Thursday, April 22, 2004


Friday afternoon blogging…

So much is going on. I think I like to be busy. For the most part the whole of last year I was involved with the book and with finding an agent etc… I was calling that work. I know it felt like work and certainly I stuck to a schedule for it; at the internet by 8:00, keeping up with my word count, trying to keep the ideas flowing. You have to know that writing books is not an easy thing to do for anybody, anywhere but I would think that trying to do such a thing at a public internet café where they have a predilection for losing your stuff every now and then just makes it all the more harder. It was work. I just didn’t get paid.

But it is different now. I am trying different things, new ideas. I am much more deeply involved with some of the things I have here and I am certainly allowing a closer connection to the town as a whole. And as a result, they are allowing themselves a closer connection to me. Ironically though, when I first got here, one of the things I liked about the place was how hands off everyone was with me. I thought of this as politeness then. Now, I know this to be a combination of several different sorts of emotions and preconceptions, but the results are still the same.

This is both good and bad; but for a guy like me who does tend to like a little privacy and minds his own business, I appreciated not having to deal with a bunch of too forward and aggressive leechlike hangers-on who have nothing better to do then to amuse themselves by bothering other people. Poland was miserable on that count. But the downside is that if you are actually opening the doors and allowing for events to take place, that reserve tends to add to the slowness. Interesting how that works out.

This question of slowness was raised during my talk the other morning to the economic university here. I was asked to speak about American manners and styles of doing business, and I was asked during the question and answer session after my talk if I thought that the basic reason for the level of poverty in Belarus was because of some laziness on the part for the Belarusians. My less-political-than-you-would-think answer was that it was more about a lack of resources and all of those years without private property and a current lack of export. I do believe in this far more than I would blame either the work ethic or Mr. Lukashenka. I mean, I know that the “line” on work during communist times was that people padded the wages, but I think that this is true for all people; it is certainly true in the states as well. No, you need to have something to work with if you are going to do something and lacking natural materials and resources will slow any enterprise down.

But, as I said, I am trying. And it is not easy. However, all trying seems to lead to at least some results and I find I have found some things, like opportunities to talk to students and such. I don’t know to what extent this will lead to other opportunities, but it is indeed something.

However, I must tell you that all of this trying is wearing me out. When exactly did I get this old? I remember the injuries and I have always felt the little “extra” pains I have been privileged enough to have been given, but when exactly did I become so old that I measure my time and energy so closely. There is so much to do and yet all of it requires more movement than my body wants to make. And what argument can you make to your body? Here I am talking inspirational messages to all of these yet immortal young people about “planning your work and working your plan” and how “winners never quit and quitters never win”. Christ, I am selling running shoes and I don’t even feel like walking!!!

And then there is the dubious truth that I am in fact putting my hands on a group of people who have demonstrated that keeping their hands off one another is their way! What is up with that? Talk about Catch 22’s…

But they need it. They all need it. The kids at the bike school did great at the races last week and I simply have to believe that my handiwork and time had at least something to do with that. My man Andrei, my new thirteen-year-old hero, discarded his regular ride when the new bottom bracket failed and rode Max’s too heavy for racing touring bike to a fourth place finish- just missing a place on the podium buy a pitiful few seconds. This despite peddling a bike of a different size and geometry then he had been training on. The command as whole also placed a respectable fifth and there were more than a few success stories.

And I am there fussing over whether or not the toe straps are tightened down, or if the wheels are rubbing against a brake pad;
“Don’t use the rear break until the end of the time trial!” I am screaming to a 10 year old just seconds before is number is to be called, his nervous eyes telling me he will accept anything that might help him to go just a little faster. “Just use the front when you make your turn. That right one will slow you down and there is nothing I can do about it until we get back to the shop!” I didn’t tell him that there was probably nothing I could do about it there either; 20-year-old brakes simply are what they are…

So is it enough? A friend wrote me asking me if I was “too happy here” to think about going back to the states. Too happy… can you imagine such a phrase? Too happy... Am I happy? We got no money. We grub for so little here it bends the mind to even do the numbers on paper. And I must work for less!!!

In my heart, I think about what could have been, what should have been. I still think about Poland and those fucking judges. I still just cannot believe that such people inhabit the world. And then I think of our own embassies, the US embassies and what they have been like to me and are like to those who still think that the streets in the states as being paved with gold (I am sorry, we cannot allow you a visa to the United States at this time. Thank you for $100 application fee. I am sorry it was a month’s wage. Have a nice day.). I wonder why they needed to steal what tiny little money I had. That money was supposed to be for simply being here and making a little something that would have helped and/or made things a little better, a little more interesting, maybe a little nicer… But these folks don’t even answer my mail; such a piece of human garbage apparently am I.

Are we poor because we are lazy? That is what that attractive teacher asked me in front of forty or so of Belarus’ hope for the future. They are all running away from here, the kids are. You must know this and that they believe that that is the only way. There is no sense of home among them at this age. They are waiting their release from what they see as a prison. They don’t know that we in the states all felt the same at that age or that they simply have their own set of excuses and people to blame. They didn’t get to spend time with a girl who actually made it to the states, found a nice man and got married there, but now only pines for home because of how “real” it is as compared to life in the states. How “real” it is! They don’t know how lucky they are to have a scapegoat like Lukashenka; we had to blame our parents for all of our problems and how fucked up we are…Evil dictator my ass; the man takes mom and dad right off the hook, doesn’t he?

No children, you are not lazy and neither am I. Just look at how much work I did! Where am I lazy? It is just a different and far more difficult world that we have made for ourselves. The difference is that the work used to be measured by how much was done together and now you must be measured alone. No guys, you are not lazy, you are only being asked to live under amazingly difficult circumstances. Circumstances made more difficult BECAUSE people refused to accept a few certain truths about how we really are all the same in the end, we humans.

Is there an inspirational message from me still? Sure: If I can try, you can try. And I am and I have been for even less money then you get. No, it is not because of laziness that we are so poor. It is that THEY don’t listen. Nor do THEY care. And that is the way it really is. Or didn’t you know that already?

Keep those cards and letters coming.

Oh, and for what it is worth, I just got the message that the court is going to meet again and discuss the verdict. I don’t know the date yet, but I assume I will be shortly… Maybe they are waiting for the two year anniversary of Zaremba’s driving his car into me. Tempo is everything don’t you know…

More soon.