Monday, August 29, 2005

So little time, so much to do…

Everybody went to the farm yesterday and we had one of those spectacular work days that just makes you feel like a champ for having done it. The reason for this excellence was simply that Tatyana was free to step out in the field to help me for a change (or I with her) and we were able to share some energy for a change and gang up on the weeds and simply made the place look presentable for the first time in a while. This is not to say that we are lazy in what we do, but the combination of a lot of rain and how little time we were there this tear made our field look a little… shaggy by comparison to our neighbors.

But, as this is the proper time to did potatoes, I was free to scythe down that part of the field without having to worry about hurting the potato plants. We will do (I hope) The best part of the digging before next weekend. We also cleaned up several other gardens and did a little burning. Like I said, the place looked orderly, which was great. And, at the end of the day, just fore some food we decided to did just one basket of potatoes for our table and needed only about four or five meters to find our basket which means that we did it! We grew some great potatoes, rains, weeds and all. And when we got home last night and fried up a pot full, we also found that they are tasty too. Rock and roll!

However, our the two day trip didn’t start out so great though. Tanya and Egor headed straight from the bus out to the forest to hunt mushrooms and I had Anya with me and went to the garden to check things out. And of course you now that the first thing I saw was that the garbage from the tree was still there in the street.

Now Tanya was here a few days ago and she said that she had spoken to Misha then. Or rather he had come to her and had explained with great enthusiasm that he was very much going to do the work, but that the reason that he had not was that his horse had gotten beaten by another horse out in the field and was now afraid to go to work. Whatever, but in any case, even after Tanya took her turn yelling at the guy, he still ad not done anything about that tree.

So, pushing Anya in her cart, I marched straight over to Misha’s house. He was nowhere to be seen but his mother was digging potatoes.

“Where is Misha?”

“He is working.” She pointed out towards the fields out on the road.

“Why didn’t he carry off the garbage from the tree?”

“Why does he have to clean up your garbage? You broke his chainsaw with your cheap gas.” Oh, Christ, not again.

“He broke the damned thing himself and he was supposed to have finished his work two weeks ago. If I have to pay a fine for this, you are going to have to pay it.”

“Why should we pay for your fines?”

“Because he agreed to do the work. If he doesn’t do it, he is responsible.”

“But you broke his saw.”

“How did I break the saw? He did all of the work. If he was too drunk to take care of his instruments, he is to blame.”

“Oh, go home.”

“Go home?!?! You bunch of drunken idiots! Tell him that he had better get his ass out to my place and finish the job or you won’t like what will happen.”

“Oh, he won’t like it, eh? What are you going to do?”

“I am going to break his drunken head is what I am going to do.”

“Oh, you are nothing. Go home.”

“Just try not coming. See what will happen.” She waved me off and I left pushing my baby cart in front of me. And you should know that it is really, really tough to be tough when you are pushing a baby cart.

Anyway, that potato field did need to be scythed so I grabbed the cycle and the sharpening stone and rolled Anya out to the field to watch me cut. At first, she was ok, but became bored with watching me in about three seconds and wanted to roam. So I let her out and she went crawling and I was hacking and then she found a frog which scred her into tears, so I put her back in the cart with a piece of bread to calm down. But then she got stung by a mosquito and started crying again and so I had to go back and be with her. And then she fell out of the cart trying to (I suppose) go and find that frog again. And this of course made her cry some more. Apparently a country gal, our eight-month-old is of the moment, not.

But amazingly enough, at this moment Misha and his cousin (who is also named Misha) came by with his horse cart. They were smiling.

“Are you here to take the tree?”

“Yes, we are!” They really were happy. We all shook hands. “You see, I said we would finish the work.”

“Right, ell, let’s all get to it, ok?”

“I am sorry about all of this. I know I should have done it two weeks ago.”

“I was with him in the field and he told me I had to come and help him move your tree because he was two weeks late with the work.” This was cousin Misha.

“That’s terrific. Thank you.”

“I remember when I helped you cut the limb from that other tree when it was laying on your roof.”

“Yes, you did. That whole tree is gone now. It was dead.”

“Yes, I remember. We didn’t have any scandals then.”

“No, we didn’t.”

“I was drunk.”. This was drunk Misha, for lack of a better way to name him.

“I don’t understand why there was such scandal.”

“He went around town telling everyone I cheated him by buying cheap gasoline for his chainsaw.”

“This I understand.”

“I was drunk.”

“Whatever, lets get to work.” And we began tossing limbs onto the horse cart. Within a minute though, Misha’s mother came up to us.

MOTHER: Why are you doing this work? What do you need from this American?”

COUSIN MISHA: Be calm babushka. We are doing the work.

MISHA: (Mumbles Something unintelligible.)

MOTHER: Why do you come to us and say you are going to hit him. What did he ever do to you?”

ME: Because he went all over town and said that I had cheated him by buying bad gasoline and this was not true., I bought 92 octane, just as he had asked me to.”

COUSIN MISHA: I believe him.

MISHA: (mumbles)

ME: If he wants to work while he is drunk and breaks his instruments, this is not my fault, but I am not going to pay a fine for having too much garbage on the street when it was his job to do this.”

MOTHER: You must understand that he is a little… (She clicks her neck with her finger illustrating that he is a drunk)

ME: A little?

MISHA: (mumbles)

COUSIN MISHA: Yes, he has a problem, everyone knows this.

MOTHER: Do you know that he paid 180,000 rubles for that chainsaw and now it is broken.

ME: A hundred and eighty thousand?!?!

I looked straight at Misha

ME: You told me it was 350,000!

MISHA: (mumbles)

COUSIN MISHA: When I worked with him cutting that limb from his roof, we never had such a scandal.

MOTHER: This is all because he is a little… (Clicks her neck)

ME: Let’s just load up the cart.

MISHA: (mumbles, and then sits down on a log and lights a cigarette)

COUYSIN MISHA: Why are you sitting, we only just started to work?

MOTHER: (Clicks her neck) He is a little…

MISHA: (mumbles, and points to the cigarette he is smoking, indicating that this is an important moment to him.)

COUSIN MISHA: What an embarrassment. When I worked with the American, I never had such a scandal.

MISHA: (mumbles)

MOTHER: You know he is a little…

ME: Please, can’t we just clear away the tree for God’s sake?

And so on…

But like I said, it turned out to be a great day. Tatyana and Egor came back from the forest with what turned out to be the greatest tasting mushrooms I have ever had in my life. Then we went and did our great work and the place was beautiful. And finally, at the last moment, just before we got ready to leave, we only had to dig those four or five meters to bring home a basketful of great, huge and tasty potatoes. And then we took the bus home and I had an English lesson with the kid from downstairs. And then I checked my mail (got a reply from my friend Bill over that Barry Bonds argument), got a call from my dad, ate some of those great potatoes and went to bed with Tatyana. A great day.

But this morning I needed to have a conversation with Egor. It was about his not having done something he needed to have done. I hate this when you think you have a smooth road but then find that you don't because someone did not do their job. And I know he is only 10 but these lessons do need to be learned and this was not the first time he tried to get out of doing something he did not want to do. So over breakfast we needed to have a little talk.

ME: You know what the problem is here?


ME: I have stopped trusting you. You try to get away with things too often…

EGOR: But I did do it. I was doing it. You didn’t catch me cheating. That was really where I was. I was doing it.

TATYANA: This was the fourth time he caught you...

EGOR: But that was before. This was different. This time I wasn't cheating.

ME: Well, that may be but the problem is that you have lied before and we have had to deal with the fact that you have lied. It is a matter of trust. We have to be able to trust you. Can you understand this?

EGOR: Yes.

TATYANA: No, he is a good boy.

ADAM: I am not saying he is not, I am talking about trust.

TATYANA: I think that we can trust him.

ME: Can you?

TATYANA: Sometimes. Most times…

ME: But not every time?

TATYANA: No one can be trusted every time.

EGOR: That's right...

ME: Can you trust your mom? Every time?

EGOR: Well...

ME: What, she doesn't always remember to feed you? To care about your school? Your clothes? She forgets you?


ME: CAn you trust me?

EGOR: Yes.

ME: Thank you. And I think that this is really important. CAn't you see what it would be like if you couldn't trust me or your mom? What if i promised to do something for you but i didn't, how would you feel.

EGOR: Bad.

ME: So what is the difference?

TATYANA: I think he understands.

ME: No, this is an important lesson. Let me ask you a question Egor: If you cheat me, if you lie to me, how many people are you cheating?

EGOR: I don’t know. Just you?

TATYANA: And me? If you lie to Adam, you are also lying to the family and this means me and Anya too.

ME: She’s right, you know.

EGOR: I know.

ME: And you know what else? I read a book one time about a car salesman. And this guy wanted to sell as many cars as he possibly could, right? I mean, every time he sold a car he made money ad he wanted a lot of money, right? Anyway, he never wanted to lie to or to cheat anybody because he knew that if he did he was cheating not only them but all of their friends and all of their families as well. And do you know how many people that can be? We, he asked about what was the average number of people cam to a wedding and found that the number was something like 250 people. And to him, because a wedding was a time when all of your family and friends come to be with you, that meant that every single person he would talk to was connected to at least 250 other people. And that meant that he had 250 people who would never trust him enough to buy a car from him.
And if this is true, how many people would you have to lie to before you turned off the whole of Pinsk?

(At this point both he and Tatyana fell silent. It was a big thought.)

ME: And do you want to know something else? The reason we have so little money is that I lied to people here in Pinsk that I was going to make a bike shop here. I said I was going to come back in a week with some money and that I was going to sell bikes here but I didn’t come back for 10 months and when I did come back I didn’t have any money…

EGOR: But that wasn’t your fault. You were in Poland. The policeman lied and said you did something that you didn’t.

ME: I know that. But when that cop lied, he made a liar out of me. People stopped believing in me here. They believed that I lied. And ever since that moment no one has really trusted me here again and that is why we have so little money. And you know how much work I have done, what with the book and my writing and all I have had to go through. And you see what it means to be trusted.

(Now they were both really quiet. I got up and put my bowl in the sink.)

ME: Think about it Egor: Who are you? Are you someone that people can trust or are you just making excuses? Are you on the road to being a good man or will you end up to be a stupid drunken liar like Misha from the village? Which is better?

EGOR: To be a man.

ME: So we understand each other. And, if you will excuse me, I have a lot of work to do and not a lot of time to do it.

Note: I have been writing about this business of Misha and the chainsaw occasionally over the last three weeks or so, so if you are confused, just scroll down and you can find the other two or three posts that deal with the subject.

If you have any questions or comments about this post, the blog in general, Poland or Belarus, please contact me at:

For a complete listing of all of the pages of the Being Had Blog, please click HERE to navigate to the HOMEPAGE.

And thank you for reading me.

More soon…