Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Lots and lots of ice. Posted by Hello

The Primorye region from a few thousand feet above. Posted by Hello

Kitekat! These billboards were everywhere. Note the buildings in the background... Posted by Hello

A Communist relic in the middle of one of the many insane traffic circles. Posted by Hello

More about Vladivostok...

Since I'm assuming most of you will never have a reason to travel to Vladivostok, Russia, let me tell you a little bit more about my trip:

First of all, let me say that the people in Vladivostok have it rough. Very, very rough. It is a poor, polluted city in an abysmally poor region called Primorye. Due to its strategic military importance, it was a "closed" city until 1992. They are trying desperately to catch up for the 50 or so years that they were shut off from the rest of the world's technological and engineering advances, but it's going at a pretty slow rate. There are still plenty of statues and signs up from the Communist era. But now there are also plenty of billboards for vodka, washing machines and cat food.

The geography of the area is unkind--hilly and rough--and the weather is brutal. The life expectancy for men is 57. For women, it's 63. It's simply not an easy place to live. And, from what I gather, most people who are born there, live there their entire lives and die there. Because it is so remote, it's hard to get out of there and move on to greener pastures as it were. As a result, I found the people to be hardened and suspicious. They will stare unabashedly at anyone they discern is "foreign" and are, for the most part, downright unfriendly and brusque. But, that's just the way they are. I didn't really take it personally.

The traffic is utterly insane. There are no lines painted on the pavement, and they literally do not have stop signs--just yields. And, in a city of 700K+, they've only got a handful of traffic signals that drivers view as suggestions only. There are tons of traffic circles that are utterly maddening. They defy description or logic. The pedestrians all have death wishes and just cross, willy nilly, whenever and wherever they want to. And they'll do it at night, in a blinding snow storm while wearing all black. They are fearless. Or nuts. It was hard to tell. And the best part is that it all happens on top of several packed inches of snow and ice on the badly pot-holed roads.

The buildings are, for the most part, run down and in various states of disrepair. I saw very little new construction. There are lots of high-rise apartment buildings that were built during the Soviet era that now look like Chicago's Cabrini Green from "Hoop Dreams." Very, very sad. Most buildings have a very sterile, institutional look and feel to them. Makes you think that everything's a mental hospital.

There was a market across from the hotel that I went to a couple of times. I affectionately started calling it the UnFriendlyMart. It was intense. When you walked in, there was a tiny bakery counter with fresh bread and pastries for sale. Then you had to walk though a security gate (and past the first of 3 security guards) into the store's 1,000 sq. ft. of floor space, every inch of which was merchandised beyond belief. In the back, there was a deli/meat case and in the front was an insane liquor selection along with a few dairy items. No fresh vegetables. No over-the-counter medications (you've got to go to a pharmacy for stuff like aspirin, etc.). Lots of products that I had no idea what they were ( this crackers...or tampons?). And most everything I looked at was at least a month past its "best by" date.

I only actually ate at restaurants twice during my trip. The rest of the time I existed on expired crackers and V8 from the UnFriendlyMart and other snack foods I brought with me from the states (raisins, Luna bars, peanut butter crackers, fruit leather).
My first restaurant experience was at the hotel's restaurant. For lunch. I was the only customer. The menu was in Russian and a brave attempt at English. For instance, there was one entree that was called "The Gulf Stream," and the accompanying description said "A warm stream on your table." Intriguing? Yes. Appetizing? Anyway, the description of the things I ordered and what actually showed up on my table were not exactly the same. The salad was hard boiled eggs, onions, apples and mayonnaise, all mixed together in a whitish-yellowish glop. The soup was oily and fishy smelling, with a couple of shrimp floating around in the broth. The shrimp had their tails on, which made for awkward eating. The bread they brought as an accompaniment was very dry and stale. I was still hungry after my soup and salad (imagine that!), and so I ordered dessert. This was actually quite good: A margarita-type glass filled with tiny little eclairs, about the size of the tip of your thumb, served with a coffee cup filled with melted dark chocolate and cognac. You dipped the eclairs in the chocolate, and it was very, very good. That lunch cost about $28. About 12 hours later, I woke up with the most intense diarrhea ever. Lots of fun.
My second restaurant experience was at an Italian place down the hill from my hotel. I went there with 2 American couples I'd met at the orphanage. When I got there, I warned them, "I am about to make an utter pig of myself, so I apologize." I was so thrilled by the concept of real food, that I ordered salad, soup AND entree. Diarrhea be damned. My salad was amazing--a great Greek-style salad. Utterly yummy. The soup was good--a clear vegetable broth with fresh veggies floating in it. My entree, vegetable lasagna, was decadent. Filled with eggplant, spinach and lots and lots of cheese. I chowed down, all the while being stared out by a glaring, smoking Russian sitting a couple of tables away. I'm sure I looked like the stereotypical American Pig. But I didn't care. It was the first (and only) night in Russia I went to bed without my stomach growling. And it didn't even make me sick, which was an added bonus.

  • When you go to change money into rubles, they are PSYCHOTIC about the quality of the dollars. They have to be new and completely free of flaws or ink. Period. Look at the bills in your wallet right now. How many of them fit that description? Now you can begin to understand what a huge pain in the ass this is.

Svetlana: "No. I won't change this $100 bill. Is no good."

Karla May: "Why?"

Svetlana: "Because of the red ink." (Svetlana points a 2-in. long fake fingernail to a pin-head sized fleck of red on the edge of the border of the bill.)

Svetlana: "No good!"

  • Smoking is okay, anywhere, any time. Even if you're working the reception desk at the "4-Star" hotel.
  • I saw some of the most amazingly beautiful fur coats and hats on women when I was there. I don't advocate the use of fur for fashion. But when it's 12-below for 6 months out of the year, I am not going to begrudge these people for donning fur. I'm sure they were a hell of a lot warmer than I was in my cloth coat.
  • When I asked about getting a cab to go to a restaurant that had been recommended to us, I was told by one of my translators that, "Only prostitutes take taxis." Interesting.
  • Russian television is the strangest thing I've ever seen (more on that in a future post). It makes Telemundo look like C-Span.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Kicking 2004 to the Curb

What kind of blogger would I be without an end-of-year recap. You know...a look back, amazed by how the time has flown...reflecting on all one has have learned.

Screw that.

Here's the month-by-month recap of this messed up year:

Turned 35. Found out I was being "transferred into a new position" at work, complete with a new boss and team. Got my two front teeth capped. Got a black eye at a rock show because I was in the mosh pit. Got a hot stone massage at a day spa.

Went to L.A. for work. And not much else happened in February.

Started to work for my new boss, a total lunatic. And not funny crazy. Scary crazy. Went to Seattle for work. Went to Poodie's Hilltop Bar and Grill for the first time.

Attended my goddaughter's Christening. Met Mickey Rourke at the bar at the Four Seasons. Went to French Quarter Fest in New Orleans. Submitted my initial application for international adoption.

Went to Charleston, SC for Mother's Day with my mom. Went to InnerSpace Caverns in San Marcos. Went canoeing on Town Lake.

Went and saw Prince in concert. My goddaughter turned one. My stepfather had his aorta repair surgery.

Got "Motormouthed" by VH-1. Went to Chicago for work. Went to Cupertino, CA for work. Houston and Denver for work. Passed out from stress at work. Went to the hospital in an ambulance. Stepfather remained in the hospital.

Took Fridays off to finish up my adoption dossier and home study paperwork. Got a massage. Stepfather remained in the hospital.

Submitted my adoption paperwork (dossier/Home Study). Went to New York for work. Went to the Austin City Limits music festival and sweated my ass off while hearing some great music with good friends. Stepfather remained in the hospital.

Went to San Francisco for work. Got hit (and run) by a car when crossing the street. Got a bruise on my hip the size of a football. Had my Home Study visit. Started blogging. Stepfather remained in the hospital.

Went to a wedding and was told by a very gay man that I had "Nice tits." The closest thing I've had to sex since forever. Bush gets re-elected. I am sick to my stomach all of November 3rd. Got the call that they had a baby for me in Russia, and that I should get over there "as soon as possible" to meet her. Started making arrangements to travel to Vladivostok. Went to Las Vegas for fun. Gambled away about $550. Had Thanksgiving with mom and friends. Stepfather moved to nursing home. Stepfather dies.

Traveled to Russia by myself. Met my baby girl. Counting the minutes until I get to go back and bring her home with me.

As you see, it's been a wacky, wild year for old Karla May. Ups. Downs. Travel. This will be my last year without being a mother. Wow. I'm hoping that 2005 is a little less eventful...filled with domestic bliss. We shall see...

Those wacky Russians! This is Christmas in Vladivostok. You just know that chick on the left is freezing her knees off. And why is she holding that pole? Is it because her hands are frozen to it? Posted by Hello

Sunday, December 26, 2004

Sleeping angel baby. I love her so much it makes my heart hurt. Posted by Hello

One week down...

It's been a week since I got back to Austin from Russia. Just one week. It feels like so much longer than that.

I look at my baby's pictures every day. I've watched the video I made of her--20 minutes of watching her and listening to me saying, "Who's the pretty baby...hello sweet girl...hi..."--at least 10 times. I pray for her every night. I pray that someone is looking after her, caring for her, that she's staying healthy and strong and that, on some level, she knows that I'm coming back. One week has gone by which means I'm one week closer to going back to get her. I don't know how I'm going to handle at least five more weeks away from her. This separation and waiting part just sucks.

Christmas has, thankfully, come and gone. I've never been a huge fan of Christmas. It was never a big deal in my family because a) I was on only child so there wasn't a whole lot of hoopla going on and b) since my parents divorced when I was seven, Christmas always seemed to mean trying to figure out which parent I was supposed to be with and who was going to shuttle me where and at what time. Then, a couple of years ago, my father died right before Christmas. And this Christmas was the first without my stepfather. Plus, I'm nearly 6,000 miles away from my sweet baby. So Christmas. Not really very crazy about it.

This year, I went over to my work friend Francesca's apartment for Christmas Eve. She's the only person I know whose kitchen is smaller than mine, but she managed to whoop up one hell of a feast: Dungeness crab with homemade curry aioli, asparagus, horseradish mashed potatoes, an enormous salad, and toast points with triple cream Brie and fig spread. All followed by a slice of Yule Log. Yum. Then we proceeded to drink a LOT of wine and champagne and watch three movies. I ended up crashing there due to my copious consumption of the grape, and waking up with a banging headache at 7:15 am Christmas Day. Went home. Took a shower, brushed the moss off my teeth, and got back into bed. Woke up some time later, and Francesca and I went to see Wes Anderson's latest, "Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou" at the Alamo Drafthouse where we soothed our hangovers with mimosas and popcorn.

The only Christmas gift I asked for (and got) was from my Mother: a large silver locket that I put some of The Geej's hair in. (I snipped it off with some fingernail clippers and stashed it in a Ziploc while the orphanage staff weren't looking.) It is something I will treasure for the rest of my life.

As bleak as my Christmas sounds, it was really okay. The weather was beautiful. I didn't have to travel. I didn't spend a lot of money I don't have on gifts for people. But for the rest of you, I hope your holiday was filled with family, great gifts and trouble-free travel. Next year, Christmas is going to rock because my daughter will be here, and it will be all about her.

God bless.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Now WHY didn't I have my digital camera?

So I went to lunch on the East Side. Good, greasy Tex-Mex food at an old, family-run place called "El Azteca." They're sort of famous for their over-the-top calendars featuring scantily clad Mexican damsels and the bulky studs who rescue them. So, I made my pilgrimage there today to purchase a calendar for myself and my buddy Tommy Joe who lives in New York.
Anyhoo, I'm leaving the restaurant, and there is this totally pimped out Dodge Stratus parked right in front. And its front license plate was one of those novelty plates like you can buy at the state fair. It was SO fucking awesome.
Picture this: black background with stars...sort of looks like the universe...and the words "Tex Mex" in big, silver block letters. But wait, there's more. A unicorn leaping over a rainbow. A UNICORN LEAPING OVER A RAINBOW!!!! God, it was hot. And brilliant--a masterwork of design that appeals to the tween girl and the hardcore cholo all at the same time!

My view. I don't believe I need to comment on this one... Posted by Hello

My room. Yes, it was as depressing as it looks. Posted by Hello

The lobby. More bad oil paintings than you can shake a stick at.  Posted by Hello

The Old "Bait and Switch" at the Hotel Versailles, Vladivostok

I know that as Americans, we're spoiled. Big time. In every way imaginable, we have it so easy and so good. For instance, on a recent work trip, I was booked at the "Springhill Suites" outside of Tarrytown, NY for like $11o a night, and was dreading it because I was sure at that rate, it was going to be a crappy room in a crummy hotel. But it was a large suite, clean and comfortable, with a sitting area, a kitchenette and a great set up for working with a comfortable desk and free, high-speed wireless internet. And nice towels. Lots of them.
So when I was booked at the classy-sounding "Hotel Versailles" in Vladivostok with a nightly rate of $125 (I think...we'll have to wait and see how the rubles pan out on my MasterCard bill), and read their own description of themselves on their website ("4 stars...Russian Baroque Hotel with modern amenities; set in the center of the city, convenient for the business and leisure traveler"), I figured it would be pretty nice digs. Um...not so much.
The lobby could be pretty. It's got dark marble floors, elegant molding, huge chandeliers, and big windows facing the street. But then they fill it with these godawful 80's bachelor pad reject orangeish leather chairs and couches that resemble catcher's mitts, uber tacky lamps and laquered tables, and then hang really BAD art on every square inch of wall space. (And guess what: the art's for sale. Yay!).
Then you take the elevator up, and emerge into this super dark hallway (very little light, dark green carpet, dark wood walls) that leads to your room. And there's no such thing as "non-smoking" in Russia. So the hallway and your room are pretty much guaranteed to smell like the show lounge at the Golden Nugget.
Then there's your room: Very sparse and dark. Twin bed with what I think was a cot matress lying on top of the box springs. One thin towel for your use. Scary carpet that you really don't want to walk on with bare feet. Paper thin walls that allow you to hear someone clearing his throat next door (or having noisy sex with know, whatever). TV with one English channel that never appears. And when you're alone and you spend a LOT of time in this room, it can get very depressing, very quickly.
I know. I'm spoiled. But really...this place was pretty gross. I think on our second trip we're going to stay at the Hotel Hyundai which is supposed to be nicer than the Versailles (which I don't think should be too hard to pull off). But before I go, let me know if you want a 24" x 26" framed oil portrait of Vladimir Putin, because I can totally hook you up.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Welcome to Vladivostok! Prepare to freeze your tits off! Posted by Hello

Who, me? Fart? Never! Posted by Hello

Mad Props to Seoul Incheon Int'l. Airport!!

I travel a lot, but not internationally. For work, I travel the U.S. a great deal, and have spent my fair share of time in domestic airports. Everything from the dinky airports in Shreveport, LA and Charleston, SC to the monstrosities that are Hartsfield and DFW. So, I really didn't know what to expect when I was booked to fly Korean Air through Seoul in order to get to Vladivodstok. I must HIGHLY recommend both--Korean Air rules, and the Seoul airport is awesome.
First, the Airline.
I vaguely remember flying to London with my mother in 1978. We flew Braniff (R.I.P.), economy class. It's back when people smoked on planes. I remember that being disgusting and making me vaguely airsick the whole way. But I also remember the flight attendants being very "put together" and lovely. I remember that we got vellum-printed menus that showed what we'd be eating. And that the meals were served on actual plates with real silverware and individual little salt and pepper shakers. This was all incredibly elegant and impressive to a nine-year-old me. Now on domestic flights, you're lucky if the flight attendant makes eye contact with you as she's chunking a tiny bag of pretzels your way. Things have definitely changed.
But traveling on Korean Air was like taking a step back in time. Almost all of the flight attendants were lovely young Korean women, wearing these perfectly pressed and put together uniforms with neckerchiefs, for Christ's sake. They all had their black hair pulled back into neat buns and looked as fresh and pretty at the end of the 13 hour flight as they had at take off. Although I was in economy, and the plane was packed, I didn't feel crowded. The food was good, and ample. And it was served on actual plates with real silverware. They passed around plenty of mineral water, orange juice and hot green tea to keep us all hydrated, and gave out hot steaming towels a couple of times during the journey to help us freshen up. The bathrooms were kept clean the entire flight (which is saying something), and they all spoke very good English. They showed two movies during the flight, and the flight itself was on time and smooth. It was as pleasant of an experience that a 13+ hour plane ride can possibly be. There are four classes on Korean Air: First Class (where you're provided with a bamboo mat upon which to rest your tired feet), Prestige Class, "Morning Calm," and Economy. For being at the bottom of the bucket, it was pretty damn nice. Oh, and did I mention that beer, wine and alcohol are free on Korean Air? 'Cause they are.
Now, the Airport.
Seoul Incheon is custom made for long distance flyers. It is beautiful, clean and incredibly user friendly--even for non-Koreans. They give you "instructions" before you get off the plane and enter the airport, that tells you what you need to do and where you need to go, so it's pretty idiot proof, even if you're utterly exhausted and fatigued. And they take dollars in the airport--no need to exchange money. There is a "transit" hotel right in the terminal with clean, small rooms where you can get some private, uninterrupted sleep during your 10 hour layover. Or there are "Transit Lounges" all over the airport. Which ones you have access to depends on which of the four classes you're flying in (for instance, I only had access to the Economy class Transit Lounges, but still...) It's a quiet area with big, comfy chairs and stools that you can pull together and make a bed for yourself. And everyone there is sleeping, so it's cool. There are showers, and a massage and aromatherapy studio, a video game room, TONS of shops--both Duty Free and normal--and many, many restaurants featuring a wide variety of cuisines. The bathrooms are large and spotless. They have pictures of the bathroom attendants hanging in the bathroom, as if if the room's not clean, that person will be shamed. And get this: in each stall in the ladies room, there is something called an Etiquette Bell (pictured above). And it's not a bell at all. Instead, if you feel an embarrassing noise coming on, you push the button on this thing, and it makes a "whooooooooooooshing" sound of a loud waterfall to mask your explosive diarrhea or mega-fart. Amazing. I think the Etiquette Bell says it all, really.
I had a pretty lengthy layover at Incheon on my way to Vladivodstok--something like four hours. On the way back, by the time I'd gone through passport control and gotten my boarding pass, it was time to board my flight. I was actually a little disappointed because I didn't get to spend more time in the airport. Can you imagine?
And if Seoul Incheon is the "Four Seasons" of airports, the Vladivodstok airport can only be described as the Appalachian outhouse of airports. Fucking disgusting. But that's another story for another time...

Monday, December 20, 2004

Hi. My name is The Geej, and I'm freakin' adorable. Posted by Hello

Coming at you, through the fog.

That's what I feel like--surrounded by fog. The jet lag really hit today. I am struggling to stay awake until at least 10:30pm in hopes that I'll sleep like a rock (which I did NOT last night). There's so much to write. I have so much to put down about my time in Vladivostok, about meeting my baby girl, about giving her her name, about the people, the snow, and about the totally fucked up phenomenon that is Russian television. Oh, there is much to tell my friends. And as I have no plans for Christmas--zero, zilch, nada--I am hoping to emerge from my haze and spend a lot of time in the coming days writing. So check back soon, and you'll learn a lot about why you might want to mark Vladivostok in December off your list of potential vacation spots.

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Priorities? What priorities?

As I sit down to write this, it's 12:40 am, Sunday, December 12th. Most of my day today has been filled with getting ready for The Trip. Granted, I managed to find time to make a lovely dinner of Bok Choy and Tofu, watch some of the VH-1 "America's Next Top Model" marathon, and then, of course, the "My First Time" episode of "My Coolest Years," but I was doing laundry and balancing my checkbook and whatnot during all of this. However, despite my multitasking, I'm afraid my somewhat leisurely pace has made it so that I'm still not ready. I mean, I've got almost everything crossed off my Saturday "To Do" list, but I'll most likely be up for at least another hour and a half. But I just realized something funny--or disgusting, depending on how you look at it: Every time I'm about to go on a big trip (and by "big" I mean longer than about 3 days), I make a list for myself of all of the stuff I've got to do before I leave. I have a yellow legal pad that I reserve for this honored purpose. Anyhoo, it's a countdown of sorts, that just helps me keep on task as best I can, and usually helps me remember all of the important things I'm supposed to take care of prior to me taking off. A typical entry is, "vacuum," or "Take the trash out." You know, exciting domestic stuff like that. But I swear, every time I make this list, there are two items that are ALWAYS on the list:
  • Shave legs
  • Clean bathtub
How sad is that? The last time I shaved my legs was before I left for Vegas, and that was the Saturday before Thanksgiving. Same thing. They were on my list: Shave legs. Clean Tub. I mean, they're so hairy by the time I break down and shave them, that cleaning the tub immediately afterward is simply mandatory unless I want a visit from the health department. So, I'm not a girly girl. B.F.D. I don't know how to use a blow dryer either. So sue me.
Anyway, I'm going to try to post while I'm in Russia, but I'm not sure how that's going to work out. I'm taking my digital camera and docking cord, so hopefully I can even post photos.
Please pray for me. Please send positive karmic thoughts my way. I need all the help I can get.
So, I guess I should get back to it. Next on the list? You guessed it: Shave legs. Clean bathtub.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

A dollar a day keeps the creditors away.

Since February, I have been prudently saving dollar bills. Everytime I'd pay cash for something, if I received dollar bills as change, it squirrel them away in my wallet, and then stash them in a drawer when I got home. At the end of each month, I'd grab my stack of bills, put them in an envelope and label it with "April" or whatever the month happened to be. Why was I going to all this trouble, you ask? Well, the plan was to do this for a year (through the end of January), and then reward myself by purchasing an iPod. The amount I'd been able to save would determine whether I'd be getting an iPod mini, or the 20GB, 40GB or 60GB model.
Last night I went to the Apple store and bought a 40GB iPod, a carrying case and the 2 yr. protection plan. It added up to $528. I went home and opened up all of my monthly envelopes and the dollars added up to $530. Sweeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeet.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

The Amazing Puffy Cat Phenomenon! Posted by Hello

The Amazing Puffy Cat Phenomenon

When it drops below 60 degrees, Earl gets extra puffy when he goes outside. Like he's been inflated. It's alarming, really. Here is photographic evidence of this unusual phenomenon.

What's in a name?

I have been surprised that, from the very beginning of my telling folks about this adoption, some nine months ago, their first question was most often, "So what are you going to name her?" First of all, it completely discounts the fact that this child will have already been named. Also, it assumes that I could name her without ever having met her.
Of course, I've got my "list of names." Almost every gal I know has this list in her head or on paper somewhere. It's the list of what you will name your "Someday Coming Child" (if you haven't ever heard this song by the Innocence Mission, it's worth seeking out). When I was in middle school, my future child names were Hillary and Lance. No joke.
Then I went through that period where you want to name your imaginary children after someone meaningful in your family--perhaps a grandmother or something. But as I mined my family names, I came up with stuff like Johnnie Mae, Amy, Roy and George. Nothing to get too excited about.
Then, in college, I got serious about it. I actually started writing down names that I heard that resonated with know, just in case. But it was always girls' names. Never boy names. And one by one, I had to start crossing them off as my friends had babies. Leah? Gone. Georgia? Adios. Annalea? Too much like my goddaughter, Anne Olivia. Oh, and while I'm at it, I guess I should cross Olivia off the list too.
But as this adoption thing became more and more of a reality, I had to start thinking seriously about what name I might want to give my daughter. A few names rose to the top of the list, and then finally, a favorite: Gilda. And for months now, I've been settled on it (if, of course, I meet her and it fits).
Gilda. Little Gildiska. I was happy with it, even if my mom was less than thrilled. And when I was at home for Roy's funeral, I got a bunch of vaguely disapproving, "Oh...that's different," type comments whenever I'd answer the always-asked "What are you going to name her?" question. But still, I was sticking with Gilda.
Until last night.
I learned yesterday that part of the paperwork I'll be doing when I'm in Russia next week will be filling out the forms that will give my daughter her American name(s). It suddenly became so damn real. Such a massive responsibility. So last night, I decided to revisit my list. It's on a piece of well-worn yellow paper, written in at least 4 different kinds of ink. I was staring at it, thinking about all the names on there (there are about 25), when suddenly, a name came out of the blue at me. It just popped into my head. It's not on the list, and it is perfect. And I'm not telling a soul...not even my mom...until it's a done deal.
I can't wait to introduce her to you!!

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

A Toe in the Cultural Ocean

Today after work, I stopped by "Sasha's Gourmet Russian Market and Cafe." It's practically spitting distance from my house, and has been there for nearly 2 years, but I've never gone in. I'm not sure why I went in tonight. I think I was hoping to hear a thick Russian accent and strike up a conversation about my upcoming trip. But instead, I was greeted by a very west Austin sounding teen who asked me if I needed any help. I told her I was just looking. And man, was I ever.
It's a bizarre little place. A few cafe tables up front--maybe four at the most. An interesting menu of appetizers, entrees, desserts and drinks. And then there are the shelves filled with Russian products. I had no idea what I was looking at half the time. The Cyrillic alphabet is so bizarre because you look at it, and your mind tells you, "I should know what this says." There's something weirdly familiar about it, but it's so foreign and strange looking that it messes with you. There were sweets, canned meats, and lots and lots of pickled things. They even had a sparsely stocked Russian language film rental section. It was fascinating. I wanted to buy something, but had no idea what anything was. I just stood there staring at everything like I had just fallen to Earth. I was the only customer. The teenage girl must've thought I was a freak.
There was a man working there as well. Sort of stout, olive skin, dark hair. He kept talking to the teen about the Christmas decorations he wanted to put up to decorate the store's modest entry. She seemed like she could care less.
Finally, two other customers came in, separately. They were both women, and both looked to be in their late 40s. They were sort of looking around, not unlike myself. But then one of the women struck up a conversation with the dark haired Russian. And there they stood, having a full-on chat fest in this very unfamiliar sounding tongue. I stood and listened for a moment, stunned by the oddness of this totally foreign environment located not 1000 yards from my front door. I roused myself after a minute and went home. I'm sure I'll be back.

Copious apologies.

I realized while re-reading some of my recent posts that I'd used the term "emotional rollercoaster" at least 3 times. Now, I'm famous for my frequent use of cliches in conversation, but really... So, my apologies for this flagrant abuse of this overused cliche. I'm busy coming up with new ways to say what "emotional rollercoaster" conveys. So far, I've come up with the following:
  • Psychotic trampoline
  • Xanax versus caffiene mind fuck
  • Crylaughsobbing
  • Happy-go-sad
  • Taking a ride on the cranial swingset
You can look forward to seeing these soon-to-be classic phrases peppered throughout upcoming posts.

Manic-depressively yours,
Karla May

Saturday, December 04, 2004

Joy where you find it.

I was on my way back into town from San Antonio this morning, and I took the Riverside exit. There are some apartments called "Riverview" on this road, and they had big "NOW LEASING" signs and red and blue helium filled balloons along their fence. At the gate where the apartment entrance is located, there were 5 ft. columns of red and blue balloons tied to the fence. Except that it was uneven. One of the balloon columns was missing. A couple of hundred yards down the from the apartment entrance, walking along the sidewalk was a big man with an uneven gait. It appeared that he was in his late 40's, and was both mentally and physically handicapped. He had swiped the missing column of red and blue balloons and was now proudly and unashamedly making off with them. It made me smile and broke my heart, all at the same time.

Friday, December 03, 2004

"Jane! Get me off this crazy thing!" --George Jetson

Man, talk about your emotional roller-coasters...
I've spent the last 6 days dealing with the death of my step-father and all that that means.
I leave for Russia in 8 days to meet my future daughter. I'm going alone, and I'm totally unprepared.
I've been away from work for two weeks, and I'm completely disconnected and unfocused.
I returned to Austin today and immediately had to go to a meeting and then home to take my enormous, accident-prone cat, Earl, to the vet (his foot got bit in some sort of scuffle, and he was limping and feverish).
I have to go to San Antonio tomorrow at the crack of dawn to be fingerprinted at the INS as part of the adoption paperwork.
I feel like I smoked a pound of weed, ate 5 Xanax and downed a pint of Absolute. But I'm sober as a rock. Part of my fuzzy feeling has to do with the fact that my contacts are totally blurry due to the massive amount of salt built up on them from all the crying I've done over the past few days.
I'm so exhausted. In fact, I'm too tired to type. More later, kids.