For over five weeks, I’ve been overwhelmed with this last bit of our adoption journey and unable to write. Today I find myself roaming our apartment in Russia at 2:20 a.m. local time and unable to do anything else. That’s how writing goes, I suppose, but I’m not sure I will be capable of being coherent so I’ll start today with a list or two.
Top Five Things I Love About The Russians
1. The Russian people I’ve met have an old world sense of civility to them. For example, meals are served with nice flatware and linen napkins making even a dinner of soup and tea seem special. Good manners are rampant and every conversation is peppered with what translates in English to “please” and “thank you”.
2. Guidebooks call them “unauthorized cabs”, but I call it hitchhiking. Here in Moscow, there are bus/trolley stops on every block or so. When the bus is late, however, people will step to the curb, hold out their hand palm down, and wait for a ride. Drivers headed in the same direction will often pull to a stop and “pick up” a passenger. I suppose a few rubles are offered, and I am certain that this practice is most effective if you are either a very old woman or a very attractive women.
3. In the same vein as “unauthorized cabs” are what I call “unauthorized travel agents”. There is a reason that Americans “backpack” across Europe and “camp” in hostels. In the U. S., we are suspicious of backpackers (maybe they look too homeless), but even here in Russia there is a certain welcome to those travelers who want to be immersed in another town/country/culture. Often, these arrangements are made by a friend of a friend’s cousin’s neighbor’s grandmother who knows someone at your desired destination and sends word that you are to be welcomed. I love that!
4. One word. INDUSTRIOUSNESS. Of all the places I’ve ever been, there is no population of less lazy people in the world. In every store, every restaurant, every hotel, every market the employees are WORKING. I have yet to see that one lazy guy you see at every American restaurant who is doing as little as is humanly possible. Or the one supervisor you see at many stores who is either on the cell phone or just surveying their little kingdom. Or the checkout girl and the bagger who are chit chatting, but not to the customer.
The work ethic here is simply remarkable. Even the poorest people are out peddling or begging in freezing weather. In the States, I am fairly positive that many people with a similar financial situation would be at home watching one of their 329 cable channels or surfing the net with their subsidized laptop and ISP.
5. My obvious favorite: Adoptions are final. First of all, it does not take three and a half years to terminate parental rights. Neglect your child? Lose your child. Sorry. There is no need to beg a judge for a seventh chance at drug rehab and parenting classes. And when (if) baby daddy gets out of jail, there will be no appeal to the court that he is rehabilitated and deserves to parent to his own child. Common sense is the ruler here which is a refreshing change from the “preserve family unity” bullshit in the United States.
And Five Things I Don’t Dig So Much About These Folks
1. This is not so much about the Russian people as it is about any cold-weather city in the world. I’m a Southern Girl, yall. My body is not wired for -35 degree weather. Or sideways-blowing snow. Or a wind chill factor that makes the cold so unbearable that snot freezes in your nose. As I write tonight, it’s a toasty 28 outside. However, keep in mind that it is over 80 today at home.
2. This one is also less about the Moscovites than it is about big-city folks. SLOW DOWN. All your scurrying about is going to land me in a nervous hospital with that freak Carl from Slingblade.
3. With few exceptions, the people here don’t seem to like Americans. Or maybe they are just judging me by my sensible shoes. Either way, piss off.
4. The police and KGB and mafia types are scary. I am generally a law-abiding citizen, but knowing that I can get stopped and “asked for my papers” and extorted for a few hundred USD gives me nightmares. Quite literally. Around here I don’t (and woundn’t even DREAM to) jaywalk. If you’ve ever been anywhere with me, then this should prove my uneasiness. I’m famous for dashing across streets and between cars.
5. Red Tape. Every government has it and lots of it. But I am not currently dealing with every world government. Just this one. And it’s making me nuts!
Mayhaps these lists have loosed the dam of words I’ve been hoarding. Or it could be my second cup of espresso. Either way, it’s time for me to get busy typing!