But first, hang on. I forgot an absurdity.

10 (actual). No one actually lives here. I base this on the fact that of the three grocery stores nearby, none of them stock baking soda or eggs, and the pharmacy doesn’t sell Epsom salts (known to Russians as “English salt”. Oh yeah, also milk. And I had to LOOK for black bread today. Also, non-sausage meat cannot be found on our block.

Also, the guy across from me in class today is a Fulbrighter! It was terribly awkward when I realized; I knew he was familiar, but I thought he was staying in my hostel. He mentioned to Greg that he was being paid by the US government to do research, and suddenly it clicked. “Are you a Fulbrighter? Were you at the mid-year seminar? Are you getting your doctorate at Emory and doing research on monkeys?” So basically I knew all the gory details of his academic life (I’m not crazy–he did a presentation, and it was really interesting because he talked about scientific culture in Russia and why it was the ideal environment for his research–also he’s functionally an Atlantan), and he had not a single clue that I existed. Awkwardness was had by all. 🙂

A classmate got her Russian certification today (level 3)! She said it was extremely challenging–her essay topic was a comparison of the economic crisis in Japan and Greece or something equally ridiculous. Seeing her success inspired me to go try again to register for an exam myself. You see, I’ve developed a scheme for getting what you want out of Russian bureaucracy:

Attempt #1: Make your request. If it is denied, follow it with…

Attempt #2: Ask if they’re absolutely sure nothing can be done.

Attempt #3: Explain your situation and make an emotional appeal to your common humanity.

Attempt #4: Ask again, being sure to mention any important people you may know.

Attempt #5: Ask again if they’re sure, but this time hold out 100 rubles. At this point, one of three things will happen: either they take the bribe; or they are morally/legally (ha) opposed to bribery, in which case they’ll kick you out; or they simply refuse you. If the third happens, the next step should be clear…

Attempt #6: Repeat Attempt #5, but this time hold out 500 rubles. Repeat until they give in.

Attempt # 7, 8, …, ∞: Add 500 rubles and try again.

Anyway, so I’d already made Attempt #1, but being a silly American, I took “no” to mean, well, “no.” My goal was to get this test scheduled by way of Attempts 2-5, although I was prepared to pay up to 1000 rur extra to take the exam now.

“Are you sure the test won’t be offered next week?” I asked. The woman made some noise about how I should have taken care of this sooner, to which I replied that I’d written them a month ago and not received a response. She muttered something about how I should have written again and complained (is that a canonized part of the procedure?), flipped through some books, and then gave me a withering glare the likes of which I’d previously only gotten from Germans and cats. “What level?”

Bingo.

Thus, I am now scheduled to take the 2nd-level exam next week as originally intended. And for my successful navigation of world-renowned bureaucratic ridiculosity, I hereby award myself the status of card-carrying Expert of Russians.

Off to make a card. See ya.

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