Friday, September 18, 2009

Flashback Friday: More Russian Mini Flashbacks

I did some of these a while back and it's time for two more anecdotes that deserve to be told but don't merit their own post.

I also almost froze to death this one other time
So it turns out that when I wrote this post, I had completely forgotten about this other time I almost froze to death.

It was January 2002. We'd been in Russia for a few weeks and I hadn't found a job yet (though I did so very soon after this story). In the meantime, I put myself on the substitute teacher list for the Anglo-American School of Moscow. It was good work, if slightly sporadic, and it paid well - I remember getting $100 for each day of subbing.

Well, early one morning they called me up to sub and I said sure, no problem. So I got myself way the heck out to the school. In case you hadn't guessed, it was really cold (January + Moscow = BRUTAL). And although I was warmly dressed, on my way to the school, out and about, I was shivering from the cold. No big deal, I thought. I'd be inside a nice, toasty school all day teaching third graders.

Then I got to the school and it was freaking School Olympics Day (which fact the secretary had failed to mention. And why do they do Olympics day in January anyway? Who are these people?!?). I ended up spending the whole day refereeing random sports. Outdoors. In the snow and wind. Wearing my inadequately warm clothes. In Moscow. In JANUARY.

What I would have given on that day in January to have had this warm woolen skirt that I bought later in Siberia. That skirt, plus thick leggings underneath and warm boots were typical church attire. Fashionable: not really, but all the ladies wore them. Functional: absolutely.

My memories of that day are a little foggy - rightfully so, since I'm sure my body had started to divert blood flow away from my brain and toward my heart and other more vital organs. I got paid my $100 but I still can't decide if it was worth it.
When you work for the government, there are different levels of security clearance available. In Moscow, higher levels of clearance got you into more restricted areas of the embassy. Areas like the cafeteria, commissary, and gym were open to anyone with an embassy ID. But getting past one particular set of doors was extremely difficult. First of all, you had to have a certain color badge, which I did. That was not my problem. The problem was that the door was physically almost impossible to open. I don't know what kind of security or locking devices it could possibly have had in it, but they weighed a ton. To get that door open, I had to take a deep breath beforehand and throw all my weight and effort into it.

That would have been bad enough, except that this set of doors was located right in front of one of the Marine Guard stations. Anyone going in or out of those doors had to first show an ID to the guards (who manned their stations behind a plexiglass wall), who would then press a button to remotely unlock the door. You had to open it and enter the restricted area as they looked on.

Jeremy and I in front of the ambassador's residence (Spaso House) in Moscow in December.

Oh, how I dreaded having to go through that door. It was one of those situations (much like riding your bike up the JSB ramp at the BYU) where even though it was really hard to do, to be cool, you had to make it look like it was easy. I did my best, but I don't think I ever convinced those marine guards that I was anything other than a wimp when it came to that door. Maybe they weighed it down on purpose so they could laugh at all the weaklings. If so, I'm sure they got some good laughs out of watching me.


Liz Johnson said...

Hahahahaha the mental image I have of you throwing your tiny self up against this huge door is sooo comical. That would've been the highlight of my day if I were sitting at that guard station.

elliespen said...

I've been lurking (found you through Nemesis) and had to comment. I'm pretty sure they have a pair of those doors in every embassy, because I had the same experience at the embassy in Santiago, Chile. Maybe the MSGs rig them on purpose to have something entertaining to watch during their long shifts.

Bridget said...

elliespen, I am so glad you de-lurked to tell me that! I was wondering if it's universal. Now I know that it (probably) is. Thank you for that important update.

Liz, I am glad to know you would laugh at me, too :).

Suzanne Bubnash said...

It was undoubtedly Cousin Kitty Nelligan's winter coat that saved your life that cold day in Moscow.

Bridget said...

I don't think I was wearing her coat but I WAS wearing her hat. That thing was awesome and it made me blend in so well.


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