Sunday, March 8, 2009

Happy Women's Day!

I thought I saw a jalapeno today. It was an overcooked green bean. Cruel tricks my eyes are playing on me. Next thing you know I’ll be seeing Dr. Pepper signs on the bar taps.

I saw a guy with a Napoleon Dynamite tshirt on a Russian comedy sketch show. I really doubt he got the humour in that movie. But they blatantly ripped off his dance moves in the opening sequence.

So I’m in Russia grace á Rotary. I am required to do a few things for them for the grant I received. Namely spend some time with their clubs in Russia. Well, there was a sickening amount of mis-communication between myself and my Rotarian contact in Russia. In fact, she wasn’t even my contact. She was my contact to my contact. My actual contact, I emailed, and emailed to no avail. My mid-contact gave me a new email address to try. I tried that. Again to no avail. I’ll point out that before it even got to this point, I was waiting and waiting to hear from my mid-contact. Finally I found an email address for her, and she tells me she has been emailing me for months…you guessed it…to no avail. It never occurred to her to ask someone if she had the correct email. It only occurred to her to berate me for not responding. Even after I explained that I never received an email. I guess Russians are psychic and don’t need to actually receive emails. Oh wait, that’s certainly not true, as I emailed my actual contact several times to no avail. Well, about a month after my arrival, I met with the director of my faculty. He happens to be Rotary. I explained my situation to him, after all, these people gave me a lot of money, I have obligations. He basically tells me, “Russians do not have the time Americans have. Don’t expect them to have time to help you.” I’ll point out here, that this gentleman took me into his office to personally meet and congratulate me on my grant. His never made any expression better than a grimace. I guess a handshake is good enough.

Let’s cut to the present. Two months into my time here, I decide to try once more. I email my mid-contact and ask if I can come to a meeting. I’d been waiting to be invited and had decided that if they didn’t want to see me, then I had no real obligations. But then I thought, I need to try harder. Even if my contact doesn’t have time, I might still meet some interesting people. So she gave me directions to the meeting. I arrived. To a terribly cold reception. They referred to me as “Invisible Rebecca”. Again, they went out of their way to fault me for all the mis-communication problems. It was completely impossible for it to be anyone’s fault but my own. I seriously wanted to cry. Finally, the mid-contact comes. About an hour late. Oddly enough, she was overwhelmingly nice! And then another man came up and introduced himself. Then back to the bitch of a president. Well, anyway. In the end, I think the general consensus is that I’m a slack American who has been joyriding on their dime for the past two months, but some are going to overlook that.

So the meeting. Quite interesting. Conducted in Russian, so I just barely caught the gist, but basically, they did the normal Rotary things. Then they began discussing how they could modernize the material discussed at meetings. Make it more relevant to modern problems. The word “Creeses” is said quite a lot. Then the room devolves into chaos more or less as it is argued what are appropriate topics. Then they had me stand up and talk about myself. Which was...well ok. For having prepared nothing, I managed to pull it off. Then before we left, one gentleman stood and delivered a poem he had written for the women of the club. It was quite heartfelt. You see today is Women’s Day. They don’t take this holiday lightly. It’s quite serious. We have the day off school tomorrow in celebration. I’m sure after Monday though, it’s back to beatings as usual. In fact, part of the Easter celebrations in Slavic countries involves beating women with sticks. In gest, but there has to be some social commentary to be said about this.

Well, in order to clean up this mess that I’ve been put in, I have to say yes to pretty much everything asked of me. So Friday I joined an older Rotarian at a talent show at a local deaf school. It was actually quite entertaining. I met with the director of the school and she seemed like a genuinely caring woman. The kids all seemed happy and well taken care of, which was a relief to me, considering they have to live at the school too, oh and it’s Russia.

So Happy Women's Day! Go do something nice for all the women in your life!

1 comment:

Michael Arrowood said...

Sounds like Russia! But you stumbled across a really spectacular mother lode of miscommunication, it sounds like.

Reminds me of my work -- we send frantic messages to our (paid!) staff in Russia, then days later we get answers about completely different information. Leading to a frantic crisis a month later, because they didn't answer. I'm so glad I'm being transferred to the Ethiopia Department!