Masks During Workouts

This morning, I went to the gym for the first time in a while. I stopped going due to a number of reasons: first, the cases were up, then I was traveling, then there was too cold and/or too much snow. Then Anna and her family were visiting.   

There were quite a bit of people even at 5-30 AM, and once again, there were people without masks (masks in the gyms are mandated only in the city). Previously, I would leave the gym in such a situation, but today, since there were more masked people than unmasked, I thought that rather than they make me uncomfortable, I would make them uncomfortable 🙂 And I succeeded, at least partially. 

I saw on their Instagram that they are planning a Member’s Appreciation Day on Saturday. I do not get how in the world they came up with this idea! Prizes! Free food! Free haircuts! Free workouts from 9 AM to 3 PM!

I will stop now and will paste here the text from today’s Tribune – see below (I know that sometimes Tribune does not show the content to non-subscribers).

From Chicago Tribune:

Continue reading “Masks During Workouts”

Lots Of Happy News

I just learned that the staff and clients of the Night Ministry are vaccinated as a part of phase 1B, and many of them have received their first dose already. The volunteer coordinator emailed us that we should expect the update soon. I hope that this means that we won’t have to wait till the end of March to resume in-person volunteering. I can’t wait to make “Mama’s soup” in the ODS:).

For the past week, I was jealously looking at my Europen friends’ Instagram posts with the first early spring flowers emerging, with the first patches of green grass and lots of sunshine.

It looks like finally, we see the end of winter here, in Illinois. It was 46F today and lots of sunshine.
On top of this happy news, the Lakefront space will be open soon, almost a year after it was closed. The playgrounds and indoor swimming are also starting to reopen.

Next week, I am planning to go to the rt Institute first time after the last closure in the fall, and also, I am going to do escorting for the first time in a while. That’s mostly because I do not tolerate the cold weather well enough to escort during the freezing temperature, not because of any restrictions.

Overall, it really feels like a new beginning:)

About the Past Several Days

These past several days were not the best days of my life. On Wednesday, we learned about the stay-at-home advisory, first for Chicago, and the next day – for Cook County. The case numbers raised alarmingly. A couple of days before that, we already discussed with Anna their most-likely-not-coming for Thanksgiving. And the question was not even about what officials were saying, but about the number of cases themselves. It is evident that the tough decisions had to be made, and it was so sad.

I do not doubt the necessity of all the measures; it’s just devastating that we need to go in this direction again.

On Wednesday evening, I went to do my nails; there was no call for the nail spas to close, but still, I was the only client at 5-30 PM.

On Thursday, I went to the office, primarily because I wanted to take home some food which I left there. Also, I wanted to do one more tour of the city before we part for a while again.
There will be no activities in the ODS, and our forest preserve volunteering is also postponed till mid-December.

It took me a while to go through all of these emotions. Plus, I was so preoccupied with these emotions that I could hardly be productive; meanwhile, the work which was not done continues to pile up.

I feel better now, and I finally put myself through all these, “yet another time.” Hope-hope-hope, it will be better, I mean, I will feel better:). It’s just so hard…

For Our Victory!

Tuesdays ended up being the last day for many things. It was the last day of this unusual stretch of warm weather, and the last day of dining out – the indoor dining is banned in Chicago for now, and I do not thing it will be realistic to sit outdoors in winter.

I met with Vlad to celebrate the elections victory – since Saturday, we were talking about drinking champaign :). And so we did it on Tuesday:

After work, I went to the ODS. That was the time, when we weather started turning to the cold sharply, with tornado warning, and the winds blowing crazy, and the thunderstorm, and the temperature dropping 40F in the course of three hours. We cooked dinner, and had great conversations. Afterwards, I talked to the volunteer coordinator, and we shared our mutual feeling that we might go on lockdown again, with the cases being so hight. So we decided not to make any further plans, until we know.

We are not on the lockdown formally, but the Illinois Department of Public Health asks everybody to stay at home for the next three weeks, which I am going to oblige. I am going to the office today, just to pick up food which I left in the fridge, and then, I guess, next time will be only after the Thanksgiving. It is very sad, but you know what – I can’t say that I am better than others, and the ask is not related to me. It’s for everybody.

Breaking the rules in private vs protesting in public and the Soviet mentality

Last week, my mom wrote about the seeming contradiction she’s seen with her Russian friends, who’ve seen even peaceful protests as somehow innately bad, while not minding violating laws on the sly.

I definitely get where she’s coming from. Growing up in Russia, I’ve often seen grown-ups express the attitude that it’s almost virtuous to take advantage of loopholes, and there’s nothing wrong with violating the rules so long as they aren’t effectively enforced. Similarly, I’ve seen plenty of people take pride in following the letter of the law while violating the spirit. And it’s not even a solely Russian thing – as I got older, I saw the same kind of attitude in many other ex-Soviet countries.

I’ve already been thinking about this a lot during the pandemic. During the Illinois lockdown, people weren’t supposed to go outside except for essential reasons, such as buying groceries. But there were several professions that were exempt from that, including journalists. So long as it was in the service of performing journalism duties, we were allowed to go wherever wanted.

Which is where the gray area came in. There is only so much journalism one can do from behind the computer screen. Sometimes, one has to go to places, see things as they happen, take pictures, talk to people. And sometimes, you need to see conditions on the ground to figure out what’s worth writing about. And so, as those of you who followed me on social media know, I took trips to the suburbs, just to get out of the house and have a change of scenery. I took pictures and took notes that could be used for the article. A few times, I even legitimately got story ideas this way, or took pictures that were actually used in articles – but there were times that I didn’t. And there were some instances when I took pictures for fun and wound up using them in articles because it just happened to be apropos. But there were also times when I didn’t use them for anything.

My mom wasn’t amused by any of this, chiding me for doing non-essential travel, but I honestly didn’t feel bad. Who was to say that any given trip wouldn’t retroactively serve a journalistic purpose? To quote Harry Dresden from Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files, it was a technicality I intended to hide firmly behind, if anybody asked (which nobody did).

Honestly, I was more confused why my mom took issue with that. She actually grew up in the Soviet Union, and i know for a fact that, back then, she did things that weren’t legal, and things that were on the gray side.

It was the same thing with my visits to the Chicago beaches during the summer. While the beaches weren’t closed, the closures weren’t enforced after 7:00 PM. I didn’t feel bad about not following the rules when they weren’t in any way enforced, especially when other people did the same thing.

Now, unlike my mom’s Russian friends, I have no issue with protests, at least not per se. Even when I don’t necessarily agree with the goals, I don’t have this common Russian reaction of “what are they doing, they’re just stirring up trouble.” Protests bring attention to issues. They make a statement that the way things are won’t be tolerated. What is so wrong with people risking arrest and injury to stand up for their beliefs?

(Now, people wanting to protest without being willing to risk anything is another story)

As I commented on my mom’s blog, I don’t think the contradiction she talked about is that much of a contradiction at all. She and her friends grew up in the Soviet Union. Protest actions get people in trouble – ergo, those who start trouble are trouble-makers. Now, exploiting the blind spots of law enforcement, exploiting the loopholes and the legal particulars, doesn’t get you in trouble (if you do it right), so that’s okay.

I think it relates to the phenomenon Suki Kim described in Without You, There’s No Us, a book about her time teaching college students from North Korean Workers’ Party elite. She was struck by how her students lied constantly, without good reason, and how lying seemed so natural to them, and speculated that it was the consequence of growing up in a society where being truthful was a liability. DPRK apparatus is basically Stalinism on steroids, and my mom’s friends weren’t old enough to experience Stalinism in its original form directly, but I do think that any society where expressing one’s opinions has severe consequences makes lying feel more natural, and makes concerns about self-preservation all the more overwhelming. And, as my own example shows, one doesn’t need to live under Soviet repression to absorb some of the lessons it taught its citizens.

And, thinking at it now, I think another factor that may play into this is that my mom’s generation came of age during Perestroika, when protests helped end the Kremlin Coup and end Soviet Union once and for all – only to experience the economic devastation, privatization creating a class of oligarchs and plunging so many people further into poverty, things like job guarantees vanishing overnight… Might put a few people off protesting,

I don’t think it’s necessarily one thing, but an interaction of all three, with perhaps some factors I haven’t considered mixed in.

I will end with one side note. As several second-generation Russian-American immigrants have observed on Facebook, it’s been kind of fascinating to watch the same people who cheered on protests in Belarus complain about BLM protesters, and the same people who’d complain about police brutality in Belarus excuse police excesses in United States.

But that goes to a whole different, albeit related, bundle of traumas.

Matter Does Not Disappear!

A week before Easter, when the future of traveling was one big unknown, I wanted to do something special for Boris, and I, with his consent, mailed him a parcel. There were several small bike accessories that he ordered on Amazon planning to pick them up when he would come in March (which didn’t happen). And a couple of other small things, which I added. Overall, it was a small parcel, and I marked it as a gift and put some small value on it.

The mail was slow back then. I checked the package status every day. It took mother than three weeks for it to be cleared with customs and depart from ORD. That happened on May 5, and after that, I haven’t seen any changes in its status.

I tried to file a “missing mail,” but since the package already left the US, and didn’t arrive in Finland, none of the postal services would start the investigation. I sadly pronounced the package lost.
On Wednesday, after I already departed, Boris got a notice from Finnish customs. It turned out that sometime between departure from ORD and arriving in HEL, the house number and the apartment number of the package address where switched. For some reason, some taxes were due on that shipment, but Boris didn’t know since the notice was sent to the wrong address. After the address confusion was resolved and the notice was delivered to Boris, it was too later – the shipment was sent back!
… After all, I was glad to find out that matter does not disappear!

Settling Down in the Office

In the office, all our workstations were rearranged to make sure we were six feet away from each other. I was told that I am by the window facing the City Hall, which made me delighted. However, when I came in, I saw that although I was indeed by the window, the City Hall was behind me 🙂 and I was facing west. I do nor even know why, but that made me extremely uncomfortable, even though there was nobody else in the office. 

Next time my director was in the office, he moved me – I am not by the window anymore, but I am facing East. For a reason not known to me, I feel much better that way. I finally placed all my keepsakes where they should be. I have this set of memorable things that travel with me from one workplace to another and never live in my home. 

They came from different people, at different times and under different circumstances, but now, they all mean something for me. 

The bear – to be strong and resilient, the blue hippo – to laugh and to relax, the old plaster cobra – the keeper of my love, Buddha – to stay calm no matter what. And friends and chocolate – there is nothing I can add to what it says:)

Also, on Thursday, I finally found my office coffee mug! I could not find it and kept thinking that I took it home, then I could not find it at home, and looked everywhere in the office… It turned out it was in the washing machine! And then I remembered that it was me who started the washing machine “last time,” when we were leaving the office before what we thought then was just a two-week thing. And when our HR was making the office ready for reopening, she didn’t check the washing machine! And there were still glasses in, and it was still showing “running.” 

Now everything is finally in the right places! Where it should be 🙂

How Is It Being In the Office

So far, went I come to the office, I am either alone, or there is one more person there. People are asking me “how is the office,” and I am saying I like being back. It’s not like I less productive at home, but when I am coming to the office, it helps me to separate work and non-work, so that it won’t be one endless workday.

Also, when I am in the city, I can meet Igor for lunch, and I can walk the streets of Chicago, which I missed a lot during these months!

There is no food in the kitchen
And the nespresso machine stopped working, so I bought another percolator for work
Continue reading “How Is It Being In the Office”