Monday, June 3, 2013

Children's Day

Here in Kazakhstan we celebrated Children’s Day on June 1st. On this day the whole city gets together to celebrate all of the children with fun entertainment, and carnival attractions as well as free ice cream for everyone. Well that is if you are a kid. So no ice cream for me… This was a fun filled day with a concert where people from the city donated gifts to certain children, including a hefty donation from the bankers for the kids at Sarymoldaeva, the orphanage where I’ve been working.  This was a fun experience for me even though I didn’t really know what was going on since it was all in Kazakh. I did however know there was a lot of joy in the room as the kids were receiving their gifts and achievement awards. After this concert it was back home for a cold shower as it has been really hot here and over 100 degrees  which for an Oregonian like me is definite melting temperatures. But enough about weather cause it just frustrates me.  I got my relief though and just in time for another concert at Sarymoldaeva.  This was a huge highlight for my trip for sure! The concert was fun an interesting, but the part I loved most about this was something completely different. The last time I was in Kazakhstan I taught English at another orphanage called Ulan. I got to teach a group of girls from ages 11 to 16. Ulan was closed last year due to budget as well as lessening numbers of children due to a growing foster system.  All of the remaining kids from Ulan were moved to Sarymoldaeva. I have been able to see most of the girls I had in my class two years ago, however some of them have graduated so I have not been able to see them. There was one girl in particular who I connected with while I was there and she graduated that year. When I came back this year I was sad because I knew that I was not going to be able to see her. However, when I went to the concert…SHE WAS THERE! I was so excited to see her and she remembered me as well. I couldn’t believe I got to see her after all. We talked pretty much the whole time during the concert catching up on life and how she is doing. Let me just say God blessed me big time with this conversation. He allowed me to be able to understand almost every word she said and be able to respond as well which is the harder part. I was so blessed to be able to see her and find out she is doing well and studying in college. I have gotten to know many kids over the years and I have seen them graduate only to never see them again. So you can imagine how glad I was to be able to see that she was doing well and she told me about some of the other girls who also graduated and they are doing pretty good too. The Father is good and He has been so good to me in this way. Being over here for a longer time has given me so many opportunities to reconnect with my past relationships that being on a delegation wouldn’t have given me. He has also allowed me to make many new relationships which I look forward to strengthening in the years to come. Being able to see Angelina was a huge blessing for me and a great reminder that God is in control and He knows exactly what we need and even when we think there is no way. All things are possible with Him. YAY!
                                                                       Angelina and me :)

Sunday, May 19, 2013

My trip to the Village

     I’ve had the backup plan for a while now that if I didn’t figure out what I’m going to do with my life that I will just find a small village somewhere in the middle of nowhere Russia and live with a little Babushka and Deyadyshka . Well I may not be in Russia, but I think I found a village that I like! Yesterday my Kazakh mom told me we were going to the village where she and her daughter grew up.
    Originally when I heard the word village, I was thinking this was going to be very primitive and there were not going to be any Russian-English speakers. Now the primitive thing I was not afraid of because I prefer that but the whole not being able communicate thing is really hard for me! As we were driving through the foggy green mountain pass in a taxi filled with strangers I was excited to finally see my first Kazakh village. As we pulled up to gate number 21 I quickly discovered Dad had my back as my Kazakh mom’s English speaking niece opened the gate. I was immediately greeted by all of her family and brought inside for some tea which is a custom here. It’s tea in the morning. Tea at lunch, tea before lunch and after lunch, afternoon tea, pre-dinner tea, after dinner tea and midnight tea. TEA TEA TEA! That’s fine with me though cause I do that at home too there’s just no one to talk to and no chocolate and cookies are on the table. They always tell me I drink tea like a Kazakh because I can throw it back. I always tell them it’s because I’m Japanese. After a nice lunch of plov and salad, I got to take a ride to a different street in the village which lined with the homes of a tone of their other relatives. When we got there it was like something out of a movie. They had barns for the sheep, cows and horses. They had a cellar to put the canned goods and things in the winter time. They had a huge garden and apple trees with a little baby cow in the middle. I was loving it! After we had another round of tea with this part of the family, they decided to show me down the street of relatives, some of them unsuspecting of a new American guest. This was such a cool experience meeting all of their family and eating bread whenever I entered a house as is a custom. I surprised many of them when I broke out the camera so they would go and change their clothes. Everyone was so nice to me and humbly welcomed me into their homes. This tour was also led by two ladies who were English teachers so that was nice for me to be able to get all of what was going on.  I also got to help some boys practice their English after a bit of coaxing by their mom. One boy didn’t want to practice his English because he thought I was Kazakh so when they told him to say something in English to me he was a bit confused. He was thinking why he would talk to me in English when I wouldn’t understand it anyway.
     After another dose of tea, I went with some of them to a grave site where the grandfather, grandmother and oldest son and his wife were buried. This was a new experience and unique experience for me. We piled into a truck and road down this bumpy dirt road past the shepherds with their sheep and cows.  Everyone covered their heads to honor their relatives’ graves since they are of the Muslim faith. This was also my first time visiting a grave site like this. They have gates all around the individual graves and at the top of the front arch there is a plaque with their name. One of the boys recited portions of the Qur’an and then his father said a prayer. I was kneeling along side of them lifting up my own words in my own way. When we got back we ate a nice dinner of Bisparmak which made me happy!
     Overall this was an amazing experience and as we drove away in the early morning I looked back at the glorious mountain range that so beautifully border Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan and felt so satisfied. I hope I will be able to go back soon. I have certainly had no shortage of blessings here. I notice Dad’s hand in everything from a little girl’s smile, tea time laughter, journal entries, and the wonderful Kazakh nature to conversations with new friends. I am so thankful to be here and this trip to the village far surpassed any expectations I could have had. I just hope one day these beautiful people who made me so happy can experience the same joy, hope and love I hold dear to my heart every day.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Post Delegation

How do I even begin to sum up the last 10 days? Well how would anyone sum up ten days jammed packed with everything from orphanage visits, cooking meals, may day parades, schmoozing with the governor, touring the sights, having tea with local heroes, improve dance parties, sword swallowing, walking around the city, watching Kazakh national dances, giving wheel chairs out and so so much more. I suppose I just did but that is really only a quarter of the things that happened over the course of those 10 days the delegation was here.
On the Wednesday the delegation was to arrive I spent the day making sure the house was all ready for them to come. The anticipation and excitement was making me anxious but I was glad to soon be able to meet a batch of new friends. As they all got into the house with their things and took a much needed clean bathroom stop, the delegates sat down to a meal where I then was asked by one member if I spoke English. I love being asked that question! I told her yes indeed I spoke English and I even come from America.
This delegation was made up of people from three states, Virginia, Indiana and Colorado. It was in my opinion the A team since there was a lot of cultural peace relationships being built on this trip. That is where the schmoozing came into play. The main purpose of this delegation however was not the flashy glitz and glam or even playing with orphans. Their purpose, although at first I didn’t even see the importance of it was to lift up the city of Taraz and the country of Kazakhstan. Let me tell you these people wielded the sword better than any warrior I have seen before. They came out strong and covered this city with the power only the Father can give and for me that was an amazing thing to witness and be a part of. I really learned from these people and I will never forget the time I got to spend with them.
These past 10 days have been absolutely crazy and none stop but every moment has been a blast and I am so thankful I got to meet all of these new friends and hang out with them as they did their work here in Kazakhstan. It has been interesting being on this side of things rather than being a delegate. I think I really like it, plus going to the train station was not a sad thing because I didn’t have to get on it to go home. I don’t want to assume too much but I think I could get used to that.
Now we still have three of the delegates left here so things are a bit quite now but I still get to join them on their exciting adventures.
In the words of our team leader Walter, we will make peace not by two presidents talking and meeting together. We will make peace by the people meeting one on one and getting to know each other and building relationships by exchanging cultures. That is exactly what we are all here to do and that is why I came to Kazakhstan and I hope I will be able to spend lots of time in the near future working on building these relationships and furthering the work of my Dad.
P.S. Pictures will follow I just need to load them onto the computer but stay tuned.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Don't put the Father in a box

     On Wednesday, I got to go to this house where about six physically disabled boys live. When I walked into the room I didn’t know what to expect but from the description I got it sounded a lot like SFCV where I spent last summer. I thought I would be experienced in the area of disabled children but I walked in and there stood before me a little boy with no arms! I froze. I didn’t know what to do with him. At SFCV I never had a kid with no arms. I didn’t know how to play with him. I saw some blocks on the floor and I sat down with him hoping we would figure something out. This was definitely one of those moments when I was relying on my own knowledge and skills to be able to play with this boy. However, Dad had other plans I think that is why out of all the disabilities I saw in China, He chose the one I had never seen. Now looking back I am thankful He did because as I was sitting there with a panicked look on my face, this little boy began to play with these blocks all on his own with his feet! Let me tell you this little boy knew how to use his feet just like any other little kid with their hands. After we played with the block we brought out the bubble wands which he loved! Then came the balloons which we spent the rest of the time playing with. It was so adorable. He had the bubble wand in his feet and I would hit the balloon over to him and he would hit it like a bat. At this point I felt really dumb for doubting in the first place. I am glad that there are no limits to the things Dad can do even when I forget He is there to help me. Seeing that little boy smile reminded me that I’m not the one who brings joy to people’s hearts, I am only a vessel. Joy has already been one of the themes I have been feeling on this trip and I know that if I keep letting my Father do His thang then the joy that is in my heart will continue to overflow to all those who I meet. And that is something to be joyful about!!

My first week

Hello everyone,
     Today, well yesterday marked the end of my first week here in Kazakhstan! I am still having a great time and I am gradually settling into my home and work here in Taraz (which is the city I am living in). Everyday has been filled with some new experience and interacting with different groups of people has been fun. My Kazakh mom (Gulnazm) and my Kazakh sister (Guldonna) have been so inviting and they have taken me into their family as one of their own so quickly! Guldonna told me that before I came here she was an only child and now she has an older sister which she has always wanted and things aren’t so boring now. After my heart returned to its rightful place I told her I never had a sister either and now I do which has been fun! Gulnazm has been seriously like a mother to me. She takes care of everything; I have to hold on to my plate for dear life so I can wash it myself. She even packs my lunch for me. But don’t worry mom I’m not expecting that when I return home! J I have enjoyed sitting down at the table for meals and conversation over tea which we have with every meal and sometimes in between. I love tea so I’m good with it. Occasionally we watch tv while we eat which has been interesting. They usually watch programs in Kazakh like Kazakhstan’s got Talent, X Factor in Russian and this show called friends which is also in Kazakh but it’s so predictable I can understand what is going on. I have also enjoyed cooking with Gulnazm. She has been teaching me how to cook some of the traditional dishes of Kazakhstan and also Russia. I am glad I’m learning these things so I can make them back in America as well! These are the perks of being here on an internship rather than a delegation. I can spend time learning these things and trading cultures. Right now I’m learning how to cook Borsht and I made a salad which is veggies and mayo, another Russian/Kazakh must have in every meal.
     So some of the things I got to do this week were so fun! As I mentioned in the first post, I got to go to Savva! I have also gotten to go to Saramoldyva another orphanage which I go to most days in the week. That has been fun because I am getting to know different kids as well as seeing ones from the last time I was here in 2011. Also just being in the office and getting to know my coworkers has been fun they are all great and are good sports with my slow and limited speech patterns. Some of them speak English though so that helps a little because sometimes I just don’t understand. I have started to make this dumbfounded face whenever someone says something I didn’t understand at all. It’s my, “can you repeat that” signal. I have also begun my Russian lessons. It will be nice to brush up on the things I forgot as well as add to the foundation already have. I have also successful ridden the Marshutka all by myself which I was a little nervous about. It was way easier then I made it out to be and I actually had a bit of fun in my 15min of independence in a foreign country. You have to appreciate those little things!
     Today I got a little taste of back home because it rained most of the day today, which I loved. I had fun explaining to people that I didn’t have an umbrella because in Portland we don’t use them. However, I also forgot a jacket so Ulan had to give me a ride home because I only know one Marshutka route. I proudly told Marina that I was cold today. This is significant because the first day I came to the office I had sandals on and freaked all of Taraz out because I wasn’t in on the fact that April is not a sandal wearing month. Even if it’s 80 degrees out and you are from Oregon where 70 degrees is a border line scorcher. So far I have been really enjoying my time here and I hope all of you back home are doing fine!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Moshing on the Marshutka

Hello Everyone!

I am doing well I made it safely with no complications. It was a long and lonely journey but I  guess that is best. My driver was nice and he brought all of my stuff back to my house while I was at Savva which was very nice. I got to spend my first day at Savva which was awesome! I spent time with the kids and as they were slowly waking up since I got there at 6am they would walk by. It was funny because those who knew me where not expecting me to be there and so when they walked by me they had to do a little double take and then they were like oh hey! and they came and gave me hugs. best of all I got to talk with Raya for pretty much the whole time! I also saw Sumit another one of my favorites, Ruslan, Faru! and others. and I got to talk with them almost all by myself!!!!!!! yay! that was so cool for me!I also got to eat my favorite breakfast of porridge! yum. after that I went home and met my host family. they are both very sweet and very nice and generous. I went to her nieces house and had tea and she was nice too and spoke English. She also had the most adorable chipmunk cheeked kids in the world! I wish I had a photo, but (Rachel these kids were definitely choco chip muffins!! and made Jordan's cheeks look tiny.) and (Matt, the boy was watching Legend of Korra, in Russian!!)ye ye! 

The language barrier has been interesting because it is measurably more broken down than the last time I was here. I can carry on conversations pretty well. I'm sure I sound really dumb still though, but of course they don't correct me on my grammar only when i say the wrong word and they are trying to understand me! they are both mostly Kazakh speakers so occasionally none of us will know the correct work to say! :) it's ok though that doesn't happen very often. I still feel so behind though with speaking because there is still so much I don't know or don't remember which is frustrating. I have to keep reminding myself I am blessed to even know the Russian that I know because some of the interns and people who come here don't know any language. I hope when I begin language lessons that will help. I really wish I remembered my numbers and verbs of motion! I know that would help me a lot especially when I am on my own at a store or riding the public transportation. By the way, yesterday I rode the Marshutka which is like a small bus that was an interesting experience considering I have ridden the bus in Oregon about well, once when I was little I could even tell you exactly when i did. There were so many people packed on and I felt like I was in a mosh pit and i couldn't get my power stance so I was falling over all sorts of people while being pushed around. It was one of those cross cultural experiences that I will never forget and will definitely take away from for the future. I know this is the first of many of these experiences!

Today was my first day at Interlink and it was pretty slow going at first but I got to go to Seramoldyva(sp) which my spell check just told me should be leaseholder so if you want to see the correct spelling please consult a detailed map and look at the southern border of Kazakhstan. Anyway, I hung out with Zarina and went to her English lessons which I will be taking over in May for a little while! It will be interesting because the little kids group speaks mostly Kazakh and I am quickly learning some words but man, i got to take it one language at a time!! Hopefully i will know both eventually. So that has been my stay here so far tomorrow I will be learning how to use the marshutka so I can ride it by myself which will be an adventure to say the least. I am looking forward to being able to plug myself in and see what will happen.It is so weird I don't even feel like i am in Kazakhstan. I just think like I am still in Oregon or something I don't know, I guess it just feels natural to be here. Maybe it's because I've been here so many times. Whatever it may be, the fact is that I am in freaking Kazakhstan!! oh ya! I hope all of you are doing great and staying out of trouble! Don't forget to skype me or facebook message me or e-mail. My e-mail

Please use the "lingo" when talking with Mari on facebook, email, or on this blog. The lingo meaning please don't write out Ch$**ti@n words. Thank you.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

You say Goodbye but I say Hello

As I sit here thinking tomorrow and the fact that this room will no longer be my home makes me sad. I am happy to be going home, but then again, whenever I think about leaving the kids or when they ask, are you going to America tomorrow in their broken Chinglish a knot starts to form in my throat. I have gotten to know the kids pretty well over the summer and I am so blessed to have had the opportunity to meet the people I did and form the relationships I now have. This experience has been very informative for me and it has, I believe helped me grow in ways that I didn't really expect. I have gathered a lot of insight through it all and I would never trade this chance of a lifetime. I have been able to meet some really cool and interesting people from all over the world and been able to share my experiences with them and they with me. That is one of my favorite things about missions trips. 
Back to saying goodbye. Today I had my final class and that was sad, but fun as well and it was a great way to sum up my time here as the English teacher. I got to do some face painting, hangman, play dough and of course eating of candy, or (tong) in Mandarin. For dinner I got to take four of the kids out for dinner which was hilarious and  blast! Tomorrow (wednesday) will be my final official day here at SFCV and trust me I am not looking forward to getting in that taxi to Beijing. Before I leave however, I will be running around the campus making sure that I get to say goodbye to everyone as well as doing some last minute tasks and packing up the few straggling items in my room. This trip has gone by so fast, I still remember when I first got here and now I am watching new interns come and see them in the position I was once in. I am now the seasoned veteran now that I have to leave, figures, but I am glad to see the willing volunteers lining up to work at SFCV. I will miss this place a lot and I know that the kids will be on my mind often! So many of them have become my little buddies and I wish I could take them home with me. 
Another sad farewell, it that of saying goodbye to the staff and the other interns here. I have gotten to know these great servants over the summer and it will be weird not to see them everyday. Life here has been fun and interesting  and I don't know what I'm going to do with myself going back to a house with only four people in it, at least my brother is back from school so that fourth spot can be filled without me having to start counting the fish tanks and my cat. Aside from all of the silliness, I can honestly say that this this opportunity has blessed me in so many ways and I have learned so much about myself, and God's plan for me as well as my friends and the kids here. He is working in China and it has been an honor to have been even considered to be a part of the work which is being done. I can't wait to share more about my experiences with all those who want to hear about them. I have a lot of things to talk about! This has been a whirlwind of an adventure and I am glad I got to spend it with my lovely friends Melissa. Going through this with her has been so great and has brought us closer together and for that I am very glad. We have been friends for so long that our families have become one and we even have a last name to prove it. We are the Russlinskys and proud of it! Friends are great to have but as they say family sticks around even through the roughest of times and I am blessed to have Melissa as family and to have been in China, which is her heart land and see through her eyes this place which has become an intricate part of her life and who she is. I am excited to see what the future holds for the both of us and I will be glad to say that this trip to China has been influential and a simply unforgettable experience. With that I will end and say as the kids here say, "see you last time!"

This has been M&M Adventures-China Edition, this is Mari signing out China side.