Saturday, December 02, 2006


Yes, the end of year functions are all starting to "line up" and we are getting busy like everyone else! Thanksgiving is behind us - yes, here in the United States that is a 'big deal' and no less in our Spanish speaking churches! Like most years we had 3 Thanksgiving Turkey Dinners! Of course we always have a traditional family affair but the two churches we are involved with like to celebrate also so that makes 3! We had a lovely time all told, but two men in our family (we won't mention any names!) really don't enjoy the turkey dinners and are not looking forward to turkey again at Christmas - so we will have to come up with some alternatives for them!

Christmas this year at the Yarrall household will be more like a Loudon Christmas I think! Bill and Angela have invited Bill's two sisters with hubbies and kids to spend the holidays with us all - half staying in our home and the rest (the smaller family) staying with Bill and Angela - however, I think most of the 'hanging out' will be done at our house as we have much more room than a small one-bedroom apartment. Part of the reason for them all coming is that Bill is to celebrate his 40th birthday a few days before Christmas and so the family reunion. We haven't seen these family members since Angela's wedding some 8 years ago so it will be good to be together again.

Jonathan is still in Boston, but only has two weeks of his training course to go. I think the novelty of being over there has worn thin and he is kinda feeling lonely these days. All the other guys in the course like to 'drink and gamble' and that isn't quite his scene so he spends a lot of time alone in his room. That was ok while he was busy studying etc but as things come to an end there doesn't seem to be so much work for him to do. He has done well with the course and looks forward to getting into the work force back here in LA soon.

Not sure how many people still read this blog, but for those of you who do we want to wish you a very Happy Christmas and New Year. Love to you all.....

Sunday, October 29, 2006


Yes, we have now been back in the States for four weeks and our trip abroad seems like a dream - did it really happen?

Two weeks after our return we were travelling again - this time to Boise, Idaho, where we were invited to a Missionary Conference and Dick was the speaker. We didn't really feel like travelling again....especially when we were in the LA airport our flight was cancelled! Brought back memories of our time in London. However, we finally got to Boise and had a lovely weekend.

When we got home from there reaction set in and we realised all the travel was over and real life had to begin once more! By now Jonathan had gone to the Boston area where he is "in training" for a job he has with EMC Corp. He is finding the lectures quite challenging so we are hoping he will do ok. This company is located here in LA but they sent him away for this training which will take 9 weeks. They will fly him home for a week at Thanksgiving so that will be a break for him. His title is now that of a "Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer" which sounds important to us so we will see how he makes out with the new job once he gets home in December and starts the work!

We wonder when winter will arrive in California - the last couple of weeks we have had "Santa Ana Winds" and so the temps have been up to 90! Our family back there in Russia have had some snow already although it didn't stick. So, where would we rather be??? A good question.

We will try and add a note here from time to time but we don't have so many exciting things to share now that we are back home so don't expect too much!

Friday, September 29, 2006


Yes, here we are in Long Beach once again after a very eventful flight home yesterday! It took 24 hours from leaving Davinia's house in London to walking in the door in Long Beach....we didn't expect it to take nearly as long as it took us to get to Siberia at the start of the trip!

We got to the London airport with plenty of time to spare so as to keep tranqil (?) but things didn't stay that way. We were all ready to get on the plane when they announced that there was a 'small' problem and they were trying to fix it....and trying to fix it....and then looking for a spare part....and then said it was to do with the pilot's seat and that the part would have to come from Washington DC and that that would take 10 hours!! So, the next news was that we would all be put up in a hotel and the flight would continue on the next day....NOT. The flight was finally cancelled and we had to check out our bags and then check in again to see what bookings they could find for us before putting everyone up in hotels in the area. However, we were some of the fortunte ones (?) because they put us on another flight that was leaving later in the day but it would take us via Washington DC so it would be later in getting into LA. So to finish off the day nicely...this flight also had some technical problems and we were an hour late in leaving!! Then, after about 1/2 our hour into the flight an older gentlemen started having heart attacks or something so there was an emergency and they were looking for a doctor on board. We feared we would be turned around but fortunately they were able to keep him on oxygen for the whole flight and the paramedics got him off the plane in Washington DC.
As if that wasn't enough our flight out of DC was delayed by another problem and we didn't arrive in LA until 12.30 this morning feeling quite weary but thankful to see Jon's smiling face on arrival. We managed to get to bed at 2 a.m. but were wide awake again at 6 a.m. - oh the fun of jetlag.

So, the first day home has been full of unpacking, washing and grocery shopping. Everything seems to be fine here and Jon has done a good job of keeping the 'homefront' up and running. Jon leaves home on Oct 9th for an 8 week training course near Boston so we will miss him but are glad he has this chance at a new job and we trust all will go well for him.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Meetings in Scotland

The past few weeks have been a combination of work and pleasure. In between seeing a lot of the beautiful sites in Scotland, Shetland and Orkney I have had the opportunity to preach the Word and give reports on the Lord's work in Los Angeles. The meetings have been a real blessing. We have been encouraged by the interest shown along the way. I preached some seven times in Shetland and three times in Orkney. What a privilege to preach in Shetland, the land of my mother's birth and then to preach in Orkney, the land of my grandfather's birth. I think that was the highlight of my time up north. I thank the Lord for the godly heritage passed on by my forebears.

Yesterday, Sunday, we were with the Assembly in Arbroath - about an hour's drive south of Aberdeen. In between meetings we ate Sunday dinner with John Beattie, which he himself prepared - steak pie. John is a young 91. In the late afternoon we had tea with Charles and Joan Miller and after the evening service we had supper with Nicol and Isabel Millar. The day was a great finish to our "Scotland tour." The people in Arbroath really encouraged us with their interest in the work we are doing in Los Angeles.

We were sorry to say goodbye today to our good friends Stan and Wilma Jenkins. Their home has become our Scottish home! We had a wonderful time with them.


Yes, our time in Scotland is over - we leave this afternoon for 3 nights in London with cousins of Dick's before moving on home. We have had a great time in Shetland and Orkney Isles meeting up with old friends and making new friends. The weather wasn't too kind to us but the fellowship was great. Dick was able to visit some cousins (a few times removed) in Shetland and learnt a little more about his ancesters in Orkney meeting the wife of a cousin of his mother's. So that was great.
We have been back in Aberdeen for the weekend and we were in a small village called Arbroath all day Sunday where we were able to share about the work in LA. We have been warmly received wherever we have been and now have some new prayer partners. The food has been amazing and a few new pounds will need to be lost when we return home.

We are looking forward to being home again (we think!!) and will soon be saying goodbye to Jonathan for a couple of months as he has a new job and will be going to the Boston area for training. We look forward to hearing more about this job when we get home.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Orkney here we come....

Yes, the next step of our trip is about to happen. We leave in about two hours by ferry from Shetland to the Orkney Isles where we will be for 4 nights. This will be another new experience for us - this is where Dick's grandfather originally came from. We get in at about 11.30 p.m. tonight so guess we wont see too much initially.

We have some meetings while there but not sure just what is going to happen. Everyone here in Shetland is telling us how much we will enjoy it and some have heard of the family name of Kent so may even find some relatives there!

We have had a great time here in Shetland even though the weather hasn't been too kind to us - we can't have everything I guess! But the time spent with renewed friendships is great and we even got to spend a few hours with a distant cousin of Dick's who is just so thrilled to get to know her new cousin!! She even served us a typical Shetland soup - salted mutton and potato soup! Not too bad ;-) We have also enjoyed fresh crab and mackeral fish while being here...Dick was out walking one day and some guy gave him a bag of the fresh fish.

Until next time.....

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Muckle Roe, Shetland

We had a good trip from Aberdeen to Lerwick, Shetland on the ferry. We left at 7.00 pm and arrived 7.30 am. We had a two berth cabin. The service on the ferry "Hrossey" was superb.

We are staying with Jim and Freda Johnson on Muckle Roe, an island connected by a bridge to the "mainland." It is so peaceful here. No sound of traffic. The only sound is that of seagulls. With only 24,000 total population in Shetland there is no rush and bustle. We've done plenty of walking. There are inlets (voes) everywhere in Shetland and it is impossible to go anywhere without getting a view of the sea. I was walking down by a jetty on Tuesday and a small boat came in and the owner gave me some mackerel and crabs which we had for lunch yesterday. Nothing like fresh fish direct from the ocean.

Each night I have a meeting with a different assembly. There are four assemblies in Shetland. On Tuesday we were at Brae, near Muckle Roe. The Brae assembly is the most northerly assembly in the UK. The setting for the Brae assembly is unique. You look out of the left window to see the North Sea and out the right window to see the Atlantic Ocean.

Yesterday we visited the birthplace of my mother in Hillswick, about 15 miles to the north. We were able to go in and see the family home where she lived for 3 years. It is now modernized, but was a simple croft house built of stone. It overlooks a beautiful beach. In summer it is idilic, but in winter it is windswept and often has winds of 100 miles an hour. No wonder my forebears left for New Zealand. The foundations of the Blacksmiths shop (with forge etc) still stands. This is where my grandfather worked. The smithy's shop was only a stone's throw from the house.

Yesterday we went 50 miles to the southwest of Shetland for dinner with Davy and Jean Simmons. Davy is an interesting character. He has been in the merchantile navy, a whaler in Antarctica, lived in New Zealand for a few years and now at 75 continues crofting on his farmlet. We had Shetland lamb for dinner. Scientific research has discovered that Shetland lamb is the only meat in the world that does not produce cancer. The moral is, "Eat more Shetland lamb!" We then went to Selivoe Gospel Hall for a meeting where there were some 20 people present.

We are now off to visit Ollaberry (Thursday morning) where the Williamson family came from. Ollaberry is a little hamlet on the banks of a voe. My maternal grandmother was Margaret Williamson.

We'll talk more next time in between eating mackerel, crab, oatcakes, Shetland lamb and girdle scones!

Monday, September 11, 2006

Scotland...Shetland Isles....Orkney Isles...Scotland

Well,we have now been in Scotland for about 10 days and have been having a great time. Debbie and Les and family arrived here about 4 hours after us and we have invaded the home of some good friends - who aren't used to having little kids around so we are trusting we haven't been 'too much' for them.

During our time here we have spent 4 days in Edinburgh where we were able to stay in a lovely Missionary Flat. Unfortunately it was raining for the first day and a half but we did get to do a tour of the city and go up to the castle which is magnificent. Hopefully we will be able to post some photos eventually but sometimes we need a little 'help' to do that!!

Since being here in Aberdeen we have been able to take the grandchildren to a farm to feed animals which they really enjoyed plus a few other novelties. Les and Deb went away for a couple of nights (not sure if it was another honeymoon, a break from the in-laws or a break from the kids!!) and we were left in 'charge'! Made us realise that it is a long time since our kids were 'little' and we are looking forward to a 'holiday' in Shetland!! We didn't do too bad really and had Stan and Wilma's help also. The only problem was that Sydney had quite a bad fall the last day so looked a little beaten up! She is fine though.

This evening we are leaving by ferry to go to the Shetland Isles (where Dick's mother was born) for a week where they have booked Dick up for meetings nearly every night! However,we hope to do some touring around as well - it is not a very big place! Then a week from today we move on by ferry to the Orkney Isles where Dick's grandfather came from so he wants to look into his 'roots' there also.

Les and Debbie and family will stay on here in Aberdeen until Friday when they fly back to Novosibirsk where they expect to soon be into their long hard winter. They have really enjoyed the scenery and different pace of life here in Scotland.

Don't know if we will have opportunity to use a computer until we are back in Scotland so you may not hear from us for a week or so. When we return to Scotland we will only be here for a weekend and then we fly on to London to visit some cousins and then it is back to Los Angeles once more.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Moscow - City of Contrasts

Moscow was a great city to visit. We were swept away by the magnificence and opulence of the center of Moscow. We walked around Red Squre, the Kremlin, Lenin's Tomb and the great cathedrals. Alongside we visited the shopping malls which just seemed to ooze money. Moscow from the perspective of the center of the city is up with all the other great cities of the world.

What a contrast staying in the suburban town of Pushkino some 15 miles from the center of Moscow. There were the usual high-rise apartment buildings, crowded streets and market place, with the usual groups of young people with their bottle of beer in hand.

We were accommodated in the ministry apartment belonging to Pavel and Yulia Ignatiev. Pavel and Yulia have a ministry in orphanages. Each Sunday they have a small church meeting in their apartment that includes some ex-orphans. It was interesting to talk with Pavel and Yulia and learn about their ministry and be introduced to life in Moscow.

After a four day stay in Moscow we departed for Scotland. Our flight plan was Moscow - Dusseldorf, Germany - London - Aberdeen. More on Scotland in the next blog where we met up with Les and Debbie,Misha and Sydney and our old friends Stan and Wilma Jenkins.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Novo Photos

A few more pictures taken on "Papa's" Birthday. This one was fun, as we walked past this shed that had "Happy Birthday" (in Russian) spray-painted on it!

Part of our role of staying with Debbie & Les involved watching the grandkids in the morning while they went for a run together.

Friday, August 25, 2006

"Last Day in Novosibirsk"

It is 8p.m. so we only have a few hours before we hit the road again - or at least we get on a plane again!! Our last day here has been quite quiet just hanging around the apartment packing and watching "Little House on the Prairie" with Debbie and the grandchildren!! Bringing back memories for Debbie and introducing Misha to some 'history'!! It has been nice.

The day started out beautiful and sunny but by mid afternoon it was raining and has turned a little chilly. Dick went out for his last walk around the city in the nice sunshine but was wet by the time he got back.

Tonight we went out to dinner at a favourite restaurant - owned by Americans so no Russian food to see us off. They live in a very central location so we walked to this restaurant and then walked to the supermarket on the way home for a few things. It isn't going to be too hard saying goodbye at this stage as we will all be meeting up in Scotland in 6 days time so that should be fun doing some site-seeing together and maybe a little easier to get around!! We are hoping for some nice weather while there.

In case you haven't checked we have been able to add a few more photos to our blog so scroll down and check them all out.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Dining Out with a Russian Family

Last night we were invited to eat in the home of Misha and Olga. Misha is an elder in the church and an effective evangelist. Both he and his wife are very active for the Lord in the church and in the community. It seems that the majority of members of the church have come to know the Lord through Misha's witnessing.

Misha and Olga live in a two roomed apartment (flat) on the fifth floor. We received a very warm welcome and then were taken to the table in the living room, which is also the bedroom of Misha and Olga. Their two boys use the other room. The boys (15) and (9) were not there as they were spending the last few days of their summer vacation at the dacha with their grandparents. School starts the first day of September....always the same day each year even if it is a Sunday!

Misha and Olga don't speak English, so Les was able to interpret for us.

Russians eat a very healthy diet. We started with a fruit juice (orange in colour) made from a berry grown at the family dacha. The first course was bread with a caviar spread on the bread, cucumbers, tomatoes (with cut up pieces of garlic spread over it), a crab and corn mixture salad (which is very typical as I think we have had it at every Russian meal we have had) and a cheese, mayonaise with garlic mixture. The next course was grilled chicken with mashed potatoes and that was followed by cake (plain cake with sliced apple on top), fresh gooseberries and tea. The Russians know how to live. They are tea drinkers. I thought I was in heaven when I arrived in Russia with so much tea being drunk!

After the dinner the photographs of the family came out. That is very much a part of the Russian culture. Our Russian language teacher even showed us photos of her family.

The conversation then turned to the things of the Lord. Misha wanted to know about our experiences and how we became Christians. In turn he talked about how he and his wife had an encouneter with the living Lord Jesus. About 16 years ago they turned from communism to the Russian Orthodox Church. In their search they came across the same tract twice that talked about the Lord Jesus and a personal encounter Jesus became real to them and they yielded their lives to the Lord. Misha told us how his great grandparents were believers and then the gospel skipped a couple of generations due to communism and now the gospel is back in the family. His forebears moved from the Ukraine to Kazakstan and his parents from there to Novosibirsk. He still has cousins in Kazakstan.

Misha then pumped me with questions about methods of outreach. How exciting to be with people turned on to the Lord and wanting to share the gospel in the world. We talked about different methods but mainly the use of radio. Olga has actually done some work at a Christian radio station that is funded by the West, so Misha was really interested in doing something in Novosibirsk by radio to reach out with the gospel.

Misha and Ogla are also intereted in orphanages. Their concern is the number of orphans in Novosibirsk. Orphans are kept in orphanages until the age of 15 or 16. At that stage they are released and that is when trouble starts for many who end up homeless or as drifters, being exposed to prostitution and crime. Misha and Olga's concern (along with the church) is to do a work among these orphans who are released to find good homes and jobs. They would like to start some sort of ministry to help them when they leave the orphanage to go out into the world.

Pray for the church in Russia and particularly Novosibirsk, as the Lord has raised up some great believers who have a concern to reach out to the people around about them.

Today is our last day in Novosibirsk. Tomorrow we fly to Moscow where we will be hosted by a Russian family - Pavel Ignatiev.


No, I'm not talking about the home we are in, athough it must be a bit of a circus having the grandparents around for nearly a month! On Wednesday night we went to THE NOVOSIBIRSK CIRCUS. In Russia circuses are an important part of the culture. With long winters, circuses help provide entertainment through those long cold months. The major cities have an arena where circuses are held all year round. The circus in Novosibirsk is just two blocks down from Les and Debbie's apartment. It is a big round concrete building and its design reminds us of the stadium, Campin, in Bogota. The circus in Novo was closed most of the summer as the roof in a circus in a circus building in another part of Russia had collapsed earlier in the year. The circus in Novo has only just opened up again in recent days or weeks.

The first part of the program was half an hour of magic using scantily clad young women, but me being a good missionary was not supposed to even see that, let alone comment on it! I actually managed a bit of sleep during that part of the show. The second part of the program was an hour and half of mainly ponies, horses and acrobats. That was good. The kids were captivated by all that the animals and acrobats did.

Until next time!

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Russians - Rich in Culture

As we have observed and listened to people over the past few weeks we have been impressed at how talented the Russian people are in terms of their cultural heritage. At the weekend we attended a church conference/retreat with Les and Debbie. There were about 80 in attendance. This is the church that Les and Debbie attend. On the Saturday evening the people put on a concert. For well over two hours there was non-stop entertainment with singing, skits, dramas, guitar playing, keyboard presentations, poems and more. The singing of the Russian people is really beautiful. The group that came to the retreat from Omsk (8 hours to the south-west by train) sang a bracket of songs which was so inspirational. Winter looms large in the lives of people from Siberia. They are proud of the fact that they can conquer such harsh winters. Some of their songs and skits reflect thoughts about the seasons. A skit that was presented had to do with a bird, a bear and a wolf, with the bird (thinking it was Spring) waking up the bear that had been in hibernation for the winter.

With long winters the Russians have traditionally emphasized music in their culture. The Opera House in Novosibirsk (the largest in Russia) is closed for the summer, so we won't be able to take in ballet, for which the people here are famed. But there is a continuous circus, and tonight we are taking the kids to the circus.

As the retreat progressed more and more people tried to talk with us. So many of them can speak English - and good English. Several of them are teachers of English and they have come to know the Lord by coming in contact with missionaries from Europe and North America who have wanted to learn Russian.

The Russians are also a talented people in driving on the roads! Cars drive on the right hand side of the road and the steering wheel is on the left. Or so we thought! It seems that one out of every three cars has the steering wheel on the right. This is because many cars have been imported from Japan and there seems to be no control on having to convert the cars for driving on the other side of the road. Thus drivers seem to be very skilled and there are few accidents. Apart from that drivers have to be skilled in dodging pedestrians (as pedestrians don't have the right of way) and potholes. The hard winters result in many potholes. Every so often you see a deep sink hole, and there is no warning sign, or barrier, to mark that the sink hole is there.

The public image of Russians is a quiet, reserved and glum people. On entering the Metro, or a bus, no one seems to smile, talk, or react in any way. People look straight ahead and mind their own business. This seems to be a legacy from the communist era when everyone was suspicious of everyone else, fearing that you might be informed upon. This has produced a people that seemingly are indifferent and sad - until you really get to know them. It takes time to get to know them and build up confidence. Missionaries need a lot of patience and prayer as they get to know Russians and build up relationships to give them an opportunity to present the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Summer Ends

Last Saturday and Sunday were beautiful sunny days. People were out walking in the evenings in summer clothes, as is the custom in Novosibirsk. Monday there were a few showers and on Tuesday quite heavy rain. What was interesting for us as visitors was to see the abrupt change in clothes. By Tuesday people everywhere were dressed in heavier clothes, which they tell us is typical of autumn. As quickly as there had been a change in weather, so there was a change in the window displays of the clothing stores. Autumn and winter clothes were on display. Seasons change very abruptly in Siberia. There hardly seems to be any days of transition. And now while today has been somewhat warmer people are still getting about in autumn clothes....coats etc.

The last couple days have been somewhat quieter just hanging out with family and walks to the park an stuff... Les has been busy plastering the balcony which he had been working on over the summer months - making it more weather-proof and usable for was the only part of the apartment that he hadn't refurbished. He wanted it finished before the winter sets in. Meanwhile I have been put to work reglueing a rocking chair and then varnishing it today.

Tomorrow we go with Les, Debbie and family to their annual church conference which is held out in a forest, by a river at a sanitorium. During the days of the former Soveit Union the sanitorium was well used, but today only part of it is used and the rest is used for conferences. This will be an interesting experience for us as it will all be in Russian (even the food will be Russian style) - except we have been asked to sing something in Spanish!! There are quite a few of the folk from their church that speak a little English so that will help.

We have survived four Russian lessons. It has been an interesting experience but we have been flooded with so much information, grammar and vocabulary that only a little has stuck. It is interesting to see the basic structure of the language. It is much more difficult than English...just glad that we only had to learn Spanish 36 years ago!! Our Russian teacher has been very helpful and patient! We have our last class next Monday.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Day at the "Dacha" Part I

On Saturday we boarded a train that took us about an hour out into the country east of Novosibirsk. All along the way we mostly saw acres of green forests with little settlements here and there of "dachas", which are the country houses that families own and where they go during the summer to plant their vegetable gardens and lots of flowers. A lot of the harvest is sold to try and make some extra money and also some things like potatoes stored to be used in the hard winters that they have here. Just about every bit of available space in the yard is given over to growing the vegetables and flowers, which looks very lush and pretty. Also, in every garden there was an abundance of raspberries growing, of which we got to sample - delicious. Below are a few photos of our day there, but maybe there will be more at a later date.

The cottages are very rustic. The one we visited had two small shacks. The one at the front of the lot was for sleeping and the one at the back was the kitchen. They also had green houses for growing tomatoes and cucumbers (which they eat a lot of here).

Today (Monday) we had our third Russian class - I guess we are starting to learn the odd word, but we will never really conquer this language - it is REALLY HARD so don't expect us to come home with more than a word or two!! We have two more lessons to go - after the first lesson Les has just left us to find our own way to the school! I was a little nervous the first time, but we sort of know our way now.....we first walk a couple of blocks from their apartment to catch to Metro which takes us to the other side of the river and then we have to walk a few blocks to the school. Quite an eye-opener for us getting around in this way. Guess we have never walked so far in a long time - brings back many memories of the early days in Bogota, Colombia in the 1970's.

Guess we don't look much different!

Some of the beautiful flowers we saw - tiger lillies.

Sydney playing in the garden.

Day at the "Dacha" Part II

This was the typical lunch we were served - called Shashlik. The meal consisted of BBQ kebabs of marinated pork (some with mayonnaise) plus a variety of fresh vegetables out of their garden and some potatoes cooked in a different way! Very healthy!

The latest of the Nesbitts - at the Dacha.

We had an unexpected visitor while we were having lunch so Dick took care of that!!

Some of the beautiful scenery we saw.

This was the rustic scene across the 'street' from the dacha we were at!

Friday, August 11, 2006

It has been interesting to be here in Russia and find out all the ways you can be used - yes, even on the sewing machine!! Debbie has been making use of me with mending and also helping to re-upholster a rocking chair!! Dick has been given the job of fixing the chair and me the remaking of the pillows....with plenty of help from the grandchildren.

All is going well and we are seeing plenty as well as relaxing ... tomorrow will be a new experience as we go by train out into the country to visit as "Dacha" which is a country cottage where the locals go in the summer to plant their vegetable gardens and gather in a harvest. It should be an interesting experience and we will try and post some photos of that. This posting of photos is a new experience for us and we are trying to learn the ropes.

Dick's 65th birthday celebration.

Misha and Sydney enjoying one of the gifts we gave them...

Monday, August 07, 2006

First Russian Lesson - Reduced to Childhood!

In order to get visas to stay in Russian longer than two weeks we had to register with an institution and get an official invitation. We registered with the school where Les teaches English and so have to attend five classes of 90 minutes. We had the first class yesterday which was 90 minutes of mental torture! We had a very nice young lady, Anna, as our teacher. We were the only students in the class and the moment we entered the room we were into it.
Zdrastruviche - my transliteration for hello. (Why is a simple greeting so difficult!)
Privyet - a little easier. That was Hi.
Dobre utra - Good morning
Dobre yen - Good afternoon
Dobre vecha - Good evening
We were supposed to read it, then remember it and later on recall it and repeat it. The complication is that a guy named Cyril many centuries ago got his letters all mixed up and as a result came up with what they call the Cyrillic Alphabet. They say it is similar to Greek but to us it looks more like double dutch!

The torture continued all those 90 minutes and then I realized the teacher didn't have a watch. How on earth would she finish on time and not prolong the agony. I was certainly guilty of being a "clock watcher" during that class - but very inconspicuously of course as I was trying to impress the teacher, even though being reduced to the "da da" stage of infancy. We were back to the humiliation we expereinced when we first went to Colombia and took our first lessons in Spanish. Unfortunately 35 years have sped by and we find we are not so quick off the mark mentally. Back to the 90 mintues. Relief came when I saw that the teacher had a cell phone on the desk and finally after 90 minutes the class ended. The teacher dismissed us with the audatious statement. "I look forward to you learning Russian so that we can converse together and you can tell me all about your lives and homeland." IN FIVE 90 MINUTE LESSONS OF TORTURE !!!

It seemed that even nature was in sympathy with us as it had started to rain very heavily during the class and we left the school dodging rain drops. The rain was pouring down. Les took us to visit a friend who lived nearby. It was just like Bogota in the midst of a down pour. The cars on the street seemed to look for every dirty puddle of muddy water so as to splash the pedestrians. We made it to Andrei's apartment with only wet feet.

After the traditional cup of tea it was back outside to the rain and then trying to dodge the rain drops all the way to the Metro and then back to the apartment. The rain did clear and then Les and I went with another friend, Vitaly, an elder from the church, to a game of football - soccer - which started at 7.00 pm. Novosibirsk was playing a team from the Volga region. It was a pretty unevenful game finishing 0 - 1, but it was interesting to see the people and the culture. It rained while at the game but umbrellas kept us dry.

The day was ended with more torture when Les wanted to review the Russian we had learned in the class. It is one thing to recall what we learned in the classroom situation at 1.30 pm. It is quite another thing to try rememebr at 10.15 pm. We are impressed with Les's (and Debbie's) ability in Russian. As the day ended Nancye kept saying.... is there any way we can cancel those classes or get out of them!!! Did I hear her muttering "Privyet" as we dropped off to sleep.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Another Milestone....

Today was the big day - Richard turned 65 and the grandkids had a great time celebrating it with him! Misha was even up early wanting to celebrate which was cute. The day started with Misha organising a "Treasure Hunt" for his Papa to try and find his cards and gifts....quite fun. Misha had done this for his 5th birthday recently so I guess he thought it was a good idea.

Going to church on Sunday is a little different here - we didn't go until after lunch with the service being at 2 p.m. so we had a quiet morning I guess, only going out to the supermarket to pick up a few supplies. One realises how much we take for granted both in the States and in New Zealand when it comes to grocery shopping - we just hop in our cars and go to the supermarket and buy as much as we want for the week or whatever and drive home. Not so here.....we walk to the market and only buy what we know we can carry home with us!!! And, walk up 3 flights of stairs when we get there too - no wonder Debbie is looking so nice and slim these days ;-)
Anyway, back to church.....we all walked about 5 min to the bus stop where we boarded a mini-bus which took us 'near' their church where we walked again. They hold their church meetings in a rented room at a school- everything is very old and not well cared for which is a shame.
After church (we only stayed for an hour as it's pretty tough when you don't understand anything!!) we went for a walk to see where Misha's school is before walking to the Metro train which took us back to near their apartment where we walked again to a typical Russian restaurant to have a celebration birthday dinner. This restaurant was really cute and old fashioned looking with Russian style food - which we enjoyed very much. We then walked back to the apartment where we had birthday cake (that Debbie had made) and ice-cream.

The sun still doesn't go down here until around 9 or so, so the days are long and we are still suffering a little from jet lag, but it is getting better. It is hard to get kids to bed when the sun is still shining.

Tomorrow we go to the school where Les teaches English and through which we got our visas - we have to take a few classes in the Russian language and learn a little about the culture or something - I'm not too excited about the study side of things but it will be interesting to see what happens. I think we are to take about 5 classes or something - will keep you informed.

It has been interesting to get to know our grandkids again.....Misha is a very strong willed child so keeps his parents on their toes, but is a loveable kid! Very bright and will go far. Sydney is a honey but a very independant child and wants to do EVERYTHING by herself thankyou very much!! Dresses herself and puts her shoes on and all that kind of thing and is speaking very well. The only thing she doesn't do well is grow hair!!! But it is coming in a little bit now and looks like it might be curly.

We are enjoying being here and seeing just how Deb and Les live - they have a beautiful apartment but life isn't easy here from what we see - reminds us of early days in Colombia where you take public transport everywhere and the city is dirty and drab. But, they are very happy it would seem and these things come naturally to them now.

Until the next instalment.....

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Trans-Siberian Railway

This morning we set off on foot to visit the Railway Station. It is just a few streets north of the apartment where Les and Debbie live. On the way we had to go by several parks and let Misha and Sydney play on the swings and other attractions. I can't help but think that Novosibirsk in much like Bogota. The buildings are constructed in brick or concrete and they tend to be dull in their colours. There is evidence of progress with construction all over the city. The streets are all lined with beautiful trees. The sidewalks are rough and uneven.

The Railway Station stands behind a big open square. It is painted green and white. This is the biggest station on the Trans-Siberian railway. It goes all the way from Valdivostock to Moscow and on into Western Europe. The inside of the railway Station is even more spectacular with big open cavernous waiting rooms of stations that were built in the Victorian era.

The city of Novisibirsk was founded well over 100 years ago at the point where the Trans-Siberian railway crossed the Obb River. It is an important transport link between the east and the west. Novosibirsk means "New Siberia". It is a city of about one and a half million. The image of the shortages of commodities after the fall of the Iron Curtain is shattered by going into a Supermarket. Everything is available from other parts of the world as well as all the basic products of Russia.

We're not used to all this walking. After lunch we came home to rest before the next outing - walking once again! That brings back memories of life in Colombia. As a consequence of all the walking you don't see overweight people here.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

First Impressions of Novo

As is my custom I was out and about for my morning walk at 7.00 AM. My first thought was that it would be easy to get lost. Les and Debbie live in an apartment block on 55 Soviet Street. That is fine if everyone spoke English, but with all the street names being in the Cyrillic alphabet I had to content myself with sticking to the road the family lives on, and not stray and then try to ask directions. However, that was an interesting experience. It seems that everyone lives in an apartment. All you see are blocks of apartments. They look old, and many are, but with such harsh winters maintenance must be difficult.

At 7.00 AM people were scurrying around. There were several workers sweeping the sidewalks in front of the apartment block. Men and women were walking to work. There are very few lawns. With snow around for most of the year it would hardly be worthwhile sowing a lawn for three months. Most women have dyed hair. All the young chicks are in high healed shoes. It seems that they are very fashion conscious. The cars on the streets seem, in the main, to be older models.

What did catch my attention was the ornate Russian Orthodox Church down the street. The domes on top of the building were in gold paint and glittering in the sun. People coming out of the hcurch would come down the steps and then turn to face in and do the sign of the cross. Inside the church there were mainly older women with their headscarves on. The church is filled with icons - paintings of the saints. These women would go to each painting and then pause to do the sign of the cross, repeat the performance, and then move on to the next icon and do the same. At some of the icons they would do the sign of the cross and then kneel. I guess those were the special saints or the patron saints. How sad to see such superstition and simply the fulfillment of man-made traditions to try and please God and not to know the saving grace and power of Jesus Christ and His finished work on the cross. It seems that no matter where you go in the world Satan has blinded men's eyes to the truth. In some places it is the ritual of religion, and in our western world it is the ease and comfort of material things. It made me feel that if I was 45 years younger I would want to come here to preach the gospel and seek to bring the light of the gospel to these people. No where on my hour long walk did I see evidence of an evangelical church.

There was a park near the church with some flower beds. It was kind of nice to see the beautiful colours of Petunias and other flowers.

After my hour long walk it was home to the family for breakfast. Somethings, such as scrambled eggs, never change. I was back in the safety zone.

Richard - Ricardo - Dick - Dad

Wednesday, August 02, 2006


Yes, here we are finally in the city of Novosibirsk! Wow, what a trip to get here....our flights were all great, but our time in the terminal in Moscow was rough!! We arrived in the morning and our first task was to change terminals and we had been told not to get a taxi and they can rip you off - so we looked for the 'free shuttle bus' we had been told about. Oh boy, what a feeling when you don't understand a language and can't find anyone who understands what you are trying to say. Finally, by sign language etc we were pointed in the way of the bus station but once there couldn't get anyone to understand us!! Everyone was full of advice but we couldn't understand a word of it. One bus driver eventually said he was going to the other terminal but we had to pay for ourselves as well as our bags - which we did!! Then this bus seemed to be going out into the country and we began to wonder if we were going in the right direction - a couple of ladies on the bus tried to tell us we were on the right bus so we just sat there and hoped for the best!! We finally arrived at another terminal and it was a little traumatic trying to find our way around as even less evidence of English was to be seen there!!
We eventually found out that we couldn't check our bags in until 2 hours before our flight was due to leave so that meant we had to lug our bags around for about 8 hours and there was very little seating availabe and crowds of people. So we finally found a table with a couple of chairs and hung out there for the 8 hours or so before we could check in taking turns to go for a walk around the place. I would say that was the hardest part of the whole trip!! Waiting in lines here takes forever - just the lines through Customs in Moscow took 2 hours and we seemed to just stand still. It was the same when we went to check in to leave for Novosibirsk where you had to line up to get your bags all xrayed and then line up again before checking in - good lessons in patience.
The plane we flew in from Moscow to Novosibirsk was a Russian built Ilyushin (the equivalent of a 747)...but it was so big and roomy inside with the ceiling very high up but small seats close together and wide isles - seemed strange. You had to walk up stairs in the middle of the plane to get to the seating etc.
So, now we are here - Les and Misha were at the airport at 5.30 a.m. to meet us and it was great to see them again. It was about a half hours drive to their apartment where Debbie and Sydney were still sleeping!!
We had a first good day catching up and going for a couple of walks - they live one block from the centre of the city so everything is pretty much within walking distance.
Everything here seems very old and we feel like we have gone back in time - cars, buildings etc - but the locals are very modern in their dress etc so a strange combination.
We were in bed asleep by 7.30 last night and nearly slept for 12 hours so I guess we are catching up.
Until the next edition.......

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Safely There

For those checking up on their status, Mum and Dad are safely in Novosibirsk, Russia. They arrived at Debbie's home just 37 hours after they drove away from their house! Amazing - they survived 4 plane rides!
- Angela (Dad's secretary!)

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Last Sunday

Today was our last day with the folk at Westminster. We had some good meetings and the elders prayed with Nancye and me for our trip. Friends have taken us out for lunch and dinner so it is just as well we were all packed and ready to go!!
We leave the house at 5a.m. on Monday and then we have some 30 hours before we reach Novosibirsk with layovers in Chicago, Frankfurt and Moscow so it will be a long day/days.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

65th birthday dinner

We were all invited over to Bill and Angela's for dinner to celebrate 'in advance" Dick's 65th birthday which will actually take place while we are in Novosibirsk! Guess he will get to celebrate a couple of times as I'm sure the grandchildren will want a party too :-)

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Well, I guess the "count down" is on and now it is only 6 days for those who are interested! I know Jonathan isn't too happy about the meals his mother WONT be cooking for him, but he did give me a shopping list of all the foods he would like to be around the house for him - not all the healthy kind either.
We are pleased Jon has gotten through his first month of the intensive computer studies he is doing and is now a qualified "Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer: Security". Sounds impressive, but not sure if I know what it all means. All I know is that he has studied really hard so far and we are proud of him! This week he has started on studies with Cisco or something so it is going to be another few weeks of full-on studies for him.
It has been so HOT here for the last week we are looking forward to cooler temperatures in Novosibirsk and then the UK so I hope they live up to their reputation as I can't take much more of this heat and sleeping on the sofa in the family room which is the only room with air conditioning!!
See you all again soon........

Saturday, July 22, 2006


Only 9 days until we embark on our journey to Russia and Scotland. Check back here for updates on our adventures!