Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Hello again.

It seems that every time I start off a blog these days that all I ever say is “Oh, I am sorry” and “Oh, I have been so busy…” and this has been my excuse. And this is starting to get to me, so I am not going to say it this time.

But about all of this excuse making, I am not sure that my problem with it is the pain I receive from making a lame excuse, or if it is because I have spent a lot of time over the last couple of weeks typing up sermons from out rabbi which have been saying that excuses are nothing but empty words and deeds (specifically good deeds) are the things that count. And that we are supposed to be doing what we are supposed to be doing. In any case this is the situation from no matter how you look at it.

So I am sitting at my desk, New Years and Chanukah have come and gone, and I can see that there are still the remnants of the holidays lying around. We still have our “Yolka” sitting on the desk across the room. A Yolka should not be confused with a Christmas tree. It should not be confused with it no matter how much you want it to be, and this is despite its also being either a dead, or in our case plastic fir-tree like thing from which we hang garlands and ornaments. The USSR was atheist so there is absolutely no religious connotation whatsoever. My guitar is sitting in its case, well maybe half in and half out of its case, having been touched but once since I made an appearance playing it in the Chanukah pageant along with a lot of the kids from the school at the Dom Kultura. Actually all I did was play one old Pearl Jam song (I seem to recognize you face…) and died trying to tell a Chanukah joke in Russian. That dying business is probably why the guitar has not been touched. I notice that I have gained a kilo or two from all of the holiday foods. And my little Anya now has a bald head. Why is she bald? Frankly, if I live to be 150 years old I will never truly understand why we had to put her through this, but apparently, it has been a Russian or Belarusian thought forever that if you shave a child’s head when they are a year old, the hair grows in thicker. Maybe this was a real Stalinist thing because of course the great Georgian had a really superb head of hair (while of course Lenin was bald as a cue) and so who knows about these things? I wasn’t shaved when I was a kid and I was balding when I was sixteen, so what can I say, we shaved her.

What else? The weather is cold, but not too cold. We had a lot of snow leading up to the New Years, but then just a day or so before, we had a warm spell and it all melted away. And so it has been pleasant and maybe even pretty at times, though you need to crank your neck a bit to the left to see that. And of course winter time brings some tension with it. We had an occurrence over at the synagogue where some young artisan, decided to redecorate the façade with a swastika. And of course you know this upset everyone quite a bit. We don’t really talk about anti-Semitism. Maybe a lot of our not speaking about this comes from our wish that there wasn’t any anti-Semitism. You know what I am saying: If we don’t talk about it, it simply will not be. But the fact is that I am sure we all know that there is in fact a lot of anti-Semitism, and really to be fair, a lot of hate in general in the world. I haven’t gotten too much of this personally, but I do notice that when I walk with the rabbi, we are obviously never just with the crowd. And this is especially true at night, when people are a bit drunker and tend to let go with their true feelings. We get ridiculed.

And you know, I don’t want to go out of my way to speak harshly about Belarusians, and particularly I don’t wish to because this was my chosen place to live, but sometimes I get the feeling that despite the “discipline”, the harshness, the economic suffering that they have gone through and the willingness to stay a most difficult course, that I am not any longer convinced that they are the most thoughtful people. Dumb-asses is a good word, and as it was one used by our president in describing Americans, I feel I am not drifting too far off by using it. And of course this is a sad thought. But also of course there is hope that there will be growth.

And of course once you start in on growth and development your first thought goes to the political scene here, which has been until recently pretty exiting. And what is happening there? The voting date for the presidency has been moved up to March 19th. The president seems as comfortable with the inevitability of his continued reign as president as is humanly possible. And for that matter, I don’t hear any real dissenting opinions about this even from the opposition parties. I read in the Charter ‘97site that Alexander Milinkevich, the opposition’s main man, that he was going to announce his platform, but for some reason I never read it and it doesn’t seem to be in print on the internet any more. He wants economic reforms, though how he will do this and with what resources he plans to work has never been explained. And of course Alexander Gregorovich Lukashenko, our president for life says that he will just keep right on doing it for the people, just like he always has; Russia is our friend, Europe is not, keep your nose to the grind stone, don’t complain and everything will turn out all right. I also read that a lot of the oppositionists are simply not even showing up for the bureaucratic necessities of saying they wish to be president, and I also read that there really isn’t going to be a lot of foreign observers this time around. The pollsters are saying it is all over, and people are not even interested in speaking about it any more. Or in single word, what we have here is resignation. What will be will be. And any good Belrusian knows that he is better employed trying to find better use of his energies than standing around and thinking about things that are no longer important to think about

So as I say the life has started to come back to normal. And though I am still deluged with more work than I have had in years, I have made it one of my New Year’s resolutions to make sure to keep getting these blogs about “the life” out there because really, there are many, many things to say about what it means to be living here.

And what is “the life” like these days? Well, perhaps I can explain it this way: The word in Russian is “petehoinko”. And this means normal and quiet. If you ask someone how things are going with them, the answer is “petihoinko”. And you know it is petehoinka here, perhaps just as it should be. Everybody, including me is struggling to get by, everybody is scrambling around for pennies so that they may continue to live their lives, but at the same time the world simply continues to turn beneath our feet. And that is what is going on in Belarus these days for good or bad. And this is what this blog is supposed to be about.

More soon…