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The First Three Weeks Since Tanya and Uliana are in Belarus

I am writing this post during my fourth week alone, drugs and my first week back to work, so this will be all from memory, and not completely correct, but it will be close enough for government work. I was planning on doing a week by week post, since I expected to be really busy, but that sorta did not happen. My time was pretty much was laced with laziness.

The First Night

The very moment I finished work @ 4:30pm the day after I dropped Tanya and Uliana off  (Tuesday) was strange. I was free with nothing to that I had do, no child to babysit, no yoga class to take, no plans at all, just the emptiness of the night with nothing at all on the agenda, and no one calling for my attention. It was really strange. It has been a long time since I have had moments like that, especially for such a long stretch. Having a child changes things a little bit. =) It felt kind like getting out of basic training in the Navy for the first time, going from where your every minute is scheduled and demands are made of your time and attention, and then nothing. My mind really had no clue what the hell I should be doing. It was expecting to be expecting to be expected to have something to do. Twas strange for me to process. I slowly walked home from work taking my time thinking about all of the things I could do, and then I just went home to prepare for the coming time alone. The first night sleeping alone was a little strange too. I am sorta used to having Tanya there, and not having her there made it hard to sleep. =) =( I miss my Ribchik!!

Week One

The first week  I spent some time cooking, shopping, and doing laundry, as well as doing just a little bit of yoga in the evenings, not so much though. I joined the free trial of Redbox and started to watch some movies, as well as watched some shows of mine that were DVR’ed. I did not really do any reading, sadly enough. This first week had me staying up late, like until 11:00 to 12:00am. Much later than I like. On Wednesday I went down to the game shop to chill with the guys. There is usually a Bolt Action Game going on. Bolt Action is a World War II minis game. I think I also went down on Saturday too to check out the gaming goodness.

Weeks Two and Three (Vacation)

Things pick up a bit during these two weeks in which I was on vacation, and I did not accomplish everything that I was hoping to. Things were more laid back than I was planning. The complete lack of routine totally threw me for a loop. I work much better when I have a rigid routine in place and then I can fit things in as needed.

These first weeks of vacation had me staying up late, like until 12:00am to 1:00am in the morning watching movies on Redbox. I usually woke up late which is like 9:00am or so. I would get up, drink my honey-lemon-cinnamon water, take care of email and Facebook, do my yoga, and then shower. I would finish all of this around 12:00 to 1:00pm, and then I would eat breakfast which would usually start with a protein bar. Once all of that was done I would get on with my day.

Reading Books

I was originally planning on reading my Constitution Law book which I bought for my birthday in 2009 and spent a week of vacation reading it. During that week I read ~583 pages. If you get really bored you can read about that in those posts tagged Constitutional Law: Pricipals and Policies. However, since I really wanted to start at the beginning to read the 1300 pages straight through, preferably in a week, but most likely 2, I chickened out. Before your judgemental bastards judge me keep in mind that this is not like 1300 pages of Lord of the Rings, novel sized pages. These are 1300 pages of college text book sized dense law reading. =P

Below are the few things that I read instead:

First, I finished reading the the following 2 books which were already about 60% read:

God and the Gay Christian: This was perhaps the best book I have read on this topic. I have read a few and this is the first one that was really convincing and really gets it right. This is perhaps one of the most important books of the year.

Mary Magdalene: This is the second book on this topic that I have read and I really enjoyed it. Well researched and it really brought me a better understanding of the ways that Mary was and is understood and what it really means today. Good stuff.

Then I moved on to reading new books. You will notice a sort of a trend in the topics here:

Yoga for Regular Guys (YRG): I had picked this up the previous week and had taken a look at it. This week I spent some time going through the yoga routine in there. I recognized pretty much all of the poses in it so there were no surprises there. The forward for the book was written by Rob Zombie which was neat to see. The book was written in a laid back style for men, a bit sexist, but meant in fun, sorta like a professional wrestler wrote it. =O

So You Want to Open a Yoga Studio: This was a small but awesome book. It covered how and why to open up a studio plus what to look for in a space and so much more. If I were looking into opening up a new studio, this book would be a really great place to start.

Light on Law for Yoga Studios: This was written by the guy who is the legal counsel for Yoga Journal, I think. He is also a lawyer and a yoga teacher too, so this book is chocked full of great advice, thoughts, and actual legal forms you  can use to create your own forms. I will have to take a look at my own studio forms and change things around with the info from this book. I wish I had this when we started our studio and I put together our forms and waivers.

The Yogi Entrepreneur: This was a great book on running a studio from everything from choosing a teacher training program, finding work to social media management. A lot of great advice in there.

Yoga

I did yoga almost everyday. My sessions were anywhere from 20 minutes to 45 minutes, though I tended to average about 30 minutes. Loving it.

Gaming

I had Charles over and we played some of the following games which are featured on Will Wheaton’s Table Top series:

I also made it over to the game shop and played some:

I will send a shout out to Brian, who has always been kind to me. He has always played mini based games and he always had an army for me (and others) to play. He bought a Russian army for me and I was able to play it for the first time the last Saturday of vacation. He also has plenty of ships to go around for me to play Star Wars:X-Wing too… go Imperials!!

Strangely enough, especially since I am tactically challenged, I won most of the games. Perhaps their is something magical about vacations? Hmmm…. =)

We also had our bi-weekly Star Wars: Edge of Empire Role Playing Game game too, which went well, and Brian also GM’s that and has been our dedicated and tireless GM for 15 years. You go dude! … and thanks!!

Week Four – At Work

With the start of a new week and starting work, I did some cooking and laundry too. It was not too bad getting back to work since I stopped in on both Sundays to clean out my mailbox and see if anything needed to be done.

DDP Yoga

So, I purchased the DVD Max Pack for DDP Yoga and started it Thursday of last week and have done it everyday so far, except for Sunday. It is pretty intense, and I am definitely sweating when I am done. I am looking forward to continuing this practice to help lean me up and lose some weight.  Now that I am back to work I am getting up at 6:00am so I can get my Yoga in before I go to work which will also charge up my metabolism too. It is going pretty well so far and I am going to bed at around 10:00pm too, which is right about where I want to. It is only 2 days in, but things are going well. For more info on DDP Yoga and why I choose it see my next post.

Tonight I will go to Marley’s and then go to see Godzilla.

Next week I pick up Tanya and Uliana on Friday night, and then, thankfully, everything will be back to normal.

I think I have rambled enough for one post.

The Wife and Kid are off to Belarus

It has been a while since I have last posted, sale but I have some kinda big news for you…

Yesterday, pill I dropped Tanya and Uliana off at the Chicago airport so they can make their way to Belarus for a month where they will spend time with family and friends. This will be Uliana’s first trip on a plane (and to Belarus)  and Tanya’s first trip back home since Uliana was born (~ 5 years). I am not going, pathopsychology because we could not afford it at this time. =(

The Trip

We had a goodbye lunch with my parents at a Chinese place at noon, and then Tanya finished up their packing and pre-trip checks.  We left by 3:22pm and drove down I-90 to get to the airport. The drive was pretty uneventful due to the rain even though there was a lot of construction zones. We made it there in about 3 hours (~6:30pm). Once we got there we checked their baggage, obtained their ticket,s and then they left for the security check @ 7:35pm. By 8:45pm I received the call that they were finally on board the plane, and that their security check was really quick. Their flight was scheduled to leave at 9:00pm for a nice overnight flight. I started my long drive back home after I knew that they has passed the security check OK. I arrived in Baraboo at 10:40pm and the whole trip cost 1 tank (15 gallons) of gas in our Santa Fe.

I will call them at noon to see how things went. Hopefully, it went well. =)

Update: At 11:15am I received a text and a  voicemail  from Katia saying that they landed, Uliana was great,  and everything went well. Whew!

My Thoughts on Their Trip

I am very happy that they finally get to go to Belarus. I know Tanya has been a bit homesick and really wanting her mother to finally be able to spend time with her grand daughter. We have a lot of family and friends over there that we have not seen in 5 or 6 years. Distance from them is hard. Skype is only so good. There is no replacing talking and meeting in person. Although, we keep our selves really busy, so that helps to not think about it too much.

Uliana’s Passport

While they are there Tanya will have to work on getting Uliana a Belarussian passport. Unfortunately, it is required by Belarussian law that Uliana gets one. She already has a US passport since she is a US citizen, but as far as Belarussian law is concerned she does not choose her citizenship until she is 16 and is kind of considered a citizen of both countries until she is old enough to choose. In the US getting a passport is a pretty painless process. Go and fill out a form, get a picture, pay some money, and then wait a little bit. In Belarus it is significantly more difficult. They are still dealing with Soviet era bureaucracy and red tape. It will go kinda like this: she will need to fill out a form, then go somewhere else to get someone’s signature, then go somewhere else across town get a stamp to verify the signature, then fill out another form, and perhaps do the previous steps too for that form. She may also have to get a signature to verify the stamp which verifies the signature. It is pretty crazy and it can take a month to get a passport as the red tape deals with itself. This is our main concern while they are over there, because if we are not able to get Uliana’s passport done by the time they are scheduled to leave then they will not be able to leave the country. So, this is going to be a noticeable shadow and stressor over their trip until that gets resolved. We plan on expediting this as quickly as we can, but that only goes so far.

Uliana’s Personality

I am a bit concerned about Uliana’s personality. When she is having fun and entertained she is great, but as soon as that bus stops she can be quite stubborn (she gets that from Tanya… for reals) and mean. Since they are in Belarus and are not in our own house,  disciplining Uliana can be a real challenge. She is going to be around a whole new culture and people and I am worried that she will be overstimulated which may make her cranky a lot. I fear that the trip for both of them will be a complete nightmare. On the other hand, since everything is new all of the time she may be in a great mood since she will be continually entertained… until they have to leave someplace fun. Plus they will be speaking Russian all of the time. Since Russian is not an easy language and she will have to try and think which may make her cranky. This may also add an additional stressor to their trip.

We shall see. I hope and pray for the best possible trip so they both survive to return home. =O =)

Friends and Family

We have a lot of friends and family over there. We have our girls who were here with Tanya – Katia, Ania, and Lena over there who we miss terribly. Katia from St. Petersburg who we met here in Wisconsin last year will make her way via train to see them for a whole day. We really miss her too. Tanya’s mother, brother, aunt and uncle and their families, and everyone else too. She has a lot of other friends to see too. A month is almost enough time to make the rounds to everyone at least once. It will be a great time to reconnect and renewing those relationships. It is a wonderful thing. I am soooo jealous. =)

What About Me?

When I am able to pull myself out of fetal position long enough to wipe the tears from my eyes I plan on hiring a bunch a strippers and having a keg on tap the whole time…I just gotta party when I can… While the cat is away the mice will play…

Ok, maybe not quite that. I plan on cramming a lot of stuff into my head. I have the following to read:

  • a book and a half on Mary Magdalene
  • 3 books on yoga studio management
  • a 1200 page Constitutional Law Book
  • books are religion and theology
  • books on writing

I also plan on fitting in some gaming. Brian has a Russian army I can play for the Bolt Action WWII miniature game. I will also be playing the our normal FFG Star Wars Game, and if I can fit in another game day or two I will.

Next weekend , my awesome nephew, Tyler, is turning 21 so I may go up to Marshfield to partake in that celebration. =)

I will post an update later on about how things are going.

Green Card Lottery Winner!!!

I have some good news to break to everyone. We just found out that my wife’s brother and his wife have won the US Department of State’s Green Card Lottery and have been officially accepted for immigration into the US. They are looking at coming over sometime in May. We are quite excited at this prospect, gastritis especially since we will be having a baby shortly after that. So much to do and so little time. Yea!

The Top 6 Things I Like About Life in Belarus

I may sound really pissy when I write this so please forgive me. I have close friends and in-laws that live there and I know that they have to endure this list of things. Knowing this makes me rather cranky. =)

Bureaucracy

My unequivocal largest gripe, refractionist OK second largest gripe, doctor with life in Belarus is the layers of bureaucracy that have to be waded through to get stuff done. I will write more about this later. It takes about two complete days of wandering around and shuffling paper to get stuff done. Grrrr…..

Public Restrooms

This is probably my largest grip. I know what you are thinking silly little wussy American….

Now this I really cannot understand at all. I can see that this is OK with Bealrussians because it is what they are used to. This is what life has always been like and they do not know anything different. But why is it this way?

The bathrooms are a borderline biohazard area. They have not been cleaned in God knows how long; the toilet seats is missing; the smell of urine and defecation is strong; there will most likely not be toilet paper; and there may not be a door; or paper towels or soap to wash your hands.

*blink, page blink*

I fear going anywhere that is not someone’s house for having the possibility of having to use a public rest room. I eat really lightly if we plan on going somewhere public. Eeeekk!

Bring your own toilet paper and work those quads so you do not have to touch the seat (if it is there), cause that is what they do. It would suck to get rabies from toilet and have to go to a hospital there. (Yes, I know you cannot get rabies from a toilet seat – using literary license).

Hospitals

Holy breeding ground for disease. The buildings are not well kept. They are dirty, with paint peeling, and lights and other fixtures missing. They will put like 6 people to a room with no separation or privacy that should hold about 2 or 3 people. They have not enough lighting in the halls or rooms. The doctors and nurses (because they are at work) are not exactly there to help and are grumpy.

Lawsuit Fodder Everywhere

There are so many things that happen there that would be major lawsuit fodder here inthe United States like construction being done and the construction area (pit with sharp metal pointing out) is not cordoned off properly with kids playing and jumping over it; or not enough lighting in all of the hallways for their apartments with something on the floor for you to trip over. I can make list after list, but this along with the bathroom issue should be enough to give you an idea.

They do not have lawyers suing everyone because they are bored like they do here in the United States, so things like this go on and no one can really do anything about it. There is no one that really cares enough or has money enough to deal with it. Ugghhhhh!

Hot Water (Heating) Turns Off(On)

The Government will turn off the centralized hot water city-wide for 2 weeks a year “for maintenance”? What the hell is this? Is this a benefit of a Soviet communist infrastructure? Somebody sign me up. =(

Granted this is not a lot of time per year, but who was the genius that designed the hot water systems this way?

The heating systems for all of the apartments, and believe me there are many, as most people live in them, is turned on when the government decides that it is cold enough to turn it on… perhaps a few weeks into October or so. It gets colder there than it does here.

*shakes head*

Crosswalk Indicators

Their crosswalk indicators count down the seconds until it changes state. Very cool.

Halva (Sunflower)

Halva is a desert like thing that is made from crushed and compressed sunflower seeds. It is eaten primarily with tea. Check out the Wikipedia Entry for Halva.

People

The people are warm, pharm
happy, health
and friendly (as long as you do not catch them at work). Very social, warm, and they love to tell stories, and ,of course, drink vodka. I had about 4 shot of vodka a night every other night, and about 8 shots for special occasions.

If you catch them at work and ask them to do something related to their job they can be downright cantankerous, obstinate, and ornery – a far cry from our service oriented business here in America.

Pelmeni

Pelmeni is like our traditional ravioli but is usually purchased frozen and without sauce. Wow does this stuff Roxors My Boxors! Check the Wikipedia Entry for Pelmeni

Stop Lights

This may seem like a small thing but the their stop lights blink yellow before the light changes to signal a change from Green to Red and vice verse.

Sunrise and Sunset

The sun comes up at about 06:00 (6:00am) and sets at about 22:00 (10:00pm) each day. This makes for nice long days where you can get a lot done.

Category: Belarus, Culture, Life  2 Comments

The Top 5 Things I Dislike About Life in Belarus

I may sound really pissy when I write this so please forgive me. I have close friends and in-laws that live there and I know that they have to endure this list of things. Knowing this makes me rather cranky. =)

Bureaucracy

My unequivocal largest gripe, refractionist OK second largest gripe, doctor with life in Belarus is the layers of bureaucracy that have to be waded through to get stuff done. I will write more about this later. It takes about two complete days of wandering around and shuffling paper to get stuff done. Grrrr…..

Public Restrooms

This is probably my largest grip. I know what you are thinking silly little wussy American….

Now this I really cannot understand at all. I can see that this is OK with Bealrussians because it is what they are used to. This is what life has always been like and they do not know anything different. But why is it this way?

The bathrooms are a borderline biohazard area. They have not been cleaned in God knows how long; the toilet seats is missing; the smell of urine and defecation is strong; there will most likely not be toilet paper; and there may not be a door; or paper towels or soap to wash your hands.

*blink, page blink*

I fear going anywhere that is not someone’s house for having the possibility of having to use a public rest room. I eat really lightly if we plan on going somewhere public. Eeeekk!

Bring your own toilet paper and work those quads so you do not have to touch the seat (if it is there), cause that is what they do. It would suck to get rabies from toilet and have to go to a hospital there. (Yes, I know you cannot get rabies from a toilet seat – using literary license).

Hospitals

Holy breeding ground for disease. The buildings are not well kept. They are dirty, with paint peeling, and lights and other fixtures missing. They will put like 6 people to a room with no separation or privacy that should hold about 2 or 3 people. They have not enough lighting in the halls or rooms. The doctors and nurses (because they are at work) are not exactly there to help and are grumpy.

Lawsuit Fodder Everywhere

There are so many things that happen there that would be major lawsuit fodder here inthe United States like construction being done and the construction area (pit with sharp metal pointing out) is not cordoned off properly with kids playing and jumping over it; or not enough lighting in all of the hallways for their apartments with something on the floor for you to trip over. I can make list after list, but this along with the bathroom issue should be enough to give you an idea.

They do not have lawyers suing everyone because they are bored like they do here in the United States, so things like this go on and no one can really do anything about it. There is no one that really cares enough or has money enough to deal with it. Ugghhhhh!

Hot Water (Heating) Turns Off(On)

The Government will turn off the centralized hot water city-wide for 2 weeks a year “for maintenance”? What the hell is this? Is this a benefit of a Soviet communist infrastructure? Somebody sign me up. =(

Granted this is not a lot of time per year, but who was the genius that designed the hot water systems this way?

The heating systems for all of the apartments, and believe me there are many, as most people live in them, is turned on when the government decides that it is cold enough to turn it on… perhaps a few weeks into October or so. It gets colder there than it does here.

*shakes head*

Category: Belarus, Culture, Life  2 Comments

Back From Belarus

This post will be pretty short. I will post a little more later when I have more time

We have finally returned from Belarus last Thursday at about 16:30 (4:30pm) and went to bed at about 22:30 (10:30pm) and woke up at 06:30 (6:30am) the next morning with no jet lag at all, here just confusion as to why we feel fine and not suffering from jetlag.

Our trip was great. Tanya was there for 3 months to finish her degree. I was there for the entire month of June. We spent most most of our time with her family and friends and we spent a lot of time with close mutual friends. All of our peeps are found in the 3 major cities Grodna, nurse Minsk, there and Mogilev. Most of our time was spent in Mogilev where she was finishing her degree.

I experienced a Russian Orthdox wedding (of a close friend) as well as working at a Dacha (summer house of Tanya’s mother), as well as drinking vodka almost every day. It was a good time and we were sorry that it ended too soon. Too many people to see in too many cities and not enough time to spend with them. If none our the people we wanted to spend time with worked things would be much better, but as we all know life, for some reason insists on intruding in our desires.

Later I will post the top things I like and do not like about life in Belarus as well as a rant about Soviet Communist Theory on Efficiency.

Heading Towards the East…

Tomorrow morning I will head to the O’Hare airport with my parents driving me there in my car with my wonderful IPass. I finished most of my packing last night and finalized it tonight. I have exactly no room to take anything else with me. 1 large suitcase to check weighing in at 50 lbs in and one to carry on weighing in at 13lbs. I also have my backpack with reading materials – mostly books to learn Russian.

I have my money, caries my US passport and my World Citizen Passport, gastritis as well as a bit of spending money, physician and an older IPod Nano to keep me company.

I am excited and very much looking forward to this trip. I will be able to see my wife after about 2 months of separation while she has been working on finishing her degree there. While I will be driving tomorrow she will be taking her final General Exams. I will get to see our close friends and my in-laws for the first time in two years. =)

World Citizen – At Last!

With the potential of going to Belarus under questionable political circumstances I have broken down and filed to be a World Citizen. I have wanted to do this for a really, click really long time, approved but could not justify the expense. Now, there is some reason and possible use for the documents provided by the World Service Authority (WSA).

The WSA can provide a Passport, Identification Card, Birth Certificate as well as other documents relevant to your identity and travel ability – their service is used heavily by refugees. I have filed for the aforementioned documents as well as a few others. For people, especially Americans, that are traveling abroad to places where Americans might not be looked kindly upon, an extra, or camouflage passport, is something that can help ensure our safety.

The WSA was founded by Gary Davis September 4, 1953 based on the 1948 United Nations document called the ‘Universal Declaration of Human Rights‘, specifically articles 13, 14, and 15. Give it a read. It is not too painful and is really relevant in today’s world.

To Go Or Not To Go – to Belarus

Politics and a Trip to Belarus

So, information pills the wife is in Belarus for 3 months and I am planning on going there for a month to attend the wedding of a close friend and then spend time in Belarus with my in-laws and our friends there. I am really looking forward it, this since it has been quite a while since I have been there.

I am faced with some annoying facts while planning a trip to Belarus. The U.S. government has currently frozen the assets of a Belarussian oil company there as a show of unhappiness towards the imprisoning of the the opposition leader during the last completely corrupted and farce of an election. (In Response to Sanctions, Belarus Seeks to Oust U.S. Envoy: WP March 8, 2008)

In retaliation for that the Belarussian government has demanded that the U.S. embassy in Minsk have its staff reduced down to a level equal to or less than that of the their embassy in the U.S.. The U.S. has also basically closed down the embassy and is not issuing any visas. (Belarus wants U.S. embassy staff cut to seven: Reuters April 2, 2008)

Will their be a second string of maneuvers and counter-maneuvers and how will it affect me, and other U.S. citizens making their way to Belarus. Will I be in danger due to Belarus’ corrupt government?

A Visa to Belarus

For more information on Visas and Belarus check my previous post on December 15, 2005.

So, now I gather the things that I need for a tourist visa (a passport picture, passport, a visa application form and a check) for a month long trip to Belarus. As long as I am there for less than 30 days I do not need an invitation and can get a standard tourist visa. Tanya is arranging to get an invitation ready for me in case I need one while I am there. Specifically, if she or I have issues with leaving the country due to political or immigration issues. Wish me luck! =)

Saying Goodbye…

Wednesday we had to say goodbye to a wonderful friend who has been an very integral part of our lives for about two years. Our close friend and roommate has left to go back home to Belarus for about 7 months and we do not know if she will be able to come back to the US.

We miss her so very much and today is the first day without her about. My wife and her cousin are a wreck. Out home much quieter and feels empty – lacking that certain energy and vivaciousness that she carries with her. We would not feel so lost and depressed if we knew that she would be able to come back. Saying goodbye is never so bad if you know that you will be able to say hello again.

Catching up…

Belarus

So life has been busy. Tanya was back in Belarus for 3 months to finish the first half of the last year of her degree in Economics (or something like that). It was a long three months and several people have said I was lost while she was gone. I was in many ways. =) I really missed her and I am soooo very glad to have her back.

Real Estate License

I have been studying for my Real Estate Sales License. That has been a slow and painful process. There was a lot more to it than I expected, there but it has been very good information to know. I really look forward to having this done and so does Tanya, stomach that way I can move forward with life’s plans.

Vacation

Tanya and I bound for Cancun for the first week in December, this site which will be a lot of fun. We will be alone with the sun and the water at an all inclusive resort. This is kind of our birthday/New Years/Christmas presents to each other.

New Digital Camera

In preparation for the trip we have bought a digital camera: a Canon CAPSSX100B PowerShot SX100 IS (8 Megapixel, 10x optical zoom). The camera that I bought in St. Martin N.A. (Canon EOS 5000) in like 1994 has seen its better days and has been dropped way to many times. If you know me you will know how unfortunate this camera was to have me as its owner. It has served me well but it is not working so well, plus it is a pain in the but to have the film developed and them make a CD of it.

New Computer

We are also going to be looking at getting a new computer for Christmas as well. This is an expensive Christmas for us, but we really need a new one. The girls are going bonkers because of how slow mine is. =(

Computer Work

I spent a bit of time doing a full reinstall and update of Windows XP for my mother’s work computer. That was fun as all full reinstalls are. I also replaces the Bios Battery thingy for the mother board in another.

Thanksgiving

For Thanksgiving we will be going to my sisters house up North and then on Friday we will have another Thanksgiving with my Wife and grandmother as Tanya has to work all day on Thanksgiving. My poor hardworking and wonderful wife. I love her so very much.

Church Website

I am also taking over the maintenance of my churches website :The Free Congregation of Sauk County. I have started with that and eventually we will go through a complete redesign.

Our Trip to Belarus: Part II

Part II.5: When not Dealing with THE Passport Saga

The days of the first week passed mostly by working on getting her passport squared away. The nights were entirely a different animal all together and for that we are thankful. We spent our time with friends and family. Ania and Banania had the whole time off and spent every moment with us. Lena had other familial obligations and could not be with us as much as she would have liked. Katia was attending school in Minsk and was not feeling quite so well.

In Mogilev we stayed with Banania’a family who were great and I got to meet her grandmother as well. We also met 3 of Tanya’s friends from the university which was interesting. They are so shy to speak English. Endearing as it was their English was a hell of a lot better than my Russian.

Time in Minsk

We spent a single night in Minsk. We arrived at Katia’s parents house and Katia was there. Her family was getting food ready for everyone to eat. All the girls were there. Katia’s sister, decease Tanya, came after she finished her work and their cousin, Natasha, arrived after she finished her work.

It was soo very good to see Katia and her family. The last time I was here, alone and her family made me feel so very at home with them. I have missed them very mush since I have been away.

We went to a night club there called the Metro which was painted like a subway. IT had rooms that you could rent that had one way mirrors facing the dance floor. You could order food and alcohol so you could site on the comfortable couches and chairs in the rooms. Very cool! The club had an upper level with a cat walk like area and tables upstairs. American clubs and music sucks. This place rocks!

Cultural Notes

Public Restrooms

Here comes a major rant here. Public Restrooms. For the love of God and all that is holy can I please get a bathroom that has some sanitary consideration. Please!!!

Ladies who grew up in the former Soviet Republics all have strong legs because they will have nothing to do with actually touching a toilet there, and neither would I. Most do not have toilet seats and have not been cleaned in a very long time. It is in these moments that I am so very happy that I am a guy. Ugghhh!!

I ate as little as possible if I knew that we were going to go out on the town so that I would not have to go, or so that I would be able to wait. Arrrgghhhh! There were a few newer buildings that had cleaner bathrooms, but their best was probably as good as the average worst that you would find here in the United State.

When you went to someone’s home everything is normal. Whew! Thank God!

Social Gatherings

All social gatherings in Belarus have a lot in common: food, confections, Vodka and other alcohol. Almost every where we went there were salads, meat or pasta with cookies, cake or candy, and, of course, Vodka. Everywhere we visited we brought either wine, vodka or candy. It is common and polite practice to bring something as the host will have a meal or some sort of food set out for your visit. There is a common Russian reply after some one knocks on your door and it goes something like this “Who’s there?” – “A bottle of Vodka!”. This is not a good translation but it gives you an idea.

We ate a lot and drank a lot. I drank a lot or tea, wine, and vodka. When we returned home I did not want to see another bottle of wine, champagne, or vodka or tea.

Social gatherings are very … social. People talking, laughing, telling stories and sharing. Belarussians are a very warm and accepting people. I miss being there just because of how warm and wonderful my friends and family is there.

(This is all I could manage.)

Our Trip to Belarus: Part I

Hopefully, apoplectic this will be enough to get you started.

Part I: The Trip There and Arriving

Our trip there was uneventful and long. Matt drove us to Chicago and then our flight left from there in the afternoon to Frankfurt (overnight) for about a 5 hour layover until about 01:00 and then we flew into Minsk. There were the usual movies, gynecologist and airline food (which seemed better than normal) and cramped seats. We spent our time watching movies, eating and talking just a little bit. We tried to stay awake as much as possible so that we will be able to adjust to the time zone change better. Tanya slept for a few hours and I napped for about 1.5 hours. over the some 19 hour flight and layover. When all was said and done we had been up for over 30 hours. Needless to say we were quite tired. when we arrived.

I was dead tired and cranky by the time we arrived to Minsk. We both and were also not happy about the prospect of having to deal with the Belarussian government over the course of the next 2 weeks. That is enough to make anyone cranky! We left the plane tired and crabby and we walked and walked and walked, and then walked some more, and just when we thought our trip was not going to go so well. We saw them. We saw our girls with signs and a bugle. We went from irate to deliriously happy just like that. It was so good to see them all again. Lena, Banania, Ania, and Banania’s father and brother were there, Katia’s sister – Tanya, and their parents whom I miss very much. It was great to talk to them all to them and to hear their voices again. It was a moment that we had been looking forward to for quite a long time. Katia met us a little bit before we were going to leave the airport. She had a test at the university right about the time when we would arrive.

We hugged and talked for some time with everyone and then we made for Banania’s family’s flat (apartment) in Mogilev. Her father and brother drove us to their flat in Mogilev about 4 hours away. Banania, Ania and Lena went to Banania’s flat in Minsk to get her devil cat, Funt, do a little bit of shopping and then meet us at Banania’s family’s.

Part II: THE Passport Saga

I am going to open this up for all of my non-Russian readers – all two of you =) – by explaining a little bit about Russia (and their former Republics). An interesting fact is that they do not use ID cards like we do here in the US. They use their passports.

Passports as ID is an interesting concept. It may be practical as they have other countries near by that their citizens may find the urge to go see and do so often and might even have families in other parts of the former Soviet Republic. Russians have to obtain a few interesting things for their passports – they must Register where the live and a obtain a Travel Stamp to leave the country.

Why must they register where they live. That is a good question and I do not know the answer. I can offer some speculation as to why that could be. This is a remnant from the Communist Era where the government wanted complete control and knowledge of where everyone is. Registering where you live also helps for rationing water, food, and other services that were all govern mentally controlled and owned. Remember this is purely speculation on my part. If someone knows of the correct answer or a better reason please post your thoughts. I would appreciate some enlightenment.

Our first week was spent dealing with passport issues. This is something that has had both of us quite worried. The Russian people can be quite taciturn and antagonistic if you catch them at work. They seem quite pissed that you have approached them to ask them to do their job. If they can find a reason not to do what you are asking they most definitely will. This can be a harsh analysis, but please also remember that this is a gross generalization. We found a some people that were quite polite and desired to help and do their job, just not the majority.

We had to reregister Tanya’s place of “residence” and then obtain a travel stamp so that she would be allowed to leave the country as it had expired while she was in the US. The first step was to sign her out of the university where she was signed in. Then we had to sign her into her aunt and uncle’s house where she usually stayed when attending the university. We had to get signatures and stamps to here, signatures and stamps to get there. They were found in this building and that building, and then we had to go to this other building across town. Uggh! There was a lot of walking and a lot of frustration as we had only 2 weeks to finish all of this paperwork and still have time to see her family and our friends who are located in other mahor cities in Belarus.

It took us a full week to get all of the stamps and signatures to sign her in to her Aunt and Uncle’s home. Once the registering was complete we had to apply for her travel stamp. Fortunately that process was simple. We dropped off her passport at an office somewhere and then pick it up the day that we left and that was it. Whew! There was some peace of mind knowing that this was almost done when we left her passport there, but there was still this overriding worry, concern, or fear that something was going to go wrong and that we would have to stay longer or have more problems than we already had. This of course detracted from our ability to enjoy our time there, especially Tanya, for she is my little bundle of stress.

To be continued…

So We’ve Been Busy

Tanya and I have been quite busy over the last few weeks. We have been looking at houses and mortgages; preparing documents for our INS interview on February 1; preparing for eventual problems that Tanya may have with immigration/customs as we leave from Moscow. I have also done 2 full reinstalls: one for Katia’s laptop, anorexia and one for my mother’s insurance business – Freedom Insurance; and of course, page working on mom’s website.

House Hunting

We have been looking for houses in the Baraboo, Dells, Delton, Delonna areas primarily. We have been looking in Reedsburg as well even though it is not our preferred city to live in. I work in and have friends in Baraboo and Tanya works in Lake Delton. My family lives in Lake Delton. Reedsburg is really out of the way for both of us. Ughh!

Property prices and property taxes are higher in Baraboo and lower in Reedsburg. We have 2 or 3 potentials in Reedsburg – 2 for about $100k and one for about $85k. We have found one in Baraboo for about $100k that we really like. Now the only problem that we have is that after Taxes, Title, License, and small furry animals I do not want more than a $80-90K mortgage. Any more than that and we will be living tight. I have tried to budget everything so that I can pay for pretty much everything and Tanya can concentrate on school and what ever else she needs to do, and still have some free money to save and to fix up the house. Finding a house that is not a shit-hole for about $80k seems to be almost impossible. So our search continues and so does the impending fear that we will have to get a house that is going to be too much work for us to have any chance to enjoy.

Other Stuff

We are definitely stressing over the possibility of having problems leaving Russia/Belarus. We will be calling the Moscow Airport (Sheremetyevo II) to see what they think we should do and hopefully we can fix the real issue here via the consulate later in the US instead of in Belarus. We really do not want to correct the problems in Belarus as we would have to deal with the corrupt and taciturn bureaucracy there. Not a good prospect. Here is better.

I really do not enjoy doing full reinstalls as they take forever. Installing Windows is not so bad. Downloading and installing the service packs and security fixes takes over half of the time. I have one more to do and then I will be done for quite a while. Ugh!!

I have been quiet because we have been busy! Nothing personal! =) I have even cancelled one of my gaming groups until we get back from Belarus to ensure that we have enough time for everything. Oi! They were not happy, but it had to be done!

Visa to Belarus and Russia (Soviet Republics)

Oh, sickness the joys of applying for a visa to foreign countries. I am in the process of trying to apply for a visa to Belarus and for Russia for our trip to see
our friends and my wife’s family for 3 weeks.

The biggest pain in the ass for this process is obtaining the invitation and that was an extreme source of frustration and stress the last time (2002) I was in Europe. Last time, however I was trying to get a visa to Belarus from the consulate in Prague, Czech Republic with great time constraints.

I will try to log my time and experiences (past and present) of trying to get a visa for Belarus and Russia for those of you who are curious or who might need to go through the process.

The Invitation

The hardest part of the Visa process is obtaining the Invitation. Without an Invitation you cannot get a Visa, and without the Visa there is no entry into the country. An Invitation is a letter written by someone (ie family friends, or someone else) that can be obtained or generated from their local passport and visa office of the Ministry of Interior (Belarus). An Invitation can also be obtained from an organisation that you will work for or is sponsoring your trip there (ie travel agency). The Invitation must state your intent to travel, why you are traveling there, and expected dates for your stay. The consulate will most likely require the original invitation, however sometimes, as was in my first experience, they may accept a copy of the Invitation.

The rest of the Story

After that the rest of the process is just filing out a (2 page) form and paying some money. Once you get to this stage you are basically golden. Fill out the form, send the money and then wait. I have heard that you might be able to fly there (to Belarus) and get a visa there at the airport. A friend of mine who is married to a Belarussian and was going there to meet up with her was able to do this, but I would not count on this. This is possible as long as someone will meet you at the airport with a valid invitation. I would hate to be stuck in an airport and not be able to go anywhere. =(

What is Happening Now

I was not able to get through to the consulate in Washington D.C.. I was however able to get through to the consulate in New York and they referred me to Eastern Tours to obtain an invitation. Eastern Tours said that they can take care of the invitation and visa which will be $145 and 10 days. I may have to expedite this so I do not have to to worry. It looks like they can do both Belarus and Russia. Yea! So tomorrow I will try to fill out the forms and send it to them!

Department of State Information

The Department of State lists no travel warnings for Belarus and here is their Consular Information and listing of Foreign Entry Requirements for Belarus. I will also want to Register our Trip with them as well!

It appears that the Belarussian Embassy lists foreign entry requirements as:

  • Fee of about $100
  • Passport
  • Visa Application Form
  • Passport Photo
  • Self Addressed and Stamped Envelope
  • Letter of Invitation
  • Purchase of Insurance when I get there

General Information on Belarus

Contact Information

Belarussian consulate in Washington D.C.
Contact Info Page

1619 New Hampshire Avenue., N.W.
Washington, DC 20009

Phones & Fax

Main Telephone: (202) 986-1604
Fax: (202) 986-1805
Consular Section: (202) 986-1606

Belarussian consulate in New York

New York Consulate Website

708 3rd Ave.
21st Floor
New York, NY 10017
Phone: (212)682-5392