Jordans in Siberia (and Michigan)

Keeping up with daily life of the Jordans


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Extremes

While preparing a session for English conversation and culture club at a local university, I learned about an extreme sport known as “extreme ironing.” To become an athlete (?) of this sport you simply take your iron and ironing board and go somewhere unusual and iron. I even found a video of someone ironing underwater. (Does that count as ironing?)

Eric liked the idea of trying extreme ironing. Last week we had some extreme cold. It was -42 degrees Celsius. I’m not sure about what that is in Fahrenheit, but at -40 both scales are the same. When it is that cold, everyone coughs on their first breath of air after they walk outside. Your nose runs, but you can’t feel it. When you sniffle, everything freezes. The fur on your hood gets frosted from your breath, but your eyelashes probably won’t freeze shut unless you stand still and exhale with your eyes closed.

Just after sunrise–about 9:30–Eric stepped out on to our balcony. He wore a T-shirt, pants and rubber sandals on bare feet. While Darin filmed, Eric became the first extreme ironer to brave -40 degrees. Here is the result:

(OOPS–not possible to insert video without technical help which is currently unavailable.  Please check back b/c the video will be posted as soon as….well, hopefully by the beginning of next week!)

 

Ryan found his own way to stay cozy on a cold day.  This is their toy storage unit.

Ryan found his own way to stay cozy on a cold day. This is their toy storage unit.

 

Ryan? Are you in there?

Ryan? Are you in there?

 

"Hey, Mommy, let me go back in.  I have a flashlight and it is fun."

“Hey, Mommy, let me go back in. I have a flashlight and it is fun.”

 

Our van is not extremely fond of the extreme cold.  Here Alan is going to go start the van at -40.  He has the battery in his hand--a great way to be sure he won't need a jump.

Our van is not extremely fond of the extreme cold. Here Alan is going to go start the van at -40. He has the battery in his hand–he brought it inside overnight to keep it warm.

 

 

 


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Family Moments

This afternoon (January 15) I wrote these paragraphs for “another glimpse”.  But then it seemed too personal for a glimpse, so I decided to put it here.

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I have always loved sledding.  As a child, it was often a family activity.  The most unusual rides were always mine.  Whether sliding down a snowfield in the Rockies or joining a sledding party at the old gravel pit, I was the one who ended up zipping down the slope backwards, shrieking at the top of my lungs, while my family stood watching, knowing I was perfectly safe and laughing till they had to sit down.

This last Sunday afternoon I had a new sledding experience.  Knowing that the boys needed to use energy, I told them we were going for a family walk.  At 4pm we set out.  The sun was already dipping toward the horizon but the sky was blue and the temperature had risen to -25 C (-13 F).

We had to place our feet carefully to avoid slipping on the well-trodden snow outside.  Every step crunched or squeaked underfoot.  Eager to return home to a promised family movie evening, the boys had decided not even to bring sleds.  We walked about 10 or 15 minutes to some sand hills on the edge of Ulan-Ude.  Instantly, Ryan forgot about going back home in the joy of propelling himself off the hillside and falling down into the snow and sand.  Alan had pulled a runner sled along and he began enjoying the well packed car trail.  While Eric played with Ryan, I followed Darin up to the highest hill.  Then with a skip in his step, Darin led the way down the snowy slope, kicking up sand as he slid along.

I didn’t want to go tumbling down the hillside behind Darin, so I sat down and began to scootch along.  The sliding wasn’t too bad, but my knee-length down coat was not very slippery.  I let the coat bunch up and tried moving along on the seat of my wind proof pants.  That was much faster.  Very much faster.  Somewhere toward the bottom of the hill, I felt something very hard in the middle of my trail.  Getting to my feet and looking back, I saw pieces of broken beer bottle that I had uncovered.  Reaching under my coat to brush off any extra snow, I discovered that I had shredded the seat of my pants….and my sweat pants under them…and my long underwear…

We headed home.  A small breeze stung our faces as we walked and I felt the bite in the updraft under my coat as well.  Thus the family tradition of my laughable sledding experiences is now shared not only by my parents and sisters, but Alan and our boys as well.

That evening I mended the rents in my several layers of clothing.  The wind proof pants are neatly folded and waiting for me to go visit my friend who is a professional seamstress.  I want that mending job to look good–or maybe even invisible.  I am glad to go spend some time with my friend and encourage her, too.  Maybe I can even share some laughter with her when she asks how I managed to tear my pants like that.
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This T-shirt was given to Eric for his thirteenth birthday last fall.  His best Russian friend wrote this poem for him.

This T-shirt was given to Eric for his thirteenth birthday last fall. His best Russian friend wrote this poem for him.

Here’s a closer look at the poem if you want to try to read it!

DSCN1568

 


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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.


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Four Events

by Eric

I have been wanting to make a post for quite a while, therefore I will make a post that covers four events, not one.

The first thing is a party we had just to pass the time. I’m sorry that the only picture I have about this is the string of twenty hot dogs that we turned into pigs in a blanket, which we delivered to a living room full of friends with whom we watched an old Disney movie.

The hot dogs

The second event is a trip to McBuryat’s. It is one of the two spoofs of McDonald’s (sometime I’m going to have to write about the other spoof, McBurger’s.)  The pictures tell the story.

McBuryat’s
One McBuryat’s set (hamburger/cheeseburger/hot dog, two Buryat dumplings and tea) and one Americano set (hamburger/cheeseburger/hot dog, fries and “Pepsi”)
The rather small kitchen where all the food was prepared.
After eating I still felt hungry, so I got a double hot dog.  One hot dog kept falling out of the bun.

The third event, almost the most recent and definitely most exasperating, was my mom and dad’s college English class having a Thanksgiving party which I was forced to attend as a native speaker of English.

Thanksgiving at the university English class.
There were way too many people for me. (Here they are playing a game–it got pretty noisy!)

The fourth (music), the most important (soldiers stand at attention), the most exciting event (drum roll), so recent that my dad got home from there half way through this blog post, is going to help put up the framework on the second story of our friends’ house (applause and fireworks).

This is the house that Jack built…no, that a lot of people have helped out on.
This is the floor or lack thereof on the second floor of the house that Jack built…
This a picture of the floor or lack thereof on the second floor of the house that Jack built. (This looks down into the basement.) The ice that covered the boards made us a little uneasy.
The easiest way across a large chasm in the floor.
The ground crew devotedly sawing boards to necessary lengths.
A view through the window of the house that Jack built.

PS  This was almost ready to publish when our Thanksgiving guests arrived on Saturday evening.  (Yes, they were a little late, but we planned the meal for Saturday, not Thursday!)  Since then we’ve been so busy that now it is Wednesday night and we are FINALLY getting this finished!


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Of Archery and Sheep–Home Perspective

Sunday November 11 Alan went to an archery tournament.  That’s not his normal Sunday activity, but the day-long event with his Buryat friends was the right thing to do on that day.  Towards evening, Alan and I began to exchange text messages.  I will record our texted conversation here.

18:31 A: leaving for home. have to do something with some sheep en route.

18:32 J: Whose sheep? In car with you?

18:36 A: i sent this earlier, but now i see it did not go. *****we are arriving–two hours driving once we left.  roads clear.

18:38 J: That was confusing.

18:40 5 sheep in car, 3 different owners.  i am not in car.

18:41 J: So where are you? You can tell me later.

(After this the boys had a great time guessing if Daddy was riding home on the roof rack or in the trunk.  Darin hoped that Alan had won a sheep for his shooting and sent the following message.)

19:16 J: Can we have a pet sheep? Love, Darin

(no response)

22:28 J: In bed but not asleep yet.  See you soon?

22:30 A: we are in the city, hope to be home soon

 
He was home soon–and he didn’t bring any sheep into our apartment.   As for the rest of the mystery…hopefully he’ll have time to tell you soon!