This morning I woke up early in order to go down to the Russian Embassy and see about my visa. I scarfed down some swedish meatballs and pancakes with lindenberry jam at the free hotel breakfast and hailed a cab driven by a nice-looking man who reminded me of great-uncle or something and kept calling me ‘lady’, to Gjorwellsgatan street. We approached what the he told me was the embassy and I got out. And then I turned to face what may be the pinnacle example of ugly-ass Soviet architecture. All of the buildings were low slung with small vertical slits for windows. The material I’m pretty sure was all concrete. Now I’m not a carpenter or whatever but I can tell concrete when I see it and that building had nothing but cement and fly ash keeping it together. There were gates all around it and a couple of Ladas in the parking lot. I approached the gate, pressed the buzzer and was let into another area gated off. Once again I pressed a buzzer and was let into a kind of holding area, preceding an all white hexagonal room. It was kind of weird. Like I was in an Orson Welles movie or something.
I easily went through security and grabbed a ticket, watching as different numbers lit up on a board along with arrows dictating which door to enter when it was your turn. I didn’t have to wait long until number 18 lit up….my lucky number. Hmmm maybe I should consider changing that number because there was one slumbitch of a an embassy worker waiting for me in that closet. She asked me if I was stupid or if I really believed I could get into Russia with just a piece of paper that said “invitation to enter Russia.” She then proceeded to ask me how long I would permanently be here, here being where? Russia? Stockholm? Europe until she understood that I was a US citizen.
“Seven days,” she said, “Bring me back application, photo, passport and then maybe we give you visa in seven days. Good chance you get denied. You are an American in Sweden. Does not look good.” She said this while making minimal eye contact as if I could spy on her state secrets with just my eyeballs.
Well that’s great, I thought. How the hell am I supposed to get a passport sized photo here and even then they will probably just deny me? I left that weird, suffocating all-white hexagonal holding cell and made like a bat of hell for the center of Stockholm. As I started walking, however, my mood lifted and my dendrites started firing. (You see I do my best thinking when I’m walking….can be dangerous for fellow pedestrians)
I could just travel around Europe! I could have various friends meet me at various locations around Western Europe and slowly move my way back towards America. I had some money saved up and the money I borrowed from my dad needed to be paid back eventually anyway! I suddenly felt fearless and free! It was the first time in 22 years that I did not know exactly what I was going to do next or where I was going to be. I practically jogged back to the hotel, listening to Pheonix and daydreaming about traveling around Europe with my best friends just as we had always planned. I pictured us wearing berets and french kissing strange Parisians under the Eiffel tower and having Guinnesses with Italian men who we would compliment us all night long. And maybe, just maybe, going to Scotland for some Italian food.
This plan was so crazy that it might just work. I got back to the hotel. Skyped five different people, none of which answered, and proceeded to leave almost hallucinatory messages.
“ZOMG Kristina ok so like I don’t have a real visa or whatever did you read my blog? But like its ok because I’m free and you have to come. Seriously you have to come here. Just get on a plane and go. Get your ass to Copenhagen, Paris, Amsterdam I don’t care just tell me where to go and I will be there. We don’t need a plan. We can just gooooooo. Ok call me back or email me or whatever. We have BIG. PLANS.”
Clearly the cold war is not dead and is alive and kicking in the form of visa policies. As one of my friends put it, “Mother Russia doesn’t love you, you love Mother Russia.” Supposedly they are not even helpful to their own citizens. Just ask Anna Politkovskaya.
So this was my new plan…..having no plan. Too bad it had so many holes in it…