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!)