When I was a little girl, I used to stand in front of my bathroom mirror. We were abjectly poor and our house dilapidated. Melting snow on our wood-burning stove in the living room to make hot water was not an unusual occurrence, but unfortunately, by the time we got to the top floor- all the way in the back section where the bathroom was- our collected water in the tub had already grown lukewarm, if not altogether cold.
My entire childhood was a master class in survival. Holes in our walls allowed the opossums (and other rodents) to crawl in at will and it wasn’t unusual to find a fat one sitting atop the kitchen table, helping itself to whatever scraps it might find.
I wore my older brother’s outgrown hand-me-down blue jeans; they were known as “high waters” because they were far above the ankle. They almost always had well-worn holes in the knees, from years of my brothers’ running and playing and rolling and chasing. I was the lucky recipient who got their unwanted gems.
My bed was a bare mattress- the jail kind- that was blue and white pin-striped, stuffed with feathers. It had long ridden itself of its skin- the dirty, urine-soaked sheets that stayed saturated with cold pee. Even when I was given fresh, clean sheets for my bed, which didn’t happen often, they didn’t stay clean for long. Within 24 hours, they were guaranteed to be soaked again.
I was told by one of my caretakers that I would be hooked up to electrodes and shocked if I continued wetting the bed. The thought of being electrocuted as I slept terrified me and created a lifelong fear of going to sleep. Thankfully, they never followed through with that awful plan but there was always a fear that I would be hurt or punished if I continued wetting the bed. There was nothing I could do to stop it! How do you wake yourself up to go pee as a child with no alarm clock? I don’t think anybody in the world is that talented.
Regardless, nobody stepped in and tried to proactively help me. There were no responsible adults who set a schedule to wake me through the night, guaranteeing that I wouldn’t continue wetting the bed. It was a brutal childhood. And, of course, there was the sexual abuse. As if wetting the bed wasn’t enough, I had a dual fear of being molested. I never knew when he would come for me- calling me downstairs after everybody else had left. I was forced to do unspeakable and shameful acts that no 9 year old child should ever have to do.
I’ve done my research: Adults who were sexually abused as children usually don’t end up faring well in life. They more than likely end up with a boatload of psychological and emotional problems, and they usually end up statistics.
I’ve always felt God’s hand on me. Even during the worst of days as a child on Cherry street. I used to go into my Mom and Dad’s prayer closet and pull the old string that hung down from the low-hanging ceiling. I felt as if I was in the presence of something so Great and Holy! (And I was.) I could smell the anointed oil placed there on the shelf, reverently. I could smell The LORD.
I would open the King James Bible and seek out the red letters. I knew that those were Jesus’ words and I only wanted to say what He’d said. So I sat there, trembling excitedly as I read out loud all of Jesus’ words from the New Testament. I felt so close to God during those precious times, alone in there with Jesus. I felt so special and loved because I knew that He could hear me.
At night I would pull the sheets (if I had them) or clothing up to my nose and slowly cover my eyes with a clever smile. I knew that I was surrounded by angels. I couldn’t see them but I knew they were there. I thought that if I hid under the blankets, I could pop out quickly and surprise-catch them! I never did, of course, but I always knew that they were there with me. Before I fell into fitful sleep, I would say goodnight to all of my friends, “Good night Noah. Good night Jonah. Good night Jesus. Good night Moses.’ And on and on. I knew that they could hear me too and had the comprehension at that young age to understand that I wasn’t alone as it seemed.
I looked into the bathroom mirror there, on a regular basis, peering deeply into the timid eyes I saw staring back at me. Skinny, sheepish, scared, curious. I was obsessed with my future. It created a world of curiosity within me, not knowing who I would be when I grew up. I wanted to be a good person so badly and do good or important things for others. Even at that age, I was fiercely driven. I was compelled to look down the road and see something worthy and good. I only saw a blank canvas and that frightened me.
I didn’t have the answers that I desperately needed to satisfy my soul. It was almost unbearable not knowing what kind of woman or person I would become as an adult. How could I be certain that I would “end up good”? It was my daily companion- the constant fear of who I wanted to be but afraid I wouldn’t be or able to be. Ten year old girls are often curious and self-doubting about what they’ll be like as adults, but I was having a full-blown existential crisis.
Over the years, I’ve derailed myself multiple times from achieving the personal goals I set for myself. My life has been monumentally challenging, to say the least. As I sit here now, typing into the wee morning hours, I think of that scared little girl in the mirror.
It’s only natural that I would be self-reflecting and doing a life review at 5:00 a.m. on this early Saturday morning. I only have four weeks to go and then I’ll be graduating with my Master’s in Psychology in Addiction Counseling. It’s been a long haul! I’m ridiculously giddy. 🙂 I really did it. It wasn’t always easy but I did it.
Only over these past few days have I begun to see a clearer picture of my life. For the past few years I’ve been privately fretting about becoming an addiction counselor. I have no doubt, especially given my personal experience and history, that I’d be able to help many people in their lives. I have no doubt that I’d break new ground in that industry and blaze my own trail. But would it satisfy my soul, truly? I don’t have that answer but I’m leaning toward, “No, it wouldn’t.”
I’m an artist. And a musician. And a photographer. And a singer. And a teacher. And a counselor. (I never said that I was a “practicing counselor” but I’m most certainly a trained one.) And I’m an author- a published author. A children’s book author. At some point, I may want to finally promote my book or use it as a tool to work with kids. I’ve always seen me doing that somewhere. All I’ve ever had was a murky outline, with no distinguishing features. But now, God is showing me the direction He wants me to go in.
When I had written my Pastor, Rev. Berneice Hicks a decade ago, I had shared with her that I had enrolled as a freshman to go into Business Administration. She wrote me back and encouraged me to get out of that department and apply myself to an area in which I could “better utilize my talents”. I loved that she said that but it brought with it a measure of fear and uncertainty. How would I know what I wanted to do? How would I know where to go?
It was like walking blindly into the fire but trying to believe that you won’t be burned if you just believe it hard enough. Even so, I withdrew from Business Administration (immediately) and signed up for Behavioral Sciences. I knew that I could at least segue into something ‘people-y” later, sticking closely to her recommendation.
So for the past decade as I’ve worked on my Associates, Bachelor’s, and Master’s degrees (and Substance Abuse certification), I’ve been tossing myself into the waves of uncertainty, rolling through every year with an ever-increasing amount of fear that I was moving in a direction of total blackness. Despite having a Master’s degree in Psychology )and Addiction Counseling), I still wouldn’t be able to be an addiction counselor (not a good one, anyway) without two subsequent years of supervised internship/practicum in counseling! Two full years of that!
I’ve been praying lately, asking God to show me where He wants me to be in this world. I’m willing! I just didn’t know what to do or where to go to truly make a difference in other people’s lives. This past week, He answered me.
I’ve always had an interest in TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language), also known as TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Language). Most programs offer 120 (study) hours, minimally, but there are a few other organizations that offer 160 hours, 180 hours, 230 hours and even up to 290 hours. The 290 hours courses are known as “master TEFL classes” and you’re a legitimate expert in the field if you receive this type of certification. For the record, people typically don’t choose something as challenging as 290 hours of TEFL certification.
I’ve eyeballed this career path for the past few decades and have always had an unhealthy interest in this industry. Who wouldn’t want to travel abroad to Thailand or Vietnam and live in a rent-free dwelling on a beautiful exotic island- and be paid to work there?! Most TEFL organizations pay their teachers $1,500 -$1,650 per month. That’s pretty good already, but when you consider that they’re paying your rent on top of your salary- it goes from pretty good to phenomenal. TEFL teachers also receive side perks, such as monetary incentives to maintain standards, as well as other personal and financial bonuses. Some TEFL organizations even offer “exit compensation” of anywhere from $500- $3,000.
When you add up all of the monies and rewards, it becomes an incredibly good deal. As I move closer to graduation, I know that I’m leaving college for good. I’ll never return. (Not to a traditional “college”, anyway.) The only education I’m willing to take after receiving my Master’s degree is to study for and receive my TEFL certification. And that’s exactly what I’m going to do. 🙂
A decade ago, the industry looked very different. There have been many technological advancements over the past ten years! Whereas, years ago it was necessary to actually travel to China, or England, or the TEFL country of choice. Nowadays, those same lessons are taught online, in an online classroom. Of course, many people are in it specifically for the cultural experiences too, but if traveling to another country isn’t exactly ideal, it’s good to know the same job can be done via distance education, virtually– 100%.
I believe at some point I will want to travel abroad. I do see myself doing that at some point down the road. But for now, I’ll be teaching English to foreign language speakers (FLS) here in America. I cannot tell you how absolutely stoked I am to finally see the big picture in my life! It’s no longer a hazy outline, but a wildly vivid, technicolour explosion of hope, chance, possibility, and change. I have surely risen from the ashes and am taking flight. 🙂
Being the exceedingly driven, type A, overachiever that I am, naturally, the 120 hour fast track TEFL certification is simply not enough, so I signed on straightaway for the 290 hour “TEFL master class”. If I’m going to do this thing, I really want to DO THIS THING.
I want to be the absolute best that I can be and want to learn as much as I possibly can. I’ve learned by now that if you put in the hard work, in the beginning, you can reap the rewards later. You must first sew the seeds of patience, determination, dedication, focus, energy, and passion into the academic soil and water them with your hard-earned sweat. Only then will anything worthwhile come from that soil. There are no shortcuts! Ever.
I’ve just installed the Duolingo App on my Android, which I’ll use to learn Chinese. I’m also studying Swahili, and will continue my studies in Spanish. I plan on being at least quadrilingual when all is said and done. My target countries of interest are China, Africa, and South America, so if/when I do ever want to transition from online TEFL teaching, I’ll have learned several correlating languages to the countries of my interest.
(My intentions are not to become entirely fluent in Swahili and Chinese. I do however want to be able to comfortably culturally assimilate while in those regions. I’ve just begun studying Chinese and Swahili a few days ago. I will continue studying Spanish, however, unit I’m completely fluent. I have plans for South America- particularly Peru- down the road, and although Peruvians don’t speak 100% Spanish, I’ll be more than prepared by being fluent in Spanish.)
My core foundational TEFL course is 168 hours and its official title is the “Ofqual-Regulated Level 5 Course”. Along with that course, I also signed on for 4 specialization courses which are all 30 hours apiece. (Together, they culminate into the 290 hour “expert certification”.)
My TEFL certification course is officially called the “290 Hour TEFL MASTER Training Course” and the 4 specialization TEFL courses are:
* 30 Hour Teaching IELTS Module (International English Language Testing System)
* 30 Hour Teaching TOEIC Module (Test of English for International Communication)
*30 Hour Teaching Business English Module
*30 Hour Teaching Young Learners Module
There’s no such thing as “pie in the sky” and there are no lucky breaks in life. There’s a purpose for everything and everyone- accidents do not exist. I’m so grateful for my incredibly wise Dad who taught me so much about the world and God and human nature. He used to say to me often, “It says in Ecclesiastes 9:11, ‘Time and chance happeneth to them all'”. He also shared with me Jesus’ words about the rain falling on the just and the unjust equally, and the sun shining on them both too. He taught me that God gives everybody the same chances in life, and He’s indeed no respecter of persons. With that in mind. there are no excuses for not being able to accomplish one’s dreams in life! Look at my start in life. Every card in that stack was stacked against me. I was told by strangers, family, and anybody and everybody that I was “broken”- damaged goods. I almost believed them.
I chose to believe that I can do anything that I want to do in this world and I’m only as weak as I believe I am. Nobody can hold me back from accomplishing my goals and dreams but me. Some people are so bitter and angry and stay that way throughout their entire lives. They blame others for their misfortunes despite that it was them who made those choices. They choke on their own hatred and drown in their envy. I’m so glad God snatched me up from certain doom and carved a compassionate heart into me. He saved me from an unholy fire, truly.
I want to teach others english as my job, but my real reward will be inspiring other disadvantaged individuals in life and helping them to overcome their seemingly insurmountable obstacles. I’m a living, breathing miracle and I know that if I can walk through the fires that I’ve walked through without being consumed, then I can help others do that too. ❤
I see the little girl standing on the toilet, trying to reach the mirror’s height. I see the worry and fear etched into her young face, and I think, “It’s alright, sweetheart. You’re gonna make it.” ❤
“One Fine Day”
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Perrin Park, Jeffersonville, IN- Oct. 26th, 2019- Rebel t3i + Carl Zeiss Jena Flektogon 35/2.8
Welp: it’s official: I’m a grandma!
Actually, I’ve been a grandma for some time. I have a rocking grandson, Roman, whom I’ll probably never meet, unfortunately. Long story. I’ll try to explain: Be patient, dear reader. I’m about to tell you a story that is incomprehensible. Indescribable. So hard to believe that you may think I’m making it up. I assure you. It’s all true. Read on…
The Scoop: I was framed by an evil (former) mother-in-law, Sandy, who set up myself and my family to blatantly steal my kids. She framed my Dad for heinous crimes he did not commit (against them), and when that didn’t work, the government (the hellish CPS) switched tracks and went directly after me instead. What ensued was a decade of the most hellish experiences I’ve ever endured. Having your children ripped away from you and then brainwashed to believe you’re a monster, well…all I can say is karma is REAL, (Sandy and) Davey. It’s a real deal and your cup is gonna runneth over, honey.
So, to make a long story even longer, my brilliant daughter, Moriah PEACE- who I’ve heard is my virtual twin in every way (and I believe it), pretends I’m dead and I pretty much do the same with her. Sad situation, but I did fight the good fight for 10-12 long years.
I never told her this, but Davey remembers. (Davey is the former foster mother who continued my former mother-in-law’s vicious course by plotting to sever my parental rights so she could adopt Moriah. The attack on my entire family was so vicious, so hideous…we all endured a decade of trauma- all so a greedy woman could steal a baby. TRUTH.)
I can’t go into the details too much- out of respect for everyone involved, but what started this entire evil ball rolling is something that nobody knows- even to this day. (Except for my children. I shared it with them.) Nobody, except them, myself, and Sandy know. One day, I was at Sandy’s house. She wasn’t the paternal grandma. My x-husband (James) had cheated on me while in the Navy, so I repaid him the deed and ended up getting pregnant with my Italian lover’s baby at the time. I explained to her that my child was not her son’s baby. She explained that she didn’t care and that she’d love her just the same. I was so naive! We bonded during that time, and I ended up confiding in her with a secret that ultimately destroyed almost anyone whose ears it touched.
I shared with her that I had been molested as a child. Sigh. I thought it was the right thing to do at the time. I was confused. I was pregnant, hormonal, scared, and appreciated her motherly bonding at the time and it sort of just came rolling out. Had I known the damage that that one act would have caused, I’d never had uttered a breath of a word! Alas, I did, and it was too late. (Unfortunately, by the time my girls landed at the last foster home, Davey’s, she continued what Sandy had initially begun, because you see, she too used to work for the system and she too knew that the quickest way to adopt a foster child is to accuse the mother, father, or family member of molesting the child. She took that ball and RAN with it. And that’s how Davey ended up with those claims. After learning about that info. from the case, she began rehearsing my girls to accuse several of my family members of “molesting them”. They gave my innocent children “anatomically correct” NAKED dolls to “play with” to see what they would do. if that isn’t perverted I don’t know what is.)
Back to Sandy. I trusted her. I believed her when she said, “You can tell me, Birg!” So I shared with her the awful thing that happened to me as a child. She ended up taking that information months later and using it to build a case with CPS by accusing a certain family member of molesting my child. It wasn’t true: nobody molested my child. I took my child straight to the hospital and had tests run, etc. and took the report straight to CPS, showing them that my daughter indeed had not been molested. It mattered not. Sandy used to work for the system so she knew exactly what to do to gain access to my child while suspending ours. She knew all the tricks in the book.
The level of betrayal I experienced was indescribable. She knew that I was the one who was molested, yet she used the information to gain access to my child, while simultaneously ceasing access for myself and my entire family. They stated that since they had to open an investigation, our rights were “temporarily” suspended. All of us. And so began the longest court battle of my life.
The whole case was like a nightmare that I couldn’t wake up from. As my kids were shuffled around from foster home to foster home, the case grew larger and larger. The harder I fought, the worse it got- for everyone. It was like this crazy ball rolling down a hill at high speed- collecting every stone or blade of grass in its path. The case was comprised of and built upon trumped-up lies. Just total garbage.
After 10+ years of a hell I cannot describe, one day, I asked a police officer where the foster parents lived. My Mom was with me. I wasn’t supposed to be anywhere around them, but only by what I can describe as a miracle, the police officer told me right away where they lived. He gave me their address. (He totally wasn’t allowed to do that.)
My Mom and I drove right up to the foster parents’ house. I knew she wanted to adopt Moriah, and frankly, I was ready for it all to just go away by that point; I had two other children that needed protecting from these monsters. I knew that as long as I continued to fight to bring my children home, the foster mother (Davey) would continue to poison them against me, so, I did what any loving mother would do: I sacrificed myself.
I knocked on the door. Davey came out and her eyes were as big as saucers. She couldn’t believe I was standing on her doorstep. I asked her if we could speak- off the record- just the two of us. She complied and we sat on her steps and smoked a cigarette together. (I still smoked back then.)
I explained that I in no way wanted to let her adopt Moriah, but I wanted Moriah to be able to be happy (and to live in a home which wasn’t toxic, and being told what to say for “the agenda”.) Being told her mother was a monster. Being told terrible things were done to her that absolutely were not. Davey pulled some very evil crap. We both knew it. I used to think that Davey was actually pure evil, I really did. Who could do that to a child? THAT is child abuse.
But now I realize that she had simply fallen in love with Moriah and wanted her at all costs. She was ok to condition my child if it meant getting her in the end. She had conditioned herself to believe the very stuff she was slinging, because it eased her conscience. She could sleep at night if she believed in her “crusade”; if she told herself that she was “protecting Moriah from a terrible person”- it was much easier for her to follow through with it all.
So, considering all of those things, I hated her a tad bit less. I don’t blame her for wanting Moriah. Moriah was a special baby. Her name “Moriah” actually translates as “The place of skulls”, AKA “Golgotha”, it’s Biblical. Mount Moriah (in the Bible) was the mountain that Abraham took his son, Isaac, up on, to be tested. God instructed Abraham to slaughter Isaac, so he tied him up on an altar, drew out his scythe, and just as he was getting ready to strike, an angel of the Lord stopped his hand. God was pleased for He knew that Abraham would choose to follow Him (God) anywhere, even if it meant sacrificing his only son.
This is why I named her Moriah Peace. Because while Abraham was traveling up one side of the mountain, distraught, God had already sent two rams up the other side- at the same time- so that when he (Abraham) passed the test, he looked over and saw a ram caught in the thicket. God had prepared a proper sacrifice all along! The fear and terror melted away and Abraham was filled with an incredible new peace he’d never known.
Hence her name, Moriah Peace. Who knows, maybe someday she’ll see this and understand that her name was indeed prophetic, and I too had to lay her on the altar and give her back to God. It was not easy.
When talking with Davey that day, I told her that I needed to protect my two other children I had had since the long ordeal had begun, ten years before. It’s true that I hated Davey vehemently for what she did to Moriah (and my other daughter, who was taken from me as well), but at that point, it was about doing what I could to protect Moriah from any more vicious foster parent-adoption games. All foster parents know and understand that if you want to sever the birth mother’s or father’s parental rights, you simply accuse somebody in the family of molesting the child. Everybody knows that.
Her husband was running for Sheriff every year on TV and rubbing elbows with all the judges and I was a poor Mom, with little money, fighting every year for my children’s return the only way I knew how- with my sheer grit and determination. You do the math: the odds were not in my favour. I had no less than 4 breakdowns in the process. It absolutely destroyed me- for years. I literally begged God for cancer and death. I know. Not cool. But I can’t describe the level of pain and trauma that I lived in- year in, year out. People have absolutely no idea the hell I’ve lived through. Not a clue.
After recovering from each breakdown, I got right back in the ring. Moriah will never know the sacrifices I made for her, or how I suffered to simply try and bring her home. We had only shared 8 months together before she was taken, but we had bonded so strongly! We used to play a very sweet game. I’d put her in her car seat parallel from me, in the back, so that I could turn around quickly and randomly (while driving) with a surprised face- eyes and mouth wide open- smiling. She would bust out laughing hysterically every time. It was the cutest thing ever. She was such a sweet baby. And that kid loved to ride in that car! If I had to guess, I’d bet she loves to just get in her car and drive- radio on- wind blowing her hair so she can feel free for a while. How do I know that? Right…the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.
So back to that day, in the driveway.
I told Davey that all I cared about was Moriah’s happiness. After all, all she knew was that she was in a “good home” with good food, clean clothes, etc. and had her needs met. That’s it. She didn’t know or understand the political sharks who fed upon her monetarily- including the foster parents. Everybody made a lot of money off of her! Thousands per month.
I explained to Davey that if I could speak to Moriah personally, I would ask her what she wanted. I already knew what the answer would be, but I needed to hear it for myself. I respect every person’s autonomy and right to decide for themselves what they want- regardless of their age. The heart knows what the heart wants! Besides, I could’ve been the Easter bunny at that point. She really didn’t know me. And, we had all suffered enough.
Davey blew my mind and actually went in and retrieved Moriah. She brought her out and Moriah was sooooo excited. She was smiling and bouncing and SO happy to see me. Also, she showed off her new tooth she had just lost. I reminded myself that I couldn’t go into deep topics or try to explain what was really going on. I needed to remember that she was clueless about everything- all the political garbage and evil doings of others. She had no idea and I wanted it to be kept that way.
So, I asked her, “Moriah, do you like living here?” And she said, “Yes!” And I said, ‘Do you want to live here forever?” And she again said, “Yes!” As I knew she would. And I asked her the final question, “Do you want to have the last name Harrod like everybody else?” And she again shouted, “Yes!” And it was a done deal.
I told Davey that I would move forward immediately with the adoption process with her. I’d work with her and sign off on any paperwork necessary so she could be adopted. Only then could she live in a truly healthy environment with no games or selfish agendas attached. Davey looked at me and said, “You’ll never know what a gift this is, Birgitta. You are blessing me so much.” And we both cried together.
I told Davey to take good care of Moriah and gave her (Davey) a hug, despite our history. I looked at Moriah and said, “Be good for your Mommy, ok?” To this day, that was the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life- calling another woman “Mommy” for my daughter’s sake. That absolutely crushed me. Whew…..no words. That was my final gift to her.
I got back in the car with my Mom and as soon as I was out of sight, I slid down into the floorboard and just bawled my head off….for hours. I was definitely not ok for a long time after that.
So yeah. Some time back Moriah had a son, Roman. Naturally, I’m not even a memory in anyone’s mind in that loop- not at all. But isn’t that the way the cookie crumbles? Some women would’ve clawed their way in that direction to try and see their only grandson, but I’ve always respected Moriah’s privacy. I’ve never sought her out or tried to explain anything. As a matter of fact, this is the first post that I’ve posted about that situation at all. I’ve exercised incredible restraint to not blast anybody or air out dirty laundry about all of that, etc.
That said, I do reserve the right to be able to tell my own story. And any parent’s story involves their child or children. That doesn’t mean they don’t get to tell their own story though. Everybody has their own truth and their own version of the truth. And everybody has the right to express their own truth. Including me.
So, despite having a grandson, I’ve been like the Virgin Queen- ha. (Or should I say, the Virgin Grandma?) Having a child that you can’t be with is hell. Having a grandchild that you can’t be with or will never know is its own hell too. This is why I’m so excited to share the news that I am now a grandma (again) and will be going to see my new grandson tomorrow for the first time. 🙂 My son, Brian, just had a baby and his name is Matthias Isaac. I’m so proud of him! He’s going to be such a good Dad because he’s a great person. Loving, kind, sensitive, thoughtful, merciful, and freaking brilliant. He is an incredible person, and I’m proud to be his Mom. 🙂
I had no intention of writing all of that. It just sort of spilled out. Perhaps it was just time.
I am Gam Gam and Josh is Pee Paw. 🙂 I’m over the moon with love and joy!
I’ll make another post somewhat soon (ish) and post a few pics of my beautiful grandbaby, who looks so much like his father. Life is so strange and beautiful and dark and scary and bold and bright- all of it. No matter who the story is about or how it’s told, it always comes full circle. That’s the law of Love and Life. ❤
My circle is complete. I used to long for the day when I could cross the river to the other side and simply exhale. The grass certainly isn’t greener on this side. But it sure as hell is a lot prettier. 🙂
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Title: “Crossing Over”
Location: Perrin Park, 10.28.19. Taken early on a cold, foggy, October morning.
Lens: Carl Zeiss jena Flektogon- vintage film lens- imported from Bulgaria