March 27, 2003

It's So Sad

Yesterday I went to to the American Embassy here in Moscow to pick up my new passport. The whole "get a new passport ordeal" could be chronicled under hassles and hazzards but I'm still too traumatized to discuss it. Anyway, boy have things changed at the Embassy in two weeks' time. Our embassy is situated on a thoroughfare recently widened to allow President Putin fast access to the Kremlin. Why he isn't supplied a helicopter to save all us peons from the traffic stoppage is beyond me! Anyway, there is security out the wazoo there now--literally hundreds of KGB types with BIG guns. No one is allowed to walk along the sidewalk in front of the embassy. I had to show my passport in order to get anywhere near. Once through the first wall of defense, I was interrogated, went through two secured doors, through a metal detector, then was thoroughly searched. (Jay, remind you of trying to get out of the Moscow airport?) I felt like a fool walking in to my own embassy crying.

You know the feeling you get in America when you see Old Glory flying? Or when you return to America and first see the American flag at the airpport? Well, that's how I feel when I'm in another country and drive by the American Embassy. I feel proud and am proud to be an American. Well, yesterday that sentiment didn't change but it was just so very sad to really feel that the whole world is against us. I can only hope it's temporary.

Earlier in the day I was on a tour with a group of American ladies of the famous Russian painter's home, Victor Vasnethsoy. While entering the house, we encountered a group of Russian school children. One boy, approximately ten years of age, was using us to brush up on his English. He called us American prostitutes and said he wished we'd just go back home. Now I kinda want to....

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March 13, 2003

The Kitchen Sink

Since my return from Oklahoma mid February, I have been arguing with the landlady over my slow-draining kitchen sink. Since she and I don't speak the same language, we have to use intermediaries, our respective realtors. Unfortunately for me, neither of these two women speak much English either. Here's a typical conversation:

Me: Natalia, my kitchen sink is not draining.

Natalia (Landlady's Realtor): Your maid told the landlady that you are putting the earth down the sink.

Me: The "earth"?

Natalia: Yes, from your plants.

Me: You must mean "soil" and, no, I have not.

That was conversation no. 3 in which I've tried to get the sink repaired. Finally, a plumber, known as a "meister", shows up with a plunger. He plunged away for about 45 minutes and for two days afterwards, I had an improved, but certainly not repaired, sink. Later that same week, the sink no longer drained so...

Conversation no. 4 went something like this:

Natalia: The landlady says you are using the sink as a garbage disposal and in Moscow we don't have garbage disposals so you must put wires over your sink.

Me: If you mean a "strainer", I have done that. Also, I am fully aware that I currently don't have a garbage disposal.

Natalia: Well, the landlady doesn't know what to do about the sink. She can't afford to have any one else come look at it and she is still thinking what to do.

Me: Rick's company is paying her $7,000 per month for this apartment and for that price, I DESERVE A WORKING SINK. I must hear back from you tomorrow (Thursday) with a plan for repairing the sink by the weekend.

Natalie: Okay, I'll get back to you tomorrow.

Today is tomorrow and still no word from Natalia. I am afraid that soon the doorbell will ring and it will be the "meister" back with the plunger. Any ideas what I can tell him to do with the plunger?

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