Thursday, September 06, 2007

A cup of coffee in the morning…

Russian or Turkish coffee pots; a very good way to make coffee.
Today was Tatyana's day off and so we tried to have a restful day. Tanya has a varied schedule and doesn't generally know when she will have her days off until Sunday. Mostly this is not so problematic but sometimes it can be a bit grating. This last week was one of the more grating periods. The book shop granted Tanya an additional day off for the week when my dad was here but then decided to only give her one day last week to make up the time. That one day off was the previous Tuesday so effectively she ended up working 11 out of the next 12 days so as you can imagine she was a little on the irritable side.

On top of this she has had a remarkable string of bad luck in terms of breaking things and this has been especially true over the last two days. This morning in fact while washing the clothes, she noticed that she had neglected to take her phone out of the pocket first. This was a very traumatic moment as you can imagine. I suggested we should at least pause and have a cup of coffee. However, while moving the breakfast dishes she accidentally knocked the French press coffee maker off the counter, the glass cylinder smashing into several pieces. Trying to be smart about things and understanding that getting to the actual coffee drinking as soon as possible was imperative, I found a glass pitcher in our china cabinet which was about the same diameter as would fit the plunger and offered that as a coffee maker. Unfortunately, this rather attractive glass pitcher was not designed for hot water and promptly cracked as soon as Tanya poured. More tears, more hysteria. So much for coffee.

*****

Actually though, that French press coffee maker carries an interesting story because it was not our first one. We had bought our original French press coffee maker last December and had been in love with the thing. Up until then, coffee had not even been all that important to us. Probably this was because we couldn't make anything even close to a decent cup of coffee. The Russians have two ways of making a cup of coffee; they either simply pour hot water over coffee in a kettle and let it sit or they do a more exotic variation where they they put water and finely ground coffee in a metal cup with a long handle which is then passed through heated sand until it boils, the coffee, grounds and all is then poured into a cup and mixed with a lot of sugar. I guess this is sort of Turkish style but they call it Russian anyway. The cups make nice gifts. But as an American, I prefer a large cup of coffee and so we had been relying on instant coffees, which suck, but which I guess is actually the norm around here. You can't get fresh bread 'till 9:00 anyway so who cares about decent coffee, right?

But once we had decided that we wanted some decent coffee in our lives, last winter we threw caution to the wind, muscled up and bought a French press coffee maker along with a couple of matching glasses. The cost of one of these things is around 38,000 rubles, about $18 and this was a really hard decision to actually part with this much money, just for coffee, but again as having a nice cup of coffee available is one of those basic luxuries (and this is not an oxymoron), the holiday season and the accompanying potential elevation in our humble lifestyle dictated that it was indeed worth it. And we did make good use of the purchase: Literally, our social lives tripled as we not had the ability to "invite friends over for coffee." That 38,000 was not only worth it, it turned out to even be a good investment.

But then one day early this spring for some reason the thing decided to break as we were pouring hot water into it. I don't know why a French press coffee maker should break from having hot water poured into it. Obviously one would think that French press coffee makers would be built specifically to withstand the heat of hot water being poured into it, this being the rasons de être of a French press coffee maker in the first place. More likely though as this was a Russian version of a French press coffee maker it had a different prechin dlya zhizn that being to make as much money as possible, therefore breaking from hot water being poured into it would be a desirable attribute because it necessitates the purchase of another unit.

Regardless of this though I decided not to take this lying down and straight away returned to the place I bought the thing and demanded that I get another French press coffee maker, or at least a replacement glass cylinder. The lady who owns the shop was at first rather hostile to the idea. She did not guarantee her products. She had no idea how the glass cylinder actually broke. She did not even know how we had used the thing. Being the only American in Pinsk has its pluses though and my celebrity status mixed with my refusal to say anything critical of the owner eventually charmed the lady into agreeing that yes, it is a specifically obnoxious happenstance to have a French press coffee maker break because of putting hot water into it. She told me that I could come back after two months, after the next time she goes to Moscow, and she would be happy to replace the unit at that time. During that period I tried writing to the manufacturer, a firm located in Hong Kong and not Moscow, and asking for a replacement cylinder. After my first four requests went unanswered, I told them I was willing to pay for the glass and the postage if only they would be kind enough to send us a replacement. No luck. Still unwilling to part with another 38,000 rubles, I did in fact come back to the store two months later only to find that the store no longer carried French press coffee makers. Apparently, said the owner, the glass cylinder were prone to breaking when people poured hot water into them.

I eventually bought the second one last July during the time when Anya was not at the kindergarten. The reason I mention Anya in this I that by way of trying to keep her amused in the mornings while she was at home, I started taking her shopping with me at the market, an activity she took to like a fish takes to water or a bird takes to the skies. If a dress was the right color or looked like it belonged with something she already had she simply had to have it. And me? Well, cob webs in the wallet or no, I didn't have even close to the coldness necessary to turn the girl down especially when something she fancied matched her shoes or purse. Anyway, it was just after she got a pink skirt with a matching cotton top (there were spangly butterflies on there if I remember) that I realized that Tanya was beginning to get angry because apparently I had money to spend on Anya but not on her. Fearing I would start to take some serious grief about this new skirt and top combo, Egor got some fishing gear and Tanya, well, I sprung for a second French press.

*****

Anyway, this was the model that got swept off the counter this morning. Well as I said Tanya has had this string of bad luck and not enough time off of work so I decided that we should take some time off and go shopping for a new coffee maker. NOT A FRENCH PRESS MIND YOU, I am off those for good, but something to use to make a decent cup of coffee in the morning. Unfortunately though, Tanya's mood was as black a dark Turkish roast and after looking at a couple of different drip Euro-style coffee makers, all of which cost between $35 and $50, she decided to give up. She wasn't interested any more in coffee makers and she would just assume go and buy a box of Nescafe and be done with it. I decided to take a look in one more shop.

This last shop had some interesting things, some nice kettles and even a small percolator, something we had not seen anywhere else. If it had been larger I would have got that. And they also had some long handled Russian boiling pots of about $20 or so. Tanya was telling me that she had had enough and wanted to leave. I was getting angry and was defiantly tired of trying to be nice about things and about spending money I didn't have on stuff I should not have had to buy in the first place, but I started to stare at this one-and-a-half litre sauce pan they had. It was not very pretty; it was made of aluminum, had a cover and a short handle. And it was very cheap; only 11,000 rubles, about five bucks. Just next to it was hanging a little colander with a fine mesh and just next to that were the Russian cups.

A simple sauce pot; just as good
"Let's make the coffee in this." I said. She thought I was pointing to a kettle.

"You're crazy. I won't ruin a nice pot for coffee."

"No, that little pot there with the handle."

"I would never drink anything that came from that."

"Look, what's the difference. It is just like one of those Russian pots only four times cheaper and five times larger."

"I have a headache, I am going home…"

"Listen, it is made of metal. Even if you throw it across the room you can't break this one."

Her face darkened. I could see the muscles of her jaw clench and unclench.

"I would not put this in my house. It is a cheap piece of shit. I would be ashamed to show it to people."

"Well I like it. It is simple, it's cheap and I think it will work."

"You don't care about me do you?" She was now close to tears. "You are crazy. Give me the keys, I am going home!"

That did it. I told the lady to give me the pot and the little colander and paid 14,500 rubles for both. I held up our new coffee pot so Tanya could see it. She turned and marched out of the store. She wouldn't even look at me.

I caught up to her and fell into step along side. We were literally snarling at each other; she at me for buying this "cheap piece of shit" and me at her for being so unreasonable.

"You didn't even understand how those Euro Mr. Coffee machines worked!"

No reply. The troops were amassing at the border for a real battle royal. We were silent all the way through the market but then suddenly on the street just outside the market, we came upon this golden (literally) tea pot which was being sold off the street by the local contrabandists. The contrabandists are private dealers who buy things in foreign countries and sell them near the markets without paying for a place or showing any papers as to where they bought their goods. This coffee/tea pot was probably from Poland. It was all gold and looked like it was maybe made in India or China. What had caught our eye was that when you opened the lid, there was a built in, removable screen where you could put your coffee or tea. The system was simple and Tanya was intrigued. The contrabandists wasted 25,000 rubles.

"Look what they have here waiting for us." Tanya cooed, "This looks like it would make a very nice cup of coffee and it is pretty too" She was being sarcastic and gestured in the direction of my aluminum saucepan and mini-colander.

I was mad. I was really mad. The tea pot was about as ugly as anything I have ever seen. The thought struck me though that because was so ugly, there would probably be some real long term suffering over it being in our possession. Bingo.

"You want it?" I said in Russian.

"You see, this is the sort of thing a woman wants in her house…"

"You want it?"

"An investment in the kitchen is never wasted…"

"You want it?"

"You were so quick to spend the money and look what we could have had…"

"You want it?"

"And now we have only this piece of shit and we don't have the money for this beautiful…

"You want it?" Several of the contrabandists also repeated the question. Tanya stopped, realizing she was now on the spot to make a decision. After a short pause an evil smile crept onto her face. Probably she was thinking that making me pay for this ugly thing would make me suffer. She nodded her head. I quickly counted out the money and put this ugly, cheap, gold plated chunk of crap in our bag and marched. We stopped on the way to get to get some fresh bread and a couple of pastries to go with out "coffee". After the milk store we split up, Tanya going to bring Anya home from kindergarten and me going home to make coffee. There was exactly zero choice as to which coffee maker to use.

The French press: Over rated, over priced and way, way, way too fragile
I dropped in two tablespoons of ground coffee and filled my five-dollar, plain-and-simple aluminum pot with cold, filtered water and set it on the stove to boil. I spooned into our mugs some crème and some concentrated sweet milk and then set our lunch on the table. When the water first boiled, I used a trick I learned from watching someone make Russian coffee once and lifted the pot until the boil settled and then returned it to the flame several times, each time removing it when the rolling boil returned. I then poured the coffee through the strainer and mixed mine and had a sip. Perfect. Better even that anything we ever got out of that damned Russian/French press and cleaner too. Tanya and Anya got home a few minutes later and when she tried it she agreed that it was indeed a fine cup of coffee and after several sips and a few bites of fresh pastry, started to relax a bit. You could see that she felt much better. A good cup of coffee will do that for you. After a few minutes we found ourselves staring at the golden pot.

"It really is ugly, isn't it?"

"Yes it is. You want to bring it back?"

"I would never do it."

"Why not?"

"It's an embarrassment."

"More embarrassing than having it in the kitchen?"

"This is the truth."

"So what are we supposed to do with it?" I asked her.

"You don't want to use it?"

"I wouldn't drink one drop from it if I lived to be a thousand."

"Maybe I can give it to my sister and mother."

"That would be nice. Do you think they will like it?"

"No. But anyway it is nice to receive a gift now and then."

"Tell 'em it is for tea."

More soon…

24 Comments:

Anonymous Mike Miller said...

I am not a coffee drinker, but I sympathize with Tanyas being upset with breaking things.I might have some gevalia bags I could send you, I will see.

Friday, September 07, 2007  
Anonymous J said...

I'd be interested to compare notes more, but for now, I can't tell you how many parallels I see. That near-vicious refusal to engage in rational conversation; almost like logic itself is a threat to her independence, no matter how damaging the irrational action may be. Is it a Belarusian thing in general, or just those Belarusian women who choose to attach to American men? Of course I'm not Y***'s father and don't know the intimate reality, but I had always hoped that Y*** would be as rational and accommodating as her mother seems to be.

Friday, September 07, 2007  
Blogger BEING HAD said...

Hi J. You are writing abuot the coffee post? And your better half's name is Y***, is this right. Kind of out of the blue here but I am into the conversation. And yea, you are pobably refering to something that is in fact a cultural axiom.

Friday, September 07, 2007  
Anonymous J said...

Yeah, the coffee post. And yes, Y*** is her name. There's one way in which my problem is different - when she breaks things, she just tries to shrug it off. That could be an economic thing as our American lifestyle leaves us more buffer income/reserves/credit to replace things (though that was definitely not the case when we were first married). What drives me insane is when she won't at least confess that she made a mistake or did something wrong - like wiping her skin cleaner off her face with one of the good towels when she knows the peroxide bleaches out fabrics (let's just say we don't have any good towels anymore), or using one of the nice drinking glasses (which she'll then break by accident) when we specifically bought some aluminum tumblers to keep the good glasses safe. Those are just two of many examples. Not being unrealistic about her income vs. mine (especially as she didn't have a job for a long time after coming here), I don't really expect her to pay full price to replace everything that's been screwed up or broken. But not admitting responsibility is huge with me. Honest to G-d, it could all be over in five minutes if she'd just give me a sincere apology and indication that she understands she did something wrong.

That comment of yours - "Listen, it is made of metal. Even if you throw it across the room you can't break this one", really rang true. Your choice of words and tone obviously didn't help at that moment, and you don't want to be snarky or accusatory, but damn, you want so badly to remind her that she put you into the situation in the first place and the least she could do is be a constructive part of the solution. Again, it's a a matter of responsibility.

Cultural axiom indeed. How obvious when Russia insists on being the formal torch bearer for all the "glories" of the Soviet Union, but refuses to pick up all the pieces when newly independent neighbors are still suffering the fallout of Moskva's mistakes (literally, in Belarus' case).

Friday, September 07, 2007  
Blogger BEING HAD said...

Absolutly true. There is a game here which is called kto vinovat (who's guilty) and the way you play is to never take responsibility for anything, ever, no matter how clearly you are responsible for the event. Thinking up even a passable aliby right there on the spot actually can get to be like an artform after a while. really it doesn't matter WHAT you say, only that you say something and refuse the blame.

I have a very good friend who married a Belarusian woman. I like her a lot actually, but it seems as though he is on his way to insanity just tryng to justify the life. She recently came for a visit here and we had some coffee (French press) and while speaking about the time when they first got together, she mentions that she specifically told him that she was too difficult. This you see was something he needed to agree whether or not he truly understood what he was gtetting into! Way, way, way over his head but for sure he is still in there plugging away.

The word in Russian is protivni, it means antagonist. I think if the pope could marry and went with a Belarusian she would find cause to assail his character. And to be even more cynical, there is probably good reason why there is a 15 year disparity between the mean ages of death for Belarusian men and women and that the highest rate of domestic violence in the world happens in Russia. And of course there is a natural irony in that one needs to become an alcoholic to avoid the pain caused by a woman who incessantly treats you as if you already were one.

On a lighter note, I have a joke you can tell your better half that will get her goat because she will understand that it is from home.
A woman comes home from work and finds her husband in bed with another woman. The woman shouts "What is this?" and the husband replies "Why? You said you wanted a new washing machine. This is her!"

Friday, September 07, 2007  
Blogger BEING HAD said...

I just thought of another one. Sort of Steven Writish, maybe;

I wanted to get married so I sent for a mail-order bride from Russia. She came with postage due.

Friday, September 07, 2007  
Anonymous J said...

I'm curious what your friend's employment situation is here in the States. It makes a big difference. Y*** got a job about six months ago and a lot has changed for the better.

Firstly is, obviously, the money. It's not much, but it does its part. It helps me pay some bills and it allows her to take care of most of her luxuries herself.

She's also working in her actual field (fashion design). That was almost a deal-breaker early on because she refused to work any job outside a very narrowly defined number of fields. Right after she arrived and we married, I had to move on from a well-paying seasonal job and for a couple months I did anything necessary to keep us afloat. Then I had what by all accounts was a "good" job in terms of pay and benefits, but I hated the work itself. Now I'm in something I really enjoy and the pay is more than adequate. But let me tell you, it was rough early on to be taking temp jobs handing out flyers on street corners while she refused to even take a part-time folding shirts at the Gap. That built a lot of resentment from my side, which still bubbles up now and then, but looking back, I'd hate to think about the attitude she'd be bringing home after a day in a "McJob".

But lastly, and I think this is really key, because she's in a work environment with only her boss and one other employee (and neither of them are Russian), it's really forced her to learn and accept the character traits expected in American professional culture, and it shows. Sometimes I feel like she's better with them than with me, but I'm growing to accept that the rain on their land is still watering mine and I should be grateful.

It's funny you mention the alcohol. "The Cabinet" totally freaked her out when she arrived. The thing is, I'm a hoarding skinflint when it comes to booze. Whenever I go into a liquor store, I think about what "essentials" I don't have. I keep imagining myself in some situation where I'll be entertaining and I'll find myself unprepared, but the only thing I actually drink is three or four beers a week. So about twelve months after she arrived, just before we left Chicago to visit Belarus for this past New Year, I very deliberately sat her down in the kitchen and asked "How much alcohol is still in the cabinet?" She looked and said, "All of it." At which point I asked, "OK, so, do you see that I don't have any problems with alcohol?" She replied, "I guess so." I said, "We've had a long, hard year, and this expensive trip to see your family is also my first real vacation in over two years." She replied "Alright..." I continued, "You also realize that I worked and lived in Belarus for eight months and made a lot of friends of my own. So, when your father or any of my friends offer me a drink, on MY VACATION, are you going to make me feel bad about it, or are you going to be happy that I'm enjoying MY VACATION?" She gave me a little smile and said, "Have a good time."

And I did.

Saturday, September 08, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why do you need this? Someone writes to you and you start to say this shit. You forgot to mention any plusses about living with Belarusian women like for instance you can live poor as hell with them. All American men are messy and Belarusian women must take care of them like they are babies. And you are loud! Screaming dirty words. And you find such interesting ways to work but never in a practical or understandable way. And you never fix anything in the house or help with the work that needs to be done. And you are greedy people, you Americans. You like the cheapest things and you don't care about your clothes and you don't appreciate that women need to feel themselves good. You are selfish people who only think about themselves and this is the truth.

Saturday, September 08, 2007  
Blogger BEING HAD said...

Ah, she was just saying that to make you feel better in the moment. It was simply a bit of misdirection, a ploy, a head fake. You didn't win the war; she just gave you an easy pitch down the middle for a change. And she made you beg for that pitch. Think about her strategy for giving you that little kiss on the nose: You still had to take pains to come to her and ask permission to do something you personally did previously based only on when and how social situations evolved. Now however, she has taken control of the liquor cabinets and has established restrictions on its use. You also now require a permit to go there. By establishing this control over this particular resource, she has made it clear that she is the boss and that you have to play by her rules. And frankly, who controls the vodka, wields great power (i.e. the war on drugs, legalization of marijuana, etc…). I guarantee you she has no academic background or specific medical research backing up any notions of the evils of alcohol; she only understands that drinking vodka will make you feel better and more relaxed and therefore will break you from the rigid discipline necessary to be with her. As you mentioned, Y*** is a very difficult and occasionally irresponsible personality. Perhaps we could assign the words "sometimes acts like she is the queen of the world" here. Extrapolating one step further brings us to the realm of religion because all mortal royalty sits in question of the existence of G-d. Looking at it this way, we have already learned that Y***'s religion is a difficult one to follow and has many intricacies, rituals, restrictions and phenomena which are as unexplainable as any we have in the world. And for sure, she is saying, that you can't do it drunk. That liquor cabinet, and I remember the photo, is the equivalent of a safe full of gold by Belarusian perspective and oif course, SHE who has the gold, makes the rules.

My friends employment issues were similar to how you have described Y**'s situation. Everything you said about the money is the truth. And all kidding aside, you simply need to remember the economic and cultural situation from which these women came. Life was very, very, very chaotic and difficult. Finding satisfying solutions to life's problems has been close to impossible and therefore their world has taught them that only perfection succeeds. And even then, you still have to go to work the next day.

And finally, I regret that I have not said this as of yet but you should remember that you are lucky to have such a fine woman. Thank you Anonymous for reminding me of this...

Saturday, September 08, 2007  
Anonymous j said...

I find it ironic that within three sentences anonymous accuses us of of being greedy and selfish while at the same time saying we don't spend enough money on things or adequately obsess over our clothes. Maybe Belarusian women aren't so easy to live with poor after all.

Saturday, September 08, 2007  
Anonymous Jenny said...

I am an English woman, and my husband and I are poor.......we get our clothes from charity shops .........Belarusian women are lovely, I know lots and so are Belarusian men....... women world over look after their men, poor or not, dignity is inbuilt.

Saturday, September 08, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think you are writing as an American here and do not understand who we are. Our culture has its peculiarities and nice clothes are very important to us. Even if we are poor and have nothing we still must make sure that we dress nicely. This is the truth and we even teach this to our children at a young age. You can ask your wife.

Saturday, September 08, 2007  
Blogger BEING HAD said...

I'd like to chime in here that my father's side of the family is from here and he has been a clothes horse all his life. It has always been extremely important to him that his appearance is impeccable. Even out in the villages this is true in its way but in town at the schools and universities it is absolutely a fact; you need to dress well out here. It's simply part of the deal.

Saturday, September 08, 2007  
Anonymous Steve R said...

I think Belarusian women are knockouts myself. I have been there in the summertime and it can be like a fireworks show, one more beautiful than the next. Sorry I haven't written in a while. I was on vacation and didn't use the computer.

Saturday, September 08, 2007  
Anonymous j said...

Hello again, anonymous. I've understood for quite a long time the importance that Belarusians (generally) place on clothes, so you don't really don't need explain that. I'm just curious why you need to spend so much time reinforcing stereotypes, when my situation has been almost the exact opposite of your most serious statements: The reality is that I'm much more conscientious about keeping our apartment clean and fixing things than my wife. Honestly, not only does she not clean up very much, she also makes the biggest messes.
We can go back and forth for a long time about what we've seen, so maybe I'm not making a constructive observation. But I'd have to say that the beauty of Belarusians' clothes in public is almost directly proportionate to the unhappiness on their faces. (Adam, not having tracked down a photo of Tanya on your site, I have to ask: has she ever actually learned to SMILE in a photograph?) I guess I'd be unhappy too if I was worried about what everyone is thinking about me when I walk to the corner store for 20 minutes to buy a bottle of milk. I know how to dress for work and the right occasions (I love wearing cufflinks), but if I had to choose between American society where I'm more judged by my work and character or Belarusian society where I'm judged by whether I'm wearing counterfeit Dolce & Gabbana, it's not a difficult choice. The happiest people I met in Belarus were the least worried about fashion.

Saturday, September 08, 2007  
Anonymous Jenny said...

Nice clothes are very important in our culture, but in England where I live, they are so darned expensive. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder....Man looks at the outward appearance but God looks at the heart.

If you are beautiful on the inside it will show through whether you wear a plastic bag or Gucci, Prada or Burberry.

Sunday, September 09, 2007  
Anonymous j said...

Bless you, jenny. We need more people like you!

Sunday, September 09, 2007  
Blogger BEING HAD said...

I think what Anon said was that the clothing issue was something that was, is. It is a cultural thing. And in addition to this, there was at one time a word used as a way of describing a "perfect" person, one who tries to be perfect in all things they do. The word was poriadachnia. I remember that it was very difficult for me to come to grips with a culture which was not about a group of individuals vying for their individual comforts but rather a social economy where people were trying to play their part as just one part of a greater whole. The actual "rules' of social conduct were very, very important to people. Everyone knew them and those individuals who were the best at following were praised rather than ostracized. Belarusians during the time of the USSR were specifically touted as role models because of this attribute. Now I can understand how this might be an issue to you personally. Many people think that doing the opposite of American culture was how a lot of the nuances got started. The American way of intentionally varying from the norm in order to express one's individuality was not seen as a higher calling, it was seen as making a social disturbance which was not wanted or needed; it was a disruption of the peace and calm. Probably this is changing but for sure I get this occasionally from older acquaintances.

I also think you are being a bit out of line in publicly criticizing your wife for not keeping house. There is to me a moral issue at play and there are certain things one simply doesn't do. You could have just as easily said "I have a friend who is married to a Belarusian woman…" and this would not have been as harsh, personal or frankly, immature.

I remember a movie called Bitter Moon [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bitter_Moon] in which a couple's desire to follow their hedonism eventually leads them to ruin. Specifically though two scenes come to mind. Early in the movie when Peter Coyote's lust is still strong for Emmanuelle Seigner, the sight of her spilling milk all over herself as she drinks straight from the bottle is arousing. Later though, after the honeymoon is over, the same situation only leads him to anger that there is now a mess that needs to be cleaned up. This sounds to me sounds like what you are going through.

I was writing about frayed nerves and a streak of bad luck and probably also a little something about how we become attached (addicted) to things and how these attachments and addictions affect us. I added in the dialogue as it happened but I was not talking specifically about bad Tatyana, just this damned coffee situation. I am glad that you found something in there that touched you J. This means to me that something I have written has relevance and this is very important. But I don't agree with either hacking on your wife to other people or taking criticisms as an invitation to fight rather than as additional points of conversation. You should be calm. This is how the Belarusians say it. To me the woman you describe is passionate, talented, artistic and serious and evidently, she leads you quite a life. At times of stress you should perhaps try and remember how lucky you are to have someone like that with you.

Sunday, September 09, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The guy who just talked was a genius. And about clothes, I agree 100%. In my mind I don't think that it is the clothes which are important but the person. But in our country it is impossible because people will just laugh from you. And about unhappiness, our people can laugh and we have jokes and sometimes, American humor seems very not funny to us. And especially when the smile is not real and it goes not from your soul. We don't take it. I mean what is this? When a person smiles at you like an idiot, where can you look? You even can't look at his eyes or his face and all of the thoughts in your head will stop and all you ask is: who is he? Generally I think Adam knows how to talk with women. I liked to read his comments. He has intelligent thoughts especially for the women's side.

Sunday, September 09, 2007  
Anonymous Jenny said...

In England, where I live (to anonymous), people laugh at my clothes all the time. I work in an international bank where money and looking good, go hand-in-hand....but I think about them THAT I WORK WITH, stuff you mate.......I am happy in my own skin and if you don't like what I wear.........it is YOUR problem and not MINE.

They are snobs, but being dressed up just to impress others, is another form of snobbery, inverted snobbery........... Be happy with yourself, you are worth more than them!

Sunday, September 09, 2007  
Anonymous Lee said...

Read your tale of the coffee pot. I have a cold water process that turns your coffee into a syrup that you pour a little into a glass add hot water and you have not just one great cup of coffee but enough syrup for a week. It's a plastic container that has a filter and a plug at the bottom. Put a pound of ground coffee into it, add cold water and let set for 24 hours. After this you just put the plastic over a glass jar, pull the plug and let the contents drip. It will fill the jar and you can use as little or as much as you need to make a great cup of coffee. Simply add hot water to the cup.

Sorry to read that you are having a hard time with the teaching job, the best of luck. I know you will get what you are looking for.

Had a very good golf day today: shot my age and won some money.

Miss you all Love Dad

Sunday, September 09, 2007  
Blogger BEING HAD said...

Wow!! Shot your age?!?! That is excellent! You are a king. I will look at your plastic tube apparatus. I have an open mind even if what you are describing does sound a bit like an irrigation unit for uncomfortably stopped up people. However, we are bouncing a long right now on the aluminum pot and strainer deal. The coffee has been amazing and strangely, it seems that the aluminum pop has the attribute of keeping the water hot enough for the second pot of coffee. I thought that it would heat up faster and lose heat faster than a steel pot, but it has been just the opposite. And no, we have not used the golden teapot yet for anything other than a reminder of how bad things can get if you let them.

We miss you too. You were here for far too short a visit.

Sunday, September 09, 2007  
Anonymous j said...

My wife is indeed a very talented individual, and much like my grandmother learned to accept the trying character flaws of my very talented grandfather, I'm gradually learning to take the bad with the good.
I'd say what initially caught my eye with her was her effort to be unique. She's very conscious and particular about what she wears, like most Belarusian women, but she definitely has a style that sets her apart which isn't connected to labels or price tag, and I continue to genuinely admire that. My own general style may be more casual, but it makes it all the more fun when I see the shocked delight on her face when I really dress to the nines or pick out something special at the store by myself. I like the change-ups in the routine. :-)
Anonymous, my point about smiling is that having a big, happy smile has nothing to do with being "an idiot." That's your choice of words and you're simply proving my point. I think it's sad that any culture should be so suspicious of expressions of joy. Or maybe the word to use isn't suspicious, maybe "threatened by." Adam, doesn't this play back to "...the rigid discipline necessary to be with her."?
I've never really accepted that just because something is a "cultural norm," that it's somehow instantly validated. If that were the case might Cenral Americans still be making blood offerings? Obsession with fashion and fear of public opinion may be as much the cultural norm in Belarus as rampant consumerism is the norm in America, but that doesn't make either of them particularly "right."
I don't understand why certain people get demonized in these comment fields so quickly. I understand that you had a different point to this post, but that doesn't change the fact that a lot about Tanya has been laid bare, and I fail to see how I've said anything more damning. I don't think I've given enough detail on my relationship to justify the characterizations you made when defining "protivni." And as for my story about the liquor cabinet, you took that someplace rather dark that I never even had in the back of my mind.
I had hoped that our private conversation could be a chance for a couple of guys to share over a couple of virtual beers, but you made it public without asking me, I played along, and now you're taking me to task. A very short time ago you said that what I "had to say about Belarusian women was pretty much right on the nail." And how exactly does anonymous' first comment qualify as just "additional points of conversation?" Seriously, what gives?

Sunday, September 09, 2007  
Blogger BEING HAD said...

First of all, I love you Jenny!

Secondly, I love you too Anon!

Thirdly, J, you wrote some stuff and I wrote some stuff back. I have been with Tanya for five years, six if you count Poland and I think we understand each other pretty well by now. But no matter how many times she shows up in local stories, I never hack on her or about any inconsistencies in our relationship publicly. Anecdotes, occasionally, but this has way more to do with illustrating my family life in Belarus than it is a virtual bitch session. This I do not do.

Also, for sure I am as guilty as anyone, anywhere of over-exposing my private life through this medium and it has gotten to the point where some people have completely ignored the reason for my being on the web in the first place and have started to call me attention whore. I still even have people misunderstand that I never, ever, ever wanted to play Robert in Pod Kablukom or for that matter to ever be on a stage. I like to write not to be in the spotlight. I am not an actor, I am a human being!

But you are right that I stuck the conversation up there. I thought I had already explained in a private letter my thoughts on this. Actually, as long as you are pretending not to have heard them, I will go ahead and print that right here:

J said:

For a moment there, I was frightened as hell that anonymous was my wife and I'd have a real ugly homecoming (I'm at my parents' place looking after my father while she stayed back in Chicago to comfort our near-spinster Ukrainian friend about her singlehood). I'm sure she's never even looked at your site, but she has known about my commenting there, and being at home alone with my computer could find your site in my browsing history. I suppose I should have known that it couldn't have been her, because I haven't even begun to get into the housework question. I may make twice as much as she does, but I work fewer hours, so clean-up is all me (and I make less mess as a consequence). And damnit, I'm good at it.

But following from the opening of this message, please ask specifically to post our conversations on The Story. I guess I imagined us commiserating in a corner of a metaphorical bar, but now I feel like we're on a stage. At any rate, with all the specifics in this particular e-mail, you definitely shouldn't put this up, but if you want me to continue to post directly as "j", I'll do that.

Adam replied:

I don't know J***, I don't really think it is a stage, though I had forgotten that you were a theatre guy and therefore you are more aware of whether things are said "in the show". I should tell you though that I have (had, because they all seem to be off the web lately) two groups of people who write in. One is the public sort and everything they say is for out there; M**** is one of these. The second group are friends who I speak with on a regular basis either in on-line games or e-mailing and sometimes I print parts of our conversations. Sometimes this is because they have something to say that has something to do with what I have already written or sometimes, something what they write inspires me to write about it and their comments, though technically written before my blog is posted, get listed as a part of the after life. Leaving your name, your wife's name and even the part of Belarus you mentioned out of the text allows for your face and webpage to be left out of the issue and your privacy to remain secure. But you know, the piece was not really intended to be about Tatyana, but rather it was posted for the eyes of an old friend with whom I had not spoken in a very long time who had some problems with substance addiction in the past as well as some personal issues stemming from our relationship. The coffee story was about these themes and in theory, aside from the overly nervous writing style, I was trying to illustrate the insanity of needing something and having that need be all over your life. The story was trying to illustrate how something even as mundane as coffee can tear apart relationships and drive people to distraction. I was trying to tell a friend that I understood and would not look down on them should they choose to allow some speaking time in the future. However, your take on it as being about how nerve-racking Belarusian women can be was also pretty cool and I thought the ideas you sent over were more than edifying for the readers. You are a pretty smart guy, you write well and what you had to say about Belarusian women was pretty much right on the nail anyway, so why not let it be out there?


Other than this I guess all I want to say is to take it easy. You tend to take things very personally and go very quickly to confrontation. I won't go on and on here but basically, you offer very strong opinions and then, when people disagree with you, you become very aggressive and frankly, a bit overbearing. This has led to several people becoming angry with you. Me, I like you just fine and as I said, I like the clarity of your writing and how accurate you are at some of the things you look at. But frankly, I would have to classify you as what used to be called an "enfant horrible". Maybe they have a different way of saying it now, I don't know. But anyway, this is how I call it.

But please, thank you for an exceptional conversation. The repartee of this blog was excellent and edifying and it seems that quite a lot of people got something out of it. This piece has made my weekend 10 times better than it would have been otherwise and therefore, even if nobody got it that it was about being addicted to coffee and not about Belarusian women, because you were here and talking, it made it all that much better. Cheers,

Sunday, September 09, 2007  

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