Friday, February 27, 2004


We are having problems here of a serious nature here. It's about money.
Todays blog is a writing was something originally on April 25th, 2003.

Nada dzit… nada dzit. Vshyo budit xorasho…
Had a conversation with Irene, Tatyana’s mother, this morning early while she was cooking. It was a long night. It was cold and there was one last fight between Tatyana and myself at the end of the day that pretty much ripped things. Irene was very nice though. We talked about the jam she was putting on the bread I was taking with some tea. She was speaking about how she and Victor and Igor would take the bus or the train out to the country and pick the berries. This batch was made with three, blackberries, raspberries and strawberries. There was also a three-liter bank of juice from this as well. Not too sweet, only a little sugar. It was very nice. She had made some cake in a pan and she spread the preserves over it to make a nice tort. She also made some colored eggs (made purple by soaking them in onion skins, and stuffed cabbages they call gullubois. I ate way too much.
Yesterday was not a good day. Tatyana had to work and Igor had the day off. I was up very early and riding first thing. I like it when the streets are empty and I can just ride around without having to go down the road. There is a river, the Pina, that runs through Pinsk and it was very calm in the morning. After writing for a few hours, I tried to get the bank machine to give me some money, but it wouldn’t. I don’t know what the problem is. I didn’t miss count and I didn’t spend more then I could, but for some reason I am unable to get any money. This doesn’t help. The money situation has become somewhat profound at the moment. But there is simply noting I can do. A year ago, I borrowed some money to try and do some things here, but the polkas decided they needed to kidnap and rob me for a year, and now I don’t even have anything to live here on. After writing, I walked Tatyana to work and asked her which she thought would be happier with: If I left to make some money or stayed. I asked her six times and got the same answer all six times.
But the problem is not really so simple. This is not a matter of love or of choice because the movement between the borders is not always free. The former Soviet Union is not free to Americans in any way and the bureaucracy of Mr. Lukashenko’s country is not only thick, but a cultural edifice, a great holdover from the old times. And in a place where people actually do make $65 a month, they simply carry no weight in the world.
I want to stay though. I really do. This place has changed and the world has changes and they no longer do the things they used to do. I know I talk about these things all the time, but if there is a basic difference between communism and a market economy, it is in the necessity of calm. In a capitalist world, the more active (read: hysterical) the world is, the more things people need to buy to calm themselves. In a communal world though, annoying each other is a bad thing because only peace and calm allow for continual cohabitation. Just ask the hippies and the potheads about this and see if they don’t agree. And the peaceniks and the ecologists… actually ask anybody who thinks beyond the boundaries of their sex organs or their bellies about sustainable Ideas; It is not so unusual. And there was a time when this very place that I am writing from was to my eye a heaven for civility. Just read the damned play, I’m not joking. But times have changed and are changing, and things are simple becoming… perhaps normal is a good word, and I am not happy to be using it.
I have a huge money problem and I am not the only one. Apparently someone now wants Irene to close the chicken coop in the garden. She got a paper yesterday asking her to take down the house. Well, you know, we are not talking about a lot of money here: Irene keeps a good attitude about things, and she says that she can sell the chickens at the market for about 7000 rubles each, which is about $3.50, an that they can simply buy the eggs. Well, this is true, I guess, but I also think that it is more then the money involved. We always have fresh eggs top eat here, and this is everyday. And then there is, eventually chicken to be eaten for the soup and meat. But then there is the sound, you know? The cock crowing from time to time is kinda nice. And the work of keeping them; mixing the feed, crushing the glass. And of course, there is the work of doing it. Irene is a bit of a workaholic. I talk about this all the time: she pretty much works from about 4:45 until lights out at 9:00 pm. She wouldn’t let me help her dig her garden, which she just accomplished in two days, turning every spade full herself. I talked to Tatyana about this, and the truth of the matter is, that if Irene is told that she may not touch the world, she will die very quickly. I have no interest in seeing this woman in front of the TV. And this is not just for the soup.
She had a big fight with Igor yesterday morning; a real knock-down-drag-out that started over Igor’s simply needing to put his boots away in the proper place. He just dropped them, which in and of itself is not such a crime for a seven year old, but she saw this and asked him to put them away properly, and it was his disagreement with this that set thing off. The shoes became weapons just before my intervention, and Irene went out to the tomatoes to calm herself while I tried to impart some reason into Igor’s head in my pigeon (chicken?) Russian. We do understand each other quite well, Igor and I. Igor has found a fad of playing with what we call “pogs” in the states. Pogs are little round Pokomon disks made of cardboard with a different picture on each side. They call them fishkies here. The kids slap them on the ground and if they come up one way or another, they either win or lose. Igor has been obsessed. We simply sat still for about 10 minutes while I tried to read the paper from Minsk. I told Igor I wanted him to apologize (I had to look up the word) to Irene and he was quite upset at this. It took another ten minutes to convince him that it was the right thing to do simply because she was his Baba, that she works pretty much night and day for him and her asking for his to put the lousy boots away was not only a reasonable thing for him to do, but the normal thing that was expected.
She held him there in the garden talking to him for a few more moments. You could see in his body language that he was at first only saying what he needed to ay to get to go out with me. Irene knew this as well, and after a while she gave up and took up sobbing again. I went and spoke with her for a few moments. Her opinion was that Igor is simply a sadist. My opinion was that a seven year old really shouldn’t be thought of as a sadist. Maybe a 12 or a thirteen year old, but a seven year old was simply a good boy who doesn’t know how to live and that it was simply our job to show him how to life right. However, I am not without reservations. Later that day I played five games of chess with Igor as a way of helping break the endlessly annoying slap-slap-slap of the fishkies. And as I have said, the boy can play chess and always gives me a good game. But he also has a truly annoying habit of singing gibberish songs when there is a chance of victory. I was about ready to go over the top of the table and throttle the little bastard myself. And I am not without my doubts that this will inevitable be his end, possible one song too many sung after one too many vodka’s at some bar. I don’t think a drunken Belarussian, tired after another five dollar workday in a five dollar a day country might not think that a stay in the pen might just be worth putting an end to the prattle this bastard lets you hear when he sees mate. I mean, you have to beat him at chess or you simply no longer wish to go on living.
After the war, we went walking with the sort of un-dad like goal of simply wearing the little bastard out. He needs a sport bad, but the money situation and the summer season means we are going to have to let him find his own amusements until September. There was a small demonstration at the park a group of about 20 or so Pinskers got together and made a ceremony commemorating the 17th anniversary of the disaster at Chernobyl. April 26th 1986. They carried the traditional red and white flag of what is described as the “ethnic Belarussian” region, which includes Chernobyl as well. This differs from the green and red national flag of Belarus. They put a wreath on a small white float on the Pina and let it drift down stream.
I watched the Belarussian Hockey team lose to Canada 3-0 on TV with Victor. They played badly. When Tatyana came home all was calm. I guess things are the most calm after a war. But there was yet another fight to be had. It was about money and the situation. I guess the truth of the situation I that I simply will not be able to stay simply because I do not have the money to do so. Last year, there was enough to make the bike business and this would have been sustainable enterprise that was legal enough to do with my Belarussian partners. But that money is in Poland thanks to my kidnappers. And Tatyana can see that we simply cannot stay in this way because it is a simple fact of life that an American citizen my pay to be here one-way or another, and I simply have not enough to do so. And worse, at the moment, with the banking issue being whatever it is, I don’t even have enough to pay for the train to Minsk to beg the American embassy for airfare to the states, which is am activity and a place I have no interest in. It is a disaster in a day of disasters commemoration one of the greatest disasters in the regions history. And the chicken house might have to go.
But today is Easter, and she had prepared the food as I have said. I only wanted the tea and the bread, but she kept feeding me. I think all I wanted to do was to help. I think that doing something good is possible, but I am not sure what that thing is. This year is going to be hard on everyone because of the loss of the dacha. And now, if they lose the chickens (Irene must go and talk to them this week or be fined. She is going to plead that because Victor was in the war and is retired and because of the dacha, that they should be able to keep the chicken house) there will really be almost nothing for them. There just simply will no longer be enough to feed everybody. Certainly not me. So Irene and I talked. She likes me now and I am happy about this. She even laughs at my jokes when she can understand them. I tried to tell her that the reasons things were bad was that there was no “tchiyeky” a word that simply means “beer money”, but I got the pronunciation wrong and she had to go and wake Tatyana up to translate the joke. And I ended up saying the thing that I wrote about in the play this morning for myself and for all: what can I do? What can I do?
So she said: ”Nada dzit”. I thought that it meant “our lives”, because I understood dzit to be dzisn: life. But “Nod” was hard. Nod mean on top of something, or perhaps it was the root of nadedgda, which of course is hope. But when Tatyana showed up to speak, in fact she told me it simply means “you” live. You must live. Nada dzit: you must live. Vsho budish bete xorasho: all will be good. It is the answer to the question, I guess. It took me a year to learn this.