Archive for October, 2008

Entry for October 26, 2008

October 26, 2008

THE LUXEMBURGERS

I was sitting on a bench in Place d’Arme of Luxembourg. Two elderly ladies on my right were discussing how they children (grandchildren?) lived: their newly-bought houses, earnings, job perspectives, etc. The City of Luxembourg is generally French-speaking and it was kind of unexpected and pleasant to hear those two talk in German. The lady who was sitting next to me pulled out a scrap of paper with phone numbers and was about to start pushing the buttons of her cell phone. Then she turned to me: “Stört es Sie nicht, wenn ich anrufe?” (“Won’t it disturb you if I call?”). I shook my head : “Nein, nein, auf keinen Fall!”
Ours was the shady side of the square and the autumn freshness was getting rather nippy. So as soon a place on a bench across the square was free, the ladies rose to their feet and walked — in a dignified way – to those who apparently were their friends.

I did not dare take a picture of them when they were still sitting. So I photographed them from behind. Something warm stirrred in my heart. Something warm on this chilly side of the square.

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Entry for October 26, 2008

October 26, 2008

PURCHASES ABROAD

In the ex-USSR private trips abroad were rare. Those who were lucky went there on business trips. The date of the trip was communicated to the potential goer several months before and an intensive preparation was launched: a suit, shirts and other articles of clothes were bought (along with a suitcase to contain all that paraphernalia); all-round medical examination was required — and it was arranged at the order of the institution where you worked. You also had to go through a couple of interviews at local Communist Party committees of different hierarchy — the functionaries were screening you for your ideological loyalty. The last item to be bought was two bottles of vodka. Note: if suits or shoes were usually obtained from under the counter by “pulling strings”, the access to vodka was unhampered in any shop.

However, the most important (and difficult to materialize) was the dream-list of foreign purchases as it was compiled by your close and own. You were not able to go abroad on your meager salary, so a sum of hard currency was allotted to you as travelling allowance. If you were wise enough in your expenses, you could save up during the trip and buy some presents for your family. I was not wise. When I returned from my first foreign trip to Lebanon in 1973, I was asked by my fellow-students at the university what I had brought from Beirut. My answer was “Memories”. I remember the ironic smile and a comment which followed: “And X (the name was given) has brought a pair of French shoes…”

This past September I returned from my latest business trip to Luxembourg (my lates and my last, I am inclined to believe). Now I was 35 years older than during my visit to Beirut but scarсely any wiser. When my luggage had been left behind in Vienna while I was boarding a connected flight (the luggage was delivered to my door only three days later), I was not particularly worried. The most valuable things — postcards of Luxembourg — were in my breast pocket. I placed one of them over my desk. Alongside with the 1973 luggage-tag for Beirut which I had excavated from my archives.

I wonder where are Mr X’s shoes now?

Entry for October 19, 2008

October 18, 2008

TALKING ON A CELL PHONE

A question suggested for discussion in a language group sounds like this: Does it irritate you when other people speak on a mobile in a public place? The implication is that the phone caller imposes his/her private life on those who are round him. My position is expressly positive. Thanks to the cell phone I see more of genial smiles and hear more of friendly voices. The other morning I saw a lady in a shuttle-bus in Kyiv who was talking to herself with an expression of serenity on her face. A few seconds later I understood that she was conversing on a mobile using a hands-free unit.

What else can so vividly explicate people’s humaness? I stayed under the impression all day long

Entry for October 18, 2008

October 18, 2008

NOT SO MANY OF US LEFT

It’s more comfortable to sit in a metro car than to stand. When the car is overcrowded during morning hours, standing room acquires value too and may be rated according to that value. The worst place to stand is in the aisle — being squeezed between two rows of people who are holding on to the upper railes left and right. You have no chance of reaching either of the rails. Even if you have, there’s not a spare inch to grasp the rail and make yourself sort of steadier. The best place is in the end of the car – right at the door which is permanently locked.

I was standing in that “best’ place. All of a sudden a man with two big bags struggled into the car. The bags were too big to feel fine in the morning rush-time. I understood that after a moment he would find himself right in the aisle, being abandoned to the mercy of the shaking and jumping car. So I stepped away from the rail and beckoned to the man inviting him to move over to my place. The man moved readily and put his bulky luggage right on the spot which I had vacated for him.

– Thanks a lot! he said.

– Ah, forget it, I answered.

– No… I want still to say that I’m really thankful. Not so much for the place as for your kindness.

– I understand you, I said.

Not so many of us — people who feel such things — are left already, he said. – That is why we must recognize such things.

I had to get off at the next stop. I do not remember the time when I was so unwilling to get off.

Entry for October 17, 2008

October 16, 2008

ACROSS SEAS IN SKYPE LINK-UP

I came from work late in the evening. My wife opened the door and proudly announced that she was skyping with our daughter. I also hurried to the computer into the web-camera vision. And when our daughter made a snap-shot of the two of us she sent us the picture. I would never have thought we can look so happy!


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