MOSCOW, March 5, 2007 -- That America has the rudest and most demeaning embassy and consulate staff in Moscow is almost universally accepted here. But I’ve finally found their match.
The key question in traveling to a foreign country, as we were unhappily reminded on Vanya’s non-trip to Spain, (Chapt. 231) is: Do you need a visa?
So do I need visa to go to Moldova? English Exchange, which handles visas for its teachers, didn’t know. Of course Ivan/Vanya didn’t know.
Yes, said the Moldovan Embassy when I called on Tuesday morning.
So Wednesday after my class at Potemkin U., Vanya met me at Kurskaya Metro Station and we set out to find the Moldovan Embassy at 18 Kuznetsky Most Street.
The entrance to the Embassy was completely roped off by protective tape, but I was able to lean over the tape far enough to rap on the security guard shack.
“I want to get a visa.”
He pointed around the corner, “through the first arch,” where we would find the consulate.
We went around the corner and through the first arch, where we were met by a crowd of people milling about a small courtyard in the 10-degree (F) weather. There were several doors. One said “photos.” None said Moldovan Consulate.
Through a darkened window I could see security guards. I rapped on the window. One of them pointed to a nearby door. I entered and was met by two security guards. “I’m an American. How do I get a visa to Moldova?”
“At the consulate. But it’s open only in the morning.”
“They said it was open in the afternoon after lunch.”
“The Moldovan Embassy.”
The guard motioned to me to follow him. We went back into the courtyard and a few steps to the right. “In here,” he said, motioning to a door.
The door was locked. After 15 or 20 minutes a young woman entered. I followed her. We passed through a small dark room with three chairs into an office with two desks. She sat at one of them.
“I’m an American. How do I get a visa to Moldova?”
“You’ll have to see the Consul. He’s not here now.”
“Will he be here?”
“How much does a visa cost?”
“The consul will decide.”
“He will decide? You don’t have a regular price?”
“If it’s an emergency….”
“It’s not an emergency.”
“When will he be here?’
“How should I know.”
Vanya and I went back to the small darkened room and sat down.
“You can’t wait here,” she said, following us into the room. “You’ll have to wait outside.”
We went back out into the freezing courtyard. I had about $ 50 with me. “Let’s go find an ATM and get some money,” I said, “just to be on the safe side.” I had seen a Bank of Moscow just across the street. If we were lucky, the ATM would be inside instead of on the sidewalk, and we could get warm.
It was inside. I pushed the 5,000-ruble button. It clicked and whirred and spat out a 5,000-ruble note.
The 5,000-ruble note is a new addition to the Russian money system. It’s used mostly for exchanges of large amounts of money between institutions. Most shops and retailers can’t even change a one-thousand-ruble note. Some can’t even change 100 (Chapt. 223). Five thousand – about $ 190 -- is probably greater than the gross domestic product of the entire country of Moldova, and certainly their consulate isn’t going to be able to change it.
But with $ 50, we were probably still okay.
“Let’s go to a café and wait,” suggested Vanya.
We killed about half an hour there before returning to our “waiting room,” the open courtyard. There were still 20 or 30 people milling around.
“Is he here yet?” I asked the secretary/receptionist.
We waited a while longer. “Let’s find someplace I can put some money on my mobile phone,” I said. “I’m almost out of money.”
Instead, we found a used clothing store, where Vanya spent the next half hour looking at used jeans. I had promised to buy him some clothes before our trip.
He pointed to a pair he liked. “Can I get these?”
“Not till after we get the visa.”
When we returned at about 3 p.m., I entered the consul’s office again. He had arrived.
He was late 30s, 40s, short, stocky, and had the vacant smug smirk of the Soviet apparatchik, who unfortunately didn’t disappear with the Soviet regime.
“I’m an American. How do I get a visa to Moldova?”
“You can’t wait here. You’ll have to go outside.”
“How do I get a visa to Moldova?” I asked again.
“I told you, you can’t wait here. Get out!”
I got out.
A couple of minutes later, a security guard showed up. “You want a visa, yes?”
“Be here at this door at 7:45 tomorrow morning.”
“What will I need? Will I need a photo?”
“The consul will tell you tomorrow.”
“Are you sure you want to go to Moldova?” I asked Vanya.
We returned to the used clothing store and I bought him a pair of jeans for about $ 18.
The next morning it was like fighting a caged lion to get Vanya out of bed at 6:45, but I succeeded, and we were at the door in the 10 degree weather by 7:40.
After we’d been there nearly two hours the consul showed up. I followed him in.
“How do I get a visa to Moldova?”
“I told you yesterday, you can’t wait in here. Get out.”
“Can I ask you how I get a visa to Moldova?”
“I’m telling you for the last time: Get out!”
Vanya and I were looking at each other with raised eyebrows when a security guard showed up again.
“You’re an American?”
“You want to get a visa?”
“The consul will see you now,” and ushered me into the office I’d just been thrown out of.
“You’re an American?”
“Yes. How do I get a visa.”
“Let me see your passport.”
I handed it to him.
He handed it back: “Americans don’t need a visa if they’re staying less than 90 days. Goodbye.”
The arrogant mother-fucker couldn’t have told me this yesterday. Almost six hours wasted over the space of two days shivering in the freezing weather to be told I don’t need a visa. Why didn’t the Embassy tell me that when I called? Why didn’t any of the half dozen people I asked tell me?
This is simply typical of consulate officers in every country of the world: brazen, aloof, supercilious, arrogant, masochistic, and rude -- supremely rude.
America has some of the worst. But I have to hand it to Moldova. They get the gold.
Vanya is very excited about the trip. He wants to take his mother lots of gifts. So far we’ve bought an electric tea pot, a stuffed animal, a pretty cancer astrological ornament – turns out our birthdays are 10 days apart -- a big box of Ahmad teabags, and we still have candy and maybe an inexpensive coat to go.
His mother is a devout Baptist in a backwater country of Russian Orthodoxy. Denis told me she won’t even allow TV in her house – it’s too sinful – and she doesn’t wear perfume or jewelry. It’s not easy buying gifts for a teetotaling, anti-fun Christer.
Speaking of Christers, a court in St. Peterburg last week threw out a suit filed by a 15-year-old girl protesting that being taught the theory of evolution in school had violated her civil rights.
The court also rejected her request that the government give her a written apology for offending her religious beliefs.
Her lawyer says he will appeal.
Denis's and Ivan's father in one of his better moments. He is just one of millions of alcoholic Russian derelicts, which helps explain why Russia is losing population at the rate of about 700,000 a year.
Ivan’s and Denis’s father is a derelict alcoholic and abandoned his two sons for the glittering lights of Moscow when they were very young (Chapt. 236). I have nothing but revulsion for him and have managed to avoid even meeting him – up till now.
But he forced himself into my life last week when he came to bring Denis a box of candy for his birthday. He’s smaller and more wimpy looking than I expected. I’m tempted to think he might have even been handsome and charming 23 years ago. He had to have something going for him to have talked their mother into marrying him and letting him fuck her at least twice.
He suddenly showed up again Wednesday morning. He spent a little time in the apartment and a lot of time in the stairwell talking with Denis. I could sense what was coming.
Sure enough, that evening, after I had gone to bed, Denis came into the bedroom.
“Dane, Dad has lost his job and doesn’t have a place to stay. Could he stay here for just one night?”
“Where would he sleep?”
“On the floor of the other room with me.”
“Denis, you have a very big heart, but I’ve heard this before. You were going to stay just two or three days, and that was six months ago. You borrow money for Masha and promise to pay it back the next day and I don’t see it for two weeks.
“And tomorrow night, you will ask if he can stay here just one more night.
“Okay! I will let him stay here! One night! Period! That’s all! I’m already taking care of five people, I’m not going to take care of any more.” I didn’t add, which I wanted to, “especially a worthless alcoholic piece of shit” (see photo).
So he stayed here one night. But Thursday night the house entry phone rang. I answered it. It was Papa. Drunk. He came to the door and he and Denis hung around in the hallway for a while. About 9:30 p.m. Vanya asked if he could buy some bread and beer from the grocery store in our courtyard. I gave him 100 rubles, and suddenly realized that he, Denis, and his father had gone. By 10:00 he still hadn’t returned.
In the meantime, he hadn’t eaten supper; the supper dishes were still dirty, and there was a load of laundry that had to finish cycling before midnight.
“Where are you?” I demanded over his mobile phone.
“I’ll be home soon.”
“About half an hour.”
“I want you to come home now!” I snapped.
A few minutes later he and Denis showed up.
“Where have you been? I gave you money to buy bread and beer. That would have taken five minutes.”
“We were helping Daddy find a place to stay.”
So he had no place to stay. My assumption had been correct. He would have slept here the next night. And the next. And the next.
On Saturday he showed up again with a sports bag full of clothes. I walked into the hallway to find him kneeling in front of the bag and swilling down a 1.5 liter plastic bottle of Klinskoe beer. “He’s leaving soon,” Denis assured. “He’s found a place in the suburbs.”
I don’t have to worry about Denis smuggling him into the apartment while Vanya and I are in Moldova. Sergei, who has taken on the roll of my enforcer, has already made it very clear he also won’t let the worthless scum stay another night.
It’s a gooey, wet spring in Moscow. With rain and temperatures in the upper 30s, the snow is melting fast, turning the city into a muddy lake.
But the ice isn’t completely gone, so on Saturday I still had an excuse to slip my arm into student Maxim’s for our customary stroll to the metro station after my Inst. of Diplomacy class.
The writing assignment I gave them was to write a small essay about whether they thought International Women’s Day next Thursday is a good holiday or a bad holiday. In years past, I’ve noted that for women it’s probably next to New Year’s as the most significant holiday of the year. They have one day when their husbands or paramours or whatever shower them with flattering attention, give them gifts, spout professions of devotion, then get drunk, celebrate, and leave the dirty dishes for their honored spouses.
“I think it’s the most bad – the worst – holiday of the year,” Maxim declared with a grin.
“Why is that?” I asked.
“I have to buy presents for all the women in my life.”
Aha! An opening: “And how many women do you have in your life, Maxim?”
“Well, I have my mother and about four girlfriends….”
Tilt! I’ll scratch their eyes out!
After a week of non-sex with Vanya – despite his promise of “whenever you want,” I asked him Wednesday night if he wanted to play. “No.” But I could understand, because his old man was just on the other side of the bedroom wall.
So Thursday night? “Not tonight. Tomorrow night.”
So I was sure Friday night was going to be the night. But when he came to bed about 3:30 a.m., after getting his eyebrow pierced by Denis for the requisite punk eyebrow jewelry which I had bought him, he immediately rolled onto his stomach.
“Can we play tonight?” I asked.
“It’s 3:30. I want to sleep.”
“I’ve asked you not to come to bed so late. Last night you said ‘tomorrow night.’ It’s now tomorrow night. Every night there’s some excuse.”
“It’s not an excuse. I don’t feel well.’
“When can we play?”
Sure enough, on Saturday night he was in bed by midnight, newly bathed and smelling sexy from the eau-de-cologne. I put my arm around him. “Can we play?”
This time I pulled his shorts off before he got a hard on, so I could play with his flaccid dick for a while, as I had in the bathtub last week (Chapt. 237).
But the routine was pretty much the same. He’s not very responsive, but it’s big and hard. There’s only a short gasp and a sudden stiffening before I feel the urethra pulsing with the delivery of the white stuff into my throat.
As before, I didn’t feel like coming, so Sunday morning I jerked off to the memory. I think he was awake, but so what? He’s watched me jerk off before and if I’m lucky, will watch me jerk off again.
A hint of the complications that could arise with the return of Zhorik cropped up in a conversation with Sergei Friday night while I was expressing to him my frustration about Denis and Vanya disappearing with their father when the kitchen was still a mess and there was a load of clothes that needed washing.
“When Zhorik gets out of the army, I want just you and him to live here by yourselves,” he declared. “Not me, not Tanya, not Denis, not Ivan. Just you and Zhorik. What do you think?”
“Well, it’s still a little early….”
Especially since I have already assured Vanya that he can live here with me, and we have both declared our wish to continue our life here together.
On the other hand, I promised Zhorik that -- though I might have other boyfriends while he was gone -- when he returned, we would be a matched set again (Chapt. 194).
In the meantime, he reiterated in a telephone conversation with Sergei Saturday night that when he gets out of the army he wants to live with me and get a job and an education.
“In Moscow or in Stavropol?” asked Sergei.
“It doesn’t make any difference. I just want to live with Dane.”
Once again, I am reminded of the Russian proverb: When you chase two rabbits….
But I won’t take a chance on losing Zhorik even if it means losing Vanya.
The threatened lawsuit against Lord-Mayor of London Yuri Luzhkov by gay activists for calling gay parades “satanic” (Chapt. 234) has been filed.
“The only aim of those comments was to smear us as organizers,” charged Nikolai Alexeyeev, organizer of last year’s attempt, who has declared he will try again this year.
“If you’ll look up the word ‘satanic,’” he continued, “you’ll see…that in all its meanings it has a strictly negative tone.”
In Russia libel is defined as anything that defames a person’s character. The fact that it is aimed at a public figure is not a defense. Libel lawsuits are usually the province of public officials against investigative journalists. It will be interesting to see the outcome when the shoe is put on the other foot.
How to file suits against the Russian government in the European Court of Human Rights is the subject of a book published last year by the human rights organization group “Memorial “
Last week Moscow city prosecutors ordered Memorial to furnish financial and other records relating to the book’s publication.
Memorial Executive Director Tatyana Kasatkina provided the documents along with a request for an explanation of why city prosecutors were suddenly interested in the organization’s publications, since there’s no apparent legal authority for their demand.
The prosecutor’s office has not responded.
“We still can’t understand what this is all about,” she told the Moscow Times.
Maybe what it’s all about is the fact that Russians file more claims with the court than any other country, and that Putin last month complained that some of the European Court’s decisions relating to Russia have been politically motivated.
It’s the Moscow, rather than the federal prosecutor, but in Russia if you’ve seen one government you’ve seen them all. And Luzhkov proved before Putin’s reelection in 2004 that he is only too eager to do the Kremlin’s bidding. He does, after all, despite being nearly 70, still have a lot of years of political groveling left in him.
Moscow is in the middle of another avian flu scare with the announcement last week that six cases of the disease had been found here – all of them originating in a pet market here that trades in exotic birds, according to the Federal Service for Veterinarian and Vegetarian Sanitary Supervision.
But what do they know?
Duma Speaker Boris Gryzlov has the real scoop: Unidentified foreign agents are spreading the disease in Russia.
“It is a deliberate project that has been directed against the production (of chickens) and the sale of expensive vaccines, and it was not invented in Russia.”
Basil, the Red Queen administrator, is an IT specialist for a large poultry firm here. He said last week that he hadn’t heard that the flu had affected the company’s chicken operations in the Moscow area or in nearby Tula.
“But sales have gone down. We don’t have too much profit, so all this is very bad for us. I’m going to Tula this week, so I think they are going to clean autos at the entrance and kill birds near the farm.”
“I can’t add anything new,” he said yesterday, “because this kind of information is secret. And I’m not sure I would know it if we got the flu on one of our poultry farms.’
In the meantime, it doesn’t appear to be affecting prices in the market. We are still buying drumsticks and thighs for about $ 1.18 a pound.
Russia’s single contribution to the culinary arts in my opinion is soup. Everything else is too greasy and too salty and too tasteless.
Every Russian meal begins with soup. All Russian women know how to make it from nothing. Even Sergei can make soup “with rocks and water,” he insists.
I believe it. Tanya also makes marvelous Ukrainian borsch and shchi – cabbage soup, sometimes with chicken, sometimes without. I still haven’t mastered the art, and I’m envious.
“Why don’t Americans eat soup?” my students frequently ask me. “It’s too time consuming,” I tell them. “Americans are always in a hurry, and it takes time to make soup.”
Former housemate BB in Seattle could make extraordinary soups. But like most of my countrymen, if I wanted soup, I went to the store and bought a can of Campbell’s. I brought a lot of American recipes to Russia with me that begin with, “Add to a can of cream of mushroom soup….”
My favorite fish chowder recipe begins with two cans of cream of potato soup.
So I have mixed feelings about the announcement last week that Campbell’s may soon enter the Russian food market.
On the one hand, I can make my favorite fish chowder again. On the other hand, the reigning world king of mass produced over-salted, over-processed soups is going to compete with the world’s best soup makers?
It will be interesting to see how Russian housewives take to opening two cans of Campbell’s soup before every meal. I have my doubts.
See also related pages:
Chapt. #237 - Moldova adventure almost a certainty
Chapt. #236 - Prostitution supplements Russian soldiers’ $ 10 wage!
Chapt. #234 - Luzhkov again vows to ban “satanic” gay parades
Chapt. #231 - Galicia: Land of bagpipes and miracles