Monday, October 08, 2007

Monday morning, 9:30 am…

So I am sitting here and waiting. I don't feel good at all, but I am waiting, just like I have always waited here. Five years of waiting and waiting and waiting. You know, they used to say here "And what can we do?" It is a simple phrase really, but it was the truth of the situation, or "The Problem", as some people liked to call it. The problem was of course how to live in Belarus. How and where was it possible to take enough money to live? Forget about job satisfaction or about having an atmosphere that would be conductive to working well; forget about any concept of what the people in the west might describe as being reasonable conditions in the workplace or even reasonable life situations. What can we do? This is what they asked because there was simply no answer ever that was possible.

What I am waiting for is a response from the Ministry of Education. Friday was sort of a holiday here as it was the day of the teacher. I say that this was sort of a holiday because is was not a day off from work but a day for students and parents of students to show appreciation for those professionals who would help the young people to grow and learn. It's a nice thought really and it was interesting for me to be speaking to the school administration on this day about working as a teacher and saying how I have never thought of a better road for myself. This time though, when they called Edward Nilolaivich to ask about me, he said that the issue now was only that my documents needed to be checked by the Ministry of Education and specifically, by Zoe Nikolaivna, who was the direct person in charge. If the Ministry agreed that my teaching documents were real, this would be fine with them and in fact, they were really looking forward to having me.

That conversation on Friday was actually very, very nice. They let me explain again how I believed that helping the kids better understand how to speak global standard was the most serious and helpful road for me here. It is very hard to understand a language that is simply never heard locally. I had met so many kids who had been supposedly studying for years but who had failed to ever receive anything even close to an ability to communicate in the language. And, if they objected that perhaps my own spoken Russian was not perfect, there would never be an instance in the classroom where I would even use it: You only speak English when teaching English. I had success teaching privately. I was already genuinely commited to the task at hand. The administrator I was speaking to said the words "I agree", and believe me, this was like music. And even after, when all were heading out to the streets to go to the party for the town, Pinsk celebrated its 910th birthday this weekend, the one secretary even offered the words; yes, we need this.

"This is optimism." I said.

"Yes, optimism is better than bureauctism." she answered.

After so long of nothing, to hear these sorts of words sends a warm tingle up your spine. The emotion wells up behind your nose and eyes; you want to cry. But crying never helps. It is a release, this is for sure, and everyone needs a release. I need a release. Belarus needs a release. But we are not there yet.

Just before I left the office on Friday and just after getting the fax number and name of the person I needed to communicate with at the Ministry of Education, I asked about this little bit of bureaucracy I was now going into. I offered that there were two types of bureaucratic deals; the first was when people wanted something but first had to satisfy the bureaucratic red tape and the second was when people did not want something and then put the bureaucracy in front of them as protection. The answer to this was no, Adam, it can be. It can be.

So I was there at the administration at 9:00am to ask what had been the answer. If all was in order I was ready to go straight to work. But they said that they had not received as of yet the answer and asked if I had put the return address of their office on the fax that I sent. I told them I had not, but that I said who the fax was coming from and assumed that they knew the numbers and such and would call. Was I wrong in this? Should I have gone to Minsk myself and presented the papers? It is very expensive to go to Minsk and by giving me the fax number, I assumed that this was the best way to make this happen. Would the minister have wanted to meet me? If they would have suggested this, I already would have been there this morning. Rather though, I got dressed for school thinking that there was a possibility I would have been teaching today. Well, either teaching or at least meeting with the director of the school and getting filled in on all that I would need to know in order to do the job. This was really what I was thinking and what I had been preparing for since at least last week when Piotr Stepanovich came to me on the bus to the station and told me there was an opening. This to me meant yes and yes meant finally, finally, finally getting started to doing the job I have been waiting to do since the day they finally let me out of Poland.

So this has been today so far. As a last question today I asked them what would be if the answer would have come back yes from the ministry. Their answer was amazing. If everything was ok, they had a place waiting for me at school number 12. I couldn't think of a better opportunity for me frankly because I know several members of the faculty already, the school is right near my house and potentially at least, Egor would be one of my students. Well, this last bit may not be all that it is cracked up to be, but this is the situation anyway.

So I am waiting. And waiting. And waiting. And right now I am writing. Perhaps near the end of the day I will ask again and if they say that they still have not heard anything, perhaps I will go to Minsk tomorrow and to the minister's office and present my credentials personally. I would do this you know, without question if I believed for a moment that this would be necessary. You have to do what you have to do to get by even if sometimes you simply cannot think of what that something may be. But in the end the truth is that there are two types of bureaucracy; one that must be satisfied to accommodate a yes, and another to hide behind to accommodate a no. I have known both kinds here in Belarus. I thought I had received a wild and life confirming yes when first I came here and have never known anything but a no since Poland. I guess that pretty much sums up the last five years of my life. Actually, now that I am thinking of Poland there is also a third type of bureaucracy; this one the one you use to line your own pockets. In any case, they say no good deed goes unpunished. I guess this is what my endless and ongoing case of red tape infection means. But really, what can I do? These English words are all I have to work with.

More soon…