Thursday, March 26, 2009

She made it!‏

I just sent a version of this email to a couple of co-workers, and I thought I’d put it up for the general population:

Nadezhda came in fine yesterday evening.  We had a nice carrot cake feast last night, grapefruit/English muffin/garlic scrambled eggs breakfast this morning, and now we’re off to see our first American grocery store.  She plans to put it to the ”herring test”, as in if it doesn’t have any, it’s not such a complete store.  Anyway, at least we’re getting the food covered.  See you guys tomorrow.  
 

Posted by Eric in 18:56:45 | Permalink | Comments (3)

Forever

ERIC:

I’m about two hours away from leaving the office, hitting the grocery store for fruits, snacks and flowers, and then heading to the airport to pick up my fiancee.  In this short time I will attempt to complete the story of our meeting. 

Nadezhda and I had only five days remaining together, upon our return from Tunisia.  Actually, I can’t account for how we spent the bulk of that time.  I do know that we joined up with a local hiking group for casual jaunt through the trees.  This trek ended up spanning somewhere around 17 miles and several swamps – the kind of swamps where it looks like vegetation growing on solid ground, but in reality is afloat in places, and you don’t really know until you put your weight on it.  At the first of these swamps, for some time I carefully placed my feet, attempting to keep my large and heavy hiking boots dry.  But it took forever, and after a few minutes I said “the heck with this” and plunged in, up to about my knees, and tried to help other people get past it. 

Later on the trip I managed to take a nice little spill on an extremely muddy road.  Since one hand held aloft a precious umbrella (precious to me because it was raining and I’d given my only long shirt to Nadezhda), I couldn’t break my fall properly and ended up with some really dirty pants. 

My beloved, meanwhile, was prancing through the forest with nary a care in the world.  La da dee, la da da, all is good with Nadezhda, flimsy little tennis shoes and all!  Quite honestly, it was amazing.  This was a pretty serious group of hikers, and I’m no slouch myself.  The pace was not overly fast but it was certainly relentless, and after trudging through bog and brush, mud and marsh for a good many hours, I was utterly spent, as was everyone else in the group. 

Except. 

Nadezhda.

And this was the first hike she’d been on in her life.

I don’t know how she did it, but as the rest of us were struggling to place foot in front of foot, she was motoring right along.  It was clear she could have kept on going, and no one else could have said that. But I was glad to have such a little spunky by my side, because when we got home she set me up in her dad’s raggedy old bathrobe, and fed me stew & rice while I recovered.  Not bad, not bad at all.

So time was winding down, and Nadezhda still had not told me that she loved me.  I didn’t know what to think of this.  I mean, I knew how she felt and I knew what she thought.  There was no doubt in my mind that she wanted to be with me.  So I couldn’t understand why she did not tell me so.  In fairness, it is no man’s fate ever to completely understood any woman.  And I knew what I needed to know.  But I was starting to wonder if I was going to have to make another trip to Russia, just for the sake of proposing. 

Never fear, family and friends, because I am at my best when my back is against the wall, and I had a plan!

Actually that’s not true.  I had no plan at all.  But if I did have a plan, it should have been to do housework.  At some point Nadezhda had to make the trip into Moscow, and we decided it would be best if I stayed home and waited for her return.  In her rush to leave, the breakfast dishes were left behind, and I was given stern instructions to leave them for her, but I like to live dangerously and so I did them anyway.  There were some tiny red berries in the refrigerator that were about 10 minutes from going bad, so I cleaned them (which took FOREVER due to a multitude of tiny stems and other debris) and cooked them up with some cinnamon and sugar on the stove.  And I hung the laundry up to dry. 

I believe that Nadezhda was pretty impressed with all of this, as well as the other stuff I’d done to help out and provide food (the typical Russian guy would not dream of helping out in this way, and realistically speaking neither would the typical American).  So while I am not 100% sure, I find it to be not so much of a coincidence that when Nadezhda finally came up to me and told me she loved me, I was ironing some of her clothes. 

I don’t know.  Clearly the act of doing a few chores around the house is not the foundation of love (it better not be, based on how well I maintain my current abode).  But perhaps these sort of actions are an example of what Nadezhda provides for me, and – if I can presume to speak for Nadezhda – what I provide for her.  When I think about all of the qualities and talents and pleasant thoughts she brings into my life, it is without question more than I ever would expect.  There are four things, prerequisites really, that I feel a relationship must have before it is possible to have love.  Nadezhda and I share those, and I would be completely happy if it ended there.  But there are so many other little things that she brings into my life, which are not important at all, but which make it so pleasurable to be around her. 

Wow – I am totally digressing here, and almost forgot the final scene. 

On my last full day in Balashikha, Nadezhda needed to make the trip to her brother’s apartment.  The most pleasant route to that destination is through her forest…and past her tree.  I hadn’t met any of her friends, or family, and her brother would not be in his apartment.  So really, the only person to which I had been introduced was this green giant.

My somewhat dusty diamond necklace was carefully placed in my backpack, and off we went.  As is her custom, she stopped at this tree, touched it, hugged it.  I did the same – although with a little reservation, since we’d only met such a short time ago.  Really it was more of a man-hug, chest-thump type of thing than an all-out embrace.  Anyway, in the leafy peacefulness of these surroundings, I got down on my knee and asked Nadezhda to marry me.  I don’t know if she was expecting it, but I think she might have.  She seems to be in tune with the world.  And she said ”yes”.

I gave her the necklace, which she promptly forgot about, not even remembering to see how it looked on her in the mirror, once we reached her brother’s apartment.  I am not sure either of us knew what to do at that time.  We just knew that from that point on, we belonged with each other.  

And that, for better or worse, for richer or poorer, is the story of how we met.  Nadezhda and I have both enjoyed telling this story immensely, and we appreciate all of the positive response and feedback.  As most of you know, we met again in late December/early January, and all of the things that happened on that trip, with our relationship, and the process of getting her visa is another story altogether.  I have some pics that I want to put up for this post, and will do that tomorrow.  But it’s now 8:57 p.m. and her plane is supposed to land at 9:40.  So I must go to LAX and meet her one more time - for the last time, because this time…it’s for forever.       

Posted by Eric in 03:57:22 | Permalink | Comments Off

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The best laid plans…

Nadezhda was not able to complete her last post before departing yesterday.  Therefore, I will be summarizing the last few days of the trip (returning to Russia, from Tunisia) on behalf of both of us.  It will be out later this evening – probably much later.

She should be in the air right now.  I talked to her for a few seconds on her drive to the Domodedovo airport in Moscow, but the connection was really bad and we could not have an actual conversation.  But she sent me a few text messages last night, and none them were bad, so everything’s looking good!

Posted by Eric in 18:25:15 | Permalink | Comments Off

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Hell on wheels

NADEZHDA:

As some other people I find a little pleasure in situations, when I see some reasons to be proud of myself.. Let me please share with you those two events, when I got an opportunity to enjoy this nice feeling being in Tunisia....  

First time it happened during our walk by quadracycle.. If to believe my driving license the length of my driving experience is more than 10 years already, but it happened that before this walk I almost had not any opportunity to feel myself a driver… therefore I looked forward it, in spite of I had some doubts towards my abilities to remember all pedals and so on.. But how happy I was when discovered that my little car did not have any pedals at all! We could control it by hands easily, when pressed gas or brake by turn. I felt – this car was created for me! :)
.
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We were four cars only who moved in a row one by one on a narrow sandy road. Very soon I found that driving on enough soft sand has some features.  My “quadra” did not react on my actions immediately, when I wanted to turn or stop, it delayed because of sand… and the most important – when I needed to turn, my quadra skidded..! Really it would be enjoyable situation for me if I had not terrible cactuses with scary prickles dangerously near me on the both sides of the road.

Few days ago Eric had already enough close meeting with one prickly representative of local flora. And it helped me to realize clear dependence – the farther cactus was from me, the nicer it looked in my eyes.  [1]

In one moment when I began to go down from some small mound I found that was too close to another quadra and could not go down straightly.. but going down across the road, I went to the center of cactuses.. and having couple of metros to them, I was not sure at all, if I would be lucky to turn very sharply on the sand and to avoid meeting with cactuses.. At that instant I found very dangerous wish in myself – to jump from my quadra and let him go there without me.. but probably a sense of shame for such unexpected wish and my disagreement to follow it , helped me to understand clearly my intention – to be together with my quadra in spite of everything. I decided to try to turn, or… to go into the cactus with my friend. As you guess this was the first cause for me to be proud of myself.. and really this victory over fear of the scary cactus was much more valuable for me than the fact itself that me and my quadra avoided that cactus somehow…

But probably to be fair I need to tell, that not every my decision at that walk was so right one.. At the time I found that dust from quadras, which were in front of me, began to disturb my eyes… and I decided to improve situation. It was very easy to do, if to move at some distance from other quadras. So I was driving behind others and enjoying fresh air until noticed unknown quadracycle with two natives. They were coming in the opposite direction and tried to cry and to show me something.. Even if I did not understand anything, I guessed that something was wrong here and stopped my quadra.

As it turned out my instinct did not betray me. It looked like my team disappeared, and me and my quadra were alone at this road. Well the next instant already I saw our team in the distance… on another road. They stopped and waited for me together. It happened that trying to avoid a dust, I moved too far from my team (and did not see the last quadra), and by chance chose wrong direction at the crossroads… I guess MY road seemed to me more comfortable…

I wanted to join to our group immediately, because did not wish that people had to wait for me, and also I did not want to accent their attention so much on my little mistake.. But how I could turn my awkward quadra on 180 degrees, if our kind teachers did not tell anything about backward movement?!.. I guess they decided that it was unnecessary information for me. But running around my quadra I did not find another way to turn it on the extremely narrow road, having only gas and brake.. so there was no way to put up a good show for me.. Well the result of this story was enough sad – I lost Eric’s trust in my navigating skills, and should go before him between quadracycles.. gulping a dust again…

Next time feeling of pride visited me in our last day in Tunisia. It happened, when we decided to go to the sea, and to swim there last time before leaving the country.. it was incredible beautiful morning, warm waves and caressing sun.. Walking in shallow water I saw something dark there close by me. It looked like big black ball. But I could not understand by myself, why this ball was under water and did not go on surface. So I decided to know Eric’s opinion about it.. I guess it was good example of that situation about what people tell usually “the less you know, the better sleep you have”..

Eric saw in this ball enough big [2] jellyfish, and another one by it.. white.. And he supposed that we should go to the land.. I remember very well that after his words I was standing few seconds there, while process of translation lasted.. but right after meaning of his words reached my mind I forgot about everything and began to move to the saving land as soon as I could… and after going few metros only I found that Eric did not do the same..

well, while some people demonstrated their animal instincts, hurrying to save their skin, Eric gave evidence of best sides of human nature. He tried to warn two people, who were standing in water far from us and did not guess about our disturbing neighbors.

What I can tell.. Again! I felt that had a good cause to be proud of myself! And who else but ME made such a good choice few months ago? :)

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[1] Until, of course, she picked up the prickly pear.  Below is a pic where you can see some inflamed puncture wounds on my chest and arms.  They looked a lot worse than this, the first day or two – bad enough that we considered finding a doctor. 

[2] These jellyfish were about the size of a cantaloupe.  I tried to find a good picture of them, but the only one I found is this one, which was actually taken in Tunisia.  In the water, they’re beautiful; impaled on a stick, not so much:

It certainly looks like they are neither solid white or solid black, but a little of both.  It’s entirely possible, then, that I only saw one, and that it had just turned in a way that it looked black first, then white.  As you can imagine I wasn’t keen on spending a lot of time in immediate vicinity, because I had no idea how many of them were out there.

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No time, no tune.  Peace.

Posted by Eric in 00:28:48 | Permalink | Comments Off

Monday, March 23, 2009

FYI

Nadezhda and I will be wrapping up our story over the next three days – through Wednesday – to coincide with her arrival in the U.S.  So that means one post per day!  Check back later today for the second half of Nadezhda’s Tunisia post, to be followed Tuesday and Wednesday with our posts about the last few days of the trip (back in Russia).
Posted by Eric in 16:59:29 | Permalink | Comments (2)

Strange new life forms…

I’ve owned the Jungle Book record and storybook for about 35 years, so you would think I’d have known to stay away from the prickly pear cactus, or at a minimum to follow Baloo the Bear’s advice in the “Bare Necessities” tune, and pick it by the claw.  But somehow I managed to collide with one while running the sidewalks of Hammamet, Tunisia, and it left one side of me peppered with inch-long spikes.  As I continued down the street, I turned my head and saw that I knocked a few of those big plate-like formations (leaves?) completely off of the cactus, and they were now lying on the ground.  Not wanting to have another “pyat rubli” conversation, I ran away and amused myself by plucking the barbs out of my hide.  Nadezhda was kind enough to remove the ones in my neck, that I couldn’t see on my own, when I returned to the hotel room.

Later I found out those large barbs are just the first line of the prickly pear’s defense.  There’s another, much more insidious system of superfine needles, perhaps an eighth of an inch long, and not much thicker than a hair.  They form a virtually invisible fuzz, of sorts, on the exterior of the cactus.  I imagine they are there to dissuade any wild snout that is tapered enough to fit between the spikes.  As for me, they provided several hours of entertainment as I attempted to find them among the hairs on my left arm.

By that point the diversion was almost welcome.  It was proving difficult to find worthwhile entertainment in Tunisia, “worthwhile” in this case meaning ”intellectually and/or physically and/or culturally satisfying”.  I had hoped to find some good, local hole-in-the-wall restaurants where authentic Tunisian food was served, but had essentially no success.  We asked probably 5 or 6 Tunisian taxi drivers, and received mostly blank stares in return, or fingers pointed towards big neon signs next to the tourist-trap open-air market.  The one piece of usable information came from a tourist guide at the hotel.  He told us about an excellent place, but warned us that it was definitely not the place that a typical citizen would go, because it was prohibitively expensive.  We decided to go simply because we knew of no other choice.  

The place was incredible.  We agreed to what the head waiter suggested without really understanding his words, and received something like a 9 or 10-course meal.  The evening we went, there were only two parties in that restaurant: Nadezhda and me, and another that included the Prime Minister of Tunisia.  But that night, we all ate like kings.

The other “partial success” story in my culture quest came late in the game, when Nadezhda and I attended a music festival the last two nights we were there.  In reality it was a series of concerts, one artist per evening, so it didn’t fit my idea of a festival, but we saw a couple of really good acts at a small outdoor amphitheater.  

Two other fun things we did were to visit the souk (market) in the medina (ancient part of the city) to have Tunisian national tea with pine nuts.  And we rented quad runners for a drive through the sand and cactus.  Nadezhda and I were joined by a woman, her young son, and a guide on the sadly underpowered vehicles.  They trouble you can get into on one of those machines was certainly tame by comparison to the dirt bikes I grew up riding [1]. So while my companions were content to trundle down the road, I typically brought up the rear of the pack, zooming up and down the embankments, careening off into neighboring fields, braking hard for the express purpose of skidding, and searching relentlessly for somewhere to pop a wheelie.  Eventually I found a spot.  I also ran over my share, and then some, of prickly pear.  Oops, sorry!  Not so tough when I’m on a quad, are ya?!?!?!?  Stupid cactus.

The guide had dressed us up with Arab head wear from what was probably the local 99 cent store.  The idea was to keep the dust out of nose and mouth.  But between the sunglasses and helmet I was wearing,  the cloth came loose and kept falling to the side.  I resorted to draping it across my face and trying to pin it down with my sunglasses – no easy feat when you’re popping wheelies while skidding down cactus-covered embankments (OK, so maybe that never really happened).  

One dinner, two concerts, four wheels and a glass of tea is not enough to fill an entire week.  The rest of the time was spent bobbing in the ocean [2] and watching Nadezhda eat plate after plate of desserts from the buffet, every lunch and every dinner.  Honestly, I’ve never seen anything like it.  Despite this diet, she still was clearly the center of the male attention when we were down on the beach.  Every time we went there, heads would turn.  It’s fun to be the guy who’s with that girl.  But in all fairness, I’m somewhat of a looker myself.  Consider this side-by-side photo comparison, and you can see that the two of us have basically the same levels of runway-model attractiveness:

Despite my obvious physical charms, by the end of the trip Nadezhda had yet to tell me that she loved me.  I wasn’t sure why, because I could feel – I mean really, I knew – that she wanted to say it.  Meanwhile, the diamond necklace was waiting patiently in the safe in our room. 

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[1] Assuming, of course, you choose to follow the guide.  They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but I did not imagine Nadezhda would follow my getting lost in the streets of Balashikha with driving off by herself in the Tunisian wastelands.  No one would envy a lost American in a forbidden Russian town.  But I woudn’t want to be a white, shorts-wearing lady either, alone in what is still an ultra-conservative Arab country, away from the tourist areas.  Nadezhda followed my lead in the cactus department as well, picking up a fruit of a prickly pear that was lying on the ground, only to find it covered with the same tiny needles as the main cactus body.  Guess what she did for the next hour or so? 

[2] Prior to the trip, Nadezhda told me about how she planned to swim in the ocean every day.  However, from all the time we spent in the water, I can only remember precious few minutes where she wasn’t climbing on top of me and calling me her “sea camel”.   

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You’ve waited patiently for a tune, and for that you will be rewarded with Balkan Beat Box’s “Joro Boro”.  Towards the middle of the tune you can hear that typical “1&  &3 4″ beat that is so common in Arabic music.  Wikipedia describes BBB as “electronica-world fusion” – this song is heavily weighted towards traditional sounds and rhythms, but still sounds modern. Check it out!

Incidentally, this song is #100.  Meaningless milestone achieved, hurray!

Posted by Eric in 01:54:13 | Permalink | Comments (2)

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Two in Tunisia, but no Tunisian tune

There will be a significant number of annotations in this post, to give a little background information where it seems appropriate (Nadezhda and I are both short on time these days, and having a hard time editing our own stories to a manageable length). 

NADEZHDA:

We have very poor choice of visa-free countries, which are located not far from
Russia, and where we can go, if wish to swim in a warm sea. And there is the only country between them, which satisfies my wishes….

Tunisia. There is softer climate, if to compare with Egypt, and natives there have much more respectful attitude to tourists, if to compare with Turkey.

In general you would receive enough similar rest in any of these countries – comfortable hotel, unlimited food three times in day, sea and swimming pools, excursions and walking in tourist zone.. And it can be enough boring for some people, but very suitable for another one. Sometimes it depends on level of tiredness of person before trip or type of his work. But I remember one situation in the past, when I wanted the only thing from my rest – to crawl slowly slowly between restaurant, sea and room, and to enjoy those primitive joys, which we have, when choose a life of nice domestic animals. This summer, when I was with Eric, I was not tired, but however found some pleasure in such rest.

But poor Eric!.. I felt so much sorry for him every time, when saw, how he began to imitate a cow, when we were going to the dinner. [1] Obviously, joys of being a part of our fauna seemed to him doubtful ones.

Really that trip gave me a lot. Before this trip I did not guess, what taste meat of camel has; I did not know really, what people do in the gym with that heap of iron; and had no idea about Swing dance (before Eric showed me it once on the beach); and I could not imagine that would leave east country without smoking pleasant east kalian [2]… But of course, I have known much more things about the man, who was by me in that trip. So many things..

I found that sometimes Eric likes to be eccentric person.. For this purpose he bought many bottles of water (being in the hotel with type of service “All inclusive”), and amazed hotel’s staff by such actions.

I knew already that usually Eric enjoys of having different conversation with people around him.. And such exotic people like Tunisians, were not an exception. But I did not guess before how many ways he could find to get desirable talk.. For instance, first few days he plugged in our iron, cutting off power from our room, and talking with hotel’s staff again and again. [3]

I found that Eric was able to destroy any idea, what person kept in his head many years.. He did it with my conception about Americans, when did not wish to drink Cola absolutely.. Well, I drank it couple of times there :)

I have known that very often Eric is incredible optimist. He have never lost a hope to find very usual restaurant in Hammamet for usual Tunisians without any tourists and with their national food.. and even if we were not lucky to do it, I was happy to see such enthusiasm.

It happened he did not swim in the sea! And it was great discovery for me :) because walking in the water he was that island for me, where I could have a rest between swimming.. Very useful!

Nice news – Eric likes to visit grocery stores! After he tasted in the restaurant one interesting dish [4] with some spice one day, he began to go through every store in our path, everywhere, trying to find this spice and to buy it at any price. Well he bought something red at last, but I am not sure what it was.

I found that sometimes Eric does not mind to amuse himself and to argue with me, when I am 100% sure in my rightness. Well it is not so bad, if to think..  It helps me to remember sometimes about necessity to think before telling something, or let me know some new facts.. But even now I believe that it is not a good idea to eat melon at the end of the dinner! (what Eric did constantly in Tunisia) [5]

I knew already that Eric wants to have a good health and therefore tries his best for having exercises. But before this trip I did guess, how person can use a little bedside table to exercise himself. [6]

I discovered how much Eris likes to guess puzzles. I saw how he did it when tried to write the letter in the hotel, using mystic Tunisian keyboard, where nobody knows, what letter would appear, if you would press any symbol of the keyboard. 

And I got added evidence how Eric loves rich east music and appreciates talent of people. I saw it during both of our visits of international musical festival in Hammamet: first when he was filled with inspiration and danced together with a lot of Tunisians around us, and second when he applauded loudly to another singer, being almost the only viewer on the concert..

I was happy to know that Eric shares my liking for national Tunisian tea with mint and pine nuts!.. He even leaved for some time his favorite bottle of water in order to taste it.

As you guess I was happy Eric’s companion in all his actions, except one.. well almost one. The only situation, when he was entrusted to himself only, was his running in Hammamet’s streets. And what is a result? He managed to run into the cactus somehow! It is an interesting coincidence, is not it? 

Actually I would be glad to write about every of our events in this amazing country, and it would be a whole story.. because every little situation has its own emotions, conclusions.. But it would be too much! And I should make a choice :) OK, now!

ERIC: Here I’m cutting off Nadezhda in mid-post – to be continued…

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[1] Staying at an all-inclusive beach resort is just not my thing – at least, not this one.  People just laid around, and ate.  So at some point I took to mooing, when I was in the midst of the lunch or dinner rush.

[2] Sweetened/flavored tobacco, smoked through a water pipe.  Basically the pot-smoking experience, minus the pot.  Nadezhda likes it and wanted to – I said go ahead, but that I was against it and wouldn’t participate, nor even be around it.

[3] Seems to me that if you’re in a 4-star hotel you oughta have enough electricity in your room to power an iron (yes, I know you’re not supposed to bring an iron to a 4-star hotel in the first place).  We did require several visits from the hotel staff to reset the circuit breaker in our room, as at first I disbelieved an iron could cause it to trip, and then as I tried it with everything else in the room unplugged.  Eventually gave up and resigned myself to wrinkly clothes – but not before discovering that the plug in the hallway next to our room had plenty of power.  Hmph!!!

[4] Harissa.  A divine spicy-hot mixture that is served with bread and butter – although you can put it on a lot of things. I ended up buying about 10 pounds of what I thought was dry harissa, which would require only olive oil, intending to mail a lot of it to my sisters as a thank-you for being my home base support on this trip.  Turns out I bought about 10 pounds of powdered red chilis – only one ingredient!  Oops. 

[5] She told me it was bad for your health to eat a melon at the end of a meal.  I asked why.  The amusement I got was from the fact that she couldn’t tell me why.  Neither of us could think of a good reason not to eat melons at the end of a meal.  Later I looked it up, and found it’s possible for a quickly-digested food such as melon to ferment in some fashion, as it is being held up by slower-digested foods further along the digestive tract. 

[6] As a platform for calf raises. 

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No tune today.

Posted by Eric in 00:19:41 | Permalink | Comments Off

Thursday, March 12, 2009

SMS (text message) sent to my cell phone at 12:14 a.m. last night…

“They told me Yes
Posted by Eric in 23:38:20 | Permalink | Comments (3)

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Dotting the ‘i’s, and crossing not only the ‘t’s, but our fingers too

Per this comment, we are interrupting our regularly scheduled programming for this late-breaking news.  The comment comes with good timing.

Literally as I write this post, Nadezhda is arriving at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, for what should be the final step of the process for her K-1 visa, a.k.a. the fiancee visa.  This process started back in August of last year, and if you thought the DMV was bad…hoo boy.

Anyway, she’s there with a stack of paperwork, documentation, and other items that would amaze you, if I were to enumerate them here.  She’ll turn those in, and have an interview with an immigration official at the embassy.  The typical experience is that this interview lasts for just a few minutes, with some rather softball questions being lobbed in the general direction of the interviewee.  Still, it is an extremely intimidating environment, and given the importance of the results, the most common strategy used by Russian women for this interview is to FREAK OUT!!!!!!  AAAAHHHH!!!!  I have that on authority of various testimonies from this incredibly helpful website, and over the last few days, on my own firsthand experience.

As for myself, I have felt confident enough in the outcome of this interview to purchase a plane ticket for Nadezhda.  It takes a week or less for the embassy to mail the visa, so she should have it by March 19th at the latest.  Due to requirements about the maximum number of days between her arrival and our wedding, March 24th is the earliest she could arrive.  With an extreme display of discipline, I delayed her arrival one day so we’d have a little padding, schedule-wise.  So if everything goes as planned, she’ll be in Los Angeles on March 25th.  And then, a new life begins for both of us.   

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Part of this new life will be finding out more about Nadezhda’s musical tastes.  I already have some idea from the few CDs and mp3s she has, and the fact that she dislikes most of what I’ve put up for this blog.  :)   Anyway, since I’m still in the office I don’t have access to my music cache, but earlier today Nadezhda emailed me a few mp3s she likes.  They’re by a group called Blackmore’s Night.  I find it hilarious that Nadezhda likes this group,because it’s based on two people, one of whom is Ritchie Blackmore, the ex-guitarist of Deep Purple and Rainbow, and I imagine Nadezhda would hate the music from those two bands.  Anyway, the tune I’ve uploaded is called Play, Minstrel, Play” and as described by Wikipedia, it’s “Renaissance-inspired folk rock”.  Let me know what you think. 

Posted by Eric in 09:26:12 | Permalink | Comments (2)

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The heat is on

Nadezhda is taking a short break from posting, so once again it is ERIC:

One of the things that amuses me about Russians is their tendency to applaud upon the successful landing of an airplane (when they are passengers, naturally).  It’s kind of cute.  So perhaps my attempt to subvert it was typical ‘ugly American’ behavior.  But probably, I was just trying to be a goofball. 

Nadezhda and I were trying to get to Tunisia, but hadn’t made it very far.  Our flight had some problems, and sat on the tarmac for more than an hour, in the sweltering heat and humidity of late July.  Following standard worldwide procedure for grounded planes, they did not turn on any sort of air cooling or circulation, and soon it became very warm inside.  The plane was, of course, packed.  After a while, I saw one girl vomit from the heat and the lack of fresh air. 

So by the time we got rolling, I had a plan.  As soon as the plane lifted off, I would start applauding.  It was kind of a social experiment two-fer.  First, I wanted to see if people would just join in, out of the compulsion to clap when others are clapping.  Second, I wanted to see if they’d have a sense of humorous sarcasm about the delay, by applauding for the departure instead of the arrival.  The results – extremely scattered applause - indicate that Russians mostly have a mind of their own, and are remarkably resistant to spontaneous clapping at anything other than the typical times (paradoxically proving they don’t have a mind of their own).  And as for humorous sarcasm?  Readings showed approximately 0%.

However, readings from the seat next to mine showed “quiet embarrassment” levels at nearly 100%.  I made a mental note to conduct further experimentation.      

During the flight, Nadezhda and I had a rather difficult revelation and subsequent discussion.  There was some surprise, some anger, some crying, and also some forgiveness and understanding.  The topic is classified, as is who had what role, but  I can say it’s not anything you’d ever expect.  In the aftermath of it all, I knew that the love I had for Nadezhda had reached the point where I wanted to tell her about it.           

So I did.  It felt great.  And for the single people out there, if you’re wondering whether to utter those words, there are a few qualities to that first profession of love that I think are decent indicators that you’re ready.  

1. You’re not nervous.
2. There’s no agenda, or expectations of reciprocity.
3. The only result you care about is that the other person knows.  That’s all.  You just want them to know.

Nadezhda didn’t reply other than to hold me.  And as you can guess from my list, I was completely fine with that.  What Nadezhda didn’t know was that, in my carry-on bag, I had a very nice diamond necklace, the main purpose of which was to stand in for an engagement ring in the event that I proposed to her.  And I was ready to do this on the flight to Tunisia, which would have been way ahead of schedule, if I’d had a schedule for such things.  But it seemed to me that it was just not right to propose to someone, when that someone has not yet told you that she loves you.  Therefore, I waited.  I was in no hurry; after all, I had a week and a half left, and it only takes two minutes, right?

This post is coming to a close, but I suppose I should backtrack a little, and clarify just what the heck we were doing, going to Tunisia.  It started after I’d asked Nadezhda if I could visit her.  During her reply, she’d mentioned that she had planned to take a vacation around the same time I was coming to visit.  So in some way I felt like my trip was preventing her from traveling and relaxing.  So I suggested that we go on a “side trip” during my stay.  No sooner had I said that, than she had run off to a travel agency and set us up for Tunisia.  Why Tunisia?  The short answer is because it has nice beaches, and because Nadezhda didn’t have time to get a visa for Morocco.   The even-shorter answer is: “It’s what she wanted.”

My main goal on the side trip, aside from spending time with my girl, was to immerse myself as much as possible in the culture of the country.  For me, ”culture” means authentic food, music, and real-life sports and activities that the locals enjoy.  I succeeded on limited levels at best, but that’s a subject for the next post.  

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I also barely succeeded at coming up with a song today.  Actually I was about two and a half hours late arriving to work today because of it.  It was really difficult to find a tune that I would associate with telling Nadezhda I loved her – and I never did find the perfect one.  But I did find one that captured one aspect of it.  It’s by Glen Campbell, of “Rhinestone Cowboy” fame, and it’s called “Walking In The Sun”.  Appropriate enough for the occasion, and also for a journey to the irradiated sands of the Tunisian deserts.
   

  

Posted by Eric in 02:40:09 | Permalink | Comments (1) »