Since we didn’t manage to get the last paper for the trip during our last trip to Russian Council, early morning today I started off for another attempt.
I left as early as I could – about 7:30 in the morning. That was good timing as I managed to avoid all morning traffic, both in Limassol and Nicosia. At 8:30 I parked my car near the Russian Embassy. There were already quite a few people waiting.
Classy Russian people. Not one smile. All look very stressed and somewhat evil. I know that they woke up early and probably travelled as far as 100 kilometers, and that they would very much rather be somewhere else. But, c’mon. It was 8:30 in the morning and they were all grumpy already. I doubt that it was this specific day. People like these are always grumpy.
Anyway, I asked who was the last in queue, and was pointed to a white list of paper by the closed door. That’s another piece of Soviet Union for you. For some reason, Soviet Union people are unable to hold a queue. So, to ensure that things are somewhat fair, they write down their names on the list. I wrote mine too. I was number 10.
Number 10 is both good and bad. The good thing is that I was almost guaranteed to be served today. The bad thing is that I know that only the first 15 people are guaranteed. So I was closer to the end of the queue, than to the beginning.
So we waited until 9:00am, when the Council door opened and a couple of clerks emerged. They reminded everyone the “first 15 are guaranteed” rule. Then they said that there are two queues – one for visas and one for everything else. And that the “first 15” rule is applied only to the everything else queue. Then they gave away 15 tickets. Somehow, in all this noise and confusion and ended up with ticket number 8. A couple of places up the food chain. Good.
I hate waiting. Waiting is boring. So I try to use every chance to “unbore” the waiting. Luckily, this is very easy when so many people are around. Episodes are just waiting to be written down. Here’s one, for example.
Somehow it happens that every guard by the door of the Council that I’ve seen (and I’ve seen about four of five of them), never speaks or understands neigther Greek or English. Considering the fact that the Council is in the foreign country and has to work with foreigners I find it very stupid of them.
Anyway, this guard makes sure that only people with lucky tickets are entering the building, and that they do so in strict order. He also answers some basic questions, in order to save time for the clerks inside. Now, imagine this – a lady comes, who speaks only Greek and literraly just a couple of works in English. The guard only knows a couple of words in English. And the funny fact is that these two people understand each other perfectly. Here’s their dialogue.
Guard: What? (when the lady tries to come in)
Guard: What passport?
Lady: Passport. Me. (waves some piece of green paper, which is some sort of receipt)
Guard: What passport?
Lady: How many times passport?
Guard: Passport? Times?
Lady: Times! How many times passport?
Guard: Ten. Come ten.
Lady: Thanks (leaves)
Apparently, the lady submitted her passport with other papers for Russian visa. She came to pick it up and was wondering what’s the best time to come. The guard told her that it will be ready by 10 o’clock. She understood him, as I saw her coming back at said time.
While inside, waiting for the clerk to stamp and sign my papers I saw a couple of other episodes, which are worth noting.
The Council inside is very small. There are only three clerks and three windows to talk to them. I was standing in the middle. To my right was the Visa window. There was an old woman explaining that she is going on a boat trip around Europe and that the ship will be visiting Saint Petersburg for one night and blah blah blah. There were some beaurocratic complications, but she was very patient. She even made a suggestion to the Councilor how to simplify things around. She said exactly this: “If you’d place application forms outside, we’d use half the time in here. People aren’t doing anything outside anyway, so they could be filling in the forms, making your job easier”. The Councilor said something like “We’ll think about it”. He wasn’t very concerned. But at least there was a chance that this suggestion might get implemented. Until she ruined it. She added: “Application forms, they are for everybody. There’s nothing secret or anything. Standing inside and filling them in silly.”. And although she was talking very politely, the Councilor didn’t like it. He made a very serious face, said “This is not silly. This is Council work!”, and slammed the door leaving the room. TADA! Screwed.
The next Cypriot guy at the Visa window (yes, I was waiting for a long time) was very self-confident. Obviously, it wasn’t his first time here. He knew exactly what and how he was doing. He probably worked for one of the tourist agents, who have to get visas often. He submitted all the papers for a few people and was waiting to get the green receipt looking pieces of paper, which are needed to get the papers back. The woman behind the glass was checking everything in a hurry. She felt the confidence of the guy, or so it seemed. After she was done, she took the green paper and offered to the guy. He responded with “Write me the names”. He meant that he wanted the names of those peopel whose papers he submitted to be written down. He probably had quite a collection of this green papers. The woman in the window got confused. Not even confused, but shocked and disbalanced. She had the green piece of paper in one hand, a pen in the other, and a very puzzled look on her face. The guy repeated “Names. Write”. And she responds with “… Anna…”. I almost fell laughing. The guy tried to remain serious, but not for long. He only added “Their names, not yours…” before bursting into laughter too.
Anyway, I tried to have as much fun as I could in the place like that, and I got it all. Around 11:30 I drove off back to Limassol, leaving the ugly beaurocracy and grumpy people behind. Hopefully for long.