31 July 2006

what did i do?

Or what didn't I do? I have stripes on mine. Why does no one else?

Help....HELP! Elle? (If your floors are clean and you've sneaked onto the computer...) Any ideas how I managed to do this?

I promise a FAB post once I get this place spruced up...


Okay, this is very confusing. I just went and clicked on different sites that have links to my blog (thank you all--I'm always so chuffed. I wanted to add a blogroll but am now being met by my templating limitations...) and the stripes are there! Everywhere! So...why am I the only one seeing them?

Maybe this is my own X-file...(really, I need to get through these dvd's so we can move on...)

part III--I have a feeling this all has to do with hosting. Here is the sentence that makes me think that:
"Do not link directly to image files on the Anti-ivy.com servers."
I don't really know HOW, but I'm supposed to host the image. Hmmm...shall I offer it a cuppa?

part IV--Still working on it. Sent Anit-ivy an e-mail asking how to use their lovely stripes. They really are nice... I took the pattern off of the paper (er..didn't mean to, but...) and the plain light grey-blue paper is just as nice. And not so dizzying. BUT, I WANT MY STRIPES!! It's a crusade now.

30 July 2006


Okay, I know this is visual madness right now. But I'm trying to decide what I like--and figure out how to put it together. I REALLY like the stripe, but I've got a huge monitor and it's a little much here... The ivy is nice, too...and there's a mirror-image of it that could take the place of the stripe and really does look nice...but...I like the stripe.

You would not believe how much exploring and experimenting I've done to get this far. I've got to quit before I go blind. I'll work on it tomorrow...

uncommonly sensible

On Friday, I met with one of the people who work in my adoption agency's St. Petersburg office. I had some questions about the paperwork that I'm required to fill out, notarized, apostille (shows the notary is legit) and then send back to the US. In the US this could be tedious. Here, it's nearly impossible.

The US consulate will notarize items (for $30 each!), but they do not apostille. And, bringing my Russian doctor to the consular notary or vice versa is nearly impossible. Grasping at straws, I asked if I could have my documents notarized by a Russian notary.

I was floored by her response! She said that only made sense and didn't see why it would be a problem. She told me that only my sworn statements needed to be notarized by the Russian notary. She said that she would ask the committee

(Let's pause here and remember that I've been watching lots of X-Files lately. "The Committee" sounded capitalized and ominous--a lot of people in suits sitting around an enormous, dimly & moodily lit table making life-changing decisions...)

about how to handle my medical forms and my local police clearance. The US issued certified copies of my birth certificate and name change decree could be notarized and apostilled in the US. (My agency in the US offered to do this for me if I sent it to them!) She's also checking to see what to do about copies that aren't certified (1040, copy of passport).

I have said time and again, on this blog and to many people who have asked me for personal recommendations of an adoption agency, how happy I am with my choice of agency. And the reasons I always give are that they are a small, Christian agency with a lot of common sense. What more could a girl ask for?

27 July 2006

poly-chotomy of the kateish spirit

I had to laugh at myself today. As someone wise once said-or should have said- The ability to laugh at oneself is a true sign of greatness.

I'd been to the consulate to pick up my post. I'd checked my e-mail, made an appointment for tomorrow with part of my agency's "Russian team", cleaned the catbox, ordered from Amazon and eaten dinner in front of an episode of Dateline sent to me by a forum friend. (Did you see this one? About the family who adopted three sets of twins from Russia? Wow.) It was only 8:30 and I had some time to kill before Sergei came (or didn't come) to fix my door at 10:00. What to do; what to do?

I made a cup of tea (really living the summertime life--caffeine after 6 p.m.) and wondered--X-Files or history of England?

That's what made me laugh. What a choice! And I was agonizing over it. Isn't it marvellous that we can have such disparate interests?

I take this for granted. I've always been encouraged to follow my interests and develop my talents (or to discover that my talents lie elsewhere!). I've had lessons in acting, singing, dance, painting, pottery, swimming, skiing, soccer, horseback riding, and a myriad of other things. Perhaps this has made me a dabbler rather than an expert. I prefer to consider myself a Renaissance woman.

This is not common amongst my Russian friends. When we were at a concert not long ago, I told my friend Marina that I thought, perhaps, I should learn to play the cello. She burst out laughing. She told me, "Katya, you are so wonderful. Who else would just say, 'I think I will learn to play the cello.'" You see, in her childhood, you specialized early and pursued that course and no other. The fact that someone over the age of 6--much less thirty years over the age of 6--would start learning the cello was novel to her.

I don't think we can blame the Soviets completely for this one. I'm often met in the US, the UK and all over the world, with expressions of, "Really? You____________?" when people learn that I horseback ride, enjoy watching the Broncos, type, tap, sew, coached undefeated soccer teams or do whatever. It's as if they think the world that they know me in--be it the theatre, the school or the church--is the only world I inhabit.

I, in turn, am surprised when people feel like they can do only ONE thing; that they've only pursued that one thing. To me, that seems like a small world. How can you only do one thing? Or, rather, how can you know that one thing is the one thing that you're best at; that it's the one thing that will make you happiest. (I'm going crazy with the semi-colons today.)

Maybe I just haven't grown up yet. When you ask a classroom of kindergartens who is a good artist, everyone raises their hands. The same response is met when you ask who is a fast runner, a good reader, a great dancer, a lovely singer, or can make the funniest face. By sixth grade, when you ask those questions, you often get a single hand raised for each role. Everyone has found their niche and, in the ways of the pre-teen, is not sure if they should venture out of it. If they leave their niche and someone else takes it, they'll be nicheless. (Thank you, Mr. Baltzer, for all those science classes.)

And you get to hear all this because I can't decide between Mulder & Scully and Lady Jane. (Interestingly, they both have very strong beliefs...hmm...)

Wishing you joy in your dabbling or your niche-ing this weekend. As for me, I think the truth is out there tonight. Though admiting that might cause me to lose my head later...

25 July 2006

t.v. or not t.v.

Let's remember that I have had no BBC Prime (my only English channel with actual shows) since April. I've made my friend Inna, who is the school-appointed go-between for me and the landlord, less of my friend because I ask her about it every fortnight. (I've learned that asking once and assuming it's being taken care is not the best way to go about things here. Persistence gets both results and resentment.) I'm not a big tv watcher, but it's hard having NO tv. I've realized that and made peace with that fact. I hope you don't think less of me.

Today I called the landlord myself. (The audacity! The presumption!) He said he told Inna IN JUNE that the only way to get BBC Prime now is to buy the satellite card in England and install it here. Of course, I'm finding this out a week AFTER I RETURNED FROM ENGLAND! Why? WHY?

(I've e-mailed a friend in England who works for the Beeb to see if she can help. Fingers crossed...)

24 July 2006


When my class has many little projects that need finishing, we dispense with our usual morning journal (analogies, a number pattern, word problems, sentences with spelling and grammar mistakes ) and I draw a big bottle of ketchup on the board. They then know they can spend the morning "catching up". See? Ahh...primary school humor.

Yesterday, one of my students (well, she's in middle school but she was in the play so she's a little bit mine) became the first person to be confirmed in the Anglican Church in St. Petersburg since the Russian revolution. They are unsure if any Anglicans were confirmed prior to the revolution. While I'm not Anglican (I don't like to "read" church) the confirmation service was very special.

Of note to those who've visited this church: They're buying hymnals!! HOORAY!! Yesterday when the bishop was there for confirmation I only knew two of the hymns. That was one more than the rest of the congregation...I find it v. embarrassing.

Beazy is holding her own. She is much better at the injections than I am. She thanks you all for your concern and realizes she is a mere cat. (She is not, however, a meerkat.)

My flat is CLEAN!! Isn't that a great feeling? I mean it's lift-up-the-rugs-and-vacuum-the-underside, scrub-the-floors and wash-all-the-slipcovers-and-throws CLEAN. I love it.

I found a treasure at Heathrow. It's the first historical fiction book my favorite contemporary historian about my favourite and most kindred historical figure. How amazing is that? I couldn't bear to waste this book on the plane ride, so I bought a fluff book for that. Now, I'm diving in and trying to read slowly. Ahhh, the joys of a good book.

Tracy is psychic. I'm not driving yet, but will have a car at the beginning of August. It will have red diplomatic plates!

No other news of note to ketchup re: the adoption, when my satellite will be fixed or where I should leave my rubbish since they've put a lock on my courtyard. Ahh, the joys of ex-pat life!

21 July 2006

send in the clowns

I'm back from England!

While I always enjoy my time in the UK, I was ready to come back to Russia. It was hot, expensive, and Medway isn't my favourite part of England. Still, I saw friends, some shows (one great, two good and one bad), and former students. I shopped for me and bought only essentials for the d2b (daughter to be--until something else strikes me). That was the expensive part. But, you'll be proud of me. I was VERY practical and limited my purchases to socks, tights and underwear. Of course, I bought them in sizes ranging from 18 months to 6... (Confession: I also bought books, dvds and two stuffed animals.)

The difference in the queues in the airports said it all. I left behind orderly lines, patient waiters, and efficient systems in Heathrow. After changing planes, I was in a line that didn't move that snaked around without rhyme or reason. The line was to get into the waiting area. The Russians around me were constantly moving up to hear what problems other people were having (mostly visas) and commenting on it to them, the officials, and everyone. (This reminded me of the same spirit that prompted helpful people to paw through my wallet while the-famous-Dawn was here shouting "Ten! Ten!" at various ticket-selling places. Communal spirit.)

At home, I found a sick cat! Beazy had been ill before I left, but things seemed to have cleared up. Not so. (And the catsitter didn't call me in England.) So, we've trekked to the vet twice in the last two days. Beazy weighs about 16 pounds and the vet is about a mile away. The nice vet we saw earlier hasn't been there and no one will tell me when she's back. Instead we saw a not-so-nice vet who cares for the animals in the St. P circus. There is a big poster of him and them in the waiting room. The not-so-nice vet mocked me for bringing in a stool sample (umm...THAT'S the problem), felt her stomach, and then prescribed a course of treatment that includes me INJECTING an antibiotic twice daily and schlepping the cat in for IV treatments at the vet every morning.

I've decided the iv part is ending tomorrow (a week early). The not-so-nice doctor has made the staff not-so-gentle. And, Beazy had a HORRIBLE vet visit in Ohio and is now terrified...and vocal. I checked things online and the iv has two drugs that look like they're for heart problems, something I can't track down, vitamin B12 and two things that look like acidopholus and something "natural". Hmm...

So, tomorrow I will tell them to take out the catheter in her forearm. They will resist. They will think I'm crazy. They will tell me that the doctor said it must continue. And then I will insist. Afterwards, I will trek to a pharmacist and try to convince them to give me the antibiotic in tablet form. If they won't (I don't have a stamp so have no authority) I'll buy novacaine (it gets mixed with her antibiotic) and syringes. I also need alcohol and something else...

This is crazy!! This also convinces me that a d2b with medical issues will be best served in the US. Euromed is better than circus doctors, but every journey here involves a little bit of tightrope walking.

04 July 2006

Happy 4th!

I'll admit it. Starting around Easter I've approached holidays, seasonal events, etc. with the attitude of "This is the last.. X ..I'll spend this way. Next year I'll ..ZED."

So, as I sit in my red t-shirt, denim hat and light khaki cropped trousers cooking bbq chicken and watching the X-Files, I can't help but think that this is the last time I'll celebrate the birth of my country, for whom I'm so grateful and so proud, independently.

Happy independence day, everyone!


ps Quote from the X-Files:

"Ninety-nine percent of the people in this world are fools and the rest of us are in grave danger of contagion."

03 July 2006

I Should've Had a G8

There are times when St. Petersburg feels very familiar. Last month it was as if I was living on the street where I grew up in Colorado Springs. The city was full of the familiar smells of choke cherry trees and lilac bushes. The air was full of bits of floating cottonwood fluff (it's been variously attributed to birch and poplar trees as well). The weather was mild and the skies were blue. It was very familiar.

Then, there are times when I know I'm living in an unfamiliar land. Often, this strikes me not in climatic differences but in what I see as tremendous inefficiency. It frustrates me no end! I asked for internet access in August and got it in January. My satellite went out in April and I'm still waiting for it to be repaired. Office workers prepare for their month-long holiday by doing little work in the fortnight prior. After all, you'd hate to start something before your holiday. And I won't even begin to detail the ridiculous process involved in exchanging my broken mobile phone.

The worst part for me, as I've mentioned before, is the widespread acceptance of this inefficiency. "That's just how it is here." That's what they expect. If it's taking four months to make a phone call about my satellite, it must be because it's very difficult. Some of it, I think, is a holdover from Soviet times. Life was a game, work was a game. Since personal initiative and efficiency was not going to result in any recognition or personal gain, the object of the Soviet game was to do as little as possible while convincing everyone that what you DID do was as difficult as possible. That way your pay-per-accomplishment went up.

The G8 summit is coming to St. Petersburg in a few weeks. That has led to a flurry of activity--and inactivity. Things along the route the G8 members will take are being spruced up. Ugly new signs of the you-are-here variety have been erected all over the city centre. We're trying to make a good impression.

At the same time, the G8 is a HUGE excuse for not getting things done. And, it's a polically correct one at that. Do you remember in "Bridget Jones, The Edge of Reason" (Safari won't let me underline or italicize on blogger...must download mozilla...) when the roadworkers and hairdressers took off work in respect of the memory of Princess Diana? That's what I feel is going on here. While I know the this is a big deal, I find it difficult to fathom that everyday life has to come to a standstill for the G8 conference.

If only I'd known about this excuse sooner! Perhaps I wouldn't have had to do report cards or register my (now famous) friend Dawn when she came to visit. The sad thing is, I'll be gone for the G8. I'm headed to England to visit friends and former pupils. If only I'd planned better I could've had a G8.

01 July 2006

Got Ink?

I've just heard about a group called Maria's Children. The following is from their website and a post from an adoption forum. While I don't have any firsthand experience with this group, I'm impressed by their website and mission statement. I place a high value on the arts as a way to learn many valuable lessons. Take a look at their website and see it for yourselves. The link is at the end. -Kate

"Maria's Children is a Moscow-based organization that provides arts therapy and training for Russian orphans. We offer an atmosphere in which children can recognize their creative potential, developing talents and self-esteem that will serve them in later life. By inviting these children into our homes, teaching them life skills, and exposing them to safe, loving family environments, we hope to improve their chances of successful integration into society." --Maria's Children website

And from an adoption forum: "They have programs in St. Petersburg, Dmitrov and now in Haiti, too, along with the U.S. based fund-raising organization. They raise funds in many ways, including selling items created with the artwork of the children. I bought Christmas cards last year, and they were beautiful.

One way they raise funds is by collecting used ink cartridges, for which they receive money. I know I have a bunch I always forget to bring back to Staples for the cash, and now I'll send them to Maria's Children instead. I thought some of you might want to do the same. It's a great and easy way to support this program - you don't even have to pay for the shipping. Here's the blurb verbatim from their newsletter.

'Gradually our income increases from the recycling project, but we could do so much more. I've estimated if each of you who receive this letter sent in just one box of used cartridges per year, we would realize about $30,000. Here's how to help. Save all your personal empty cartridges, and canvas your friends and family and even your place of business frequently for their empties, as well. Also for all used cell phones, and other small hi-tech stuff. Place a collection box at your church or service club, etc. When you have at least a small box full, call the toll-free number 1-888-628-3639 to request a free UPS mailing label. When you receive the label, put in on the box, put our return address in the space provided (Maria's Children International, 4321 West Highway 13, Savage, MN 55378), and take to your local UPS outlet or have UPS pick it up. There's no charge of any kind. About 3 weeks after you send the box, we get a check. If you'd like acknowledgement from us for your help, send us a copy of the mailing label before you send the box (or fax it to 952-736-8126). I cannot stress enough how much this can mean to us! Get passionate with this, and make a huge difference for the forgotten kids of the world!' "