Published: May 12th 2006May 10th 2006
The weather really changed today, and it rained all morning and afternoon. In Aleksandr Ivanovich's class we translated quotes into Russian, from writers such as George Bernard Shaw, Mark Twain and Oscar Wilde. My favourite is from James Joyce:
"All things are inconsistent except the faith in the soul, which changes all things and fills their inconsistency with light, but though I seem to be driven out of my own country as a misbeliever I have found no man yet with a soul like mine."
My plan was to spend the rest of the afternoon writing my essay, but as I should know by now days in Russia are never so simple. Dimitrii Sergeevich knocked on the classroom door and put his head round, to tell me to go to the university's international office straight after lessons. I went, where he introduced me to a student called Stepan. He would drive me to the militsiya office to obtain a spravka (official letter) to help my insurance claim for the stolen computer and phone. It was my first trip on a busy Russian road in a car - made more nerve-racking by the fact that it was an old Skoda jeep, the wet weather and that I was in the drivers' place - or so it felt being in the right hand front seat. Stepan missed the wing mirror of a BMW by literally an inch on my side, and a few people by slighly more.
The office had all the characteristics of a Soviet workplace; the brown and beige paint, the gloom, the musky smell, thin ripped carpets, reception behind metal bars. Dimitrii Sergeevich had written down that we needed to see someone called Ishenko, but we were told that no-one by that name works there. We waited, and waited, before being told to go to Mrs. Ischenko's office on the thrid floor. I will miss Russian common sense. In the meantime we talked and Stepan smoked. The window in the smoking area had been taped up so the corridor stank. I told him how the theft had happened and then how I had ended up in Tver in the first place, then what I had been doing in Yaroslavl. We were summoned to Mrs. Ischenko, a frightening looking frumpy blonde woman sat behind an old wooden desk. All I had to do was sign my name dozens of times and tell her that my statement hadn't changed. We had been speaking for about ten minutes when she said to me: "Can you read Russian too?"
I left with my spravka, which then got soaked in the rain on the way back to the jeep. Stepan dropped me off at the international office and Dimitrii Sergeevich engaged us in an enthusiastic three-way handshake to make it official that everything had been done properly. Stepan's last words to Dimitrii were "He's a good guy you know, it's a shame that something like that happened to him."
I convinced myself that I couldn't work for the rest of the evening - my jeans were wet, that's enough of an excuse - so I joined Yulia and Kseniya in the lounge and watched their favourite MTV Rossiya. With all the thinking about myself that I have been doing lately it has passed me by how much I'm going to miss living with them.