Saturday, February 27, 2010

Another appointment

This is a part of my series on applying for temporary residency in St. Petersburg, Russia.

In this episode: I find out whether or not I can still make the quota.

Timeline:

Jan. 18, 2010: I get on The List
Feb 5, 2010: First document review: problem with FBI check (everything else okay)
Feb 11, 2010: Get fingerprinted in Moscow to start new background check
Feb 26, 2010: Second appointment

After I came back from Moscow, having sent my new fingerprints off to the FBI, a friend of mine said that the quota for St. Petersburg had been filled. continue/-

Well, that was interesting…but what did it mean for me? When I was at Immigration in early February, they hadn’t told me I needed to hurry up. In fact, they advised me to give myself MORE time, just in case ( I didn’t listen).

I e-mailed someone who had gotten temporary residency last year. He assured me that if I had an appointment, I was definitely on the list.

Okay. Time to wait for the FBI check. No sign of it, but not much time has passed.

Feb.25th. Tomorrow is my second appointment. Nothing with my documents has changed. My original FBI check is still not presentable and my new one isn’t ready. Someone advised me that it’s better to keep showing up at the FMS office anyway, to check in and make sure they know you’re still pursuing residency.

I’m looking for something online and run across an announcement about the quota. The quota for 2010 is closed. Signing up for appointments is closed.

I'm planning on just asking for a new appointment, but what if it's too late? What if they say to me, “Sorry, you should have chosen a different date?”

Panic. But lots of people are praying for me.

I start to look for my documents again even though I don’t plan to submit them all for review. I can’t find my appointment “card.” It’s like last time’s except that it doesn't even have a number, just a time to show up. I don't really NEED it, but what if I do? It's not in my folder and it's not in my purse. It's not in my coat pocket. What about my other coat? There it is. This reminds me of my migration card incident.



Feb. 26th After class, I take one last look at my documents and then head off to the FMS. I get there a few minutes early and there are some people standing around, with a glazed-over look. The first few times, we were all clumsy and asking each other questions. Now, we are all experts??? No one seems interested in making conversation.

I’m on the alert for the signal, and when the security guard gives us the okay, I make a beeline for the now-familiar back porch where we enter.

There is no talk of lining up; there aren’t many of us. I’m second behind a couple applying together. The attendant tells us to get out passports, visas, and registration. Registration. Where is my registration? I didn’t put it in my packet because it wasn’t on the list; just a copy. Fumbling, fumbling…checking my folder of “reserve” papers…did I take it to Moscow? Yes, I did. It was there, with my extra fingerprints. Found it just in time.

It’s already my turn to consult with one of the officers. I tell her that I have a problem with one of my documents that isn’t fixed yet. She looks at the FBI check and shakes her head. She suggests visiting my consulate. No, no, they don’t do that. I explain that I’m waiting for the new one, I just need more time.

She helps me figure out the timing. I already have my medical forms, which are good until the end of April. So I should sign up for a slot before then, say, mid-April.

I also get a phone number to call in case I’m ready earlier and want to try to sign up for a different time-slot. Honestly, this was the perfect answer for me, because I don’t want to worry about making the deadline, but I also don’t want to drag it out longer than necessary.

All is well!

Friday, February 26, 2010

More extremely useful information

Russians are a big fan of information boards. You used to be able to read the newspaper on the street each day as each page was opened flat and mounted in a glass display case.

Well, in the university where I take classes, I recently took a closer look at what was displayed. Next to the illustrated CPR instructions, I suddenly noticed some images of armed men.


more/-

That's right, they were terrorism instructions! That is, what to do if you are caught in a hostage situation, how to recognize a bomb, etc.

And don't forget...how to survive in the basement!



As I've been abroad for awhile, I'm not sure if there are similar displays in the U.S. Probably not quite as graphic. It could be that in Russia the educational facilities are regarded as targets because of the Beslan incident.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Revisiting domestic adoption in Russia and Eastern Europe

To be honest, I haven't devoted a lot of time lately to researching the adoption/foster care scene in Russia. There was a time when I regularly sought information and was up on the latest laws and statistics.

We ran into a lot of seemingly dead-ends while trying to push for adoption in St. Petersburg. There were a lot of obstacles, such as the endless paperwork and the impossibility of providing a bigger home for each potential family. The law says that there must be a certain amount of living space per person, but offers no solution for obtaining such housing if the family's income is too low. That's one example. This is not to mention all of the emotional, psychological, and social implications.

As part of our research, we had traveled to Vladimir to learn more about a ministry there that had been fairly successful in "redistributing" children in families and group homes. But I was shocked as we got in the van the first day for the tour, and our guide, herself a Christian and former orphanage worker, told us, "I'm not in favor of adoption." more/-

Not in favor of adoption? That's an attitude shared by many in Russia. Although there are public service announcements showing happy adoptive families, there is still a fairly weak infrastructure to support adoption. Foster families get more benefits and it is seen as the easiest and best choice all around.

Here's an article about some of the efforts to promote domestic adoption in Russia. It's from 2007, but is still telling.

"Sergei and Natasha say they hope more Russians will start to adopt. But they warn that apart from the complicated legal procedure, parents should think carefully about bringing a child into their home. They say they have made the decision never to tell Vera and Sasha they are adopted, which is why they asked for their names to be changed in this article."

Meanwhile, I recently was alerted to this article about progress being made in Ukraine. An excerpt:

"As of Jan. 1, adoptive families are treated as birth families in the sense that mothers are given maternity leave, vacation time is allotted and families receive the customary Hr 12,240 allowance per child."

This is good. However, with these changes immediately come consequences.

“It’s very sad when these families take children to exploit them for physical labor and money that comes from the state," Krysa said. "We get signals that some children run away from these foster families and lose faith in all sorts of foster care altogether.” (also from the article)

Note the blurred sense of distinction between adoption and foster care.

I'm starting to meditate a little more on this topic again. Who knows, maybe there will be some developments.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Extremely useful information

I'm always a little irritated when people try to translate untranslatable proverbs and the like into another language, word-for-word. Way too awkward. "Neither fish nor meat." What? Probably the best approach is to say "There is a Russian (French, etc.) proverb meaning ......" That gets rather long-winded, though.

Perhaps there's a reason why the people from the translation agency never called me back about the job!

In the meantime, I'm going to break my own rule and translate a Russian proverb, just for fun.

"Назвался груздем-полезай в кузов."

Since you've called yourself a (particular kind of) mushroom, now climb into the basket.

See what I mean about awkward? The meaning relates to putting your words into action.

Such are my deep thoughts for the day.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Not love


"If human love does not carry a man beyond himself, it is not love. If love is always discreet, always wise, always sensible and calculating, never carried beyond itself, it is not love at all. It may be affection, it may be warmth of feeling, but it has not the true nature of love in it."

-Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest Feb. 21st reading 

"We have to get rid of this notion - 'Am I of any use?' and make up our minds that we are not, and we may be near the truth. It is never a question of being of use, but of being of value to God Himself. When we are abandoned to God, He works through us all the time.

(same source, continuation)

Sunday, February 21, 2010

The elephants in my prayer life

I wasn't sure what to call this post, but then I remembered that my church in Massachusetts is doing a sermon series on "elephants" in the Church.

When there is something obvious that no one is mentioning, we call it an "elephant in the room."

I find sometimes when I am praying that there is something huge that I am neglecting. It is as if God is saying to me, "Put down your prayer agenda and tell Me what's really bothering you" (or "...tell Me about that sin that you're forgetting to mention").

It doesn't have to be something scandalous, just something that needs to be addressed. And the Holy Spirit brings it to our attention and helps us to come before the Father... more/-



If you have a chronic health problem, a good doctor will help you get to the root of the illness. He will take the time to investigate your history and lifestyle, along with your symptoms.

There are so many times in the Bible when someone's underlying need is met. Jesus says to the paralytic, "Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven." (Matthew 9:2) Of course he sees that there is another need on the surface, but He knows what the man really needs.

The elephants in my prayer life are elephants not because they are obvious to the human eye, but because they are obvious to God, who knows my heart; and obvious to me, as the Holy Spirit reveals.

When I sit down with God, I have to start somewhere. I don't know about you, but I find it hard to get into the Word if I'm distracted by something. (At the same time, knowing the Word helps in knowing what to pray. It's all connected somehow.) At this point, I might start to pray about one thing and then another, asking the Lord, "Is this what You want me to focus on? Is this the area where I need to trust You more? Is this what you want me to be passionate about today? Is this the call of my heart that You are ready to answer?"

We are to love God, first and foremost. And part of loving Him is responding to His love for us. And He calls us to lay our burdens down.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Change in the air

There comes a time when you have to look for a new job, or housing, or make some other significant decision.

There are also times when you have to deal with it all simultaneously! In the next few months, I'm anticipating some changes in several areas...

1) Residency-the quota

I heard recently that the quota for St. Petersburg has been filled. As of now I should be on the list.  However, my documents aren't going to be ready before my appointment. So hopefully they will give me a little more time. I'm not quite sure how it works.


2) Visa

It's the same old story...visa is up June 30th, and residence permit will probably not be ready by then. What to do? Extend the student visa? Get a 3-month business visa? Get a work visa? Go to the States?  read more/-

3) Work

Maybe there's a reason that job opportunities have been coming up recently. However, I can't imagine taking much on while I'm still enrolled in classes. Maybe once the kids have gone to camp and I won't be visiting the orphanages anymore.  See "housing."

4) Housing

I'm going to be moving in the next few months. Of course it would be good to get a job by that time. But I'm not sure how all the timing will work out.


Look for updates! :)

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The dog ate my homework

I went into the kitchen and noticed that Zhenya had left two tea candles burning on the table. I saw the napkins and loose papers nearby and thought "hmmmm..."

Then I sat down and started to do my homework.



 Oops...

Checking the calendar

Holidays. Overseas.

Whenever a holiday comes along, I try to remember where I was the last time I celebrated it; with whom; etc...

Last Valentine's Day, I was still in the States, where I had been since shortly before Thanksgiving.

I had just had my Debit card account hacked into.

I'm pretty sure Feb.14th was the day that I ordered a plane ticket, in anticipation of returning to Russia. Then I sat down to dinner with my parents.

Later in the month, I laid out some plans, some of which would be fulfilled, and others of which would be modified.

And now, a year later, it's time for plans again. continue/-

March 2010- Hand in application for Temporary Residency Permit (???)
Wait 5 months for processing (???)
June 2010- Student visa expires at the end of the month
Get new visa (???)

It seems like every week I get some sort of job offer, or at least make a contact. I can't really commit since I have to study at least until the end of June. Yet soon I will have to think about my next step.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Didn't the Lord deliver Daniel?

Now when Daniel learned that the decree had been published, he went home to his upstairs room where the windows opened toward Jerusalem. Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before. -Daniel 6:10

Let’s face it, most of us are not under persecution as Christians. We are not likely to be killed for our faith. Yet in the minor moments of discrimination, we often fall short.

I think Daniel’s interaction with people who oppose his faith is overshadowed by our emphasis on his lion’s den experience.

The thing is that Daniel’s choice to defy authority is obviously the right one, because we know what happens next. The king’s decrees are a test, so that Daniel can be thrown into the den of lions, and not die, and then we can all talk about it at Sunday school...  read more/-

But are tests of faith really this clear, in general?

Have you ever eaten a certain food out of politeness? You didn’t really want to, but you did it anyway. Or, when someone apologized for vulgar speech or music, said quickly “Oh, that’s okay”? We are good at “denying” our own preferences, and even values, when it comes to pleasing others.

Why couldn’t Daniel have compromised just a little? After all, taking on others’ traditions is a sign of respect.  Why couldn’t he have just pretended he was doing something else when the men came, so that no one would know he was breaking the rules? Why couldn’t his friends have bowed down to the false gods? It could have been just a physical act; they wouldn’t necessarily have had to deny God in their hearts.

In one of my classes the other day, we had to learn various phrases that reference “God” (though the person is not usually appealing to God, in reality). You know, all the ones like, “For the love of God…” and “God forbid…”  Then we had to practice saying them to each other. And I thought for a moment…what if I said that I don’t want to take the name of the Lord in vain? The teacher had just polled the class earlier in the lesson. About half of us were Catholic (the Czechs and Argentinean), half were Protestant (the North Americans and Germans), and the teacher herself was Russian Orthodox. So, technically we were all Christians.

I talked myself out of saying anything. And no one else protested. Maybe it wasn’t a big deal. Or was it?

Little choices: If I say anything they will think I’m weird or self-righteous..., but on the other hand, at least they will know I’m a Christian and can ask me questions later..., but then again, maybe this isn’t the place for talking about religion..., but on the other hand, this is the only place I’ll see these people.

…but what if I offend someone?

If I smile and nod the whole day, and then offer God my most devout prayers in the privacy of my home, then who am I, really?

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Hitting "restart"

If there is one thing I can be thankful for about Moscow, it is that it helped me step back from life a little bit and get a fresh perspective.

There’s nothing like sleeping in a bed (after a train compartment), having a home base (rather than wandering around), not needing to consult a map constantly, having friends to share impressions with… just to name a few blessings!

I had to go to class on Friday after my arrival, where it was business as usual. Sometimes it’s nice to have a regime. We’ll see if I am still thankful about it on Monday morning. ;)

Saturday, February 13, 2010

18 hours in Moscow (on very little sleep)

My mission in Moscow was 3-fold:

1)    Get fingerprinted
2)    Mail the fingerprints to the FBI
3)    Pick up some conference materials for my roommate

Mission #1

I arrived by train at 5:30 am. The fingerprinting was at 3 pm;  you do the math. I tried to sleep for a bit in the train station, but I found it freezing cold. So I sat down in a café with a cup of tea and tried to keep from nodding off.

After a few hours, I headed into the metro and went to Red Square and made myself take my mittens off long enough to take a photo. At least there is material evidence that I was in Moscow. continue/-

It was cold and I was going to hang out inside somewhere, but the shopping centers all opened at 10. I was an hour early. I decided to see how long it would take to walk around the Kremlin. Meanwhile, I got distracted by a large church in the distance and wandered over to take a photo. But my camera battery had died.

I walked back toward Red Square…10 am on the nose. Hooray. Only 5 more hours to kill.

For the rest of the day I wandered around town and periodically entered cafes and shops to warm up and rest my feet. No, I didn’t visit any museums; I could barely remember my name at that point and was not feeling up to cultural excursions. I don’t make a very good tourist.

I was having trouble finding the street I would need later, and entered an information booth that I happened to notice as I was passing by.

“I need to find a street,” I said.

“40 rubles.” (this was on the price list; she didn’t make it up)

After looking it up, she handed me a slip of paper where she had written down the name of the street and the highway that it intersected.

“Blah, blah, blah,” she said (I didn’t get much of it. I need visuals).

Well, I wanted more out of my 40 rubles. At least, more than I could have guessed myself from my map.

“Which way should I turn down the highway? Left or right?”

"It’s in the center,” she said. Huh?

“How far is it exactly?” I asked.

She looked at me strangely. “Not far. One or two minutes.”

Well, that was a waste of money.

I ended up looking for the street for about 20 minutes before I found it. And I did later find it on my map; the name was split up by intersecting roads.

When I entered the immigration center, the doorman told me to go to the second floor. The receptionist seemed concerned that I didn’t have an appointment (I had simply e-mailed), and I was worried for a moment that the technician would not be available. He was in his office, and seemed a little reluctant to help, but did a good job.

It was one of the few times I’ve wished I lived in Moscow. Such a trek for such a simple procedure.

After entering my personal stats, he took my fingers and rolled them over the electronic “inkpad.” He printed out two copies so I would have an extra. Well, I did pay about $35.

He also made sure I had the instructions from the FBI, and then looked up the UPS address on his computer and printed it out for me. Not bad work for someone not wanting to be bothered.



Mission #2

The office complex was about where Igor had said it would be, although I did have to consult my map.

It had been a long time since I had been inside such a huge complex. There was a metal detector at the entrance…I’ve noticed that Moscow is fond of them.

I held out the UPS address and pointed to it, in case they thought I was trying to sneak in or something.

“Blah blah blah 10th floor,” said the doorman. I picked a direction and started walking. There were conference suites, office wings, luxury gift shops, etc. I tried a few directions, but they all seemed to require an ID card. I sat down in a quiet area with a fountain and filled out my remaining paperwork. Then I found the reception area again and asked for directions, finally learning where the elevator was.

The UPS center was just a little office on the 10th floor. There were two guys, one of whom told me how to fill out the mailing slip. It only took a few minutes. Ahhh, so good to have it out of my hands!


Mission #3

Time to find the church. It was a bit early, but I didn’t have anything else to do. I followed my little map and found that the church was in a glass-paneled building. I realized that I couldn’t remember when I had last set foot in a Russian church that had its own facility. Of course some churches in St. P. have nicely renovated old apartments or movie theaters. But this was a fancy, stand-alone complex. I felt like I was in a different country. Everyone was milling about before the worship service, but no one was greeting visitors.

I asked the girl at Reception to connect me with my contact. Unfortunately, the contact hadn’t been able to stop by the church and the materials weren’t there. Oh well. Mission #3 was a bust.

Finally, time to go to the train station. I had a 9pm train-not the best for getting sleep, but at least I didn’t have to hang around in Moscow until midnight.

I found my bunk on the train, hoping that my neighbors would be merciful and let me retire early.

About 5 minutes later, I found myself being interviewed by 3 Russian businessmen consuming beer. AKA, my bunkmates. They were jolly folks from St. Petersburg, wanting to relax after a business trip to Moscow. We watched a few episodes of a comedy sketch show on someone's laptop, and then went to bed. I ignored their quips about snoring, undressing, etc.

5am came too soon, but on the other hand, what joy to be back "home." I took a much-needed shower and a quick nap, and headed off to class...

Friday, February 12, 2010

Priorities?

"Любовь к родине начинается с семьи."

"Love for one's country begins with the family."

-seen in apparent public service announcements all over Moscow

At first I thought it was some sort of Russian "motherland" pride campaign, but then I noticed that it was attributed to Francis Bacon. Has anyone run across the original? I just translated it back into English.

What does it mean exactly?

I take it to suggest that the overall good of one's country is the end goal and having a happy family life is one of the factors that will contribute to a better atmosphere in society. That is what I can deduct from the wording of the quote, but I'm open to other interpretations.

Or maybe the idea is something like this: cultivate a happy family, so that your country will be a better place, so that your children and grandchildren will have a nice place to live... continue/-

But honestly, it still doesn't make any sense to me. Maybe I'm just cynical and the idea of an idyllic Russia or America or whatever doesn't sound realistic to me. Maybe I'm self-centered and care more about how my family and friends are doing than about society as a whole.

When Jesus asks us to love our neighbor, he doesn't ask us to form charts and diagrams with different categories and prioritize them. We are just to love whomever crosses our path in life. Well, that's my approach, anyway. In fact, this might mean that we have to abandon our own family in order to follow Christ.

On the other hand, there is definitely something about one's family life that is a witness about who we are as a person, and an indication of what we may be able to contribute to society.

As for Russian citizens, I wonder what specific strategies are recommended for pursuing a happy family life?

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Cultural notes

1) I've noticed that some Russians use their middle finger to point to things! While it's still not a good idea to stick your middle finger in someone's face, I noticed that even children as young as 1 year old use their middle finger when asked to point to various letters, numbers, etc. To me it feels so awkward! Does that mean that this is something learned?

2) Totally different topic: customer service. I rarely meet a Russian store employee who is visibly overjoyed to be helping a customer. You don't get the impression that they want you to make a purchase. On the other hand, what's surprising is that they try to help you find a bargain. Everyone understands that the cost of living is really high here. I was buying a train ticket and asked for a certain train number and the woman helping me said, "Oh, that's going to be really expensive. Let me look for an alternative." Maybe I looked like someone who didn't have a lot of money! Or maybe she had to sell those seats anyway. I don't know. It felt like the opposite of the States where they act polite but trick you into spending more money than you had planned.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

A rock and a hard place

I have somehow found myself in possession of an FBI background check that cannot be authenticated, for various reasons. I started the process back in the summer, got my results in plenty of time, and now...they can't be used for anything.

As I mentioned, there is now a new system and the FBI will authenticate if the service is requested with the fingerprint submission. So I can start over again.

The only problem is that I have to go to Moscow for new fingerprints...

Monday, February 8, 2010

Trinity

One of the most surprising things about God is how He displays emotion. Perhaps this is biblically correct if we regard Him as a person, but it is still amazing that a person who knows and sees all can experience feelings. Can we use the word experience with regards to God? Can we say that He reacts to things, when He knew before time that they would occur?

Along with loving us, God displays anger, jealousy, sadness.

-Do not worship any other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God. Exodus 34:14

-The LORD's anger burned against Israel and he made them wander in the desert forty years, until the whole generation of those who had done evil in his sight was gone. Numbers 32:13

-Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked? declares the Sovereign LORD. Rather, am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live? Ezekiel 18:23
continue/-

It is easier to imagine Christ having emotions, since He took on flesh. One of the first examples that comes to mind is His wrath toward the money changers at the temple.

-Jesus entered the temple area and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves. Matthew 21:12

And He displayed compassion.

-A man with leprosy came to him and begged him on his knees, "If you are willing, you can make me clean." Filled with compassion, Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. "I am willing," he said. "Be clean!"  Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cured. Mark 1:40-42

Maybe it's easier to picture God as a loving Father and Christ as a humble Teacher (both with beards, of course), but what about the Holy Spirit?

I've always had a harder time "picturing" the Holy Spirit. I can feel His presence, but what is He like as a person?

The Holy Spirit is linked with personal emotions as well.

-And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Ephesians 4:30

There you have it. One of the mysteries of our faith.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

To God be the Glory

I can't think of anything to write about besides paperwork and bureaucracy. Rather sad.

In the meantime, here is some uplifting music. I discovered the Oslo Gospel Choir on Youtube, and I love their singing! In this particular video there is a special soloist.


Friday, February 5, 2010

Almost, but not quite

In pursuit of a Temporary Residency Permit...

I presented my documents at the FMS today. They approved everything except the apostille on the FBI check. I asked for 3 weeks to try to figure something out.

I still have the original, so I can try again to get it apostilled, but I don't whom to ask since the standard U.S. procedure is to apostille a notarized copy (which is not accepted as valid by the Russian government).

Meanwhile, the FBI has JUST begun apostilling background checks that have been initiated after Jan.25, 2010. I could start over with the background check, but wouldn't receive it within 3 weeks, so I would have to ask for more time...

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Another kind of anniversary

This week, Russia celebrates 20 years of....McDonald's!

I would like to leave the fast-food (health) debate for the moment and comment on the culture implications. This kind of anniversary is interesting when looked at in the light of what was going on the world at the time.

1990: I was almost 8 years old and probably didn't know that the USSR existed. And I barely knew what McDonald's was, as I wasn't raised on fast-food.

Meanwhile, in Russia, an interesting "cultural" exchange was taking place. I enjoyed reading the accounts in Monday's local paper (Metro) about people's memories of the first McDonald's opening in Moscow. They speak of the lines, the intrigue, the scent of a new kind of food. People who had worked as servers describe the pressure they felt, then the relief as the idea took on. read more/-

I don't know exactly which characteristics of American culture are represented by McDonald's cuisine: Convenience? Mass-marketing? Consumerism? At any rate, in some ways this was a little crack in the cultural barrier. Something that could be "shared"?

An interesting excerpt from Metro (Feb.1, 2010).

How many hours do you have to work, to buy a Big Mac?

-in 1990: 2 hours, 10 minutes
-in 2010: 30 minutes

-in 1990: average salary was 297 rubles a month, a Big Mac cost 3 rubles, 75 kopecks

I asked a friend recently what her favorite restaurant was, and she said "McDonald's." I suppose it is cheaper than other establishments in St. Petersburg, but it is still considered "eating out," not something most people can afford to do regularly.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Paying the bills in Russia

You've received a bill...now what do you do with it?

There are some forms of electronic payment cropping up in Russia, but the traditional way is paying through the bank. I suppose it's the counterpart of writing a check in the U.S.

Since I've never rented my own apartment, I've never had to deal too much with the bills, but the need arises every once in a while.

In order to pay, you take the kvitancia (bill) to the bank, get in the proper line, hand it to the cashier with your money, get your receipt, and leave. I have to admit that it isn't THAT complicated, but I have a bit of a phobia about having to interact with someone while there is a glass window between us. I suppose it is a fear of miscommunication.  Of course language plays a role, but I distinctly remember being afraid of buying movie tickets in the U.S. because of the same window scenario. I guess it is just a communication preference...more/-

One of the items on my list is paying the government fee for the temporary residence permit. The only thing is that they didn't give me a kvitancia, just handwrote an amount on my little list. So how was I going to pay the fee through the bank if there was no official indication of how much the amount should be or who was the recipient? Sometimes I don't understand how money gets where it is supposed to go.

I tried to download a blank from the Internet, but couldn't find one. I asked around a little bit and everyone said to just go to the bank and tell them what it was for and they would perform the transaction. O-kay....a little too casual for my taste.

Because of the window thing I was afraid I wouldn't be able to make myself understood, so I wrote down "Temp. residency permit-1000 rub." (in Russian) on a piece of paper and handed it through the little slot along with my money.

So far, so good...she started typing something into the computer. Then she asked for my registration. D'oh! Didn't have it with me (should have). I happened to remember the address where I was registered (which is NOT where I live), and she was satisfied. Then I had to give my name. Sigh. I was not about to spell my name out loud through a glass window. I had the translation of my passport with me, so I squeezed that through the slot, even though I had been trying to keep it pristine for the authorities. She typed some more.

Then she asked about which neighborhood I would be in when presenting the receipt. I told her where the FMS office was. More typing.

Then I got my receipt. It seems to have sufficient information on it to show when I go to present my documents.

Meanwhile, the man behind me began his transaction. The girl asked for his passport.

"Passport? I left it at home."

So I guess everyone doesn't have it figured out.



Monday, February 1, 2010

The complexities of Russian family trees

If you've studied Russian, you probably had to make a family tree at some point, and discovered that the Russian language is a little more complicated in this aspect.

When someone is married, there is no such thing in Russian as simply adding "in-law" to the end of everything: mother-in-law, father-in-law, dog-in-law, etc.

Nope, they each have their special name. Your husband's mother has one title; you have your own title in relationship to her; your husband has his own title in relationship to your sister...etc. My conversation teacher couldn't even remember them all.

But as long as you're able to describe the relationships, it isn't such a big deal. BUT...continue reading/-

...another confusion that arises with Russian families is that they often shorten the term meaning "cousin" to either "brother" or "sister." I'm often surprised to hear a friend talking about her "brother" when I thought she was an only child.

In class today, our teacher talked about visiting her sister; how fun it was; how their children played together.

"My sister and I have always been close; we're only half a month apart."

One of my classmates' eyes turned wide with surprise. Sisters? Two weeks apart in age?

We all figured it out at different moments. I recalled the teacher using the word for "cousin" earlier in the story, so I knew that was what she meant.

Meanwhile, another student patted the surprised girl on the back and whispered the translation to her in German. Ohhhhh, cousin!

My friend also told me a story about a little Russian boy who frequently mentioned his "milk sister" in conversation.

"I'm going to my milk sister's house."

"Tomorrow is my milk sister's birthday."

As you may have guessed, a "milk sibling" is a baby wet-nursed by the same mother. I looked it up and it is actually a term in the English language, but I hadn't heard it.