30 June 2006


There is nothing like a few days in Moscow to make you thankful.

Thanks to a quick lesson from Dawn (more on her visit soon...) I was able to read my train ticket and got myself safely to Moscow. The journey was long, but the car was posh. The in-transit movies ensured a quiet ride. There was plenty of legroom and one of the videos was a Russian version of Winnie-the-Pooh. Sort of. And, then, eight hours later, I arrived.

While there is an energy and an efficiency (don't laugh--only imagine...) in Moscow that St. P's lacks, I was glad to come home. It was HOT in Moscow. It's not my city. The metro is rude.

Instead of our charming tokens and turnstiles, Moscow has scan-cards and gates that slam shut if entered wrongly. When I arrived in Moscow at 10:30 p.m. I was surprised to find it was already getting dark. I was in a hurry to get to the flat I was staying in before it was completely dark and went through the gate too quickly. I backed out and tried again. Same result. And same result again. I was about to just leave and try another gate when the young (mid 20's) man behind me said calmly, "Devochka, devochka." with the inflections Southerners use when calming a child by saying, "Honey. Sweetheart." It just means, "Girl" but I found it very reassuring. AND I made it through the gate.

I made my way to the flat and the next morning went to the Embassy where...

I filed my I600-A and got finger printed!!

(The I600-A is a visa form so that my new daughter can come to the US. The fingerprinting is just one more way to prove I'm a safe and capable parent.)

It was so nice to be at the Embassy and talk to the DHS rep who told me her job and DHS policy was to "facilitate and expedite" adoptions. She was a great help.

It was also nice to be around that American can-do attitude. When I went to pay for my I600-A, the credit card machine was broken. My heart sunk. I thought I'd made the trip to Moscow for nothing. My mind was racing to find a way to get the money for the processing fee in dollars in cash and get back before the Embassy closed.

Then, the above-mentioned rep casually said, "Why don't you just pay for it in St. Pete and send me the receipt? You can just fax it to me." I was amazed!! I've been told so many times lately that things must be done THIS way and then met with a shrug when it proved impossible. Her efforts are appreciated!!

But, even with all this positivity, I was ready to come back to St. P. On the way back on the train I was surrounded by an Italian tour group. It made for a lively traincar! When I finished reading my book, there was still an hour left before we arrived in St. P. I started playing with the four-year-old in front of me. Anastacia was happy enough to play knock-the-giraffe-off-the-seatback for a while without conversing. Then, she started to tell me all sorts of things. While my Russian is improving, I don't speak pre-schooler yet. He grandmother and I tried to explain that I didn't understand, that I spoke another language. (Grandmother at first told her I was Italian and was surprised to find I was American.) This concept of another language was, well, foreign to her.

Anastacia persisted. I found myself murmuring things in English, just as you do with any toddler-babble, that I knew perfectly well how to say in Russian. So, I just switched languages. When she'd pause in her monologue and it was my turn to speak, I'd just say, "PRAHvela?" (Really?) and when she'd reassure me, "Da." I'd reply, " HArasho." (Good.) Then she'd be off again. I'd vary this with other answers (No, really?) and some simple questions when I'd catch a word I knew. When I heard her say "sleep" I asked if she was tired. She assured me she was. Her grandmother was so tickled!! She asked the girl, "Does she understand you?" My little friend replied, "KaNECHna!" (Of course!)

Yesterday was harasho. Pravela? Kanechna!

29 June 2006


I have been perpetrating, albeit unknowingly, a fraud.

St. Petersburg does *not* ever have 24 hours of daylight. Never. Even on our longest days last week, the sun set around 11:30 p.m. and rose around 4:30 a.m. Granted, that's a long day. And, when you figure in the added twilight and dawn times that extend the light, it is a long day. It's a very long day. It's a day that's so long that it's difficult to sleep and we're all walking around a little sleep deprived.

But we don't have 24 hours of daylight. Sorry for misleading you. (I feel as cheated as you do, believe me...)

18 June 2006


In an attempt to see if anyone is really reading this, I've added a cluster map. Come back again and see if you're on the map!


15 June 2006


This is primarily for my theatre-friends, but that rest of you are welcome to eavesdrop.

Here in St. Petersburg, I have *one* theatre-friend. My other theatre-friends will understand, perhaps, how important it is to have at least one kindred artistic spirit nearby. Alosha and I talk theatre, swap cd's, sing in the middle of sentences, praise Sondheim, argue for and against various performances and agonize over our general lack of theatre in St. P. Yes, we have ballet, opera, and symphonies, but there is a distinct lack of musical theatre.

There is something in me that CRAVES theatre--musical theatre, Shakespeare, comedies, dramas... I need it. I'm not fully me without it. Alosha is a great playmate who will brave the musical theatre scene in Russia with me. We went to see Cabaret earlier this year. It was a pretty dismal performance, but just being in a THEATRE was great. Besides--we had a great time tearing the show apart. (We did like one of the actors--we're not heartless.)

Alosha is going back to Minsk tomorrow. [Goodbye kindred theatre friend! I'll be on my own again. (Yes, I did sing "On My Own" as I typed that.)] We went to see one last show tonight. It was called "Julia" but was only loosely based on the movie by the same name. While not everyone in the show was good, I had a ball! (Come on theatre friends--you know critiquing the bad parts of a show can be almost as fun as being transported by the good ones. It is fun talk over why it's bad and how you'd do it differently. This wasn't a bad show...it just had some weak spots. Perfect.) I understood the plot --and even explained it to Alosha in parts. (No, I'm not speaking Russian yet. I just speak musical theatre.) One of the actresses in particular, Valentina Panena, was SO good! Her comic timing was amazing. I understood everything she did, laughed at her jokes, and thoroughly enjoyed myself. Alosha has seen her before and said she was just as good then.

After the show, I decided we should go and meet her. I thought I was a perfect intro--he could tell her that his American friend who speaks no Russian understood everything she did and thought she was excellent. Alosha took a little convincing regarding the brilliance of my plan. Approaching an actor, apparently, is just not done. I told him I would be thrilled if someone stopped me after a show and told me that they adored my performance even thought they only spoke Russian. Finally overcoming his reticence, he asked a soundman if we could meet her--using the Amerikanski padrooga angle. The soundman immediately took us backstage--and left us in the middle of a dressing area! Other actors were there removing clothes & make-up...but since they weren't all good and we didn't want to speak to THEM, we felt a little weird. After waiting a few minutes, we decided to wait outside the dressing room.

Our hopes were dashed when a grumpy usher (woman aged 50ish) was there, too. She was not pleased to see us exiting the dressing room. Alosha quickly charmed her (he's good at that) and conveyed our story. She said Valentina wouldn't come out that way (and she obviously wasn't letting us back in) but she'd tell her our story. Alosha was resigned. I, however, felt responsible for us leaving the dressing area and having him miss the chance to talk to her. So, in true kateish fashion, I decided we could find another way.

Alosha refused to ask the cashier or anyone where the stage door was, so I started exploring. He was back to being unconvinced regarding plan brilliance, so I told him he could go home but I was going to find the door. He asked what I'd tell her (strong implication that my lack of Russian would make this impossible). I said I'd tell her "Excellent, excellent. Thank you." He tagged along.

Soon we found the stage door--with a bench outside it! It can't be THAT "not done" if there's a bench.

Valentina came out and Alosha jumped up and greeted her. She was SO nice!! And, I did tell her, "Ehtleechna, Ehtleechna. Spacebo bolshoi." as planned. She gave me her phone number and invited me to see other shows she is in. She's working with three different theatre companies right now. She told Alosha that no one had been able to do that in Soviet times. An actor had to be attached to a theatre company. (This is still the case in Belarus, says Alosha.) Now, she can do whatever project moves her. She said we can get together and she will speak English and I will speak Russian and we will learn together.

I believe in magic. There's a special light between day and twilight that's pink and still and full of magic. There is an energy when a play comes together perfectly and is shared between actors and with the audience that is palpable. There's a simple joy that comes from creating. There's a peace that settles on my classroom when everyone is busy and happy. These are all magic to me; as magical as fairy rings and wishes on stars.

Tonight was filled with magic.

I just felt full of ME as I walked home over the bridge. I was lighter, sparklier, skippier and more...awake, more content, more me. That is magical, too.

10 June 2006


A panda walks into a cafe. After perusing the menu, he orders and eats his meal. When he has finished eating, he pulls out a gun, fires two shots into the air, and heads for the exit.

"Why?" asks the confused waiter. The panda produces a poorly punctuated wildlife manual and tosses it over his shoulder. "I'm a panda," he says. "Look it up."

The waitier turns to the relevant entry and, sure enough, finds an explanation:

"Panda. Large black-and-while mammal native to China who eats, shoots and leaves."

Moral: Punctuation really does matter even if it is only occasionally a matter of life and death.

(This is from the book Eats, Shoots and Leaves--a brilliant book that I could have written and thoroughly enjoyed. It's nice to know others share my passion for correct punctuation. It gives me hope. Writing is a form of communication. Punctuation enables the reader to understand the writer. Or, when incorrectly used, punctuation casues the reader's blood pressure to sky rocket as she mutters about the idiocy of some people...Read the book and think of me. Of course, it may give you insights you never wanted into the kateish mind...)

07 June 2006

nearly 3rd graders

Well here they are--the nearly-third-graders at AASSP. I thought, since you've been hearing about them all this year, you might like one last picture. This is my favourite spring picture. I think it shows what a kind, happy class we are.

04 June 2006

we interrupt this blog...

Much as I'd love to be writing a nice long blog for you, that will have to wait. We're in our last few weeks of school and I've been spending MUCH too long on the computer in the last week--creating yearbook pages and an "Important Book" keepsake for each second grader. And, since neither my 1920's desk at home nor my computer tables at school are ergonomically designed, I've been having some problems. I think the best way to heal is just to stay off the computer. That is a hard task--especially since my mobile phone is broken and my sattelite is out! Time to break out the books and dvd's...or for the rain to stop so I can get out...

More soon!