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From hot to cold

October 17, 2011

There have been many times where I realize that G-d does indeed have a sense of humor. When you are a Peace Corps Volunteer, it seems you run into many examples of this – sometimes life seems fairly normal, even good; other times, your life borders on the absurd, or the punches start coming – this is when you must maintain YOUR sense of humor and be flexible.

I have been in the middle of such a situation – or my organization has. I work for a library, and one of the things they said they wanted/needed was more English language books. So I found an organization that donates books by the pallet and raised the money for shipping a pallet (through a grant, a friend’s donation, and the organization’s matching the money). It turns out that a pallet of books will get seized by the notorious Customs, so I requested that the books be sent in smaller shipments – in boxes – instead.

Unfortunately, we learned that if you receive more than two boxes at once, a red flag is raised and your items are seized anyway – the exact problem I was hoping to avoid by having them break it into smaller shipments. So we (mainly THEY, the librarians) have been dealing with Customs for more than two months already – first they wanted to know the value of the items in the boxes. I got a statement that indicated they have “zero” value, as they wre donations. Next, they wanted to know what we paid for shipping. Again, got a statement that says the shipping was also donated. So they cannot “tax” us on those amounts, but they now want to find any way possible to impose money on us.

Somehow a “minimum” number was reached…but we cannot get an exact quote because, we are told, they now must bring in Radiological and Environmental “experts” to inspect our goods (i.e., books) and make sure they are “safe”. I found this out last Thursday, and by this time, I was pretty angry. I was angry and frustrated because I do not understand why this is all going on and there is nothing I can do to move the process forward.

I must have left work with a dark cloud over my head that day because on the way home, the marshrutka in which I was riding was zipping along (these guys, the way the drive, is interesting). We were passing a bus that was pulling out of a bus stop. Anyone who drives could see that we were in his blind spot. Well, guess what happened? The back part of the marshrutka hit the rear-view mirror of the bus. The marshrutka stopped. The bus stopped. The driver got out and started yelling at the bus driver. A passenger got off the marshrutka, then the bus. I sat for a moment and thought, either we are going to be waiting here for a half hour or the police are going to come and want to talk to us, or both. Either way, I wanted no part of that…so I got off and walked the rest of the way home.

Friday was a better day – I went to Kiev, dashed around to different meetings, got fed steak for dinner. Unfortunately, I did not bring heavy enough attire for the weather, and all weekend was more than a bit cold…sigh…

Back to Kirovograd last night – a longer than usual marshrutka ride back, a longer than usual wait for the bus. I could not wait to get home, take a hot shower….I got to my rooms and there was no electricity, and the powers that be in the city have not yet turned on the heat in my building. The concierge got the lights back on – the students had decided it would be a neat prank to turn off the breaker. They are lucky I was not there when they did it. However, it meant no hot water…and MAN was it COLD in there! I turned the heater on, went to bed, and had to get up an hour and a half later to turn the heater up and get a second blanket.

Sigh. Testing, testing, testing.

I just read a quote that the Dalai Lama had posted on Facebook – “Love, kindness, compassion and tolerance are qualities common to all the great religions, and whether or not we follow any particular religious tradition, the benefits of love and kindness are obvious to anyone.”

Good timing on that quote. Some days you have to remind yourself of these things. Today is one of those days for me.

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