Thursday, March 29, 2007


Punk Rocker Chicken

Mashutkas and Buses

Things we see that make no sense to an American.

A train track. Fully operational. And a lady standing on it about a mile from the main road. She just walked down the train track. So I wondered, was she just waiting for the train to pick her up? Maybe she was hitchhiking!

Riding buses becomes common place, but last night I saw something new. A lady got on the bus quickly and saved a seat for her husband (he was smoking and later in line). He came and she got up so that he could sit next to the window. She sat down again, until the bus was full and moving forward – then she stood up next to her seat holding on to it for dear life but never giving it up for someone to sit in. I just don’t understand!

Something that has become familiar to us, but isn’t possible in America is the crowding of the buses and mashutkas. The seats fill quickly and then it’s standing room only and people don’t mind touching others so they pack-em in! The mashutkas all have the bars that are attached to the ceiling so that you can hold on to something (like a short person can reach them) and although these large vans have 13-17 seats, to put maybe 30-35 people on is not uncommon. We got used to them in Moldova and they are here also, but . . . most of the people speak Ukrainian on these buses. So what is it they are saying to me most of the time? I don’t want to know! Ignorance is bliss!

Buses are the subject many, if not most, of our conversations. But I have to say, every time I see Mike on a mashutka, I have to laugh, he is too tall to pass for a European! He doesn’t fit. Sorry Mike!

By the way, this marvelous picture is of a "real" bus, the one from Cernauti to Chisinau!

Tickets to Draniţă

And so, we have to tell you about buying tickets and taking the bus to Draniţă. Vitale was worried that would couldn’t figure out the difficult trip to Draniţă so, he devised a good plan to get us there by bus, but without trouble. He doesn’t undersstand that language is only a part of the life we lead! So, in his remarkable kindness, he gave Steph a note saying something about helping us get to Draniţă in Russian. The first trial of the note came at the bus station. I asked the woman working there if she spoke Romanian – BUT she didn’t. So, I said Bus and Chisinau. The route to Chisinau leads right by Draniţă, she gives me a paper with the numbers 33 rph (that’s the cost in Ukrainian money). I’m thinking this is expensive, but Steph holds up the cute little Russian sign Vitale made us. The lady smiled and held up a paper saying 11 rph. And we bought tickets. This was almost a wordless deal. It worked, now we had tickets and could find the bus, but that was the first try on the paper deal. We found the correct bus (praise the Lord, its sign was in Romanian and Russian. We walk up to the driver and he says something in Russian. We ask if he speaks Romainian. . . you guessed again, he didn’t. But Steph pulled out her little note! He smiles and motions us to wait. We waited in the cold rain for 20 minutes and then his helper man helped us find seats in the back of the almost full bus and motioned for us to stay there. Then he took our tickets. Okay, we are on a bus bound for Moldova, a country we are temporarily exiled from, and we are at the mercy of a little magic piece of paper. About an hour later the little helper man came to back of the bus and motioned for the magic note, looked at it and motioned that we could get our stuff, the bus stopped and we got off. . . in Draniţă! It was so exciting to have arrived with the help of a cute Russian sign. And we didn’t get stuck at the Moldovan border being kicked out once again! God is Good!

Where in the world are we!

Here we are!

Cernauti is Chernivtsi in Russian, sorta.

Okay, as Americans we draw the attention of others. We are on exhibit 24/7. That is very interesting, but what is hard is we know so little Russian! We can’t even buy a pizza without it being an adventure! So, last night, Mike went to buy pizzas for Ron’s Birthday party and planned on getting three, cheese, Canadian bacon with cheese, and Canadian bacon with pineapple. Brandy told him which one on the list she thought it might be and Mike bought them. However, he ended up with the cheese pizza, the Canadian bacon with cheese pizza, and a calzone stuffed with ham and mushrooms! It was to die for! It was so good! But not what he planned! However, keep in mind that for six Americans who can read NO Russian to buy pizzas and get pizza is impressive, since the staff speak only Ukrainian or Russian. No English here. No Romanian here! We are often in trouble! God has been so good to us. The pizza here is the best we’ve had in Europe.


This is a picture of Mike and Myra's birthday card! It was so fun and yes, he is the reason this group is not lost ALL the time!

Last week Brandy and Steph planned the best party. It was a surprise party for Ron’s birthday. We had pizza, ice-cream cake, balloons and a super great time. The best part of the surprise was two-fold. Brandy didn’t let me forget! Matt, she was taking your job because she knew it was important to you that Dad’s birthday would be remembered and she also knew that left to me, I might just forget or not get around to planning it. However, the best part of the surprise was that it was a day early! Ron knew his birthday would be lost in the typical busyness of splitting up and getting to the villages so he had no plans or thoughts about it. But we had the party the night before! Birthdays are soooooo fun! Brandy’s mom and Steph’s mom . . . you have much to be proud of. I thank you for the gift of your daughters. Thank you for sending them for a “time such as this”.


Thursday, March 22, 2007

Village where we teach English

These are some of the children who are learning English in Dranita. They are the best behaved children we have ever worked with. We did have to break tradition and have the boys sit on the same side as the girls because it was too difficult to show pictures on two sides of the church. Steph is the main teacher and we help. There are about 30 children every weekend.

We have to post this picture – A FART CAR!

Our Cernauti team

Cute Girls

I just want to post a few pictures. . . This is Stephanie, Andrea and Brandy

Snow Angels

In Ukraine, we had a beautiful snow. All snow is beautiful the first time and before it melts and becomes nasty, but this was beautiful. So, Ron, Brandy, Mihaela, Andrea, Stephanie, and I went for a walk, but we got nowhere before the girls attacked with snowballs. I quickly grabbed the camera and Ron defended the male species. It was so funny! The girls did not win, let me say this first, most often they ran from him, and it was four against one! But Ron did have to work hard to keep up with them. It was more fun than with the boys, the boys would have wounded egos if their dad beat them this badly, but the girls just had a great time. When it was over, I reminded Brandy about what Dad said in my last email. Life is short, when it snows, make snow angels! So she did!

Thursday, March 15, 2007

We went on a "walk about". Ron believes the only way to know where we are is to walk it as much as possible, so we walked to the city. This is before Mike and Myra came, because they are smarter then the others. They would have waited for the bus. On the road, we had many adventures, but the funnest is when the girls found these three trees and decided to pose! Shortly after I was taking a picture of a fabulous house when I got road sprayed by a passing dump truck. I was very angry at first, but realized that since I was terribly hot, it was nice and cool! It was however, very ugly on my black pants once the mud dried. We found a marvelous grocery store, bought food, and took a trolley and bus home. It was a great day!

Monday, March 05, 2007

So life is funny, huh?! Well, we got together at 7:00 to leave for the bus on Saturday. We made sure that most of our luggage for the next three months was ready to put in Silas’ and Mike’s car. Mike and Silas were going to drive so that we had cars available for use while we were out of the country. So, five of us take the mashutka to the bus station and the real adventure (for us) begins. We walk by several buses that look likely that do not say Chisinau/Cernauti. We keep looking and finally find an old, ugly bus that from a distance, Andrea, Brandy’s friends says, “with our luck we will be riding that one.” How prophetic. The seats were close together, and were narrow, but that was the good part, at least we were close to our seatmates . . . because it appeared that the bus had no heat. There was ice on the inside of the windows, but one would assume that once the bus got going it would warm up. Stephanie and Andrea went to look for something to eat and in a short time we were underway. The further we went, the colder the bus was. There was a heater by the driver and his assistant, but the driver was a smoker so the window had to be open also. I truly was thankful for the huge down-filled coat that I have (thanks mom!). We made several stops and learned that while the bus was idling at bus stops it would actually warm up (relatively, we mean that it was not so cold), so we began to pray for many stops! We arrived at the border at 4:00 and found ourselves questioned by the border patrol (yes, the Americans held up the rest of the bus) and once on the other side we were met by the man who was the Bishop of the Baptist union who was working with Silas for our time in Ukraine.

Well, although it was cold, the van was nice and we waited for Silas and Mike to arrive at the border. We saw them come, and then we saw them turn around and leave. That was not good. It would appear that their papers were not in order for their cars. So, the nice man from the Baptist union went over to the other side of the border and tried to help them. The best they could do was make arrangements for us to walk to the cars (they allowed them to come closer) and get our most important suitcases and walk them back to the van. In the process we learned that we weren’t very cold before. BECAUSE WE TRULY FROZE during this time!

So, Silas left Mihaela with us and left to go back to Chisinau with Mike to get passports for their cars! Now, all of this was very stressful, but I have to ask, did you read that last sentence? THEY NEED PASSPORTS FOR THEIR CARS. Inanimate objects need passports. Very funny. So ends that little story.

Next story, we can’t stay here in this place very long, we have to make a decision about what we will do tomorrow in the absence of Silas, our leader with the assistance of his fiancé who is Romanian but just continues with the conversation without checking to see if we are following. She is learning English.

As soon as I can upload the pictures from my camera, we will post the one of Stephanie, Andrea, and Brandy keeping warm on the bus. Brandy laid across the other two girls for most of the trip! They were actually warm much of the time, except their feet.

We are being cared for well, here in Cernauti but must make decisions soon. Thanks for reading this email and praying for this rag—tag team of Americans wandering around in Eastern Europe. And pray for us to begin to understand the basics of Russian! Posted by Picasa