Monday, April 13, 2009

Special Moments...

I have been back in Kazakhstan for several months now and things are starting to get busy. I have settled back in to my responsibilities and am feeling "at home" in Taraz. It has been great to reconnect with friends here and have recently made some new friends which has been great for my Kazakh and a chance to share my life with others.

Recently I had a chance to go out to one of the orphanages 2-hours away for a visit. On my way I stopped to pickup a woman who needed a ride. Now in America most people would never think about picking someone up on the road but here it is a relatively common occurrence. The Kazakh woman was 60 years old, had two daughters and an estranged son. She was coming from a funeral and needed to get to a village about 30 min. down the road. In those moments together I learned about her family and her hopes for her children. I learned that her husband died a few years ago and that she has taken in a young woman who doesn't have any relatives to help her. And of course I was encouraged by her surprise of an American speaking Kazakh and her heart that seemed kind and compassionate. My life was blessed by the few minutes we spent together.

Upon arriving at the orphanage I was greeted by Yulia who ran up to the car with outstretched arms. She also showed me where she put my name in chalk at the entranceway so I would see it when I drove in. She and I have been corresponding for the last year and it is good to see her hopeful for a better life. Her's is a life that has been transforming over the years. When delegations first started coming to Kazakhstan she was one of those kids who stood off at a distance, never smiled and was often moody. Through consistency, encouragement and love she has been learning to trust others and is trying to make some positive changes. She certainly smiles more often! What a blessing to see a difference in a life...oh to "care for the orphans and the widows in their distress..." ~ it is my life which is transformed through such special moments.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Back Safely in Kazakhstan

When I set my return date for January 7, I wasn't anticipating any least wasn't expecting to reschedule my flight or be re-routed to Kyrgyzstan.  Many of you already know that my letter of invitation took longer than anticipated so we were really down to the wire on my passport and visa.  After numerous attempts to reach the embassy and even having the local postmaster looking out for the package, I didn't get it back in time.  As a result, my trip was delayed by four days.  I was pretty excited though when it did arrive and I could rest easy with my crates packed.  

As one can often expect, trips to Kazakhstan are usually not uneventful to say the least.  I was very pleased when the check-in person for AA informed me that she could check my baggage all the way to KZ since they were partners of British Air.  This also saved me about $170!  

All flights were pretty normal and on my final flight I had the entire seat to myself and took full advantage of the opportunity to sleep.  Fortuately I did sleep because once we were over Almaty, the fog made it impossible to land causing us to be re-routed to Bishkek in Kyrgyzstan.  What I didn't know is that when this happens, they usually issue you a "transit" visa for Kyrgyzstan and bus you to the border.  When it looked like this would be our only option, I thought that for me, it might be best to leave the group and take a taxi to Taraz since I was only about 4 hours away.  However, I couldn't get my cell phone to work (would not even turn on or charge) and I wasn't going to travel anywhere by myself without a working cell phone.  So I stayed with the group and when I got to passport control, they were not going to let me pass because my passport was coming apart and they wanted to say that it wasn't valid.  Fortunately, being with the group I was able to get the attendant's attention who helped me out and they gave me my stamp and let me pass.  

After a 45 minute drive we made it to the border where all 19 of us passed through and then got through the Kazakh border without much difficulty.  At that point, I borrowed someone's phone, called our office manager and discussed my options.  Now having someone aware of my situation it was fine to grab a taxi from there to Taraz which actually put me in at noon rather than midnight!  Once I got back to the apartment, I plugged in my phone...worked fine.  Interesting how we make our decisions...and often when looking back we realize that it was a miracle.

Monday, December 1, 2008

New Toys to Drive

For a little while, I was wondering if I would have anything new to "ride or drive".  Over the past few weeks I have driven a Toyota Rav4 and am currently tooling around in rather large 1996 Chevy Tahoe.  

Well, this last week I had the chance to drive a great little VW Bug and then on Thanksgiving, I was able to dig some dirt with my brother's John Deere front loader / backhoe.  We had a good time digging a hole just to fill it in later.  It was definitely some fun equipment to operate!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Sharing a Sunset

Life is never too busy to stop an appreciate a good sunset! So of course, one of my favorite activities is "chasing a good sunset" with my best friend, Annie. However, that's not as easy as it used to be as I am currently in Muncie and she is in Ohio. The good thing though is the fact that we are at least in the same hemisphere. Usually we joke that my "sunset" is a good "sunrise" half way around the world. So this evening at the office I got a text exclaiming how amazing the sunset was along with a few pictures to enjoy (top left). I had to stop and soak in the amazing colors as well and with the camera close by, was able to send back a shot from my own viewpoint (bottom right). What a joy to share the beauty of Creation! When was the last time you enjoyed a good sunset?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The Joy of Relationships

I am now in Muncie and my calendar is getting booked solid in an effort to get in some quality time with friends!  More than anything, this furlough has been a reminder of how important relationships are in life.  To share with one another our dreams, sorrows, accomplishments and listen and to be heard.  A cup of coffee, a good meal, lots of laughter and words of encouragement.  My life is abundantly blessed by some amazing people who share their lives with me.  How often I say that "there are no strangers...just friends I have not met yet".  How true that is...for in life we all have something to offer.  And by giving ourselves away, we find that we are the ones blessed.  Although not everyone is reflected, here are some of the amazing people I have had the privilege of spending time with over the past two months.  And in my time remaining...many more photos to add!  Click here to see photo album!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Work & Play

A personal philosophy is that one should work hard and play hard...and if you are not having fun, go find something else to do!  My time in Ohio has been filled with both and I have been having a great time.  I have met Annie's new friends and most importantly the new man in her life, Dale.  We have been catching a pretty regular workout at "Curves", gone shopping and of course a great cup of java at Caribou coffee.  Most recently was a trip to one of my favorite international grocery stores, Jungle Jim's - 6 acres of international foods from over 50 different countries!  It has also been a time to help out with some "projects" like painting the upstairs room and hallway and I couldn't help but grab the rake and start tackling the leaves outside.  Next Tuesday one of my friends from PA will be arriving for a visit and then it will be off to Muncie for a few weeks.  Time flies when you are having fun!

Monday, November 3, 2008

Country Living and a Warm Welcome

One of the wonderful aspects of being home is being able to visit family and friends and gain a glimpse into the lives of those I care about but have not seen in awhile.  Arriving in Ohio was the first time for me to see Annie's new place in the country and to meet her new friends.  She definitely lives in the country in a quaint two-story old farm house that is nestled next to a horse farm.  This view is from her back yard!  A few days after my arrival she had invited some friends over for a bonefire and a time of singing.  Unfortunately it rained that day which put a damper on the outdoor activities but we still ended up having a great time together inside.  What a joy to finally meet the people I have been hearing about for such a long time!