Things move fast when your visa registration is connected to your residence permit. On Friday, two days after arriving in Belgorod, I moved into my very own apartment. Oddly, the moving process taught me less about Russia and more about how my mother is a motherfucking badass.
But I’m getting ahead of myself here. On Thursday, Natasha and I went to see an apartment she had found on the Internet and by Friday I had already checked out of the hotel. Truth be told, I would have preferred a more gradual moving process– i.e., stay in the hotel while I got the apartment ready. But for visa reasons, this was not possible. It’s all or nothing with the immigration people– you either live in one place or you live in the other place. No in-between.
So Friday night there I was in my perfectly lovely apartment, with no apartmenty things. While the place was furnished, it didn’t have dishes, cookware, towels, toilet paper, bathmats, etc. So I set off on a miniature tour of Belgorod’s dollar stores (well, 77-rouble stores) and somehow walked home carrying bedding, towels, dishes, and other sundries. My arms were killing me. I collapsed on the sofa and brainstormed: there has to be another way.
The primary problem is that Belgorod is so eminently walkable. So walkable, that you can probably walk yourself to death. I’d gone to all these stores that are close to my apartment– too close to use a taxi, but too far for me to comfortably carry everything. So I resolved that the next day I would, counter-intuitively, go to stores farther away so I could take a cab home.
This is how I discovered Lenta, the glorious Russian Target. I was able to get a clothes-dryer, mosquito-killer, frying pan, kitchen knife and even a corkscrew. Now we’re cooking with gas, as they say. In this case, literally.
But buying things is only half the battle in setting up an apartment. You also have to learn how things work and have to call people in for installation. For example, I’m still working on figuring out how to adjust the hot water heater and it took me half an hour to understand the air conditioner (there’s an air conditioner!). The washing machine had me in fits until I realized I needed to turn it off and on again. The intercom has fallen off the wall so I’m trying to figure out how to re-wire it back into place. I’ve done this while scheduling and re-scheduling Internet installation. One minute you’re hungry but you have no food and the next minute you have to pee but there’s no toilet tissue. By the end of the weekend I felt like a wrung-out dishrag, incapable of feeling anything but exhaustion.
Which brings me to my mother. When I was ten years old, my family moved to Spain for my Dad’s work. Dad happily got up to go to work every day leaving Mom to figure out how to set up a household. Sounds like what I just went through, right? Well, no, because my Mom had it a bazillion times harder. First of all, I speak the language here, but my Mom did not speak Spanish. I mean, I’ve gotten hung up on a few household-centric words this weekend (like “ladle” and “spin cycle,”) but Mom was starting from absolute zero. Nada (ha ha). Second, I’m living in 2016 Russia, a thoroughly modern country with everyday conveniences and predictable infrastructure. Mom was working with 1982 Spain, an anomaly on the European continent, a country that had just emerged from the dark ages of the Franco dictatorship. Shepherds roamed in back of our house. Coffee was sold only in bean form.A butane man came around to fill our canisters so we could turn on the space heater. Bug spray was such a new product that butchers would heedlessly spray it on the inside of meat cases. Mom had to learn about all of this on her own.
But Mom wasn’t just responsible for setting up a household; she was also responsible for another little human– me. She got me enrolled in school, got me a school uniform, had alterations made, negotiated with the school administration to get me placed in the right grade, and, probably the hardest thing, comforted me when I came home bawling because I didn’t understand my lessons.
So welcome to my decidedly simplified, but still draining, handiwork: the new home at Parkovaya 5.
It’s a new building and not fully rented-out yet. I don’t even have a next-door neighbor. In Belgorod style, it’s got a flower bed.
The kitchen is the highlight. Large and airy with a convection oven!
The bathroom is totally fine, although I’ve already splashed water all over the floor because of the lack of shower curtain. It’s not unusual for Russian baths to lack curtains, so I think I just need to learn a new way to shower.
The main room is huge and nearly empty. I have no idea what I’ll do with it. Maybe learn yoga?
The pièce de résistance: a glorious walk-in closet! I have never seen one of these in Russia. I can’t believe my luck.
And, since the technician just came, I am posting this with my brand-new High Speed Internet. I’m sure Mom is proud of me for all this, but remember– she’s the real superstar.