So, for me, 2012 is the year of the dentist. I have been to the dentist five times this year and I am far from finished!
It all started when I was in Colorado at a missionary training. There was a tooth I had work done on about ten years ago that broke. This was a problem!!! I had previously had a root canal, so I had no pain, but I went to the doctor right away. Of course, there were many options, but none of them were simply filling the tooth, you cannot do that when only half the tooth remains - go figure. Option one was to perform a surgery that would lift my gum line allowing them to cap the tooth. Option two was to remove the tooth and then a whole list of options - mainly to implant a new tooth, make a bridge with other teeth, or leave it open. All of these ideas took lots of time and money. So, I prayed. God provided funds and I went to the dentist again.
Now, it had been some time since I had gone to the dentist just to visit. So, my first visit, they wanted to do an x-ray and a check-up of my other teeth - good, but bad news - cavities! YUCK. But, God provided funds and I was planning to leave the country for more than 2 years, I should get things taken care of. So, I made another appointment to have my teeth cleaned and then we made a plan for the other teeth. I can again to the dentist, and he filled three teeth on the right side of my mouth - I know, it is scandalous! Then just 3 days before I came to Ukraine, I went to the dentist again to have my broken tooth removed and the tooth next to it filled.
Now, this is the point were I admit that I had a lot of trouble giving up that silly tooth. It may not seem so, but I am a little vain. I really like my smile and I do not want to be missing teeth. It really was a difficulty for me, but it had to be done. SO, I am now missing a tooth. A couple of sweet things that help me to know I am loved. First, a friend who is Italian made me show her my missing tooth and she said "Shushan, now you look Russian." That made me laugh, in truth, if it were replaced with a gold tooth I would look Russian. The other really sweet thing, two of our pastors here in Ukraine are missing the same tooth - I know that is silly, but for some reason it made me feel more connected to them and loved - it doesn't have to make sense, I am so glad. (at this point, I should mention I have a half written blog about the healing of the whole where my tooth was - it is amazing how God made us. I have watched with interest as it has been "knit" back together - it is amazing!)
Okay, so, I figure I am done with the dentist, at least for a while - right? So, a couple of days ago I was eating a piece of bread - the best bread in the world is in Ukraine and I am eating it everyday! Anyway, eating bread - pretty soft stuff - and my bottom tooth hits the filling in my top tooth and pain - I felt real pain! Well, now that is NOT normal. But it did not do it again...for a while. So, I have no sensitivity to hot or cold, but randomly, if I hit is just right, KA BAM, pain, shooting pain. I have determined with my extensive medical knowledge that this is not normal. Any guesses what I will be doing on Friday???
If anyone is awake around 2am Indiana time, pray for me, I will be in the dentist chair!
Tuesday, June 5, 2012
So, today was my first day with my language teacher. Her name is Anya and she is a teacher of English at one of the public schools near our ministry center. Today was really about trying to discover where I am with my Russian and how she can help me to proceed. I think she was pleased with my level of Russian. I had told her that I spoke a little Russian, but I think she thought I would be limited to "hi, my name is Shushan." Repeatedly she told me how good my Russian is and commented on the size of my vocabulary. Then we actually got down to business. After a little while, she asked me if I know that all nouns in Russian have gender - words are either male, female, or neutral. In a sentence, all the words have to agree with the gender of the noun. I assured her that I do know that. She said, "you do not speak as though you know that." What a gentle reprimand. So we worked on that for a little while. We talked about tenses and she was please with my ability to do past and future tenses, but then she said "you don't know cases at all." NOPE! Good observation. Russian has six cases and I do horribly trying to remember any of them. Oh well. She assured me that we will work on that too. She was please that I can do simple conjugation of verbs and she said I read well - of course I think she teaches small children. I read well for a first grader - but still it was a nice compliment. I am also excited to say that she has agreed to meet with me five days per week. Originally she had said she could do 2 or 3, and I was hoping for 3. But today, she agreed to meet with me everyday at least for the beginning of the summer and then we will see how I progress. I don't know if Anya is a believer, but I am praying for a relationship with her that will draw us both closer to God. When we were talking today, she asked me why I wanted to learn Russian. I told her it is an act of service to God and part of the ministry here. Praying for God's help and strength that I will be an excellent student and glorify Him in my service!
Posted by Shushan at 10:32 AM
Monday, June 4, 2012
Shoes – I have a pair of black flats. I got them just before I came to Ukraine, actually, my sister Kate gave them to me. She bought them, but after she wore them a couple of times, she decided they were just a little too small and uncomfortable for her. Yeah for me, new shoes! Now, these were not an overly expensive pair of shoes, but at home, I would expect them to last for about a year, maybe longer. I won’t wear them every day, but black flats are very practical, so I would plan to wear them often. Ukraine has been especially hard on these little black flats. I walk a lot more here than I did at home and these shoes were clearly not made for extensive walking. After I had been here about a week, I noticed that the lining was coming out of the inside of the shoes – no problem, I have super glue. Next, they were becoming very uncomfortable on my heel. I looked and realized all of the padding had flattened out and I could see the frame of the shoe through the lining. This was uncomfortable. No problem, for about 75 cents, I bought inserts. Again I was happily walking in my black flats. Today, while shopping, I realized that the toe of the shoe is pulling away from the soles – super glue to the rescue again! Then is struck me that I call my updates “Shu-box Greetings.” Now, obviously, I chose this because of my name, but then I have a little shoe theme with the verse and the graphic. It is funny to me that I am struggling with my shoes.
May 11th – – There was a book published some time ago with the title “Three Cups of Tea.” Today, I experienced the Ukrainian version of this. I had a lunch date with one of my friends here in Ukraine, Tanya. It was the first chance we had to really visit since I arrived. I am amazed at how her boys have grown and it was nice to catch-up. She loves to hear stories about my dad and family in America. After lunch, we sat and continued to visit over a cup of tea and some sweets. I thought to myself, how much I love having tea parties. This is something Tanya and I did a lot of when I was in Ukraine before. We ended our time together with a promise get together again with hopes of really reestablishing our friendship. Next I head to Pastor Sasha’s house. His mother, Natasha, had invited me over after church on Sunday, but I was not able to come. Today I was going to visit with her. I arrived at their house and we had a time of visiting. It was exciting to see the changes in their home since I have been gone. They now have running water in their house, I was excited to see their indoor toilet and sink and other improvements they have been able to make. We sat down to visit and I was served tea and sweets. It was lovely to have time to visit and try to catch-up. In the middle of our visit, Pastor Sasha left and Natasha and I continued our time together. Natasha received a phone call from one of the ladies in the church that is handicapped, also named Natasha, asking for help. So Pastor’s mom and I went to help the other Natasha. When we arrived, Natasha was delighted to see that I had come. We helped her with what she needed and then she insisted on serving us tea! When I tried to declined she showed me that she had “special London tea” – it was earl grey. Then she went on to explain that it was English so I had to like it. This made me laugh a little and I agreed to have tea and more sweets. Another lady from church came over as well and the four of us had a lovely tea party that ended with a time of prayer and singing hymns. I was excited to remember some of the words to a couple of the songs – it is amazing how my brain can store and access information that I do not even know is there! In the end, it was an amazing day! Admittedly, I completely ruined my supper, but just the simple act of sitting down and spending time with people over a cup of tea made a difference to each of us. So often I think ministry has been be these grand programs, but time and love are gifts and ministry as well. Thankful for my three cups of tea.
May 9th – What fun it was to be in Ukraine to celebrate the end of the Great Patriotic War (we call it World War II – I never really thought about other people calling it other things.) I know WWII impacted us in the States. My grandparents were alive, my dad’s uncle even fought in the war. I have heard stories, I have seen movies and read books, but somehow in Ukraine, I am closer to that war. It seems every person and place in this country was touched by the war. Ukrainians were kind of in the middle between Germany and Russia. Everyone was impacted. Today, nearly every town has a monument of some sort to those who died in the war, everyone has a story.
Posted by Shushan at 12:00 AM
Wednesday, May 9, 2012
Today is May 9th, a holiday here in Ukraine. Below is an article I found about today. I will post more about my experience tomorrow! "World War II ended ... on V-E Day (Victory in Europe) May 8, 1945 after 2,076 days of war. The USSR celebrated the end of the war, which it called the "Great Patriotic War," one day later on May 9th. Ukraine was the greatest victim of World War II, suffering the greatest material damage and the greatest human losses of any country in the war. How is it possible that Ukraine was even more devastated than Germany? One reason was that Ukraine suffered twice from a "scorched earth" policy conducted by the two greatest totalitarian powers of this century, first Stalin's Soviet Russia and then by Hitler's Nazi Germany. An American foreign correpondent, Edgar Snow, who visited Ukraine in 1943 and at the end of the war in 1945, was so astonished at the enormous losses it had suffered that he wrote an article for Saturday Evening Post titled "Ukraine Pays the Bill." It could be said that "The Allies won the war but Ukraine paid the bill." The story of Ukraine's role and suffering in World War II is generally unknown to the world because it was in the interest of the Soviet Union and Moscow to emphasize the sacrifice and struggle of the "Russian people," of whom inaccurate statistics said twenty million died. This statistic, first quoted by Khrushchev, included 16 million civilians, and actually applied to all citizens of the USSR. In fact, the majority of these victims were non-Russians, mostly Ukrainians. Ukraine was entirely occupied by the German Army for three years but only a small part of Russia was briefly under German occupation during the war. Prof. Norman Davies, criticizing western historians, wrote: "...the overwhelming brunt of the Nazi occupation between 1941 and 1944, as of the devastating Soviet reoccupation, was borne not by Russia but by the Baltic States, by Belarus, by Poland, and above all by Ukraine.... nowhere is it made clear that the largest number of civilian casualties in Europe were inflicted on the Ukrainians, millions of whom were killed both by the Nazis and by the Soviets."(New York Review of Books June 9, 1994, p. 23). " from : Andrew Gregorovich Forum: A Ukrainian Review Ukrainian Fraternal Association 371 N. 9th Ave. Scranton, Pennsylvania 18504-2005 United States
Posted by Shushan at 6:57 AM
Sunday, May 6, 2012
Today has been a great day! This morning I went for a walk around my neighborhood. So many things have changed, but also things are still the same. Then I came home and made a Ukrainian salad, I thought it would be for my lunch, but instead, Chris Dewey, one of the other missionaries invited me to go downtown with her. We walked through the main market, went to several stores, walked down to the sea, and then ate lunch. It was really a nice time, I enjoyed being in town and was amazed how much I felt at home. Then tonight, my welcome party was continued. Thursday night when I arrived a few friends were her, but because it was late, they told me we would have cake today. It was so wonderful! Most of the young adult group from the church I attended when I was here before came. As each one came in, I had a chance to visit with them and hear a little about what is happening in their life. Then I shared my salad and some other food and we had a light dinner, cookies, candy, and cake! One on one, my Russian skills are not bad, but when the whole group is talking, I get completely lost. I was sitting and smiling when one of my friends asked if I understood everything. I confessed that I really didn’t understand anything, but I was so enjoying listening to them. As I lamented that my Russian is not at the same level it was when I left Ukraine four years ago, my friend Katya reminded me that it is also not at the same level as it was when I first arrived six years ago. That was just the encouragement that I needed! As the evening came to an end, we had a group prayer – something I have always loved about this group, our time in prayer together. Then all the guys left, including Veka and Katya’s husbands, but the ladies stayed with me. We sat and visited and played a game. Then Veka went next door to her apartment and Katya is spending the night. It really has been an amazing day. Looking at it, I see so many answered prayers. Prayers prayed for connecting with my new missionary team members, prayers that I will feel like I belong with the people here again, and prayers for this time of transition. I was also thinking about all the people that have hosted me in their homes for the last year, all the meals prepared and time spent. I can never repay your kindness, but I can pass it on. Tonight is the first night of that, I hope in sharing this story it has been as much a blessing to you! In Him, Shushan
Posted by Shushan at 11:23 AM