Friday, March 14, 2008

In Which I'm Moody, Cheer Up, and Then Crash Again

Call it Whinge Entry, Part 2.

Call it Post-Vacation-First-Day-Back-to-Reality blahs.

Call it the moon. Okay, that’s a euphemism for I'm having one of my existential angst days . . . where I am convinced life would be fuller and more meaningful if only I lived ANYWHERE else. A theory that is groundless and which I cannot, for one minute, prove.

Cleaning house always does this to me, however. I mutter about my Master's degree and how the Women’s Movement lied to me while I scrub the toilet. Today, it was while vacuuming cookie crumbs (COOKIE CRUMBS?!) from under the kids' bunk bed. I thought the deal was that I get an education and that gets me a Get Out of Jail Free card on menial tasks. Or the right to pay some OTHER poor woman to do them for me, I guess.

Okay, we all have to work. Lots of cool things (the pyramids, most of the Loire Valley) were the result of a lot of people doing menial and tedious tasks.
1932 Soviet poster dedicated to the 8th of March holiday. The text reads: "8th of March is the day of the rebellion of the working women against kitchen slavery" and "Down with the oppression and narrow-mindedness of household work!"

And it’s not like I gave up my career doing heart transplants or something equally sexy to come here. I was always the first to say, “Eh” about my passion for work. As early as college, I was career-resistant, and, in fact, ran screaming from the Graphic Design program because they wanted us to consider every classroom assignment as if it were a real job, while I just wanted to study design elements and make pretty things.

Since I wrote as well as I drew, I ran all the way to the English Department, where no one ever expected I would get a job in the private sector, of all things.

But what about the moon? The hormones are definitely rampaging. I AM the PMS Posterchild today. It’s only Day 18, and my breasts are so out of control I'm sleeping in a bra. I hate to simplify life with "Oh, it's my hormones . . . " but I truly believe that this is often the case. When I feel like ripping someone's neck open with my teeth, it usually happens that my period begins a few hours later. I can be blindingly oblivious to all the signs . . .

Russian Lessons. How do you write the letters? Some of them, like the D, I just don't know where to start. At least when you learn Chinese, they show you the strokes for the characters. I spend all my time trying to make the Cyrillic look pretty and get distracted from the actual learning.

I have a CD that accompanies one of my books. Right now they are just teaching sounds, and that = alphabet and helps me a little. I finally got down that y = oo. The restaurant called MY MY is pronounced moo moo. It is a steakhouse.

How to say “Hello” in Russian. The word is Здравствуйте, written zdrastveetie so an English speaker can read it. Who wants to learn Russian when this is “Hello”?

Just mumble, says my friend LM.

But better still is TD’s suggestion, “Say ‘does your ass fit cha’.”

Hmmm. Sort of like saying “Nice driveway” for the Russian toast, “Na zdorovje.”

The House at Poux Corner. Oh, humiliation lurks around every corner when you are an expat.

And today started out so well, with smiles from people on the street and a general feeling of well being upon seeing women friends at school. Just starting to feel like maybe, just maybe, there's a place for me here.

All this in SPITE of the poux epidemic at school, which may or may not be an issue. (Poux is French for lice. Are you scratching now? I am.) BH thought maybe her kids had nits. So she treated and notified me. I looked and thought maybe Baboo had nits. Maybe not. But definitely no lice.

Wednesdays and Thursdays are very long days with after school activities. Skittles has judo on Wednesdays, which ends at 5:30. Baboo has fencing on Thursdays, which ends at 6:00. In class yesterday we finally received her outfit (she looks so cool in it!) and her weapon. I was loath to take an unsheathed sword on the Metro as I didn't want to be hassled about it (the coach mentioned we should put it in a case, which I have, but didn’t have it with me).

So we walked home. I had already walked to school and back in the morning. Now I'm finishing a second lap. It's 30 min each way, and if I do more than two legs in a given day, I get really tired.

It's also drizzling. And I'm carrying all this fencing clothing, a bag with groceries, as well as my purse, which at least is small. I'm wearing the Dog Fur Hat. I'm hot. And I need one of those fine-toothed combs and possibly a stronger concoction than what I sprayed on everyone's head last night.

One of the larger and more reputable pharmacy chains here is called 36.6, which is the metric equivalent of 98.6F. Clever, eh? So I swing by the 36.6 near my house, kids in tow.

Suddenly I am barraged with orders in Russian. A manager type is yelling at me.

I draw a blank. And because I am hot, and tired, and carrying all these things, I cut her off saying "I'M SORRY I DON'T SPEAK RUSSIAN."

As I shouted back at her the light bulb went off. Duh-oh! The bags! I can't carry all this stuff into the store. I make a dramatic show of setting them all at her feet. She shakes her head.

Double Duh-oh! Stupid me. There are lockers by the entrance, but I hadn't seen them.

"OH! Klusch!" I say. A key! (I don’t know the word for locker.) She nods; relieved I am finally getting it.

I return to the entrance, kids in tow, and Baboo says, "Didn't you see these? I saw them."

And I lost it. I just lost it.


Heads turn. Calmly, Baboo says, "Huh. Yeah. You’re right."

So now, my head held high, I have to march to the back where the pharmacist is. I show her the paper where I have carefully written the name of the product I seek, in English and Cyrillic.

"Nyet," she says, practically sneering.

Aw, man . . . c'mon.

I point to the drawing I have done of a comb, with the words comb and insect written next to it in my best Cyrillic.

This she has. She shows me a product. Now it gets complicated because I already have a product. She can't understand my question about which product is stronger. But she has Colleague Guy. I hear her ask him if he speaks any English. He shakes his head, sadly.

"Espanol? Francais?" I try.

Spanish. Da. He speaks some.

What follows is a L O N G moment when I try to remember how to say, "I have" in Spanish. I used The Spouse’s trick of counting to ten in Spanish first, just to change gears. Finally, after the little hourglass has spun on my hard drive for what felt like forever, I was able to produce the words "Tengo ParaPlus . . . que es mas fuerte?"

Cervantes is whirling like a lathe, I know. But they sold me a product, complete with a little nit comb. I bought a box for me and a box for BH.

So last night I show The Spouse the package insert. “Apply entire contents to child’s head . . .” he translates. “Let sit ten minutes, rinse, and comb.”

Entire contents, eh? One bottle per kids, you say?

This means a return trip to 36.6 within 24 hours.


P.S. I did return to 36.6 this morning, but a miracle and a shift change seem to have occurred, as I was not barred entrance. Today’s Clerk even asked if I had a 36.6 Loyalty Discount Card.

Um, no, but can I have an application pazhalsta? I’ll be back.


Anne and Bob's Big Adventure said...

Sounds like you need some American girlfriends!! I went to the American Womens Organization newcomers meeting on Wed. A.M. and had a wonderful time. I ended up doing some volunteer work the next day with three of the nicest ladies. It was so wonderful to hear a room full of women speaking English. Come to find out the lady I sat next to lives in my building!! I was beginning to think I was the only expat in Chistye Prudy. Come join us sometime. Most of all, good luck with the lice or nit problem. Take care.

The Expatresse said...

Aren't you nice!

No, that neighborhood is FULL of expats. I spent Wed pm wandering around there while Youngest Daughter had judo.

Alas, Russian is M/W mornings for now . . . but maybe I'll catch up with you somewhere else.

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