02 November 2008

in hot water

I am a small car kind of girl. My car of choice when back home in the US--a vintage (read, "old, affordable, 150K+") BMW 3 series. Seriously. Love them.

When I moved to St. Petersburg, I didn't really need a car. I had friends who took me grocery shopping that first year, and everything else was withing walking distance. The second year, I decided to buy a car. I wanted to be able to take d2b to the doctor if needed without calling a taxi and to have more freedom and control over my schedule. (Don't laugh. That was before I knew about the random towing and Mechanical Munchhausen.)

Because of my job, I have the privilege of having diplomatic plates. That means, I need to buy a car that has dip plates. Switching types of license plates is unheard of--probably very expensive and paperwork intensive. So, I asked around at school and the consulate. No dice. There were some cars available from teachers at the Moscow school--including a SAAB that sounded right up my alley. After getting jerked around by a real jerk, it became clear that the SAAB was not coming anywhere near my alley. BUT, the then-new principal in St. P was getting a new car, so I could buy the old principal's car. It's a Blazer. It's huge.

That's not all bad. It is harder for me to wiggle through traffic. But, it's already knocked around, so I don't worry about that. It gives me some weight to throw around when push comes to shove as it so often does in Russian traffic. And, it fits loads of orphanage donations!

Last week, my car came back (yea!) but needs new brakes (boo.). I said the brakes would have to wait until I made some orphanage trips. On Friday, V and I visited four orphanages and delivered lots of medicine, used toys and outgrown clothes. Today, I went to see my girls in 3.10. Along with the usual birthday goodies, I was able, thanks to one of Rachael's readers, deliver a hot water heater! This generous reader donated enough to money purchase one-and-a-half hot water heaters for the kiddos at the L. orphanage. (And, since Maxidom wouldn't let me buy half a hot water heater, I kicked in for the rest.)

So all I had to do was shop for hot water heaters. Why do I think I can do these things? If I know what I'm doing, then my limited Russian vocabulary isn't a problem. If my limited vocabulary covers an unfamiliar activity, I'm fine. Today...welll... I had been assured by V (WHY do I keep believing her? And people in general??) that all I had to do was ask for a hot water heater. (Guess what--"boiler" is the same in both languages. I did find that out before I went.) When I asked what kind, what specifications, she told me it would be easy. Any one would work. She implied that there would only be one kind.

Maybe she didn't know what she was talking about (ya think?) and just acted like an expert (not a cultural trend or anything...). Maybe the last time she shopped for hot water heaters there only was one kind. Not so today. There were LOADS of different models!! Being a brat, I didn't want to call V to ask about it. So I called M at the orphanage. Who doesn't speak any English.

I explained where I was and what I was doing (Hi, M, it's Kate. I'm at Maxidom doing the shopping for the boiler. No, not the children's home, MAXIdom. The shop. You understand? I am doing the shopping for the boiler. The machine to do hot water. Yes? Please will you speak to the man here?) and we got it sorted. There was a long conference that included me and four employees--one who was helping, one who was listening, one who (it was much later revealed) spoke a little English and a woman who was there for solidarity. I finally chose one--not the most expensive and not the cheapest. (None were brands I recognized.) NACH, the men "weren't allowed" to help me take it to my car. Apparently they weren't even allowed to help me take it out of the department. Fortunately, simple machines are a part of the second grade curriculum, so I was able to navigate through the store (on the cart it was taller than I), pay, get the warranty stamped and then load it into the car myself (said the little red hen).

When I bring donations, I like to slip in and slip out. I don't like to have thanks loaded upon me. (Had an extremely uncomfortable moment when the then-principal came with the students and I to deliver some donations to a children's home and she wanted the kids there to understand that our students had collected clothes and toys for them. EXTREMELY uncomfortable.) So, after getting some help unloading and handing off the warranty, smiling and nodding, I left to find my girls.

Rachael's reader, I send all the thanks to you! I know that hot showers will be greatly appreciated this winter. Spacebo bolshoi!


Suzanne said...

Well can I heap praise on you from afar? If you don't like it you can just avert your eyes.

YOU ARE A COOL PERSON. I wish the world was made of Kates.

Rachael said...

Well done, Kate! And, bonus points for all the Russian practice.

And, glad to hear you are back in possession of your car too!

Jenni said...

Kate, you RULE.

votemom said...

that is so great. hot water is therapeutic. hot water is comforting. hot water is good.

Jim said...

Ах, да! Я помню твою огромную машину. Я думаю, что у тебя есть хорошая американская машина в России, даже если она никогда не правильно работат.

Sounds like you had quite an adventure delivering water heaters to the orphanage. But I was really hoping you might post more about your girls in room 3.10. You've introduced us to them, and now they're just background characters?

TIA, pazhal'sta.

Tami said...

You ROCK Kate! I can't imagine buying a water heater here where the conversation is all in English! :) I am thrilled those kids are going to be able to have hot showers...what a blessing.

Chris said...

What amazing things you have done for the children. You are a blessing!