Homeless in America

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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.

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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

Kissing a Stranger on a Russian Train

Russia is a strange, beautiful, icy, lonely place.  You may find yourself on the train in winter, and this could happen:

Lonely strangers can meet upon a train as it rushes through the long Siberian winter, snow all about the tracks and fields and forests, and moonlight shining through the window of the dark, cold space between the wagons where he takes her for a kiss.

It was the most needed and romantic kiss she ever had, for months had passed without a hand upon her.  And he trembled with her, and also wept, for he had been working hard for the railroad, trampling through the snow beside black metal rails.  Like a scene from a war movie, he is there, his eyes a vague green in the moonlight, his smile so transitory, his hair a type of blond, the smell of tobacco on his breath.  The train tracks click, click, click beneath them, the wagons sway, and then his stop approaches.  It is late, and he must go home, and she must travel further up the line.  He holds her for a moment against his chest, in the circle of his arms, then steps out the open door into a whirl of snowflakes and is swept away.

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The above is from my new book “Fire and Ice.”  Read the whole travel adventure story here:

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