Sunday, March 19, 2006

How interesting can it get?

I am writing this blog in the hope of getting it off at least in the morning. Seem that at about 8:30 or so several websites have been pulled off the air here and mine seems to be one of them. It seems kind of ironic actually, but the last words that I published were that Lukashenka seems to be a lock and that the elections had gone smoothly. Funny how they can be here.

I wanted to write something about the elections. I was thinking of a little story, something small. During the lead up to the elections people here seemed to be going a little slower than usual. Perhaps being a bit more cautious. I really hadn’t given it a lot of thought what with Purim and all. And when Sunday actually came around I found I had a feeling of sort of… I don’t know how to say it, sort of a feeling of surprise that this day had finally come around. Perhaps this is because I had simply been doing my thing and the fact that the elections were going on around me, and that I couldn’t vote, sort of made it more exciting in a way, but also kind of surreal.

About the only thing really that I had to look forward to was this going to the buffet with Tatyana when she went to cast her vote. The buffet is just a snack bar, I really don’t know how to call it, that they have for you over at the poling station. The way it was presented to me several days ago was that this was some sort of fond childhood memory of her father that she wished to relive with me. Apparently, papa always took her along when he went to vote back in the USSR and always they would stop and have a little sit down together after the deed was done. I am not the greatest muzh as it were and I often make terrible mistakes, but I am good enough to understand when a little tenderness is in order.

Today’s schedule called for a chess game by Egor at 10 so dealing with getting him out on time (and with all his work in order beforehand) was first and foremost. Breakfast was potatoes and marinated pickles. After this was some work to go over and an attempt to get the BEING HAD Times put together, something that would not be accomplished until about 8:00 tonight by the way. At about 11:00 we seemed to have things in order and so we got Anya dressed in her winter coat and white scarf and hat and headed off to the poling station.

I kept at Tatyana to tell me who she was going to vote for but she decided to be difficult about it. I pretty much figured who she was going to vote for because of how she has been going on for the last few weeks. But then again, since we went to go and hear Milinkevich speak, she seems to have altered her opinion a little. But for some reason I really wanted to know. Finally after she lost patience at my pestering she let on that she intended top vote for None-of-the-above. Can you do that? Of course you can. You do not have to say which one you want. Does this mean you are objecting to the vote? No. Oh. What does it mean? Nothing. It means nothing.

I was excited. I don’t know why, but I was. I started in talking about the differences between the American system and the Belarusian. I talked about how in a lot of ways the American system is similar to the Belarusian in that there are guys who you really don’t know a lot about who have their names on the ballot. We hear a lot from the Democrats and the Republicans but we also have a lot of other parties out there who I guess simply do not have the clout to pierce the American consciousness. But then for some reason I got to thinking about Ross Perot and his two tries at the presidency. Tanya thought I was joking when I spoke of the millionaire maverick and his nasal country twang and his televised stick and blackboard sessions. “He spent 67 million dollars for 15% of the vote” was the quip that got the best laugh. One of my best friends voted for him by the way.

We were just around the corner from the polling station when we ran into two of our neighbors just coming out. I started in on them as well. “It is a secret vote.” My neighbor replied “That is the point of the vote is that it is a secret.”

“Come on, tell me. I am not KGB, I am an American”

“No it is a secret and this is how it shall remain.” I looked to the other neighbor, a pensioner unlike the first.

“Without question you voted for Lukashenka.” I said.

“Without question.” She replied. She took on a bit of pride for having said it.

“Are you still thinking of voting for Milinkevich?” The first neighbor asked Tanya.

“I am thinking about this yes, but I don’t know. We have been talking a lot about it and there seems to be some holes in the thinking.” The first neighbor gave her a knowing smile ands we parted some nasty things behind their back.

The poling place that we went to was at the Music school. Tatyana pointed this out to me as we lifted Anya out of her stroller. When she is wearing her white hat and scarf she is irresistible to me. I call her snowball when she is dressed like this. There were three people sitting at a small reception desk just to the left of a large, elegant staircase. Two policemen sat looking a little bored over to our left and the buffet was set up over to the right. The voting was on the second floor.

I carried Anya up the stairs and Tanya broke off from us at the top to go and do her voting. The actual voting is done on pieces of paper. To the left was a long table where the registering was taking place. Signed were hung over the heads of the people who were signing voters in showing street addresses in the neighborhood. Tanya found ours and took out her passport. She gave her name and was handed a piece of paper. The woman never looked at the passport and Tanya decided to ask her why she hadn’t. Didn’t she know that if she didn’t look, anybody could come in and just say they were me? The registration lady just shrugged.

I asked to see that paper. The names of the four candidates were there along with a very short biography. And sure enough, at the bottom was a space for none-of-the-above. Tanya went behind a red screen to make her vote. On the other side of the landing were three rather bored looking people that I assumed were observers. I took Anya over to the full color poster of the four candidates. She looked at all of them carefully. I had a thought that perhaps the elections were really about hair rather than points of view. Lukashenka and the fourth guy (Forgive me but I really can never remember his name), both are government men and both have mustaches and comb-overs, Kozuling is clean shaven all over his head and of course Milinkevich has that beard and a full head of salt and pepper hair. Or maybe it isn’t. I asked Anya who she wanted. She smiled and seemed to be confused, so I touched all of the pictures with my hand and then waited for her to choose. She understood the game, looked once more at all of the pictures and then chose me. I am so in love with her.

Tatyana then appeared cheerfully and the three of us went down to have our stop at the buffet.

“Tell me the truth, you really didn’t vote for none-of-the-above did you?”

“No, you know who I voted for.”

“Milinkevich, right?”

“Of course.”

“You, I tell you he was simply backed by euro dollars. Belarus is not going to agree to let Europe in.”

“I know.” The buffet was piled high with peroshkies and cookies and cakes. I told her what I wanted and went and sat down with Anya on one of the red plastic chairs near the buffet. Tanya brought over some meat and a couple of potato filled, deep fried treats and a chocolate covered piece of cake covered in chocolate that was in the shape of a mushroom for Annie. We talked a little about her dad and what it was like for her as a little girl. And then two of her friends from her work came in and they chatted with Tanya for a few minutes. When they went to get their refreshments, I asked one of them who she voted for. Tatyana immediately shut me down saying that it was not right to spread propaganda on elections day. The word she used was “nilsya” or not permitted.

“Asking someone how they voted is not propaganda. And besides, if they have already voted, there is nothing left to say.” At first the friend gave me the usual “it’s a secret” line, but when I gave her my own line about not being a KGB, just an American, she let on that she had voted for Kozulin. Everybody smiled at that. I guess there was an unsaid joke that had just went around.

“You see,” I said to Tanya “they can express their feelings. It’s no big deal.”

“Can we go home now, please?”

“Just a second, I just want to ask you two friends.” She rolled her eyes.

“Excuse me…” The usual secret, KGB, American

“I voted for Lukashenka” The first one said. He friend echoed the sentiment.

“Well, there you go. The straight party line” This was me being chipper.

“I voted for him too.” Tanya sprang in with a smile. I shot her a quick look but she went right past me, talking up the president for a good minute or two and then turning to me and asking if I was satisfied and ready to go home. I told her I was.

“Am I missing something here? What made you tell them that you voted for Lukashenka?”

“I work with them. I didn’t want any trouble.” Aha.

“So they didn’t want any trouble either, right?”

“Of course not. You are so free, Adam. You always think that you care still in America.” Right.

The rest of the day was taken up with waiting for the results of Egor’s chess tournament (He won) and sitting with one of our rabbi’s for our Sunday talk. I got back here around six and went back to work on the BHTimes and finally had it finished at a little after eight. Then of course they turned off the local internet server. No, this isn’t America here at all. And apparently, and please folks, I really believe it is the truth, Alexander Lukashenka took 82% of the vote. Or basically, when you consider that a little better than 50% of the people voted, he got more than half of the entire country to vote for him. No shocking news here. I just have to wait until tomorrow to have use of the internet again.

Wait, I just have found that the server has been restored, but I seem to have had my BHTimes blocked out still. My other pages are on, just not the gazette… No, no, wait a minute…

Nope, all of them seem to be blocked… oh well.

More soon…