Thursday, February 24, 2011

Step into my library

No time for full-length reviews right now, but here are a few books I'm reading at the moment:

Linguistics
Raguenaud, Virginie Bilingual by Choice: Raising Kids in Two (or More!) Languages

It's hard to flip around and find quotes again on a Kindle, but I love this book as a mother's practical advice on raising kids "bilingual." I like how family-oriented the advice is and how much the author shares about her personal experience. She has lived what she writes about. At some point I want to write a more in-depth review.

Marriage/Family
Piper, John (et al) Sex and the Supremacy of Christ (download PDF)
Piper, John This Momentary Marriage (download PDF)

Stuffy, in Little Men, Louisa May Alcott
So far I like both of them; more Bible study than practical advice. Piper does a good job laying the foundations for what he is going to discuss, and it helps me keep my mind focused on Christ.

Just for Fun
Alcott, Louisa May Little Men

I've slowly been working through this book, just a chapter or two at a time. Good, wholesome stories about a boys' home and the family that runs it. But the stories also deal with surprisingly deep issues of discipline and loyalty and social ethics. Just in case you thought it was light reading. ;)


Monday, February 21, 2011

The second interesting thing about going to Moscow in February...


...is that almost a year ago to the day, I had made the same trip, also for bureaucratic purposes. This meant that I could remember a few helpful pieces of information about Moscow this time of year: 1) It's cold, even inside the train station... and 2) Stores don't open very early. 3) Therefore, getting in at 5:30 am is bad. Later is better. We got in at 7am.

Not sure about the donuts...
We waited and waited for something to be open, so we could sit in the warmth. Finally the doors were open and we found our way to a food court. Just as we had ordered and were sitting down at the table, I looked at the time. It was 10:40 and my appointment at the Embassy was at 11:00. Panic! How had we gone from killing time to running late?

The thing about the Moscow subway is that there are many branches and it SEEMS like it will take forever to get somewhere, but in reality the stops are all quite close together, and the escalators are not so steep and slow as in St. Petersburg. It only took about 10 minutes to get to our stop, and then we just needed to find the right address. People on the street were quite helpful, even jumping in with advice as they overheard us asking for directions. read more/-

After we found the right door to the U.S. Embassy, Andrey went to a nearby shopping center to keep warm, and I went inside to get my "marriage letter."

It took a while to get through the security checkpoint, partly due to there being a line, and partly due to the Russian security guy being very chatty, especially when he learned I was from Massachusetts.

Inside, there was a line, too. The Consulate in St. Petersburg is nearly always empty. I got in line and it seemed that there was only one woman serving clients even though there were 4 windows and some people in the background doing something. I looked at the schedule saying they were open until 12:00 and looked at the clock reading 11:30, and I suddenly began to get nervous. Why didn't they have more people working? Why weren't they helping people who had appointments? Why hadn't I requested an earlier appointment?

The lady came back to the window but wasn't looking up, so I approached the glass and asked if I was in the right line since I had an appointment. "Yeah, just a minute." Grrrr. All-night train crankiness was setting in. After a few minutes she took a look at my form and then sent me over to the cashier's desk around the corner.

There was no one at the cashier's desk. Just a little empty room. 11:40. HELLO? I paced back and forth, poking my head in all the windows to remind them that I was there. Eventually someone waved at me, indicating that they would be there in a minute. After paying, I had to go back to the main room to wait for them to call me. It only took a minute and I signed the document in front of the notary. The stamps ended up not touching the signatures, which seemed weird, but whatever. The notary was a middle-aged American woman. "Congratulations," she said. Oh, that's right. I'm getting MARRIED. There was a reason for all this. She gave me a map and instructions for getting the document legalized.

As I was going back through security and reclaiming all my various gadgets, the security guy wished me well. I realized that the U.S. Embassy was the only place where people had actually regarded getting married as something positive. In the other places it was all about the paperwork and the visas and name changes and general stress. So nice to be reminded of the actual goal.

Andrey and I sat for a few minutes in some comfy chairs in the shopping center and he brought out my breakfast for me to eat. Smart decision considering I was probably low blood sugar at that point. After refueling, we decided to go check out the Church of Christ the Saviour. It's a beauty both inside and out. Besides the spacious sanctuary, the church has a downstairs part where there are more icons and some temporary exhibitions. Many visitors seemed to be sincerely praying to the icons and even to some skeletal remains on display. If you want to get technical, this is called veneration, and not worship...but I have never quite understood the difference.

The clock was ticking, time to get to the next office to drop off the document for legalization! I had goofed a little bit with the address and it was farther from the metro than originally thought...but there was no line this time and it was a quick errand. The guys in the legalization office said we could send anyone we wanted to pick up the document, potentially saving us another trip to Moscow.

Done with business! On to "pleasure." First stop? McDonald's. Yep, if you've lived abroad, you know that McDonald's can be counted on for having nice seating, prompt service, and, most importantly...a free bathroom. We found a nice comfy booth near the soundproof (!) birthday party room, ordered lunch, and rested for a few hours before making our next move.

We were headed to a bookstore, but we hadn't gotten very far when Andrey spotted a cow sculpture and I simultaneously spotted a Dunkin' Donuts. That's right, in one day we visited Sbarro's, McDonald's, and Dunkin' Donuts. What can I say, out of the fast food options they're not bad. And I hadn't seen Dunkin' Donuts in St. P., although I heard rumors of its opening.

After initiating Andrey into the Massachusetts donut tradition, we made our way to the bookstore and spent an hour or two browsing before heading back to the train station. We boarded our train, noticing with amusement that it was the same company and the same wagon we had traveled in on the way over (a bunk or two closer to the bathroom). Andrey let me have the bottom bunk and I slept a little better. :)

6:30 am-Home sweet home! We survived our first trip together!

Friday, February 18, 2011

The first interesting thing about going to Moscow in February...

...is that I spent Valentine's Day on a train with my fiance.

Well, sort of. We were headed to Moscow to do paperwork, and it was already 11pm when our train departed. We had "platzkart" tickets (see details here), and that meant bunkbeds in an open cabin. I had traveled platzkart to Moscow by myself before, but this time I had Andrey to protect me, drink tea with me, and tuck me in before getting into his own bunk.

Valentine's Day is usually referred to in Russia as "Lovers' Day." In the past I would wish people a "Happy Valentine's Day" and they didn't really get it. They would ask me, "Have you found someone?" It wasn't the same holiday I knew from home that was full of chocolate, conversation hearts, and movie night with the girls. But this year, I fit the Russian description.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

An April wedding?

It's not what you think.

I'm not planning to walk down the aisle until summer, but we'll be applying for a marriage license as soon as we can gather the necessary documents.

Today we tried to start the process and had a bit of a wild goose chase, but we got some information we needed.

First we went to a records office to try to get an initial consultation. As we found the building and wandered up a narrow staircase, I tripped over the top step, which was, according to Russian tradition, a different height than the rest of them. I cursed the steps aloud as a smartly dressed young man opened a door to reveal an elaborately decorated reception area. But we were told it was "lunchtime" and turned away.

Back downstairs, we tried again to decipher the schedule on the door. It seriously reminded me of one of those problems in a puzzle magazine. read further/-


Chairman:

1st and 3rd Tuesdays: 10am-1pm
2nd and 4th Tuesdays: 3pm-5pm

Vice Chairman:

1st and 3rd Thursdays: 10am-1pm
2nd and 4th Thursdays: 3pm-5pm

Apostille Services:

Mon-Fri, 10am-5pm (Lunch: 2-3pm)

After some discussion and checking of watches and calendars we determined that we were there on a 2nd Tuesday. It was now about 2:20 pm, so after 3 we would have a chance to see a chairman, if that was even what we needed.

Plan B was to visit some friends who lived around the corner and are a Russian/American couple themselves. That sounded a lot more appealing, so we took down the phone number for the records office and off we went to enjoy some fellowship.

One of the questions that came up over lunch with our friends was how I am going to get my name changed in all my documentation. From the Russian side of things, my residency permit is a stamp affixed to my passport. I will have to go and file some papers to redo it, or something.

Before leaving, we called Records and inquired about getting married and they said "That's not our department." O-kay.

Next try: call one of the wedding palaces. We could have done that first, but...oh well, we had to keep moving forward.

We called the nearest wedding palace (there are 4 where marriages to foreigners are allowed), and they were already BOOKED for the whole summer. We are more flexible with the date since we just want a stamp; the church ceremony will be our main event and we consider this just a formality even though we are required to go through the wedding palace anyway.

We went over to the wedding palace anyway to see if there were spots left for April or May. If they were full, we could try another wedding palace.

The wedding palace had a spacious waiting room with a video consisting of images of elaborately furnished rooms and classical music playing on a loop. I guess it was supposed to advertise their services? The soundtrack had me clawing at my ears after awhile.

When it was our turn, the woman sized up our situation and gave us a List for the scavenger hunt application process. It's pretty much the same information as on several sites, which is presented as "The 5 Steps to Marrying a Russian." The problem I was having was with the 4th point: the letter which proves there is no impediment to my getting married. I keep reading everywhere that this can only be done in Moscow, and I'm going to try the Consulate again here to see if they'll help me. But I think I'll be finding myself on a train to Moscow very soon...


Sunday, February 6, 2011

Distractions

It's not exactly that I'm too busy for blogging.

Sometimes, other options just seem more appealing...



But I still have things to say: some book reviews, cultural observations, tangles with bureaucracy, and thoughts about life in general. Hopefully, soon.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Planning (sort of)

There is not much to report on the wedding front. A few if-then scenarios, that is all. Mainly we just need to figure out what is required of me, a foreigner, and then get cracking.

I'm pretty good at spending copious amounts of time Googling researching fairly narrow fields of knowledge (like uses of baking soda). Especially when there's something else I'm supposed to be doing.

Lately, I've been interested in bilingualism again.

I wrote a book review on here awhile back, but it's also fascinating just hearing about people's multicultural childhoods.

I know a lot of you bloggers have adopted children. In that case the English is more of a second language and the mother tongue is still there, somewhere. I wonder how it feels. Maybe similar to how I feel knowing Russian. I can think in both and sometimes I'm not even aware of which one I'm using. But my Russian is nowhere near being a native language.

Did any of you grow up hearing and/or speaking two languages?

I'm excited that two of my siblings already have children being exposed to different languages in addition to English (Spanish and French). It will be interesting to observe their experiences and learn from them. And it will make for unique family gatherings, as well.

Anyway, I'm rambling. Sorry.