If you look up the word for diapers in a Russian dictionary you’ll find the word pyelyownky (pyell-own-kee). But don’t expect to go to a supermarket and get diapers if you ask for пелёнки just how we refer to tissue paper universally as kleenex here all diapers are “памперс” (Pampers with a Russian accent naturally.)
So my teacher asked me an unexpected question yesterday, “How long have you had Pampers [in America]?” I took a stab, “I don’t know, 40 or 50 years?”
“We’ve had them for ten.” she said.
Suddenly I finally got it. I got what communism and the Soviet nion meant. It meant that while we were busy with various cultural and technological revolutions, exchanging our pagers for cell phones and cassette tapes for IPODs, there was an industrialized country with the means to compete in a world market that was full of people whose only option was cloth diapers.
I’ve been away for a year and a half, but it feels like it was only a week. In a weird way Russia feels like home. I feel like I fit in and belong and everything is familiar. Familiar, but not necessarily pleasant. If you gave me two words to describe Russia as a home, I doubt comfy or cozy would come to mind. They hardly put out a welcome mat for me either.
The first two days were mostly miserable. When my plane landed there was a man at the airport with my name on a sign. He dropped me off at my dorm with absolutely zero instructions about where to go or what to do. I had no idea when or where classes were or how to pay or register. Nothing. So – on Monday morning I just started wandering around and asking who I could and slowly and painfully began to put the pieces together bit by bit.
Just to give you a taste of Russian beauracracy,
I show up at a buildig where I have a hunch I’m supposed to be and tell them I’m there to register for classes, and smile and hope they know what I’m talking about. They do – but I forget my migration card so I travel 20 minutes by bus walk half a mil to get to my dorm. Take the lift to the 5th floor because it doesn’t work on the 4th where I live. Walk back half a mile catch another bus, walk back up 6 flights of stairs give them my migration card when the lady smiles apologetically and tells me I have to walk another mile to a building accross the city and give a piece of paper to a man (doesn’t tell me where his office is or how to find him besides the building number). I go to him he tells me he had been waiting for hours, but I already did what I needed to so he has a student take me through a maze out the back door to a bank where I hand another slip of paper to a lady and give her money for my registration for the city. Then it’s back a mile to give the first lady the receipt then I have to go to a different room to take a Russian exam (80% woohoo!) then I’m sent to a different room to register.
After I leave I realize o one told me how to get my student ID card (which I’ve only guessed I need since everyone else seems to have one) or when I’ll get my city registration back or when I actually start classes. I decided I’d save a lot of energy and just show up the next day.
Same thing with trying to pay for my room and get a cell phone (which by the way Emily called me on so skype does work if anyone needs to call me!)
That being said, I’ve had to deal with a wave of emotional turmoil, uncertainty, fear, lonliness, exhaustion, defeat, etc. But I expected as much so I do my best to walk it off and not allow myself to really think about how I feel. Just turn off emotions and go, it works for the most part. But like I said the first two days were hard. (All the emails cheered me up immensely)
On the other hand I was so thrilled by everything at the sametime, so moments of harrowing logig for a familiar face were itermigled with moments of exultant, heart exploding out of your chest joy and wonderment. It’s like being in love…I think.
The sun here goes down between 12:30 and 1:30 AM and starts to come up again by 2. They are celebrating “Byeliah Noche” or White Night. It’s really hard to sleep. But, all the sunlight gives you energy and makes you happy. Usually I fall asleep by two and wake up again by 5:30.
Anyway, I occasionally have a spare moment and those are usually occupied with thoughts of you all. I’ve penciled you all in for August 22nd with a promise to then do all the things I want to do now like – go baby clothes shopping or come crash your honey moon (it lasts the whole first year right?)