Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Oh, so much to do…

Sharek and Anya on the bench in front of our shared garden
Sometimes you just get so bogged down that you just don't know what to do about it. I know that the answer is always to simply put your head down and go forward. Well, of course this is mixed with a little planning too. Maybe the head down part means doing the planning. But anyway, sitting around and pondering isn't worth a damn; if you don't like a messy desk, the answer is simply to do. So I am doing.

Most of the extra workload though comes because it is the beginning of spring here and this means the beginning of the farming season. I mentioned already that we are going to be cutting back on the planting this year. No tomatoes and less potatoes and probably less cabbages too. The freaky weather this year made for extra long vegetable retention in the podvals so instead of the cabbages and carrots starting to go bad in the middle of January, we are just at this minute finishing the fresh. As a result, we ate far less salted cabbage than we ordinarily would have so this is going to influence how much we plant this year. Cabbages go in the ground under plastic this week or next.

But in addition to the farming we had another visit from the Doma Provlenya last week. Our resident evil starting in with us again in the usual fashion this year by sending us a written notice saying that we were to take down all of our fences. Do this within one week, the notice said, or they would do this and charge us for the expense. Family type organization, aren't they? This notification process comes after last year's assurances that our garden was safe and would not be touched any more. Actually, they did the same thing to us the year before as well but who is counting.

My reaction this year was to gather the troops. Managed to get 5/8's of our house together and we marched on the DP offices at full salute. When the nachalnic (director) finally showed up, you could see both her exasperation and her amusement at our little army. You could also see though hat the entire issue was already understood.

The first words of the meeting were from the nachalnic who began by complaining about the condition of the fences around the garden and saying that the decision was to be made away from her offices, and other such issues which would have killed the meeting straight away. Perhaps you need to speak a little Russian here, or maybe the language is better called Russian Bureaucrat, but we got the gist. Nina, one of our best generals quietly started in with her that the whole of the issue was nonsense. Of course we would clean up the land, it was our garden. And we have no problems fixing the fences, in fact we had already planned to do it anyway.

As the meeting was starting, I pulled a Dictaphone from my pocket, in full view of the nachalnic, and set it in motion. Personally, I didn't think eyes could pop that far out of a persons head. "Put that away!" The Nachalnic advised me, and screwed up her face, showing she would not say a word if she knew she was being recorded.

"Perhaps this year we should be accountable for our promises?" I asked? I think I actually saw five or six of her hairs turn gray and leap from their mooring. It was a tense moment. Nina waved me away.

"It's not needed, it's not needed…" She said and went back to speaking to the nachalnic. "We have plans to fix the fences, we have all agreed to do our part…"

"Is he registered in that house?" The nachalic asked with great Stalinesque vindictiveness. She then picked up the phone and thought who to call. I don't know who she would be calling, and I am sure it was a real white-knuckler for the others, but for me I simply saw that I have gotten through to our hard-balling proto-fascist. What goes around comes around, right?

"It's not needed, it's not needed," Nina said to her. And then in a whisper, "He is registered, he pays for the family." The nachalnic then put the phone back in the cradle but resumed the screwed up "I'm not talking" face.

"It's not needed, it's not needed," Nina said to me and waved me to put it away. Right. I put the Dictaphone in my pocket and Nina started getting to the point.

"We all knew that DP doesn't want to take the garden and that all of this is that they want the land to be neat."

"You are in the center of town…" Added the nachalnic.

"Then why don't you fix the lousy paint job you did on our house?" I added in.

"That, is a different issue." She said staring daggers at me, a few ringlets of smoke puffing from her ear holes.

"Now, now, now…" Said Nina, "That is another issue. But what we are here for is simply to say that we are willing to fix the garden and make is nicer. We understand this…"

"But that fence of yours is a disgrace." This to me.

"Listen," I said, "I didn't have the money last year to remake the whole fence. I have a little more this year and finishing the fence is possible. But what is really the issue here is that you approach us as if you are speaking from G-d and talking down at us as if we are animals…"

"We do not talk to you like animals!"

"What do you call sending us notices advising us that our garden of 50 years is simply gone, in three days yet, and even after previous promises that this was not the case? Sneaking onto our property and taking photographs; where is this civilized conversation?"

"Do you know how many cases we have in our jurisdiction?"

"Well I know that you know who I am. And I know that you know that we have been through this now three times in three years with you people. All you needed to do, if you needed to do anything at all, was to call us. Attacking and threatening us is not a normal manor of conversation." Nina jumped back in here to calm things down. We went back and forth for a few minutes, but basically, within 10 minutes, we had our garden back.

We walked out of the DP offices like conquering heroes. Everybody felt good. We stopped before the land and had a look, discussed what will go where and when. A few people offered a few dollars to help with the cost of the fencing. And then we went home smiling. In the end, we came out of it in exactly the same way as last year. I said I would have the fences fixed I a month and got bargained down to three weeks. We'll make the repairs to the garden fences and even things out.

However, obviously the DP is not about good feelings and the next morning sent several men to start taking the fences. Some of the oldsters started screaming at them that we had an agreement and that things were going to be cleaned up within three weeks. The men walked off, but of course it did re-instill a sense of paranoia in out old people, which is exactly the way DP likes it, isn't it?

It's going to cost a little money, more than is comfortable, but we'll do it. I like my neighbors and I don't want our little garden to be touched. Let them live in peace.

Anyway, these two things plus a new project for the www.beinghad.com website is going on. I want to make a fundraiser for the Polish case. This has become really important lately with the start of the new website. My goal is to break this thing once and for all and there are several things which will require more money than I have such as costs for printing the book, doing some advertising, making some t-shirts, etc. I have planned sort of a public television "pledge drive", to raise funds. Hopefully I'll get this started for April-May. Before May 15 would be ideal.

Spring is a nice time of year. Spring is hope. I love spring air and spring weather. But it is also when the work to do in life steps up considerably here in Belarus. I don't mind this. It is why I came. We just need to make the best of it and to do what needs to be done. This, I suppose, is what it is really all about.

More soon…