Sunday, October 14, 2007

Weekly Report October 14, 2007

Ukrainians may have embraced electronic communications devices such as cell phones and computers, but when it comes to doing business they seem to prefer doing things in person. They suggest that unless you deal directly with someone you don’t get results. My recent experience is that dealing directly with a person is no guarantee of getting results. This can best be illustrated with the saga of our hooking up to natural gas.

Science tells us that it takes eons of time to compress vegetation and other fossilized products into gas or oil. It appears to take an equal amount of time to get approval for hooking up the natural gas to our boilers at the Mennonite Centre. We have gas lines running on our property, we have lines running into the Centre, and we have lines connected to heat registers. What we don’t have is signatures and stamps. Since August we have done the following to get an inspection and approval to turn on the gas: made application to the gas authorities in Tokmak, brought the chief inspector from Tokmak here for approval, filed our gas reporting forms with another office in Tokmak, submitted a request for inspection from the authorities in Zaparozyhe only to be told later they gave us the wrong form, returned to Zaparozhye to fill out the correct form, offered to drive the Chief Inspector from Zaparozhye to Molochansk to do the inspection, returned to Zaparozhye to ask why the delay only to find out they lost our application and we must submit again. Each trip to Zaparozhye takes close to 2 hours one way. Vitaly, our maintenance man is known for getting things done, but yesterday after coming out of the gas office he seemed a beaten man. I took him to a place where all good men go to renew themselves – a shop filled with cuddly Bosch tools! After getting a small screwdriver set he was ready to resume the fight.

And so we have had to order a bit of coal just to ensure we can start heating the building. I have spoken to Victor Penner, the legendary bureaucratic ferret who knows how to work the system. He says, “Ben, remember you are in Ukraine,” (as though I forgot!). Apparently the authority for granting approvals has been given to a private company and there is a backlog of requests...

Actually, the rate of change here is quite amazing. If some of these approval-granting people ever became service oriented it would be scary, probably dangerous. Fortunately we have had a warm fall. Older people spend the late afternoons sitting on rough, backless benches, taking in the sun and visiting. At times I feel quite warm here but not necessarily from the sun.

I am also at a vulnerable time in my stay here. I delight in handing out the gifts we have received from the Heritage Cruise passengers; in my zest to give out stuff I will sometimes go off without Slava, our Ukrainian Director and translator. That was the situation when I boldly went out to the Molochansk Music School to take pictures of the band director with the new french horn. Rudy and Hildegarde Baerg got enough support from friends in Abbotsford to buy the instrument which was then brought over by people on the Heritage Cruise. Now the band instructor, like so many of his kind, is an enthusiastic man, given to much talk and waving of hands. I tried to explain to him that I knew very little Russian, he responded by talking louder. Every so often he said a word I recognized like “doma” which means “home.” I immediately said “da,” which means “yes,” or “I agree.” I think I agreed to having students take these instruments home to practice, but on second thought I may have agreed to a) teaching students at home, b) selling the instruments to buy a better home, or c) selling our homes in Canada to buy more instruments!

Keep me in your prayers. Linda is not here to give words of wisdom. By the way if you want to see pictures look up our blogsite at and visit our website at

And finally we also appreciate financial support for all the activities we undertake. Donations are tax receiptable in Canada and the U.S.
Canadian cheques are payable to "Mennonite Centre Ukraine" or "FOMCU", Checks from American donors should be made out to "MFC-FOMCU", and all should be mailed to the address below (making sure you have appropriate postage)
Paul Siemens, Treasurer, 5 Monarchwood Crescent, Toronto, ON, Canada, M3A 1H3



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