Thursday, November 11, 2004

Sister & Sun

November 11, 2004

Smiles, hugs, long conversations, good food, and great fellowship, our time with my sister Rebecca was truly precious in every way. Even to have a sister here for a long period of time was such a blessing for me. The hardest part of living in Russia is the lack of close fellowship with family. Sometimes I look out my window at the gray sky and darkening days and I wish I were back home where life and laughter and loved ones abound. But God has a purpose for us here and until that purpose is finished we will stay. During her time here, it was wonderful to see Russia through the eyes of a newcomer. Sometimes I forget how different the culture and living conditions are here as opposed to other places. Let me give you a short example of her letters home…

… Now let me say more about toilets. This must be the only place on earth where one PAYS to use a public restroom. Yep, 25 cents for the privilege of comfort, and you don't dare sit on the seat (please don't ask for details) And you bring your own tissue, always, when out on the town, because it ain't always supplied even for the 25 cents. I used one port-a-potty perched happily on a downtown street, on other occasions we were at a restaurant so a potty was available there. Life is topsy turvy public park bathroom stood out for its amazing cleanliness and pretty tile work, but the toilets at church, which gathers in a rented theater, were so foul you want to close your eyes and plug your nose, but of course you can't, because all energy is focused on squatting just so, and finding the tissue in your pocket and not letting your skirt touch ANYTHING in the tiny, damp closet of a bathroom. I strongly suspect the natives go around dehydrated to avoid the NEED for potties in public places…

I had a wonderful laugh at that one!

We hit all the highlights of Russian culture including the palaces, the Hermitage, the ballet, and the Russian Art museum. Everywhere we went I learned more about Russian toilets through the comments and laughter of my sister. Thank goodness I didn’t take her to the holes in the floor at the major train stations which serve as toilets there.

Please pray for my sister as she is currently battling breast cancer. She returned from Russia to learn that a lump in her breast was cancerous. I believe that the prayers of God’s family are 100% more effective than all the treatments our medical community can offer.

Sunshine, palm trees, and clear blue water. Aaron and Timothy and I took our first vacation as a family and flew to the warm Egyptian shores of the Red Sea. Air temperatures stayed in the 80s and Water temperatures in the 70s. Coming from the cold north it was funny to see a plane-full of frozen northerners stagger out into the desert heat of the far south, coats over arms, eyes squinting in the brilliant sunlight, boots and long sleeved shirts out of place in this sudden summer. Plane after plane was landing from all over Europe unloading hundreds of passengers into a tiny airport where tour guides were shouting frantically to attract the attention of those who were to join them for a trip to their specific hotels. After an hour and a half wait in the long line through Passport Control, we were loaded on busses and made our way with much honking and crazy driving to our beautiful glass fronted hotel. With three swimming pools and terraced levels the grounds of this 4+ star resort were absolutely stunning. And the service was hard to describe. Every day our cleaning man (only men work in the hotel for both cultural as well as religious reasons) would leave a beautiful sculpture made out of our towels and lovely blossoms of every color.

And then to the beaches and the warm warm water. Fish of every hue, size and species swarmed the coral reefs of this lovely town. With snorkel gear in hand, Aaron and I took turns for several hours a day exploring the rich world of a tropical coral reef. Timothy played in the sand and surf, chasing the occasional white heron which would land nearby looking for smaller fish swimming close to shore. We built sand castles, ate falafels from a nearby cafe, and strolled the walking streets lined with shops. With Timothy’s blond hair and blue eyes, we were an attraction for every passing Egyptian. With grins and whistles they would lift our startled son into the air, kissing him on the cheeks, exclaiming over and over how beautiful he was. It was a contest for the staff at our hotel to see who could make him smile or laugh the most. They would dance in front of his highchair at dinner, blow him kisses across the dinning room, and the chief chef would make a mad dash from the kitchen every time he heard Tim’s voice, to kiss and hug him.

All in all it was a lovely 10 days of relaxation and fellowship as a family.
May there be more to come!

Blessings to all of you and may you have a wonderful Thanksgiving.