So despite having to get blood work done before I arrived as part of the visa application, the man at the foreign student office told me to go the hospital and have it done again. I guess they’re worried about what might happen in the airplane lavatory. After a lot of hand waving and pointing at various spots on my map, I headed to what I realized later was a maternity ward. With myriad entrances the first problem was figuring out which door to choose. One of the signs had a word that sounded like diabetes so I went where it pointed and got lucky. I was greeted by many young Asians talking quickly and holding cotton to their folded forearms. This was a good indication as the vast majority of my classmates will be Chinese, Taiwanese and Korean. A kind woman took my coat at the coat check and remarked at the Velcro loop on the inner neck lining chuckling as she slid it over a rusty hook. What the joke was I’ll never know. I saw lines forming so I got on one. After watching a woman pull out a wad of many thousands of dollars worth of rubbles and fork it over I figured I was probably in the wrong line and sure enough the woman at the counter motioned to the adjacent counter and asked a question over and over a little slower and louder each time. I began sweating and gave her my passport smiling pathetically at the line which had doubled behind me during her monologue. I realized I needed to use the bathroom too, adding even more urgency to the interaction. She nodded at the computer, passed me my passport, and pointed to the back of the other line. 45 minutes later and 800 rubles poorer I had gotten through both lines again and had a piece of paper and a general direction a guard had given me. That’s $32 American and I realized now why I had to do this redundant test. I saw other young people with similar slips of paper waiting outside one office so I sat with them. I saw that they all had plastic bags over their shoes and wondered where I should get mine. I went back to the kind lady at the coat check with the Velcro joke and pointed to my feet and said Gudyea or where? She pulled out two balled up pieces of plastic from under the counter and asked for 5 rubles which I gave her. Back in the waiting area all the young people had left so I went into the office. The woman shook her head and spoke curtly, but took pity on me when I told her I didn’t speak Russian very well. I realized later that this was during her break. She took my blood and I sat back down at which point my bladder announced it was time to find a toilet. With no Mcdonald’s in this hospital I wasn’t sure what to do. There was one door with a “W” on it. It had to be water closet and not women, but only women were going in and out. I looked down the halls and realized there were no men. In fact most of the women were well into their third trimesters. Desperate to relieve myself but equally desperate not to be thrown out for being a pervert I saw a familiar woman. It was the coat checker. I pointed to the room and at me and asked “mushina?” man? She shrugged and said “canueshna nyet?” Thanks to Pimsler this one I knew. “Why not?” So waiting to see women leave and after peeking into a surprisingly clean empty room I ventured past the “W”. There were two stalls and two sinks. The stalls had full doors so I figured this was coed after all.
I went into one stall, peeled off my long johns and stuffed them into my backpack. When I came out I heard someone in the other stall. As I was washing my hands a wman in her 40s or 50s opened the stall door and looked at me. Her face went from white to red and the hands started waving and so many consonants flew from her mouth and at such speed I was speechless. Finally I gave her my usual I’m sorry I’m a stupid American speech and she frowned and gave a dimissive humph. Ah well one day I’ll be able to string all those consonants together too.