Friday, March 28, 2014

A Home on the Range

One Friday, a few weeks ago, I woke up early and decided to make some coffee.  On any other weekday morning, making coffee is the last thing I do before running out the door, which consists of me throwing a couple scoops of grounds into Mr. Coffee, dumping in some water, pushing the button, and dashing off to make my lunch.  But this Friday, I didn't have to work.  I didn't have anywhere to be.  I looked at the counter and spotted my french press peeking out from behind the toaster. (A wedding gift that wasn't touched since I took it out of the box.)  I thought, "Yes.  Yes, today I will use you.  Today I will sit patiently at the kitchen table and watch my coffee brew through your clear glass until I feel ready it's ready to be seeped...because I can."  From then on, I've decided that Friday is #frenchpressfriday.

Right now, on this French press Friday, I'm sitting at our desk and through the blinds I look up and can see the Keewatin water tower.  Sometimes, I am just baffled.  How did I end up here?  A year ago, starting my search for a job stateside, I NEVER thought that I would be teaching and even living in Keewatin.  It's been such an interesting few months here.  This small town, hidden in the north woods of the Iron Range, has a life of it's own.  A culture all it's own.  Life is definitely slower than what I was used to in Moscow.  Oh Moscow.  A few days ago, I was laying on the couch here in Keewatin and thought, "It's quiet."  I closed my eyes and could picture exactly the living room I spent four years of my life in.  I could see the small window that was always open.  I could hear the shuffling of feet and the familiar tapping of high heals on the sidewalk.  I could hear the slow, rhythmic brushing of the pavement by someone paid little to remove leaves and cigarette butts.  I could hear the constant sound of cars passing.  And oh yes, I could hear the voices.  Voices of people I never knew but always heard.  Speaking, sometimes shouting, Russian as they passed by that window.  The window of an apartment with a girl inside, listening and finally understanding what they were saying.  I closed my eyes and I could see it perfectly.  The strange frog statue that always sat on the mantel with 10 rubles under it.  Never knew what it was, but never moved it.  I could feel the leather on the couch.  The leather that was supposed to be covered with an awful faux fur rug, which we would throw on when the landlady was on her way.  I could see the place where I first kissed Eric on the cheek.  And the stool next to the door where I cried and cried as Eric carefully pulled the boot off of my terribly twisted ankle the day after Christmas.  I looked to the left in my memory and see the large marble window sill where Stephanie would sit and impart knowledge on so many Saturday mornings.  Where she would sit and slam the small window shut if the freezing cold January air was just too much (for Sarah). :) I could see the tapestry hanging to the left, hiding the third bedroom behind it.  I remember sitting in that bedroom on my first day in Moscow.  I remember listening to strange voices outside my window, tears on my cheeks, thinking, "Oh Lord, what have I done?  What am I doing here?"  So I laid there, on the couch in Keewatin, thinking of every detail and every memory I could squeeze out.  Happy and sad memories abruptly interrupted by rumbling and the sound of an explosion.  My eyes flew open, my hands grabbing the couch out of reflex.
"What was that?" I thought.
Then I remembered..."Oh..."
"A mine blast."

Yes. A mine blast.  Apparently a normalcy on the Iron Range.  It happened not too long ago on the playground with my preschoolers.  BOOM!  Me, wide-eyed thinking we're being bombed when little three and four year olds raise their arms and yell, "A MINE BLAST!"
Oh, Keewatin, I have a lot to learn.

Maybe some day in the future, after we've moved on (because who knows where we'll end up, seriously), I will lay on my new couch (because hopefully we will afford a new couch), I will close my eyes, and picture perfectly the tiny apartment we started our marriage in.  I will see the good days and bad days, hear the dryer thumping in the basement, and picture the water tower outside my window.  I will see Eric dancing in the living room during the longest winter of our lives.  Remember the sound of the coming train, and, yes, the weekly mind blast.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

We didn't ask for a roller coaster ride but we are holding on tight.

Wow.  It's been over a year.  What a long journey we have had.  Hopefully in the upcoming weeks, I will have time to document the roller coaster we are on.  (We aren't off it just yet.)

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Our Love Story: Part 3

So finally back in Minnesota, I spilled the beans to my mom.  (Story:  A few years earlier, I was home for the summer.  We were all together and my little brother said, "You know, mom and I pray before bedtime....that Kristin will get a BOYFRIEND."  Everyone laughed and so did I.  It was funny at the time and, yes, I am thankful for her prayers that are definitely unceasing.  But when I told her about my new boyfriend, I don't think he was exactly what she had in mind.  She was...concerned...and so was my dad...and sister too, actually, understandably.  I know that once you become a mother, even when your baby is still inside you, you are constantly in a state of worry.  Sometimes it wanes and sometimes surges, but motherhood, from what I gather, creates worry warts. :)  But I see it as an expression of their love.  She loves me enough to question and loves me enough to be cautious.  And my dad too.  And sister too.

I talked to Eric on Skype every day and texted him throughout the day.  I actually think it was good to have those weeks apart.  It forced us to just talk and figure out how to communicate with each other, which can be difficult.  Even though we both grew up speaking English, we speak different kinds of English.  (Which can be frustrating but, believe me, also makes for some funny stories. :))  But we're still learning about that and making it work.  Anyway, back to the story...  Again, our story is not really conventional.  He was telling me that he loved pretty quickly.  I think I actually told him not too :) because I just wasn't ready for that and I wasn't ready to say it back.  Well, one day we were talking on the phone (July 25, 2012 to be precise...I had to ask Eric, he knew. :)) and we started talking about the man that stole his tuition money. If you don't know what I'm talking PART 1.  He was telling me that he was actually still in contact with this man.  I was like, "Whaaaat? You actually talk to him?  Why would you want to talk to the man that stole all your money and made you basically homeless?"  He went on to say that in his men's Bible study, they were studying Joseph.  He said that Joseph's brothers took him, threw him in a pit, left him for dead, sold him as a slave, and Joseph forgave them.  He said, "This man didn't do any of those things to me.  He didn't try to kill me.  He just took my money.  He caused to me come to Moscow and hear the Gospel and to meet you. How could I not forgive him?  I told him that I was thankful for him.   I thanked him for what he did."  I was like...*facepalm*. :)  I still really can't believe that answer.  What an amazing display of humility and forgiveness and wisdom.  I started crying I think, just listening to him talk and then I said those three little words that he was waiting here.  Yes, I told him, "I love you, Eric."  Actually that's four words. :)  I was expecting some sort of reaction but right after I said it, I heard nothing.  I said, "Hello?...Hello?...Eric??" I didn't know what happened!  The call failed or signal dropped.  I don't know.  But I tried calling him back 20 times! Trying to reach him.  He finally answered and I was like, "What happened??  Did you even hear what I said?"  And he said, "Yes, sweetheart, I did.  And that's why I'm crying right now."  I made him cry.  Awwww. :)  He was actually at the grocery store with a friend and the friend was wondering why he was crying.

After that, I just sort of knew that this relationship was real and was definitely headed towards marriage.  I wasn't about to tell my parents that. :)  I knew that most people weren't ready to hear that.  I kept it to myself but...just knew.  I remember when my friend, Sarah, was talking about her, then, boyfriend.  She said, "I think this is the man that I'm going to marry."  I was like, "Saaaraaah. You can't know that quickly.  You just started dating." And then I thought to myself, "She's crazy."  But it happens, I guess.  I think it's kind of funny that I happened to be in a relationship that moved quickly.  I remember silently (and maybe not always so silently) scoffing at those twitter-patted girls that "just knew."  But here, I am.  There I was, and I just knew.

I flew back in August and my parents had met him over Skype.  It went well, although I had to translate their Englishes to each other.  Eric was incredibly sweet.  Met me at the airport with flowers.  I think one of the most encouraging things for me was seeing the reaction of our mutual friends when they heard we were dating.  Seeing them be genuinely happy for us, made me feel better and that, no, I'm not crazy. :)  So over the next couple months, we dated and fell in love and all that... :)  And in November, we started to seriously talk about engagement.  I had to explain how my culture does it.  He needed to ask for my dad's blessing.  Which was scary for us both. :)  Not that my dad is scary at all!  But I just knew that they were still unsure about the whole thing.  My sister put it the best way when she told me, "We hardly get to see you so we don't know much of the little things about who you really are right now, the changes that you have been making and what is happening with you, what God is doing. And when we do see you we hear about these HUGE choices and changes. Once we get used to one thing you tell us, the next time we talk there is another thing. That's part of it. That's part of the "freaked out" thing. Not that we are mad but that, to us, things are happening very suddenly, while for you, living in this relationship everyday, with the little things and the special things and the jokes and talks, things may be happening slowly and deeply."  
She's so wise and I love her.  But it's true.  They didn't get to see to progression of our relationship.  They heard that we were dating, then that we were serious, and then that he wanted to ask me to marry him.  Which is no one's fault, it's just the reality of this kind of relationship.  I've just decided that they will have to just pay catch up when he comes to the US.  They will love him so much but it will take time.  

So, he decided to call my dad and ask.  And yes, I knew all about it.  I wasn't with him or anything but I knew.  He was home and called and updating me on facebook chat.  He called...and my brother answered, bless his heart.  He couldn't understand Eric. :(  Eric asked if it was Joel and Alex said yes or Eric thought he said yes and Eric started talking and went on and on and Alex didn't say anything.  Eric waited...and Alex didn't say anything and then hung up!!  (haha. it's funny now but not at the time.)  Eric was understandably upset.  Alex wrote to me on facebook too and said, "I think Eric just called."  I was like, "Ummmm YEAH.  He wanted to talk to DAD."  I had to explain to both of them what happened and that if Eric calls again, to give the phone to dad.  And I told Eric, forgive Alex, he didn't know what to do and to call again, that everything would be ok.  Whew....So Eric called again and was able to talk to my dad. brother was typing to me on facebook. "What are dad and Eric talking about??"..."I don't know, Alex.  I think they're going to Skype soon.  You'll know then."...."Oh....I think I already know."  :)  I really do wonder what Alex thinks about all this.  Really thinks.  Because if I ask him he'll say something like, "I dunno.  It's cool."  Eric had a Skype date with my parents later that week, which he called his "interview."  He passed and got the job.  Meaning, they gave their blessing.  Which, I know they are still worrying but I think they just decided to put their trust in me, and Eric, and most importantly, God.  That he will guide us and direct us.

So, from then on, I knew it was coming, but I didn't know when.  He had mentioned that he wanted to ask me at church in front of everyone.  The next day was Sunday, but he didn't ask.  On Friday, I wanted to go to Bath and Body Works.  It's only at one mall and I told that was the plan for Friday.  We were both really hungry when we got there and went to TGIFridays.  There was a wait of about 30 minutes.  We decided to wait which upset Eric.  He said, "How can they just make us stand here and wait?  People are hungry."  He usually doesn't complain so I thought that was weird.  He seemed a little fidgety but nothing too abnormal.  There was a food court upstairs and he kept saying, "Let's just go upstairs and get KFC."  At this point, we had been waiting 20 minutes or more already and I was starting to get upset from his complaining so I said, "Fine let's go upstairs.  I'm trying to have a nice dinner with you but fine.  Let's get KFC."  So I begrudgingly go upstairs and as soon as we get up there he stops and says, "No....No.  We can't eat up here.  Let's go back."  I was like, "Whaaaaat?  You just made us come up here and now you want to go back down??  Eric.  No.  We're going to eat up here." yes, I was hungry and yes, I get cranky when I'm hungry.  So I started towards KFC and I can hear him behind me, "No, let's go back down.  We can't do it here.  It's not dark and personal."  I was, again, like, "Whaaaat?  What are you talking about?  Personal?  I'm hungry.  Let's just eat."  He insisted and we went back down.  At this point, we weren't talking very much.  We were just standing there waiting for our names to be called.  We finally got a table and ordered.  While we were eating, I asked him, "What will you say when someone asks, 'How did you come to know the Lord?'"  Because someone will ask him that went he comes to America.  I just wanted to get him used to the way we word things.  Christianese, if you will.  He told me his testimony and about coming to Moscow and how he was thankful that he was able to meet me and then he started to say all the things that he loves about me.   
Then he says, "I want to spend the rest of my life with you....Kristin...wi-,"...and that's went I interrupted him.  
"Eric, wait."
"Wait?  Wait, what?"
"What are you doing?"
"Nothing.  I'm talking."
"Ok, ok.  Continue."
"Ok so, Kristin I want to spend the rest of my life with you."
"Eric...wait.  Are you really doing this right now?"
"Doing what?  I'm just talking with my baby....Kristin, will you marry me?" (Pulls out my beautiful ring.)
*gasp* "Yes!  Yes I will."  And then I immediately thought about the big burger that I ate and all the sticky sauce all over my hands.  He put it on my finger and it got all sticky.  But it was beautiful, like I said.  We immediately had to Instagram it. :)

I was overwhelmed with the immediate love and support from the people around us and from the people around the world.  I was walking with my friends and Eric somewhere and remember thinking, "I am so incredibly blessed.  My heart is so full of love right now.  I think my heart might burst."  

We still have a long and hard year ahead of us.  First, he needs to get his American visa so he can come in July.  The date of the wedding is July 27, 2013.  But, unfortunately, the visa processing times vary and it could take longer.  We are praying for a miracle.  This will all be in God's timing.  He has been with us throughout the past year and will see this through to completion.  I sent in the initial paperwork.  Right now that is in California sitting on someone desk, waiting to be looked through and approved.  Once that's approved, information will be sent to the American embassy in Cameroon and Eric will start the next step, his interview.  So that means, he will have to fly home once we get word that the first part has been approved.  We don't know when that will be.  It could be soon.  It could be 5 months from now.  We are continually praying that it will be sooner.  But I told him, as long as he's there on the 27th of July, I'll be ok.  Of course, we will be flexible and patient as I hope the invitees and wedding party will be too.  We are both very excited and thankful for what the Lord has done and looking forward to seeing Him work in the upcoming months.  Please be praying for us during this whole process!  We need it. :)

Friday, January 18, 2013

Our Love Story: Part 2

Part 2:

This is the second part of my Love Story. :) If you didn't read the first part you can find it by clicking HERE.  So...I think the turning point was a Young Adults retreat that we both attended in May.  There were about 20 of us there and it was such a great experience. (Let me add that living in Russia has created so many wonderful friendships and I don’t know what I would do without them.  Eric often refers to our Young Adults Bible Study as his family.)  At the retreat, I noticed his passion for the Lord and for His word.  After one of the sessions, I saw him standing there and thought, “I haven’t talked to Eric in a while. And he looks cute in his baseball t-shirt.” :)  So I asked him how he was and we talked for a while.  After that, he was now on my “radar.” You ladies know what I mean.  I was aware of where he was the rest of the retreat and felt a small desire in my heart to know more about him.  When we were in the same area, I knew where he was in the back of my mind.  I also started to notice when girls would talk to him at church and I started to feel that small pang of jealousy.

Later that month, I was able to attend his baptism.  What an amazing experience that was.  I can’t really describe being in Moscow, watching dozens of people dressed in white publicly confessing their faith in Jesus Christ and watching them all take communion after.  It was great to be able to share that experience with Eric.  It seems as though God’s timing is perfect.  Well, it doesn’t “seem”, it is.  Had I gone home earlier that summer like everyone else, "Eric and I" would never have been.  If Amber hadn’t decided to have her wedding at that time I would have already been in Minnesota.  My roommate, Amber, planned her wedding for the beginning of July.  My friend, Sarah, and I made a plan to go to her wedding, waiting in Moscow until July 1st.  I, then, flew to the East coast for the wedding and then flew home.  Because of this, I was in Moscow trying to find a nanny job and Eric was trying to win me over (which was not very hard.) :) 

The Baptism

Add caption

There's Eric.  He went last.

Just friends.

I went to lunch with him and Alvin after church during the end of June.  I found out that someone they knew was very pregnant and did not have a stable place to live.  Since I was living alone at the time with two empty rooms, I invited her to stay with me.  The most important detail was that she didn’t speak English, only French.  Since Eric already knew her, he would come over and translate.  Also, he would just be there so she would have someone to talk to…AND…just in case her water broke, he would be there to support her.  (After I left, she stayed with other friends and had a beautiful baby girl on July 10th.)  We called her and told her the news.  While we waited for her to come to Moscow, Eric and I had coffee at Starbucks.  For some reason the conversation turned to marriage.  He asked what I would like my future husband to be like.  So I said something like, “Loves the Lord, taller than me, funny"…and so on.  Then I asked him what characteristics he would like in a wife.  Then he said, “Well, all the characteristics that you have.”  I was like, “Really??”  I really didn’t know what to say.  We had to go and didn’t talk about it more. 

Here's the beautiful Katya that was born 10 days after I flew home.

On Tuesday of that week, Eric had to give his testimony at Bible study.  I sat there listening to him talk about how God brought him to Moscow and how thankful he is for all his struggles.  This might be weird, but I suddenly had this picture in my mind of him somewhere else and a child running up to him and him lifting it in the air.  It was a fleeting vision/feeling that got me thinking.  With this sort of vision came a sense of peace that this might be something to pursue.  Not having children with him! :) But seeing if starting a relationship with him was something that God had planned.  I texted him that night and told him that we needed to talk.

We met for coffee the next day.  I had to know what his intentions were.  So asked him, “What do you mean when you say I have all the characteristics of someone that you would want to marry?  What does that mean??  Are you just being nice?  Or does that mean that you can see yourself marrying me??”  So basically he said that he sees all the qualities in me that he’s been looking for.  Things are not done the same way in his culture like they are done in mine.  I had to explain that people normally date before you say that you want to marry them. :)  You date for a while…then you are engaged for a while…and then you get married.  So we decided to take it slow.  I think I really had a hard time saying yes, I’m going to date this man with the intention of marriage.  Because that just seemed crazy.  Marrying someone from a different country, while living in a foreign country, who did not have a visa to the current country…etc??  I prayed about it and right before I left, we decided to “date” long distance over the summer.

To be continued...again... :)

Monday, January 14, 2013

Who is this Eric that she's engaged to?

Dear blog readers,

I haven't been blogging because, to be honest, I lost interest and I've just been super duper busy that I just don't have time to sit down and type for 30 minutes.  BUT I think a blog is in order.  As many of you may know, I recently got engaged. (insert excited squeal here).  But many of you don't know this amazing man that has asked for my hand in marriage.  So, here's the story of how we met, how he asked me, and some stuff in between.

Actually, I need to go further back before we met and explain how he came to Moscow.  Well, first things first, his name is Eric Merlain Njimegni.  He is from Cameroon.  Brother to many. Friend to many.  Eric arrived in Moscow on November 11, 2011.  Yes, 11/11/11.  Good luck? :) At the time, I'm sure he didn't feel so lucky.  He had come to Europe to go to school, but the agency that was supposed to help him and enroll him in school, conveniently disappeared when he arrived along with his tuition money.  If you ask him now, he says that he is very thankful that this man stole his life savings.  He is thankful that everything happened the way that it did.  But if you asked him then, he didn't know why this would happen to him.  He was sad, extremely bitter and not the Eric that I know today.  He eventually got a job handing out papers on the Russia.  It is hard for me to think about this now, how cold he was and how sad he might have been.  In January, he started translating (in French) for a small clinic in Moscow.  Here he met a great new friend, Alvin.  (Whom I already knew from church and bible study.)  Eric still talks about how thankful he is for Alvin.  How Alvin showed him love when he felt like there was no hope.  Alvin bought him food and invited him to church.

That next Sunday, I decided to attend Hillsong church and so did Alvin.  I didn't know it at the time.  I remember sitting there, trying to understand the sermon (In Russian), and I saw Alvin translating for someone.  I remember thinking, "I didn't know Alvin was coming here.  And who is he with?"  After the service, Alvin introduced us.  We all decided to go out for lunch at a nearby TGI Fridays.  (Which I just realized is also where he proposed. :) But more on that later.)  When I think about it, I can't believe how different Eric was that day.  He was so quiet and shy and didn't eat a thing (which is really weird now that I know him. :))  He seems like a completely different person now.  That following Tuesday, I remember he came to bible study.  I saw him sitting there and talked to him a bit but that was all.  That next Sunday, Eric attended the church that I usually go to, International Christian Fellowship.  It was that Sunday that he heard the Gospel and decided to talk with one of the elders.  It was then that he knew why God had brought him to Moscow.  Even though he didn't know what the future held, he knew what his eternity would look like.  That even in our despair and when we are crying out to Him, we can have joy and know that He has a plan.

We saw each other now and again.  I remember Eric coming up to me after church and saying hello.  But that's all really.  Little did I know he had started to fall in love with me in April.  And on April 14th, 2012, he wrote a prayer in his journal asking God for the opportunity to marry me.  Yes, he wrote that.  And exactly 8 months later, he asked me to marry him.

To be continued...

Monday, June 4, 2012


I'm not giving anything away like all the other cool bloggers...but here is a link to win a free KitchenAid Mixer.

Home from school and thought I would try and win it! :)

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

I'm still here....

I have so horribly and unbelievably ignored and neglected this blog.  I'm sorry for the stragglers that still may check it to see if I've written anything.  I really don't have an excuse.  I would say that I'm super busy...but I've managed to watch the first whole season of Modern I can't be all that busy.
Life in Moscow is pretty much the same.  Very soon there will be an election for president.  Putin is running again.  I honestly don't know any of the other candidates.  But since November, there has been a sort of uprising.  Many, many people here are unhappy with him and do not want to see him elected again.  There have been huge protests with as many as 100,000 people (which is small in comparision to the 14 million that live here).  The symbol of the movement has been a white ribbon.  There have even been people with white flags on their cars driving around the city.  The movement has been amazing to watch.  If you would like to see some amazing pictures click HERE.  People are tired of the corruption and tired of their votes not counting.  I have no evidence to back this up, but I would guess the majority of the people here do not support Putin.  In Moscow, at least.  I know it is different in the smaller towns that rely on Putin.  They rely on him for their jobs.  They are afraid that if another president is elected, factories that keep towns alive will be closed because it might be economically beneficial for Russia.  ANYWAY, the election is on March 4th.  The rallies have created a lot of awareness but I'm afraid that it will make no difference.  We'll see what happens on the 4th.  If you're praying people, pray for Russia and this upcoming election.

I'll do a quick update of my recent adventures:

October: I went on am amazing trip with my friend, Amber, to ITALY!  We went to Rome and saw the Vatican, the Roman forum, the Colosseum, and the Mouth of Truth (as seen in Roman Holiday with Audrey Hepburn.)  Then we travelled to Cinque Terre.  If you ever go to Italy, do not miss this.  It is beautiful little Italian villages along the cost.  You can walk from one to the other.  Amber and I hiked through three of them.  The hike consisted of walking through orchards and groves and many many stairs.  It was hard but worth it.  After that, we made our way to Naples to meet up with a friend who was living there at the time.  From here, Amber and I were able to travel to Capri and Pompei.  Capri was BEAUTIFUL.  If I were at home, I would upload pictures and a video.  But I'm not.  I'm actually at work. :)  Pompei was not what I was expecting at all.  It was SO huge.  We ended up wandering around for a few hours.  From some reason, I thought there would be a part that was underground where we could see lava??  I don't know.  But it's basically just ruins that you would never know were made ruins by a volcano if someone hadn't told you.  If that makes sense.  It just looks like an old abandoned town.  But amazing to be there and see something that you've heard about in history class.

December:  I went home for Christmas.  I took a week off and was able to spend 3 weeks in Minnesota.  It was great just to be back and to drive my car and go to my little brother's swim meets.  I got to spend time with my sister which was GREAT.  I also got to spend time with friends from my childhood.  One of them was pregnant at the time.  She isn't anymore!  His name is River.  Here he is.  It was great to just spend time with friends and pick up right where we left off. 

I hope to write more later.  But for is an update of my To-Do List!  I'm so proud!

Here's a list of the things that I would like to accomplish this, my third, year in Moscow:
(in no particular order)

1.  Horseback riding outside of Moscow
2.  Hockey game
3.  Spartak soccer game (a Moscow team who is notorious for fighting and being hooligan-y. :)
4.  Shashlik outside of Moscow
5.  Buy a nice Russian doll for myself
6.  Go to the ZOO! (even though I've heard it's really depressing)
7.  Tour the TV tower here in Moscow and go to the top!
8.  Spend as much time as I can with my Russian friends!
9.  A Cafe crawl (much like a pub crawl minus the drunkenness)
10. Go to a concert. (Skillet will be here in November.  Totally going.) WENT!
11. Go ice skating.  (still haven't done that!)
12. Musical: The Sound of Music.  I will be in Russian but we are definitely going.  Might wait until winter has set in.
13.  Cirque Du Soleil (Going on I'm crossing it out!!) 

WOW...i'm impressed.