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Archive for the ‘Society & Culture’ Category

Read an interesting article on vodka written by Kyiv Post’s guide editor Alexandra Matoshko here.

Here’s an excerpt of the story:

Vodka (“horilka” in Ukrainian) stands high among the top stereotypes used to describe Ukrainians. What do Ukrainians like above all? Vodka and salo, of course. We have already done an article about the lard. However vodka proved to be a much more extensive topic.

Anyone new in the country can tell that vodka is indeed a highly popular national drink, simply by viewing the vodka section at any supermarket – it runs several meters, showcasing an amazing variety of vodka brands. There are no less than 40 of them produced in Ukraine, while an average supermarket holds as much as 20. Besides, most brands offer a number of different kinds each. Naturally, Ukrainian vodka is one of the common souvenirs any tourist tries to take home. And that’s where he faces the difficulty of choice. Unless there is a vodka connoisseur around to give coherent advice, inscriptions like: “honey with pepper,” “on milk,” “rye” and “on birchtree buds” on the labels can easily confuse not only a foreigner, but even a Ukrainian, who is not an experienced vodka drinker.

A classical definition of vodka is “a drink of water and ethanol, containing a small amount of impurities, sometimes with berry or fruit flavorings as well as spices.” The alcohol content may range from 40 to 56 percent. But there is much more to know about the beloved drink of the Slavs.

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SIFAT (Servant in Faith and Technology) is one great opportunity and experience that I had had in the US.

God gave me an opportunity to live among His children from five different continents! It was amazing to realize how we SIFAT participants come from different cultures and backgrounds, yet we share the common love and passion for Christ.

All of us got to taste a ‘bit of heaven’ while we lived in the campus and attended our classes everyday, from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Living and teaming up with other believers from other countries is amazingly exciting and humbling. We all learned from each other and accepted our differences, letting the love of Jesus be manifested in our lives everyday.

One of the things that I will never forget and will always remind me of this ‘taste of heaven’ is when we, as a class, sang “God is So Good” in 13 languages. It was awesome! It was like God was allowing us to experience heaven on earth. That wonderful worship experience made me realize anew that no matter what language we speak, we sing praises to one God!

I will always remember my class in SIFAT. My classmates became my instant family during the practicum and training. God just binded us together with His amazing love.

On this note, I would like to thank you all for partnering and supporting to have this SIFAT training/practicum. Your prayers and financial help allowed me to experience unique Christian moments while on training in the US, and yes, equipped me to do more as I continue to reach out and minister to others by sharing the love of Christ in practical ways.

Indeed, there are so many needs everywhere. Having said this, I know that we cannot do everything. We can only do as much, and let God multiply it and do it effectively. I believe that even the smallest things that we do for God will impact the lives of people around us — just like the ripple effect.

There is an interesting meaning or explanation for the word “ripple” (capillary wave) from Wikipedia. As I was thinking about this word and how significant it can be, I made some research and found this out:

A capillary wave is a wave travelling along the interface between two fluids, whose dynamics are dominated by the effects of surface tension. Capillary waves are common in nature and home, and are often referred to as ripple. The wavelength of capillary waves is typically less than a few centimeters.

A gravity–capillary wave on a fluid interface is influenced by both the effects of surface tension and gravity, as well as by the fluid inertia.

You can read a related pre-SIFAT story here.

(Note: To view my US Trip slideshow on Flickr, click here.)

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When I was in Sweden in December last year, I had the rare opportunity to observe one of Swedish Christmas traditions: the First Sunday of Advent. It was a privilege to observe and learn this interesting culture and tradition of Sweden while I was staying with my hosts in Stockholm.

Just a little backgrounder:

The Swedish people celebrate and observe on the first Sunday of December by gathering together as a family and lighting the first of the four candles for each Sunday of December in preparation for Christmas.

They celebrate the Sunday Advent by toasting a special red wine and eating the traditional Swedish bread called boular (a soft bread with raisins and glassier sugar on top). The red wine is heated and poured into a special advent glass. Then they will put some raisins in the hot red wine. So you’ll see the hot red wine, the boular, and the special advent glasses (and the special spoons that go with them) all laid down on the Swedish dining table to mark this special occasion.

More on the First Advent:

With the First of Advent, four weeks before Christmas, the countdown for Christmas begins. In the much secularized Sweden, this is one of the few holidays when many Swedes attend church services and sing old Christmas hymns. In people’s homes, the approach of Christmas is marked by bringing out the Advent candlestick, often a small box holding four candles. Each Sunday before Christmas one more candle is lit.

The Swedish Christmas traditions are, like in many countries, a blend of the international and the domestic, the national and local. During Advent, many windows are decorated with an “Advent star” made of paper, straw or wood shavings. Children also take out their Advent calendars, where one flap is opened each day until Christmas Eve. Both these traditions were introduced in the 1930s and have German origin.

Advent is the start of the ecclesiastical year. Until just a few years ago, this Sunday was also the day when shops and department stores unmasked their Christmas decorated show-windows for the first time, and people strolled the streets window-shopping and buying mulled wine and gingerbread biscuits from small stalls. This tradition is still present in small towns but in bigger cities the Christmas season begins earlier nowadays.

More information about Swedish traditions and festivities can be found in the theme site Celebrating the Swedish Way on www.sweden.se/traditions.

(Note: To view my photos on Sweden taken in December 2007, click here.)

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The hearts of genuine dog lovers will break — and bleed — in Ukraine.

The former Soviet republic is home to thousands of stray dogs which feed on spoiled food craps in public trash bins. These skinny, smelly mongrels are a common sight in the country where a number of their human counterparts (i.e. the homeless beggars) are just as hungry. 

However, it is not uncommon to see struggling pensioners (getting as little as USD60.00 a month or even less) plying their small trade on busy sidewalks with their new-found canine companions.

The irony is, a number of kind-hearted babushkas (grannies), who need personal care themselves, have their own dog-related advocacy: they do their best to feed the poor creatures with the meager ‘earnings’ they get from selling a few vegetables, flowers or sunflower seeds.

And almost always, it’s tough to share one’s blessings when business is not good. Food for both master and adopted dogs can be really scarce. (Photo by S. Ladios/Text by J. Redondo)

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