Tuesday, December 28, 2010


Baby Jesse Goran crawling in front of the Christmas tree at the Goran apartment.


Olya Savchinska, Laura Walden, and Ben Beasley browsing at the book market.


Just a statue and a pretty building. Don't you like my new camera.


Olya, Laura, and Ben enjoying the book market.
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Sunday, December 26, 2010

Church and Sunday School photos


Church Christmas lunch.


Church Christmas lunch.


Nastiya, who was an exchange student in St. Mary's PA and Michael Airgood.


Michael Airgood reading the story during Sunday School.
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Monday, December 20, 2010

On Globalization and Mission

I'm increasingly interested in the idea of globalization - and while riding a bus today I realized that I am a part of it.

My socks are made in Norway and purchased while on vacation in Latvia. My jeans are G.A.P. They are made by an American company, in Mexico - but they were purchased while I lived in South Korea. My t-shirt was designed, made, and purchased in Germany. My sweater has no label, but I purchased it in Russia at a second hand store called "Euro-Second Hand" so I know it's been around a few countries and was probably produced in China or another Asian country. The bus I was on was purchased from a bus line in Poland.

I have visited over a dozen countries and had the opportunity to really experience daily life and culture of half of those. While I only speak English comfortably, I can have conversations and entertain guests in Russian and Ukrainian. Given a children's book with pictures I could read and understand a good bit if it was printed in Korean, Polish, German, French, or Mongolian.

I have only lived in one country without a McDonald's (Mongolia) and other than that I have failed to successfully live further from a McDonald's than I did as a child growing up in Kane, PA (It's still a forty minute drive to the closest McD's ...). I have never been more than a few miles from the closest bottle of Coca-Cola (I was in one convenience store high in the mountains of southern India when the urge for a coke hit and couldn't be satisfied, but the next stop offered three of my favorite colas.)

I am a child of this highly globalized generation. While it would have been bold and striking if my parents had back-packed through Europe - it's only striking that I have traveled on such a shoe-string budget and that I generally avoid the tourist traps. It's only bold that I come with a message.

It's important that we don't lump mission and globalization together. We aren't another McDonald's or Coca-Cola that needs to get our brand name goods into people's minds.

Mission is the activity of connecting God and people. Missionaries ideally listen as much as we talk. A wise older missionary told me once, "If you go to another country to bring God to them you'll always be a failure - because God is already there."

McDonald's goes to build something new in a new place - it goes to expand the size and revenue of something back home. The motivation is misplaced. Missionaries go to connect people with something old and ancient that exists inside of the people. Our motivation is love. Really, these two concepts couldn't be more opposite.

But sometimes they are closely linked. People want to know why we're bringing a "new religion" to people, or why we want to cause more wars in the world, or how we will justify the cost or the resources when our own country has so many problems.

The call to missionary life is the call to be God's littlest. We share and express our faith most sincerely when we find ourselves in a position of humility. Missionaries find new reasons every day to be humble. [[Crying in a corner store because I couldn't remember the word for orange and I had already stood in line for an hour and I really needed some Vitamin C to get over my cold was probably not the proudest moment of my life.]] In our brokenness God finds possibilities to share the good news of the Broken One.

While my outfit is a multi-national assortment that could make the U.N. proud - religion knows no country. A Mongolian could find faith in Jesus Christ (a Jew from Modern day Israel who lived in ancient Rome) thanks to the efforts of an American missionary with ancestral roots in Korea and Germany; but none of that matters. God has been present with that man and with his people for as long as they have been on the earth. Ultimately there is no country or flag, but only the heart and mind of the peasant Mongolian who has always wanted to know that someone loves him unconditionally.

God's littlest has the blessing of connecting God and people. There is no room for pre-tense or facades in a heart that is filled with God and people.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

100 grieven challenge - Day #7 - wrap up

Today was spent mostly at home. I had a friend over for tea and then went with him to the supermarket. I only needed one thing - oil. Most Ukrainian food is fried - and Ukrainians use massive amounts of oil when they fry. They always balk at how little oil I use - but they're always impressed by the fact that my food is tasty and not greasy. Sadly, my roommates use my oil copiously and I wanted some onion rings for dinner. (Oddly, if I eat onion rings it makes my body feel as though I have eaten steak and it makes my craving for meat go away ... for a little while.) 13.74 UAH

A good day off wouldn't be complete without a little entertainment. Sadly, my friends all have finals now, so it looked like I was going to watch a scary movie and "hold my own hand." But, luckily, my roommate Andriy called at the last minute and invited me to run to the local Orthodox church and come watch his sister in a play. The annual St. Nicholas play was excellent. Maybe 40 or 50 people gathered inside a freezing cold church to watch the children and youth beautifully perform a Christmas play. At the end we prayed the Lord's prayer and sang for St. Nicholas to come to us - and he came out and brought gifts for each of the children. It was the best entertainment I've seen in a long time! 0 UAH.

Afterwards I was invited to join Andriy's family for pizza night. After we arrived, Andriy explained that he had a date and had to leave - and he left me with his non-English speaking parents and his sister who speaks a little English. So, not only did I get a free meal - but I also had a high stakes Ukrainian lesson. 0 UAH.

Money Spent: 13.74 UAH
Money Remaining: 26.27 UAH
Steps Taken: 6,885

So ... in summation. I managed to live a whole week and only spend 73.73 UAH. That's less than $10. I think it was definitely worth it to walk to city center, but I plan to take the bus on early mornings from now on. While it's good exercise, it's getting bitterly cold here and I'm a little more tired than usual this weekend.

I managed to walk 68,471 steps. For me that equals about 34 and a quarter miles in one week! Just short of my five-mile-a-day goal.

I have enough to treat myself to some steak tomorrow (I'm babysitting baby Jesse and will use the Goran's oven to cook a nice, meaty piece of steak!).

I hope you all enjoyed seeing a little bit of my day-to-day life and the small pleasures of living in a country like Ukraine.

100 grieven challenge - Day #6

I just can't live without milk. A morning without milk and cereal just feels wrong. I needed a bowl of cereal so badly this morning that I was willing to throw on my coat and run out to the store to buy some. 7.50 UAH.

Friday is usually a day of rest - but this particular Friday was a special party to celebrate St. Nikolaus day. I had to buy a secret Santa gift. So, I saved money by baking some "no-bake" cookies. I used butter that my roommates grandmother hand churns at her home in the mountains - so the cookies are unbelievably good. I also wrapped it in old cloth I had lying around and used an old Christmas card as the name tag. Everyone thought that it looked very, very nice. 0 UAH

After the party I had friends over to relax. I had to buy some cloves to make the mulled beverage - but it was totally worth it. Afterwards we walked and sang in the streets. I finally feel like it's Christmas. 3.44

Money Spent: 10.94 UAH
Money Remaining: 40.46 UAH
Steps Taken: 11,405

Friday, December 17, 2010

100 grieven challenge - Day #5

Today was a zero-sum day. I didn't spend a dime or a 10 kopeck piece today.

I brought scrambled eggs for my lunch today. Interestingly, scrambled eggs deflate in tupperware. I filled the container up to the top - but a few hours later I found a small egg-brick, roughly the shape but half the size of the container.

My friend Valodiya also had some lunch sent by his mother from the village - so we shared together and everyone got a great lunch.

Thursday is Pilgrims and with David and Shannon still sick there was a lot to do around the student center. The whole leadership team comes on Thursday mornings to clean - and it was fun to clean with good people.

I'm trying to decide if I want to keep walking after this week. While it's still a long slog through snow and ice, it's getting easier and quicker every day. It almost makes arriving at the student center (or back at home) a celebration. I feel that someone should at least greet me merrily when I arrive.

Money Spent: 0 UAH
Money Remaining: 51.40 UAH
Steps Taken: 12,346

Thursday, December 16, 2010

100 grieven challenge Day #4

So, I spent a lot of money today. I ordered a Christmas present on-line for a family member and I bought a nice gift for a friend. But, this money came out of a special fund I keep tucked away - so I'm not going to count it toward my total.

The walk into work is becoming easier every day. Each time I make the trip it seems shorter. I've mentally broken it up into 3 parts and I can encourage myself to just keep walking. It's always tempting to just take a bus - but I've been pretty good so far this week. 0 UAH

My food supply is running a little low. The only necessity I had to purchase today was sour cream. I substituted mayonnaise in a few recipes - but sour cream is 15% fat and mayonnaise is 78% fat. I decided that for my health I should just bite the bullet and buy some sour cream. Sour cream is in every dish in Ukraine. 7.35 UAH

Cat with sour cream.

I spent most of the day working on paper work. It was difficult to not get distracted and go out for lunch. I forgot to even pack something tasty, but I managed to scrounge up some food at the student center. I ate a salad made from cabbage, onion, corn, and crackers. It was surprisingly good.

Money Spent: 7.35 UAH
Money Remaining: 51.40 UAH
Steps Taken: 10,615

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

100 grieven challenge - Day #3

I spent 1.75 UAH on a bus ticket. I walked most of the way into town, but had to rush for an early morning appointment. Of course the people I was meeting showed up 40 minutes late. Oddly enough, my appointment was for a photo shoot. Apparently I’m going to be part of an article about foreigners living in Ukraine. The pictures were really, really nice – I hope I get to keep some of them.

I joined some friends for lunch at a café. I had packed a lunch, but I try to never pass up an invitation to share a meal with friends. I just bought a desert and ate slowly. 10.50 AUH.

English Club was on the topic of drugs and alcohol. We did an exercise (ostensibly to practice bad/worse/worst) where we ranked major drugs on a sliding scale. I had a prop for each category. Luckily I was able to find something to represent every major drug group around my apartment. A pro-legalization newspaper for marijuana, an empty beer bottle, a spoon and lighter – these are things my roommates just keep around. Just in case. My students provided the cigarettes and junk food categories. As all teachers know, it’s all too easy to spend a small fortune on materials for classes. I pay for all prizes out of pocket – but luckily, today a friend gave me a candy bar, and I didn’t have to spend money on a prize this week! 0 UAH!

Money Spent: 12.25 UAH
Money Remaining: 58.75 UAH
Steps Taken: 13,008

Monday, December 13, 2010

100 grieven challenge - Day #2

Today my normal market was closed due to sanitation concerns. So, I had to purchase my vegetables at a supermarket this week.

Vegetables are a little more expensive at the supermarket - but it's easier to guess how much your total bill will be. In the supermarkets they have two styles of most vegetables: washed and unwashed. Unwashed carrots cost half as much as the washed variety - which is a real puzzle to me because I assume that people still peal the washed carrots.

The day old tomatoes are much cheaper - but there was a throng of little old ladies six women deep and I simply couldn't get to them to see if there were any quality fruits left. Apparently I wasn't the only shopper a little upset by the hasty closing of our market.

I managed to squeak out of the store with a bill of only 19 UAH. This is no small miracle as the entire store is designed to lure shoppers into spending more money than they originally intended.

Money Spent: 19 UAH
Money Remaining: 71 UAH
Steps Taken: 4,092

Sunday, December 12, 2010

100 grieven challenge - Day #1

Ukrainians always want to know how to translate the word “grechka.” I explain that we don’t eat it in America and thus we don’t really have a translation. This answer has yet to satisfy anyone. Usually the student runs to a corner store to buy a bag of it to show me what they mean. After assuring them that I have understood, I continue on in explanation that we feed it to chickens sometimes – so maybe a farmer would know what to call it.

Buckwheat groats are a staple in Ukraine. That's really the right translation.

It's entirely fiber and absolutely indigestible. Your body would get more nutrients by boiling up a pair of old sneakers. But, it's cheap and plentiful. With enough salt it's also tasty. today I boiled up some gretchka and used up the end of my groceries from last week.

I gave 10 UAH at church and didn't spend any money on myself. I walked to church and home - 5 miles round trip.

I plan to stay at home and relax for the rest of the day - so I'll go ahead and log my totals.

Money Spent: 10 UAH
Money Remaining: 90 UAH
Steps Taken: 10,120

Saturday, December 11, 2010

100 grieven challenge

This is what 100UAH (UkrainiAn gHrieven) looks like. Currently it is worth $12.55 in US currency.

My goal this week is to only spend 100UAH. I've been in a celebratory mood recently and have plunked down a 100 note on a few occasions for a single meal. (Honestly, it's exciting to live in a place where steak for two - plus sides! - comes to less than $15 ... but I digress) So, this week I am going to challenge myself to be thriftier.

So, I can spend just over 14UAH a day. I need to buy a secret santa gift this week, so unless I get crafty, I'll have a little less to spend on food.

Also, I'll try to save money by walking to and from city center, weather permitting. It's 2-3 miles - so I'll also post my daily step counter.

So, check back each day to see how much money I spent, how I spent it, how many steps I took, and creative things I did to save money. ... or ... check back in to see how miserably I failed and how much I went over budget.