Sunday, June 18, 2006

Американец еше раз

Saw the USA Italy game last night. Great bit of football. I thought the Americans played pretty well actually. I mean, they still have not scored a goal in the round of 32, their one last night was of course an “own goal”, but they played well. You can see the difference though between the Europeans and the Americans. The Americans can’t pass and they seem to have an inability to have a second or third man on attack around the opposition’s goal, but they do have a propensity for finding opportunities. Perhaps this is an American trait the same way that dirty play is an inherent in the Italians game- the red card received by the USA team went to an Italian as well.

In any case, I found myself rooting for the USA last night. I personally didn’t really think that my rooting for the USA side was all that interesting, but several friends here have been gleeful about rubbing my nose in the Americans anemic attack. I am still absolutely “The American” (Американец) here and unfortunately, since the elections, this has been a problem.

First of all, you have to know that that 83% agreement with Lukashenka’s re-election was very real. And what is more, after the fact, people here seem to be adding on to their feelings of unitedness and socialist tendencies. To memory, before the elections, and I am going back more than a year here, people were a bit uncertain as to whether or not their future lay with the Europeans. They complained a lot about money and about how disorderly their lives seemed to be; and they also liked to rag on Lukashenka. Now though, people seem to be pushing through with a real sense of unity and patriotism for Belarus and for their president. Even the “Well, the elections are over…” joke, a phrase used to describe a price hike or a bureaucratic difficulty seems to have gone away.

But what also seems to have become the norm is an absolute pushing away of things western, and unfortunately this also includes me. It is not as though I am encountering any hatred, but more likely it is as though I have become a bit of a freak again. I thought I had lost this long ago, but my not being “свои” (a local, on the inside) has become more and more pronounced over the last few weeks.

And I don’t like it one bit.

Probably the biggest episode about this came from our temple group. I have been drifting away from our minion them for a while, but one episode a couple of weeks ago has left me completely cold for them. I think originally I started to lose my taste for them when they started a little game on me over getting some news from the community for the Yad Yisroel Website. One of our retirees was a journalist for many years but refused to allow any of his local stories to me- this was not out of publication rights mind you, but simply because he felt I was an outsider. I had asked him to let me have anything he had written for publication on the web and he told me that he would gladly do this but there wasn’t anything because he was too old and sick for work. Ok, I bought that. But then a couple of weeks later I over heard him telling Lieberman, our lackey come president that he had half an edition ready for paper publication. This started a yelling match after which, as a manor of proving something, I am not sure what, he came to me telling me that he had spoken to Lieberman and that if I did not apologise to him, he would walk away. I thought he was nuts but the old guys decided his game was of more value than simply treating our internet business with some respect. In nay case, after this rather than apologising, I started to fade away myself.

This latest bit though came from an outright insult during holiday prayers. The old guys were bitching and moaning that there would be no Rabbi here for the Shavu’os services; everyone was at the boy’s school for the traditional all-night session and therefore there would be no reader for the two day holiday. And though any or all of them were invited to come out to the school, our minion, as usual preferred to sit and spit bile at their having been forgotten rather than just reading for themselves. Well, I also wasn’t planning on going out to the school for two days and so I put together something that would fit the bill for them. It was a lot of work actually, but my thinking was it was something that was needed, so I put in the hours and prepared to give them a reader for the five holiday services. However, instead of just doing the prayers, which at least in theory is why we were there, they chose to abandon my chanting (without listening) claiming, and I am not joking, that my finally gaining my residency card was still not citizenship and therefore they had no need to listen to me. Ouch.

So because of this, I have decided that it really is about us and them. You can analyze the situation for its psychological value and say things like “Belarus is a poor country and therefore they make up for lack of wealth with Ego inflation” or perhaps that they are agreeing to fight along side their president against the EU and the USA and their sanctions and bans; or maybe they are just propping themselves up on bravado and the illusions of self sufficiency. In any case, I am catching a lot of grief because of my passport and nationality and so it is making things more difficult.

This problem though is also having an economic impact on me. Without real resources to play business games, I am left with teaching English as my only real trade here. But again, because of this “Independent Belarus” fad, people are simply not finding learning English to be a worthy goal. I am not speaking of a lot of money lost here, but being a native speaker was up until now a relatively easy sell. These days though have slim pickings and unless I can manage to talk my way into a second credential, I might not even be able to land a regular position come next September. So you see how this works.

But other than this all is ok. I had probably the most euphoric couple of hours the other day that I have had in a while. I got a USB with an MP3 player in it and got to go riding around with Anya on my bike while listening to Paul Simon. Bliss for me, and a thrill and some breeze for our one-and-a-half-year-old. Even the manufacture of the seat and footpegs so Anya could ride with me was a joy, really. I do miss doing bikes.

So you take the good with the bad and then you wake up the next morning and go at it again. Today is Sunday and this means I have a meeting with Rabbi Altman at two, Brazil plays on the TV at 7 tonight and outside it is a beautiful sunny day. I guess I really ought to close this box for a while and go out and try to enjoy things while I can.

More soon…