31 January 2014

Back in Time: Apartment Living & Culture Shock in Bryansk, Russia

I realized in my previous post about Bryansk that I hadn't shared much about it's history.
Archeologist believe that Bryansk (Bre-ANSK) dates back to 985.  This area has seen many different rulings over it's time.  During the 17th-18th century it evolved into an industrial center and remains so today.  In 1941 Bryansk was captured by the German army.   During that time the city was damaged due to heavy fighting in the area.  About 60,000 Soviet partisans fought around Bryansk inflicting heavy losses on the German army.  The city was returned to USSR forces in September 1943.
That's quite a condensed version of all this town has seen.  You can check out an array of websites to read more if you are interested.
Our time in Bryansk was a very difficult time for me.  Culture shock came on a whole new level.  Gone were ANY conveniences that we were accustomed to, even from our time in Moscow.  I felt my level of security went way down.  I was not comfortable going out alone and there were weeks where I didn't go out but once on Sunday for church and once on Thursday to teach English.  My solace was my wonderful Russian teacher and friend, Inna.  She came to our apartment twice a week to study with us.  She became a true friend.
Now, our apartment wasn't much to look at on the outside.  Typical Russian standard.
Our entrance is on the right (below).  See the big gaping hole underneath the concrete?  Stray dogs lived under there.  I remember them being harmless, but they were a poor sad bunch.

Our entryway.  Occasionally we'd come in and the power was out.  Think about navigating that in pitch black!  

Our elevator.  Oh how the graffiti kept us entertained!

"It's my live," "Gud Lak" along with misspelled curse words.  Hey, we had to have some kind of amusement in our lives!

Our apartment on the inside, as far as the furnishings, were nicer compared to where we'd been living in Moscow.  They were fairly new and had been purchased for colleagues that had lived their previously.
We couldn't drink the water straight out of the tap.  You might understand why.
The water didn't always look like this.  Just every single morning.  The water was turned off every night from about midnight to 5 am.   We had to let the water run for a few minutes every morning until it was no longer rust color.  We had a hefty duty water filter in the kitchen for drinking water and tooth brushing.

On two different occasions we witnessed a funeral from our apartment.

It was one of the most eerie, but sad things we've witnessed.  A truck leads the way laying branches down as family and friends carry and walk the casket on a final journey through town for the deceased before being laid to rest.  A band follows the family playing eery funeral music as the family cries accompanied with waling.  The sites and sounds are sorrowful.

Remember how I referenced roaming horses?  Here they are in front of our apartment building.

The horses belong to the Romani people (Gypsies) that lived in Bryansk.  They would shackle the front legs in a way that the horse could still walk, but wouldn't wander too far.  The Romani's main mode of transportation was horse and cart.

Bryansk was quite an experience.  There were days of major culture shock, tears shed, isolation because I didn't feel safe going out alone, domestic violence happening above us and I was helpless to do anything, the government officials knocking on our door to "check up on us," poverty, remnants of Chernobyl and feeling uneasy about local foods sold (The Bryansk region received the highest level of radioactive fallout from the nuclear power plant accident in 1986.).  

Through all this I knew it was where God had placed us for the time.

The plan was for us to be there a minimum of 2 years.  I was finally at a point of acceptance with where we were and working through the difficulties.  We were there just 6 months when we had a job change. Those 6 months felt like a life time.  It was a difficult time, but I wouldn't trade that time for anything.  It was valuable in so many ways and has allowed me to be able to relate to other expats in similar surroundings.

I'll be sharing more about some areas of Russia in the future.  Jerry visited these areas on media coverage trips and has some amazing photos about some areas westerners know little about.

July 2001 takes us to our next location, Prague, Czech Republic.  I can't wait to share.  Prague holds a special place in our hearts for many reasons.

28 January 2014

Road Trip: Ireland Ruins, Castles and The Burren

This will be my last post about our trip through County Clare, Ireland.  I hope you've enjoyed coming along with us.  It was such a great trip!  You can see my previous posts here if you haven't already.

I know not everyone feels comfortable driving on the other side of the road (whether you drive on the left or right).  It was one of my biggest fears moving to England.  It's nice to have conquered that and now I feel quite comfortable driving on the left.  Not so sure about going back to the right!!  My brain will be so confused!

On our first trip to Ireland in 2005 we walked, took public buses and occasionally had a ride from our Bed & Breakfast hosts who also ran a taxi service from their home.  We enjoyed walking next to fields of cows and along the edge of the Cliffs of Moher.  This time around we brought our car and we got to see a lot more.  Both were great experiences!

All that to say, I can't recommend enough taking a road trip through Ireland!  We loved getting off the beaten path to stop at random spots.

One day we went down a road like this.....

.....just so we could see this!


Ireland is full of some amazing ruins!

cemetary & church ruins, Ireland





I love this shot of my father-in-law chatting with a local man who came to visit his sister's grave.




The ruins alone are quite impressive, but then there are the castles!  Oh my!!

Doonagore Castle sits above the town of Doolin.  Currently, it is a private holiday home.  What a view!

Doonagore Castle, Doolin, Ireland

We had to stop and take a look at the impressive Bunratty Castle.  We didn't have time to go through it, but it looks amazing!


The Burren, a karst topography (eroding bedrock) is one of the largest in Europe at 96 square miles.



I loved watching my kids watch the waves while dad snaps photos.


That wraps up our Ireland trip.  Hope you've enjoyed the tour!

Linking up with Bonnie!

A Compass Rose

24 January 2014

Photos in the Fog

There is just something mesmerizing about morning fog.
I dropped the kids off and instantly set off for a drive in the countryside.  I don't have to go far to get to a country lane with fields and trees.  Living in the English countryside sure has its perks.  It has it's downsides too, but I won't go into that.
The problem about a country lane is trying to find a place to pull your car off the road that isn't someone's driveway.  
I found a spot though and it was breathtaking!
And it's time for me to admit.  I am a lazy photographer.  I love the idea of a great shot with great focus, color and composition.  I just don't want to do the work it takes to get there!  Yes, lazy photographer here!!
These were all shot on my IPhone 4S.  Twenty years ago, who would have thought we'd be walking around checking email, surfing the internet and taking pictures with such a contraption.  And oh how I love it!
Amazing that my phone can take photos like this!!
I love taking photos of the world around me.  Especially landscapes.  So I was really excited when I found out about the Pro HDR app.  I took this picture with the normal IPhone camera app.
Then I took it with the Pro HDR app.
The app takes an over processed photo and an under processed photo and merges the 2 together.  It's amazing!
Anyway, I didn't mean to make this a plug for the app, but if you enjoy taking landscape photos with your phone, this app can come in handy!!
Hope you all have a wonderful weekend!!  I am giddy to be spending a whole day this weekend with the lovely Sarah, Gina & Selena!!

21 January 2014

Back in Time - Bryansk, Russia

I'm finally moving along in my "Back in Time" series.  You can see my previous posts here.  

In January 2001 we packed up our belongings and moved from Moscow to the town of Bryansk(Брянск).

Bryansk sits in the west corner of Russia on the borders of Ukraine and Belarus.

It is the halfway mark between Kiev and Moscow on the train route.  Russian trains in 2001 left much to be desired, maybe they still do!  Train tickets were fairly inexpensive compared to other parts of Europe and any time I traveled with Jerry between Moscow and Bryansk, we would take an over night train and ride first class.  In first class there are only 2 beds per coupe. Standard class was 4.  We felt it gave us a degree of safety and comfort to travel this way and it really was that much cleaner and more comfortable.  I am such a light sleeper that I never slept any way.
Sorry for the blur, remember, early days of digital cameras.
Let me take you on a little tour around town.  I don't remember what everything is.  At least you can get an idea of what it was like living in Russia, outside of a main city. 

Below, the univermag, a large market place.

Snezhka River

Those photos look like they're out of the 1970s!

Here we are with Lenin.

Our favorite cafe, below, with some American friends that came for a visit.

Oh how we looked so young and skinny!

I think back and wish I'd taken pictures of things like sides of beef hanging in an open air market with no refrigeration and flies buzzing all around, grocery stores where carts did not exist and shopping consisted of paying first, then taking your receipt to pick up your purchases at the specific counter (dairy counter, meat counter, fruit/veg counter, etc.), and buses moving around horses in the road because they roam free.

Next I'll be sharing with you where we lived in Bryansk.  You won't want to miss it!  It will give you a good dose of Russian living!

I'm linking up with Bonnie again for another Travel Tuesday.
A Compass Rose


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