In Russia, the State Registers You!

So today was my first day at the Academy. (Remember when I say ‘today’ it usually means yesterday, because I lived through the events described, came back home and wrote my diary entries and only next day, blog the toned down version).

Had I remembered my first day at the kindergarten, I would have described this morning as such. But I don’t, but this morning reminded me of a stereotypical ‘mother-takes-kid-to-school’ schtick: my host mother took me to the Metro all the way to the Academy. It took 45 minutes, and the metro was pretty crowded, so it was an unpleasant 45 minutes standing up.

A program administrator, a girl named Anastasia, met us there and from that point on, it was the same old, same old orientation stuff. The program director there made some plug about Moscow program, used some scare tactics on us, and introduced us to some student assistants there. The entire thing was so familiar because only this summer, I was doing the almost same stuff to a bunch of preppy highschoolers.

Then, Anastasia made copies of our passports to take them to the Ministry of Interior, where they apparently keep tags on every foreigner. If that foreigner leaves or enters the country without registering or unregistering, the party which invited him (in my case, the Academy) gets charged over $10,000 (in Russian equivalent).

The director gave us a document which says in Cyrillic that I am a foreigner legally invited by a Russian government agency. So in movies when the Russian military police ask for someone’s papers, they actually mean it.  Apparently, this was instituted to root out (or at least get some bribe from) illegal immigrants.

Illegal immigrants? Yes, it was my ‘Ask If’ moment of the day, but a lot of Central Asians do immigrate into Russia. For them, it is a tough choice between Russia and China.


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