Sunday, August 01, 2010

The pears are ripening and we are back in our second home, here in Ukraine. Actually, Ben came on his own for a few weeks this past May in his role as Board Chair, arriving when Rudy and Hildegarde Baerg were wrapping up their spring term. After an absence of nearly 18 months, Ben picked up some good advice on how to adapt to our apartment previously occupied by Larissa Funk, our German missionary friend. Advice such as: use the top of the oven to bake–the bottom element will burn everything; the local butter is hard to cook with–it is probably mixed with water; the best yogurt is that which you buy in a bag–just pour it into a jar when you get home; buy triangular bread in the Dar store–get there early or there won’t be any left; light the oven with a match, leading it into the hole at the bottom; turn the oven knob to 10–your heat should be no higher than 200 and 180 is equal to 350; the narrow bowl on the bottom shelf is perfect for beating eggs...

All of this good Hildegarde-Baerg-advice assumed we would be cooking food in the kitchen–as it turned out we were the ones being cooked! There was no advice on how to deal with a broken air conditioner in +38 degree weather. The good news was that we had running water, the bad news was that the only running water came down the wall from the air conditioner! After the second night of trying to sleep in a sauna the air conditioner was fixed and we heard the sweet sound of water running from taps.

When we arrived together on July 26th we had needed no advice regarding all our friends here in Molochansk–they are as friendly as ever, proud to show us how they have fared, and happy to share the produce from their garden plots. A big thank you to whoever brought the sweet corn seeds into this area–it appears that corn for human consumption is now being grown in several garden plots in Molochansk and we were given a handful of beautiful, sweet cobs shortly after we arrived.

When we left in the fall of 2008 the economic crisis had just hit many parts of the world. In Ukraine many industries and exports came to a sudden halt. Unfortunately Ukraine is still mired in the recession. You don’t see many new bikes–in fact the only bikes we have seen are the indestructible, plain-coloured, single-geared Soviet-era bikes. You don’t see as many scooters and if you do the drivers continue to ignore the recently-passed law on wearing helmets. You do see many more policemen standing at the side of the roads, looking for traffic violators. Apparently the fines for violations have skyrocketed, giving the government increased revenue with the hope of making the roads safer.

It’s hard to believe, but some of this area’s roads are worse than they were in 2008. Going to Tokmak is like watching car ballet in slow motion, as drivers carefully manoeuver figure-8's from one side of the road to the other in hopes of avoiding these gaping “minefields”. Apparently the contractors hired to repair this stretch of road fled with the advance they had received–at least the police could figure out the direction they were going–the road south would be too rough for a quick getaway! Someone has said they have been captured and are in jail; may their new digs have lumpy mattresses...

We spent several days this week interviewing candidates for our scholarship programme. Some want to be doctors, others teachers, and one–a missionary. It is exciting to hear these young people, some of whom we have known since they were young teens, speak of past volunteer work as student leaders in the school, youth camp leaders in summer, and their dreams for the future.

Ben and Linda Stobbe
August 1, 2010

Trees in the Willms park near our apartment Salad for Seniors Lunch


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