I don't know if I can quite describe the russian visa experience. Basically you have to fill out 2 forms, 3 if you're a guy, and tell them everything about your life and career and that of your family, and hope that they won't think you're hiding information about russian relatives, shady military experience, or explosives training. I almost think it's for intimidation sake, cause it had both L. and I freaked out a bit thinking we were gonna be denied a visa when neither of us have anything at all in our past, er at least that I know of for L.
Ok, so you fill these forms out in the little box shaped office with square red chairs sitting around the table, very basic. At the front behind a thick glass is a 40ish Russian guy with glasses who sits in a pretty empty little office, except for a really old faded green typewriter. He sits at his desk and methodically places papers together making extra sure the corners line up exactly before he staples them or places a paperclip just so. He doesn't smile or frown, but just looks very intent on having everything just right, in the manner of obsessive compulsive disorder, or perhaps borderline autism. So we submitted our forms through the glass and he looked up and motioned with a raised finger that we were to wait. Ok. So we waited, and waited, while watching him do his little paper lining up and stapling thing. Then he placed those papers behind him in a perfect line, all corners matched up, and began the tedious process of checking us out. I have never seen someone look through my passport so thoroughly before. He examined every stamp and then suspiciously asked me how to pronounce my last name and if I had any relatives in Russia. Those were the only questions. He doesn't make any expression throughout the whole process. Then he lines up the papers again, says 'wait', and takes our visa invitations and methodically opens and closes the door in his little office, and then opens and closes the door to the waiting room. He tells us to 'sit' and opens and closes the door to go outside. He comes in about 5 minutes later, after calling russia or something, and does the whole door opening/closing thing again in OCD manner, and then takes the little day calendar, (we've seen this part before) and stares really hard at it while he does some strange counting calculation with his fingers counting off days or something. He takes out some archaic looking little book, makes some bizarre calcuation, and then announces that it will be $38. Don't know how he came up with that price, but ok, sounds alright. The whole time I was in that office, I just kept wondering how Russia and their system became the model system for so many other pro-communist countries in the world? So much tediousness and papers and procedures for something that seems so relatively easy in other places. How did people look at that and think, ah, now that's the way to live?
On picking up my visa and seeing how perfectly lined up the sticker was on the page, it occurred to me that perhaps this is the only duty this guy has at the embassy- they're only open 6 hours a week for visas afterall. Maybe he just really takes pride in what he does and wants to make sure it's all done right, hmm.