Lime Nikolai Fomin

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Hi guys,

I'm still in Russia...I haven't written a live journal entry for so long ór seen any of you for so long that I've forgotten how to be spontaneous but I thought that my time in Russia deserved some acknowledgement, especially considering how much things have changed at Friends House since I wrote to you at Christmas.  One of the things I like about working for a small organisation is how much circumstances seem to change all the time, one minute we're going find, then we have a crisis but then we survive.  I say I like that...I mean you feel very involved and it's strange to think that i might not get that in quite the same way again.  but then if i continue to work in the charity sector of course I will.  i have to go now i'm getting messages telling me how many minutes i have remaining. 

Lime Nikolai Fomin

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I posted this on January 1st  but as it was an edited version of an older entry it got stuck in December no matter how many times I edited the date.  As New Year only comes round once a year I’m sending it out again in case you didn’t see it.  I hope I’m not too late (well I am really of course but what’s 2 days among friends J  (On the plus side it looks like I’ve found out how to put a proper smiley into an entry – cut and paste from word).



Happy New Year everyone!

It's been nice to read about what you've all been up to since I last saw you and to keep up with your news during what I don't think has been an easy six months for most of us.   Still, in the tradition of wishing for each year to be better than the last, I have high hopes for 2007, to be a better Russian speaker, to make some new friends, to see and know more of the world and to enjoy my freedom from studying!

So for the last six weeks I've been at Friends' House, where the work is interesting, if a bit thin on the ground with three people almost trying to do the work of two.   Yet the things I'm learning about are interesting.  I've translated some reports by AVP facilitators, one of the main projects we support.  The Alternatives to Violence Project is an international movement that consists of workshops on all aspects of conflict resolution from assertiveness, strategies to cope with confrontation, reconciliation through to negotiating with the authorities or with superiors in the army etc and is held with prisoners, conscripts, school psychologists.  

I've also started working as a language assistant (not a teacher) at the Big Change Education Programme for teenagers and adults who grew up in orphanages - the students are enthusiastic and work hard, it's been a really positive experience in lots of ways.  I guess the main way is that even though, as I understand it, they have been to segregated schools run by the care homes - something that seems impermissible to me socially and unnecessary no matter how it economizes financially and organizationally -  they seem to be some of the nicest people I've come across, and somehow much better bred than a lot of British people the same age.  Some time in the next couple of months my colleagues have said they'll arrange for me to start teaching properly, which I'm looking forward to as it'll probably be the most challenging thing I'll do in Russia!

So may 2007 bring you much happiness!

Dawn - Be sure to keep those QS lads in line!  The degree sounds interesting, really hope you enjoy it.  

Amanda - Thankyou for the card.  Child care sounds like hard work but rewarding too, so glad you're working in the area you've always wanted to work in and that it's everything you expected, sorry it's so exhausting though.  Glad you've got found some nice people to live with!  

Cheryl - Though probably something of an acquired sense of humour from your side, your stories from the sandwich factory made me laugh a lot.   Glad to hear all the papers for Russia have come through on time.  Have a brilliant time in Kitezh and all the best of luck!

Rachel -  Gosh what can I say?  I think you've done wonderfully over there!  Your French seems to have come on so well, especially speaking in French in the meeting about your immigration papers.  The job at the library must be a nice thing to have too.  And wish Marina well from me too, at last she's made it and you can all stop worrying!

Ross - Glad you got a nice break from work and a chance to travel and see good friends again.  Best wishes for next year.

Ilya - I hope everything's going ok with the PhD and you've got a good supervisor.  Hope life in Nottingham is still good fun, though without the Russian-style card games with vodka, tvorogi and blini it might be a little dull, though less frustrating without people to misunderstand the rules constantly!

Francis Cugat

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The end of October looks much closer from the beginning of October than the middle of September.  I have 3 weeks left.  In that time I have to:

1. Seriously work on my TEFL books and get some proper ideas/ lesson plans going.
2. Improve my spoken Russian.
3. Finish my ECDL course.
4. Buy suitable clothes for Russia.
5. Go to the London Consulate to get my visa.
6.  Pass my driving test.

A few weeks ago I spoke to the FHM staff over the phone.  They seem really nice.  I have someone to stay with - Ina Polykova from the Moscow Meeting.  I'll get my rent paid.  It's fantastic.  I'll also get a free Metro card.  And I'll get my visa costs paid for too.  Then I'll be working as a volunteer.  We didn't speak at great length about what I'll be doing exactly, though I found an old job description Bonnie sent me in the second year I think.  A typical day in the office involves receiving applications looking for funding of projects people would like to organise, translating reports of projects, corresponding with project organizers and meeting people with ideas for new projects and helping them fill out applications, keeping in touch with the board members about what is going on.  Sounds like they are kept occupied doesn't it?  Also on the list though was cleaning the office, trips to the post office,  filing, etc.  I find it hard to visualise what a typical day will be or how active it'll be...

There's something about the way I'm describing it that I don't like, as I don't feel I've fully put across the philosophy behind it.  If there's one thing they don't want to be, it's a charity that simply gives out money.  They put a lot of emphasis on building community development through being a grass roots organisation.  They want to take ideas from anybody who cares deeply about something and has some kind of idea of how to help, no matter how little practical knowledge or experience they have.  Consequently they'll meet people in person and discuss plans before they send an application and give assistance in writing out an application for people who have not had experience in filling out applications and talking to sponsors before.  Yet they do not want to get too heavily involved in the running of the project once it has been set up, as the idea is that the project belongs to the people who conceived of it.  So the role of FHM is to work alongside people to set projects up rather than to play a part in how they are run, as it is hoped that the project will set up links with other organisations, including state organizations, like schools and hospitals, and inspire individuals to get their own ideas for projects and that the initial project will develop and change with time and through collaboration.  

As you might expect with a religious organization FHM has priorities linked with the Quaker faith, which principally includes not surprisingly supporting projects that promote or are in accordance with the Quaker faith and way of life, which I think lays emphasis on understanding over tolerance and forgiveness (ok false dichotomy I know, but I'm trying to think where the focus could differ between a Quaker perspective and a Christian perspective) with the idea that war is a result of barriers between people being set up everywhere (racial, ideological,social) , which prevent communication as well as our sense of what makes us essentially the same, that is our humanity, the proof of which is the presence of God within each individual, so that war is a curruption of what we are as human beings (Take this with a grain of salt, my knowledge of Quaker faith needs a lot of work, I'm doing my best for the moment).   Anyway, as a result of this, projects dealing with conflict resolution and conscientious objection are consistently earmarked for funding.  I'm not saying that there is anything wrong with having priorities or mission statements, all the FHM projects seem very worthwhile to me, I just mean that there are certain projects which go to the heart of the identity of Quakerism and which will always have a status (if this is an ok word to use) that other initiatives may not ever reach.   

My original point at the end of this was that because FHM work quite closely with setting the projects up and that the projects are considered very much on the mission statement under which FHM was set up, I think there is a kind of bond that can't be broken between FHM and its projects so the reports written about the projects to and by FHM is not a way of justifying their right for continuing financial support or to check up that they deserve it as I think the trust is too strong for that. 

Anyway, I'll be teaching English on a project called 'Big Change' an eductional programme for orphans who, for reasons not fully explianed on the website, were automatically sent to special schools which disqualifies them from entering higher education as they don't have a high school diploma.  So the aim of the project is to re-teach their exam subjects to the standard of a mainstream high school so that they can get the diploma.

It's helped to go through all of this to myself tonight, writing everything down makes it all seem clearer and helps me resolve some of my doubts about the exact character of this organization.

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Ice Cold

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Well, I don't know where to begin or quite how.  It seems I have solved my problem of not knowing what to do with myself.  After continuing reservations for most of the summer that the MA inTranslation and Professional Language Skills is what I want to do, I decided to give one last attempt at a notion I'd had for a while, and sort of persued in the 3rd year, about getting work experience with the Moscow based Quaker charity FHM (Friends' House Moscow).   I sent them an email stating my skills and my previous involvement with Quakerism (admittedly not that much, bar attending meeting in Nottingham and several times at FHM).  Then I waited and ( I guess you know what I'm going to say) they offered me an internship!

I should qualify that... the staff at FHM suggested some things and seemed quite positive about having me and said they would need to speak to the Personel Committee to actually see whether they could set something up.  So I waited for a couple of weeks.  Then on Monday I got an email back from FHM staff saying that they can have me from the end of October to July, which was really great news!

The real test comes tommorrow when they are going to ring me and speak to me over the phone.  So I hope that goes ok and that they like the sound of me.  It's not an interview, just a confirmation and more questions and answers on what I'll be doing.

I should perhaps add that it was a guy called John at Nottingham who told me that they were looking for interns (my impression based on what I heard from them in the 3rd year was that they had far more people wanting to work for them than places (not surprising as there are only 3 members of staff at FHM (the Personel Committee aren't actually based in Russia apart from one member excluding the Russian members) and they've only ever taken on 2 interns at once).  So I was surprised and didn't really think anything would come of it but I sent off a CV to the address John gave me, a lady named Marsha from the Personel Committee and she asked the staff to get in contact with me.  Who'd have thought it?

I can't remember whether or not it was the day I spoke to John that I was in two minds whether to go to meeting or have another hour in bed but if it was it was a lucky day for me.

I think I'll end on that note.

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Time to try again...

This is an old entry that I don't think anyone has read.  Firstly it was backdated, then I realised no-one had seen it so I changed the date but that didn't seem to help either.  So now I've deleted it entirely and have cut and pasted it into a new update.  A comment just to tell me that it's registered on your friends' page would be appreciated, then I'll know it's just a minor blip, or me imagining things, rather than there being a problem with my account.  Well here it is...

I posted this entry a while ago while I was re-discovering Quaker Meeting (in the English language whoo!).  I didn't want to change the date as my attitude towards religion changes all the time and what I thought then isn't quite the same as what I think now…
 We were having a discussion after meeting about whether you are still a Quaker if you don't believe in God.  I learnt that as many as 50 percent of Quakers may not believe in God in the Christian sense, although believe in some kind of spirituality.  Many Quakers understandably are not happy about this.  When someone asked me whether you can still be a Quaker if you don't believe in God I said no and then admitted that I am an agnostic and find it unlikely that I will ever change and if I did, it would probably be more towards the side of atheism (not that I told anyone that).  One lady told me that she had been an agnostic, then an atheist and now comes to meeting because as far as I understood it , she thinks that faith is personal and that thinking about it without it being directed by anyone in a position of authority is the only way to have faith as meeting turns into a stream of consciousness sometimes as different people extend a train of thought and lead it in a new direction ( it never turns into a debate or a discussion group or forum or the cliched 'melting pot' though, that's what I like about it, you always feel it's going somewhere, notto a final conclusion but you feel a sense of progression as nothing seems to get contradicted just gets more subtle as more people speak) and only by comparing different ideas can you get a sense of how complex the faith question is and cannot feel any certainty any more but instead of being a problem this somehow gives you faith as you no longer need definite answers, you just know that the world is not a closed book.  So in real terms, I guess this would make you a sort of permanent agnostic but one who no longer minds being one. But if you see religious institutions and taking the bible at its word as a form of brainwashing or fixing your mind rather than opening it up then this is the only kind of faith you can have.  The problem is that Christianity is about definite beliefs and is a leap of faith.  So really I can see why a lot of Quakers want to be nothing other than a Christian group as devout as the next otherwise it's not a religious organisation, as one member said, it would just be another community group.  Very confusing.  This is democracy in the proper sense of the word I guess.
Probably one of the more serious entries to appear on live journal for a while, but to be honest not a lot has been going on, I have no firm plans as yet, so nothing to prepare for, it's hard to be excited when you're confused.   But I will be.  I just need time and a little more confidence/courage would be nice.  Sure it will all come clear come September :)

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