Tuesday, December 27, 2011

2011 Birthday Movie

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Romance novel politics...

Ok, so what has been happening? That court date ended in a standoff, which was really a bullshit standoff which is to say that there was no reality to the decision. The court did what it wanted by again (surprise, surprise, surprise, Gomer) playing with the evidence and otherwise disregarding the truth of the matter. In the end it is Anya who suffers but is this even worth saying anymore? I mean if you see there is abuse but you are not legally able to do anything about it because the place you live simply demands that it be that way, what exactly is there do so? BEING HAD II: 9 Years in Belarus? Maybe…

The basic contention, if this won’t be a spoiler for the book, is that they simply and intentionally disregarded a lot of real evidence. Earlier, they had done this with my claims at the children’s bureau and in the elegantly corrupt, crippled and twisted Anna Kraftchuk but this time around, they decided to do the same with official evidences. Amazing really.

I try to make notes about these things and to keep track of the names so I won’t forget. AP Malychuk. Natailia Igorevna. Olga Petrovna. I am expecting copies of the official documents today and plan on filing my protest either today or tomorrow. I don’t want to sound too calm about this but ironically, I am rather overwhelmed with work these days. Usually, I starve in the summer and fill up through the middle of September. This time though I am already over 40 hours a week and we are not even mid-August. There is still going to be a transition because there are September people planning on coming and many of the summer people are leaving presently. Maybe the summer lovers were thinking of things from my perspective this year, I don’t know. And no, the laws of Belarus do not really allow for my hiring to handle the overflow. And even if I did, what I do doesn’t really translate into such a conveyor belt type of education. I wish I could figure how it could be, but so far I haven’t so, you know, I take what I can get without complaining too much and trudge on.

But the slickness of the child agency was a real blow to the head. I don’t know why it was so up to me to catch them at their game because it certainly seemed as though all of the evidences in the court were properly displayed. They just found a way to ignore it and then the judge, conveniently enough, did the same. Like I said, I really thought that judge was the sort of guy you could have some faith in to do the right thing. But I guess the world is not really like that and he had his hand out just like everybody else. I know, I know, it was my choice to live here. Thanks for reminding me. I didn’t use my legal guy, and rightly so, because I got the idea that he was with them. But it is not like he isn’t a useful weasel. If you call him sometimes you can see where and how he likes getting his hands on some information and you can find out what is going on with the courts by finding out what has become valuable for him. Too bad he doesn’t have a sister. But then again, when you are in a prison camp you learn to work things like you are in a prison camp so a little disinformation here and there goes a long way. And of course, if you can read between the lines, he tells you what is going on in the other side as well. You just need to build the ears to hear him.

There is though the pretext of a legal deal going on so I did put together a rather elegant argument for a rebuttal (Complaint). I was thinking of throwing up the Russian version which is pretty well put together in an artistic sense. It is a combination of good and bad grammar making a few specific points along the way and, I hope at least, it does the job of painting the good picture. Or maybe I would be better off putting the English version back together or just retranslating it and posting it here. Hard to say what is right and wrong. The Russian version is what I am going to have stamped into the court. It fits the form and is for the eyes of the legal bureaucracy of the oblast and the town so maybe this is the only version that counts. There are also some illegalities at play and these involve several people, among them the folks at the court (as usual) so really, all of this is just tightrope walking. Maybe they just do this out of boredom. You don’t give them the right to make money so they just start acting like bad children. We have romance novel politics here in the provinces.

But I spent the last week mulling over the situation and contemplating my moves. I don’t enjoy the game nor do I have time for it. I know this probably makes me kind of an asshole in the eyes of the locals but really I am in business and don’t have any affinity for bad children. I am American don’t you know. And in fact, I find I am saying this more and more lately. I am American so I don’t die when there is a rock in the road. I am American so I don’t need to passively sit back and wait for the fish to come. I am American so I am not really interested in thieves and sycophants. This is not to say that I am lionizing the good old USA. I mean, if I believed that the USA was any better off I would be typing in Oregon or north, north, north Broadway or someplace like that, right? But anyway it is something mean to say to the natives when their spoiled attitudes towards their boring lives start to piss you off.

More soon…

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Children's poems #1

I met a dog

I met a dog
On the street one day
He danced and jumped
And wanted to play

I threw a stick
And watched him swim
And thought about if
My mother would like him

My mother was nice
But sometimes not so
Would she let him stay with us?
Or make him go?

The dog was funny
I named him “Fleas”
Because he was always scratching
And he sniffed all the trees.

We played all day
The dog was a winner
And he followed me home
When it was time for dinner.

But there was mamma
Standing at the door
And she asked why I brought
That dog home for

I said that I liked him
I asked if he could stay
I promised to feed him
He would not be in the way

And my mom just smiled
And started to laugh
And said that I’d better
First give him a bath

I will I said
I’ll do it right away
I was so happy
That mom let him stay

But I forgot that evening
To give him that bath
And in the morning my mamma
Again started to laugh

She laughed at the red spots
That were all over me
You named that dog well, she said
He gave you his fleas.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

It’s a woman’s world…

It is Sunday morning at about noon. Last night I did some thinking about how this project is supposed to go. The questions I am asking are whether I should ask for another hearing of this case or if I should complain against the previous decision. One of the biggest problems with asking for another hearing though is that I don’t really believe that I am going to get a fare trial no matter what I do. There are some things that are at play here that have nothing to do with any evidences presented and this is a bad thing. There is definitely something going on but on the other hand, what in the hell can I do about this? And this is a logical question because as corruption is as corruption does, once the wheels of the machine start rolling, even if you are talking about the future sanity of your own daughter, what the hell can you do? However, the simple point that I must make here is that, as the honesty of the argument cannot be controlled, the only two rational choices about what to do about that are simply to lie down and die or go with what you can control. Therefore, the focus here must be to find and fix the problem whatever it is. And also logically, the first step towards solving any problem is to identify what that problem is. In this case, there are only a couple of elements at play here: the problem is with the court, with Tanya, or with me.

Or maybe two or all three of them.

Let’s start with me because this has got the least amount of corruption involved. If the problem lies with me in this case, it would have to be because there is a general misunderstanding about my reputation, my character or in the end, with nationality. In this case we have a duel problem with this last item because in Belarusian nomenclature, nationality would refer to being an American (Bad) or being Jewish (very bad). I have spoken about this here many times and even though one might like to think that the world has turned a few times on this count, the basic anti-Semitic prejudice probably will always exist here and therefore, it is not completely irresponsible to assume that this is part of it. It is also possible though that people still believe that Tanya somehow is telling the truth regarding my character. And, regardless of evidence to the contrary and so many witnesses, that they have believed stories about me which are not true for years now might just make changing their minds that much more difficult. They might not understand why they thought what they thought earlier. In fact, they probably haven’t thought much about anything to any extent. But if they did think something once, it might simply be a case that they did (it exists for them) and this is enough. It had been my hope that by bringing in seven witnesses and all of them saying that I am a good guy, a good teacher and a man who likes and cares for his daughter, we might be able to overcome this with a reasonable judge. But this of course did not happen which is why I am, blathering on here. But still, we die or go on, so the real question is: what can we do about this? And my answers is that I should at least try to ask the judge about the prejudice angle, not that I should plan on getting a straight answer or even that I might be able to ask the question, but it is worth a try. And of course secondly, I need to try and build my arguments with unquestionable logic either for the rebuttal against this decision or for a new case.

The second question is whether the case went the way it did specifically because of Tanya. Now, if she is to blame for the situation, and she is but I am speaking of the genuine rational for the judge’s decision, it would not only have been her stories that did it. More than likely it could very well just have been her social position as a woman. Now, I know that last statement comes off as sexist but one should not underestimate that situation here. Honestly, because she is a woman, it does not matter what she does or even how she represents herself because, here, there is a lot of sympathy that goes simply by relation to sex. Literally, she is not guilty of criminal actions because she is a woman. Because she is a woman, someone must have made her do it. See what I am getting at? And if she has any particular personal problems, mental, physical, judgmental or moral, she and a lot of other people would be perfectly willing to blame the man for them because, again, she is a woman and therefore has such rights. And this is a cultural thing. It is like this here.

I think a little while ago I tried to make a small lecture about the Russian language and the cultural conditions that stem from having masculine and feminine nouns and how the basic premise of any language dictates a lot of the thought process of the users of that language. Eventually, this theory plays out that English speakers desire greater independence because there are articles in the language- these specify the individuality of all things. And of course that female equity is a fare and necessary thing because every sentence in a non-sexualized language decries that people are people and, of course with the articles added in, men as well as women are all individuals. In Russian, that lack of articles and their gender specific nouns tell us that there is an awesome difference between men and women and that they like to think as an (uncountable) group. In any case, if you add in all of the agreements (number, sex, time and case) and the lack of individualism, you have very fertile grounds for corruption. Especially if we are talking about a woman. Like a pen is a woman. Or a dog. Or a car. But not a computer. And not a pencil. those are guys.

Anyway, the third possibility is that we are talking about the court itself being the problem, though this might actually be an extension of argument two in this case. This argument would be to say that because the original (female) judge made her decision, there is no possibility to challenge that decision because the politics of the court itself will not allow anyone to change any decisions made by that original judge. Anna Kraftchuk may not be sitting in on this case (she has been replaced by another judge who in theory at least was someone I trusted), but it is greatly possible that she is still doing her best to defend Tanya, acting as her lawyer in fact, no matter how uncompromisingly inept and dangerous Tanya is and has been. How to fight this then, if this is the case, is a real trick.

So again, live or die, right?

Basically building a court case is making a coherent speech. And all speeches should be logical and built on facts that are, hopefully, irrefutable. However, which course I must take regarding this current re-afermatory court decision is still unknown. Amongst my current problems with getting started are that I can’t actually make an argument until I know what the judge’s (real or simply well explained) rational for his decision was. I have to wait for the judge’s motive, which is an explanatory document I turned in a paper for on Friday. I will tomorrow try again to get copies of some of the documents used in evidence in the court. I tried to get these on Friday but the secretary for the judge, demonstrating well her own determination to stand as an opposition to me on some principle, did her best to waste my time. What exactly that principle was, as are many things, is as of yet still unknown and not likely to become known any time soon. And again, does she believe the lies, is Tanya simply female or are we all trying to purify the country so that good Russian Orthodox people can live free of the Jewish problem? And don’t belittle that last point. You have got to see how the local priest likes to stare me down when we pass on the street.

In any case, we don’t know and probably never will so whether we can or whether we can’t, there is nothing to do but try to be as logical as possible and to try and make the evidence as clear as possible as to the reality of the situation. I have got one more fight to do and my daughter’s life and future are at stake. It doesn’t matter what the odds of the situation are or how corrupt it is here. There is no particular choice but to continue on and do the best you can. If anybody has any other suggestion, I am wide open.

More soon…

Friday, July 22, 2011

Number 600…


I guess we can say that this is the 600th blog. I can’t really say that the same sort of pressure that Alex Rodriquez had going for his 600th homer has been on me but I have been thinking about it. And this is really stupid because it is not that big of a deal. I have not been blogging like I did a few years ago. The first 500 blogs came in about three years but it’s been another three years since I did this last hundred. I stopped blogging I suppose for the same reasons a lot of people stopped. There is no money in it, the audience is fickle and it amounts to a monumental amount of work for an unnecessary ego stroke. This last group was started though to get into shape for this court case and for two other writing projects. Public writing, with or without a paycheck, is more useful than a private journal because of the obligation to be clear. And so I have started in and in doing do, have arrived at this milestone.

The court case itself did not go well though. It did not go badly, but it did not go well. We had a draw. The judge refused to change the time so we continue on. And looking back, I really feel that I understand the mistakes I made in my presentation. I really do not believe though that I am playing on an even playing field but because I can’t do anything about that, I can only do something about improving my presentation and getting a bit closer to the real facts of the case. And I did make some mistakes and I focused on some things that were not hard, absolute and measurable facts. I even ignored my final statements, or even a decent some up in favor of what amounted to an emotional speech which of course was completely unnecessary given the situation. And finally, while I did disturb the credibility of Tanya’s main witnesses, as if that was so hard to do, I also failed to make the specific point which needed to be made regarding the witnesses and this was the biggest mistake. So this next week, because I do not wish to agree with these results, I either have to make a complaint or to start a new case and I have been working on those facts the last three days.

There were some awesome moments though in the court. One specifically, was when my friend Lyosha was making his testimony about a horrible moment when Anya’s brother beat her, and he had been an actual witness to Tanya’s lying about it on the phone. After he told his story, Tanya stood up and, taking her cue from me, attempted to challenge his perceptions. Did you really hear this? How could you really hear this? Were you actually on the phone? Lyosha though literally, turned around, looked directly in Tanya’s eyes and said “No, YOU said this. This is what YOU did!” Tanya collapsed like a house of cards. Really, it was a great moment. And in fact all of my friends who came to court were brilliant. They presented themselves well showed the information we wanted to show. And if nothing else, we did make it very clear as to the differences between my house and Tanya’s. But again, the failure in the court case was that I just didn’t make the points I needed to make clear and straight. I was too passive as to the procedure and let opportunities to define the situation properly slip away. I won’t make the same mistake again.

But I do think that these writings have been helpful. Writing in general is an awesome tool. I had a great teacher at the University of Minnesota who outlined a lot of the benefits of putting one’s thoughts on the page. Writing is rewriting she taught us and the act of challenging one’s words makes those words, as well as their speaker, stronger. Time and many foolish mistakes have shown her to have been right and I now teach these same ideas to my own students. So I am going to try and continue blogging because I do have a lot of work to do and having a clearer head will only be helpful- as is an audience, even if it is not one that pays for your time.

So probably this 600th blog is not really such an occasion because you know, it is not really 600, but more like 100 over three years. I suppose it would be hard really to even say that I am a blogger, if such a title means anything. But anyway, it is and has been good and interesting for a long time and, as we like to give attention to round numbers, as always, thanks for reading my 600th blog.

I’ll try to get some more out soon…

Monday, July 18, 2011

Opening remarks to the court...

Here is the actual speech I will be making today. The real one of course is in Russian, but this is what I started with.

I guess I should also mention that this is going to be my 599th blog. That would be a more interesting thing if it had not taken me so long to get from 500 to 600. I guess I lost interest. Anyway, I have to take a shower and clean up a bit and to get all of my materials in order for our meeting. Here's the text.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Your honor,

I have something I want to say, but I will try to be brief. This process has been going on, and the difficulties between Kopus and I, for several years. I think I have a reasonable argument here that I am making. I am saying that I want to spend more time with my daughter and that the time that the court has allowed me is not sufficient to give her what she needs for her life.

There was a time, before we came to this court, when I was the main caregiver for my daughter. And she was with me every day and she was with me through many different activities, both when it would be playtime, and if it would be my work time. But we always seemed to be able to handle every situation, and not only well, but with remarkable results for my daughter in terms of intelligence and abilities. She always learned with me and we always had fun.

But for almost two years now we have had a new situation. And this situation has not been good for my daughter. It has not been good because this unnecessary war has stunted her growth. I believe it has hurt her emotionally and that it has caused her to carry burdens on her shoulders that she never needed to have at all.

However, I think that there are two ways for me to make my case here. One, is to say that Tanya Kopus has not been a good mother. The other way is to say that I am and have been a great father. I think that the second is more important than the first because I think that it is important to understand that education, friendship, physical culture, love, music, communications and growth, are the most important things for any child. And I give these things to my daughter because this is who I am. I am an educator. I am, or have been a sportsman. And I am a friend to people and I help people. I have lived almost ten years in Pinsk. I do not have a bad relationship with this town. I am not a saint, I have emotions, but I am not a bad man. I am not a criminal and I love my daughter and have always given her everything that she needs, and with love.

The only thing therefore that I want to say about Tanya Kopus, is that in place of taking care of our child, she chose instead to fight me. And I could say point by point the things that she has done, and in this case I will show some of these specific events. But really, in the end this is the only mistake that she has made which has been catastrophic. There was no reason for her to use my daughter in a fight against me. Our job was to raise her, whether we could live together or whether we couldn’t. Our job was to take care of the children, and I did my job with everything I had. So to say that I was not a good father is a lie. Or to say bad things about my character are lies. And to have done this for her own selfish reasons has been a crime.

I love my daughter. I want to be with her. I want her to be with me. I want to make the decisions regarding her life because I believe I am better suited to this task than her mother. I will not prohibit my daughter from seeing her mother or to have a relationship with her. But I do not want any more wars around my beautiful girl’s life, not from anyone, ever again.

Thank you

My speech and blog…

Ok, here’s the speech for court tomorrow. It is at 3:00 in the afternoon. Understanding that this is supposed to be edited, the basic premise of this speech is an explanation of our situation and to be included are all the details pertaining to the life of my daughter and my time with and without her.

The first thing that I decided was that the purpose of this speech should not be to complain about Tanya though I do want it understood that there are true truly negative things that the woman has done. But at the end of the day, I cannot tell my daughter that her mother does not exist. The truth of the matter is that we do need both a mother and a father. And I never did say that Anya could not be with her mother. I did say that I didn’t like what Tanya does with her. I don’t like how she has been raising her. And frankly I never liked how she was with me or even how she is with anybody. But the real point is that this is not what is important here.

A long time ago at an interesting point of my life I found I had some time to think. I had a lot of time to think actually and maybe there was even a year in which I kind of didn’t do much of anything. I wouldn’t say that I was a bum, and I certainly wasn’t drinking or lost on narcotics, but I did earn my living simply playing my guitar for tips and living as I could. So if that made me a bum, I guess I am guilty. But during this time I met a lot of people and I learned a lot of things. I also dealt with a lot of demons, if that is how you call it. But at some point in all of that, there came a time when some people started to think that I had some wisdom. I don’t know why they thought this but some people thought that I knew something or at least they acted towards me like I did and would come up to me and ask question about life and what they should do about stuff. I didn’t mind it but some of the other want-to-be religious guys kind of took offence. I guess they were jealous or something. But I am off the track here- Anyway, one day this guy came up to me and started to tell me about his relationship with his wife. They had been together for a while and had two children but they were going to get a divorce. I asked him why and he told me that the biggest thing was how she never understood him. He said that though had had always tried to do his best, she just simply could never understand the way things worked and that because he was a man, he needed things to be a certain way and that was all. They had been yelling and screaming at each other and both had grown tired of trying to find some level of peace. And he added in that really, he didn’t care about her and she didn’t need him any more and he wasn’t really interested in what she did with herself. This was his life and he was going to do what he wanted and she could do whatever she wanted. She had even told the kids that she didn’t care and so he had had no choice but to tell the kids that she had already started sleeping with other men and that really, this was who their mother really was- all in the sake of fairness, don’t you know. By the time he had gotten to me he had already talked to all of his friends and she had talked to hers and as he knew that she had spoken to me and because I knew them both, he came to tell me his side and to ask me who I thought was right and who I thought was wrong.

I sat there quietly for a few minutes, played a few notes on the guitar and told him that I thought they were both assholes.

“How much attention do you need, anyway?” I started. “And why aren’t you paying attention, the both of you, to what your kids need? How come the only things you or your wife never think of are your kids?” I went on to say that the moment they had decided to have children, love, no love, or for whatever reason, they were supposed to have thrown away that spoiled, childlike need to be the receivers of the attention. They were supposed to have joined the ranks of the caring, supportive, parenting crowd but seemingly, they had forgotten this and had both gone off in fits of selfishness and pain binges, wasting time and energy that would have much better been spent on something really important. Or in other words, they were irritatingly and mistakenly thinking that they were the important ones rather than the young one's who were depending on them for help. What a load of crap to have to listen to, I said, both of them had effectively thrown away the only real jobs they would ever have in life and in doing so, had insulted the only clients they would ever have to work with.

“Don’t ask stupid questions,” I ended, “you’re both full of shit!”

He got really quiet I remember. Maybe what I had said made some sense to him or at least, he acted like it made sense to him, nodding and squinting up his eyes and acting like he had become all thoughtful. It probably did make sense because he never did come and see me again which, I guess means that he either cherished those words of wisdom or decided that I was a party-pooper and went to go find a more sympathetic ear. I guess it could go either way.

But anyway, this was my advice to him and it has always been my advice to myself in regards to my daughter. And this is going to be my point when I go into court. I did not leave Tanya because I wanted something more for myself. I was trying to pay for everything but she wasn’t helping. She wasn’t helping in any way. And in fact she hasn’t helped any in the last two years or even in the last five or ten. And as Anya is going to be seven, this means she hasn’t been worth a shit for the girl’s whole life. She just doesn’t help. All I wanted was to be able to do the job I needed to do, to pay for everything and to try to have enough energy left over to care about my daughter. And probably her son too. The understanding of this situation though has always been beyond the woman’s comprehension. And this I say because I have had those 10 years to come to this understanding and during those years, with her or without her, the woman has never done a goddamned thing to disprove the theory.

So that’s my point. This is not about Tanya being bad. I am not going to do any more negative selling. There is just no point in this. This speech is supposed to be about me being good. And I am a damned good father. My daughter loves me a lot. And she doesn’t love me because I buy her things, though this has been Tanya’s own jealousy line. My daughter loves me because I am good to her. She loves me because I am smart and because I teach her things she should know. She is smarter and better and feels and acts more alive when she is around me. Tanya’s also screams that it is only because I have money. Well Tanya, I do have some money. But it is not because of America. I have something because I have been working more than 60 hours a week for years to have something in this backwards-assed country. Tanya says the girl only loves me because I let her play with friends. Well hell yes, Tanya, I let her play with her friends. Jesus, of course I let her play with friends. Do you think she likes being stuck up in your goddamned tower? Or maybe she loves me because I taught her music. Or maybe it is because I taught her English or because there are people around me and students and friends, or because the house just isn’t dead. Or maybe it is because I have an open door and she can come and go or because I give her responsibility and trust her to make good decisions. Maybe she loves me because I respect her and ask her, because it is what I expect of myself and anyone who is in my life, to respect herself.

Or maybe it was the day I ripped her training wheels off and said that I thought she could probably ride that beautiful purple bike of hers without them. Now? Right now? Yea, why not? The time from question to removal was less than two minutes. Right now? Yes, right now! And she just did. Alright, you wanna talk about what love is? This was love. That girl's being able to push her own ride around, under her own power for the first time, believe me, THIS made her as happy as anything. Why? Because she had been wanting to do it her whole life. Just like her brother waited to play chess with his grandfather, having watched me riding my bike, or riding with me in her seat up front or on the handlebars so many times to so many cool places; to the music school, to the beach and to the park or just whipping around to beat the heat on hot summer days. Maybe it was those rides to the movies or to and from kindergarten and the jokes and songs and the secret handshake and all of everything that had been there between us for her whole life. Or maybe it wasn’t really the bike but that we had had all of that between us. And happily.

So anyway, it is not going to be about Tanya. The speech is just basically going to say that I am a goddamned great father and I am sick of not being able to take care of my daughter as she needs to be taken care of. And I am tired of having a selfish bitch ruining every motherfucking thing because she doesn’t like her own life, which is the only argument anyone tries to tell me about. As if that was so hard to figure out. I just don’t think that particular fact is anybody’s fault but Tanya’s. No matter what she says crying on the shoulder of some sucker, I know it is not my fault and it is not her ex-husband’s fault or any of the other men who have found themselves stuck in her life including the idiot she has got hooked on the internet even as I write these words. And it is for goddamned sure not my six year old daughter’s fault. And I have never seen why that cool little girl who just wants to be with friends and to be happy, and who has all the potential in the whole world waiting to come out of her- I just can never understand why she needs to have all of her mother’s mental and social problems dropped on her shoulders before she can even read a picture book. I just never wanted that for my girl. And I don’t know why this is so fucking hard for people to understand.

Anyway, that is the general idea if the speech. Good luck to everybody, right?

Friday, July 15, 2011

Better late than never…

Well, this is me, Sorry if I have disappointed. I actually started and stopped a couple of blogs. I stopped them before finishing. One is sitting in front of me. It has… about 750 words written. I started it and stopped it and started again but it was just really, really difficult to do because I simply hate having to talk about unhappy things over and over and over. I mean, talking about my situation with Anya and her mother is never a happy thought. It just wears you down and down and down.

As of this moment, it is already Thursday at about 12:00 and I am waiting on some students. And Anya, as far as I can see, has again not been out of the house for two weeks. She did tell me on Tuesday that she had gone to the beach the day before with her mother. But when I asked her if she had played with any friends or saw anybody interesting, all she said was that she had seen Liza, but that of course was only when she was with me. Other than that, she sits inside in front of the TV and watches the sun travel across the sky alone.

I don’t like this situation and I don’t like what has become of my daughter. I honestly believe that this is torture. And I really and truly do not understand why all of this has been necessary. And I will never understand Tanya.

I will tell you the truth, I made a promise to the woman. When we reached the end of our road, and really, I guess this is three years ago already, it was just a matter that I couldn’t take her personality. I just have a basic disagreement on what is important in life and what is not. This is not to say that I am good and she is bad. It is not a question like that. It is just that I prefer a more social and active life. I believe in using one’s mind and believe in trying to keep one’s body reasonably healthy. Tanya just has her own way of living and it… it is simply not what I want and was nothing I could live with. She just made it so that I couldn’t do the things I had to do here to get by. She just simply takes too much energy and makes life too difficult. And she doesn’t just do this to me, she also does it to her son and, she is currently ruining her daughter, my daughter.

But I did make her a promise that my leaving her was not for another woman or anything like that. I just needed more space to breathe and recuperate from my long days and her constant harassment was not helping. I told her I would pay for everything and just to leave me and my time with Anya alone and other than that, she was free to do what she wanted. But of course the curse of the liar is that when you are yourself a liar, you can never actually believe anybody else and, almost immediately, she began her war.

I don’t really blame her though because here, she is not really all that unique. I have come to understand over the last three years that she also has what you might say is the curse of the Soviet Union. That is to say that she comes from a time and a place when everybody got the same money and everybody got a paycheck and nothing moved; everything was still and without sounding too misogynistic about it, a crazy woman who only breaks things was probably seen as a break from the boredom. In other words, if you haven’t got anything important to do, ever, except to go on, and if life sort of reeks of stagnancy and boredom, then of course someone who tends to continually go ballistic and hysterical, who shatters pictures and breaks guitars, well, she might just keep you on your toes enough to make even life in Pinsk seem interesting. And of course in her own eyes, she is a “real” woman because she holds down exactly such a role. So I think I am reasonable in my speaking here.

And if we were really still in that case, and if there were no responsibilities and all there was to do was sit by passively, not rock anybody’s boat and wait for your government check, it would make sense. And of course it is possible to live your life inside someone’s emotions. But this is not the Soviet Union despite what the president says and really, there are working women, women who have businesses, professional women and female officials and specialists here. There are lots of great and talented and beautiful women out here. There are beautiful women everywhere! And yes, there are women whose sole purpose is to be beautiful – and this is even amongst the professionals when the idea of what is beautiful manifests itself in ambition or, oh please, pride of accomplishment. In fact I really don’t even want to argue about the importance of simple physical beauty because obviously people still buy playboy magazine. Of course men like looking at attractive woman and people not only like having beauty in their lives, they need it. It is a respite, a relief. So really, nobody is saying no to women.

But the idea that beauty goes beyond the skin is what I am talking about. The idea is that a beautiful woman should be someone who is beautiful inside as well as what she shows the world via her clothes, hair and the curve of her hips and breasts. A really beautiful woman has form and substance; she's the real deal and not just a hustle. Because really, when you talk about who is the most beautiful woman you have ever met, you are most probably talking about someone who really inspired love. And real love, real passion does not come strictly from visual stimulus. To really be inspired by someone, you also have to see how they are with their family and friends because true beauty only comes when you don’t just care about yourself but also about other people. Someone who looks after people they are close to and who makes the world better because they are in it is, or at least should be, the definition of beautiful.

And I am sorry, but this is simply not Tanya. This is not Anya’s mother. And this is the basic problem. She doesn’t care. And this business has evolved from her lying to create a picture for the courts to an ongoing masquerade in which she actually tortures the girl into denying her feelings and what she believes to be the truth. And this is an act which of course, is ruining the girl's heart, mind and of course her future in the process. Tanya is really good at breaking shit.

At first we had this licked and the first four times we sat before a judge, logic and truth prevailed. But then Tanya somehow managed to find a specific judge who refused to hear evidence or listen to arguments or witnesses and this gave her the rights to do whatever she wanted. This of course specifically meant that she could do whatever she wanted to me. And, of course Anya as well. You don't want to make Tanya mad is the lesson. And this is exactly why Anya is locked away in solitary confinement: When her mom let her out to play, she committed the heinous crime of visiting her father and hanging out here. She had to be punished for the crime of actually liking her father's company. She has to be retaught, reprogrammed. And Tanya is determined. Father-ism must be stamped out as an affront to the regime. There will be stability. But like I have always said, Anya is cool as hell. She knew, when she actually succeeded in getting out for a while that she had to come to the window of my office and not the front door because that was the only place that was not within her mother's line of sight. She knew Tanya would be watching from her window. But my six year knows what's going down. She's learned her lessons. She thinks of how to get shit past the bulls. She can figure out the angles. She knows how to get along in prison.

Hey, it's 1984 Winston. And thanks for your help in bringing the girl up right, Tanya.

Anyway, all Hindenburg humanity aside, Anya's mother has continued to carry on, out of spite, selfishness, a quest for free money or just because she can't figure out what else to do with her monumental amount of free time. And she has continued beating everyone either because she cannot see the damages she has caused or, Tanya being Tanya, because she can.

So I am still working on it. Tomorrow I will write my final arguments for the court. I will most probably publish those here. And really, it is all just so much bullshit. This whole situation is living off of my energy here, and the girl’s. Everyone’s but Tanya’s. Only not hers. We are fighting over my caring and over my desire to be with my daughter and to help her grow up, not hers. I just want Anya to be able to respect herself and to have wide choices in the world. This is all I want and all I have ever tried to do. And Anya’s mother’s only fight, and maybe even the town of Pinsk’s, has been to try and prevent this from happening. And this is why we have to go to court. If you understand it, please explain it to me.

So sorry for the delay. I will try to be more reasonable in the future.

More soon...

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Crimes and torts…

Rapunzel and her mother
I just got back from a bike ride here. It is Sunday morning at about a quarter to ten. This was the first pure bike ride I have been on in about two weeks. As I said I have been resting my foot trying to let it heal and keeping pressure off it. And it has started to heal and looks much better. There doesn’t seem to be any infection anywhere. It looks like I can start to do what I want a bit more.

Yesterday, because I felt much better and because it was a beautiful day, Anya and I had an excellent Saturday. This one was much better than the previous. Without going too much into detail, we got to meet with friends. My friend Lyosha and his daughter Nastia joined us at Town Park, where they have a small amusement park. We rode on the rides. I myself even rode on the flying dish. This is a large bowl that swings on a pendulum and rotates. I rode on that four times. Probably, if I had tried to ride a fifth time I would have seen my breakfast again. But the children liked it and so it was fun. They went on all of the other attractions as well, Lyosha and I fought over who would pay for the kids. Probably, as Lyosha is driving a late model Mercedes, I didn’t need to fight all that hard. Anyway, Anya was the one racing Lyosha to the ticket booth and Lyosha is pretty fast. And a little later, Paullina, one of Anya’s comrades from our days at the old office came to join us with her grandmother. All of the children jumped on the inflatable castle and had some ice cream and stuff. It was a grand and beautiful day. We came home by bicycle and the kids played some more around the house with a dog who had followed us home. We finished the day with an animated English language Barbie, kung fu movie which I guess to Anya is the equivalent of Citizen Cain. But like I said, it was a wonderful day until 8:00 when such times always come to an end.

While the kids were playing, I was talking to Paullina’s grandmother about my situation with Tanya. Her daughter, Vika, Paullina’s mother, is going to come and be a witness at the court date. I went on about my situation with Anya and why we needed to meet yet again in court. Paullina’s grandma was there with us at that time. They lived in the next building from where I kept my office and saw all that happened after Tanya started her war. It was all such a shame. I liked that place and Anya was doing just fine over there. She had a lot of friends and an interesting, intelligent and active life. All the kids traveled from house to house and around the yard there next to the university. On Saturdays I would take them as a group to the movies or to the beach. We even had an English class for four-year-olds which met on Wednesday nights and Anya herself helped her friends learn some new words and explained the books we were reading.

But Tanya needed to do something to show that she was unhappy. She came looking to make problems. Five times she sent the police to my office when there were students there. She came knocking on doors demanding her child and trying to poison me in the eyes of my neighbors. None of it was necessary and no one would talk to her except one woman, a prostitute according to Paullina's grandmother, who lived there with her malnourished daughter. The girl, Vika, was one of Anya’s friends. I never complained but Marina didn’t like Paullina’s parents and tried to divide the children after a day where they had played together all day. Anya was a welcome guest in her smoky house, but she didn’t want Paullina. I disagreed and asked that we not fight, let the kids play and not put politics where they don’t belong. I guess that woman didn’t like being disagreed with for a second time- the first was when I refused to pay personal attention to her on a night when the kids had come to hear children’s books- and Tanya had her foothold. After our court case, little anemic Vika was the only friend Anya was allowed to see on Tanya’s time. And as far as I could tell, Marina was her only friend and confidant. I guess Marina was also looking for her foothold. But that situation only lasted until Marina assaulted me and Anya one evening when I had come to see my daughter at her gymnastics class. I tried to say a private good night to Anya but Marina held her arm and tried to pull her away from me. When I told her to stand down and went back to speaking with Anya, she hit me in the back of the head, a big no-no in Belarus and, a pretty good character display as far as things go. After this, being afraid of having me file a complaint against her, she canceled her relationship with Tanya and Anya no longer was allowed any friends. Currently, as the kindergarten has stopped working for the summer, Anya has not been allowed out of the house except to go to the market with her mother or to the library with her spinster Aunt. When I picked her up on Saturday morning, she had not been out of the house since the previous Tuesday. Her only free time to play it seems is when she is with me.

I think it is very difficult to explain well a situation especially if you have to try and explain it instance by instance. It is very difficult to frame out what a person sees in such a way that people can understand why that someone might think something is wrong. The Republic of Belarus, and I don’t know that this is true in any expert sense, but in my experience here I have come to understand that it is true that, they have a concrete set of rules and if what you want to say fits exactly into one of those rules, you have a point. The codex is not a guide for a judge’s decision, but an absolute mathematic criteria for making those decisions. I guess this simplifies things because it precludes any advocate from seeking the wisdom of previous judges. The codex says something is and therefore it is. And, at least for the working classes (the state itself deals with large scale business) the law is dictated in this concrete manner.

But I think this situation, to me, is more a matter of philosophy. Years ago, when I lived in Minnesota, I studied a little law. I remember my first text book on torts. That text book explained that the difference between a crime and a tort is very simple. A crime is committed when you have an action which creates some damage and the person who committed this action did so with the intent to do harm. There was “mens rea”, which is Latin for guilty mind; the actor wanted to commit the criminal act.

From Wiki:
In criminal law, it is viewed as one of the necessary elements of a crime. The standard common law test of criminal liability is usually expressed in the Latin phrase, actus non facit reum nisi mens sit rea, which means "the act does not make a person guilty unless the mind be also guilty".

A tort on the other hand has and action and damage, but the person who did this action did not knowingly or wittingly do it. It is said that a reasonable and prudent person could have avoided the negligence but this person’s mistake cost someone some problems. Perhaps our insanity clause, when someone is too stupid or too crazy to even understand that what they have done is hurting someone works here as well. And when speaking about Poland’s public prosecutor, I always thought that he was either insane or a criminal or both. But then again, he did actually explain that the reason his clock never moved was that Poland did not allow a budget for two new AA batteries (hint, hint) and so maybe he qualified as a criminal under all definitions. But also unfortunately, in Belarus, this has also been the most popular justification for immorality at least as long as I have been here. The theory here goes: We are here. But here, one cannot live morally. So therefore, we all must live immorally.

But then there is my other definition of criminal, and this is a person who not only commits the crime knowingly, but also receives pleasure from doing it. This criminal hurts people because they enjoy it. This to me is the worse kind of criminal.

As concerns my situation, I always say that what is between Anya’s mother and I is not the problem. I am an adult and a responsible person. All that has happened in the last few years is also partly my fault. Maybe a more reasonable and prudent man never would have gone with her. Maybe an even more reasonable and prudent man would never have tried to live in Belarus. But we met and one time made a child and I have never for even a single second disregarded this responsibility nor have I ever been one gram less than the best father I can possibly be for Anya. And there is a lot of evidence that shows this to be true. And so if Anya’s mother wants to be angry that I no longer want to live with her, this is my fate for having made the initial mistake.

But I cannot ever understand why she needs to hurt the child. And if she isn’t getting enough out of hurting me by other means, and really, giving me pain is her hobby (I don’t think she actually ever does anything else) why does she need to use the child? Why destroy an innocent girl’s only childhood? Why put pain and lies in a place where g-d saw fit to put beauty, love and truth? Why destroy other people's happiness just because you don't like your life? I mean, is it here? Is it really this county? And really, who took from her the normal compassion which people need, which a mother certainly needs? And was she really so hurt? Or was she simply jealous of other women and their alcoholic husband stories and thought she could get good attention from playing the role? I ask these questions because even if you use the “hell hath no fury as a woman scorned” argument to justify her actions, she has still done all of these actions. Justified or not, she has been knowingly and willingly giving pain to everyone, including and especially her own child. Why?

As I picked up Annie on Saturday morning, her mother was following her out the door to go shopping or whatever she was doing. And as she passed me, she smiled at me the most evil smile in the world. It was an “I will win this game and I don’t care how much I have to continue hurting you or anyone else because I enjoy it.” smile. It was an evil smile. And I know I am right in my supposition of her mind in these matters because of what I said earlier about accepting responsibility for my own actions, but also because my neighbors, after talking to Tanya a year ago, tried to let me know that to Tanya, I was to blame for all of her actions. To her, that I made her angry was all the justification she needed, true or not, real or not, reasonable or not, to do whatever she does. I don't know, maybe giving pain is her hobby. Maybe she likes it and the power she feels from it. Maybe she is just drunk off this game and the attention she has gotten from it. Or maybe she simply doesn’t care who gets hurt or dies or over whose body these wars are fought. Maybe she never did.

I feel that the evidence that what I say is true, like corpses lying dead after a battle, is all over her world. I generally think that this situation around who gets to guide the life of my daughter here in Pinsk, Belarus is my only real problem in life. Court is in eight days.

Friday, July 08, 2011

Court date…

Well, its 8:00 in the morning on Friday. And I wouldn’t actually say I have a busy day planned for today but I have some things to do and a lot of it I am looking forward to. The really looking forward to day though is tomorrow. Tomorrow is Saturday and Saturday is the day I have with Anya. Last week was not such a good day. Usually, we have very dynamic Saturdays. We do a lot of things. We ride our bicycles together. But last Saturday, what with the foot situation, it was pretty slow. It was also raining so we hardly even went out. Earlier we regularly went to the music school on Saturdays to practice piano but the situation has us sort of off piano at the very moment. In the wintertime of course we go sledding. Basically, everything that you have seen in the movies is what we do. Saturdays are active and we go to a lot of places and of course Anya likes movies so we always end up here at the end of the day watching something on the computer or we head over to the movie theatre if there should be something interesting or wonderful there. I love Saturdays. Saturdays are the day that I basically live for.

One reason why this Saturday has become so important really is because of a court decision from about 2 years ago which limits the time that is allowed me by the court to only two days a week. I am not happy about this. I have never been happy about this decision and in fact I really think it was an absolute crime. The many, many details about this situation, though I feel confident that given a proper reason to do so, I could probably make a wonderful list explaining all of the individual nuances of this idiot situation as clearly as possible. I have to do an abridged version of this for the court which is why this is the subject today. But at the moment I don’t really think that going into all of the details this fits into this little piece of writing.

The court date is in about 10 days but I have been waiting ten months for this one day. I honestly don’t know why it needed 10 months to decide the question if I could spend more time with my daughter. I don’t know why it was a big request. I understand Tanya’s perpetual negativity. This is a given. And I understand that there is a certain amount of reasonable time needed for justice. But I don’t understand why there have been three major long term delays and why, and it’s obvious, that they have been dragging out the court proceedings to the longest extent possible. We actually seemed to have it settled several months ago but then someone suggested that we needed a psychologists opinion on top of all that was on the desk and this deal, adamantly advised by the guy who was supposedly acting as my attorney, added another four months. Why? Why was this necessary? The case itself must seem obvious. And it is so obvious and on so many different levels that I am without understanding why we have gone this long. And of course Anya suffers.

Anyway, about 10 days from now we are going to be back in court and we are going to be talking about who has the rights and the time with Anya in her life. Basically, I want to be the principle guide for her young life. I want this because I am good at it, Tanya is not good at this, and because the things that I do for her life, enrich her and bring her happiness. I offer a wider and more agreeable future. I believe there are better chances for the possibility of prosperity in her future. Certainly my lessons would have her in better and more interesting social and academic situations. I know this. And I don’t care about Tanya’s feelings. This is not and has never been about Tanya or me. It was always, only supposed to be about the girl. And this is one thing that woman has never figured out.

I do not believe that we own our children. I don’t see them as possessions. I believe that children are our responsibility and having made them, it is our job to help them to become better than we were. Our real job is to help our children learn from our mistakes and to do the things that we would do over again if we could. Well, our children are that chance to do better than we did and I do teach my daughter the good lessons because I do love my daughter.

And she and I have learned an amazing amount of things. I wouldn’t say that she is a world class pianist, but she can play the piano with two hands and she can get a song out when she puts her mind to it. I wouldn’t say she has the most dynamic mind in the world, but given a chance not to be tortured for a while, she has shown that she has the eyes and presence of mind of an engineer or a doctor. She is not the world’s greatest athlete, but if not locked in solitary confinement she has already learned to ride her bike and we can go all over town like it was nothing. She used to, when she was with me all the time, hang out with my classes and, because she wasn’t under constant threat and emotional abuse, was capable enough to do the English along with the 15 year old students without problem. She also knew more words than some of them. And though her ability to read English has been stifled over the last two years (according to Tanya, and this was said in court, she doesn’t even speak English.) she does understand everything I say and all of the movies we have seen in English and can certainly speak better than any other Belarusian 6 year old. I would bet money on that!

This is a big deal. I hate this. I really do. I really and truly love my daughter and I thank g-d that she was given to me. I have been waiting a hell of a long time for this insanity to end. I asked for this court date even before I got back from New York. And for some reason I can’t understand, it has taken another 10 months to get here. And so now, I am thinking about what else I have to do to prepare for that date. I have my evidences and my witnesses. I have what I am going to say already am written. I have the films prepared and the text messages in order. All of the things that show simply that Tanya lied to everyone, that her games have harmed that poor girl’s life and that allowing her to have prime responsibility for the child has been the greatest mistake possible for the girl's life. I know I have to trust that this judge is not like the one that set this hell up. And I know I have to trust him to be a good man and to do the right thing. But it is hard. It’s really hard. And this has been sitting on my shoulders like two elephants holding boxes of rocks. I really need this to work out for me. And I know that Anya does to.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Greener pastures…

On a positive note, my friend theoretically started doing some homework. To tell the absolute truth, I really don’t believe in this. Well, I believe but it is not wholeheartedly. I don’t believe in her homework like I believe in religion or like I believe in g-d. This belief is not like believing in freedom or justice or telling the truth over lying. I wouldn’t say that the depth of my belief here is so great that it supersedes any minimalist doubts stemming from other beliefs of mine like, for instance, that people are the way they are and tend to continue on in a logical line relating to past performance. I don’t believe that people really ever change. And you know, fool me once shame on you, fool me twice or three times or sixteen times and eventually, anyone would get the message. But on a friendship level, on an “ok, I acknowledge that you are sitting in front of me claiming to be a teacher and I do see the tears welling up in your eyes” sort of level, we have had somewhat of a breakthrough.

The breakthrough came as a result of our last meeting. It began as a normal meeting. We started by talking about this and that. But on this day, I had a guest come to the house. The guest was a reasonably attractive lady who had come looking for a job as a (yet another) house cleaner. Now, what was interesting about this situation was that I had put the ad in for a housekeeper perhaps 10 months ago. At that time, I got something 200 responses, and without too much deliberation, picked someone I liked about 9 months and 29 days ago. I hadn’t actually asked anyone else to do this work since but for some reason, at least in terms of her story – and no, I am not extremely believing in this either – she said when she called that she was simply looking for a job and had seen my ad in the paper. I asked her why she would think an ad in a 10 month old newspaper might be fruitful and she answered that she also thought this was a silly thing to do. But she had seen my ad and decided to call and had apparently decided that the actual likelihood of such a position not having been filled during the course of a calendar year, was not too much of an obstacle, I suppose.

Ok. You either want to believe this story or you don’t. If we are not criminals from having broken the laws of attraction we can see that this was an obvious come on, at least in an economic sense. And having met her, I say give credit where credit is due for an interesting approach. And really, it is not like I am a millionaire or any kind of James Bond, male model type out here. And I am 9 years already away from American money, so I would not say that I am the catch of the day. And I did turn her down when she first called. But then there was a mix up with the girl who has been with me, she ironically enough, disrespectfully missing work and not calling to tell me at just this particular moment when the new girl called. Again, hard to believe in anything here, but if indeed there was a connection, you have got to love a worker who finds her own replacement. Again, if that’s what is going on.

But in any case, my homework allergic student and my “try looking for a job in the newspaper under the bird cage” housework aspirant were both here at the same time. And, to me without even a smidgen of irony, both of them started in with the criticism. The house cleaner criticizing my old house cleaner –

“Oh, maybe it is me and maybe I am too clean a person, but I would never allow for this situation in any place that I lived. My g-d, look at the cobwebs there on the ceiling. What must the size of such a critter be? Who could sleep here for fear that such an animal would suck your blood away and leave you diseased? Did you actually have someone here? You did? What was she doing during this time?” she stood on a chair and tore the webs from the trim with a broom, hissing curses like a snake the whole time.

“She’s pretty.” I explained quietly.

“Who is?”

“The cleaning girl.” More hisses.

-and my student of course, criticizing the housekeeper, pointing out how she was wearing tight jeans, a very low cut cotton muscle shirt over a well bought, black “bountiful harvest” brassier. And, she added, had several times found reason to lean forward in front of me.

“What do you think that means?” I asked.

“Maybe she wants you to like her?” She answered and I agreed that her… harvest was in fact a very effective attention holding devise for a woman who likes to talk a lot.

More hisses.

This last dialogue is from an idea I had at that moment. Sensing an interesting moment, I turned on the dictaphone and asked my so called student to explain her meaning here. I let the recorder run for a few minutes, getting the main gist of her complaint and then turned the keyboard over to her to do some KGB transcribing. This, with some badgering, got done relatively quickly and then we started in on the grammar lessons surrounding the translation of our conversation into English.

“I think that you were right because you helped a woman and gave her a job.” She went on. “She got money and now she is going to buy her children something or candy. I am not looking at you with sarcasm. Maybe she also likes you because you liked her top. Maybe she wanted you to like her”

About this time, the housecleaner finished and called me to be astonished at her kitchen work. There was a notable warmth about her, probably pride of accomplishment, and I could feel this as I was leaning over her shoulder to get a look at the kitchen. I actually had to lean over her because she is a little shorter than me and was standing right in the doorway and blocking my entrance so leaning over her shoulder was the only way to actually see the kitchen. Yes, the kitchen was clean and yes, she had made a good choice at the lingerie department. In any case, I paid her wage, added a small tip, made an appointment for a haircut with her on Friday, this, her actual career training, and she was gone.

Back in the office, my student was staring down at the desk. She added a few more sentences which we transcribed but we couldn’t finish all the translating before she herself had to go. But what was amazing was, within an hour of her departure, I got a skype message. Lo and behold: Homework. To me, it was like witnessing Lazarus rising from the dead. Despite threats and promises, pointing out the ramifications of failure from disinterest and a lack of attention and how this would reflect on her future, here, finally, allegorically leaning forward right there in front of me, was the translation of that last part of our conversation:

“Do you have a problem?”


“Was there something wrong with this lady?”

“Why? She got what she wanted. I see that she liked you. Everything is good, excellent.”

“Then why are you smiling at me like that?”

“I am smiling because you are smiling. Maybe you are crazy and you are seeing pink elephants. The pink elephants (глюки) are hallucinations. This is when you see things that do not exist. These are called pink elephants. You know your alcoholics near the porch? They have the pink elephants too. When they are drunk, they also have the white horses (белочка). White horses and pink elephants are the same.”

My girl had finally found an interest in learning English grammar and all it took was an $8 black pushup brassier. What happened? Was it that she herself hadn't been particularly blessed in that part of her anatomy? No! She liked doing this work. It was funny to her to hack on the cleaning lady. Dishing dirt was fun for her. And it was also fun to poke fun at me. So why not? We finally got some work done. There was some thought about how to make English sentences. Where is this terrible?

In the end, we all have our attitudes and understandings. I am not critical of the fairer sex, Anya’s mother notwithstanding, and I am not sitting here crowing over my skills with women or, better, that I have actually acquired enough wisdom about women to actually get a clean house and some homework sentences. But, where force, logic, begging, complimenting or stern looks don’t work, there is nothing like a little jealously to get the creative juices flowing in the morning. And so maybe this is a bit of wisdom worth keeping in mind. And again, I don’t really, really, really believe in this, but we did get to go subject verb a few times and we did get to talk a little bit about those adverbial phrases and why the word order really is so important.

More soon…

Monday, July 04, 2011


I have been holed up in the house for the last 10 or 12 days. The reason for this is that I have a wound on my foot that I am trying to let heal. The healing process is taking place but it is going really slowly. I have been doing this in opposition to the idea that I should be laying in the hospital, which is something that I didn’t want to do. This is not because I am completely opposed to Russian hospitals though, if you were a westerner and had to take a look inside one of these places you would think that they were not the most sterile places you had ever seen and very un-hospital-like. I do think that there is some possibility of receiving reasonable care there and at least among the higher ranking doctors there is a most reasonable competence in the practice of medicine. Probably a lot of the positives stem from their not being beholden to as many laws or malpractice liabilities; hence they are a bit freer to act and as they are bound by tighter finances, they tend to aim for quicker and more direct results. I am not going to be an apologist and say that money is at the root of all medical evils but if you were to ask a Russian doctor about it, this would be the sole topic of conversation. There isn’t of course enough money to pay for anything and this is especially true right now here, in the midst of the third economic crisis.

But I elected to do my healing at home simply because I am more comfortable here than there. The food at the hospital does suck. I don’t like having my fingers pricked every three hours. I don’t like being poked and prodded. And so I decided to try and do this myself. I read some medical articles on the internet, listened to what the doctors here had to say, bought the meds I needed and have simply been sitting here trying to rest the foot. I have not been the most perfect patient, but it is obviously, if slowly, getting better and so I feel ok about my decision.

So all is ok except for the fact that during the time that I have been sitting here, I have noticed I am going crazy. Why? Well, I am officially on vacation and not working this month and so the actual amount of traffic coming through is quite dissipated. The weather has not been inviting or anything even close to beach or bicycling weather, so you would think this would be a positive for me. But having every day be cold and rainy is depressing as hell even if you can’t go out and being stuck hobbling between my chair, the kitchen and the toilet is driving me batty.

But what I think is the worst part of this is the actual sitting. It is the lack of movement that really kills. After a while, you start feeling kind of dirty and this starts to affect how you see things. It creates a feeling of rot and stagnation and depression. Everything because antagonistic and negative. And eventually, it stops you from being able to work.

When I started these writings it was for the purpose of getting into shape for doing two larger writing projects. But now, being stuck here in this room with nothing to do but think about stuff, I find myself barraged by ideas about what is possible and what is not possible and what I need to do and what I don’t. And suddenly, there are simply too many choices rattling around between my ears. Maybe, if there is something good coming from all of this it is that I am starting to have a greater appreciation for what it must be like for my less than successful students to come here. Although as a teacher I do try to recommend the fastest course possible toward achieving some competence in the English language not everyone can adapt to the work. If a student has to do some reading or some writing but doesn’t aggressively attack that task, they can get into a real rut. I see that now. And that rut and all of the subsequent internal turmoil can really de-motivate them from the project, no matter how important it was to them at the start. You stop, even for a moment, you decide not to push, better to relax. But then time passes and you find you have forgotten some percent of your study. You want to start again but you don’t remember how and suddenly you begin spiraling left and right. You start experimenting with alternative ideas , most probably with ideas which have more Russian in them, yea, that’s the ticket! But then comes lesson day and of course now you find yourself in the difficult social situation of having to explain yourself to a teacher. You are like a child again and humiliated by your own stupid actions. You have to be polite but obviously, you are now a fool as nothing has happened and nothing has been learned. And worse, you have now made yourself allergic to what you have invested in.

But here I am these last two weeks facing the same situation. I wanted to write some blogs for a very specific reason but I didn’t do them. Why? We’ll, it was because actually sitting down and doing the work became offensive to me. Why? I don’t know. Maybe it hurts to sit here. Maybe I just I didn’t want to sit here. Or maybe I started thinking that I didn’t know what I wanted to say or even why I am saying what I am saying. But also: To whom am I saying these things and for what reason? What again was the reason for this blog? And, then, even if I can actually remember why, and at least I think it was a good reason, there is now the new question as to whether that original thought was the only real course of logic.

I just couldn’t make myself write. In fact, I can’t seem to finish anything right now.

Yesterday I tried to read some Russian horror stories for a while. One was a modern gothic tale of some gangsters haunted by the ghosts of the men they had killed and buried. Digging up graves in the rain at night and the smell of rotting putrefaction is something I can understand right now. And it wasn’t wasting time: I have a court date in two weeks and I want to get my Russian in shape for that. I want to present myself fairly. But right in the midst of that reading, I started rethinking whether I should be doing something else altogether and suddenly, I couldn’t even read any more. I just stopped and wallowed in my haze. I finally finished the story this morning, only 14 hours late. What exactly happened in those 14 hours?

There is simply too much on the mind. There is simply too much on the mind.

I think that in the end, what I would like to say is that life is about progress. A long time ago I tried to show a rather depressed young boy something about what life was about. I took a piece of paper and drew a dot towards the left side of the page and put a circle around it.

“This is you right now.”

Then I sprinkled several other dots around his point.

“And these are your friends who like hanging out and getting into trouble. These are drinking, doing drugs, spreading social diseases, trying to catch aids, etc… you know, all the things that probably make life worth living.”

He looked intently at the dots.

“The problem is gravity.” I said. “As long as this one dot never moves, the gravitation will force the other dots towards it and it towards the other dots. And, like protons and neutrons they begin to make a closed orbital structure around a static center. And then what do we have? Well like stagnant water: Rotting dots.”

He nodded sternly. Then I added a second dot towards the right side of the page.

“Now, this is a goal. I don’t know what it is but it is something important, something that must be done and that something, because it is important to you, will make you do some good work, in order to get there.”

I drew a line between his dot and the goal.

“You see, you now, because you are actually going somewhere, you will have to make value judgments based up what is really important. There will be a choice of direction. You can hang out, but if your goal is important to you, to your life, to your future- because you actually have something to do, hanging out or getting wrecked will have to be done with moderation because it will negatively influence the quality and speed of your more important journey.”


I know I am not the first person to have thought of that because when I myself was “hanging out” in Oregon, the hippies told me that the most important thing to them was to actually be addicted to something. It wasn’t important to what; they just needed to be addicted because without their goal, the need for immediate gratification, life was simply not worth living.

And actually, there were no particular results from my speech. I think that kid went to jail.

Christ, I am in a foul mood.

But all of that aside, I do believe forward progress is salvation from the evils of this world. I actually hate using that term but I guess that is the point. But yet here I am just sitting and stewing. I didn’t come here to wallow in self pity, I am not drinking my time away and I do not have a slew of narcotics around me unless you consider antibiotics to be narcotics. But the forward progress has simply ceased. And I am not working towards the goals and have been letting self pity and doubt cloud my road. There are a plethora of ghosts talking in my ears right now. And I hate it. This is no way to live a life; unable to move, unable to walk and no place to go.

Jesus, I wish the skin would grow back on my fucking foot already.

More soon…

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Dismissing the kissing…

I either had or am having a falling out with one of my students. I want to say here that I never have any sort of romantic involvement with anybody who comes to me for English help. This is not to say that I don’t foster good relationships with students or that we don’t try to talk with each other about different sorts of things, or laugh together. I like a relaxed atmosphere in the classes because I prefer it to what most Belarusians consider normal education which is more akin to direct fascism. Russians like to bang two eggs together to see whose egg is tougher and who is stronger is therefore by definition, better. On my side though I believe that real education has more to do with open-mindedness and problem solving and, especially when we are talking about second language acquisition, improvisation. And this last of course is the basis of my method.

Anyway, I am having a falling out with one student with whom I started to have a bit more of a close relationship. This is not to say that we were really in any way romantic, but maybe a good word for it would be that we were being warm friends, which is the exact way that she put it. I know that she was enjoying my attention and I was certainly enjoying her company. But the falling out came about as a result of a small problem. Actually, maybe it was not really all that small; at least to me it was pretty important, but basically, she wasn’t doing any homework and therefore was not advancing on the English side of things.

When people first come to my class and we have our initial interview, I really can’t stress it strongly enough – I even get demonstrative and shake my fists and beat my head, I pretend to cry and ask g-d for help- there are two types of students, I cry, those who do their homework and those who don’t! And then they laugh and nod their heads that they understand. And of course as we get going, we find out who is who and generally speaking the do's stay on and the don't's go away. And this is true because it is important really to practice because my method is not all that much about learning rules and names or discussing exceptions. To me there really isn’t so much theory to acquire as English is very mathematical and symmetrical and therefore has a very concrete and learnable syntax- at least compared to Russian whose own structure must have been devised while riding drunk on a blind donkey. And because it is simple and direct, the lessons can be brief and to the point and after, you either practice your sentence making or you don’t. And this is the basis of what I do. It’s not really all that clever; it is just very, very direct and if they do their homework, they start acquiring the skills they need and if they don’t, they don’t.

Now, I want to be reasonable about it because I do understand that this is not their natural language and therefore this study comes with some level of discomfort. I also understand that this is probably exceptionally true insofar as Russians are concerned. I say this because even if the student has studied English in school, the idea of being “svoi” (свой), of belonging to the group, is probably more important than anything else in their entire lives. And this is most especially true in their education. No matter what language they chose in school, the method of teaching always led them back to their own language for comprehension. They didn’t study a second language; they studied Russian via a different set of letters. It wasn’t communications, it was code breaking.

So I understand that this is not the most natural or comfortable thing for them to do, but I need to have a certain amount of personal work from any student because if they do this, they will advance. And I need this because if the student doesn’t advance, or won’t advance as the case may be, this creates a secondary situation in which I am stealing their money. And this is something, much to my father’s chagrin, I will not do.

Most probably my idea of character in this regard (that I won’t take money without results) is better connected to a Carnegie, win-win, my reputation is my name, neo-classic American model than it is to the local standards. And believe me, it has been pointed out that if I did romance the slower students and bullshit my way through their time, i.e., just shut up and take the money (it’s not your problem that they are stupid, they say, just smile and say thank you), that this would be much more normal here and that denying a “gift from g-d” (free money) is considered rather stupid.

I am not exactly sure if this means that it’s an upside down world or not, but you get my point.

But nevertheless I don’t do this and I do believe that results are a consequence of actions and I do wish to be a successful teacher which means that I do wish to have successful students. It is important for me to do this and I do care about my reputation. And so especially if there is some sort of warm relationship going on, that she isn’t doing her homework really sets me into an enormous conflict. Yes, it is very nice to have a warm relationship with a beautiful someone, but on the other hand, if they aren’t doing anything but having a warm relationship with me, but are yet sending money over every month, well, though yes, at my current age and physiology, finding myself working effectively as a gigolo and receiving money only for giving my warm and endearing company and so forth might be enough of an ego stroke to be worth a smile –and yes, I understand that this situation was probably her gift to me – it is not what I do and therefore, in the end, does not satisfy.

And so I put the hammer down and said that we weren’t going to do the warm relationship part any more and that we should just worry about the English side of things. And of course this was taken as an offence and created some emotions and this is what we are traveling through right now. I don’t know what to say about this really. I mean, good grammar and being able to write an interesting essay about whether the tin man actually already had a heart and the lion and the scarecrow their bravery and brains is always worthwhile, isn’t it? I mean, warm relations come and go, don’t they? And it is very important not to end up with only a Brighton Beach understanding of English. I mean, this is true, isn’t it? I mean, when all is said and done, which is really more important: Holding a beautiful woman in your arms as a dreamy summer afternoon slips by or understanding that the word “very” does not modify verbs? I think it is a reasonable question. Don’t you? I would think that the answer is rather obvious…

Just a gigolo, everywhere I go
People know the part I'm playing
Paid for every dance
Selling each romance
Every night some heart betraying

There will come a day
Youth will pass away
Then what will they say about me
When the end comes I know
They'll say just a gigolo
As life goes on without me

More soon…