Lonna’s Lines: The Minority Report (Issue 1: “My Immigrant Story” or “What We Could Watch out for from Islamist Immigrants”)

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Jennifer Thalasinos is comforted by her pastor, Kathleen Dowell of Shiloh Messianic Congregation

Today the world’s news focused on new U.S. President Donald Trump’s immigration restrictions concerning 7 highly volatile, Islamist countries.  Money poured in from liberal sources like George Soros and CAIR (Committee for American-Islamic Relations, a group with ties to terrorist organizations like Hamas) to fund many of the people who protested at airports and government offices across America and across the world.

The “Los Angeles Times” covered anti-Trump protests at LAX airport in a completely biased manner and even asked readers to submit their “Immigrant Story.”

Well, here is my Minority Report immigration story.  Let me clarify that not all Muslims are Islamists, a term that indicates an embracement of the extreme, violent, jihadist beliefs of Islam and Sharia Law. My Muslim Turkish mother-in-law, for example, would sooner give a stranger tea and homemade soup than assemble bomb parts, and she longs for world peace. Continue reading

Lonna’s Lines: Strange News from around the World (Issue 3, “Homeless in America”)

All of us face challenges.  In America, our challenges are usually not as difficult as people who face civil war in South Sudan, where children walk miles each day just to find a safe place to sleep.  Yet many people think life is easy for Americans. I say, not true. Which do you think was more difficult for this American (Lonna Lisa Williams) to do:

1. Leave my California home in October, 2010 for Russia to teach English because I could not find a job in my own country even though my grandfather graduated from Yale University, was a professor at UNC, and handed the torch of education to my teacher mother and to me. Endure a long winter where I wore chains on my boots to run across the ice that coated every surface.  Teach English to 13-year-olds only to end up speaking and reading in Russian because no one really wanted to speak English and hated America. Even though my grandmother was Russian, I learned their alphabet and simple words as a child, and I look Russia, most people avoided me because I was the “Amerikanka.” Discover that Vodka is easier to get than good tea, Russian food is bland and full of potatoes, and everyone shares alcohol and violence in the 3rd-class wagons of the Russian train from Samara to Moscow. Endure the 17-hour journey with 50 bunks to a wagon, accidentally stepping on a sleeping Russian woman who screamed when I descended from my top bunk. Cry on the trash bin in the back of the wagon. Kiss a Russian stranger between the wagons, in that blessed cold, dark connector, as snow fields slipped past and a full moon shone on frozen rivers. We, Russian and American, kissed without words, like lovers from a war movie who will never meet again, showing how tragedy is really, really Russian and American.

2. Escape Russia in April, 2011 (when snow still brushed the train tracks and no leaves adorned black trees) to fly to Istanbul (abounding with flowers and spicy food); learn a new language; adapt to another culture; teach English again; marry a Turk; cover the 2013 Freedom Protests; get attacked by pepper-spraying police; lose a job for being a Christian (but walk around the corner to get a better one at another private language school); get threatened with death for being a Christian; teach at a Turkish university; and leave for China just before Turkish police showed up to arrest me for a photo I’d published.  Later I wrote 2 journalistic-style Kindle books about Turkey which have not had much recognition. Continue reading

My Christmas Adventures Overseas

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My first Christmas away from America was spent in snowy Russia, 2010

Some of you may have read about my tragic childhood experiences of Christmas.  On a lighter note, you may enjoy reading about my recent Christmas adventures in Russia, Turkey, and China.  See how my life has progressed!

Still, as I spend my 4th Christmas teaching English overseas, I miss my children in California and wish I could get back to them.  Let’s all hope for a Christmas miracle and reunion with our families!

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Saint Anthony’s cathedral in Istanbul, Turkey, 2012

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A mall in Beijing, China, 2013

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Simply Trying to Sleep in Russia

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The International Airport in Moscow

One of the most amazing nights of my life was spent in a Moscow airport.  It was huge, brightly lit, and shiny, and it provided no place to sleep except in uncomfortable metal chairs where sleep was impossible.  I tried dozing at a 24-hour cafe (spending too much money on food and tea just to sit there), but eventually I found my way down the (probably forbidden) levels of stairs into the basement.

I climbed under the stairs, lay down on my faux fur coat, and simply slept for a few minutes before a woman descended in her noisy heels, and I felt like I must move back into the passenger terminal before I was caught and put into a Russian jail.

Now I know a little how Edward Snowden feels.

Ironically, for $200, I could have slept in a nice hotel-like room complete with shower and television, on the upper floor.  But I barely had enough money to leave Russia after teaching English in Samara for a long, frozen 6 months.

I had missed my flight because I was attacked by an Uzbecki man on the train from Samara.  He tried to wrest my passport from my pocket as his friends watched and laughed.  I was able to escape and run to the Provitnitsa at the other end of the wagon.  She let me hide in her locked compartment while she alerted the Moscow police who met us at the train station and delayed me, my luggage, and the suspect (who ended up deported to a Siberian work camp without a trial).  That’s how I missed my flight and spent a simply sleepless night.

Read more about my Russian adventures in my book, Fire and Ice.

Fire and Ice

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Two of the most intense of the four elements are fire and ice (ice being the frozen form of water).  Touch either with your bare hand, and you will feel their contact.  Journey with me through the fire of a California mountain wildfire, where my cozy life as a rich housewife and mother burned up.  I walked through fire to find a new life teaching English in frozen Russia.  Missing my children, my heart like ice, I learned to walk across the frozen rivers of Samara.  Read about this journey in my “Fire and Ice” book.  Watch my Youtube video that I narrated with my own voice.  Know that you, too, can survive contact with the wildest elements.

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Russian Ice Garden

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A worker cleans snow off an ice statue of an owl on a house

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I taught English in Samara, Russia for 6 months and marveled at my first Russian winter in the city beside the Volga river.  At the Opera House Plaza, the annual Ice Garden amazed me as it stood among Christmas trees and festive lights for weeks.

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You can see the stately Opera House in the distance

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Workers design the Ice Garden in front of the Samara Opera House and Christmas Tree

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You can read about my Russian adventures in my book “Fire and Ice”:

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B007U7KYJ8

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Free Spirit

Weekly Photo Challenge:  Free Spirit

I spent 6 months in Russia, teaching English. In Samara, I would walk miles along the Volga River. Here is one shot I took at sunset with the light reflecting on the autumn riverbanks and deep blue water. Often it was cloudy and cold in Russia, but on some days, the shone shone bright.

Read more about my Russian adventures here:

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B007U7KYJ8

Weekly Writing Challenge: Russian Bridge over a Frozen River

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I left California, U.S.A. almost 2 years ago because I could not find a teaching job in America.  I had spent 8 years getting my Master’s degree in English from San Diego State University, and I had 12 years’ teaching experience.  But because of the bad economy, I couldn’t even get a part-time substitute teaching job at a high school.  I tried for 15 months, sending out over 300 applications all over America.  So I took a flight of faith (or recklessness) to Russia where I spent 6 months and a long, lonely winter–teaching English.  By the banks of the frozen Volga River in Samara, above Kazakhstan, I wandered through the snow and wondered where my life was going.

I left my 2 teenage children with my ex-husband who had custody of them (and the mountain house, cars, and all the furniture) because I had run away to New Zealand with them and lost a big court battle.  I missed them terribly in Russia, not knowing when I would see them again.  I had bought only a one-way ticket.  Read part of my story, from my new book “Fire and Ice”:

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Living flowers the grieving mothers put on top of the snowy bridge

I keep walking by the frozen river toward the bridge.  The wind picks up, and a sudden storm of slowflakes whirls about me as the clouds let loose their burden.  The mitil (blizzard) comes again, howling, lashing my cheeks with wet snow which falls as powder all around me.  It is not very cold; the wind is more spring-like than I have known it here, on the very edge of freezing instead of -20 centigrades below.  The wind pushes me toward the bridge, and I nearly stumble on a pile of snowdrift as I step up on the concrete ledge.

The ulitsa passes here, and cars rush by me, headlights barely glancing over me as I walk up the long and curving bridge.  I pause at a wreath placed upon the metal rail.

“Are those real carnations?” I ask aloud, reaching toward the red blossoms that are half frozen in a sprinkle of snow.  I feel the petals bend beneath my touch.  I know their story.  They were placed here by the mother of a teenager, one of five who were killed at this spot my first week here in Russia.  Early on a Sunday morning, their truck combined the speed of curves with rain and alcohol and crashed through the railing into the river.  We saw this on the way to church; people pulled to the side of the road to stare at the vehicle in the water and this spot on the bridge with a missing rail.

The rail has been replaced, and for five months the mothers have brought flowers here and tied them to the metal.  I lean over the rail and stare at the ice below me, brushed with snowdrifts and tracks from snowmobiles, and docks with boats like toys thrown carelessly on their sides.  And for a moment—only a moment—I wonder if my body would fall through the ice or land upon it if I slipped from here.

The tears that have been pushing at me all day finally find their way out, and I weep over the memorial to lost children on the snowy Russian bridge.  This very day, five years ago, I packed my treasures and my children off to a distant land where I would lose them among New Zealand mountain passes, lakes, and glaciers that were not far enough away to hide us.

“Oh, God, make this loneliness and lack of family end.  Let me be a wife and a mother again!” I cry to the wind that sweeps up my words and carries them, among the swirling snowflakes, heavenward.

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What do you think?  Have you ever felt so lonely, homesick, and out of place that you thought about dying?  Have you ever lost a child–even temporarily?

After Russia, I did not go back to America.  There was no job or home or car for me.  I flew to Turkey to teach English.  It’s been almost 2 years now, and I still haven’t been home to see my 2 teenagers.  Read the rest of my story in “Fire and Ice” and look for my new book (which I will try to post in chapters here on my Blog) called “Adventures in Anatalolia (Trouble in Turkey).”

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B007U7KYJ8

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The place where the Russian teenagers’ van drove off the road and into the river, looking upward toward the sun