Armed with a whistle and carrying close to 20,000 rubles under her coat, Irina Tereshina, 42, heads out with a partner to deliver pensions for the Russian federal post office. Jobs like Tereshina's are virtually the only legitimate positions left at the post office f and pensions almost the only thing Russians still trust their mail service to deliver. Postal service has become a never-ending disappointment in post-Soviet Russia. Mailboxes are receptacles for newspapers, phone bills and junk mail f but rarely anything of value. An intense passion could fade away by the time a teary-eyed girl gets her long-awaited love letter. A distant family could see the ruble plunge to a tenth of its value waiting for the cash their young working son has sent from the city. Andthe package of sweaters and socks that a grandmother spent months lovingly knitting is unlikely to ever reach its intended destination. ""The Russian post office doesn't need to worry anymore about good service, and the customers don't care.
Deportations, interrogations, body cavity searches ... these are a few of my favorite things (sing this part). But being deported as a joke - well, that's something I'd never expected. Recently, The Moscow Times published a letter from a Western businessman who wrote that his visiting relatives had been subjected, for no clear reason, to a quite comprehensive body cavity search by officials at the Sheremetyevo II airport customs area. After being surprised with vaginal and anal searches, the relatives, he said, were released, albeit feeling a bit violated. I missed out on this opportunity of a lifetime - the border patrol had staged a different game for me. After spending a wonderfully relaxing 10-day vacation in a place where the strip malls and fat people can be excused in light of the healthy sunshine and clean air, I was forced to be reconciled with the fact that returning to Russia, to my job and my belongings, was imminent. But imminent it was not.