Saturday, August 26, 2006

Report for week ending August 26/06

We felt much more comfortable coming back to work here the second time around. We knew what stores sold which items and which clerks would be most helpful. We had developed back-up plans in case we got into trouble. So when I told Linda and Kate that I could go to the milk store to buy water I thought this was very straight forward. Here is my best recollection of the dialogue as I picked up two 4 litre jugs of water.

Ben – “Vada, nyet gas” (water, no gas). I expected her to say “da” (yes)
Bemused clerk --- lkdjwieraya, safdoewiru,diur (in Russian or Ukrainian)
Ben ---- nyet gas? (no gas?)
Bemused clerk ---lksdjjfoiaya, sklkrwe (or something similar)
Ben ---making contorted face “nyet gas!”
Smiling clerk --- kdjfsdopfaya, kjsfiewui (or something similar)
Ben, taking out cell phone and phoning Kate to ask her to explain to clerk, “I want no gas in my water.” Hand phone to clerk so she can talk to Kate.
Laughing clerk – jsdfjpeuruaya, lkjrewur (or something similar)
At this point I have to take my chances, hoping Kate has told her I want water with no gas. I don’t want to lug two jugs home, up a flight of stairs, only to hear a fizz when I open them. Thankfully when I opened it, it didn’t sound like a bicycle tire going flat.

One of the amazing things you find is that when the locals realize you don’t understand a thing they are saying, they talk louder and simply add more words. They must assume that eventually they will hit upon one of the 200 Russian words we do understand…. Same chance as seeing a Ukrainian wearing a seat belt…

We only had Kate for a little more than half the time we were here. She spent one week being the nurse at the teen camp and then took an additional two weeks leave. While that was a challenge it also was very good for us. Kate is very competent, however sometimes bringing a translator along can leave you with the feeling that that you are not connecting directly with the locals. So we make do. For example, when Linda and Hilda went to Zaporozhye to meet with the breast cancer support group a translator was arranged for them. Olga, our receptionist, was a great help when we needed translation. On Thursday night at the Ukrainian Independence Day celebrations in Molochansk we met Marina, a school principal, who speaks German. We had the benefit of her translation services and her numerous contacts. Today we went to Neukirch, a village south of here, and the group we met with found a young university student who speaks passable English. We also have the Aussiedler missionaries here who speak German. We have a watchmen who speaks some English, and our maintenance man, Vitalya, is remembering key English words and phrases. Our receptionist’s granddaughter helps us with her English. And, after the initial nervousness they all seem eager to help. And their status goes up in the eyes of the locals.

And the most encouraging news we heard came early this week from an Aussiedler German lady who was with a group touring the villages of their parents. When we started to describe what the Centre is all about, she interrupted us and said, “we have already heard all about you. In every village where we went, when the Ukrainians and Russians heard that we were Mennonites, they told us about the wonderful Mennonite Centre in Molochansk that is helping so many people.” She said that as Ausseidler they could now talk to the Ukrainians in way they never could before. And the week ended with a 77-year old Ukrainian lady in Neukirch describing how, as a little girl, she joined her Mennonite friends in the Mennonite Church and listened to the choir singing in the balcony, accompanied by an organ. Her closed eyes were a bit moist when with a sigh she said, “kraseevay” (beautiful). They don’t forget--nor should we.

Off to Kiev and back home September 1. Remember our blog site at

Friday, August 25, 2006

Here is a picture of Hilda Epp visiting with Rita Pankratz and her great-granddaughter in "Alexanderkrone." We had a great visit with her. She has been quite sick with an infection in her leg. The windmill is located right beside her home in Alexanderkrone. It is the last remaining example of a standing Mennonite windmill in Molotschna.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Linda and Hilda Epp making Sunday lunch in our kitchen. Linda says she would have cleaned up the kitchen, had she known it was going on the blog!

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Here is Vitalya, our maintenance man, showing off his extension on his table saw. He just made a fine table for the kitchen. The other picture shows a car that has just hit an "inverted speed bump." The Tokmak roads are suffering from a bad rash of "meteorite showers"--this is "holey ground." Notice the can inside one of the pot holes.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Here are the teens from the Kutuzovka camp taking a dip in the Molotschna River. The other picture shows our Director Kate leading with the guitar and the singing group of Olya, Lilly and Vika. Olya and Vika are young people from the Centre and Lilly is one of the German missionaries.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

The bulletin board on the right consists of old pictures of the Zentralschule and of other historical events in Halbstadt. We included Russian explanations as well as a statement of acknowledgement indicating sources of the pictures. On the left of our board are pictures from the museum in the school in Dolina. Whenever we went to look, there were people studying the board.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

On Thursday the 3rd of August we went with staff and their children to the Sea of Azov at Berdyansk. The children played on the beach and slept in the bus on the way home. Beach games are universal. Making sand castles, playing volleyball and trying to hold back the incoming water. A great time for staff and families.