30 April 2008

too good (eta)

Here I was, feeling pretty positive. Almost all of my paperwork was ready. I was just waiting for a few bits to arrive from various states, and then we'd finally, FINALLY be READY!

This morning my principal let me know that my landlord is not renewing my lease.

You know what that will mean.

A new homestudy. Another sw flown in to see the new flat. New pictures. New lease. And another reason to claim my lifestyle is too unstable to adopt.

I'm going to see if we can push and get everything filed before my lease expires and then amend. But, I just didn't see this coming.

I don't think I'll be a very good second grade teacher today. I'm typing this with my back to the class and struggling to breathe and not cry. Silly. It's not insurmountable. I'll have a cup of tea and get on with things.

Aw. A student just said, "Oh good! This will be fun! I LOVE a-b-c." He was excited because all our words start with un- this week. Maybe second grade is a good place to be after all.

ETA: Also had a cc of an e-mail from my sw saying she's not certain the new rules in Russia will apply to associations of social workers as opposed to sw affiliated with an actual agency. Am counting on the stellar reputation of my new agency to work this one out for us.

There was no reason given for the landlord's decision. It could be they want to sell, to convert it for business, to have it available for family...

We've heard there's another flat in my building that may be available from a different landlord. Please send up prayers fot that to be my new flat! At least it would have the same street address...if not the same apartment number and landlord. That's gotta be stable...

Tina, I'm in Russia for another school year. International schools sign contracts early and I'm already committed for 2008-9. I have good friends here whose shoulders are very damp today! I'm grateful for them and their support.

clarification. not complanining.

I don't actually land on the floor. I wake up half-way through and do some kind of half-gainer to get myself back in bed. Leaves my heart racing!

Black out drapes aren't an option because they also block out AIR. There is no air conditioning in this flat (not much in the city) and it gets very close and very still in the flat if the windows aren't opened to the "fresh" air. I'm thinking black posterboard on the windows...

And, I DO have drapes that black out all light in the guest rooms. It doesn't help, even when it's cool. I can feel that the sun is out.

For now, the psych minor in me says to treat myself like a child--with a strict bedtime routine that signals "time to sleep" since the darkness doesn't. So, it's lavendar bath, brush teeth, melatonin, story and sleep. Fan on (lowering body temperature is the biggest thing you can do to bring on sleep. Marie are you reading? I learned that at the TS seminar we attended!) is important for noise and temperature. It helps...but I just don't sleep well.

It's just the way it is. It will be better in September. Even summer is a *little* better because I can nap during the day and sleep the odd hours my body prefers.

Thanks for chiming in!

29 April 2008

let there be dark

I promise not to spend the next four months complaining about the light. Entirely. I mean, I've done that for the last three years, right? Time for something new. Who wants to hear complaining? And, I realize those of you who haven't experienced White Nights might think it's amazingly cool. (I thought so before I moved here...even though I knew what a hard time I have further south in England in the summers, I still thought it would be a fun thing to experience.) I don't want to dampen your enthusiasm. And, truly, my Russian friends LOVE it. I'm just not assimilated. ;>

Two things before I abstain from light complaints. Entirely.

1. My cat, Beazy, now expects to be fed at 4 am because it's light. She becomes very affectionate and then very vocal. I, not wanting to reinforce this unwanted behaviour by feeding her, spend the following two hours arguing and reasoning with a cat: (surely that's a sign of sleep deprivation--cat arguing)

No, Beaze, it's not time to eat.
It's only 4:00.
Just because it's light doesn't mean it's morning.
I am not getting up. You are not eating.
No. NO.
I am not going to feed you so you might as well just stop.
Beaze, seriously--NO.
(Flails leg so cat jumps from bed. And returns.)

TWO hours. But I didn't give in...I also didn't sleep.

2. Sleeping with a mask on must make me lose all depth perception. I know this may not sound odd. Surely, with a mask on one has no depth perception.

The curious thing is that I start falling out of bed when I sleep with a mask on. Several times a night. Usually headfirst. Very. scary. feeling.

Does this mean that when I roll over I am actually opening my eyes unknowingly and I can't do that with the mask on or does it mean that there is some sort of sensor (maybe on my eyelids) that I'm blocking with the mask? Hmmm.... I know I can FEEL the sun out even with my eyes closed *and* my mask on... (I have no idea how that ties in, but just wanted you to have all the information possible before you made your hypothesis.)

27 April 2008

T, please

I think if I could only shop at stores that began with one letter for the rest of my life I'd choose "t".

Trader Joe's
TJ Maxx
The Gap (It counts. I made the rules**.)

And I bet there are more...
But, really, who could need more than that?

The mall doesn't and would never count. I am mall-phobic. Too many people there. And, as my friend Marina told her husband about me, after he was protesting that she shouldn't say that they didn't like people, "It's okay. Kate doesn't like people, either." I pointed out that I greatly enjoy persons--many individuals. I just don't like people--a big group of them. (It counts. I made the distinction.) Actually, I like to be in FRONT of them, just not in AMONGST them.

Okay--choose your letter. What letter would you choose?

**"The" counts only if it is now or ever was on the store's signage for as long as I can remember. It does not count when applied in the (infuriating) midwestern tendency to refer to all places as "the + proper noun"--the Kroger, the Target, the Applebees, etc. And I really, REALLY wish people would quit saying "you welcome" instead of "you'RE welcome, but that's another post.

Yes, this flash of insightfulness came upon me all of a sudden last night...much like the time I decided if I could only eat foods starting with one letter it would be "p".

26 April 2008

digressions from the theme (long)

**Warning: As I was writing, I realized this post meaders the way my speech does. But, it's staying as-is. My friend Suzanne says of me often, "Segues are for children". (Hey, I should add that to the quote rotation.) when I mentally leap without warning. They don't seem like leaps to me...

May the force be with you as you read. (That's another one for up top.)

What a loooong week. It was good, just long. (Note: This turned in to a looooong post. Feel free to read in installments. Do not attempt to cook while reading as you're likely to burn your food if you're at all like me.)(And like Anne of Green Gables.)

On Monday, I sliced my index finger and fingernail (it's a sharp knife) while I was slicing some ciabatta (it was a little stale) for lunch (turkey breast--roasted in rosemary--and homemade honey mustard...which is honey and mustard). It hurt then and still does. And, typing with a band-aid (part of my d2b stockpile, but I didn't think she'd mind) is both difficult and frustrating. So I did as little of it as possible.

On Tuesday and Wednesday, second grade hosted a living museum about the culture of children around the world. They researched, wrote their own monologues, painted backgrounds and gathered a costume. I was really proud of them! It was great. But, I have some students who have great difficulty with any changes to our usual classroom practices. I was a happy, but tired teacher.

On Thursday (Here's where it gets long.) I went to pick up the paperwork my former agency (Still am hesitant to name them.) had. The rep here has been hard to get ahold of to schedule a meeting time (or to ask her to just post it) so I finally sent a message that said, basically, I'll be there Thursday after school. See you then! A Russian friend of mine called the office to confirm. This was a good thing becuase they've moved their office!

New address in hand, (Prospekt Stachek 47) I left school Thursday afternoon. I had to stop and get gasoline. My gas tank has a leak in it, and it can only be half-full. (We had a funny situation the day the torch came through. I had filled the car up, thinking I'd be going to see the girls. But, as already mentioned, the roads were closed. So, my car dripped. The fire department was called! They were there, keeping a steam of water washing the benzine away. They got ahold of me through the consulate and we moved the car so that it dripped into soil instead of on pavement...where a stray cigarette spark could do damage. It was, of course, much more involved than that. But, I digress.) (And, yes, a repair is in the works. It's just taking awhile to arrange.) I had enough fuel to get to the closest gas station and then I'd be fine. That gas station was closed. It's hard to gas stations in the city centre, but I knew of one more that was on my way. I made it, praying all the while. God is very good to never let me run out of gas...especially in Russia! (Have I shared with you my mental picture of the angels all sitting around a waiting room, all light-and-cloud-filled, playing cards? Then, the invention of the car occurs and all the angels scramble out of the room. They have had much more to do since then.) The gauge was below the thick, empty line. I really wish it had a light. A light is so much more helpful. In my last car, the light meant one gallon left. I could hit the counter and know just how far I had left. Yes, I know it's better to keep the tank half full. That way, if you get some bad gas it will do less damage. But, somehow, it doesn't work out for me to apply that knowledge...

I still had plenty of time to get to the office. And, after taking stock of the building numbers (This is no mean feat as they're about six inches square in most places and very difficult to read whilst driving. That's part of my ever-evolving post "open letter to the minister of transportation".) I was pleased to discover that the new office *should* be closer to me than the old one.

I was very pleased when I saw 41-47 on a building. I needed 47, so I parked at the end of the block (these are long blocks in this part of the city) and got out. (Did you catch that I actually found a parking space where I wanted? I'll let you wallow in amazement for a minute. I did.) I couldn't see 47. I walked back up the block and confirmed 41-47. Yep. I walked back. I went in to a random shop and said, "Hello. I only speak a little Russian. (apologetic, imploring and winning smile) I need to find Stachek 47. Do you know where? Is it there?" [Much like Inigo Montoya in The Princess Bride (Our kiddos could choose that for yesterday's movie night--more on that later)(I love parentheses within brackets!)(But, I don't like having to go back and change the initial parenthsis to a bracket--because I don't often know that I will parenthsize further when I beging parenthesizing {It should be a word.}. Shouldn't that happen automatically? It should def be an auto correct option.) I would repeat this phrase several times. You can join in, if you like. (I should insert the audio of me saying this in Russian so you can learn this useful phrase. Nah.)

(I'll try to keep the paragraphs shorter so you can follow along more easily.)

The first man told me to go further.

The second man (when I'd walked another block and thought surely I *must* be there...even though it said 45 outside), who was in the second shop (It was actually the second to last shop from the direction I came.) (The first/last was a militsia station--no thanks. And, the second shop in the second block is much more lyrical.) told me to go futher, past the bridge.

The third person in the third block (who was a woman) told me, after a long conversation, that there was a business center in the *next* block. It was past a bank and then there was another bank. (I don't know what this place was, but it was *high* security and she was dressed in camos.)

The fourth person, in the second bank, in the fourth block (this is now about a half-mile from where I parked) took me outside and showed me where to go. When I started to pass the door (it was right next door, but I didn't catch that) he called out and set me straight.

The fifth person I asked was a security guard who was not allowed to speak.

The sixth person (whom I hadn't asked instead of the fifth person because she looked busy and he, clearly, was not) quickly changed from being irritated at being interrupted to being irritated with him for not helping. Fun. I could see on her list the office number! But, I didn't know what the firm was called here in Russia. (Can you sense how UNhelpful the contact here was in NOT providing me with any of this information!?!??) I kept repeating the office number to her, telling her I needed papers, adoption papers. She finally said part of the name of my agency's sister agency! I leapt on it (DA!) and completed it. (It was like a test in a fairy tale or a password in a spy novel.) We were both beaming.

She took my passport details (nach), (Rach, I was carrying it in one of your little bags! It's a little big, but easy to find in my bag.) issued me with a security door-swiper, and let me in. Oorah!

I found the office and walked in. It was not the English-speaker I knew, so I stared in Russian (I'm italicized and she is not.) --

Hello. My name is Kate Xxx. Do you have my documents? I need my papers.
Hello. Do you speak Russian?
Only a very little.
But, you speak Russian.
Just a little. I speak a very little Russian.
But, you DO speak Russian?
(in English) A little.
(in English) Actually, I am the translator here. (Must have replaced V.) So, I think we can understand each other well. (!!)

She gave me my papers to look through and left. I was surprised to see only the English paperwork and nothing in Russian. My first $6000 fees, that were paid long ago, were for document preparation and translation. I think I'd have a good case for getting some of that money returned, but just can't face more conflict there. I'd rather just move on and not look back.

I left, found my car, made a wrong turn going back that I've made before (frustrates me no end), and was singing from Secrect Garden, "Getting lost is how you learn." (I had to sing it several times before I could remember from which musical it came.) I wiggled around and was in the right place again. After ages and ages sitting in traffic, I made it home.

At home, I marvelled and fumed at the cleaner's constant inability to pick anything up and clean under it! I know this seems like poor-me... Whoever thought I'd have a cleaner to begin with? She only charges 500r for three hours. And I'm complaining? YES. I am paying her. I have told her. Repeatedly. And she just cleans around things--a piece of paper on my desk means the desk doesn't get dusted, the cd player in the bathroom sitting against the wall has footprints, a book leaning against the tv means a triangle of dust, a cat toy on the carpet means she'll vacuum around it. It's nuts. NUTS. If I take everything off a shelf she'll clean it. Otherwise, it's unlikely. This is an old building in a dirty, polluted city on a busy road, so a cleaner is not only culturally expected but almost necessary. And she doesn't clean!

I then popped 17 bags of popcorn and divided them into smaller portions (Remember the sliced finger? Adding salt tothe wound was not fun.) for student council to sell tomorrow. My microwave's timer doesn't work if you set it for over two minutes (I learned that the hard way. I reccomend wiping all the burnt scum out and then microwaving a lemon cut in half and squeezed several time to get rid of the smell. It works better than baking soda, vinegar, candles or bread.) so I had to stand there while they popped and guess when they were popped.

On Friday, we had our first Lower School Student Council (I'm the faculty advisor.) bake sale to benefit endangered animals. We also had movie night. Students could choose to stay and watch either The Princess Bride or Annie (the old one with Carol Burnett, Ann Reinking and Bernadette Peters). (These movies were chosen by LSSC. The second grade girls had danced to Hard-Knock Life in my dance class, so they were eager to see Annie.)

Last night I caught up on Grey's and today I watched Lost! This afternoon, I have to print out some photos of my flat so that I can fed ex everything [except the psych eval--further instructions from the St. P MOE (even though I won't be in St. P they have to be involved) are needed] on Monday. Or Tuesday. Or as soon as the office can arrange it.

So. Nothing big. Just a lot of littles. (Hope you don't feel cheated if you've actually read all of this and nothing big happened.)

k ;>

19 April 2008

changing seasons

It's 9:54 p.m. It's overcast, but not yet dark. Behind the purply-grey clouds, the sky is still blue outside my window. You know what that means...

It's time to say goodbye to mud season and welcome sleep-deprivation season.

15 April 2008

a lighter note (eta)

Thank you all so much for letting me share, for your encouragement and your good wishes. You really are too kind in your opinions of me!

I thought it might be a while between posts. But, walking to school today was certainly postworthy.

It was a nice walk to school--a bit crisp, but the sun was up. The streets were fairly empty of both cars and people. I thought I might have spotted my friend walking across the Field of Mars, but didn't want to shout to find out. I started across the bridge.

About a third of the way across (It's a long bridge...maybe...a quarter of a mile? I'll go check. Aha. It's 578.3 meters. That means nothing to me. Wait. I'm amazing! I went to onlineconversion--a fav of mine--and found out it's .36 miles. ) a man stopped and asked me where the Aurora was. This is a common request. I, ever wanting to be helpful, and always a little proud of myself when I can answer in Russian, told him where it was. (Not that amazing. It was, "There. Not far. To the left.") The man thanked me. And fell into step. He seemed friendly and chatty.

Soon the conversation was beyond me and I told him that I only spoke a little Russian. He asked me if I spoke German. (Ususally it's Finnish...) Nein. He asked if I spoke English. I said I did. By this time his arm was around me. I didn't think much of it. It's a narrow sidewalk on the bridge and it just seemed a friendly gesture. Really. Just friendly. It's a touchy-feely walking culture here which I like. Usually.

He continued to speak Russian to me, telling me he was a sailor and lived on the water and then declared in English, "I am submarine captain. I have no money. I want you." To which I replied, "You can't have me." (I can say this in Russian, too.) and laughed it off. (The Russian office staff thought this answer was hilarious when the story was retold.)

He persisted (I'm guessing) in Russian. I stopped, shrugged out of his arm, and bent to tie my shoe. (Um, it didn't really need to be tied.) I hoped this would allow him to carry on walking without me. It didn't. He waited. Patiently. When my shoe had been untied and retied twice, I started walking again.

He went to put his arm around me again and I straight-armed him, firmly but not violently, and told him no. I then looked back and saw my friend approaching full-speed ahead. "Maya padrooga!" I was rescued. He thought was obviously of the more the merrier mindset! He welcomed her to our little walking party and started to tell her about his submarine. She stopped to tie her shoe. (Great minds, eh?) When we started walking, he started to tell her he had no money. I told him she didn't have any money either. Neither of us had any money. (I can say that in Russian, too. ;> )

And we left. We just picked up a little speed and walked the rest of the way to school. He called after us, but we didn't look back. Okay, friend kept a close eye on his progress. He didn't follow us. He headed toward the Aurora and stopped to talk to the street cleaner on the way. Really, he was harmless and probably a still little drunk from last night.

But, it made for a good story this morning. That's certainly one thing that's never happened to me on the way to school at home!

eta: It really wasn't a scary or threatening situation. He was harmless. It was just a quirky little experience.

14 April 2008


I've been rather disengaged from the blogoshpere...and life in general...lately. My apologies. It's been a tough time for me. This last week has been particularly difficult. I guess after 2+ years waiting, I was due.

Last Monday's visit hit me hard. Every visit with the girls is more precious as I see more and more of who the girls really are--Children's Home: Uncensored. I know them better and enjoy them more. But, it's also harder to leave. Knowing who these little people are that I drive away from, covered with hugs and kisses and good wishes, just makes it that much harder to leave them behind.

I visited the girls in the orphanage to celebrate K and Ka's birthdays. Ka was happy with her requested present of a hairdryer. K had asked for shower gel. (LUSH fans, I gave her a giant bottle of Happy Hippy.) I also put some lotion and body spray I'd been given, a hairbrush, some funky soap, a shower puff and some ponytail holders into a pink gift bag.

K looked through the bag, smelling the gel and spraying the body spray. She didn't know what the lotion was. She asked me if it was for her teeth. She is 12.

This just shattered me. This is an amazing little girl that I love. And it's not the fact that she didn't know what lotion was that hurts my heart. It is all the simple love and care that lotioning represents that she's missed out on in her life. She has never been lifted, warm from the bath, and cuddled in a towel and been lotioned from head to toe. No one has seen her winter-day hands or windburnt cheeks and smoothed lotion on them to stop the itching. Her painful, sunburnt legs have never been eased with lotion.

I explained it was cream for after her shower. She, very seriously, in my exact words, explained it to the caretaker later. I didn't cry then. But, every time I think of this, I cry. I am not a cry-er.

My next plan for the girls is a manicure/pedicure session. I've already bought the foot soak, scrub and cream. I've got everything needed to put on and take off nail polish. But, it doesn't really ease my heart. It's a very small drop in a very large bucket. I'm literally sick about what K's missed. I've had a week of headaches and spontaneous teary outbursts. This is very, very unlike me.

Please, my praying friends, pray for my girls in room 3.10.

09 April 2008


i am not in the best frame of mind. haven't been for awhile. i don't think i can even manage to capitalize today. and, i was ambushed by my pet peeve (see title) and realized all over again...

people are stupid.

i actually went out A SECOND TIME today (did i mention that i don't feel like getting out of my pajamas, much less my flat?) to get a phone card so i could make some "paperwork" calls from a friend's (because my phone isn't working) to arrange for my bank statements, etc. to be sent.

stupid dixis. stupid, stupid, useless, stupid dixis. they didn't have an apollo card. (apollo cards are excellent, reliable, inexpensive, non-stupid international calling cards.) they sold me a matrix card. (i have neither heard of nor used a matrix card prior to today.) it's useless. USELESS.

i call. i enter my pin. they prompt me to enter the phone number i'm calling. i do. they prompt me to enter the phone number i'm calling. i do. they prompt me to enter the phone number i'm calling. i don't. i am connected to customer service. (*note: this is the number printed on the card for english speaking customers. no one there speaks english. stupid, useless customer "service".) customer service says blah blah blah after i give them the pin code and number. i ask, "karta ne robotat?" yes. it doesn't work. i can't argue with them. all i can say is it's a new card. i do the shopping today at dixis. transfer, transfer, transfer. vivaldi over and over. (coda) finally someone in english says, "you should try to connect again." and hangs up. i do.

(please read the previous paragraph through to the coda and then continue below.)

they connect my call. great, but i'm wondering how i'll make the other calls i need to after this. use customer "service" each time? groan. but, BUT the man at ing cannot hear me. at all. i repeat myself. i speak louder and longer. i shout and startle the cat. the ing man (whom i picture wearing an orange tie) cannot hear me. at all. the card is useless. USELESS. stupid, stupid,useless matrix people/card.

but i'm not getting dressed to return it until tomorrow. return something. in russia. HA! but i'll try...

08 April 2008


* Old agency has been gracious and forthcoming. Refund of ppr deposit is on the way and I can schedule a time to pick up documents. They've even asked for news and pictures when I adopt.

* I woke up Saturday with the luxurious feeling that comes with knowing I have a whole.week.off. I love that.

* I tried to visit the girls to celebrate birthdays on Saturday, but was thwarted by the Olympic torch. So, I watched the flame instead. Pix later. Mostly, it was a madhouse.

*I did visit the girls yesterday. It was a surprise visit and they tore down the stairs shouting my name after someone spotted my car. I love the "all access" pass that I've earned over my visits. Yesterday I ate lunch with them, watched them sort through donated clothes (very interesting dynamics) in their sleeping room (bright quilts and what looks like new paint), and then had tea and our "party" with them alone.

*I love the way L always takes charge of me and makes sure I know that to do. I love that they take turns trying to make me understand what everyone is asking. Yesterday they figured out what my zholty kneega (yellow book) actually was--an English/Russian dictionary!

* There is a lot of repair work going on that the orphanage. Hooray!! I'm thrilled. There are new window and walls being installed. The girls were excited but didn't like the mess and the smell. They say the repairs will continue through the summer.

*Birthday gifts were well-received. Everyone enjoyed planting sunflowers, eating brownies and ice cream, and getting a blanket for their kookla (doll). The blankets were a big hit. So was taking pictures with my camera.

*I'm paperchasing the rest of this week.

02 April 2008


Jim sent me this photo of a rook that he took last fall. Believe me when I say that this is a small specimen. He seems to be bowing to Jim's photographic genius. Don't let this submissive act fool you.

Thanks, Jim!

(Thanks, too, for all the offers of tuna! I'm tempted...Tuna is not a big craving of mine, but it might be nice to have some in the house. How long of a shelf life do the pouches have?)