Friday, June 27, 2008

Traffic Control Issues

How do you solve a problem with three or four of even five variables keeping with the condition that the variables come and go as they please?
After all these years of studying math and analysis I should be able to describe an unstable system with multiple entry points and several exit points. The trick is that every time you add another entry point the complexity of the system grows in a non-linear way...meaning that adds a whole new dimension of complexity. Then you describe the desired outcome that might include several events happening in time, and you wonder if you need to be some type of an intellectual genius to coordinate a team of 15 people where 14 are going on a day off from the camp in a foreign country and 1 person stays in town to explore possible ministry opportunities in the future. Then your variables start adding up: one of the team members forgets to unplug the oil heater in the room that the team has for their meetings, tea and coffee breaks and drying their laundry (yep, all in one room), and the situation requires my immediate attention; another team member starts feeling sick on the way, and they decide for her to go back to the camp accompanied by her mother and a Russian interpreter, yet, on the way back to the camp the ailing team member is feeling much better, and the little group of three makes a new decision to continue on their way to St. Petersburg to re-unite with the rest of the team. While the events are unfolding we need to keep in mind that there is a particular team members who is supposed to split off from the team to spend the day at the Family Home for orphans. She is supposed to be met by an American volunteer from the family home who is also running late and the time and place of their meeting point has to be adjusted several times to produce the desired outcome - the team member having a good and inspiring day at the family home. I forget to mention the desired outcome for the team - to have a wonderful day at Peterhoff.

My next system to describe is the evening with the team in town, but I'm still working on defining the possible variables - unfortunately some of them are very sad.

I need to admit that though I had studied enough math to teach it on the undergrad level, my cognitive process is mostly driven by images, sounds and linguistic congruity judgements :) I have to be very intentional about revving my math engine to function and succeed in the world of Excel spreadsheets, precise desired outcomes, expense reports and expected communication patterns. It's quite a challenge to grow in this area, just like some need to be challenged to stop and "smell the roses." Yet, often, one is perceived as an asset and a sign of maturity and the other one is of irresponsibility, childishness and immaturity. Oops, I'm digressing from my Traffic Control Issues theme.

I'm out of time here - gotta go and tend to my beloved unstable system of 15 hoping that something will keep the rest of my unstable systems in place (Thank you, Lord, for giving me a hand with that :)

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Perfectly subjective restaurant review

I was looking for a recipe for honey bran muffins on recipezaar to use up the honey that I had left over for some time. One of the recipes I ran across was "Close to Mimi's Honey Bran Muffins." Regardless of the value of the recipe at the moment it placed me for a moment in the ambiance of Mimi's. If I think about it, Mimi's is a chain restaurant in the US, yet to me the combination of various subtle components creates a perfectly comfortable habitat :) I'm not even sure what it is - the beautiful view of Pikes Peak from my favorite Mimi's combined with the food that makes you feel stable, confident and grounded in the reality of the hospitable and spacious American existence. It leaves no place for doubts, ambiguity and intellectual neurosis of St. Petersburg. I need Mimi's as my existential paradigm to counteract this city.

Friday, June 6, 2008


Zamorochki is a Russian word which hardly can be translated into English. It can mean "difficulties", "uncertainties" and "a number of little problems that require your immediate attention all at once." I woke up in the morning with a definite sensation of "zamorochki" in the air. A number of important tasks had to be worked on. As I was sure that there was no way I would be able to accomplish all of them, I began experiencing severe anxiety to as which tasks I should be giving my attention to.
This situation where I have to pick just a few projects or tasks for the day has a debilitating effect on me. I want to be able to do it all, and don't have the slightest clue how to jam it all in one day, and may end up doing absolutely nothing. Hence zamorochki.
Let me share the things that I didn't do. I didn't pick up my mail at the Westpost office. I didn't get the most marvelous haircut that was supposed to transform me into a gorgeous model. I didn't get to fold my clean clothes that have been piling up on my top bunk for the last two months. Every time I look at the pile I say word of apologies to my wonderful skirts and shirts. I know one day it will be nicely folded and put away. Ahhh.....
I didn't write a few very important emails. I didn't even open the books that I'm trying to read.
The evening did not emerge in the quiet sense of satisfaction and accomplishment. Throughout the whole day I had a feeling that I had to be doing something else.

Yet, here are the things that did happen. Now, I'm wishing I could do it over, so that I would take time to enjoy each instance thoughtfully, as now it is clear that these were the things that were pleasing to the Lord.

I did interview a girl who would be working as interpreter with the Valley Christian team. What a divine appointment. It's so relaxing and joyful to meet a person who has great communication skills, wonderful command of English and is anxious to work. Ahh.....I was elated. Not to say, Zhenya is a student at my Alma Mater which inflates me with a good bit of pride. So, far, two best interpreters that I worked with were the students of the Department of Foreign Languages and Cross-cultural Communication of LETI.

I did have a phone conversation with the director of Camp Gorizont. As I'm still in the process of searching for the right camp for the Valley team, I anticipate each conversation with a camp director wondering if it will bring new opportunities.
But, apparently, I had the right camp for some time yet felt that I needed to keep looking. As someone said, "What if it's great, but not as great as something greater." I'm not sure it makes sense to anyone else but me.
The director of Gorizont was upbeat and very interested in our cooperation...but in mid-June (the team I'm coordinating is arriving in mid-June) they are hosting a team of Australians.
It's quite possible that we will be working with this camp in the future, and I will make a trip to look at the camp, but for now, it's not that camp that will be hosting our team.
There were no burning bushes, no trumpets and firework, but it became rather clear that our team should work at Uni Stroitel.

And, I did get to help one of our interpreters (who lives in Ukraine) to get registered in St. Petersburg. The whole Russian system that requires foreigners to register their presence in this country is rather obscure and annoying. I do enjoy the blessing of being a rightful real estate (a.k.a small urban apartment :) owner in this city which gives me close to absolute powers in the area of registration. Again and again, it proves to be a great deal of help to my various friends and colleagues that are not burdened by the citizenship in this country.
My heart is at peace knowing that Misha has proper registration documents and will not be hassled by militsia and other nefarious characters pertaining to the law-enforcing system of St. Petersburg.
The most complicated step in the whole process was walking to the central post office in downtown (and back). My poor injured foot didn't want to cooperate sending painful signals into my central neural system. I had to stop a few times to ward off tears, but then my sense of responsibility pushed me forward. After all, I was rewarded with the sense of accomplishment and peace and the most charming evening in the downtown of St. Petersburg.

I haven't anticipated it, but trying to put some of the events on paper enveloped me with the sense of the day well, I'm wondering, why did I have to fight through my day of zamorochki after all?

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Am I blogging?

I have a very literary gifted friend. Her name is Liz, and she has the most sincere, thoughtful and poignant blog reflecting the beauty and the depth of her personality (Lis, if you are reading, I hope I haven't embarassed you too much :) Apparently, it inspired me (2 year after I actually got the blogging account) to write something in a foreign language.
I'm hoping to be able to write something about the teams that I'm coordinating this summer, so that their friends and family could read about their whereabouts - it's not a promise, as I fear that I will run out of time and energy. Hopefully, my curiosity to see God's working in them (I am a Christian, did I mention that?) reading through my own blogging records will prevail.

I'm off to make camp arrangements. I'm a little apprehensive, as I've injured my foot, and my wobbling around is a weak resemblance of my usual hiking pace.