Monday, May 30, 2011

Another week gone by

I'm a lot calmer than this time last week. For one thing, the dreaded packing and moving is over! I'm already in the apartment where we'll live together after the wedding. I haven't had much strength to put anything away, but the hard part is over.

Andrei and I went back to Immigration twice this week. The first time was to argue our case. We got in line at 8:00 in the morning and it wasn't our turn until 6pm. They were taking about 1 person an hour. I was calmer though with A. there and everyone praying for me. I had clarified a few things, but the Inspector still wouldn't accept my new passport. She said I needed some kind of proof that I had changed my name and all the documents matched. We were arguing in circles.

-"On what basis did you change your name?"

"On the basis of the marriage certificate."

-"But the name on the marriage certificate is different."

"But the marriage certificate is what I used to change my name."

-"But the names don't match up."

"But this letter right here from the Consulate says that they do."

-"This letter is not legalized."

"But no one will agree to legalize it."

-"You still need some sort of proof."

"But I have this letter. And the marriage certificate." read more/-

She agreed that it wouldn't be much use for us to go off to Moscow if the legalization department there hasn't agreed to help us. She promised to check in with her boss and gave us an appointment (!) for Thursday. She would call us by NAME. What luxury!

Part 2

On Thursday we were the first ones called, and it was a different Inspector. They had all discussed my documents and agreed that I needed "some sort" of document to accompany my new passport. Still no hint as to what that may be.

We pressed for more information and she said we could 1) get a copy of U.S. legislature regarding name changes and get that legalized in Moscow (again, we would probably be refused) or 2) go back to the wedding palace and get them to do something with the marriage certificate

When we asked about deadlines, she shrugged and said we would go by the date of whatever verification I get. So I guess I'm not going to get in trouble for running around with an expired passport.

We headed to the wedding palace, and happened to arrive during one of 2 narrow windows when the boss is in her office! We asked about verifying the name change and she didn't know what we were talking about, but she was more professional about it. No scrunching up her face in disgust and asking "What's THIS?" She sent us to an expert in linguistics who will be able to make a better judgment.

So the current plan is: 1) visit a linguistics expert to compare the two passports and confirm that it's the same person
2) go back to the wedding palace to get some sort of amendment to the marriage certificate
3) go back to Immigration with this new verification, and finally transfer my residency permit into my new passport
4) get my new registration and apply for an exit visa so I can travel after the wedding

A lot of times during all this I really wish I had an advocate. Where is the person to defend me? And it's not just me...I wish someone would step in and intervene for all the foreigners stuck in these bureaucratic messes. Where, Lord? The Holy Spirit has been sent to you. That is the hope I have to lean on.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Irreversible

Now that I'm a bit calmer, I can write about what's happening. I think it's important to write about trials, so that I can praise God later for them. Maybe by the time some of you read this, it will even be resolved. :)

I went ahead and got a new passport, with my new last name...after doing plenty of research to make sure my residency status would be transferable.

The line to visit the local authorities was very long, to put it mildly. Oh, the atmosphere of that waiting room...so terrifying. How many people's lives has it changed? The pacing, the biting of the nails, the rocking back and forth as people on the last day of their visas try desperately to get an extension. Or they wait in line for days to pay a fine, and the fine grows while they wait.

Anything to not go insane! I tried praying, singing, reading, thinking about hope in general...but thoughts kept going to the clock and The List of people in front of me.

The fact that I made it into the room to see The Inspector is a miracle in itself. Looking at my two passports, she inquired in confusion, "What's THIS?" Glancing back and forth between the two variations of my name, it did not add up for her. This is due to the fact that I not only changed my last name, but also kept my maiden name instead of middle name.

Per her instructions a month or two earlier, I had gotten the Consulate to prepare a letter to accompany my other documents. The Inspector looked at the letter and said "Where is the legalization of this document?" What was I supposed to do to legalize it? It was from the U.S. Consulate. read more/-

"You'll have to go to Moscow," she said. Not again!

I had a bit of a panic attack thinking about how she gave me another week, but the legalization of documents in Moscow takes a week, and if you add in travel time, I wouldn't quite make it.

Then when Andrei tried calling the dept. in Moscow so we wouldn't make a trip there for nothing, they said they couldn't do anything for us.

That was where we left off on Friday, and then it was the weekend.

On Monday we'll try to attack the problem from all angles, until we find a door that opens. There has to be an answer somewhere.

Maybe she made a mistake? I remember when I couldn't get the central office to accept my FBI background check. That needed to be legalized, too. The Russian government would not accept it, and the U.S. government would not legalize it. I had to start from scratch. But this is a passport. I can't redo my identity.

I don't even have a visa right now. Just a brand-new passport with empty pages. And an older, stamped-up passport with holes through it to signify its invalidity.

The hardest part isn't not knowing the outcome, because there is no outcome that could separate me from the love of God. The hardest part is to pick up my feet and walk forward in faith.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Fun changes

Introducing...

The Love Nest! :)

This is where we're going to live after the wedding...actually, I'm moving in first, sometime next week. These are the "before" photos-we haven't made any changes or cleaned anything up since getting the keys.

The wallpaper is new. Through that little door is a closed-in porch that we can use for storage. The furniture is "older," but has character. ;)


The living space

more photos/-



The rest of the room, around the corner










The kitchen-needs some rearranging :)


Saturday, May 14, 2011

Part 2 of The Bird plus The Passport

(Read the previous post first.)

On Wednesday night I was finishing up blogging and e-mailing when my roommate knocked on my door at about 1am..."he's still here."

Apparently we hadn't checked very thoroughly for Mr.Pigeon, and he had been there all along, all through Bible study, without so much as a peep. Now that the lights were out and all was silent, he had started flapping around again behind the wall of shelves in Yulia's room, and she didn't particularly want to sleep in the same room. So she got in the spare bed in my room and we left Mr. Pigeon alone for the night.

On Thursday morning, he was still there, sometimes sitting still and sometimes pacing a little bit back and forth. No signs of trying to get out.

Andrei came to our rescue on his lunch break. He moved the heavy shelves out of the way enough to get access to Mr. Pigeon. But he ended up having to grab Mr. Pigeon with a cloth and manually carry him out onto the balcony, because that bird wasn't budging. Our feathered visitor finally flapped his wings and set off....to a neighbor's window sill. For some reason he didn't seem eager to enter the world. But eventually he did fly away. Mission complete!

I finally got word on Friday that my passport was ready, so I'll have to go in next week to get it and then do the next few steps. I "wasted" some time this week waiting for it, but I did get some other things done, like beginning to box up some belongings for my impending move.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

An intruder

I wanted to pick up my new passport today, but the Consulate hasn't informed me yet of its readiness. I had cleared my schedule anyway, so I was home, throwing everything on the floor doing some spring cleaning.

Suddenly I heard a creeeeak. I freaked myself out with thoughts of the boogey-man visiting, but I attributed the noises to the windows being open and causing things to flutter around in the breeze.

I headed to the front door to put my shoes on and do some grocery shopping, and came face-to-face with a pigeon. It was just bobbing along down the hallway, blinking its eyes. Ummmm....that thing was NOT supposed to be inside!

I guess I thought it would just go "toward the light," or in this case, the open balcony door. No screens here, just some gauzy material to filter out insects and other creatures. I opened the door wider and pulled the curtains aside. A pretty wide target.

Pigeons, it turns out, cannot be shooed. Ever noticed how they just flutter about 2 feet away and then stop? Whether from complacency, indecisiveness, or fear, I couldn't be sure...but this guy was going nowhere. He checked out his reflection in the mirror for awhile, then flopped awkwardly behind a piece of furniture as I approached and then just as awkwardly scrambled around back there. After I unsuccessfully shooed him from corner-to-corner (he got nowhere near the intended exit), he stationed himself near the door to the hallway, as if trapping ME in the room instead. And there was now a trail of blood from his feet (claws? talons?), which he had evidently injured. Pigeon-1. Liz-0. continue reading/-

I slid a piece of cardboard his way, hoping to at least get him to move, and he fluttered up on top of the wardrobe. From there I was able to get him far enough from the door to make my escape and shut him in the room. Fly away, Mr. Pigeon, fly away!

My roommate dropped by on her lunch break to play the hero. I might add that this all took place in HER room. I was thankful this time that she had the room with the balcony.

She poked her head into the battle room. "I don't see him." And then a quick peek on top of the wardrobe. He was still sitting there, just blinking! At least when we have bats or squirrels or whatever at home, they seem to sense where the exit is. Not this guy. He wasn't very intimidating, but he had outstayed his welcome. Yulia tried to scare him out of his corner and he fell behind the furniture and didn't make an effort to leave. She went back to work and I shut Mr. Pigeon in her room again and went to get ready for Bible study.

3-4 hours later, the guests were arriving. I made them peek into Yulia's room to see if Mr. Pigeon was gone. No sign of him! I guess he just needed to be left alone in order to make his move. Meanwhile, we may be subject to such visitors once more, as the open balcony (despite risks) provides us with much-needed ventilation.



Looking in the mirror...



Wednesday, May 4, 2011

To whom?

To WHOM? (meaning, 'who have you come to visit?') This is often barked at me when I enter Russian establishments. I mean, the kind of establishments that have guards. To be even more precise, certain apartment buildings, and orphanages, and even the Consulate.

I have been grappling with why this is such a strange question for me, as an American.  Do we even demand to know people's business as they arrive? Or is it always something super-polite, as in, "How may I help you?" What question would they ask in other countries around the world?

It used to irk me at the orphanage, and actually it still does, because I'm always ready to say who I am, but then they ask whom I'm looking for. I know I should learn the right answer, but I usually end up saying something like "everyone" or "the children" since I go around to different groups. Really, I'm supposed to say "Group 2," or the counselor's name there. They want to know the name of the person expecting you, and then either they have you wait, or usher you right in.

At the Consulate it's even stranger. Andrei was surprised that they didn't let me in right away and welcome me with open arms like in the movies. I was eventually admitted into the building, and at the inner checkpoint, the officer asked, "KOMY?" Well, I was stumped. Whom on earth would I be visiting at the U.S. Consulate? I echoed the question with a befuddled look and he looked at my passport "Ahhhh, a citizen," and switched into English. No more questions.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

To America and back in one hour

Don't know if it was risky to go to the U.S. Consulate today or not. In Moscow, maybe. But they don't seem to be likely targets for "activity."

Language confusion...
I successfully applied for my new passport today (after filling out the form a few times). When I pick it up next week, I will have to get it translated in a hurry and dash over to the local authorities to get my residency stamp transferred. Foreigners must be registered here within 3 days, and my old registration will be canceled along with my old passport.

The scene at the Consulate hasn't changed much over the past few years. What has changed is the new "appointment" system. It seems like a joke because there is NEVER a line at Citizen Services. Well, maybe I've had to wait a few minutes while they dealt with someone else or did something paperworky in the back. But in general, it's a ghost town.

I suppose they want to 1) know exactly who is going to be coming to the Consulate on a given day and 2) reserve personnel for emergency cases (stranded tourists) and non-citizen issues. But that's just my guess. continue/-

I arrived about 15 minutes early and wasn't even allowed in the building; I had to go wait across the street for another 10 minutes. It seemed a little harsh, especially considering the weather was in the 30's! But my future hubby is the bigger hero as he waited outside for me the whole time. There was also a group of hopeful visa applicants, evidently some Russian youth wanting to spend their summer in the U.S. Andrei gets to be in that category soon. :)

While we were still waiting outside, a group of bespectacled American businessmen in wrinkled khakis and blue blazers approached the Consulate and guffawed about something, to the non-amusement of the Russians.

Security was standard; I had given my Kindle to Andrei and removed change from my pockets, so I got a comment as to "many things for hair" in my purse, but that was it.

While I was waiting to be served, another American came in and said hello and we immediately started gabbing about where we were from, etc. I was amused thinking about how I would never say hello to a strange Russian, although we might compare notes about paperwork.

I have to admit to being a little nervous that the people waiting on me at the Consulate were Russian, only because I was afraid there might be a misunderstanding. The first girl was very young and her English was so-so (we could have spoken Russian, but it's the U.S. Consulate after all). However, she was quite efficient at helping me with the computerized form, and ran anything in question by her superiors right away.

The woman higher in command is quite knowledgeable; I think she's worked there for several years. So I'm pretty confident that my documents are in good hands. And even more confident that God is watching out for me!

An age-old or modern problem?

"Well, you dress like a little girl, for one thing."

"I am a little girl, so why shouldn't I?"

-Louisa May Alcott, An Old-Fashioned Girl, page 10


I read this book for the first time recently, and quite enjoyed getting to know the main character, "old-fashioned" Polly. I've noticed some social commentary lately on how young girls dress, and here in Russia their wardrobe choice is an issue as well.

It's not so much that Russian girls dress more or less scantily than in other countries, but there is a lot of premature sophistication, in my opinion. I'm almost 30, and there are eight-yr-olds more sophisticated than I am. The heels, the pea-coats, the perfectly coiffed hair...Is it a problem or not to dress older than one's age? That's debatable.

What I liked about the girl in this book was that she herself was conscious of how she differed from her vain peers, yet she stood firm. It is one thing for parents to set rules about modesty, but do young girls understand the reasons, or are they simply being obedient? They hear "you're too young" all the time, but how often do they say "I'm too young to wear that" or "that movie is inappropriate for me to watch"? They must be taught discernment.