Month: July 2011

A Slow Train To China….

We leave tonight on the Trans-Siberian Railway from Moscow to Beijing.  Holy cow!  The kids and I finally came to the conclusion that we should do it.  It’s like extreme sports, I guess.  It is the longest railway on the planet.  We will be on the train for a full 6 nights, God willin’ and the creek don’t rise. Yikes!  Then we will arrive in Beijing on August 1st, and then on to our next project.  Foundation of Hope will meet us at the station at 2pm.  This is an orphanage for kid with physical challenges. Should be amazing.  The kids and I are really looking forward to it!

Buck and Jack on Red Square – Moscow, Russia

Moscow has been amazing.  We have had the great pleasure of spending time with Elena Korenova, a very well-known and successful actress here in Russia.  I worked with this unbelievably talented woman in Los Angeles many years ago.  She is such an interesting woman, and so much fun to be around with all of her great stories, and just her remarkable take on life.  Elena, you are the best!  She came to our rescue here, showing us Moscow and taking us to amazing meals all over town.  The highlight was going to eat at the Writer’s Restaurant. It was something out of a “period film”.  Stunningly beautiful and filled with the history of Russia writing and acting.  We met a number of well-known Russian actors there.  Was a real treat. Also, a big thanks to Elena’s friend, Vikie Chilap for her help as well. She is also a talented actress with a huge future ahead of her. She helped us buy our train tickets, which would have been basically impossible without her. Bravo, Vikie!

Besides that, we have been doing the sight-seeing thing.  Hanging out at Red Square (The Kremlin, Lenin Mausoleum, Gum, and St. Basil’s Cathedral), saw the headquarters of The KGB, along with Arbat Street, and The Cathedral of Christ the Saviour.  Many beautiful things to see.  Also the Metro (the underground) is a sight in itself.  Very clean, very efficient.

Since there will be no internet on the slow train to China… we’ll post in a week or so, when we arrive in Beijing.   Wow!  Arriving in China.  Craziness…    Thanks again for all your emails, posts, contributions, and encouragement.  The boys and I send you all our love.

Jack and Buck in front of The Kremlin

We are truly having a once in a life time experience. Shooting tons of video, which I apparently will have plenty of time to edit into something on a very loooong train ride starting tonight.  We are learning so much…  The boy’s favorite thing of all, of course, is hanging out with all the kids.  The language barrier doesn’t seem to be a big issue. Kids are kids… and kids just want to have fun!

We continue to meet so many extraordinary people. It’s been quite an adventure so far.

Now on with The Love Revolution!

Peace,  jd, jack and buck….

Posted by JD in Russia, 7 comments

Twelve Observations From Russia

1.  The mullet is alive and well and featured on the heads of many Russian men (and a few women).

2. Most Russian women wear high heels… even when walking on century-old cobble stone streets.  And they do it flawlessly, I might add.  I think the trick is to concentrate on walking on the balls of your feet and don’t let the heel part hit the ground….but I could be wrong.

3.  Central air conditioning has not been discovered on this side of the planet.  And ice is scarce as well.  I think it might be an over-reaction to their very long, brutally cold winters.

4.  History is everywhere you look… the architecture, the monuments, the statues, the museums.   They take great pride in preserving history and they have been around for way longer than the states.  Way longer…

5.  Communism truly meant communal. Up until about 20 years ago, most families had a room on a floor of an apartment building with shared bathrooms and kitchens…. a lot of people here still live like that, where three to five families share living space.   It’s like living in a dorm way after college.  Arghh…

6.   The mosquito is alive and well and thriving in Russia.   (And so are Britney Spears and Lady GaGa.)

7.   You get about 28 Rubles to the dollar.  Rent is expensive but other things like food are fairly reasonable.   We haven’t found the 99 Rubles store yet though.

8.  Of all the places we could have found to stay in Moscow, how is it possible that we found a place right across the street from The Moscow Arts Theater and the home of Stanislavski.  There are no mistakes in the universe!  (And a 1/2 block away from the only Starbuck’s I’ve ever seen in all of Russia… truly no mistakes in the universe!)

9.  I miss our dogs… and they would love it here.  Dogs are not required to have leashes and they are super well trained.  I may have to ship Woody and Jessie to Moscow Dog Camp.   Just a side note… dogs bark in the same language worldwide.  They’ve worked it out.

10.  The Metro rocks!  Getting around is easy and the trains are spotless here in Russia.  Of course, it’s summer and it is a little bit like riding in an Easy Bake Oven, but convenient.

11.  Did I mention that no one speaks English?  But then I put it into prospective.  If I were in K-Mart in the states, how many people would I find that spoke Russian.

12.  St. Basil’s Cathedral on Red Square is just awesome… No other words to describe it.  And it’s right next to Gum… the most rockin’ mall with an Apple Store, Dyson’s High Tech Fan and Vacuum store, Levi store, and more!

Posted by JD in Russia, 13 comments

Heading To Moscow!!!

It seems nearly impossible that we have been in St. Petersburg for 10 days.  It went by so fast.  We have had an extraordinary time working with Transit.  I’m so grateful to the amazing staff.  A special thanks to Olga Tumashevich for being the best interpreter a guy could ask for.  The hardest part is saying good-bye to all the kids here who have welcomed us into their world.

Dani

I’m going to especially miss Igor and Dani (pictured to the left)… 6 and 7 year-old brothers who have really touched my heart.  Their mother wasn’t able to care for them, so she brought them to Transit.  She visits once a week, while she gets her life together. They both came to me the first day and jumped on my lap and greeted the boys and I with such enthusiasm every morning. You guys, the stories of these kids are amazing. Another of my favorite kids was Rova.  He is a gypsy.  He tells me gypsies are very clever and buy colorful clothes and their lives have many possibilities.  Love that!!!   Another amazing story… a girl who was sent to St. Petersburg at 17 from Nigeria to work the streets and send home money.  Her passport was stolen and she was living here with no papers and nowhere to live.  Transit is helping her to get back to Nigeria and hopefully start a better life. I was able to get her brother on the phone in Nigeria today.  She looked at me with such thanks in her eyes. It really touched me.

Our Friends From Transit

They took the kids camping last week, two hours outside of St. Petersburg.  They slept in tents by a lake.  But the tents were in really bad condition with holes in them and the kids were eaten alive by mosquitoes.  One of my goals is to help them create a camp for the kids.  I’m committed to get Transit, two 4-man tents and one 2- Man tent and some sleeping bags.   They can be used…. just functional without holes.     If anyone feels moved to help with the tents, let me know and we can work out the logistics. These people are working so hard for these kids and making next to nothing, salary-wise.  It’s truly a labor of love.  If you could meet the staff here, it would blow your mind.  They treat these kids with such respect and kindness.  Apparently, that is not the norm in a lot of the group homes here.

The Mariinsky Theatre

Tonight after Transit, we were invited to the Opera at the Mariinsky Theatre. Everything you could imagine in a Russia theatre… beautifully ornate and oozing with theatre history.  And tomorrow, before we take the 1am train to Moscow, we are going to see St. Isaac’s Cathedral, The Hermitage Museum and The Church of The Savior on Spilled Blood, three big sites here in this beautiful city.

Only the first stop on the Love Revolution and already I’m feeling like it’s a miracle trip.  To all that are supporting this effort, you are rockstars.  We couldn’t be doing this without you.   Spread the word to friends and family.  The more support the better.   Tomorrow I have a phone interview with Parade Magazine.  Very exciting.

More to follow…  From Russia with love.  jd and the boys.

Posted by JD in Russia, 4 comments

10 Things I’ve Learned So Far On My Travels.

1.  Alway pack an umbrella and water-proof shoes!

2.  Many, many people do not speak English.

3.  Kids are beautiful whatever country you are in.

4.  McDonald’s is everywhere on the planet.

5.  Hair do’s and shoe styles are not universal.

6.  Always pack tons of soap, shampoo and mosquito repellent….

7.  Russian school girls on vacation in a hostel stay up very, very late…

8.  Mystery Meat is a common staple in Russia and served in all restaurants.

9.   When in doubt… smiling seems to work the best.

10.  Russians seem tough at first but are really softies and super kind hearted with wicked senses of humor!

Posted by JD in Russia, 9 comments

To Russia With Love…

The Eagle has indeed landed!  We have arrived in St. Petersburg, Russia.  We are staying at a hostel.  The experience, though a bit rough, is making me feel like a kid again.  Bunk beds and communal living… perfect for the whole Russian experience. The kids are loving it.  The people here were very guarded when we first checked in but now the staff and boarders are like a second family.   Have met so many cool people… Photographers, artists, travelers, some young girls in their 20’s who came from Belzarus to St. Petersburg to see Jared Leto’s band, “60 Seconds to Mars” and an array of other interesting characters.    Another cool thing… it’s White Nights in St. Petersburg… so it gets dark about 1 am and gets light around 4 am.  Very cool!

But the dream come true is our work here.  We are thrilled to be working at Transit, a remarkable organization.  It is an orphanage that takes in homeless kids who have run away to the big city, and helps to place them in homes.  As you can probably imagine, it took about ten minutes for the kids and I to fall in love with each and everyone of them.  Daniel, my big pal, came up to me immediately and grabbed my hand (and my heart) and hasn’t let go.  He and his twin, Igor, are two amazing 7 year olds.  The thought of heading to our next city and saying good bye to these guys is excruciating.

Each child has a story and has been through so much, but the beauty is that they all have incredible spirits and have so much fun at Transit. We have been doing gymnastics, playing ping pong, watching videos, playing games.  On Monday, I’m going to teach an acting class with the kids, doing improv and theater games.  I think they are excited about it.

The staff has been wonderful.  These kids at Transit are so lucky to have these genuinely kind people in their lives, who are truly concerned for them and treat them with love and respect.  All of you out there, hug a kid today, and give them some love and encouragement.  And let them know that they are valuable and important.  I’m giving the hugs out here in St. Pete…

And again, to all of you who have supported our project, my gratitude is immeasurable.   More to follow…

Posted by JD in Russia, 13 comments

We are off and running!

Finally… The amazing dream realized!  The boys and I are off and running. We left Charlotte, NC, this morning with perhaps a few too many bags.  We have arrived in New York City, safe and sound and will spend the weekend here. Very exciting.  We are staying with my dear friend, Bob Kanter, an Emmy Award winning documentary film producer.  This evening we had a slice of authentic NY pizza and I have promised the boys a visit to the Natural History Museum tomorrow.  We are going to see if we can volunteer at a shelter down the street from us on Saturday.  Sunday we are headed to Berlin and then St. Petersburg, Russia.  It’s truly happening and we are on our way!  To all of you who have supported this project, my sons and I are beyond grateful.  Your hard work and encouragement has made this “once in a lifetime” journey possible.  Thank you all from the bottom of my heart!   More to report shortly… after I get some sleep…  Packing up your entire life, making arrangement to leave a place for a year, and then flying with two kids can take it out of ya!  Night.

Posted by JD in * Making A Difference!!, 14 comments