Hopefully, this will be enough to get you started.
Part I: The Trip There and Arriving
Our trip there was uneventful and long. Matt drove us to Chicago and then our flight left from there in the afternoon to Frankfurt (overnight) for about a 5 hour layover until about 01:00 and then we flew into Minsk. There were the usual movies, and airline food (which seemed better than normal) and cramped seats. We spent our time watching movies, eating and talking just a little bit. We tried to stay awake as much as possible so that we will be able to adjust to the time zone change better. Tanya slept for a few hours and I napped for about 1.5 hours. over the some 19 hour flight and layover. When all was said and done we had been up for over 30 hours. Needless to say we were quite tired. when we arrived.
I was dead tired and cranky by the time we arrived to Minsk. We both and were also not happy about the prospect of having to deal with the Belarussian government over the course of the next 2 weeks. That is enough to make anyone cranky! We left the plane tired and crabby and we walked and walked and walked, and then walked some more, and just when we thought our trip was not going to go so well. We saw them. We saw our girls with signs and a bugle. We went from irate to deliriously happy just like that. It was so good to see them all again. Lena, Banania, Ania, and Banania’s father and brother were there, Katia’s sister – Tanya, and their parents whom I miss very much. It was great to talk to them all to them and to hear their voices again. It was a moment that we had been looking forward to for quite a long time. Katia met us a little bit before we were going to leave the airport. She had a test at the university right about the time when we would arrive.
We hugged and talked for some time with everyone and then we made for Banania’s family’s flat (apartment) in Mogilev. Her father and brother drove us to their flat in Mogilev about 4 hours away. Banania, Ania and Lena went to Banania’s flat in Minsk to get her devil cat, Funt, do a little bit of shopping and then meet us at Banania’s family’s.
Part II: THE Passport Saga
I am going to open this up for all of my non-Russian readers – all two of you =) – by explaining a little bit about Russia (and their former Republics). An interesting fact is that they do not use ID cards like we do here in the US. They use their passports.
Passports as ID is an interesting concept. It may be practical as they have other countries near by that their citizens may find the urge to go see and do so often and might even have families in other parts of the former Soviet Republic. Russians have to obtain a few interesting things for their passports – they must Register where the live and a obtain a Travel Stamp to leave the country.
Why must they register where they live. That is a good question and I do not know the answer. I can offer some speculation as to why that could be. This is a remnant from the Communist Era where the government wanted complete control and knowledge of where everyone is. Registering where you live also helps for rationing water, food, and other services that were all govern mentally controlled and owned. Remember this is purely speculation on my part. If someone knows of the correct answer or a better reason please post your thoughts. I would appreciate some enlightenment.
Our first week was spent dealing with passport issues. This is something that has had both of us quite worried. The Russian people can be quite taciturn and antagonistic if you catch them at work. They seem quite pissed that you have approached them to ask them to do their job. If they can find a reason not to do what you are asking they most definitely will. This can be a harsh analysis, but please also remember that this is a gross generalization. We found a some people that were quite polite and desired to help and do their job, just not the majority.
We had to reregister Tanya’s place of “residence” and then obtain a travel stamp so that she would be allowed to leave the country as it had expired while she was in the US. The first step was to sign her out of the university where she was signed in. Then we had to sign her into her aunt and uncle’s house where she usually stayed when attending the university. We had to get signatures and stamps to here, signatures and stamps to get there. They were found in this building and that building, and then we had to go to this other building across town. Uggh! There was a lot of walking and a lot of frustration as we had only 2 weeks to finish all of this paperwork and still have time to see her family and our friends who are located in other mahor cities in Belarus.
It took us a full week to get all of the stamps and signatures to sign her in to her Aunt and Uncle’s home. Once the registering was complete we had to apply for her travel stamp. Fortunately that process was simple. We dropped off her passport at an office somewhere and then pick it up the day that we left and that was it. Whew! There was some peace of mind knowing that this was almost done when we left her passport there, but there was still this overriding worry, concern, or fear that something was going to go wrong and that we would have to stay longer or have more problems than we already had. This of course detracted from our ability to enjoy our time there, especially Tanya, for she is my little bundle of stress.
To be continued…