28 March 2007


My friend, Kat, reads the classifieds in the St. Petersburg Times religously. They provide much amusement. This one actually sounds interesting:


English Tutor Wanted: Russian family with two children under the age of 5 seeks English tutor who: * speaks American English, but knows at least a little Russian * is stable and educated *likes children * is able to live with them in Russia and spend vacations with them around the world * is able commit for at least a year, with much flexibility for vacation time The candidate may be male or female and any nationality. Position is well-paid. Please note: The children already have a nanny. This position would require speaking and teaching American English. For more information or to send a resume or c.v., please write to: XXX

Hmmm...I'd be there in a heartbeat if I didn't need more stability right now. *Sigh.* Stability. It's not really much fun...especially when the reasons for your new-found stability are still mist on the horizon.

27 March 2007

quick quotes

To succeed in the world it is not enough to be stupid, you must also be well-mannered.


26 March 2007

nutty accreditation

Thanks for asking, Dawn. I forget what I've said and what I haven't. Here's the story on accreditation in a nutshell (note the dual meaning in today's title):

The rules for Russian adoption change all the time! Right now, if you are not with an accredited agency, you may not register to adopt. (This is me. My paperwork is here and translated but not registered with the Ministry of Education.)

If you are already registered, it's probable that you can continue with the process (receiving a referral from the Ministry of Education, meeting the child, signing a petition to adopt, going to court to finalize, waiting ten days, receiving custody). Currently there are only three agencies that are accredited. Their accreditation will expire in mid-April.

Russia has decided to re-vamp it's accreditation requirements. Now agencies must be registered as NGO's (non-governmental...organizations). There may be more paperwork to be filed...but the ministries involved haven't all really decided what it is. The ministries were supposed to have 90 days to reach a decision about accreditation after NGO submission, but on the 89th day, which was last week, the Ministry of Justice asked for an additional document. Now no one really knows if the 90 days start over or what happens... Many agencies have already filed the additional document. (It's a statement that adopted children will have inheritance rights.) Mine hasn't, but says they will this week.

It was possible to register independently with the Ministry of Education and pursue adoption without an agency. There are mixed reports on whether or not this is still possible.

Add to all this national politicking the fact that each region has its own policies and procedures and you can see what a maze of red tape we're dealing with right now. ("Right now"--optimism rears its head!)

So--yes. While my agency is unaccredited everything is on hold. I'm still nosing around to find out about independent adoption. It's also possible that a region will let agencies register their clients as independents if their accreditation is imminent.

Please comment on anything that I've left out or not explained.

25 March 2007


Books exercise a powerful magic. I've been caught in their spell for longer than I can remember. Growing up I read everything from cereal boxes to the classics. I devoured books. When I read, I wasn't reading about other people. I was another person--Laura Ingalls, Sara Crewe, Anne Shirley. I think that's what reading and travelling have in common--they allow one to live someone else's life for a little while.

Recently I read Grey is the Colour of Hope. It's a memoir chronicling a Russian poet's life as a political prisoner in a Russian prison camp. She spent time in prison and then was subject to internal exile for a time after her release from the camp. (This was common.)

Maybe I've been identifying too much with the poet, Irina Ratushinskaya. ;> I'm feeling a little like I'm serving a sentence of internal exile.

*I haven't heard of any opening at the school I want to return to in the US. It's not surprising, I suppose. It's a great place to teach! Happy teachers stay put. I really praying that God sends me back there soon.

*My adoption is at a standstill. If I leave now, I will have to re-do my homestudy again. Not only will that be time consuming, it will be expensive.

*We're on the verge of accreditation being updated...we think. That means that it's important that I be here over my upcoming spring break. Of course, it was also important that I be here last summer and over fall break and Christmas break. With the agency slowing things down, it feels a little like a pardon appeal has been denied.

So, here I am and, for now, here I stay.

It's not a life sentence. It's not even SHIZO ("punishment isolator") because a friend is coming to visit on 5 April. I do like St. Petersburg. It's a beautiful, historic city! My car is working again, so I'm feeling more mobile and less imprisoned. (New battery, a good tank of gasoline and a water remover treatment along with warmer weather did the trick after six weeks biz machina.)And now the sun is back and temperatures are steadily climbing. So, really, things are good.

I think I'd better read something light and fluffy to banish the prisoner-mentality. (Children of Glastnost, by the wife of a former Canadian ambassador didn't help. I thought the opening of the Soviet Union might dispel the prison camp, but it didn't. I don't think her experience in Russia is typical or representative of the population as a whole. Also it's dry. Don't bother with that one. So, since that book failed utterly to spring me, I'm prescribing a course of light and fluffy.) Unfortunately, I've read all my light and fluffy books. Now I'm working on Isabella: She-Wolf of France and Queen of England. I don't know anything about her, so this is a good way to occupy my mind. So far, so good. And, following your suggestions, I'll add Rebecca to my next Amazon order. (I thought I'd read it ages ago, but then couldn't recall the plot...so even if I've read it, it needs re-reading.) Abracadabra!

24 March 2007

...or a list

This booky list is from esther and suz, too.

Look at the list of books below:
*Bold the ones you’ve read
*Italicize the ones you want to read
*Leave plain the ones that you aren’t interested in.

1. The Da Vinci Code (Dan Brown)
2. Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austen)
3. To Kill A Mockingbird (Harper Lee)
4. Gone With The Wind (Margaret Mitchell)
5. The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King (Tolkien)
6. The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring (Tolkien)
7. The Lord of the Rings: Two Towers (Tolkien)
8. Anne of Green Gables (L.M. Montgomery)

9. Outlander (Diana Gabaldon)
10. A Fine Balance (Rohinton Mistry)
11. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Rowling)
12. Angels and Demons (Dan Brown)
13. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (Rowling)
14. A Prayer for Owen Meany (John Irving)

15. Memoirs of a Geisha (Arthur Golden)
16. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (Rowling)
17. Fall on Your Knees (Ann-Marie MacDonald)
18. The Stand (Stephen King)
19. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (Rowling)
20. Jane Eyre (Charlotte Bronte)
21. The Hobbit (Tolkien)
22. The Catcher in the Rye (J.D. Salinger)
23. Little Women (Louisa May Alcott)
24. The Lovely Bones (Alice Sebold)

25. Life of Pi (Yann Martel)
26. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (Douglas Adams)
27. Wuthering Heights (Emily Bronte)
28. The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe (C. S. Lewis)
29. East of Eden (John Steinbeck)
30. Tuesdays with Morrie (Mitch Albom)

31. Dune (Frank Herbert)
32. The Notebook (Nicholas Sparks)
33. Atlas Shrugged (Ayn Rand)
34. 1984 (Orwell)

35. The Mists of Avalon (Marion Zimmer Bradley)
36. The Pillars of the Earth (Ken Follett)
37. The Power of One (Bryce Courtenay)
38. I Know This Much is True (Wally Lamb)
39. The Red Tent (Anita Diamant)
40. The Alchemist (Paulo Coelho)
41. The Clan of the Cave Bear (Jean M. Auel)
42. The Kite Runner (Khaled Hosseini)
43. Confessions of a Shopaholic (Sophie Kinsella)

44. The Five People You Meet In Heaven (Mitch Albom)
45. Bible
46. Anna Karenina (Tolstoy)
47. The Count of Monte Cristo (Alexandre Dumas)
48. Angela’s Ashes (Frank McCourt)
49. The Grapes of Wrath (John Steinbeck)

50. She’s Come Undone (Wally Lamb)
51. The Poisonwood Bible (Barbara Kingsolver)
52. A Tale of Two Cities (Dickens)

53. Ender’s Game (Orson Scott Card)
54. Great Expectations (Dickens)
55. The Great Gatsby (Fitzgerald)

56. The Stone Angel (Margaret Laurence)
57. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (Rowling)
58. The Thorn Birds (Colleen McCullough)
59. The Handmaid’s Tale (Margaret Atwood)

60. The Time Traveller’s Wife (Audrew Niffenegger)
61. Crime and Punishment (Fyodor Dostoyevsky)
62. The Fountainhead (Ayn Rand)
63. War and Peace (Tolstoy)

64. Interview With The Vampire (Anne Rice)
65. Fifth Business (Robertson Davis)
66. One Hundred Years Of Solitude (Gabriel Garcia Marquez)
67. The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants (Ann Brashares)
68. Catch-22 (Joseph Heller)
69. Les Miserables (Hugo)
70. The Little Prince (Antoine de Saint-Exupery)
71. Bridget Jones’ Diary (Fielding)

72. Love in the Time of Cholera (Marquez)
73. Shogun (James Clavell)
74. The English Patient (Michael Ondaatje)
75. The Secret Garden (Frances Hodgson Burnett)
76. The Summer Tree (Guy Gavriel Kay)
77. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (Betty Smith)
78. The World According To Garp (John Irving)
79. The Diviners (Margaret Laurence)
80. Charlotte’s Web (E.B. White)
81. Not Wanted On The Voyage (Timothy Findley)
82. Of Mice And Men (Steinbeck)
83. Rebecca (Daphne DuMaurier)
84. Wizard’s First Rule (Terry Goodkind)
85. Emma (Jane Austen)
86. Watership Down(Richard Adams)
87. Brave New World (Aldous Huxley)

88. The Stone Diaries (Carol Shields)
89. Blindness (Jose Saramago)
90. Kane and Abel (Jeffrey Archer)
91. In The Skin Of A Lion (Ondaatje)
92. Lord of the Flies (Golding)
93. The Good Earth (Pearl S. Buck)
94. The Secret Life of Bees (Sue Monk Kidd)
95. The Bourne Identity (Robert Ludlum)
96. The Outsiders (S.E. Hinton)
97. White Oleander (Janet Fitch)
98. A Woman of Substance (Barbara Taylor Bradford)
99. The Celestine Prophecy (James Redfield)
100. Ulysses (James Joyce)

can't resist a quiz...

I am a

What Flower
Are You?

You have a shy personality. You tend to hesitate before trying new things or meeting new people. But once people get to know you, you open up and show the world what you are really all about.

This one is courtesy of suz and esther. Thanks, you two!

19 March 2007

getting rid

Okay, fair warning. This post is about a Bible verse that hit me over the head as I loaded my duvet cover into the tumble dryer.

It's Ephesians 4:31.

I was walking to school today thinking about how the anger and frustration I feel towards my agency is only hurting me. It's not making them accomplish things quicker. It's not doing anything to get my d2b home faster. At the rate I'm going, I'd snatch her/them from their hands after court with a very bitter heart. How can that be good? How can we start a new life with my heart in that state? I don't want to be a bitter, unforgiving Mom. What a rotten example that would be! I want my d2b to be warm, compassionate and loving. I need to work harder at being that way now.

I do regularly pray thankfully for all my "trials". It is the best way I've come up with so far for dealing with them. I give thanks for the extra time I have to prepare and save money. I am thankful for the deeper cultural understanding I have of the workers at the agency and the culture in which d2b is currently living. I pray for the people who are driving me crazy and for every hand that touches my paperwork. I pray for d2b and for the people who care for her/them. It helps. I just need to do more of it!

I did post some quotes a half hour ago (Elle caught them!) centering on the theme of "useless". Actually, they are quite funny and I may post them at a later date. But today, as I struggle to be gracious when dealing with an agency I feel is pretty useless, I didn't think I should fan my own flame.

So instead I'm posting the verse that just hit me. I was doing laundry this afternoon and this verse leapt to mind: Eph. 4:31a "Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger..."

No, they haven't answered my questions about registering independently. Yes, they continue to be didactic and snarky and a bit power-mad. But, I can't change them. I can only change me. Taking care of myself is a big enough job for me to handle. (Hmmm..those bits of advice are ones I regularly hand out to my second graders...)

18 March 2007

Oh Say, Can You See

On Friday afternoon, two other teachers joined me in my classroom to wait until the clock struck four and we could go home. My classroom is on the back of the building. From it you can easily see all the doings at the naval school behind us. On Friday, the students were out in full force, as they have been for the last week or two, practicing their marching in preparation for Victory Day in May. Believe me, they've started none too soon. These boys can't march in step at all! They practice very slowly and then increase the speed. They practice marching in different formations. And they aren't very good. They're sloppy in posture and in attitude. Even though the music is blaring away, they are more often than not out of step. I've never seen them all marching smartly in time to the music. (Another US teacher tried to argue on their behalf saying that some people simply could not march to a beat. I asked if she'd ever gone to a parade at home and seen people shuffling along and marching out of time. Yeah, me neither.)

With the music playing, we started talking about patriotic music. I mentioned that the suggestion (made by another US teacher and myself) that we, as a school, learned the Russian national anthem was soundly defeated. We were told that the Russian anthem was not a song to sing. It was a song to listen to solemnly, perhaps with one tear trickling down a cheek. My Russian friend confirmed that this was so. She said she didn't even know the words to the anthem. I've heard many Russians comment that they only know the words to the Soviet anthem, not the new one (the tune is the same).

My Scottish friend proceeded to proclaim all patriotic songs rubbish. She said they were just brainwashing--citing God Save the Queen and Rule Britannia as prime examples.

Personally, I like patriotic songs. On my first trip to Europe my friend Dawn and I sang every patriotic song we could think of as we waited in a cold, windy train station just after Christmas. It was comforting and encouraging. The songs are joyful and really do make me proud.

I know that Americans have a reputation for being overly-patriotic. I'm reminded of this often by amazed friends from across the world. But, I don't think that's a bad thing. I think we feel an ownership for our country--it is a nation of the people, by the people and for the people. We are those people! It's our country. I think rejoicing in that fact makes us more cohesive as a nation and more responsible as individuals. You take better care of something in which you have a vested interest.

So, the next time you get the chance to stand together with a group of disparate people and proclaim together your common allegiance to the flag (and to the republic for which it stands) and sing about the country that flag represents, stand tall, sing loud and be thankful. I am looking forward to the day when I can stand with you.

17 March 2007

you are what you eat

Or at least that's what we've been told over and over again. So perhaps my recent eating habits are noteworthy. For the last two dinners and breakfast this morning I've been eating sunflower seeds, pistachios, almonds and cashews. To counteract...their effect, I've also had a couple of bananas.

That's me these days. Nuts. And bananas. Either way...

15 March 2007

loooong time, no blog

Sorry, guys.

A nasty virus (fever, headache, sore throat) followed by report cards and now conferences...

...combined with no adoption news whatsoever...

...has resulted in a complete lack of posts. I'll try to remedy that this weekend.

04 March 2007

fwd: documents

We received your apostilled documents from PA today. They will be sent FedEx to Russia tomorrow.

That's all it said...but isn't it GREAT news?

03 March 2007

signs of spring

I haven't heard a robin singing or seen crocus growing...but I have seen signs that spring is coming to St. Petersburg. Yesterday the rooftops were covered by men with snow shovels. They were shovelling the melting snow off the rooftops and onto the sidewalk below (pay attention, pedestrians). We've had highs around 5C for the past two days. All the snow is melting. And, if the snow isn't shovelled off the roofs, it will melt and flood the buildings below. Hmmm...repair the roofs or employ masses of people to perform this dangerous task every year... You choose.

All last night the sound of heaps of snow and ice falling to the ground in a mighty whoosh could be heard. It wasn't the shovelers, it was just gravity pitching in. The drainpipes are melting, too. Many are as big around as a pasta pot. When enough meltage occurs, the ice falls with a might crack to the pavement below.

Spring is coming! Or, as a Russian friend said last night, "Mud season is here."