Monday, September 28, 2009

Russia's international family court proposal

I was reading today on that Russia has announced a proposal for an international court for family issues (Россия предлагает создать международный суд по семейным делам). They recognize that there are a growing number of divorces and family issues that cross national boundaries. This court would serve to protect the rights of children whose parents are from different countries.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Science and religion talks at church

Rachmaninoff Night

Enjoyed an amazing performance by Keenan Reesor (who served in the Samara Russia mission right before I got there) of Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 2. I was caught up in thoughts of Russia the entire time and couldn't say whether minutes or hours had passed. He is an incredibly talented musician, and I enjoyed finding the Russian soul in his portrayal. Thoughts of Moscow and old friends abounded.

I was able to finally meet him (my parents met him while I was in Saratov, Russia) and tell him what a fabulous job he did on the piece. When I told him who I was Mary Kay's daughter, he said in Russian, "Oh, so that means you speak Russian!" We spoke for a minute in Russian, and he commented that it was so nice to hear Russian again. He asked if I could hear the Russian in the piece--oh, my back, oh my troubles, all of this work! I laughed and told him I had thought of Russia the entire performance. "Your mom told me they called you Tigre in Russia, right? So cute!" Ah, another fond memory of Russia. In my first area, the district president (the leader over all of the Church in Saratov who is now a general authority) was giving a talk in our branch and went to say something about Sister Smith and me. He paused as he got to my name (which is quite difficult for Russians), and said, "Sister Smith and the Sister whose name is closer to Tiger!" Needless to say, I didn't live that one down for a while!

Keenan and I are both second years in master's programs here at USC--he in piano performance, and I, of course, in public diplomacy. How odd, we thought, to have both just barely missed each other in Russia (he literally flew home the day I got there), for him to have moved into my parent's ward and out before I got home, and then to meet in Los Angeles as we are both at USC. (He's married, so don't get any ideas!)

Friday, September 25, 2009

Answer to life's questions: Russian and Religion

So earlier this week I was kind of feeling like, what am I doing out here at USC, living in LA, studying public diplomacy? All of my classes seemed to keep coming back to the middle east, to areas I didn't feel as knowledgable in, and as I posted in another blog, I thought--what is a Russian literature undergrad doing in classes on the middle east and media? I had a 12-page paper due on a historical aspect of media and was feeling a little overwhelmed. A friend mentioned that I could write on Desert Storm and President Bush (H.W.). I thought, oh great, another middle east topic (I think the middle east is interesting, if just doesn't happen to be my area of expertise).

I called my mom, my always-there-incredible-source-of-advice mom, and explained what was going on, and how Eastern Europe was my background, but everything always seems to come back to the middle east, this class, my Religion and Conflict class, everything, and that I was feeling like I didn't know why I was here. She said to me, "Of course you should pick a topic you are interested in--do something on Russia. Why don't you write on the fall of the Berlin wall or something? Write about what you want to write about--make this masters work for you. Get what you want out of it." So I decided I would go back and look at different events, pre-9/11. I ended up deciding to write on either the Hungarian Revolt of 1956 or the Berlin wall. The Hungarian Revolt won out (I decided I needed to know more about it and what better way than to research for a paper?). I set off to the library and checked out about seven books.

As I was perusing them on campus, my good friend Paul came over to catch up for a minute. I told him of some of the frustrations I had been dealing with. So glad he came along! He gave me some great advice, really encouraged me to stick with what I love--Russia and religion, and gave me a pep talk. I really appreciated his supportive words. He convinced me I am good at public diplomacy and not to give in to the majority who seem to gravitate to the middle east. So grateful for good friends! Ran into Mike later, who is focusing on Japan, and he basically told me good for you for sticking with eastern Europe--he wasn't giving in to the middle east trend either!

So I wrote my paper on the Hungarian Revolt and really enjoyed it! I am happiest when I am dealing with issues involving Russia and Eastern Europe, and feel great about what I've decided to study!

To top it all off, I think religion finally won out in my Religion and Conflict class! People are finally realizing what an impact it has in international relations. I felt really on my game--I was able to express all of the ideas I wanted and was able to connect religion in with IR theory. The professor even backed me up on quite a few points, which I really appreciated. Using examples from eastern europe, I was able to support my comments and help others to understand why I thought religion played an important role in international relations.

In my earlier talk with Paul, I had told him of some of my frustrations with my religion and conflict class and how people kept saying that religion was for the poor and uneducated. Along with his comments at the time pointing out that that was ridiculous, and that he and I and many of our friends are religious, he sent me the following:

"A man can no more diminish God's glory by refusing to worship Him than a lunatic can put out the sun by scribbling the word, 'darkness' on the walls of his cell." C.S. Lewis

Well said.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Ukraine Temple Progress

The angel of Moroni statue has officially been placed on the temple in Kiev, Ukraine! Sister Van Dyke, one of the missionaries I worked with while I was in Moscow wrote an article for LDS Church News on it.

Learned some amazing things about the symbolism of the statue of Moroni at my temple class on Monday. I'll have to add those here when I have all of my notes with me.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Moscow link

Interesting blog from a friend on being Back in the USSR. She is Ukrainian and offers a unique perspective on Moscow.

Monday, September 21, 2009


Just read Eli's blog. Amazing how similar I feel my struggles are to his at this point:

"And all of the pressure and anxiety lately has only made me think more about how different life was just a few months ago, hanging out on the streets in Moscow, comfortable, and relatively care-free. Every once in a while I get this flash-back of Kimberly, Acia, and I walking down this narrow street through the thick trees and concrete 20 story apartment complexes just outside of our office building. We've just finished work for the day and we have hours and hours of sunlight in a gorgeous, vibrant city. The possibilities are endless. We walk fast to get to metro because we have about 80 things we're trying to cram into our evening and we want to be able to do them all. Kimberly and I are teasing Acia about all the Russian boys we're going to find for her. She blushes and tells us in her cute Slavic accent to leave her alone. Eventually our conversation turns to vafly, which we've already eaten once or twice during the day. We pass the cheese roll stand where I buy my breakfast just after getting out of the metro every morning. And while that scene happened day-in, day-out for weeks, I never got tired of how happy I felt. I was somewhere that I really loved, experiencing something that I really loved. Now my life looks quite a bit different. It's not really better or worse, just different. Amid all the stress, I get to be with great friends with whom I share the opportunity to get an invaluable education. It comes at a cost of course; all good things do. Most of the time I'm convinced that I love it despite all the aspects that sometimes aren't so lovable. Sometimes I have to convince myself to love those not so lovable aspects in order to stay productive.There's always this little battle going on. Do I learn to love what I'm doing because I know it's right or do I change what I'm doing, cued in that not loving it is evidence that it's not right? How much of it am I supposed to love to make the sacrifice all worth it?I'm not about to dramatically change course. Occasionally, however, I have to stop and ask myself where it is I'm trying to get. I have to ask myself what kind of realistic destinations actually exist for me..."

To which I had to reply:

"Oh, Eli. You have no idea how much you just described what I'm going through! I think about Moscow all the time--much the similar picture: you and I laughing from the second we see each other, Acia rolling her eyes and laughing because we're laughing, her telling us we walk too fast. Tears literally sprang to my eyes when I was writing Sister Hall this week because I missed it all so much. Weren't those the good old days? Now back to reality, where I find myself asking how I ended up in SoCal studying public diplomacy and wondering what on earth I'm going to do if it isn't Church PA, cuz I sure as heck don't want to end up working for hollywood. And what was I thinking as a Russian literature undergrad going into classes on the Middle East, media, and foreign policy? As always, right there with you on the wondering..."

Near mugging?

Absolutely terrified an older hispanic woman this morning. I talked Will into running with me, and as we were going along, we were discussing the LA 1st ward. I told him my friend was moving down, who I had ran into in Russia, and then yelled out, "We got another one!" It wasn't until I saw the older, terrified hispanic woman cower against the fence that I realized what we must have looked like to her--suddenly two people run up behind her and one yells, "We got another one!" I felt kind of bad after realizing I probably scared her half to death, and Will and I greeted her with "hello" and "good morning" as we continued on our way.

Ironically, I had made some crack about getting mugged at 9:00 in the morning in this rough neighborhood, and Will had mockingly asked if I had left my mace at home. But apparently I was closer to being the mugger than the mugged today.


Ran into Professor Wiseman on campus last week--so good to see him! I loved his class last semester! He congratulated me on a job well done in his course. I learned so much from him! And some of my favorite papers came out of his class--my paper on the emergency response efforts of the Church and my New York Times op-ed on prop 8 and Mormons. I really enjoyed being able to consult him on my research interests. I don't think I have ever enjoyed doing research so much. So sad I was unable to take his class this semester (it was on a Friday, and I knew I would be out of town the first couple weeks of school). Either way, good to see him.

Great class on temple symbolism today! And more to come next week.

Realized it makes me self-conscious when I'm picking out tomatoes at the same time as other people because I inevitable think, why hasn't any one picked this tomato yet? Is it bad? Not ripe enough? Too ripe? Am I just not very good at picking out tomatoes? Talk about stressful. I mean, you know it's bad when you start doubting your abilities in picking tomatoes!

Decided to forgo my internship this semester. 27 hours/week, unpaid in an area I don't want to end up in just didn't sound like a good idea. So I'm focusing more on readings, presentations, and papers now. I think it will prove to be a good decision.

LA weekend

Samba under the stars in downtown Friday night after finally checking out the tiki tacos at 23rd street cafe. We even learned Thriller. Beach clean up and BBQ Saturday morning with Santa Monica 3rd ward. A Dodger's game where we absolutely cleaned up over the Giants. Cards and milkshakes with friends at the Grove. Not a bad LA weekend. And yet, through it all, I still wish at times I was up in Utah, enjoying a beautiful mountain-filled evening with my family and cousins.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Summing up

Sister Hall is putting together a history of the Europe East Area and wanted me to write a bio about my internship. I thought I'd include it here:

Upon completing her undergraduate work in Russian language and literature at BYU, Kimberly went on to study public diplomacy at the University of Southern California. Her main interests center on religion and eastern Europe, so she jumped at the opportunity to do a public affairs internship for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the Europe East Area Presidency's office.

While in Moscow, Kimberly was the point person for all media covering the visit of President Uchtdorf and Elder Anderson. She coordinated with those submitting articles and pictures from each of the four cities visited. She also received the assignment of getting and in some cases writing highlight pieces on members from each city. Especially meaningful for her was talking with the mission presidents of Samara and Rostov about their members: Samara because this is where she had served her mission and was able to hear of many amazing experiences that had happened to help the Church grow, a touching experience for someone whose heart still reaches out to the Saints in that particular area of the world and prays often that others around them will be touched and come to the true gospel of Jesus Christ; Rostov because President Harrison had been her first bishop out of the dorms at BYU and now, as mission president, worked closely with one of Kimberly's former mission companions. Kimberly was able to go and visit both of them.

Kimberly's internship came at a unique time of transition for public affairs. She was involved in meetings on the restructuring of public affairs in Ukraine with the new public affairs head, Elder Manzhos. She recalls fondly a conference call to Kiev where she served as secretary, taking minutes; as interpreter for the VanDykes, who were in Kiev; and as participant in the conference who at times weighed in with her own opinion and clarifications. This was the most enjoyable exercise in multi-tasking she has ever experienced.

Kimberly also worked on various translations, ranging from articles to be covered in media to helping on translations for the Liahona to preparing an English version of the program for the conference held in St. Petersburg on law and religion.

Though her internship taught her many things and gave her great experience, what will always stand out and remain with her are the relationships and memories made with those in the office. There was not one person in the office that did not make a lasting impression on her and touch her heart. She received so much more than she gave and will forever be grateful for the opportunity she had to spend one summer with the finest people she has ever worked with.

Falling in Love on Trains

Really enjoyed a link someone had posted from BBC today called Do People Fall in Love on Trains?

I got a little nostalgic for the Moscow metro. Exchanging glances, smiles, sometimes phone numbers, having a young, sharp-dressed guy offer to walk me home, winking and smiling at friends only to have the guy next to him think we were strangers and that I was picking up on him, the trips to Sokol. In short, the good old days.

And how can I forget those trips on trains from Vienna to Prague, and Prague to Berlin, then all around Italy? Which reminds me, I have a few people I need to get back in contact with ;)

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The Low Down

So, my blog is pretty much my journal where I get to keep track of lots of random things that happen in my life. Since I have been a total slacker (or just not in a place where I had internet access and time to write simultaneously), I figured I could at least make a list of stuff that has gone on. The really interesting ones will turn into blog posts (how could I in good conscience not write about the donkey/watermelon races????), but others will merely be consigned to a line on a blog post, as follows:

Saturday, August 29--night out with pd students for Katharine's housewarming party

Sunday, August 30--first Sunday back in LA. Went to USC and LA 1st wards. So love being back at Church!! Great meetings, saw old friends, met new ones, and got settled back into a ward. Even met some new Russian speakers!

Monday, August 31--Went to a SCycling class (SC for USC, I can spell sometimes) that totally kicked my butt. Lots of fun, though!

Tuesday, September 1—Interviewed with the company I am now interning with and did sealings at the LA temple

Wednesday, September 3—Grabbed some free food with Tabby, which she entertained herself with by feeding squirrels before heading off to our conflict and religion class.

Thursday, September 4—Went to my 9 am class, then took off for Parowan for an amazing labor day weekend *so much about this weekend deserves a blog post. To be continued…

Friday, September 5—Ran about ½ mile with Michelle in her Red Rock Relay Run. I’m going to say I only ran that long because the rules state you can’t have a pacer, but really I was just thirsty and sick of the hills J And I hadn’t been feeling well, but hey. Then of to the rodeo at the county fair, mostly hung out with Burke, who was working the chute, went dancing after and met some fun, new people, including the swing club from SUU. I have an official invitation any Wednesday I’m in Cedar J

Saturday, September 6—Spent the night at Burke’s (have I mentioned he’s my brother?) before heading off to the cousins', where all the girls spent the morning curling our hair before heading off to the ranch rodeo where we saw Burke on a branding team (no, not the marketing kind of branding, but the one where you have to rope a calf, toss it, tie it, and brand it—in this case with white paint). Stuck around for the rodeo. This was the rodeo to beat all rodeos—namely the one where the donkey riding took place! Then off for some more country dancing and fair rides! Dance party in the kitchen with Cami, Amy, and Wendy when we got home. Totally hilarious

Sunday, September 7—Went down to Enoch to Burke’s ward. Rhett was being ordained a deacon. So fun to be there for him and watch him pass the sacrament! Mom, April, Burke, Zane, and I all bore our testimonies. Really special experience for me to be there with my family! Dinner for grandpa's birthday at Kelly and Rosa's. Sunday evening fireside with the Army band and Russian piano performance.

Monday, September 8—Labor Day parade. Grandpa was so great as the Grand Marshall up on his horse! Thought he was missing after, but turned out he was at home all the time. Lots of hanging out with the cousins, then went over to grandpa’s after everyone else drove home. Mom, dad, and I were the only ones who decided to leave Tuesday instead.

Tuesday, Septmeber 9—back to LA. Listened to Truman G. Madsen’s lectures on Joseph Smith the whole drive home. So amazing! Then crash reading to try and get ready for my Wednesday presentation

Wednesday, September 10—Spend the whole morning reading the 300 pages I was presenting on, went in for a two-hour training at my internship, then off to classes

Thursday, September 11—More classes, first day at the internship by myself, and home for more homework. (Any one else feel like there should have been something more done today given it was 9/11?)

Friday, September 12—half day at the internship and another 8 hour drive to Utah (normally takes about 7 hours, but traffic was awful), and another series of lectures from Truman G. Madsen (I had the original 8 lectures he delivered on Joseph Smith, plus another series he did on teachings of Joseph Smith). Made the drive much more enjoyable! Got to Parowan in time to help fold up tablecloths Joyce and my mom had been pressing for Alex and Becca’s reception.

Saturday, September 13--Alex and Becca's reception

Sunday, September 14--Enoch stake meeting, lunch at Marie's with everyone, watched Jon Tucker Must Die with Amy, Wendy, and Cami, then took off on my long drive back to LA. Since my Truman G Madsen CDs were done, took the time to catch up with friends from Russia--Ryan, Eli, Tyler-- and got a call or two from my mom, who was scared I was going to fall asleep (was very grateful for this call--that last stretch was tough!)

And that brings me back to Monday, September 15--the great institute class, a stint at the internship, and the amazing fhe dodgeball event. There you go, all caught up!

My amazing institute class

Back at institute Monday mornings from 10:00-11:30 and am so happy! We had an amazing lesson (as usual) from Sister Frandsen. Our subject is temples this year, and I am so excited for all of the lessons ahead! I took about 3 pages of notes on this introductory class alone and next week is on symbolism in temples!!! For those who really know me well, you know just how excited this makes me (as if the exclamation points didn't give it away). Maybe I should confess my love for and interest in symbolism right now. From numbers, to the etymology of words, to pictures, I love it all! I especially love what I have read from Alonzo Gaskill on symbolism and learned from Reid in my family history class last fall in the USC ward.

And Dan Brown came out with a new book today The Lost Symbol. As one article said, Happy Dan Brown Day! Though I don't always agree with everything he writes, I am excited to see the new symbolism he is sure to highlight.

So back to my main point--I am really excited for institute this semester and am sure random ideas from class will make an appearance in the blog. It truly is time to start the wandering Mormon series. Now if only I could keep up with blogging, homework, and the internship!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Dodgeball FHE style

Had a much needed FHE tonight with the LA 1st and SM 3rd ward. So much fun! I saw so many people I knew and met so many new people! Just when I'd decided I'd probably tone down on the social this year... haha That lasted a day (I would say three weeks, but as Will reminded me, it doesn't count as being anti-social if you're not in the state).

The dodgeball was intense--so fun to watch! Russell and Jonathan certainly got in some amazing dodges! I was glad I had decided to be a spectator (we had about 80-90 people show up to the activity, I thought it was 50, but Will informed me I'm still bad at guess-timating), as many of those throws could have taken my head off, or, who knows, cost me another rib.

One of the highlights of the evenings was when I was joking around with Will and started dancing while he sang, "If you like it then you should have put a ring on it" and kind of danced/turned around to see Ryan right behind me. He'd been waiting for a good opportunity to step in and say hi, and I happened to bust a move (if you can call it that--really, I'm only a country dancer, I don't get this hip hop stuff) right in front of him. Kind of embarassing, but definitely hilarious. Just what I needed after a stressful day at the internship, LA traffic, and wondering why I was down here.

Russell helped me to realize that, yeah, that's the industry, but you deal with it while you have to, and then go on and have a lot of fun!

From the second I got into the building, it was seeing friends I hadn't seen, people I'd (sadly) forgotten were down here, and laughing the night away. Got some good laughs and mileage out of the donkey story at least, which led to some really great stories from other people.

Ended up seeing Bryan, who I met country dancing last year (which he informed me got him into some trouble). Decided we should probably get some people and go again, or if not that, at least to Lake Powell. So yeah, lots of good people, lots of good plans! Let the social events begin! (I'm still going to get those presentations and all my reading done--I'm thinking responsible socialite this year).

Still missing my cousins and all the good times in Parowan, but I am happy to be back in Los Angeles, and wish that they were here! Texted with Wendy about the good times the last couple of weekends, and I can't wait for her to come and hang out in LA! ...and can't wait for conference weekend, when I've made plans to go dancing at Studio 600 and be in Utah for six days. Already getting people together for that lol Good to feel like me again :)