Wednesday, October 11, 2006

So much going on right now, I am finding it hard to handle all of it...

A lot of it has to do with how much work I have to do mixed in with how little I make doing it. Normally I feel I have an apt enough mind, but lately fatigue has sort of mixed itself in there and the results have been that though I can actually remember most everything I have asked myself to, I don't seem to be able to bring any of it up without prompting. I am not sure if this is normal or not. I suppose it is.

One instance of this got me into moderate trouble recently with a translator. Yad Yisroel wishes that its website be translated into both Russian and Hebrew, not an overtly difficult project to handle but one that has its thorny side. This week saw two such complications. The first was easily handleable and was defiantly my fault. I had said that I would make a call to the translator regarding the job the day following day to verify that I would help him with the meanings of a list of Yiddish and Hebrew words and I never did. I have no excuse, I spaced the call because I was amidst one of those get-three-day's-work-done-before-a-5:00pm-deadline-days that I hate more than anything up-to-and-including a one-day-a-month Polish court date. But missing that call turned into a four day stiff for our gentile translator when the High Holy Days got started. Of course he didn't understand that I could not call him on these days due to a prohibition against work or phone communications. I came home Monday afternoon only to hear that our man had called, that he was pissed at not being called back for half a week and he needed to know something about money…

Like I said, this was easily handleable because the Jewish community has some clout when it comes to money (Have we ever cheated anyone? Have you any doubts that you will be paid?) and so we fell back into good graces with each other rather quickly. But then all of this good will gave way to new irritation when Yahoo refused to allow the man's e-mails to come through. I ended up at the computer for almost an hour waiting for even one instance of his Jewish word clarification list to come through. THAT problem finally got figured out the next morning when looking at his computer screen, I suddenly figured out that an e-mail from with a combination of a name and a number for an e-mail address might be taken for spam rather than a business e-mail. I get several hundred spasm a day so I didn't even register that there was an incoming. Looking through my endless list of viruses, Nigerian queries for my bank account number and offers for imitation Viagra, I found all of this poor man's letters.

After this was cleared up, all I had to do was to convince one of our rabbis to help out and explain what all of those words meant; which he did, and as it turns out with pleasure, though getting him to the computer at all was worse than pulling teeth. But the point is that the work is moving along and soon the website will be multi-lingual, which we hope will be of some use to us locally.

Speaking of Jewish stuff, I ran into a remarkable bit of anti-Semitism right at my front door the other day. Outrageous really how insidious it was. I had just come back from biking around with my yet-to-be-two-year-old daughter, and there sitting on Baba Masha's bench was this really rather scary looking skin head type. Now, this is in the middle of a work day; I know why I have time to go for a ride with my girl, but most self respecting folks are at work at about this time. So my thinking was that I was just going to take my bike and my girl upstairs and leave this brooding baldy to his own miseries. But no, my little girl has a fettish for cats and the little orange scoundrel who loves to give us all fleas was in the garden at this time and this meant that Anya wanted to go play with it rather than come in. So of course this put me in a situation where I had to stay out for a moment. Well of course this is Belarus so people just don't occupy a space without interacting, so I offered the smallest of head nods and stared plaintively at Anya hoping she would understand the inference that I wished for her to just pick up the cat and come home already. Well skinhead for reasons known only to himself decides to TAKE OFFENCE at my head nod- ok, ok, I could have throw in a 'zdravstvuyitye' but if I did, this would have opened the door to a conversation and I didn't want any open doors here.

So anyway, the guy stares at me for a moment and I look at my kid and back to this thug and give him a shrug of the shoulders as if to say "Well, you know, she is my daughter so what can I do?" and as soon as I do this, the guy stands up and walks over to me. He is staring right into my eyes and as he is coming he says something in a voice that was so small that it was almost inaudible. I couldn't really hear a word except for something at the end about a ruble. I asked him to repeat himself and not a whole lot louder he asks me to give him a thousand rubles to help pay for something, maybe it was a beer but I couldn't really hear him well this time either; he took a few crumpled bills from his pocket to show that he is close to the right amount. Well, you know it is a holiday and I wasn't carrying any money and I told him I was sorry, but that I didn't have even a ruble in my pocket. He looked at me funny and then got a really starchy smile on his face and repeated that it was only a ruble (1000 rubles in slang). I said to him that again, I was sorry but what I said was the truth: I did not have any money in my pockets. So he takes another half step closer, leans his face right up into mine and asks me if I was Jewish. The question hit me like a slap in the face.

"Yes. And you?" I answered. He gave a half laugh and leaned back with a look on his face like he had just bitten into a rotten apple.

"No. I'm Russian." He said.

"That's a nationality, not a religion." I added, which sort of stopped him for a second. He actually looked a bit confused. I guess he was not expecting that his answer hadn't said all that needed to be said. He then nodded and walked away. Anya then screamed with glee and came over with a very dour looking cat slung over her shoulder.

And while I am speaking of people who come on your property seemingly for no other purpose than just to screw your mind, just a few days ago we had YET ANOTHER RUN-IN WITH THE DOMA PROVLEMNYA PEOPLE!!

That's right, the same housing organization who told us just this last spring that after we built our new fence they would leave us and our gardens alone forever, sent another representative over to deliver a paper telling us to take down our fences or they would do it for us and charge us for their time. You like this? Again, and just as always: No discussion, no points to be made and a flat out shock for the systems of our pensioners who use the gardens. Now, this was not the famous Belarusian Nazi Malochko; that dog hating, photo taking belligerent bitch has been sent to other territories to harass and intimidate in the name of the state. This was a new, younger model concentration camp guard with long hair, a charming smile and tight sweater. This frail voiced little messenger delivered the sign-here-documents and was already prepared with the "I am nobody, I just do what they tell me" speech. This for some reason charmed the Red Baba for reasons I will never understand, but that is another story.

So now we have to go and fight it out with the same people who while they are claiming to be the authority on proper housing, couldn't manage the job of putting a primer coat on the house and wasted the whole bank wad when the paint peeled off before even five months had passed. My question is simple: Why on G-d's green earth posses these people to do this to us every spring and fall? What the hell do they need from a group of retirees who have been raising tomatoes and berries and onions on this little plot for 50 years? And why isn't their word worth a skinheads beer money? I will keep you posted on this little get-together. In fact, I am thinking of taping the meeting just to give you a look into what one of these encounters sound like.

More soon…