Saturday, May 2, 2009

May Day

There is a pun in the title of this blog. First we had a “mayday” experience of the sinking-ship kind, upon our arrival at our apartment on April 30. While I was getting registered at the university, Alla was working out the final details with our landlord. She called me in the midst of my official business to let me know that I might like to return home as soon as practical.

When I came into the apartment, she and the landlord were struggling over matters of my official registration as a resident. The landlord said that he couldn’t register me at the place we were renting because somebody else was registered there already. Based on previous experience, I really didn’t want to mess around with my registration. We got nowhere, and decided to go with registration at another address as the landlord proposed. But then he said that he’d only register me for one month and he’d extend my registration only upon receipt of the second rent payment. Alla made a call and found that if he did that, the University would be unable to register me for the second month and worst case I’d have to leave the country.

We discussed and discussed the issues, trying to propose protections for the landlord that would make him comfortable about registering us. The longer we discussed things the more we realized that he was doing everything to protect himself all along the way and that he’d never offered anything to protect us. We had struggled from the beginning to get our covenants onto paper. We understood during this process that we couldn’t place our trust in this guy and we wouldn’t commit to living in his place even for a month. Two nights seemed about right.

Alla called a realtor she had met earlier and got an introduction to a rental agent. The rental agent had a few immediate ideas and took us yesterday morning to see the low-priced option. For $800 per month we got a beautiful two-room apartment that we like a whole lot better than the more-expensive place we started in. We will move in today.

Yesterday was International Labor Day, a holiday here. We joined the celebrations at the local park. The city brought various amateur singing and dancing groups onto a rickety wooden stage. We particularly liked the dancers, who presented well-choreographed performances beautifully. Their lavish costumes matched their dances. The only disappointments for us were a couple of hip-hop performances, which weren’t up to American street-performance standards. One of the songs they chose included “motherf___er” in the lyrics, which seemed odd in a public performance in a children’s park. But I guess the censors didn’t understand the charge that expression brings to English speakers. We saw the same word scrawled in the elevator of the apartment building we are leaving. Is this really the best stuff we can export from America?

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