Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Goat Might Eat the Cabbage

Packing for our summer trip to France is like the riddle about getting the goat, cabbage, and tiger across the river in your canoe without losing any of them.

These items all need to make it to France with us:

An abnormally large dog to support our pity addiction,

This adorable nugget to support my love of all things adorable addiction,

An abnormally large bike case to support my Husband's cycling addiction,

 Also traveling with us will be a suitcase most likely toe-ing the line of allowable weight due to my over packing and hair appliance addiction.

To say the airport system in Moscow to inconsistent would be a gross understatement. We are traveling on a russian airline, Aeroflot, and a Polish airline, LOT. I have made flash cards and studied their baggage policies (highlighting and doing suicide drills over the special item and pet section), called numerous times, written notes in English and in Russian, and still I am worried about being turned away at the airport. This is not unrealistic anxiety on my part, it is a real concern. The printed information on their websites will mean nothing in the face of an airline employee who just feels like "no" or "give me more money" is an appropriate response of the day.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Because Terrorists are Scary as Sh*t

Too obvious? Things are rarely obvious in Russia, or obvious TO the Russians. In response to recent terrorist attacks, Moscow in installing bomb-proof public toilets. The idea is to prevent terrorists from leaving bombs in bathrooms and fleeing. This is not what happened in either the Metro bombing or the Airport bombing, so I am not sure where the toilet concern is coming from. Most terrorist attacks seem to involve a suicide, and they are not typically hiding in the bathroom. I am wondering if Moscow is trying to foil a terrorist attack by Wil E. Coyote?

Thursday, June 9, 2011

But They Can Pee Indoors!

If you find yourself comparing adopting a child to adopting a dog and writing a list of how they are similar and different, the former may not be for you. I was guilted into going to visited an orphanage a few weekends back because my husband had volunteered us to go and was going to "check it out" if I was or wasn't. I asked him if this was just playing or shopping, but I never really got a straight answer for the motives behind this outing. I was given the option to not go, and it was a genuine offer, but somehow the response of "laid on the couch until around noon, foraged in the kitchen for food, and then painting my toenails while deciding if I liked crunchy or smooth peanut butter better" to the question 'what did you do this weekend?' doesn't seem like an option when your husband can respond with, "you know, playing with real live orphan" because you know, I like to make it my life goal to never let anyone ask the question. 'how did SHE end up with HIM?' I like that table neatly turned as it turns out. Because you know, that isn't insecurity or anything. Of. Course. Not.

An hour spent on the air-condition deprived metro, because we live in 1978 and an hour in the back seat of a car where I managed to not get car sick (hooray!) brought us to the orphanage. I spent the entire trip over nervous about my interactions with the children which typically involve a lot of awkwardness after I ask my go to kid questions of, "So, how's school going?" and the follow up one that makes Barbara Walters weak in the knees, "What's your favorite subject" After that I am out of ammo and the awkward silence usually envelopes all around. In fairness I am not just an adult that doesn't know how to relate to kids, I was also a kid that didn't know how to relate to kids. If I wasn't alone silently playing with Barbies, who were having very real deep conversations in my head, I was being indoctrinated with  discussing right-wing politics with my Grandmother. I was never interested in dirt, intramural sports, boy bands, or candy land as a leisure activity. Magnum PI was my first crush, not Joey Macintyre. Fucked up, I know. Maybe I missed out on something, or maybe you missed out on something. Who can tell? I am incredibly ill at ease around kids, just like my dad, and his parents before him. I come from a long line of children-make-me-uncomfortable-folk. Coupled with my disdain of being touched by strangers and this was shaping up to be a perfect Saturday.

I am also not good with pity or sad situations. That nervous laugh? That came from me. Really, genuine emotion in general, not my forte. So, we are spending the day with orphaned children. Yes this seems like exactly something I should be doing. But my excitement to try new things inability to say no because I am worried someone will think I am a bad person won out. Nervous laugh. What do you talk about with orphans? "So how do you like living in an orphanage?" Seems inappropriate. "What's your favorite thing about not having a family?" also seems a bit forced. Turns out, these kids aren't even orphans, they were extracted from bad home lives. For a child to be taken out of the family home in Russia, it had to have been pretty awful. Afterall, this is the country that is excited they have a child-service hotline now, and their PR person gave a conference bragging about how a 4 year old left home alone while her mom went to work the other day called because she was bored and was read storeybooks over the phone by the operator. A flawed system they has.  I was truly expecting emotional basketcases to come bounding towards me. Then, they weren't. These children, politely approached me, extended a dirt-caked-hand, and offered a heavily accented 'how do you do?' They were excited to practice the few words of English they had been taught, excited to play with the sidewalk chalk we brought, and fascinated by the parachute game. Before we came, I wasn't worried I was going to get punched in the nose, I was expecting it. After an hour there, I was laying on the sidewalk having myself outlined in chalk.

Maybe not being expected to have comfortable conversations, after all they know about 5 words of English and I know about 20 10 words of Russian, helped ease the tension for me. I don't know what it was but I found myself with a sense of peace and joy.

I went home with dirty fingernails considering an option that has never been one for me. Maybe it was when I was making a mental list of how it would be harder and easier than adopting a dog, or maybe it was going out that night in heels that were too high deciding what was an appropriate amount of rubles to spend on drinks, that I realized I am probably not ready for that noise.