Wednesday, November 17, 2010

On my last legs

Date: October 18
Number of Days until registration expires: 1
Status: Sick in bed

(Click to read previous episode)

Two thoughts had occurred to me. The first (spoken by others until I finally accepted it as truth) was that I had to step up my energy to a new level and FIGHT. This I had already realized during the previous week, but as the working hours drew to a close on Friday and I saw how difficult it was to maintain one's place in line, I realized the gravity of the situation.

The second realization was that I didn't have any strength left. Of course it's pretty bad if you need to fight and don't have any strength, but I realized that now was the moment when I needed to lean on others. I had wanted to do as much as I could by myself, mainly because I live here in this country and need to learn some survival skills. But that didn't mean there was any shame in asking for help. continue/-

Especially when I was near the point of total collapse. Everyone prayed for me over the weekend and several friends offered to go check on The List first thing in the morning on Monday.

Monday. A morning phone call, as my friend was headed to work. "I signed you up. You're #28." It was a miracle that I was even on The List. I wondered what kind of scene she had had to deal with, and was glad that I wasn't there myself. Now I had a few hours before I needed to head down to resume the vigil.

2pm, everything was in order; they were starting to go down The List. It was slow again, but at least they were open 6 hours today instead of 4.

Another hitch: the registration window would be open from 2-8 pm, but my friends still needed the stamp from the housing authority, and that office opened at 3pm. :)

We were already in the 20's when I got a phone call from my friends with the apartment. "You won't believe this, but you have to be present with us to get this stamp." What? How? They were in a completely different area of the city (I might add that the geographic location of the registration office had no physical relation to the neighborhood in which I would be registered). But they were on their way to get me, in the car. Andrey stayed to keep an eye on progress.

Zoom. We sped down to the housing authorities. I poked my head in, flipped open my passport, and we got a stamp. Had it really been that necessary? Zoom. We were back within the course of an hour. Labor Things had barely progressed, since people who had skipped their turn were suddenly showing up.

Each time we would get one number closer to mine, another person would appear. Now #16 had arrived; now #1 was back with his photocopy...

But I DID get my turn. Masha came in with me since she was familiar with the housing documents. The lady checked everything multiple times, her eyes darting quickly back and forth. Then she started to gather things together, methodically placing paperclips here and there.

She didn't find any mistakes. I couldn't believe it. I expected at least another photocopy to be demanded of me. I had been sure I would have to leave and fight my way in. Even on Friday when I had my documents "ready," I still had a list of questions. Little by little I pieced things together, but some uncertainty remained. And now she was telling me to come back on Thursday, and everything would be ready. It was another miracle.

We celebrated by going to McDonald's. I was high on feelings of relief mixed with cold medicine, even though I didn't really have a cold...it was tonsillitis. But there would be time enough to go to the doctor, now that I didn't have to worry about The List.

Monday, November 15, 2010

The month that wasn't?

Today marks one month since I fell ill while the processing of my temporary residency permit was still underway.

It feels almost as though the month didn't happen, although that can't be true. There were plenty of blessings along the way; friends' birthdays, special visits, etc.

I learned a little more about tonsillitis and about the medical system, and was scared enough of the thought of a tonsillectomy to get serious about getting better. So I've been on "house-arrest," drinking concoctions and scheming about various ways to create a special atmosphere this Advent season.

Day 4 of antibiotics, Round 2...hopefully this will take care of it!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Strange medicine

First the green stuff, now this...I just couldn't resist taking a photo of one of the concoctions I was told to gargle with. We'll see if it helps!


If not, I could always use it for dying Easter eggs. ;)

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Wounded

When my dad and I took some kids from the orphanage out last week, the counselors whispered to us about the backgrounds of some of the kids. Well, they didn't really whisper; it seems more accepted to talk about kids' behavior right in front of them. But a few of these facts were more personal and they meant it for our ears only.

The kids said "Thank you very much" after the meal. Most tried, with prompting, to say it in English. And then the counselor explained what great progress that was for many of them. I hadn't really thought about it since I see them regularly, but it really is a challenge for them to look an adult in the eye and say "Thank you." And of course, trying it in a foreign language showed special courage.

One of the boys the counselor pointed out was new (I actually hadn't met him yet), and she said that he (at 11 y.o.) witnessed the murder of his mother by his stepfather, perhaps over the summer. I saw how he held himself: not rudely like some of the other kids with "behavioral" problems, but like a bird, hovering at the edge of conversation with a wan smile.

Today I saw him at the orphanage and he again offered a weak smile, so I tried to reach out. "Pasha, right?" so he would know I remembered him. He nodded, but shrank back and quickly darted away. I wonder what is on his mind after all the trauma; what kinds of fears he lives with.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Racing against the clock

I've been back-tracking a bit to explain the process I went through to receive temporary residency. After waiting almost 6 months I got the permit, only to learn that there was another packet of documents needed for registration, and not much time...

Date: Friday, Oct. 15
Residence permit: Received
Registration: Application in progress
Old registration expires: Tuesday, Oct. 19th
Working days left: 3
The line: Miles long


On Thursday, I had done my best to pull together the rest of the documents before finally going to bed around 4 am. Then I was up by 7 the next morning to try to get to the office when it opened.

I had already signed up the previous day, but you can never be sure...
read more/-

The office was open for four hours that day. Things were progressing at a snail's pace, and I was still waiting for my friends to bring the rest of the documents I needed. They called me to see how things were going, and I assured them that there was no rush.

I sat and sat and we continued going down the list very slowly. My friend did come with the documents, but they weren't completely in order, so I would have to just use this day for a preliminary inspection of what I had so far. During the last hour I was already posted by the door with the other urgent cases. I also peeked at others' documents to try to determine if I had filled out my forms correctly.

We were all panicking to the point of discussing what fines would be issued for overstaying our registration.

Then suddenly (well, not suddenly, but incredibly) #16 went in, and there were still 30 minutes left. There was hope!

The minutes ticked by.

The girl who was after me was practically in tears, yet seemed hopeful that she would make it in. She had the same deadline as I did. I didn't want to tell her that I might take a long time. I felt a tugging on my heart as I wished for my turn to come. I hated seeing everyone else sitting there with their sad eyes. There really wasn't any hope that any of them would be seen today. I had a sudden urge to give up my spot and let everyone go ahead of me. But I had to think practically. I couldn't save everyone in the waiting room, and it would be inconvenient to myself and others if I had to pack my bags and take a trip somewhere for a new visa.

We agreed amongst ourselves that we wouldn't make a list yet-we would do it on Monday morning. This was important because it was the weekend, and it would be hard to have a sign-up sheet if the office was closed.

There were a few minutes left, and I gave up. I could have fought to get inside, or tried to raise my voice above the crowd and gotten my questions answered. But it was pointless; I needed more time than was available. And besides, I was missing a stamp or two on the housing forms. So I walked away.

I went to worship rehearsal that evening, but I was already feeling a lump in my throat that wouldn't go away. Then I went on bed-rest for the weekend. I didn't even go to church, and the word spread that I was ill, but absolutely HAD to physically show up at the registration office on Monday. I didn't have a choice.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Days with Dad

My dad has been here for the past week and we have been visiting with friends. Maybe he will send me some of his photos.

In the meantime, here are some taken when we went to lunch with some girls who grew up in the orphanage together. They're on their own now but still love to do things in groups, especially when friends from abroad come to visit. We always have a fun time with them.



Saturday, November 6, 2010

A Russian care package


My Russian friends who are from up north often say they have to "meet the train," and this means that their relatives have sent a parcel on the train via a traveling friend or acquaintance, that now has to be picked up.


The contents usually consist of something edible: canned goods like jam and pickles; berries, etc.

Well, my roommate had been complaining about missing foods from "home" (up north), and then the other day we got a parcel containing salami, smoked fish, and pressed deer meat.

My roommate showed me how to take the head and skin off the fish before eating it. I like the taste, although I'm not sure I like the process...

New beginnings

I'm determined not to go to bed again without blogging!

I'll finish up my little bureaucracy tale in the weeks to come, in case any of you are sitting there biting your nails. But I'm trying to move on, little by little.

The stress wreaked havoc on my immune system and I've been sick on and off for the past 3 weeks with back-to-back episodes of tonsillitis. And no, I'm not planning on getting the surgery anytime soon.

I was going to write that I'm waiting to get my life "back." But in fact, all of this IS life. I do hope to return to a few activities that I had to set aside while working on paperwork. And I look forward to the coming weeks.

Advent starts in less than a month! :)