March 30, 2003 Time To Go Home & Love Russian style

Posted in Rodger's Russia Book | Posted by rodger |


It’s our last day in Moscow. Strangely, I will miss this place a little, but only a little.

Yesterday, I saw a fairy tale, Russian version.

Nakita loves Nadia. Nadia loves Nakita, but will not marry him. Nadia is Leo’s interpreter. She is 24 years old and cute. She works as an English Instructor for the college at $35 a month and works for Leo as an interpreter for $2 an hour. She was born, grew up in, and lives in Tver. Nakita is her boyfriend and my new partner in Russian Programming Connection.

Nakita is about 25, blondish, dressed in the latest fashions, sharp as Hell and Leo’s best friend over the last two years. He works in Moscow programming UNIX shells for Sun Microsystems, and he is a real go getter. I just spent two hours discussing business, religion, and philosophy with him. I can see why Leo likes him. He was born in, grew up in, and fled from Tver.

Nadia will not marry Nakita because her parents don’t think that he is proper man. Nadia’s parents are of the old school. They worked for the state, believe in service to the state, expect nothing, got nothing. They are Old Russian. They don’t like people who want success and money and good jobs. They don’t like Nakita because he is ambitious and hard working. Nakita even has a cell phone. The 10 dollars a month that Nakita spends for the cell phone separates him from Nadia’s parents. They live in one world, he in the other.

Tomorrow he will ask Nadia to move to Moscow with him. I don’t think he has a prayer, but I hope for him. Nowhere have a seen a clearer example of the difference between old and new Russia. Can you imagine any American parent saying “You cannot marry that man! He wants to make a good living! He even wants to be successful!!!!” It’s a Russian fairly tale. I can’t wait to see how it ends.

I want to take some pictures of the old apartment buildings here. There is no other way that you will believe what they are like. Bill, my son in law, would love the wiring here. In the older buildings, the fuse boxes have no surface plates. When you open the outer box, the wires are all exposed – and the fuse boxes are at waist height and never locked. Sometimes they have no doors on the fuse boxes or no boxes on the fuse panel – and the wires are still exposed. They have 220 volt 60 cycle current running through wires exposed to the air.

It’s nice that there is only one set of mains in each apartment staircase. They are in large cabinets in the hallway just inside the main door. The also have no surface plates, and are NEVER locked. Here we have 440 volt current waiting to entertain the children. Of course we add to that the octopus wiring at every outlet (ok, for a three room apartment “both outlets”) and we have one of those old public service advertisements about bad wiring. I suppose that it is an effective Darwinian control mechanism.

It almost makes you nostalgic for government control.

After a while you can even almost get nostalgic for lawyers. Leo went to the bathroom at the circus a few months ago. As he entered the dark stall, his foot went into a foot deep hole with a pipe sticking up from the bottom. He was hurt rather badly. The lawyer, when he could find one, said something like “Well, you should watch where you are going – even in the dark.” The hole in the floor is still there, still in the dark, and presumably still hurting people. No one can get rich by spilling McDonalds coffee on himself in this country. O.k,. so you really can’t get nostalgic about lawyers, but almost.

I am looking forward to getting home. I want my car back, English speaking TV, my cable box, and real salad. They don’t eat lettuce in Russia. What they call a salad is anything like fish or beets or beans mixed with lots of mayonnaise. A salad bar is 14 kinds of unrecognizable stuff in mayonnaise.

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