Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Dealing with it.

You have to forgive me for the break in writing over the last few days. I think that this was the longest time I have been away from putting out a blog in a while. But by way of an excuse, all I can say is that I have been sort of exhausted from doing too much work and from the stress of not having enough money. Consequently, I have had something that felt like a brick sitting between my ears every time I sat down to write, Of coarse this also could have been because of all of those repeats. That might have taken me out of the “zone” as well.

Then again, I had actually been writing. A lot really. Mostly I was putting my brain into the production of this second book- and working on some minor edits of the first. Book writing is really hard by the way, if you have never tried to do it. It takes way more organization and attention to detail than playwriting does. At least to my mind. I don’t want to belittle playwriting as an art form. Perhaps just to point out the scope of the project should be enough to justify the remark. A play might need between say, 12,000 to 15,000 words. Less if you are using actions to chew up the scenery. And a book is going to need 125,000 tp 150,000 words to cover the territory. Maybe more. Maybe less if you are Hemingway. And I am not.

But I think more to the point is the exhaustion form actually doing my life. I mentioned a while ago that I had made the change back over to being vegetarian. And without question I am happy that I have done this and I have enjoyed the extra energy and clarity from this change. But on the other side, all of that energy and clarity has got to go somewhere and so I have been actually doing all of that extra work, both here and at the farm and therein lies the deal: My body may have had the eyes for some extra doing, but it hadn’t yet built up the ass to follow. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I do not think I have been a slug this year. But as a for-example, up until I restarted the vegi thing, doing an over-all clean up of th farm took me three days. This included basic weeding, spraying, sticking, tying (Tomatoes), feeding and watering. But after I switched, because I am not stopping as often and have begun both to work straight through projects (like you should) and haven’t taken as much rest time during the day, I have been able to feel as though things are in order within one working day. And, as the logic must follow, as I said my body, though it now could do this, had not been doing this- ergo, exhaustion. And of course, partly because of the money it saves and partly because I didn’t need to carry anything out there, I have been making the distance like I did last year by bike rather than by bus. So we will just throw this onto the pile as well.

So that is the excuse. Sorry boss, I am doing the best I can, but sometime a man had to have done what a man had to have done. Or some such English.

This money problem by the way is really bad. Really bad. We are just so without money right now that Tatyana has taken to crying over things. How much things cost and how little we have to pay for things is simply becoming terrible. And I understand what it is. Firstly, in order to create an illusion that there is stability in the country, Lukashemnka seems to have pegged the ruble to the dollar. Now, as far as the Euro goes, this was a fine time to do this because there has been a bit of backslide in the difference between the Dollar and the Euro. But because there is a great inflation happening with the dollar as well- certainly not any sort of inflation like a Belarusian would understand the word, but it is there, we are seeing the doubling of the cost of goods here anyway. And this has been true for everything up to and including a fifty percent hike in bus fare and a quadrupling of the cost of a tube of bicycle tire patch glue.

So when you add all of this together with the cost of this goddamned bureaucratic procedure I have been mixed up in, we simply have not a damned thing to buy anything with. Yes, on the plus side, we lost the cost of chicken sausage and hot dogs for the kid, but we added in the cost of official stamps, trips to Minsk (Yesterday- more stamps), translations, stamps for the translations. And I will be honest about this: I went into this bureaucratic deal simply because I thought it made better economic sense for me as far as dealing with my family here. But when you add in all I have mention and then the fact that Tanya had to agree to accept 40% less money from her work a part of the process: W-E A-R-E F-U-C-K-E-D.

But I am doing the best that I can. I am spending as little as I can and working as hard as I can. I could use a few more English students and hopefully, September will allow this to happen. And, should the force be with me, perhaps I can find something more over the web that I can do. Maybe. Hopefully. We’ll see.

I just checked the word count and saw that this last tirade only took up 945 words. And so, well, you know I do think of these things, I guess there is a little space to talk about yesterdays trip to Minsk.

The reason for me going up there was another stamp. And I do not really understand the reason behind any of this. But I will try and quickly explain this too. The one document that had been giving me trouble so far in my bureaucratic process has been my criminal record. Specifically, I had needed to acquire a copy of it and turn it in along with the other things Belarus seems to think it needs to allow me to go through. So, after the three weeks or so it to get this, I then found out that I needed to get a stamp from the American Embassy. I do not know why I needed to go to the American Embassy. The guy from the passport agency here in town told me I needed to go to the Embassy to get the original criminal record but the Embassy itself made it abundantly clear that they do not do this task. They do in other countries but the USA does not. Either it is because of disclosure laws or the money or pure laziness, but they don’t. Vasili Ananyavich, said guy at the passport agency answered my telling him about this flaw by telling me it was my problem. Of course. But then, even though I had made it clear to him that criminal records to not come through the embassy for Americans, he decided that I needed an Embassy stamp on the record I eventually came up with anyway. Why? I don’t know. But I did it. But then after I went all the way to Minsk to get this $30 signature and stamp, I found out after I came back that I needed yet another stamp from the Belarusian Department of Foreign Affairs that attests to the fact that the US Embassy stamp was in fact from the US Embassy. Only two bucks for this latest stamp, plus of course the bus and train to Minsk.

So this was yesterday. The day was made interesting because of two new friends I met while taking a cup of coffee early in the morning at the train station. The two of them, Valentina and John Malkovich had been thrown off their train to Kiev because, of course, they had not the proper Belarusian visas to allow them to go across our borders. They had found out about this only at the Ukrainian border and told they had to return to Minsk and get the proper documents.

Both had interesting stories as to why they had failed to prepare properly for Belarus. Both were coming from St. Petersburg and heading to Kiev. Valentina, a native Russian who had transplanted to Latvia (probably in a fit of logic) had been intending to visit her Ukrainian sister. Now, if she had stayed a citizeen of Russia, other than accepting 80% less money from her work, the trip through Belarus would not have cost a kopek. But because she was now a European Unionist, she was obliged to pay. Ironically though, she had actually paid for a transit visa but had gotten the dates of her travel screwed up but gettin avisa that would not be good for a week. Actually, more likely was that she could get away with the dates being off and went anyway because it was cheaper this way. She would have had to pay more for a larger gap in time, and hoped they would let her go. They didn't. John Malkovich, an American had simply been duped by a Russian travel agent who, obviously being more interested in selling a package than anything, to said Malcovich that the train- and I love this, that the train actually WENT AROUND BELARUS, and so there would be no visas to worry about. Malkovich also I suppose thinking he would be saving a buck by listening to this fine humanitarian, never bother to look at a map and see that the extra, oh, 1500 hundred miles of travel required zero additional time nor did he notice that the itinerary had no stops in any towns with Polish, Czeck or Slovak names and included a place called MINSK for that matter, along the way.

Anyhooooow, I met these two unhappy folks at the coffee shop at the train station. Malkovich saw me reading a Robert Ludlum book in English and grabbed me like a starving guy might grab a loaf of bread. Anyway, as we were all in the “Hey, lets play the game of unnecessary and belligerent Belarusian bureaucracy” we made a day of it. I had fun because it was better to have people to talk to and because of the bipolar social challenge: Valentina spoke no English and John Malkovich spoke no Russian. This is always fun because there are always at least two conversation going on. But like I said, I enjoyed their company. And because you really do feel better at the end of a bureaucratic process, it seems as though we had a great time. And yea, I got my stamp at the end of the day.

And so as far as that goes, as the computer has just informed me that I am in and around the 1800 word mark, and o I am free to consider the bureaucratic process of blogging to be completed as well. At least for today. Lots of stuff coming up though. Took all of the garlic a few days ago, 8 hours of work there but there is still a lot of processing left to go. Pickles coming in right now and I am looking at harvesting about 10 to 15 pounds every other day. This by the way would really rock if the price at the market was more than 15 cents a kilogram. So there will be lots to do and lots to talk about. And again, sorry for missing a few days, but I simply got caught up in the red tape. Not a damned thing I could do about it.

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More soon…