Monday, November 06, 2006

Just got back from my second snow ride of the year...

Note: There is a lively discussion going on over at TOL Blogs over the Totalitarian Tourism article that was also part of the current BHTimes. To have a look at the original article as well as the comments section, click HERE

I don't mind riding in the snow. I don't like ice so much and I don't particularly enjoy falling, but I don't mind the sort of ride you get when it is snowy. It is more about balance and keeping your eyes open than it is about speed. This is not to say that I am very fast anymore. I am not.

Yesterday was the first ride. We were lucky enough to get what might be considered a snowstorm. While it was going on you might call it a snow storm but after, even with the snow in the ground, it was more like a simple snow. But I did my rides- not out of spite against the weather; I just did them because I like to ride in the morning. I did get a lot of looks though as I peddled around town, not really head shakes but more just as if to say "Yea, this is the sort of thing we would do if we were not so depressed".

I say there is depression around here and I am seeing this everywhere. I went over to R' David's house yesterday for my weekly sit-down and Tanya session and he complained a bit. Tanya herself has been complaining and berating non-stop, Tolic's father came over with a full head of steam last night and even the boys at the new Pinsk Yeshiva are whaling away at each other over completely irrelevant points.

But today is not the day to be arguing such things. Today is the first of a two-day holiday celebrating the glorious October Revolution. Why they are either still celebrating something that officially ended 16 years ago is beyond me. I would say the same about celebrating an October Revolution in November, but I already know the reason for that. It is a day off of work and school. I suppose tomorrow there will be speeches. Perhaps not the sport of speeches there would have been back in the day; those complete with flags and a full house on Ploshad Lenina. These days if anything there might e a few rings of artificial flowers laid before Lenin's statue. He is still marching forward even if nobody is following being him- at least not physically.

I overheard a group of boys talking about whether or not communism was still going on yesterday. One of the boys began by saying that he felt he was a communist and began to speak on the subject with some sense of feeling. Another boy was continually laughing at the words which were coming from his friend, sort of establishing a mood of humor and cynicism over the talk. It is hard to tell about this one. Everybody likes to be in good humor and to have a laugh, especially with friends and the boy who was talking was not fighting the boy who laughing. So could we say that it was all a put on, a bunch of words said for the sake of making sport of a holiday misplaced by time and history, or could we say that the one was actually wanting to speak seriously but the other did not?

Either way there is a lot of truth in this moment. The current rhetoric from the government is absolutely filled with old school euphemisms and ideology. True, it is no longer backed up financially and certainly most people understand that no matter how strong the ideology, that paycheck every month had a lot to do with sustaining the culture. So the confusion here is real, as is I suppose, the cynical laughter.

But the depression is real enough. What would cause Belarusian depression? Lack of money is always right there at the front. I have an American friend who loves Belarus but who never seems to get the point about money. We have the re-runs of the TV show "Friends" here dubbed into Russian and I am a semi-daily watcher. The other day there was the episode where Monica dates a millionaire and as a gift, for some reason, he gives her a check for $20,000. Well, you know how it goes and after fighting with the issue for a while, Monica of course gives back the check. At the moment this happened though, Tanya let out this animal grunt of pain. Any ideas of moral strength or meaning behind a bunch of money is not even inconsequential- the thought does not even come to mind that there is an issue; It is all Greek or Chinese or Martian or some other language you never even thought to study in school. "Take the money!" She cried. High theatre perhaps when you think about it.

So there is that. And the weather is hard too, and this makes walking around harder; not everyone just thinks of it as something interesting on their bike track.

I actually took Sergei Liakovich's loss to Shannon Briggs pretty hard. I liked having a Belarusian heavyweight champion of the world even if the writers never took him seriously. And the description of the fight sort of implied both he and Briggs were not all that and a bag of chips.

You do take things like this hard in Belarus. There really isn't a whole lot to look forward to and when you get let down, it sort of opens all the doors and windows to all of those emotions that you keep bottled up in order to simply get on with it every day. I think perhaps the president knows this which is why we get such edited news and sports coverage. Europeans and Americans can rant and rave as you like about this, but frankly, most of the time life is hard enough without badgering us with our folly.

Anyway, I was up and on the bike early this morning and the ride was just ok for me. I then was over for prayers with the Yeshiva guys- I was on time for my invitation- they were not. And now I am getting ready to do all of the things that I have to do to get through this day. And there is a lot too. There will be all week. But I am not going to let the work load get me down. Or my lack of funds. And I am not going to be peeking over at the color of the grass on the other side of the fence; or questioning any choices I have made in the past. I am just going to do it because it is better to be doing something than to be doing nothing. And, it is better to be doing something one believes in than not. And I still do believe.

More soon…