Paying Rent and the End of the World

Posted: October 25, 2011 in Uncategorized

My rent-free life in Ulyanovsk has come to an end. Closing in on two months of me being here, I was finally asked to sign a contract for my housing. This means that I was also finally asked to pay for my room. I was hoping that if I didn’t bring it up, they would just forget. I’m not saying that I wanted to rip off the people at the university; rather, I didn’t want to go around announcing that I wanted to pay. I prefer to be cautious and not set myself up for any possible scams. They happen here. On my first day at the university, I was warned on multiple occasions by multiple groups of people to be very suspicious of people around the university asking me to pay for things. I was told to check with my university contacts before paying anyone.

It was somewhat amusing when I signed the contract. The kommondantka, the woman in charge of the building, asked me if I had paid yet. I told her that I had not. I really wanted to say, but thought it would be better if I didn’t, that it was impossible for me to pay without the contract. First of all, I didn’t know how much to pay. Secondly, without the contract, I have no contract number. I pay for my room through the same ATM that I pay for my Russian classes with. You need to have a contract number to pay for anything. I was asked to pay for three months today. That’s okay, as I’m paying roughly $60 a month for my room. If only rooms cost $60 a month at Lafayette. Actually, you would think that they should cost around $60 a month given the mold in the rooms and the heater/AC unit that never worked properly. I had to pay $100 extra either a year or each semester to have A/C in my room. It never worked properly past sophomore year. Actually, the A/C worked in the winter, when I didn’t have heat in my room when it was 15 degrees outside. And that was after plant ops had been in my room over vacation to service my heater. Complaints aside, I love Lafayette and Ramer (the dorm, not the History House. I also love the History House, and while it was almost like a second home to me, I felt truly at home on the CHANCE Floor).

The walls in Ramer were particularly good for climbing. Too bad I only discovered this senior year.

One thing I can say about my room here is that the heat works very well (well, after they bothered to turn it on), too well in fact. But that’s why we have windows. I have the feeling I’ll be cleaning snow off of my desk before long.

Aside from the rent issue, nothing much of interest has been happening in my life. I go to class, either to learn Russian or teach English. I hang out with the people in the technology transfer center. Actually, they had me call America for them the other day. They’re trying to set up some visit for some woman who teaches at the Bronx Community College and they wanted me to speak with her about a few details of her trip. It was nice to hear a Bronx accent again. She quickly realized that I was not Russian. I believe her exact words were, “You sound American. Are you?” She then asked where I was from, which prompted me to tell her that I come from Connecticut, but that I was born in Yonkers. It’s a neighboring city of the Bronx for those of you who don’t know New York geography. I also lived in West Chester for the first six and a half years of my life. Once a New Yorker, always a New Yorker. I don’t really understand the appeal of Connecticut. Except for my friends and family, I pretty much hate everything about where I come from. You would understand my position if you also came from the town that inspired the “Stepford Wives.” Let’s just say that I don’t really get along with preppy people, or that I don’t really enjoy their lifestyle.

I had a great class with the second year students today. It took some effort, but I finally got some of them to be more active and ask more questions. I also tried my best to keep them interested and have them laugh. By the end of the period, I had succeeded in making them all laugh. I’m okay with being the awkward American. I prefer to use the term eccentric to describe myself because it’s less pejorative than weird and crazy, plus it implies that the subject has a little class. They told me that the department is having a Halloween party and that they want me to come. I asked them if they will dress up, which they confirmed they will do. I then asked if they were just telling me that to get me to dress up so that they could laugh at me. My quickly acting paranoia got them to laugh. I promised to “dress up” for them. I don’t really have anything costume worthy with me, but maybe I’ll play the stereotypical American with my Nike sneakers, New York Yankees t-shirt, LAF knock-off Ray Ban sunglasses, and my Homer Simpson pajama pants. Nothing says class like an outfit like that.

And one last tidbit, I was approached by a babushka when I was walking to the university the other day. She stopped me and handed me one of those “the end of the world is nigh” pamphlets and then rambled to me about lies, war, and death. It was a most excellent start to my day. I just wonder if she targeted me in particular (American with jeans, ratty old snowboard jacket, and knock-off Ray Bans with bright blue arms) or if she gives them out to anyone she comes across. The Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania holds the copyright to the pamphlet, although it was printed by a branch of the society in Britain.

"Suffering will soon cease to exist!" Presumably because we'll all be dead.

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