Friday, November 24, 2006

OK. Thank you and right back at you. I am doing well, thank you

Sitting down to breakfast with the family on Tanya's birthday.
Yesterday was Tanya's birthday. I ended up basically taking the day off of work and we went shopping. I pulled out a lot more money than we would ever normally play with and in the end, we ended up buying a lot of nitpicky things that people normally would not think twice about picking up on a whim. But we had a lot of fun and everything we took make us happy and in the end, the kitchen looked a bit nicer and we prepared a really tasty feast for supper. Great feelings all around. And in the evening, we just sat there sipping colas with a twist of lemon and acting as if we were the most civilized and satisfied people in the world. Wonderful day.

Actually there have been several pieces of interesting news around our house. Egor, our 11-year-old managed to take sixth place in the under 12 Brest Region chess tournament. This is good enough to get him an invitation to the national tournament ion Minsk this coming March. During the tournament, Egor lost only two games, one to Roman Grib, the boy who won the whole thing last year in Minsk and the other was to the boy who finished second in the tournament. He also managed to take second in another tournament to earn a trip to Brest this coming week. All of this winning is heady stuff and even his chess teachers are starting to take the boy seriously. Good job young man.

And in another piece of very local news, it seems as though our house is now completely drunk free. In an amazing series of events, Vadik the potato thief has now decided to move out.

As I understand it, the story goes that the ageless (and toothless) woman with whom he had been associating, had recently lost yet another relative. This latest was her ex-husband who, for some reason had been inhabiting their also lightless apartment on the other side of town. She had lost several other close relatives, all of whom had managed to hold onto property and as a result of all of these circumstances, she is now close to a baroness.

However, up until a few days ago, she had been cohabitating with Vadik downstairs in Baba Ninas home. This predicament had both Nina and Egr her grandson nervous as a cat because both of the honeymooners were basically pie-eyes all the time. Apparently my finding the lovely Princess 7-10 split lying asleep drunk in our corridor turned out to be the last straw and Nina threw her out. Behaving gallantly, as we all should in the presence of royalty, Vadik declared to his mother that he would not tolerate such treatment of his lady lush… uh, love and stated with a flourish of high drama that he was going with her.

Nine did not put a whole lot of energy into her retort.

Our man Egor Kopys played well enough in the regional tournament to earn himself a place in the national tourney to be played in Minsk next March.
And so now, the only thing remaining in our humble little house to remind us of the drunken travesties of two of our apartments has been the hammering going on next door. For the last three days Ivan Fioderovich has been trying to put a new handle and lock on Tolic's door. The problem as far as I can see is that Ivan Fioderovich's hands shake pretty badly when he is sober- actually, he is a pretty shaky dude all around, but the carpentry work so far has proved elusive due to both his physical condition and the physical condition of the door which had been kicked open so many times, that there was hardly enough wood to nail anything to.

So like I said, Tanya and I got to speaking about whether or not we were actually civilized people during a mid afternoon sit on her djen rozhdjyeniya. The locally made Bela-Colas over ice with a twist of lemon tasted just fine at this time and to be frank, the argument was not an easy one to settle. We both agreed that the time when Belarus was at its most civilized has long past. Certainly during the old days there was enough culture and higher learning available to the masses that the world had its refined edges despite the agrarian base used for all. But probably that short period of time after the first fall but before the second when the state and the KGB and all of the other bosses were pretty much gone from daily life and people were working on their own personal versions of life communal was really the golden era. During this time there was real opportunity for idealism and people took the opportunity seriously. Hope was in the air, the poverty was simply an obstacle to overcome and certainly all would overcome it together. This was nastoyashiy kul'tura. This was an example of how a society could live well together.

I am not sure that what is going on is all that bad, but there is no way to say that it is the same and everyone knows it. An example of this came when we passed by two workers fixing a section of broken fence near our house. This was the second fence section that had been broken in the last week and I opined to the worker that this was because people simply don't care any more.

"Well, the difference is," our man offered, "in the old days, this was our fence. Now it is only the state's."

Too true, too true.

But in any case, there is cause for new hope and optimism. We have a new civility in the house and a Rockyesque shot at the title through Egor. Nina's orange cat is pregnant, which means there are going to be kittens hanging around shortly. Anya's second birthday and New Years is on the way. And for sure this winter there will be far fewer drunken idiots lying inert in our corridors to step over on the way home. Ah civilization. You can't beat it.

More soon…