23 November 2009

University of Nebraska

25 Jun 2009. Second floor: Textbooks. Okay, the usual.
Ground floor: Healthy selection of basic printed gifts, cups, shirts, pens, caps and other hatware. Impressive range of designs
Basement: SWEET MERCY! WAVES OF LOGO EFFLUVIA! This is where the Nebraska lifers shop. Furniture, jewelry, formal wear (human and canine), golf clubs, appliances, tents, Manchester, ping pong and billiards tables, radial tires, yacht riggings. Tattoo parlor? Unconfirmed.

*** The following is a diary excerpt from Pydaras Sabakalova, Russian exchange student at The University of Nebraska, Lincoln. ***

5:15 AM. Alarm goes off. 'Somebody's watching me' song from Geico commercial on my iPod dock clock plays as usual. I shower then dress in my only collared shirt, the dirty Hawaiian shirt from work. I closed the restaurant last night and was too tired to do laundry.

5:37. Bike to Hilary Swank Elementary School. I pack my tickets and some books and my lunch. It is early but I am happy to give back to the country that is providing my education.

6:01. I arrive in the school cafeteria. Five elderly Americans tell me I am late. Their names are Earl, Marlene, Jim, Swinton, and Patty.

6:06. Earl tells the voting procedures and regulations to everyone. He says my shirt is "borderline" and I cannot wear my shoes. I have to take off my black tennis shoes and wear his extra shoes. They are bowling shoes and they are too big.

6:35. Earl teaches me how to operate the electronic machines. They are small desks with very thin metal legs and walls. My job is to make sure people do not break them by accident. It seems like a very easy job to do for $100.

7:00. The polls open. There are many people in line. This is a very patriotic day I feel! Everyone has their say in improving the country.

7:01. My first voter! It is a tall man with a big beard wearing overalls. He works out the electronic machine on his own without any problems. This is good. It was hard to understand his talking through the big beard.

9:59. Earl asks me to take a break. I see that 144 people have voted on my machine but I am not tired at all. I am having fun greeting all the people. I wander the halls for a while and sit for the rest of my break. Marlene asks how I can be an election officer if I am not an American citizen. I think she is meaning to say that someone else should be making the $100 instead of me, but those are not the words she uses. $100 is more than I make in one day so I am still excited.

10:15. Resume work at the electronic voting machine. A small metal clip holding one of the machine walls broke while I was gone. I ask Patty what happened because she was watching the machines for me. She says she does not know.

12:30 PM. Lunch break. I am hungry so I am glad I brought extra borscht. I cannot find it so I ask if someone had seen my borscht or wheat thins. Jim says he thought the table was group food. He ate half of the box of wheat thins. Then he ate the other half. He was fat so he should not eat other people's food. But nobody ate my borscht. I asked again where was it? Earl said all he saw was leftover beets that the cleaning person forgot to throw away. I told him they were mine. He asked if I was sure because they were cold and starting to smell and he put them in the trash. I started to say that in Russia it is supposed to be cold but Marlene called Earl over with a voter problem before I could explain. Swinton felt bad I had no food. He offered me his kelp dogs. I had never seen black hot dogs made of plants but I was very hungry. Swinton was nice but I do not want to eat kelp dogs again. I spend the rest of lunch looking at my Russian-English dictionary for romantic words.

1:14. I return to the voting machine. Someone had written all over the computer screen. I think they were trying to vote by writing with a pen on the computer. I ask Patty what happened. She says she does not know. I still am hungry and have a bad taste in my mouth but it is okay because I only have four hours and 45 minutes left.

3:15. Earl gives me another break. I drink lots of water from the water fountain. I walk outside. There are small girls in uniforms selling lemon cookies to raise money for a trip to Texas. I would like to help them get to Texas and eat lemon cookies but I did not bring any money with me. All I brought was my tickets to 1776. It is a musical about the starting of America. I want to surprise Sarah Anne with them after the polls close.

3:31. I return from my break. Earl looks at me weird but does not say anything. A leg on the voting machine is bent. I ask Patty what happened. She says she does not know. I think that Patty might not know anything.

6:10. The last voter leaves. The polls close at 6:00 but the voters still in line at 6:00 are allowed to vote. Earl types on the voting machine and a long paper list of voting numbers prints out. He helps me put away the voting machine. The bent leg is hard to put back in the box. He asks what did I do to the machines. I said I don't know and to not ask Patty because she also does not know.

6:37. We are all still in the cafeteria. I ask are we allowed to go? Earl says no and I ask when. He says when he is done with the papers we all have to sign to be a witness or else we do not get our $100. He says Nebraska elections take more work because the unicameral legislature is more complicated. I ask how can the unicameral be more complicated than the bicameral. He asked if I read the booklet for election officers in the mail. I said I did not get anything in the mail. I start to worry because Sarah Anne is done at work at the Love Library at 7:00 and the musical starts at 7:30. I like Sarah Anne because she is a very pretty American girl like Russians see in movies and magazines.

6:58. We are still in the cafeteria. Everyone is sitting around. They are very patient or very boring, I cannot tell. I ask to borrow a cell phone but nobody has one except for Earl and he says it is only for election business. I tell a lie that I need to call a friend to tell him that the polls are closed and that he should not come to vote now. Marlene says my friend is ignorant. I go to the corner of the room and call the Love Library. Sarah Anne answers "Love Library" like she is ordering me to love the library. I say "No, love Sarah Anne". She laughs. I tell her to wait at the Love Library until I get there please. She says okay. I like Sarah Anne also because she says my name in a very nice way that makes me forget it is a bad name in Russia.

7:22. Earl finishes his work and we all sign the papers to be a witness. Everyone still stands around but I leave fast. I am very very hungry but I need to go meet Sarah Anne. It is more important.

7:28. I run into the Love Library. I find Sarah Anne talking to a friend at the front desk. She looks at me and smiles and says "Pydaras!" that makes me forget I am hungry, late, and angry. Then I see the clock behind her that says 7:29. I tell her we have to go or we will be late for the musical. I show her the tickets. She says that is sweet but we will never make it in time. She says we should go sit in the lobby instead and eat popcorn and hot dogs until the intermission and we can see the second act. When she says hot dogs it reminds me of the kelp dogs. I start talking about my bad time. This makes the walk go very quickly and we are already at the theater. I try to remember some of the words from my dictionary and hope I get it right when I say to Sarah Anne "You redeem my day."

Oh, Nebraska bookstore, you redeem my coupon. <3

No comments: