Written in 2001
When I first came to Russia I lived in an apartment in Moscow, sometime later they assigned me to teach in Korolev and Mauticia and I moved into my new flat in Korolev. It was small and old, but it was ok. Just to heat the water would mean turning on this gas burner to heat it up. But it was simple and it worked. The bath tub was real bad, but I just stood up and used it as a shower instead. What wasn't funny was the land lady. Imagine the ugliest and smelliest woman and you still won't come close to her. She didn't speak a word of English but for some reason kept talking out loud to me all the time in Russian, she just yapped and yapped away, never stopping. I didn't speak Russian so I had no clue what she was saying. And then there was the smell, you could smell her breath from three feet away. What made it worse is once I had moved in she kept coming in, doing my dishes, getting some of her things... And she would be there at 9 am, or even earlier. She got on everyone's nerve that met her. So one day when she came in early and started doing my dishes, I called up the office and told them to tell her to get out, and not keep coming back to the flat. She was surprised and unhappy about it, but finally left. So time went by, work was going well and I was enjoying my time there. Until one day, where as it is the case with me sometimes everything went coocoo. On this particular day I had everything go wrong, the insurance company that covered my bike suddenly changed a policy out of nowhere, a problem with the garage for the bike came up, then Russian customs wanted 60% of the value of a winter jacket my family had sent for me, that meant I had to pay $400 just to have my coat, and this all happened within a few hours. I was at the main office in Moscow when all of this went on, at one point one of my bosses told me that my landlady now wanted me out of her flat, she didn't like foreigners. That figured. What a day. So I went to work as normal and later that night walked back to my flat. Just before the entrance two men suddenly appeared right in front of me and walked into the same building as mine, they went to the same floor. I saw that they were knocking on my neighbor's door, which happens to be my landlady's friend. They talked to her, at this time they saw me and started to speak in Russian. Again I didn't speak Russian. One of them said in broken English they were coming to visit me in a second, they were police. But they were in jeans and looking like bandits. So I walked into my flat and called one if my friends right away, because once they were in I wanted them to see I was talking to someone at the same time. Several minutes later the bell rang and I told her to wait on the phone. I opened the door and the guy says sheriff, showing me for a quick second what looked like an old ID. I told them they couldn't come in but they just pushed my door aside, walked in, and closed it. So I went back to the phone and showed them I was talking to someone. They searched throughout all my stuff, looking at my papers, trying to give me trouble for nothing. At one point he wasn't happy about something so I let him talk to her. She told me he was rude and wanted to bring me to prison, because something in my papers weren't right, and it supposedly wasn't true. At the same time the other guy was looking through my bags and found my laptop, in Russia this is rare, he got it out and asked me how much it was worth in US dollars, so much did he want to know he made me write it. Finally they left, warning that they would be back. The picture above shows the building.
What was that about?
Right after they left it was important that I leave right away. I was told then and later that this was a serious problem. The corruption in Russia is out of control and even if these guys were real cops they were probably corrupted, at least looking to get some money. As a Canadian in a small town like that I was probably now a target. So how did they find me? I think it's probably because of my landlady, it didn't look like coincidence, that same day she wanted me out. Another possibility was I had been walking around with my motorcycle gear attracting the attention of everyone, going to Moscow and back, which might have brought this. Or maybe it was just bad luck. In any case as they left I packed everything that was of value and left shortly afterward. By pure bad luck on the train ride to my friend's place that night one guy tried to steal my wallet in my jeans. What a day. The next morning the school had all my things picked up and moved me back to Moscow. I would live with her and her family for one month. And by the way, when I got back to Canada I was told two unknown men came to the school looking for me, nobody knew who they were.