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Update 8 - December 31, 1999 - Pat Mulligan The day must be approaching when I have told all there is to tell, but not today. I am overwhelmed today with this whole experience. The morning (Thursday) broke rather gray, nothing new there. By 9:00A it was looking like a blizzard. This continued until noon. So I went right ahead getting dressed to go out. By the time I went out at 11:00A the snow was at least ankle deep. What we had had previously had just about cleared away except for the hard banks of it along the curbs. With today’s accumulation it is going to be a really White Christmas on January 7. This is the date of the orthodox celebration. Yes, I know you are taking down the trees, but here they are just putting them up. They were lifting the great big one down on Freedom Square when I was there at 1:00P. Elena says they will add a carriage ice sculpture in front of the Opera House there on the square as well. She says we will go to see all of the decorations later. I have been noticing all week the additions of trees and decorations all around. It truly is beginning to look a lot like Christmas. New Year’s is what they all have their mind on right now. It sounds much like our traditional Christmas Eve or Day. The family gathers; they have a big meal of roast goose or duck—Vera says sometimes chicken as well. They have many salads, not exactly like ours. Their salads are much more vegetables ones rather than our congealed ones. They have gifts under the fir tree. I do not know how extensive that is. They drink, yes, vodka, wine and/or champagne; toast everybody and everything; they dance always at every thing so I doubt this occasion will be different; evidently exchange gifts; the young people go for walks in the streets and old people sit and talk or watch television. This goes on until 4:00A or 5:00A and some stay up all night to welcome in the New Year. I was invited to spend the evening with Elena, her family and some friends. I would like to do so, but I have already fought the battle of the Drink until I do not want to do that anymore this year and certainly do not want to stay up that late. To update you on the final decision that I made, Bruce and I decided to make it a really quiet New Year’s. We declined all party invitations. I prepared dinner if one calls pinto beans and french fries dinner. It surely suited both of us. Then we had a piece of what Elena had called a New Year’s cake—actually an ice cream roll and coffee. He left to go home about 11:00P having been warned that it was not really safe to be on the streets any later. Being a good mother, I insisted he call to let me know he reached home safely. He did. Have not figured out what I would have done if he had not reached there. On Wednesday I went to TARI for their end of the semester (year) party. Made a mistake and did not dress properly. They were in their finery, some even sequins. I had on black slacks, white cotton blouse, Christmas sweater and candle earrings—the sweater and earrings were a hit. Of all the times I did not even take my heels to change out of my boots. It really did not matter to me. Guzel took me under her wing. That was nice and she protected me from the demands of drink. Through Guzel’s translation the Head of the Economics Department made an observation that Americans used to drink and smoke but had begun the practice of a healthier lifestyle. He stated things reached Russia slowly. A colleague of his made the statement that I was a very good Muslim also translated by Guzel. I wanted to correct her, but she did not speak English and I did not know how much I should say at this time. Also, I did not want to give the impression that the refusal to drink was the really important point in my way of life. Thursday I went to a memorial service for Marina at School 39. We met her in 1998. She was the drama teacher and we attended a play, which she directed and had a role in. She died at the age of 53 last December. There are very definite rules here about the burial; when it takes place (in Russian families the second day after death; in Tatar families three days after the death; in Jewish families I do not recall) and when family assembles (the men on day 3; the women on day 7) depending on which sex the person who dies is, etc. I am going to get Elena to write it all down so I can be certain I have it correct. Also, after a year there is a memorial lunch with very strict rules and traditions. Yes, there are the toasts and the vodka. It is simply amazing that the drink is so common and so much a part of the history and tradition of the country. For those who remember her husband, he has had a stroke and was unable to attend today. The really close friends were going by to visit him after the lunch. He had said I reminded him of his mother when I was here in 1998. Today (Friday) we have had a soft snowfall off and on most of the day. The temperature has hovered at 0C or 32F. I have been warned that the weather we have had this week is often the prelude to snow storms. It was pleasant out it seemed. I stood at the winter and watched a little cocker spaniel play most of the morning. A tan color, it was really having a good time in the snow. The amazing thing is that I saw no apparent owner, which is most unusual. Probably someone was watching and I was unaware. There were two small children later playing on the jungle gym set. The ground was just screaming for me to come out and make snow angels. Surely did miss Kensley. The last snow in SC, she and I did do so. It is almost midnight so we will find out if the embassy’s warnings were valid or not. I really do not believe enough things here are computerized to make any major difference. We will see who is correct in just a few hours. I may need that seat on an evacuation plane or helicopter if they are right and I am wrong. We all had to register because they are going to provide space for only those registered. I have collected water to last a few days and snacks I can eat and not need to cook. Beyond that it is hands far more mighty than mine. The really great news this week!!!!!! Yes, There are Miracles. (Brena, try to get a story from these musings for the lead in the Newsletter. It is the really big news.) Many of you have petitioned regularly for materials in Moscow to be released. Well give thanks that they are on their way to Kazan. If you recall the company (GSN) began the process of filing for humanitarian status back in October after the arrival of the goods in Moscow. It was already recognized as a non profit organization, but had never received official papers for receiving humanitarian aid without paying customs. When the goods reached Moscow in October, the company was notified that they owed $2300.00+ in customs duty on the materials and at the time of notification about a $1000.00 in storage fees. The shipping company in Moscow suggested returning the goods to the US before the amount became any greater. Billy Gray at Clark-Hexcel faced a dilemma. He told me that the company had already invested about $2300.00 in getting the boxes to Russia and it would cost the much to return them to the US, and they still would not get to me. He stated at some point that it would take a miracle for the materials to reach me. He and I made a call that we would hope for just that. In the meantime documents have been written, signed, rewritten, resigned by any one with any kind of title and stamp in Kazan and the US, I think. Alexsai has made several visits to Moscow and untold telephone calls. At this writing I am told the boxes are on the way. But let me tell you the most amazing part: all customs was waived—actually expected if and when we could get the humanitarian status. More amazing than that is that the bill submitted to Alexsai for storage ($13,000.00) was cancelled as well. The goods at this point are completely free of charge. Now, we start dealing with the Kazan custom’s office. After the better part of three months that hurdle does not look too high. There has been so much to appreciate about this saga. First there was the response to my appeal for supplies and the outpouring by students and teachers across South Carolina. They collected and transported to me all kinds of educational materials. A very special thanks goes to my sisters in Delta Kappa Gamma (Alpha Eta State) and my chapter (Theta). Those contributions would have been for naught had it not been for Mr. Hugh Burgess, who volunteered his company, Clark-Hexcel, and its transportation department under Mr. Billy Gray to ship the goods. Yet they would never have known of the need had it not been for my friend and colleague, Mrs. Mary Martin. The shipment could not have been made had it not been for the ladies in Belton who packed and cataloged all the materials—the last phase of certification was based on their detailed lists of what each box contained. Along the way I often doubted that the boxes were still there. It is not uncommon for boxes to be opened and things or entire boxes to be missing. In fact I have no proof at this point that that may not be true. What I did know all along was that the entire scenario was part of a far greater plan than any of its small parts. Many people have been used in mighty ways to bring the parts together. I knew all along I had long since lost control, and it was in much larger hands than mine were. While action could have come in days, it took months and perhaps for a very good reason. Through this situation I have been taught patience and acceptance, qualities I must have in abundance here. Petitions: There are two major projects at the moment to remember: the Tatar/American Festival in June and the dream of an American Center so that all our work can be operated in it. A center would give us so many more opportunities than we presently have, open doors we need opened and allow us to provide services we want and need to provide. There is a building available, but then we would need to renovate—get some construction teams ready. Keep in mind the five English Clubs presently operating. Bruce and I plan to start another as soon as we can after the first of the year. My writing of a brief history of the US, a description of Americans and adding other materials to a booklet we can all use to help us when we go out to work in the schools. Joys: For the goods and their delivery and what we can do with them. Having completed the process of designation for humanitarian aid, we can now receive materials in the future without all the confusion and delay. For the snow and its beauty, covering the dirt and giving everything a wonderful cleansing. For Ludmilla, Dima’s mother, her visit and gift of flowers and beautiful dishes. For my beautiful apartment—warm, clean. For Elena’s gift of wooden decorative spoons, which I am told are to be used for everyday use, hot or cold. For children who miss their mother, but understand her and the need to share her. For family and friends who love and support me in all ways. For the arrival of Christmas cards this week. For all the e-mail cards and messages. For the fact that Y2K evidently has done no real damage. The electricity, gas, telephone and water were all working this morning (January 1, 2000.) None of the dire warnings we had been given seem to be coming to pass. We had actually been warned to leave the country. Did not mention it because I did not want anyone worrying or being concerned about unconfirmed possibilities of disaster.
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