway.

The last service was held in the old building in 1987. The young folks all moved away and the old folks either died or moved away. So Dad closed the building down and for the next 15 years drove the hour or so to North Battleford to attend church service. The old church and my grandfather’s old house are about the only two “original” buildings left standing of the little town where I went to school and to church.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Freedom's Just Another Word

The dogs went for a run tonight after dark.  They could have gone earlier, the turkeys were not out of their yard today.  I went out about 8:00 pm and whistled.  You could hear them galloping down the road as hard as they could go.  I had two wieners (they call them sausages here. Sausage is called kolbasa.) chopped up for their reward bribe.  I bought the cheapest ones I could find.  Package of 10 for about $0.75.  The brand is STUDENTSKI.  Fitting.  Tanya says they need a PENSIONAIRE brand too.

We have an unheated attic storeroom over our garage. Once in a long while during the night a sparrow or two will find their way under the eaves into the room and, of course, become trapped. Come morning they beat against the glass on the door from my office as it is the only light they see. This morning there were two birds again.  I opened the door and they immediately crashed into the windows in my office, one falling to the floor, the other fluttering in fear against the window.  I herded it into the bedroom and opened a window and screen for it but it had crashed into another window so hard it was just sitting also.  I picked it up and set it on the ledge by the open window, then went and got the other who was still just sitting on the floor.  I set it beside its friend and pulled the curtain across, leaving them to fly out when they chose.  When I came back in a few minutes they had regained strength and were gone out the window.

They were so scared and frantic, I felt so bad for them.  Life is hard enough for a sparrow but they were at least free to fly.  I don't like cages, or pens or chains or fences, though I recognize they are sometimes necessary.  I hate it when dogs are penned up, even my dogs with a big yard to run in.  There are too many big dogs here that spend their life on the end of a 4 meter chain.  For what I don't know, I guess the fear factor must act as a deterrent to people coming in to a yard.  I'd like to turn them all lose.

I hate prisons too, though they are also a necessary evil.  There should be fewer people in them if we spent more effort at the source of the problems, better safety nets and services to help people before they become criminals.  And fewer people if we had more intelligent laws.  We don't put kids in jail for smoking a cigarette, nor do we lock up the people who sold them the package.  We need fewer people in jail for the "non-crime" of possession and more Bernie Madoff's in jail for so-called white collar crime of fraud and related which cost society so much.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Herding Turkeys

The hounds have been confined to quarters this weekend. I can't even take them for a walk in daylight hours. Zhenia has decided to free range his turkeys on the street in front of our houses. Tanya and I would like nothing better than to turn the dogs loose to wreak havoc on those stupid gobbling birds. I doubt they would kill them but certainly would chase and frighten them to death. It is probably best for neighbourly relationships to just THINK about how much fun it would be.
Maybe they will be back in their pens Monday when Zhenia goes back to work.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

More on Odessa Street Kids

Robert Gamble who left a large Presbyterian Church in Daytona Florda to work with street kids in Odessa Ukraine has just published his November Newsletter available on his blog here along with another wonderful sermon. My previous post about his work in Odessa is here. (Somehow I missed posting his blog link. Don't ask.)

Also for some reason his email showed up on my blog all funny. It is actually just

I read all his back newsletters and was struck by his June slide show sermon which you can watch here on Flickr.

This site is the story of a showing of his photographs in Italy and contains some amazing shots. His website also has many photographs. The orphanage with which he works has a website in Russian. And another partner NGO has this website also in Russian I have a Google toolbar that translates websites. I have no idea where I got it but it appeared one day and made istself useful ever since.

Dr. Robert Gamble, D.Min. Th.M.
This Child Here,
C/O Doroga K Domy (The Way Home)
Str. Sofievskaya 10
Odessa, 65082
Ukrainian Mobile: +380 (63) 611-79-28
USA cellphone: +1 (828) 318-2149

Friday, November 13, 2009

Under Masha's Spell

Masha was here this afternoon with her mom for a visit. We picked them up after grocery shopping and made a late lunch for the four of us. Then Masha and her Babushka played hide and seek for a while and did crafty things with oak leaves and acorns.

Masha is learning to spell. She has a set of interlocking blocks with letters on four sides. She spelled Bobik and Volk and Kuchma for us. Then she spelled out the name of the neighbour's cat (Moorka) by which time I had my camera ready.

At 6:00 I drove them home and en route was flagged over by the local traffic police on a routine check. Here they can stop anyone at any time for any reason. I hauled out my driver's licences (Saskatchewan and International). While I was rooting through the glove box for the registration card, Tanya explained that I was Canadian (and harmless) so he gave my licence a cursory glance and sent us on our way. Masha was asleep by the time we got to their apartment.

In daylight, I have to find that registration card. I know it is in there.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Will that be cash

The other day in Kyiv a couple were robbed at gunpoint of $350,000 USD which they were carrying in a briefcase, just like in the movies. The gunmen knew they had just sold their house and would be leaving the real estate office, or more likely a lawyer's office, with cash. The police caught the men and retrieved the cash. That fact is more astounding than that the couple were carrying cash after selling their home but it is not the point of my story.

For purchases except at retail where they take credit cards, either money is deposited directly into a person's or firm's bank account or cash changes hands. Or both. That is how we bought our car, for example. Kia Motors gave us an account number good for two days into which we were to deposit the purchase price of the car. We took the receipt from the bank to the dealership and proceeded from there.

When Tanya and I bought her Ex's share of the house we were directed to deposit half the money into his bank and bring the other half in cash. We had a wad of $100's that would choke a horse and made me very nervous.

While mortgages are available I have no idea how one would get them following these business practices. To me it made sense to borrow the money to buy out Tanya's Ex by taking out a mortgage for his share, using her share as security. Wouldn't happen, Tanya said. No money no signee.

I tried to buy Lingvo dictionary on line to down load. I wanted to buy it as of Ukraine, not Canada as the cost was half and it came with Ukrainian in the bundle, not just Russian English. I wanted to pay for it with my Canadian credit card on line. That too was a non starter. Only credit cards from Ukrainian banks were accepted. We found a shop that carries ABBYY products in Dnipropetrovsk and we'll buy it there. For cash.

We live in a country where fraud could be an everyday occurance and property rights and contract law are pretty hazy concepts; with outcomes by no means predictable. Cash is safe.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

A Fine Rain

No, not as in "Twas a foin rain, me lads. Aye, th' crops be needin' it".

But as in droplets so fine it is more like driving through thick mist. It has been raining all day and yesterday too. I doubt you could measure the actual precipitation without a very scientific device. I'm not very scientific. The dogs outside food dishes are empty of water.

If I wanted to live in Vancouver I'd have moved to Vancouver.

We took food up to Lena's Mother in the hospital as Lena has gone to Dnipropetrovsk for three days for work or for her doctorate dissertation, I don't know. The hospital is quarantined so Tanya could only take the food to the front desk and a nurse will take it to Lena's Mom. The circulation in her legs is so bad because of diabetes. She should have been in a year ago but... She was to the specialist in Krivii Rih yesterday and will go again Saturday. Andrei will drive, for which I am thankful.

The dogs took themselves for a walk today. They hang around the yard after a bit and don't go far. They wait for their "go back in your pen" treats. Good Ukrainian bureaucrats, they have to be bribed to do what they are supposed to do. Kuchma and Tanya are in conflict. She doesn't like muddy floors and he doesn't like getting his feet washed in the tub. Kuchma loses.

Because it was cold and damp, Tanya made chicken giblet soup for supper. Chicken hearts and minds, er gizzards are cheap and we like them, so bleah to you.

The news tonight says Ukraine will buy flu vaccine from Canada. And Russia. And Switzerland. And make it here in Ukraine. And... This I assume is for prevention of the next round scheduled for spring. the election will be over by then so maybe we won't have a flu epidemic.

They claim over 1 million sick and 90,000 in hospital (jumped from 60,000 fter the weekend) but fewer than 200 deaths. The only person acting intelligently at this point is the President who says the country is suffering more from political flu than the actual disease. The government has no money so they are demanding that the national bank finance both Euro 2012 and fighting the flu epidemic from reserves. Yushchenko has vetoed both, citing devaluation of the hrivna. No wonder the IMF have pulled out with parliament acting like idiots.

The Globe and Mail has a good report on the flu situation in Ukraine. It would be funny if it were not true.

"You catch it from imported food and clothing that isn't clean," said Mr. Barsadanyan, an 18-year-old first-year medical student. He is not worried because he heard that the Ministry of Health has "sprayed the city with the necessary products."

I don't know what you folks are doing, but I'm eating lemon, raw onion and garlic to keep my immune system healthy. In Canada it would also serve to keep other people away from you, so you would not catch germs.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

THIS IS MY LIFE Part 1 by Dr Robert D. Gamble

I want to speak to you as if you are destined to do something remarkable with your life. Some of you will or have already in an obvious way, others have or may in a small quiet way…. I want to speak to you as if you are “called” to do something and you know it, you feel it. If you don’t believe this about yourself, well,… you will just have to overhear.

When we think of calling here in Ukraine, we think of cell phones… Everyone uses cell phones, there are several different companies that sell minutes…. In America, we have AT%T, Nextel-sprint and Vorizon; In Ukraine, we have Kievstar , MCI and once called, LIFE, Whenever you meet someone, you trade cell numbers… you can text msg the cell number…

When I think of calling, I think of vocation, jobs and careers,

I hired a secretary… her name is Annya, but I call her Ann. She is part time, well supposed to be, 4 days, 4 hours a day, $50 a week; she actually worked quite a bit overtime. She’s between jobs and going back to school. I met her at church, she volunteered for a day on Sunday and then I asked if she would come to work with me until she started another job.

At the end of the first day in the office and it was quite an eventful day with kids on the street and buying clothes… she sent me message, “This is my Life.”

Oh, I thought, how nice of her to say this … she must have had some epiphany about work and vocation… she’s leaving the business world forever and spending the rest of her life in nonprofits helping children…

So I sent a text msg back. “Welcome to my life!”

But then she came over to my desk … “Robert I was just sending you my cell phone number with the network called LIFE …..”

We joked about it…. later the story got turned around ; she started kidding me….”Robert, you are the only person who really understood me…. Everyone else thinks im just a secretary,
Ukrainian humor can be quite subtle sometimes.

What’s your life? … I hope you are alive.… I am sure you know what I mean when I say, you can be living but not really alive.. Life is out there waiting for you. I don’t care how young and inexperienced you are or old and tired you are. I meet people who say, oh down the road some day I will do it… or if only… and so many people whose lives are a cycle of work, the grocery store, home, eat sleep, get up and do it all over again.

When I come back to the states, I feel the urge to upset the routine, I want to poke people, stir them for a moment…

Jesus did that. If you read the opening chapters of the gospels you will see this phrase repeated, “The Kingdom of God is near.” Jesus disturbed people with that notion. Scholars argue about what he said. What does that mean to say the reign of God is “at hand.” Does it mean he knows something we don’t know? Is something going to happen? Im going to suggest that Something needs to happen, can happen… inside you.

I want to disturb you with the notion that there is something you do not have, and it’s not a minicooper, It’s not a mac air, that fits in an envelope, it’s not i-phone or a Blackberry, (dear Lord please give me a Blackberry) its not something you can buy, or grasp, or own…. It’s a way of living. It’s a way of feeling about your life… and that’s a problem in America: the way we think and feel about our lives.

Here’s an interesting truth: In America, everything is large. We have big cars and houses and highways and buildings. In Ukraine, the roads are narrow and cramped , the apartments small. People squeeze into buses.

But in America, our lives can be narrow and cramped. My life was getting too small, even as the pastor of a large church. I felt squeezed by forces I could not identify. By contrast, in Ukraine I live in a one room apartment, I ride on smaller streets, cramped into buses and trains…. But my life is large. My life is huge. There are no limits or boundaries to what can be done.

I don’t watch television. The Discovery Channel came three weeks ago, the whole idea was show people the glamorous side of some eastern European cities and then a look at what tourists don’t see. I took them to the place below a local Bank where 8 kids were living. And this is a very interesting thing, because I used to watch that channel. In a couple of months, Im going to be on the Discovery Channel.

The world is shrinking; I mean we are getting more and more closely connected, and that’s a really interesting thing because at the same time, it means that opportunities are expanding. You don’t need to travel to Ukraine like I did. …. but the whole world is out there , its at your fingertips; it is live on the monitor of your laptop and in your ears with a headset and microphone. Read The World is Flat by Thomas Friedmann. Just read the first chapter, stand there at the bookstore and read it. It was just multinational corporations, but now individuals are acting globally. It’s the internet , of course. Try . I'm on there along with thousands who are doing something interesting with their lives.

My life is probably not what most of you are interested in doing… Who wants to go to Ukraine? What I am saying is that there is life out there… What I am probing you with is the question, How much would you give to have a life that is large? How much would you pay to have a life you feel that way about? If you saw that film, and it is a dark film, “Revolutionary Road,” you heard Leonardo Di Caprio say that line, “I want to feel really, really alive…”

Well you can… feel… really alive.

Now we have to shift the conversation…. Lets assume you want this life that is large… you have something you wish to do with your life… and you don’t feel prepared to do… more than that, you feel you haven’t the energy to do… . you want to do this thing, but… it just seems too fantastic. What do you need to do? go back to school? Or just change your routine so that you start volunteering somewhere… or you want to start a new business or non profit or be an artist or a writer. I'm just throwing things out there… whatever… its massive when you look at it.

THIS IS MY LIFE Part 2 by Dr Robert D. Gamble

We had these huge sand dunes on the California beaches. it’s not hard sand ; it’s soft deep sand and you are walking up and looking at the distance you have to go, you are saying… I’ll never get there. It’s the first year of college and you look at the schedule and all the classes you must finish to graduate and It’s impossible.. . or you want to leave your construction jobs and be an artist…. You want to make a significant change in your life, new job, new career, new everything…

How can I do this?

You have to believe something….

Im a Presbyterian , and I highly recommend the Presbyterians….. but whatever belief system you have , it helps to believe something. I encourage you to believe God gets involved. I encourage you to believe in yourself, there is something at hand, near… the time is at hand, and opportunity.

I am talking about faith. That sounds trite, but I don’t think you have to be this tower of faith. You don’t need the faith to believe it’s all going to happen. All you need is enough belief to take a little step in that direction. Just enough faith to make a phone call. Just enough faith to do a google search or buy a book …. Just enough faith to sit down with pen and paper and write down five things you would need to do.. not actually do them, just to write them down.

Frederick Buechner has a beautiful line in his sermon “A Sprig of Hope” in which he describes the call of Noah then gives us the picture of Noah standing there after the conversation with God, the wheels in his head turning… .”and then Noah took a few steps,” Buechner writes, “in the direction of… the lumber yard.”

When I knew it was time for a change in my life after being the pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of Daytona Beach for 9 years, I knew only that I had to have time to think. I needed a sabbatical. University professors get a year, I just wanted three months. It was a very difficult thing to ask for, but I was desperate. I didn’t need the faith or believe in myself or courage to make a change in my life, just the enough of the above to say, “Can I have three months for study and thought.” I asked and I got it.

Then enough faith to buy the ticket to Ukraine

Then enough to get on the train to Odessa, Ukraine where I knew NO ONE. And then on the first day there in the lobby of the working man’s hotel where I was staying, I met a woman. When I told her I was interested in working with children in orphanages, she took me to the people I work with today, The Way Home.

Just enough faith, just enough, just enough… and then …. Things begin to happen… and pretty soon you can’t stop it.

I don’t know where the threshold is, when it is that you stop climbing and climbing like everything is a struggle, but at some point you start sliding forward, or skiing or sledding…. Riding the wave… if you surf during a storm in Florida, you know that you have to fight the waves to get out. But when you get on a wave… there’s nothing like the ride you get back in.

Just faith the size of a mustard seed. Jesus said…. And in another parable, the farmer plants the seeds and then rains and sunshine come the seed grows, first the bud then the stem , then the kernel , the farmer knows not how….

Now I want to shift your thinking a little from “how can I do this thing I want to do?” to “What can we do?” Because this is where I am at right now…. You will get there too.

Sometimes, it seems, there is nothing you can do. You can make a person, by force or money, do what you want them to do, but you can’t make someone love you. You can’t make them believe what you believe. You can’t make them make the right choices in their own lives. This is the frustrating thing about work with street kids, they constantly disappoint you. Even when you say, “tomorrow, I will be here and bring you food, or buy clothes for you,” often, they don’t show up. They choose the streets, they choose to this downward lifestyle, no job, no education, no future, and one day they are no longer a child begging for change, they are an adult, a homeless adult. They chose an early death.

Alla is a psychologist who works with me. She is an Evangelical Christian…. She’s been Othodox, Catholic and now goes to the Pentacostal church. And normally, in the states we might not talk about these categories, but in Ukraine, they become more important to understanding someone. Alla is wise person. Unshakable in times of crisis.* She knows kids. I trust her and her commitment.

We were sitting in a café; we were at a point in the conversation about street kids in which there seemed to be no answer. These kids often will not leave the streets, will not take care of themselves, they can live like animals. We bring them into the shelter and they run away. What are we going to do? What can we do? I said.

What she said was, “We can be near.”

This word, “near” in Greek comes from a primary verb …there’s a humorous side to it, “to squeeze or throttle.” You’re that close… but it also means, “the curve or inner angle of the arm, anything closely enfolding, as the arms of the sea.”

Sometimes it is all you can do, it is enough for the time, just to be present, just to be near. Be those arms, enfolding, like the sea.

And when have been underground, down the man holes or in abandoned buildings, and we are walking away and nothing got fixed, no kids changed their lives, I have to remind myself that for a little while, we were there, we were near….

This takes us full circle. Back to the reign of God which is at hand, back to the thing that has to happen inside you. And how you make that change in your life and do this thing that seems on the front end impossible. Think about nearness. Those near to you. Those you can be near to. The nearness of God. I leave you with the words of a man named Paul about nearness and living a life that is large.

Phl 4:4-9
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, sisters and brothers whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable-if anything is excellent or praiseworthy-think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me-put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

*Once, early in the morning, we were underground in the darkness, under a bank actually with 8 kids who still sleeping, Alla, myself, a producer and cameraman from NBC. The police came down. We stood against a wall, Alla first, me then the two from NBC. We didn’t speak or move or use our cell phones for light. The police were shouting, cursing, telling the kids to come out. There was a little passageway to get into the room, you must bend over and it’s just wide enough to squeeze though. A policeman came in shined his light, the first face he saw was Alla’s. “How can talk like this to these children!” she barked. She shamed them for the way they spoke to street kids. Outside, on the street, the three of us men quietly walked away from the scene and stood across the street, leaving Alla to deal with the police who were taking all eight kids into custody for questioning, We men, of course, were like disciples fleeing in fear.

Working with Street Kids in Odessa

The Western news these days is carrying stories of the fall of the Berlin wall and the eventual fall of the Soviet system. Here in Ukraine collapse of the Soviet Union meant the collapse of social safety nets.

And the most vulnerable of all, the kids from no homes, broken homes, abusive homes, with mental problems, physical problems, drug and alcohol problems, take to the streets because it is better than what they have at home and there is no where else to go. They live in abandoned buildings and in the sewers and storm tunnels underground, on the dodge from other street people, police and most everyone from the "other world". They are subject to all abuses and every disease though HIV/AIDS and TB are likely the worst.

Dr. Robert Gamble, a Presbyterian minister, left a large church in Florida, to work with the street kids in Odessa, a port city in southern Ukraine.
Dr. Robert Gamble, D.Min. Th.M.
This Child Here,
C/O Doroga K Domy (The Way Home)
Str. Sofievskaya 10
Odessa, 65082
Ukrainian Mobile +380636117928
His work can be supported by contributions through the website or by mailing a cheque to: This Child Here, 245 Seaview Ave. Daytona Beach, Fl 32118. Email Dr. Gamble for more information or to be added to his newsletter mailing list.
These pictures are from his newsletter. The captions are his words.

I don’t know the name of this boy from the streets who is enjoying soup.

A group of seven came that day to eat with us. Zolushka whose name means Cinderella, was the one I was happiest to see. For the past three months, no one would say where she was living.

Here's two more boys on the streets, age nine and…

eleven. They live with two older teenagers under an apartment building. The eleven year old has some skin infection, we are trying to convince him to go to the hospital. We tried to get the younger one to come with us, but the eleven year old talked him out of it. At what point do you just grab them???

Oksana, a translator for Aids Alliance from Kiev, climbing out of a hole

Monday, November 9, 2009

Community Workers of Saskatchewan - Giving More; Worth More

Community Workers of Saskatchewan, employees of the many community based organizations (CBO's) involved in social programming throughout the province, have a new website: Giving More; Worth More.

CBO's are an efficient way of delivering social programming at the community level. They are funded by government but, as they are run by grassroots volunteer boards from the communities themselves, they are much more flexible and efficient than if they were part of government ministries.

The problem of course is that they are chronically underfunded. There is no political glory in looking after the vulnerable people of society. As a result, staff salaries are substantially lower than they would be doing similar work inside government.

The website is looking to raise awareness in the general public and generate support for fair remuneration. Readers are asked to support their community by writing to the Minister of Social Services.

What kinds of activities do CBO's perform in your community? Some things are listed on the website and I would add:
  • Suicide and Gambling help lines - 24 hour counseling services
  • Child protection - rescuing kids from dangerous home situations
  • Dealing with domestic violence and out of control families
  • Assisting people with mental disabilities, drug and alcohol problems

A comprehensive list would be fairly long but would make for a more informative website as would a contact email address for more information, though the Union websites are linked.

Please, watch their short video and support their cause with a letter to the Minister. Being unappreciated for the work they do is not a good feeling.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Sunday Shashlik

It wasn't +15 today, more like +6 but there was no wind and we wore jackets. I collected Roman and Lena at about 12:30. Andrei and Tanya cancelled at the last minute. Tanya was afraid Masha would get sick since she had heard that Roman and Lena had colds last week. Or any other excuse...

Tanya and Lena banked dirt around the roses while...

Roman and I got the fire going to make a good bed of coals

Roman set the skewers of marinated pork over the coals and ...

In a few minutes they were done to perfection.

Needless to say we had lots of meat. When one cooks shashlik, one eats shashlik. Only. My kind of meal. All meat and skip the potatoes.

Another Flu Casualty

My friend Sasha is dead at the age of 59 of flu untreated until too late. We got word at 3:00 pm that he had passed away at about 2:00. He had been in a coma for almost a week, on life support with little hope for recovery barring a miracle. We will try to reach his ex-wife this evening and send money from ourselves and other friends tomorrow to help with the funeral.

Sasha, Oksana, Al, Artur, June 2009

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Remembering the Farm - Warm Day in November

Today was a beautiful warm sunny day of +15, so the hounds and I went for a long walk and this time my camera batteries were charged up. We went up to the mining pond again and this time Volk went with us. I guess Bobik told him he missed something last time.

Bobik and Volk at almost 2 years old

The pond, our destination, lovely in the low afternoon sun

Looking back at our house (2 storey) across the marsh/river

If this panorama view of Zhovty Vodi opens you can see the east edge of the city

This photo fits at the extreme right of the panorama and you can see the white line of another cemetery. Old communities have seen many people come and go over time.
Tanya and I went for groceries when we got back from our walk and bought meat for shashlik tomorrow, Roman and Lena and Andrei, Tanya and Masha will all come out for dinner about 2:00. I hope it is +15 again tomorrow when we are BBQing.

Long long ago on another November 7, when I was about 10 years old, Dad was breaking 15 ha (40 acres) of native prairie which he no longer needed for horse pasture. He had pushed some dead brush off the field into a sheltered area of poplars and willows around a slough which he wanted to burn. It was a warm day (like today) and he decided we should have a weiner roast. So he sent us boys home to get mom organized and out she came with all the fixin's for our impromptu picnic.

In Saskatchewan. On November 7. We had an outdoor picnic in light jackets. That was a record, at least for our family and we never forgot it.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Friday's Post

No change in Sasha's condition other than his temperature is high again. Means his body is still fighting back against the infection at least. His ex-wife is frantic, wanting an international specialist to come to Ukraine to help him. We could learn a lot about forgiveness from Ukrainian Ex-wives.

I found this picture on a site for funny t-shirts. There are some good ones and also links to science t-shirts (Chris).
Not much movement today. If I was any lazier I'd need a straw to suck my thumb. Got up at noon. Made a good lunch (it was my turn to cook), washed the dishes and went for a nap.
Last night I made apple crisp. One and a half times the apples and double the crisp. Spooned out a third of it into two dishes and took my dish upstairs (Tanya was on the phone). Came down in an hour to see if she liked the dessert. Another third was gone so I guess she did.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

The Latest in the Flu Wars

Sasha is still in a coma, on life support. Three days now. His heart continues to work but the rest of his body has pretty much shut down. If I understood right, the ran his blood through a dialysis machine. His ex-wife shelled out 4500 UAH for his treatment yesterday in spite of Yulia Timoshenko's promise that all treatments would be free. Anyone who believed that...

According to MIGNews (again) there are two types of seasonal flu virus as well as A/H1N1 that they are dealing with. Death toll is up to 95 now, mostly the "usual suspects) and while Ukraine has an epidemic in terms of people becoming ill, mortality is well below epidemic levels.

Of course the politicians are loving every minute of it. Yulia Timoshenko had a huge rally in Independence Square a week or 10 days ago and since then the flu has swept Kyiv. Victor Yushchenko said " I told you guys in April to get your act together and you did nothing". Etc.

However there is more to this than we are being told officially. In an earlier blog I mentioned that they were referring to an unknown virus in Ivano-Frankivsk as "pneumonic plague".

PNEUMONIC PLAGUE has an acute course than other forms, over and is accompanied by a very high mortality rate. The incubation period of primary pneumonic plague rarely exceeds more than 1-4 days. It begins, as a rule, suddenly - with shivering, fever, headache, myalgia, weakness, nausea. The symptoms of pneumonia - cough with phlegm, chest pain, shortness of breath - usually appear on the second day of the disease. Blood spitting, growing respiratory disorders, heart failure, respiratory failure, shock are being observed. In primary pneumonic plague phlegm usually is watery or mucinous, foamy, with blood or visibly bloody.

A secondary pneumonic plague occurs as interstitial pneumonia. Phlegm is scanty and more dense and viscous than in primary pulmonary plague. It is believed that in this regard, patients are less contagious.

However if the government knows anything about it it is keeping a lid on it.

The Kyiv city state administration asked law enforcement authorities to prevent the spread of misinformation in the capital of Ukraine of leaflets about the situation with the epidemic of influenza. This is stated in the protocol instructions of city emergency anti-epidemic commission from the City Hall on November 4.

One reason for this treatment was the appearance in the city of leaflets allegedly on the letterheads of the General Directorate of Health and medical care of the Kyiv City State Administration that there are cases of pneumonic plague in the city. First Deputy Chairman of Kyiv City State Administration Irena Kilchytska informed. She stressed that the information on the identification of pneumonic plague in Kyiv does not correspond to reality.

There are more rumours going around which I will try to confirm in the next day or two. Tanya just read a news item that stated China had an outbreak of Pneumonic Plague in Qinhai in August 2009. This will get worse before it gets better.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Getting too close to home

BBC finally noticed we have a flu epidemic here in Ukraine. Their website reports:
255,000 cases of flu and acute respiratory problems have been registered among the 46m population. 15,000 have been hospitalised. The World Health Organisation says there is no evidence to suggest that Ukraine had a bad outbreak of swine flu, but it has agreed to send a team there to help the country cope.

Since not every person is tested and many cases are reported as "Acute respiratory disease" it is hard to say how many are A/H1N1, regular seasonal flu gotten out of hand or pneumonia. People are home treating until it is too late in many cases. As in the situation below reported by MIGNews:

Swine flu was confirmed in Pereyaslav-Khmelnytsky (Kyiv Oblast). In particular, the chief sanitary doctor of the Pereyaslav-Khmelnitsky district Ivan Bryl said that the virology laboratory of the regional sanitary and epidemiological station gave a positive result for the virus H1N1.

"The sick man - a man at the age of 59 in very grave condition. He has been in hospital with medical ventilation apparatus from this Sunday. The man fell ill on October 19. He had fever up to 38 degrees but did not go to hospital. On 24 October, his temperature rose to 40 degrees. The patient asked medical care only on October 27, and on October 30 he was transferred to intensive care department ".

The doctor also said that relatives and friends of ill person are healthy. "We tested those who contacted the patient. His family, wife and mother are healthy. His friends and acquaintances are also healthy" - he said.

The doctor has no information, where a man could become infected with swine influenza. According to him, the patient is a native of Pereyaslav-Khmelnitsky district, and has no recent contacts with the residents of Western Ukraine.

The report did not include that he was a heavy smoker and thus at extreme risk for exactly what happened.

This is our good friend Sasha, whom I have known for over 14 years. He is one of the best interpreters I ever worked with, who spoke fluent "cow" and was familiar with Canadian livestock production, having been several times to Canada, including Agribition back in the late 1990's. We got a phone call from another friend notifying us just before I found it on the web. He is "stabilized" according to latest reports from our friends in P-K.

All we can do now is pray and hope for the best.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Snow use complaining

It has snowed all day today. Tiny flakes drifting down. The white contrasts with the green leaves still on the apple trees and covers the remaining fall flowers. It is only for a few days and then temperatures will return to the mid-teens if the forecast is right. When that happens, Tanya says she will put her roses to bed for the winter by cutting the stems short and covering them with dirt. The climbing roses, she will wrap with plastic filled with leaves.

We jacked the heat to 4, in spite of news that gas prices will double in 2020 for homes using more than 2500 cu meters in 2009. We will have used about 3500 so we are now looking at about 1500 UAH ($200 CAD)/1000 cu meters instead of 750 UAH ($100 CAD). Still pretty cheap in my books as Europe is paying much more, I think.

According to MIGNews the there is no pandemic of A/H1N1 in Ukraine, though it has been identified in some cases including three deaths. It is just "seasonal flu and acute respiratory disease" which is very serious in Western Ukraine and has already resulted in the deaths of over 70 people.

Of course, I am not sure about MIGNews as it reads more like the National Enquirer and the journalisitic style may be one reason there are an increasing number of laws restricting "freedom" of the press. A good school of journalism would be in order for people who write such as this article or this one.

Tanya was talking to Masha today. Masha said she had a new game to teach her. One person is the cat and one is the dog and they have to chase each other around the house. Tanya asked "Your parents don't want to do this?" "No". "Tell them they are lazy". "Oh, Babushka, that would not be good at all to say they are lazy. Papa is sick (back) and Mama is sick (flu)".

Tanya pretended she was going to punch me today. I said "What have I done?" "If I knew, I would probably kill you".

Sunday, November 1, 2009

And an uncontrollable urge to sleep in the mud

CLINICAL SIGNS OF A/H1N1 INFLUENZA (SWINE FLU) ARE: headache, muscle aches, sore throat, fever, cough, runny nose, nasal stuffiness, in some cases - vomit and diarrhea.

TV news said death toll is now 58 people. They are flying in a plane load of Tamiflu from Switzerland into Kyiv tonight.

Yesterday Lena and Roman stopped in for a visit. Lena looked and felt like death warmed over. I asked if she had the flu and Roman and I simultaneously went "oink oink". If looks could kill...

Always at the beginning of winter, I am cold until I get aclimatized. These past few days have been no exception. Along with a headache and generally bleah feeling. Blood pressure up and down like a toilet seat at a party. I slept all afternoon. Tanya brewed some strong black tea and that helped the blood pressure and headache. Never quit coffee cold turkey.