Saturday, August 21, 2010

My journey to Russia!

I sit in front of the computer, the blank screen before me begging to be filled with something. A story. Thoughts. Ideas. Prayers. Something. Just how do I start this blog? Maybe a little story about my journey to Russia.

Last year I lived in Saipan, a beautiful tropical island in the western Pacific. There happens to be a large Russian population on Saipan, and my dance teacher was Russian. When I first started taking lessons from her I mentioned I would be moving to Russia later in the year and she stared at me skeptically and then said, "Why?"

Well, yes...why do I want to move to Russia? I could give the cursory answer I normally give--to teach. But really it is so much more than that. My desire and obsession with Russia begins about 4 years ago. But first, lets look back even further--to when I was in junior high.

A young college graduate who was the son of an acquaintance came to dinner at our home one night. He was moving to Siberia with Campus Crusades for Christ and was visiting with us about his upcoming adventure. I remember thinking at the time--"Why would anyone want to move to Russia, let alone Siberia?" It positively sounded like torture at the time. Ironic how life is, right?

Then freshman year of college, the winter Olympics was occuring in Torino. I remember watching figure skating--my favorite winter sport--and being amazed by the Russians (of course). I started watching it on YouTube and wondering why the Russians were so good for so many years. Why was that? So I started to do some research and found out that so much of it is cultural, based on the training, and a remnant of the Soviet Union. It got me fascinated with why Russian and American cultures were so different. But I thought that some of the differences were amazing and just because they were different didn't mean either were bad.

I took a class in Russian literature and fell in love with Russian writers. So many of the stories and novels I read have changed my life and perspective. Many of my ideas come from the "pockets of Gogol's 'Overcoat'" as Dostoevsky so aptly put it. I have been changed by Crime and Punishment, astonished by Anna Karenina, uplifted by Evgeny Onegin, enlightened by works of Solzhenitsen. And so much more. My emotions, my ideas, my ideologies, seem to, for whatever reason, mesh with and understand Russian literature. I love it!

Through literature I began to understand some of the Russian mindset. However, I knew I could never fully understand unless I lived in the culture, interacted with it, was changed by it, and in some way also changed it. I desired this so much. I dreamed of living there and hoped that my career choice of international teaching would someday lead me there.

At first, the door seemed closed to Russia. So I looked at other options. I really was willing to go anywhere, so when the job in Saipan opened up I jumped at the chance. Saipan was amazing--the tropics, the beaches, the people, the food, the teaching--were unforgettable in a great way. But while there I was contacted by a recruiter at a Moscow school that I had kept in contact with. She sent me the application and encouraged me to apply. I enjoyed Saipan enough to stay there another year, but thought that if I got the job to Russia it would be even more amazing. I got the job!

I was finally being taken to the place I had always dreamed to be! God had opened the doors at each step for this. I will be leaving in just a little less than 2 weeks. There has been a ton of paperwork and there have certainly been setbacks and challenges with it, but it is all coming along as it should.

Some people ask me how long I will be there and my first instinct is to say, "forever." But in reality I have no idea. If the Lord leads me to stay in Russia beyond this first year I will be more than happy to. But if he instead leads me elsewhere, whether to another country or back to the U.S., I will follow. And with joy.

So with that said, I will finish up this first and very long blog. I appreciate your prayers, your thoughts, your comments. God bless.