Monday, August 08, 2005

Ok, I am back.

That break turned out to be longer than I thought it would be. And this is odd because that flu went away quicker than I thought it would. They have a different set of rules here concerning medicine than in the states. Good points and bad points. But amongst the good, and this goes especially for all of us who prefer to be do-it-yourselfers, you can get over-the-counter antibiotics. Even injectables. So, I think the total cost of an Omaha Beach type assault on those pesky microbes came to something less than five bucks. I was actually up and around the next day.

But I have got a really crowded desk right now and I am wondering how to clear it. Well, making a list is always good.

Things to talk about:
1. The United Civil Party
2. What is going on here in Belarus
3. And essay about whether or not I personally like or dislike Lukashenka
4. What is going on with my bureaucratic deal
5. what is going on at the dacha
6. Finishing the story about cleaning up that tree.

See what I mean? Oh crap, and
7. Putting in a mention for John Malcovich and his new blog.

Ok, so let’s just get to it and I can worry about being all literary some other time.

1. The United Civil Party of Belarus.

Did you know that there were actually other political parties in Belarus? There are, but the system does not really allow for that much power as far as their presence goes. And, as that same system does allow for a huge amount of power to go to the presidency and especially insofar as his power to squelch opposing view, you don’t here a lot of chatter other than from his desk.

Well, I got a letter from a friend who pointed out the website for the UCP and I checked it out. Am I joining? No, I do not think so. Why not, well, you can have a quick look and you will know why not. But, as I am very much a Noam Chomsky admirer, and because they do express a very loud and specific point of view on AN alternative, I am going to offer their website here ( and on my links page. I wrote to them after I read through their site (blogging what I sent them is still not something I want to do at this moment) and am waiting for a response. And, and this is actually kind of creepy, none of their e-mail addresses work, so either they are computer inept or someone has cut their lines. Paranoia? I don’t think so, have a look and you tell me.

2. What is going on here in Belarus?

Well, the answer to this question is easy: We are on fire. Why? Because there is an upcoming election for the presidency here. The current president, Mr. Alexander Gregorovich Lukashenka will be finishing his second five year term in office, and under the provisions of the original independent Belarus charter, this should be the end of his tenure. But Mr. Lukashenka last year ordered a referendum, a public vote as to whether or not he had the right to change the constitution and remain for a third (or fourth) term. And with all arguments as to the validity of said vote aside, the vote came to something like 75% agreement that the president could indeed run again.

However, and really, there should be no reason why any reader of THIS blog should not know this, it seems as if 90 percent of the globe is apposed to Lukashenka’s continuance. I say seems, but it is certain that Poland, Europe, the US and all of the nearby Baltic states are firmly in this group. And for what it is worth, Even Vladimir Putin, The head of state in Russia has publicly stated that third terming is a no-no, times must change, the world must live and grow.

But Lukashenka is not and will not give up without a fight, and fighting he is. And, that UCP website will give you some of the rhetoric from the other side as to how he is going about it. Who do you believe? That’s the point, isn’t it? Welcome to Eastern European politics.

3. And Essay about whether or not I like Lukashenka.

I have been thinking about this for several days now because I do not believe I have ever addressed the point here. But I have been thinking a lot about it and this is something I think I would like to do. I mean, it is only a point of view, something everyone should have. And I have been putting a lot of thought into it lately, and so why not. But not for today. Soon, very soon. Like maybe this week.

4. What is going on with my bureaucratic deal?

Well, in nut shell, I visited with Vasili Anonovich on Saturday morning. I had been wanting to get there since early last week but something always seemed to be coming up. And this includes that horrible flu, the necessity to deal with the farm and an off day for Anonovich himself. But I finally did get there and we sat down and we talked and came up with something that might allow this most desirable residency document to go through. Of course Anonovich’s solution was… well, it was kind of a bureaucratic soft shoe, sort of a nudging slightly to the left how one of my documents should be presented. I didn’t like his solution especially as it will end up costing me/us the money for yet another visa, money we absolutely don’t have.

But more so because his objections to allowing the document to go through in the first place, and this includes his fear of the current political climate, have me absolutely paranoid about the potential results. Why paranoid? Well, if I haven’t mentioned this before, built in to this residency deal is a little known codicil that states that refusal means permanent expulsion from the county. What?!?! That’s right, baby? This is the big time. Viva Los Vegas and all that. You pays ya money, ya takes ya chances. If they refuse me, even after three years here, I am gone. So you know, we are walking carefully on those eggshells.

I did though give a copy of my Russian language play Pod Kablukom to Anonovich as a gift and the nachalnikof seemed to like it. At least this is how it seemed from the few paragraphs that he read. I can only hope that it has the desirable affect of making me seem a bit more… desirable? I mean, every little bit helps, right? Whatever…

5. What is going on at the farm?

Pain is going on. Harvest time is work, pure and simple. The pickles are screwed. Forget the pickles. There won’t be any pickles. I feel like a parent who has lost a child to drugs or something. (What did I do wrong? Where was my mistake? Was I too hard? Too soft? Did I not love enough? Too much attention? Not enough?) I spent all morning pruning and cleaning but I don’t think we have a chance any more. I think we will have to make due with the five banks we have saved. Why did we agree to sell those 8 kilos to our neighbor for a lousy 5000 rubles? I don’t care what the market price says, the value of the material is far greater to me than the cost…

But, other than that, we have a lot of big-assed tomatoes just at the moment turning color. Lots of sweet and hot peppers, a great crop of sugar beets and at the moment, I have just finished eating half of the first ear of sweet corn I took. Still has a week or two to go, but it is tasty corn. Beautiful plants, don’t know. Corn is good. And, our potatoes are ok. Tasty too. Just need to spray the cabbages for those green worms.

And as far as #6 goes, Misha and I did not finish the work that day because… well, it was a big joke. The guy was a blithering idiot and out of his tree he was so drunk. And worse, the moment ha actually began to cut, he also began screaming at me as if I was some flunky. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. His problems with cutting the tree (he started from the top rather than the bottom which is cleaner and faster) were my fault for not clearing away the mess he was making. Then, he insisted on taking breaks from this painful labor every five minutes and going over and sitting down with the crowd who had come to watch this circus. Literally all of our neighbors. They had top bring out extra benches.and not only did he sit with them, he took the trouble to politic with them as to how stupid I was!!!! It was a clown show.

And there I was asking, begging, screaming, pleading, cajoling- anything to get the stupid ass to either just give me the saw or go back to work. Laughter. How embarrassing. The only two high moments were when I decided to call off the deal because I felt there was not enough light to continue. My staying stop had the effect of strangely enough of making the man stand up on hi feet and purposefully go back to work. Damnedest thing. And better, everybody in the crowd noticed this little glitch in the humor s well. The fly in the ointment. Just before this though was the breakthrough remark. A great remark, even if I do say so myself. I am standing in the middle of this mess of branches, pears and leaves, this flaming drunk is slashing around with his cheap-assed chain saw and screaming at me, calling me names and such. And I stood up and shouted “I don’t understand.”

This cry of mine hit the crown as sounding like it had been a breakdown on my part. Probably specifically some emotional breakdown concerning the language barrier. Everything went silent. Even Misha stopped and looked at me as if this was some powerful moment in ‘the Americans’ time here. But I went on.

“There are 33 letters in the Russian alphabet. If you only use six or seven, how the hell can anyone understand you?”

Laughter from the crowd. And specifically, laughter aimed at poor Misha. Probably exactly what he has come to fear from a lifetime of this provincial, high school bullshit. Anyway, like I said, we didn’t finish. And I didn’t pay him, or give him a drink or give him the extra gas. We hadn’t finished. I would when we did. I wished the bum a good night and everybody went home.

He was at my door the next morning though asking for the gas. I was working with the tomatoes. I told him no, not until he finished. It took a few minutes for him to come to the rational conclusion that finishing the work might not take all that long and would net him money, alcohol and gasoline. So he went home and got his saw nd we finished off the tree in about 15 minutes, stood the fence back up, tied it into place with some wire and called it a day.

You know, when he is straight, Misha is actually an ok guy. And he is not bad with the saw either. And he is good worker, you can see it in his movements just like you can see it in an old timers baseball game; that muscle memory, that practiced smoothness. He has been breaking his back on this land all of his life. We were dancing on his rug.

When we finished he asked me for 5000 rubles and 100 grams. This second means a drink. It is all he wanted. I gave him more money then he asked for, had to demand that he take it and then offered him a full bottle of grandpa’s finest. Had just a sip with him too. Jesus, Victor Ivanovich was a genius. Soooooo good. And this made Misha very happy. Well, I can’t really say that, but he seemed to be.

I think though I may have given him too much. I say this because he had not returned to carry the branches and such to the forest on Saturday as he said he would. And also, Nina, my neighbor asked me how much I gave him. A sure sign that something was wrong. And then of course I didn’t see him yesterday. I don’t think he dies. I mean, somebody would have told me that. But I think he might have enjoyed his payday a bit too much.

Yea… I am thinking… You Know, a couple of bottles of pear wine really would have been nice.

So what else?

Go check out John Macovich’s new blog. I got a mention in last nights entry when he recounted his side of that day in Minsk we spent a little while ago. I have read it and I think that the guy writes good! Though I wish Belarus would have come out in his writing as something more than the belligerent extortionist that it did. He makes St. Petersburg and several places in Ukraine sound great to visit but in his version of things, Belarus just stole his money. I hate being berated by the truth. Wait aminute...

Hmmmm… I am thinking again…. No, my opinion on this tourism subject is definitely a part of that essay. Ok, I will get started on that presently.

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More soon…