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Bureaucrats and bureaucracy.
So we had our third meeting in three days today over at the passport agency. As I mentioned yesterday, I had received a little tap from the man who is in charge of the out-of-towners here, Vasili Ananovich. Now, it was Vasili Ananovich was the fellow who made the remark about Poland that I mentioned at the close of yesterday’s blog. And he is also the same fellow whose office I have always had to go through when I had registered here in the past. And yes, in case I have not made this clear, Belarus is a very bureaucratic place and you must jump through many hoops in order to be here. No, it is not Europe and for whatever that really means, you just simply have to know that in Brelarus, the rules are the rules.
At any rate, today at three o’clock Tanya, Anya and I were yet again in Vasili Ananovich’s office. This time we had come prepared with the receipts from the bank that showed that we had paid the small fines for my having trespassed. Tatyana also was fined because I lived in her house. We also brought some photo’s and again signed that very same complaint that started all of this. Yes, the second version was also thrown away though Vasili Ananovich did not need to explain his actions quite the way the cop did the other day. But we had what we were told. We were prepared.
And also we were expecting the worst. It has been my feeling that really this is the end of all of this because I simply cannot justify paying for Belarus anymore. I know that I have now a daughter here and the dacha and all whatever else I have built up, but as there is simply not enough money and really almost nothing coming in from here, we walked into Vasili Ananovich’s office pretty much knowing that this was the end. And we also knew that that end would be coming up with 10 days from this meeting.
I didn’t write about my meeting with Vasili Ananovich yesterday except to remark upon his “Polish” remark (see below). But if I was to say something it is that I have always been nervous around this fellow. I have not been nervous because I have done anything to feel nervous about, but I have felt this way because he is the bureaucrat who has veto power over my being here and always has. Yesterdays conversation had a lot to do with is asking why I didn’t like him, a question that had me taken aback a bit, but had everything to do with this feeling of nervousness. And of course, he had heard about Poland, at least Poland’s version of it and that was part of it too.
And it looked as though today’s meeting was going to be a repeat of this same deal because Vasili Ananovich, after passing on a normal “good health” greeting, looked at me while shaking his head and called me a “hooligan”.
“What did you call me?” I asked.
“Why would you call me a hooligan?”
“That’s who you are.” He reffered to the papers in front of him.
“Ok, you are a hero. You are a hero, ok? It is all the same.” He really has heard about Poland.
“You know some people call me author. And when I was in America, my nickname was simply “Mr. Goodman” because I always worked and never played.”
“Listen, this is not how you think. Yesterday you say I scolded you, today I want you think of me in a different way. This meeting will show you something different.” And then he even offered Anya a bar of chocolate to make his point.
And then he went on to explain to us a “deal” that is available to us that I did not understand. It turns out that I would have rights as a father to be present during my daughter’s life here in Belarus. It is a similar situation than if I had married Tatyana- which is another story I am not going to go into today. But to make a long story short, in conjunction with registering little Anya as a citizen of Belarus, I would be entitled thereafter to register myself as her father and, after a bit more hoop jumping, I would be entitled to a stamp in my American passport that would allow me to… and really, you have to hear this:
1. Live in Belarus forever without the necessity to pay for further visas
2. I would be eligible to work here in any capacity for any firm that would hire me.
3. I would retain my status as an American citizen but
4. I can come and go from Belarus as I please without any economic or bureaucratic restrictions.
With the only ovcerall restrictions being that I could not join the Army (though I could be a cop) and I could not vote and the only catch being that this is a long road an that I would probably been to purchase two 3 month visas in order to get all of the hoops properly jumped.
Now, what does this mean? Well, it means basically that I have an option, some new things to think about. And, these next 10 days are going to include a lot of letter writing and phone call making to try and find the best possible deal for all concerned. Am I back in the states? I don’t know. Am I still here? I don’t know. But I do now that I have a visa that allows be 10 days here and then I need to find another visa or to be gone. But if I stay, I know that I have a much better road just ahead of me. A better road for me and a better road for Anya, which really in the end is what all of this is and has been about.
And, now that Grandma has left for her own apartment, really, it is not so bad around here….
Anyway, tomorrow I am going to go out and finish the potatoes and try and get the onions and carrots and beets into the ground. Probably the beans and the peas as well. And then I will come back on Sunday or Monday and go to work figuring out how all if this is going to work. I mean, which is better? Can I find enough money to get me through six months here? Or am I going to have to return to the states and fight it out from there. Interesting deal, no?
Vasili Ananovich said that after this deal, he thinks that he very much likes Americans. At least more than Germans. That is what he said. He said that this is something he feels in his soul. I asked him how he feels about the Polish and he declined to answer, only smiling at the question. I told him that I tend to feel them, not in my soul, but in my stomach. This he said, was the first thing that I had said in Russian that he had understood. The guy has a tough job. The bureaucracy is really thick and it is probably all the poor guy can do to keep it together. But he did ok for us today. And he knew it when he did it. Vasili Ananovich looked out for us and dealt with me not as a criminal, but as a friend with a problem. That was appreciated. And the chocolate was good too.