Saturday, May 30, 2009

Another Forever Family


My dear friends Kristina and Chris are currently in Ukraine adopting two precious children- Matthew and Natalia! Kristina and I went to college together and were reconnected this summer when her and her husband started pursuing adoption from Ukraine!!  It is always such an honor to walk alongside a couple when they are in the midst of the adoption process and even more fun when they actually come!

I was able to take the over night train this week to meet up with them and meet their newest additions. IMG_1848-1 We had a wonderful day playing outside in the city with the children in Matthew and Natalia’s group.  IMG_1890

I even found a couple I’d like to take home with me…including this precious little girl.  We made fast friends. :)IMG_1969-1

It never ceases to amaze me how God uses adoption to redeem these little lives.  How children can be transformed from orphans and adopted as sons and daughters- given new names and new futures.    And no matter how many times I see it happen, the Lord shows me something new about his love and adoption of us. IMG_2037IMG_2045-1

Please pray for Chris and Kristina in the coming weeks as they finish up the lengthy adoption process and transition home! They are one amazing couple that I am blessed to call my friends and I can’t wait to see how the stories of Natalia and Matthew will unfold.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

2 Days in Krakow


So after our day-long adventure in Lviv, we boarded the train to head into Poland-- Krakow specifically. It is about an 8 hour journey- which includes about an hour of passport officials coming on to check documents and another two hours of changing train wheels.  DSCN1957 Yes, a former Soviet defense mechanism to keep people out was to have different railways- so that European trains couldn’t easily cross the soviet borders.  So now, oh about 18 years since the end of the cold-war, we still have the same old rail ties in Ukraine and thus they must jack up the whole train to change the wheels in order to cross into the rest of Europe.  Sounds fun huh?  It’s interesting to say the least!

We had about 48 hours in Krakow and we packed in just about all we could see. I had been to Krakow about 4 years ago, so it was fun to retrace my steps and remember where everything was.  IMG_1480We were able to take a day trip to the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp- which is now converted into an amazing and numbing museum.   Comprehending the horror that took place over the 6 year period on those grounds is unreal and actually being there is more or less surreal in many ways.  It’s just so much to wrap your mind around.

We were also able to visit the salt mines which Krakow is famous for.  This salt mine is one of the world’s oldest operating  but has since been turned into a museum that reaches a depth of IMG_1516over 300 meters!  We didn’t get to go the very bottom of the mine, and apparently during our 2-hour excursion we only saw 1% of the territory of the mine.  A  salt mine may not sound very interesting but it really was something to see and full of statues and figures made out of salt that miners have constructed over the years.  Literally all the walls around you are made of salt…IMG_1563I wanted to be sure so I even did a little experiment.   Yes! They were salty alright!


Our final day we raced through a tour of the Wawel castle which overlooks all of Krakow and dates back to the 14th century.  It is one of my favorite historical places in all of my European travels, as the grandeur of the castle just amazes me and the interior is chalk full of artifacts that have been donated from various collections all across Europe. IMG_1628IMG_1637   IMG_1621

So we loved our brief blitz through Krakow—if you are ever on an European adventure in the future, I highly recommend working Krakow into your journey- it is full of amazing sites and a lot less expensive then Western Europe.  There is also a cheap flight from Kiev to Krakow (which we did on the way back to safe ourselves another long train journey).IMG_1493

Lviv- Ukraine’s hidden little Europe

IMG_1382 Lviv is one of my favorite cities in Ukraine.  Tucked in the corner of Western Ukraine, bordering Poland, it is a refreshing city, in much contrast to the more soviet block cities of the east.  I first went to Lviv 3 years ago and fell in love with it’s quaint yet European feel.  I thought it would be the perfect destination to take my parents so they could see another flavor of Ukraine- it also made a good stop on our way westward towards Krakow, Poland.


What I love about Lviv is the western European influence in architecture, and since Lviv was almost untouched by bombs during WWII, most of the baroque and renaissance structures remain. Lviv also varies quite a bit from the rest of Ukraine because of it’s Catholic influence. IMG_1308 Whereas the majority of Ukraine remains largely Orthodox, Lviv in contrast has Catholic cathedrals everywhere and the population looks more west than east in regards to their faith.   With cute cafes on almost every corner and only one day to spend exploring, I told my parents we were in for a day of lots of walking and lots of eating!!  IMG_1324So we made sure to eat at some of my favorite spots- which included Veronika, an adorable patisserie with great coffee and breakfast.  We also explored one of the largest cemeteries IMG_1405I’ve ever been in with thousands of graves of Polish, Ukrainian and Russian people who died from the 18th century on.  The mix of names written in the three languages throughout three centuries is fascinating.


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We rounded off our day with a yummy dinner in an eclectic restaurant full of antiques from Poland…which was quite fitting since we would be up early the next morning to board our train headed towards Krakow!


You Can’t Take it With You!


Last  weekend was the spring production at Kiev Christian Academy.  This year I directed the classic comedy “You Can’t Take it With You.”  It was a really fun production- the biggest one I’ve done yet, with a cast of 17 students.  IMG_0840It was quite the undertaking but when all was said and done it turned out fabulous!  As always we had great audiences, and everyone was so complementary of the actors. It amazes me that with a high school consisting of 60 students there can be so much talent. I just love these kids. 

IMG_0992 My cousins Honnah and Logan both had parts in this production, so of course I was extra proud of them and they both did amazing work.  This was also the final performance for all the seniors, who I began directing when they were all freshmen. It felt very rewarding to see them come so far and I will greatly miss them.  There were 11 seniors involved in this production so their absence will be missed next year. IMG_1010 Perhaps next year I’ll direct a smaller show—I could use a break after such a large undertaking.  But perhaps I’ll change my mind once the dust from this production settles!


Here are a few more photos from their wonderful production.IMG_1125

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Time with my mom and dad around Kiev

IMG_0636As I’m writing this my parents are now on a flight from England back to Seattle….I’m still processing the fact that their two weeks with me is already over- when we’d all been anticipating it for so long!  IMG_0603 My mom and dad arrived on May 8th and got to spend the first week following me around Kiev as I ran about like a mad woman trying to put the final touches on the spring play I was directing (see post above).  We did manage to see a few sights during the days and my parents very graciously sat through many last minute rehearsals and dress rehearsals. I even put them to work constructing curtains for the window and arch way on our set.  Reminded me of the days when my mom was the stage mom when I was in high school! 

IMG_1081 It was such a blessing to have my parents see my day-to-day life and experience all the random things that I’m apart of here in Ukraine.  From riding on the metro and mini-buses to walking up my five flights of stairs and about 2 miles every day they saw and did it all!  IMG_0723 I even had them be adventurous one day and I dropped them off at the zoo so they wouldn’t have to sit through a 2nd dress rehearsal. Kinda funny to tell my students I left my parents at the zoo! But they navigated their way to a grocery store and home to my apartment with no problems. Not too bad! 

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Saturday, May 2, 2009

Russian Speaking Barbie- take 2

DSC02881 Sometimes I just have to laugh at the things I end up doing in this country! Things I never anticipated. Playing a Russian speaking “Barbie” is one of those things!  Last weekend I traveled again with our mission’s concert team/acting group to perform with them in 2 different children evangelizations in eastern Ukraine.  

I hadn’t taken part in one of their productions since the fall- so I was a little rusty. I quickly re-memorized my part on the over night train ride, but our schedule didn’t allow us for any time to practice together before hand- so although DSC02910 I memorized what to say I was a little clueless as to when to say it… really an important acting lesson I should have learned years ago!! So I guess I fit the blonde “Barbie” role quite well, as there would be this big awkward silence on stage and then all the other characters would look at me—and then I’d think to myself- - “oh! I guess this is when I speak!”  I don’t think I ruined it too much as the little girls still wanted my autograph after the show. It still amazes me what a pretty dress and a title will do to give you sudden fame.

One word you have to learn early on in Ukraine is “gipkost” translated that means- flexibility! One of our performances found us having to re-figure and perform outside on the street.  Apparently this is not normal for our concert team- but since I’m not with them often, it didn’t seem like too big a deal for me. DSC02889 The mayor of the city didn’t want a Christian production being done in the Cultural performing center- but didn’t say so until 2 hours before we were supposed to perform! So when challenges come your way you get creative. So much for lights, sound and the set! We just went back to our Greek theatrical roots and performed outside. It was great! About 150 kids gathered round to watch and loved every moment of it.

In case you are curious about what the indoor version looked like, watch the clip below. The sound isn’t very good- but you wouldn’t understand what I was saying anyway!  Basically I’m the Barbie doll and the other guy is a teddy bear. We just turned from being toys to being alive in this scene. Enjoy!