Wednesday, March 11, 2009

But I Digress

A rather mundane day, today.

Skittles has a half day of school on Wednesdays (except for the once-a-month Free Wednesday, which is coming up next week). Baboo never has school on Wednesdays (Ahhhh! Bliss!). So she lounges and sleeps late.

Skittles' passport is due to expire in February 2010. Assuming we are still around that long (in today's economic crisis climate, nothing is certain), we are renewing our 12-month visas in April . . . which means her passport needs to be valid at least until April 2010.

So off to the US embassy we go. All four of us. Because when it is a child applying for a passport or a passport renewal, both parents have to go too. And Baboo gets dragged along.

I had not yet been inside this embassy. Generally, I hate going to the embassy. The security measures. The fear I'm going to be there when it gets blown up. It's more the tedium than the anxiety. But still. At best, it is inconvenient.

The Spouse intended to meet us there, but a phone call delayed him. Since Skittles finishes school at noon, I was worried that the girls would be faint with hunger. When we exited the Metro at Barrikadnaya, I looked for a kiosk selling something I could
1. recognize and
2. order.

There's always Crap Dogs, but I'm not a fan of the crap dog. Outside the Barrikadnaya Metro are a lot of food vendors, especially those selling kebabs and Armenian-type filled breads.

The day was gray and drizzly. The girls and I settled on a vendor. I looked at the sign. The kebabs looked good. But it seemed like a conversation-intense endeavor ("Do you want A? Or B? With X? Or with Y?"). I didn't want to have to struggle that hard.

The Armenian-type filled breads seemed safer. I could not determine how to say the item stacked behind the kiosk window. But I could see from the big sign over the kiosk window that I had choices: with meat, with cheese, with meat and cheese, and some other option I was not interested in deciphering.

"Which one do you want?" I polled the children.

We all voted for "with cheese." I can say "with cheese."

Baboo tried to sound out exactly what the bread product was called.

"Screw it," I said. "I'm saying 'Three. With cheese'."

We agreed this would work.

I approached the window. "Hello," I said in Russian to the nice lady inside. "Three. With cheese." I gestured towards the stacks of bread to my right.

"Kebabs with cheese?" She gestured to my left. Where the kebab meat was. She seemed confused.

"No. This." I gestured right. That made more sense to her. I don't think kebabs generally come with cheese.

"You want these warmed up?" she asked.

Oh, thank God. I understood her.

Yes, yes, that would be cool.

"You want rfkhjgfhr gfhqoi? A little bit?" she asked.

Huh? Uh oh. I am stumped.

I turn to Baboo. "Something, something, a little bit?" I ask. Baboo shrugs. She is stumped as well.

"I don't know," I tell the lady sadly.

Apparently it was not crucial. She felt my pain. And took my 60 rubles.

We ate our Armenian-type breads in the rain, waiting for The Spouse who, now freed from his phone call, said he would meet us at the embassy.

Now, the problem I was anticipating was the photos. I already had pictures done of Skittles while we were in Bratislava because I knew where to go and how it works. Yeah, there is a photo place on the corner here that I walk past every freakin' day. But I've never been in there. I've been to the little booth in the Tesco in the Bratislava Old Town a million times.

Except Dude there cropped the photos too small. What, exactly, is 2 inches by 2 inches in metric? I said, "For passport" and, Dude, he understood. And her head was big enough. But they weren't no 2 inches by 2 inches these photos. No siree.

I showed them to the Nice Man at the embassy. And, to my surprise, he gave me the address for a nearby photo place, complete with instructions in Russian (turns out it is 5 cm by 5 cm). It was the kind thing to do, but, honestly, I did not expect that from my embassy. Color me impressed.

I had looked for a photo place while walking from the Metro to the embassy because I suspected I would need one. But these small businesses are often tucked in the basement of apartment buildings or accessible through courtyard passages. I knew enough about Moscow to know one would certainly be nearby and that I might have a snowball's chance in hell of locating it on my own. So having Nice Man hand me the address was a huge help.

Because, sure enough, you had to walk behind one of those gigantic apartment buildings to find the door, which led us through a rabbit warren in the building basement. Yes, there were signs on the front of the building (and no, the basement was not at all scary). But I could have wandered that neighborhood for hours without stumbling on the shop.

So we got photos. I took them back to the embassy. Nice Guy told us it would be two weeks. Then we went for sushi. Because The Spouse was hungry. And who doesn't like sushi?

Later, coming out of our Metro on the way home, I saw a woman selling strawberries. 250 grams of strawberries for 100 rubles. Today that's $2.85 and a BARGAIN! I bought the same size package in Bratislava last week for a euro (which is these days $1.20), I swear. But what can you do?

I bought some. The girls and I ate them with wonderful Russian sour cream (only 15 percent fat this time . . . I usually buy something richer).

I hope she's there again tomorrow.


The story of the strawberries was what I sat down here to write about. How I got off on the other details escapes me. Maybe it's the wine?

7 comments:

katbat said...

yeah - I am glad you were able to get all that done! It is the kind of thing that worries me when we go - getting things like photos done, buying food, not getting lost . . . We are still waiting for our visas - middle childs passport expires in 2 years and her visa application was denied until we renew her passport - which I received yesterday after waiting 2 weeks for it (I even paid the extra to have it expedited!) Now I need to get all the kiddos pics done again for the visas (not that easy to get a 2 month old to look forward, eyes open, hands down, etc) and HIV tests done on all of us. fun! The strawberrries look delish!

Tina in CT said...

The strawberries looks very fresh and yummy. I bought a big box yesterday for $2.50 but they aren't that great - not sweet like in the summer.

I am sure you are happy to have the passport pictures and renewal behind you.

valentina said...

WEll I despise sushi but being allergic to soy and fish/seafood accounts for that...oh, no kelp either.

I am happy the visa/passport thing went so smoothly. How amazing that they had the directions and map together for you! How unexpectedly fabulous!

Today was my last day of classes and I am always wistful to say goodbye to my students of whom I have become so fond. But I got about 8 of them on board for next term's Humanities class which is love and sex in 19th and 20th c lit. So I am happy about that.

Now I just have a zillion papers to grade before my finals come in on the 18th. Then I will really grade furiously until my grades are due in on the 24th and then I am liberated until school begins again on the 30th!

Today was veritably springish and my cats couldn't wait to escape out into the smells and fresh air when I came home tonight.

The strawberries look lovely and it is wonderful for the girls to realize what a special treat something so simple can be. My friend Johnny and I would buy a little box of raspberries and some half and half and think that it was the best treat in the world for our lunch.

Hope you can find them again! xov

Kelsey said...

Those strawberries look tasty!

I need to get a new passport when I get back. My current one will be 9 years old at that point, and I look nothing like my photo.

The Expatresse said...

katbat: When we went for AIDS/HIV tests, they told us if we (the parents) came back negative, then they would not stick the kids. Of course, if either of us turned up + there would be no Russian visa and the whole thing would be moot. But the kids, who were prepared to be stuck, were relieved.

I remember getting Skittles' passport photos done at a few weeks old. I had to hold her in my lap, and the photographer zoomed in close. The Spouse had to wave and make faces to get her to look up because she was just a lump. She looked . . . well . . . lumpy in the photo.

katbat said...

I'll look into the AIDS test for the kids - hubby said "just have them all done just in case . . " but I would rather not have them poked. I had baby's passport pic taken when she was 6 weeks and after a million shots we got a good one, and I, not being of sound mind, didn't get extra copies, so now I have to do them again, ahh, live and learn!

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