Thursday, August 17, 2017

Family photos

The best part of our trip was time with our extended family, and these photos are treasures!

Florida family:
my father, Raia, Jaan, Will, me, Aliana, Leetra
Bogdan, my mother, Isla, my grandmother, Asya

North Carolina family:
Will's father and mother, me, Will, Raia, Abby, Anna, Jaan
Bogdan and Asya

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Jet lag

Day 1 at home: I slept most of the day.
Day 2: Will slept most of the day.
Day 3: "I don't understand how I could sleep until after noon." (Asya)

I obviously haven't posted photos from North Carolina yet. I need to sort them. It's too hot to sit at the computer for long, and I haven't had time anyway. It was definitely a great visit. If you're on Facebook, there were plenty of photos from our relatives and friends there already.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

FL to AL to NC

Again, I'm just sharing photo highlights. This is less day by day than my last post; it's just a few of the photos that I have, with a tiny bit of commentary.

We wanted to visit Deleon Springs, and we got to do that last Friday. We had a lovely day there, making pancakes, swimming, and going for a walk in the woods.

Deleon Springs tourist shot

I'm afraid that one thing that will really stick in our kids' minds and in our family stories is that we saw a cottonmouth! I kept telling Bogdan that there was nothing scary in those swamps, and then we came across a cottonmouth curled up on the edge of the path. After that he and Asya were marching along saying, "I'm scared. I'm scared. I'm scared."

We are really enjoying our rental car. It is a Kia, which is what my parents have, too. When we drive, our kids now how many count "Kils" they see. (Look at that logo with Ukrainian eyes, if you know the Cyrillic alphabet.) This photo was when Raia almost got lost looking for ours:

Car twins
On Sunday after church we headed over to the beach. I had forgotten how beautiful it is!

Below is a recent photo that I took from a friend, so you can see what impressed us so much in Florida. It's a very typical day at the beach in Ukraine:
Compare and contrast: Black Sea
Florida beach
More than just the beauty of the beach, we loved the time with my aunt and uncle there.

Necklace making
We came back to less fun stuff. Remember this? It returned.
No comment
Wednesday we got to have dinner with our very oldest family friends, my other set of parents:

Then on Thursday we started out for the family reunion. We went as far as Tallahassee and met up with a very old friend (son of aforementioned friends and therefore my "brother") and his very new wife for dinner.
With Timothy and Kristen
The next morning my parents took us out for a wonderful tour of Florida Caverns.
In the caverns

From there we drove on the family reunion in Alabama. That was a weekend FULL of family, food, and lots of fun.

From Alabama we drove on to South Carolina for dinner with friends along the way to Charlotte.
With the Becketts
And now we're in North Carolina for two weeks.

(It is traditional to greet us with the tandem bicycle.)

Friday, July 14, 2017

First week in Florida

It's been a week since we left home, and already we've been so busy! Our trip over went quite smoothly, except that our last flight was delayed.

Waiting in Istanbul
The only one who slept on the plane
New York
Finally in Orlando (3 am?)
Once we got here, we slept for a few hours, then had breakfast with friends who were headed out of town. I think Mom got some photos then, but I didn't. We took lunch to a park later on in the day, and then Great Grandma (my grandmother) came over for dinner.

With Great Grandma
So, that was Friday. I already don't remember what happened on Saturday. There was lots of lizard and tadpole catching going on, for sure. We also had a Skype call with a dear friend who we won't be able to see while we're in the USA.

Sunday we spoke or played music at church, all of us. Well, Bogdan didn't speak or do music; he just looked pretty and worked hard to stay awake. Then there was a potluck afterwards for more fellowship and a question and answer time. In the evening my parents set up a movie night just like we always do at home, and our kids got to share that with their aunt and cousins. Before the movie, though, they had watermelon to eat and a seed spitting contest in the back yard. I think Isla and Raia turned out to be the champions, but I'd better check that with one of the kids before I say for sure. (See how cute my nieces are?)


Monday Will got his driver's license: no complications with that, praise God! The rest of us went on walks, little trips to stores, and just generally had a quiet day.

Tuesday was Will's birthday. We started off with a few little presents that the kids had made for him, then they "celebrated his birthday" with free Slurpees (7-11 Day, a new thing for us), Will and Dad picked up our rental car, then Great Grandma took all of us out to eat to really celebrate. We forgot candles, so Leetra made one for him on the spot. After that, we had a meeting with the church missions committee and the kids had a date with a swimming pool at the home where we were meeting. Leetra supervised all six of them, and Bogdan says that he only almost drowned three times. They had a wonderful time! (I guess I need to get some pool pics from Leetra or my parents.) After swimming, all the cousins came back here to my parents' house go to bed. They were too tired for any real sleepover shenanigans, but they had fun knowing that they were all under one roof.

Birthday presents for Papa
7-11 Day
Wednesday morning it was already time for sad goodbyes, because our nieces are going on a trip. We fit in as much time together as we could while there were here, though, and we have lots of photos and memories to hold on to. When they left, we headed to a park to meet up with my childhood best friend and her children. All the kids got along as if they've always known each other. They drew a hopscotch game that went up to 200. Then that evening we had dinner planned with one family, but they were sick, so another family invited us over instead. Again, it was a wonderful time of fellowship, and our kids were fascinated by all the interesting artefacts and stories these friends had to show and tell.

Huge hopscotch
Visiting family friends
Now we're up to today. My parents had set up a boys field trip and a girls field trip. The boys went to visit an inventor friend of Dad's, and we girls went to the Morse Museum, where there is a wonderful Tiffany collection. Raia recently learned about Tiffany in art history, so we knew we had to see this together this time. Both she and Asya were so excited about it, and they loved every minute there. We walked around by ourselves, went on a guided tour, left for lunch, and then came back to see more. I know the boys had a great time, too, but I wasn't with, so I can't tell about that firsthand. Oh, besides launching rockets and I don't know what else, they ate alligator tail at a restaurant with Grandda and his friend.

And that, my friends, is a very, very abbreviated summary of our week.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

L'Arche and L'viv, part 5

Thursday morning, Lyuda from L'Arche, who had organised all these meetings for us came to get us at the home. She's the one talking in the middle part of the video I shared in my Part 2. It was nice to finally meet her, after talking to her months before our trip and hearing about her from everyone else once we got to L'viv. She took us across town to a new training center for independent living that has been recently opened by yet another organisation in L'viv. I didn't take a single photo there because I was so busy translating, but I just found this video clip about the center. Here's a screen shot from that video, showing the next Lyuda who met us there:

This second Lyuda showed us around and then served us tea with a presentation about the center. It's built to be fully accessible to people with severe physical disabilities. They will come and live there for short periods of time, with assistants. Their assistants will also visit them at home, and help them to learn to live more independently. The center also supports and trains family members. Alys took photos of their door handles and handrails and other physical details to help with ideas for the homes she is building. Their experience in teaching people who have been used to overprotection and being told that they can't do anything is invaluable for us, too.

Our time there ended all too soon and we had to figure out a rather complicated arrangement to get our luggage and have a few minutes as tourists. We ended up calling a taxi that took Nila all the way back to the house, but dropped Alys and me off in the center of town on the way. Then we ran around to get the souvenirs we wanted and dinner for the train, while Nila got our things and was brought back across town by the L'Arche driver. He and Nila found us, and we went on to the train station from there.

This beautiful shirt was what I got in L'viv to give to Raia for her birthday:

Our trip home wasn't as idyllic as the way there; the train was hot and there were some other problems, too. But the Ukrainian countryside was beautiful, as always, and it was very good to get home the next morning. Not to mention that one of the things we bought during our run through the center of L'viv was boxes of Thai noodles with shrimp!

And that is the end of our truly wonderful trip to L'viv. We will be processing and applying what we learned for quite a while. I am so thankful for all the new friends we made and all that we got to see and hear about.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

L'Arche and L'viv, part 4

Wednesday afternoon, after songs and prayers, the Smiles group got back into the bus and headed off to their homes. We said goodbye to them, and then the house got very quiet.

Nadia and Bogdan came back from their workshop, "Nazareth," the one that we didn't get to visit. As I said before, L'Arche in L'viv is different from most international L'Arche communities, because it's not residential. In L'viv they use the house for whatever the community needs, but also (mainly?) for week-long stays, where the friends can get some focused time with the assistants and practice independence. While we were there, it was Bogdan and Nadia's turn for that, and we loved the time we had with them.

The family that works with the Smiles had invited some friends of theirs over for dinner to see the house and learn about L'Arche. Their friends are Protestants and work with Youth for Christ, so they also thought we'd all enjoy getting to know each other some, too. (Yes, we definitely did.) They were planning a L'Arche presentation for the youth a few days later. So while people rested and Tanya went off to get their older two children from preschool, Oleg and I took care of their two little ones and worked on dinner for the guests and everyone.

When the guests arrived and everyone gathered around the table, we had a wonderful, loud, happy dinner together. It was definitely like one big family. Bogdan especially kept us laughing with his incredible sense of humour. Later, they presented us a lovely book of photos and interviews. In the part of the book about Bogdan, the interviewer writes that they went to the opera theatre together. When they told Bogdan that he would have to be quiet and not talk, he replied, "If I don't talk, I'll die."

After dinner Bogdan and Nadia showed everyone all over the house. We had been staying there, but hadn't had the official tour yet, so it was for us, too. Everyone played with the kids. Then we went into the living room to watch a few small video clips about L'Arche, see "Bogdan's film"--he's a movie star!--and sing and pray together again. (If you go to Circle Community or Grace Bible Church, I'm planning to show you Bogdan's film in a few weeks.)

When it was time for everyone to go, the littlest one was tired and not happy about getting dressed. Bogdan was thrilled that she calmed down for him when he held her:

There's only a little bit more, but I think I need to stop now. So, to be continued...

*These are Nila's photos.

Friday, June 23, 2017

L'Arche and L'viv, part 3

Wednesday morning Vasyl came from Ivano-Frankivsk to meet with us. His organisation "Ukrainian Philanthropic Network" works with an orphanage very similar to the one here in Tsyurupinsk. They are also in the planning stages of building a home something like what Alys is doing. Vasyl is a lawyer, and he is studying all the ins and outs of everything to do with work like this. We talked for three hours straight. Most of that was us listening to what he has learned so far and scrambling to remember and take notes.

We talked about adoption. They work with Maya's Hope to try and get kids adopted. We talked about how to help in orphanages--it's best not to give things and money (amen!)--and how they've built accountability for when donations are given. Banking: we definitely decided that Alys' director/manager Maxim needs to talk to Vasyl about processing finances. Vasyl told us a lot about funding and his plans to present his building project for government funding. He knows all about the legislation related to this, what's already in place, what needs to change, and more. If he can't get government funding, his Plan B is to find a certain number of donors who can give a certain amount each month. I don't remember the numbers, but I know that it sounded very reasonable. He had great ideas about publicity and getting neighbours and local community on his side. Even now, he's started with public meetings and approaching local officials.

Nila got the only photo from this time: Vasyl and Alys
While we talked with Vasyl in the kitchen, the other group of Smiles came and started their day in other parts of the house. On this day, the leader was a different man, and he had his family with him. His wife is also a L'Arche assistant, but she's officially on maternity leave. She and their two youngest children were there anyway, though. The older two joined us later in the day. (All four are younger than our Bogdan; I enjoyed them greatly!) As soon as we said goodbye to Vasyl, we started getting to know our new friends. Apparently I didn't take any photos, but Nila did:

After we talked with them some, it was time for us to go meet the people of another workshop. All our running around the day before had been particularly hard for Nila. For this day, L'Arche drove us. She couldn't climb up into their bus, but that wasn't a problem at all:

They took us to the church where "Ascension" workshop is. Here we got to see more of daily life in a L'Arche workshop. This one has a tradition that every guest makes an angel to leave behind. So, for a while we drew and cut and coloured to make ours. They told us about themselves and showed us their work.

Learning how to "hook" a necklace*

This next picture isn't related to L'Arche. It was just interesting to me: a mural in progress at the church. All the little pieces of tile were set out in containers on the table, and the picture was already sketched out.

We ate lunch at Ascension and then went back to the house for the end of the Smiles' day there. Oh, something I saw when arrived was worth noting. As I have said before, the assistants and friends work together. Some in this group are truly not able to do physical work. However, they are still included in everything. Oksana was washing the floor, and Ira and Galya were parked in their wheelchairs right there with her. They finished their work and activities, and we joined them for songs and prayer once again.

To be continued...

*These are Nila's photos.