Wednesday, June 5, 2013

June 5, 2013

I got a little more sleep this time and so, I felt slightly better this morning. I sent Natalia a note apologizing for not answering her call and letting her know about my mom’s condition and the added stress it was imposing on me. She responded by inviting me to a meeting at Lingua mid-afternoon tomorrow.

I cooked another one of the pork chops and added the two vegetable salads I’d purchased to it along with the remaining potatoes and tomato sauce. The dish turned out quite decent and I ate it with the last slice of polenta left.

Made some progress on the e-book answer key section as I was able to finish the grammar portion, the longest portion, and now need to tackle the speaking and vocabulary ones. I also added two more pages to the entire book making it come out to an even 400 pages. And that is certainly the end.

After taking a bath, I walked to the travel agency where Willoughby was knitting away as usual. Larissa was not back in the office yet, so we walked around the corner to have a latte. I discussed my conversation with the former ELF and how that had helped me put my situation here into a sharper perspective.

Willoughby invited me to come along next Monday and meet the new group of Peace Corps volunteers so I can mention my experience and the eventual delivery of my e-book. That really perked me up. I also learned that her AIDS/HIV workshop will be held at the same guest house where I stayed my first days in Bishkek.

Larissa had us complete the extensive application for the Russian visa which included the most preposterous questions you can imagine. When I balked at some of them, she told me what to write. The photos I’d brought in were too small, and she asked me to get new ones.

The cost for the letter of invitation, the actual visa and agency fee came to $241.00. We both had planned to pay with our respective credit cards, but then came the shocker: the agency’s accountant informed us there would be a 3.5% service fee for the use of the card and a 14% sales tax over the entire transaction. We pulled the plug on that idea immediately and chose to pay cash.

Willoughby had the right size photo, and so I walked her to take her marshrutka proceeding then to a nearby photo studio where a photo was produced in just 15 minutes. Old Russian ladies were selling flower bouquets on the sidewalk and I bought one to brighten my apartment and my mood.

After dropping the photo at the agency, I was walking back to my flat when I ran into Tatiana, the Spanish teacher at AUCA and Willoughby’s landlady. She had time for a cup of coffee and agreed to walk in my direction to the outdoor setting of the 135 Coffeehouse. The space is fantastic, all dark wood and comfy sofas in a very modern d├ęcor.

Tatiana learned about our travel plans in Russia and mentioned her brother-in-law lives in Saint Petersburg. She’d try and see if he can help out with accommodations in that city. The coffee was great and the smoking hardly perceptible outside. It was raining by the time we left, but I didn’t mind walking in it.

Back at my flat, I got a message on Facebook from Pariso, the young woman who’d been designated as my counterpart at the Pedagogical Institute in Dushanbe and with whom I had a very fractious relationship. What do you know? She’s moved to Saint Petersburg to follow the husband she swore she was planning on divorcing.

When I mentioned our plan of visiting that city at the end of the month, she indicated that “perhaps” we could have a cup of coffee even though at this time she isn’t even working.  It’s curious that another one of my students from Dushanbe, Manzura, has also moved to Russia in order to earn a living. I wish I had a way of contacting her while I’m there.

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