Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Paying for language school

Today I needed to pay for the next couple of months of language school. "Oh, ok," you say, "so you went into the school and paid by credit card", at which point I fall off my chair and roll around on the floor laughing. Hellllooooo?! [knocks on computer screen]. We are talking about a country where I need to get a form filled out and signed in order to take a suitcase out my apartment building. Let me explain to you the ways of paying for language school.

Task 1: Find the director of the school
You might think this would be easy, that he would be in his office, between the hours of, oh, say, ten and three in the afternoon, but in thinking this way you would be completely wrong. In fact, on any particular day, he might not come in at all, or he might spend the entire day in the cafeteria. When you have found him, you tell him that you want to extend your stay in Russia, and then he tells you approximately how much this is going to cost you in roubles.

Task 2: Collect the money
Since almost everything is done in cash here, you now need to assemble $1,500, using cash machines. This will almost certainly take up a couple of days, unless you feel like risking your debit card being stopped by the bank and causing you the mother of all hassles.

Task 3: Get first lot of forms
Now you have so much cash you can't close your wallet, go and find the director again. At this point he will then fill out and give you your first two forms and two copies of your contract, which you will need when you try to extend your stay in the общежитие (this is a whole other story).

Task 4: Swap one form for another
Take one of the forms, go downstairs to a different office, and swap it there for another form.

Task 5: Go to bank
Take both forms, and then take a tram for 20 minutes and find the bank. There is only one bank you can use, so don't bother trying anywhere else. When you get there, you will be required to stand in a queue for at least half and hour, at which point the lady behind the counter (it always is a lady) will take both of your forms, and use the information on them to fill out two more forms. She will also stamp your existing forms. She will then give you all four forms back, and you will need to stand in another queue in order to give someone else your massive wads of cash. This person may well then tell you that all the computers in the bank are currently broken so they can't take your money, at which point you must resist the urge to tear your hair out. Eventually they will start working again, at which point she will take the two forms the first lady gave you, stamp them, tear bits off, staple receipts to them, and give them back to you.

Task 6: Back to the director
Go back to the school, taking with you the four forms you have collected, and show them to the director. He will take two of the forms back, photocopy them, and give you the photocopies. He will then update your student card. Then take your two remaining forms to another room and give them to the people there, along with two passport photos of yourself, a copy of your contract, and your passport. They will in turn give you a piece of paper that you can show the police if they stop you, explaining that they [the school] have your passport.

Task 7: Wait ten days
After ten days, go back to the final room and collect your passport and a photocopy of your new visa indicating that you are going to be a student for another two months. Congratulations! Now you must go back to the общежитие and do the same thing there.

Total number of forms/ miscellaneous pieces of paper: 6. Affect on blood pressure: terrible. As to why this is all necessary, I have no idea. There must be a small mountain of paperwork on me scattered around Moscow, or there would be, if I wasn't convinced that as soon as I have left the room they just tip it all in the bin. But, as one librarian said, after my friend exploded on hearing how many forms she would need to fill out to get a library card, "bureaucracy makes life interesting."

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