Jordans in Siberia (and Michigan)

Keeping up with daily life of the Jordans


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Holiday Happenings

Already an entire week of our break is gone.  Today is New Year’s Eve.  Soon we will be leaving home to brave the traffic to visit our friends.  We will celebrate with them by eating lots of special and yummy foods, doing sparklers outside in the dark with the kids (any time after 6pm) and just having fun.  Hopefully our boys will also get some good sleep since the first three days of January are full of activities….

Here is a glimpse of what we’ve been up to in the last 10 days since break began:

DECEMBER 22

This car is so old you can only photograph it in black and white!

This car is so old you can only photograph it in black and white!

Once again our dear friend Misha loaned us his “zhi-goo-lee” for the trip to Shabur.  Darin and Ryan squeezed into the back with archery equipment that didn’t fit in the trunk.  Alan and I were wedged in to the front.  We all bundled up heavily since the outside temperature was more than -40.  Every 10 or 15 minutes I used a plastic discount card from the local paper store to scrape the ice off the windows as we drove, but we all managed to stay warm.  We spent at least half the time munching on snacks.  The boys enjoyed their frozen water bottles on the return trip.

Our time in Shabur was fun, too.  Alan, Pastor Oleg (sounds more like Alec to me), and Valerie are excited about the archery competition they are planning for the kids from Shabur and Zaegraeva for January 3.  These are the two villages where Alan shoots regularly with the youth–Wednesdays in Z and every other Saturday in Shabur.  Z is an hour away from Ulan-Ude (unless you get stopped at any of the four railway crossings) and Shabur is another hour beyond Z.  It should be an exciting day–so far just listening to the plans get made and changed is pretty exciting.

DECEMBER 24

Eric created a traditional Buryat yurt out of gingerbread for our team Christmas party.  He added a little cocoa powder to make it look more natural since snow does get dirty.

Eric created a traditional Buryat yurt out of gingerbread for our team Christmas party. He added a little cocoa powder to make it look more natural since snow does get dirty.

Darin created a nativity scene out of gingerbread.  He made people out of candy.

Darin created a nativity scene out of gingerbread. He made people out of candy.

The team Christmas party included 17 people and 14 children.  We had fun, food, presents and carols by candlelight.

The team Christmas party included 17 adults and 14 children. We had fun, food, presents and carols by candlelight.

Our unrehersed  reading of Luke 2.  Here angle Ryan is talking to shepherds Nate, Matty and Anneka (special guest from Germany).

Our unrehersed reading of Luke 2. Here angle Ryan is talking to shepherds Nate, Matty and Anneka (special guest from Germany).

Singing by candlelight is one my favorite Christmas traditions.

Singing by candlelight is one my favorite Christmas traditions.

DECEMBER 25

The boys little stockings couldn't hold everything.  Here one of the little Christmas bears (who live in the stockings) is sleeping on some Russian treats known as "pillows."  Our family bear (Hug Bear) is keeping watch.

The boys little stockings couldn’t hold everything. Here one of the little Christmas bears (who live in the stockings) is sleeping on some Russian treats known as “pillows.” Our family bear (Hug Bear) is keeping watch.

Creative present wrapping...the word "ot" is Russian for "from".

Creative present wrapping…the word “ot” is Russian for “from”.  Full message reads: To Daddy ot Darin message: may your feet cook.

The big present!

The big present!

DECEMBER 27

We also had our English conversation and culture club students over for a Christmas tea.

We also had our English conversation and culture club students over for a Christmas tea.

Games, food, hearing the Christmas story, singing Silent Night--lots of fun.

Games, food, hearing the Christmas story, singing Silent Night–lots of fun.

We had plenty to eat!

We had plenty to eat!

Fooz Ball was a hit.

Fooz Ball was a hit.

DECEMBER 29

As the New Year approaches, the neighbors have been busy cleaning carpets and blankets in the snow.

As the New Year approaches, the neighbors have been busy cleaning carpets and blankets in the snow.

"My favorite color is green." Ryan was pounding snow with a stick and accidentally pounded the stick with his face.

“My favorite color is green.” Ryan was pounding snow with a stick and accidentally pounded the stick with his face.

DECMEBER 30

Announcing....our new arrival!!!  It just fits in the garage we rent.

Announcing….our new arrival!!! It just fits in the garage we rent.

Here is our "new" 13 year old van!  We look forward to many new adventures with it!

Here is our “new” 13 year old van! We look forward to many new adventures with it!

DECMEBER 31

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!  Here is the New Year Tree by our local grocery store.

“Happy New Year” reads the wrap-around base of the tree by our local grocery store.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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Cold Days

Monday morning the boys were excited when the phone rang half way through breakfast.  But their teacher was not calling to cancel classes, merely to double check on the temperature reading.

Tuesday morning it was colder and the boys rejoiced.  Their teachers declared it a “cold day” so there was no studying that day.

How cold is a cold day?  Officially, it is about -35 degrees Celcius (-31 degrees Farenheit).  That’s cold enough to frost bite your  nose on the walk to the building where we rent rooms for the boys to meet in with their teachers.  It’s cold enough that Ryan pauses when he steps out of our stairwell “to adjust to the cold.”  It’s cold enough that swim classes at the local school pool were canceled.

Russian schools close for the cold, too.  At -35 the younger grades (1 through 4) stay home.  For each additional degree of cold, another grade or two gets added to the “closed” list until all stay home at -40.  Usually, this cold weather arrives in January.  Out in the villages it arrived this year at the end of November.  This week a friend in a village told me that her children had nearly two weeks off of school before the decision was made to just go to school anyway so that the entire year wouldn’t be spent staying home out of the cold.

The big question for us this week was what to do with our two days “off.”  In order to be ready for class on time, the boys have to already be eating breakfast at the time when lessons might be canceled.  Thus, they suddenly have a free day but it is still hours before sunrise and the temperature  will continue to drop till mid-morning.

Here are some of the ways we spent the time:

Ryan made a friend from straws.

Ryan made a friend from straws.

We did some cleaning that doesn't usually get done.

We did some cleaning that doesn’t usually get done.

Darin worked extra hard.

Darin worked extra hard.

It's nice to have helpers that can get into smaller places.

It’s nice to have helpers that can get into smaller places.

"Mommy, the freezer looks so white now!"

“Mommy, the freezer looks so white now!”

Eric worked very hard, too.  He read to us as we scrubbed!

Eric worked very hard, too. He read to us as we scrubbed!

Ryan also spent many hours weaving a spider web in the boys' bedroom.

Ryan also spent many hours weaving a spider web in the boys’ bedroom.

The only problem was getting into the room after the web was up.

The only problem was getting into the room after the web was up.

The web included insects that Mommy had to find, too.

The web included insects that Mommy had to find, too.

We also went on a few shopping expeditions.  However, once you bundle up to stand at a bus stop in that cold, being inside the store is uncomfortably warm.  We went to the brand new “Capital Mall.”  The entry hall looked and felt like a mall in any big first world city.  We were impressed.  Then we wandered in past several glass fronted shops–there was clothing, cell phones, photo shop, cell phones, electronics and cell phones!  The escalator was a hit, as was the open second floor circle where you could look down below.  Finally, we took in the huge new “SPAR” store.  It had a little of everything.  The funny part was that many of the items on the shelves were covered with notes that said “This item not yet for sale.  It has no price.”  We found an amazing bulk food section and measured out some imported dried cranberries for a treat.  But the clerk could not find the price for them, so we couldn’t buy them.  Next we tired some nuts.  Again, she couldn’t find the price.  Then she simply walked away.  We decided it was time to do the same.

As we left the mall, the boys and I remarked on the huge expanse of parking lot.  It probably isn’t much bigger than the parking lot at your local pharmacy in the US, but for Ulan-Ude it was huge.  If we had brought the camera with us, that would have been the photo of the day–especially since it had actually been somewhat cleaned of snow and had real snow banks along the far edge!

Our second day off for cold was Wednesday.  Darin had the big adventure–he went with Alan to do archery with the youth in the village an hour away.  His biggest impression?  The room where they shot was COLD and the bus ride (one hour) back to the city was freezing!

****** As I write this on Thursday, our life is back in rhythm–until tomorrow when the holiday break begins.   ********


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The Sheep Story

 

OK, so I have been delinquent. People have asked for more about the sheep, so let me tell you. I went to the Archery Competition in the village of Atsula. I would guess that most towns and villages have a “Datsan”, a Buddhist temple. Most competitions have some connection to the local Datsan. In Atsula it was no different. This adds a spiritual dimension to these competitions that can be heavy.

I rode in a car for the two hour trip with three other men from Ulan-Ude. Along the route the men would often roll down the windows and throw some uncooked rice and or a few small coins out of the car. This is done at specific “holy” places, generally at the tops of rises or hills. The purpose of this is to appease the spirits so that the road will be safe. Inevitably I get the opportunity to tell them why I do not participate and the hope that I have in the Lord God and his protection.

When we arrived in Atsula, there were already other archers there. By the time we were shooting there were 38 of us. Archers come from all regions to participate and it is like a big reunion. Everyone knows each other and the atmosphere of camaraderie includes lots of helping each other and shared laughter.

Although the ground was bare, the mid-November day was chilly.
Although the ground was bare, the mid-November day was chilly.

When the arrows stopped flying, each of the first four places won both some sheep and money. The first three places were won by one person from each of the three vehicles from Ulan-Ude. Taking care of the money was not a problem, but what to do with the seven sheep was a different question. At first, our winners started leading away some of the big sheep, but they were stopped and told those were for the Buryat traditional wrestlers. They ended up with seven of the spring/summer lambs.

It was decided that all of the sheep would be put into the back of the station-wagon (the car I had been riding in). Of course then some other place had to be found for the bows, arrows, gear, and miscellaneous bags. A place also had to be found for a couple of the passengers, myself included.

A nice cozy ride for seven lambs...A nice cozy ride for seven lambs…

 

I found a seat in the van and off we went. Although it was only late afternoon, the sun was already setting and the frosty winter twilight had set in. About a half hour later we turned off the road, bounced along a rough track for a little and stopped at a small hut and some sheep pens. We hauled the sheep out of the station-wagon and put them in one of the pens. At this point we untied their legs and let them run free with the other sheep. One particularly ornery ovine (sheep), got away from us and led a merry chase even though his front legs were still tied together.

DSCN0041aUnloading the lambs–holding on to them was not easy.

At this point we resumed our positions in the vehicles to continue our homeward journey. After we were seated and traveling again, I asked “What just happened?” The short of the story, as it was then explained to me, is that the sheep were too small for a barbeque, ergo they would let them grow until next year. One of the men, Reem’cheen, from Ulan-Ude, (not one of the winners) had an acquaintance who raised sheep in the area. Reemcheen called his friend and was told to bring the sheep out which is what we had done. Now they will stay there until the winners want them. I am not sure how they will tell them apart or how the sheep herder will receive recompense for keeping them, but nobody seemed worried about these questions.

All three vehicles then stopped on the fringe of Ulan-Ude and celebrated the “last” competition of the year. I had a good time sharing and talking with men that I have come to know, love and desire that they come to know the Good Shepherd; I even had the opportunity to tell them that as we went around and shared our good wishes for the group.

Alan (who has not yet won any sheep)

 

Prizes for the Buryat archery and wrestling competition winners.Prizes for the Buryat archery and wrestling competition winners.
Winter coats over traditional Buryat robes look a little strange, but when the breeze is biting, no one cares.
Winter coats over traditional Buryat robes look interesting, but when the breeze is biting, no one cares.