Sunday, April 19, 2009

Christ Has Risen!

Christ has Risen!
Christ Has Risen!

Today we are celebrating the Resurrection of Christ (Easter) here in Ukraine. I like the fact that our city, Bila Tserkva, puts up signs about Christ and not about some bunny that secretly delivers chocolate eggs to little children.

The Great Day
The Great Day

Although everyone knows that Christ has risen, not everyone knows who Jesus is, at least not on a personal level. Our goal here in Ukraine is to let as many people as possible know exactly who Jesus Christ is and what He did for all of us.

Easter Blossoms
Some Easter Blossoms

May all of you who are celebrating the Resurrection of our Lord and Savior today be blessed.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Circus Ukraine

Ukrainian Circus
Edna on the right buying our tickets for the "European" circus

We thought it would be fun to finally check out one of the traveling circuses that frequently come through Bila Tserkva, so that's exactly what we did today. Dominic opted to stay home so it was just me, Edna, and Joshua. I thought it was interesting that the tickets varied in cost by where you chose to be seated. Since there were only four sections and eight rows, this seemed a little strange since the price of a first or second row seat was double what a seventh or eighth row seat cost. I noticed one boy in the fifth row had binoculars around his neck. I couldn't help but think that he had to have figured the inside of the tent wasn't bigger than what it looked like on the outside. Right? I wonder if he actually used those binoculars.

Anyway, I think my favorite act was the first one with four trained, skirt wearing dogs. Except for the fact that two of the dogs looked like they had been plucked off the street, I thought it was pretty good. I didn't even get a picture because I was so intrigued by their canine exploits.

Ukrainian Circus
The clown pulled a woman from the audience and asked her to jump rope in the high heels that she was wearing, and she did, perfectly.

Next came the clown who made an appearance between the acts. He wasn't very funny, but he did manage to get a woman to jump rope in high heels. (That's real talent.) The next act was "jungle boy", a contortionist who pretended to be a savage living on the plains of Africa. He was quite limber and entertained to a degree, but again, I didn't get a picture of him. Not that I was mesmerized by his flexibility, but mostly because he was wearing spandex. Enough said?

Ukrainian Circus
This is the pigeon wrangler who also demonstrated the talents of four dogs wearing skirts and later dazzled us with an amazing hula hoop display.

Then there was the pigeon wrangler, a.k.a. crazy lady who dresses dogs in skirts. I really liked the part where she would grab a pigeon and hurl it into the audience only to have it narrowly miss bird-on-spectator contact and return safely to the perch on her head. (Seriously, it was really cool.) There was also a lady who could balance a candle stick on her head and twirl a flaming baton.

Ukrainian Circus
We felt a little sad for this lion. She didn't seem to want to perform or do much of anything for that matter. Her circus days might be numbered.

Of course no circus would be complete without a dangerous lion. Unfortunately the old girl looked like she just wanted to take a nap rather than jump through flaming hoops, which she eventually did after a little coaxing. The real crowd pleaser was the baby bear they had on a leash just outside the tent. He looked a little more playful than the lion.

Bear Cub
After the show we got to see this cute little bear cub being walked on a leash. He looked like he could do some damage with those razor sharp claws. Small but powerful.

I was actually entertained by the whole affair so the five or so dollars each it cost for me and Edna seemed worth it. Joshua got in free with a coupon so it was totally worth it for him. I'm not sure if I'd want to go again, but hey, little bears on a leash really are cute.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Goodbye to Painting (for now)

Sasha painting the slide
Sasha painting while Maryna takes a break

Dominic stayed home from school today so that he could help with the painting on the playground. He was a huge help, but I think he was wishing he had gone to school by the end of the day. As usual, we had more offers of helping hands than we could accommodate. The smart ones like Maryna actually scheduled an appointment and Sasha made me promise to reserve a brush for her.

Maryna painting blue while the boys watch
Maryna painting while the boys just stand around and watch (Interestingly enough, this happens a lot with adults, men stand around and watch while the women do all the work)

It took us all day, but I think we've done about as much as we can before we leave for California on the 27th. The rest will have to wait until we come back. There's still a lot we need to do, but the difference we've made so far is very encouraging. The children, parents, and grandparents really appreciate it and we have been blessed by the response.

Dominic and Maryna painting the slide
Dominic helping Maryna with the spots she missed

At the end of the day it was such a blessing to look down on the playground and see all the children running around and playing as parents and grandparents watched. Hopefully the kids will be more willing to take care of the playground since they had a hand in bringing it back to life.

Maryna and Sasha
Maryna and Sasha

Although we aren't completely finished, here are a few before and after photos that show a little of our progress.

Playground Restoration Project
Playground Restoration Project
Playground Restoration Project
Playground Restoration Project
Playground Restoration Project
Playground Restoration Project
Playground Restoration Project
Playground Restoration Project

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Caught Red Handed (as well as blue, green, and yellow)

Maxime painting the sand box
Maxime painting the sandbox for the little kids

Today, I continued working on the playground with the help of the neighborhood children. All of their parents love the fact that the playground is getting fixed up, but I'm not sure how they feel about their children being covered in paint each day. No one has complained yet. In fact, one of the mothers gave me and Edna a box of chocolate and told us how much she appreciated us fixing up the playground.

Oksana working on the horse
Oksana finishing up the Ukrainian Horse on Tuesday (She still has blue hands)

Ukrainian Horse
Dasha, Masha, Yuliya, and Maryna posing by the horse

Anyway, all the kids love working on the playground. I do the repairs and they do as much painting as I'll let them. Apparently kids here never get the chance to paint. The adults won't let them. The word has gotten out that I'm handing kids paint brushes and paint and turning them loose on the playground. This has led to kids I've never seen before showing up and asking to paint. One girl today came from over a mile away in a different neighborhood to get a chance to fling some paint around. Another girl actually made an appointment with me to paint after she gets out of school tomorrow. I had to promise here a time slot and color. She wants to paint something blue. Is painting really that fun?

Leeza takning a turn
Leeza taking a turn painting

Dasha painting
Dasha being very careful

Masha painting
Dasha's twin sister Masha completing the sandbox

Wednesday, April 15, 2009


This is the apricot tree beneath our neighbor Olya's window

Yesterday morning, our neighbor Olya called us over to her apartment to show us the apricot tree beneath her kitchen window that was bursting with blossoms and buzzing with bees. These are the first blossoms we've seen here in Bila Tserkva this year making it officially Spring in all of our minds. Spring is definitely my favorite time of year in Ukraine. Everything is coming to life just in time for Easter (we celebrate Easter in Ukraine on April 19th).

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Playground Restoration Project (Getting Started)

Maryna and Nastya
Maryna and Nastya putting on the finishing touches

Today was the day we had scheduled to fix up the playground outside of our apartment. Unfortunately, the team from Pryluky had to cancel at the last minute. (We are hoping that they can still come at the end of the month though to help with the big stuff.) We decided to start on the playground since all the children were expecting us to be working on it and we had most of the materials we needed. (I spent yesterday replacing the missing and rotting wood and securing everything that was coming loose on the climbing structure.) We figured there would be some kids that would want to help out and we weren't disappointed. There were more than enough kids who were willing to remove graffiti, scrape paint, and slap on the bright new stuff.

The only problem we had were the really small children who were drawn to the shiny new (and still wet) paint like flies on honey. Some parts on the structure had to be painted three times. Some of the parents just weren't fast enough to prevent their little ones from getting yellow and blue hands. I finally had to post some of the kids on the playground to guard the freshly painted climbing structure until I could put a barrier around it. Even then a few curious little ones had to be shooed away by the bigger kids.

We are looking forward to spending time with the neighborhood kids working on the playground together. Some of them made me promise to let them paint after school next week so it looks like I'll have plenty of little helping hands. Thanks to everyone who helped us out with the costs to begin restoring this once beautiful playground.

Playground Restoration Project

Playground Restoration Project
After - Amazing what a little paint can do

Friday, April 10, 2009

Seeing Green

Seeing Green
The trees near our apartment beginning to turn green

Today they turned off the heat in our building, which is good because we have had at least a week of warm weather. The world outside is responding by trading drab winter colors for swaths of green grass and green sprouts exploding from the trees and bushes. I expect that any day the cherry trees will blossom and the tulips will bloom. It's not that winter is terribly depressing or anything like that, but I'm just in awe at how fast the landscape around us can change. Where once we saw death, now we see life. God is amazing.