Is Using Public Spaces A Privilege?

Yesterday, I read a comment on Instagram about the homeless people gathering in the Main Branch of the Chicago Public Library. The past several weeks had been extremely hot. During the most scorching days, I would walk out of the office with a big water bottle and a stack of paper cups, so that if I saw somebody on the street, I would be able to give them a drink of water before urging to go inside.

Thankfully, I barely saw anybody – people were smart to find refuge in multiple public spaces, and I am so glad they did. Fortunately, public libraries in the big cities have always been dubbed as day shelters, both in extreme cold and extreme heat. And after seeing a movie Cooked , I could not be more thankful for that.

I am struggling to write anything else on the subject. I can’t wrap my head around this cruel comment about homeless people “contaminating” the beautiful building. Why do some people think that if they are “more presentable”, or pay more taxes, they are “more valuable” for society and thus are entitled to access public spaces more than others? When I commented that I am glad that people are in the library, not outside, I’ve got a reply that there are shelters. This statement sounded for me no better than segregation, when some people “deserve” to be at certain places, while others don’t.

Later the same day I was at the Open Door Shelter of the Night Ministry, where I volunteer regularly cooking with the youth. And after the meal was washed away (everybody loved my baked salmon), we had a great conversation. There were some young people whom I met previously, and also one more young man with whom I never talked before. I was so impressed by his intelligence and the dignity he carried himself. It just happened that we got into discussing racial profiling and stereotypes. I do not start this type of conversation by myself when I am in the ODS, but funny enough he said something to which I’ve reacted – this is a generalization! He laughed, and we continued talking.

As an immigrant, I did have my share of prejudgements towards me, and I learned half – not to pay attention, half – to accept it as a fact of life. And I have tremendous respect for people who do not become upset or bitter when they are faced with prejudgement and maintain the sense of their worth and self-respect.

I was walking back to the CTA station with the sense that this day was worth living:)

My First Trip Abroad – Preparation And Other Details

I was about to start describing an actual trip, but then I’ve realized how many details surrounding this trip require a separate explanation. That’s one of the reasons I’ve decided to start this blog in the first place. I would never put into my journal back then all these details of our everyday lives because they were so “everybody knows it.” And the future generations will never ask about them because they won’t imagine that everyday things may be so different!

There were two essential things to take care of: passports and money. I know that for most of the world, a “passport” means a document that allows you to travel abroad. Not the case for the Soviet Union, and even for nowadays Russia.

All of us had an “internal passport,” which was issued to anybody when they reach sixteen years of age. This internal passport (which everybody would refer to as just “passport”) was used and is still used in the situations when Americans use their driver’s license or State ID. It was something you would need to carry with you most of the time if you want to avoid trouble with a militia.

And if you are lucky to be allowed to go to Zarganitsa, you will be issued a separate passport – a foreign passport, or as we now are aware of the terminology, “zagran-passport.” There were three different types of zagran-passport, and we were issues the “regular” ones.

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More Pictures From The Outdoor Gym

I’ve already posted some pictures of our new outdoor gym in this post; now I’ve decided to show more pictures to demonstrate all the equipment we have there.

I took these pictures last Friday morning between 5-40 and 6-10. At that time of the day there is nobody except me over there :). Now as the summer rolls into its second half, the sunrise is later and later every day, which affects the early raisers like myself.
I am up before 5 AM every day, and most of the year, I head to the Anytime Fitness facility right away. But during summer months I try to do as much outdoors, as possible, and this new gym equipment was exactly what I needed. Now and probably for another week or two, I will only go to ATF if there will be raining. Otherwise, I start at my home gym, and in about 30-40 minutes, I walk to this outdoor gym and exercise there for another 20 minutes. I love the fact that I can work out when the sun is rising.

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How I Went Abroad For The First Time

The first time I went abroad was in the summer of 1984. I was 21 and just finished my fourth year at the University. At that time, colleges and universities in the Soviet Union had the system of degrees, which was different from the rest of the world. We did not have bachelors and masters; we just had “specialist,” and everybody had to complete five years of school to graduate (some had to complete five and a half or six).
We didn’t have “freshmen” or “juniors,” we were “first-year students,” “second-year students,” etc.

I was attending the Department of Mathematics and Mechanics of the Leningrad State University, and we had “an exchange program” with Humbolt University in East Berlin. It was only called “exchange,” it took place in summer when schools were not in session, and it was just a rare chance to get to Zagranitsa. Both the Russian group and the German group consisted of ten students, in June the Germans where visiting Leningrad, and in August we were visiting Berlin.

The competition to be a part of this group has been going on for the whole school year. Until June we would not know who exactly will go to Germany (only East Germany, of cause!)

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What I Thought About The Foreign Countries

To build on my previous post, I am thinking about our perception of foreigners back in the Soviet Union. It was not about “foreign countries,” it was not about “international tourism,” it was about “Abroad” as a noun, “Zagranitza” in Russian.

The word means “behind the border” or “over the border,” anything which lies outside the borders of your country. I never thought of it back then, but now it seems funny for me that this word exists in the Russian language.

Zagranitza was scary and exciting at the same time. And when I am trying to analyze my past thoughts and feelings, I have to agree that they were very inconsistent and conflicting.

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About Journaling

When I decided to abandon my previous blog and to focus on family history here on WordPress, some of my friends had asked me how I am going to survive without daily journaling.

At first, I didn’t think much about it. But after a while, I’ve realized that I want to continue my daily journaling, even if virtually nobody is reading. I what to write about my life for the same reason as previous generations were keeping paper diaries – for themselves to remember what was going on, and for future generations to find it out :).

One of the most important things which your journal gives to you is the ability to observe your personality transformation. Now, when I read my journal records from ten or twelve years ago, I can vividly remember how I felt and what I thought at that time.

But unfortunately, although I was journaling for extensive periods of my life, this process was not consistent. My friends resent that there is no Livejournal from the years when my children were just born, and being honest; I regret it myself:).

So one of the things I am trying to do now is to fill this gap retroactively. I am trying to recall as precise as possible, how I felt about events at the time they were happening, what were my believes, how I saw the world, and how I’ve reconciled in my head all the things I saw.

Such posts as good examples of a bitemporal framework, which is something from my professional life; I can say that they are “effective in the past, asserted now.” If you understand, what I mean:).

Watching The “Music Man”

On Saturday, I was at Goodman’s performance of the “Music Man.” I have a “Whenever Goodman” subscription, which means that I could choose which shows I will be attending, and how many tickets I will allocate for each. I knew that the last play of the season would be the “Music Man,” so I’ve saved the last four tickets for it, not even knowing whom I will invite.

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A Workday In The Forest Preserve

Yesterday I was collecting seeds with the Friends of Deer Grove volunteers; that’s one of the happiest things you can do in the forest preserve. And there we’ve witnessed a little miracle: a butterfly just got out of her cocoon and getting ready to start her life.

Did you know that the butterflies can’t fly when they just got out? I didn’t know that! But it turned out that they need to get their wings dry and to pump their lungs to get ready for the first flight. So here she is, working her beautiful wings.

We thought it’s a Monarch, but when I’ve posted this video on Instagram, another volunteer has commented that this is a Viceroy butterfly! Maybe I will memorize them all eventually 🙂

A bonus picture 🙂

A Couple Of Words About Myself And Biking

Unlike all normal people, I didn’t learn to bike when I was a child. Taking off the training wheels didn’t work with me, and my mom didn’t consider this skill a priority. Later, some of my friends made attempts to teach me, and I remember at least two of those. Both ended up with no success, and I was pronounced unfit for biking. I was of the same opinion on this subject; you might not believe me, but I was sure that there are two things I will never learn: to ride a bike and to take pictures. Go figure :).

When we’ve moved to the US, Boris taught all my children how to ride a bike (actually, Anna might have mastered it while still in Russia, but I can’t remember now). And then he started to teach me :). I was so afraid to start this process one more time that he suggested I use Anna’s 12-inch bike first, and I did.

Twenty years later, I can’t imagine my life without biking. In fact, during my after-surgery period, biking was the thing I’ve missed most. Since I am a very social person, I joined the Palatine Bike Club and started to participate in various bike rides in the community.

Although the Palatine Bike Club has been active for a while, until recently, Palatine was not the most bike-friendly community. Things started to change in the last couple of years, and although we are still far from Madison, WI in terms of being bike-friendly, what we have now (bike lanes, bike racks) is a huge improvement. Although I am keeping telling everybody, what we should be more like Madison 🙂