I had signed up to go to the Anglo-American School (a posh, English-language, private school for kids of international professionals and their Russian counterparts) to unofficially represent the ol' alma.
I had a bad time getting there. The night before (probably because of nerves) I had a series of bad dreams, during which I realized that I really really really don't like insects. Particularly hordes of scorpions lying on a beach, with helpful little placards describing just how horrible and paralyzing each scorpion is.
Then I learned that the bathroom reconstruction apparently used cardboard instead of metal - within two weeks the holder for the showerhead had already corroded, but I held it anyway so that didn't matter.
Today, a more extensive catastrophe - the sink-faucet has also corroded, and fell off when I was trying to brush my teeth. That's...that's nice...
The final excitement came when I got to metro Sokol and had to flag down a marshrutka [gypsy cab]. I didn't actually have to flag it down - because there was a 40-person deep line waiting for the route I needed. Of course it wasn't the only route that serviced the metro station - but it was the only route that didn't have any drivers. I swear, for every #12, I saw at least 5 #370's. Except no one got on the #370's. I plan on using this story when I have to teach Intro to Russian History to explain that there really were goods during the Soviet defitsyt - they just weren't the goods anyone wanted or needed. I recall a story The Old Man By the Sea, my host father in St. Petersburg, told me, where he wanted to buy a new book of Brodsky's poetry, but the bookseller would only give it to him if he also bought a collected works of Lenin for 2 rubles.
That's neither here nor there. I eventually got in a marshrutka, but I was unfortunate to sit in the only open seat - directly behind the driver - which meant that I had to make change for everyone. I ended up just piling the money on my briefcase in my lap and letting people grab what they thought was the right change before I passed the heap up to the driver.
Of this whole story, the college fair itself was tame and kind of enjoyable. I didn't feel like doing a "hard sale" or push - so I just ended up talking about what the students were into, etc. I asked if any had watched Jersey Shore.
When I left the school I stood on the corner waiting for a marshrutka to take me back to the metro stop. In the snow. I felt like a Hemingway character:
Why did Andrew cross the road?After five minutes I decided I'd take my chances and hailed a chastnik (I hitch-hiked) and lucked out with a businesswoman in a clean car who drove quite safely (all rarities). I asked to get to Sokol, but she asked where I needed to get eventually and said that she would take me as far downtown as I had to get, since she was centerbound anyway.
To die. In a ditch. In the snow. Waiting for a gypsy cab.
When she unlocked the door for me to get in, I had asked: Za skol'ko? [How much would it be?] and she replied: Besplatno, ia v etu storonu. [Nothing, I'm going that way.]
I pulled out 300 rubles when we got downtown because she had been so nice and I was grateful, and I started saying: Ia vas ne khochu ostavit' bez-- [I don't want to leave without (I would have said "paying")] and she cut me off: Ia na rabote zarabatyvaiu den'gi, ne ot vas. [I earn my money at work, not from you.] and patted me on the shoulder.
If only I could construct my life as a sitcom. That would be the happy ending, and there'd be a cold open next week on some new episode...instead, I've gotten past that hurdle, but now I'm dreading the situation with the Colonial Invaders back in the House of the Cardboard Bathroom...