Friday, April 24, 2009

How I managed to get in trouble with two countries governments at once...or maybe not at all.

So the cops here are notorious for stopping people and demanding to see documents, i.e. passport. Since I arrived here, I've only seen brown men get stopped. You can call it racial profiling I suppose, but there is a large problem with illegal immigration from border countries. Recently though, I saw 2 white guys get stopped in the same day. I thought, well maybe they're trying to be less stereotypical, maybe not. I found out (heard, not sure of the validity) yesterday that this month is recruitment month for the militia and the military. So they are stopping young white guys too to make sure they didn't miss out on their military duty. Why did I have this conversation yesterday? Well it followed shortly after we got picked up by the police. Rather, 3 got picked up, I got a pedestrian escort. Good times. Here's the skinny of a not so interesting interaction with Russian militia.

I and my Canadian Cohort are walking back to our domicile. En route, we pass two other Canadians. They are sitting on a bench, having what they like to refer to as "street beers". They get a real kick out of drinking on the street. I guess I can't say anything, I'm a big fan of "street-meat", and no, that's not what that means.   We stop to converse. Ya da ya da. Enter the Militia. "Where are you from?" "Do they let you drink beer on the street in Canada and America? In front of a school no less?" Hmmm, very valid point Mr. Officer, what about everybody else? Russians do it all the time. Well, validly they had the right to do something, these guys were drinking in public, illegal. Does it matter that there are two beers and four people? That two are sitting and two are clearly about to walk on? Negs. I'm not surprised. They walk us to the car after confiscating our documents. One cop (of 3) takes out the bullet proof vests from the back of a tiny Lada and asks us to get in the back. Um, 4 people, one guitar, one tiny bench in a Lada. Not gonna happen. So the boys squeeze in and the officer shoves the door on them. I'll point out that not one of them wondered if it was ok to leave a female alone with a Russian officer. Chivalry may be dead in Canada, I'll have to do further research. At the last minute before driving off, the cop in the front hands my escort my documents. And we start walking. He berates me about something. In retrospect, I thought I knew what he was talking about, but now I'm not sure. I ask him where we're going. He says, Militia. I say, Where is that? He doesn't answer. I think the problem is that one of my documents is expired, but I'm sure it's in my apartment which is across the street, let's go get it. No. Can we call the university? No. We keep walking. Then his cell phone rings, Not his police walkie-talkie. He hands me my documents and walks away. I see the car pull up without the boys, he walks over and gets in. Then I see the boys walking up from the other direction. What happened? Just your everyday Russian bribery. They each paid 500 rubles or about 15 bucks, no paper work, and the cops let them go. I really think that in these situations, it's to your benefit to not speak much Russian and keep saying you don't understand. I wasn't even approached about paying and I actually had an expired document!

Which brings me to my next point. I get back to my room where I'm meant to be packing to go to Moscow and realize the document is not in my room. It dawns on me, I never got reregistered. Registering is this little thing of letting the Russian government know your wearabouts at all times. Technically, if you are in one city for longer than three days, you should register again. Dumb. Well, when I got my passport back from getting a new visa, it was right in the middle of my bank account problems, so she says, take your passport, fix that, and come back and register. I had a few weeks. Well with that mess, and then the apartment mess, I completely forgot. So now I'm supposed to go to Moscow, but I have expired documents, which carries a fine, and possible deportation. So I couldn't go. This morning I high-tail it to school with said tail between my legs, to get this sorted out. The woman, who told me that I HAD to bring my passport back to her to get registered tells me, Oh no problem, I have your registration right here! What?! You've had it this whole time? Why did you tell me you didn't have it and that you needed my passport to take care of it??!!! Why did you tell me it's soooo important and to make sure I came back to fix this? Why?! Because it's Russia, that's why. This is just normal.

So I missed out on Moscow for no reason. Train ticket gone. But hey, now I have time to figure out why I'm being audited!... (yeah, no joke there)

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