Thursday, April 18, 2013

The Russians Are Coming

I spent yesterday totally immersed in child molestation cases and the CPS/criminal case that came out of them. It sucked. Fortunately, I got to end the day on a lighter note, presenting to a group of 3rd-4th graders at a local public school. I go to three public schools once a month, and present on different law topics. Generally, I avoid my area of law since (a) its boring to anyone outside it and (b) these ARE kids, and at least some of them are likely in the system, and they get enough of that in their home life, thankyouverymuch. So one month was animal law, then it was sports law, and then movie law, and this week, it’s laws in and about national parks.
For the most part, it’s about creating national parks, and what you can do in them, and federal law, blah blah blah. But I have a section on weird state laws that apply in the national parks. Did you know that in Indiana, it’s illegal to catch a fish with your bare hands without a permit? Alrighty then. Also, in Alaska, it’s illegal to push a live moose out of a moving airplane. I’m glad someone told me, I might have accidentally done that. In Arizona, cutting down a cactus can be punishable by 25 years in prison. I’m sure some of these edge closer to urban legend line, though I did look them up, and there are lots of exceptions, and’s, and or’s, but there you have it. NO CACTUS FOR YOU.
Also very cool about my job today was meeting with a delegation from the Russian equivalent of the department of child services. Yeah, that’s right. The Russians came to my office, and I got to tell them about our program and how the Indiana DCS is set up and the non profits that back it up. I got to learn about their system as well. We were talking for two hours, and it was really great. It was awesome. I can’t even tell you how TOTALLY FREAKING COOL it was.
They were amazed at two things about our system—(1) the fragmentation, both between the states and within the states and (2) the volunteers. From what they were telling me, volunteerism is not really a concept that has caught on in Russia, and instead, there are government agencies that employ massive amounts of people to take care of things that volunteer agencies take care of here. They were amazed that my nonprofit and DCS do similar work—apparently, there are NO nonprofits in Russia that overlap with what the government does. They were in turn baffled by our system—there’s us, on the civil end of things, and then there’s CPS, and there’s DCS, and there’s the foster care system, and there’s the residential treatment facilities, and so on. All these systems, although they work together, are separate. Not so in Russia—it’s all one massive department.
I’ve never taken a single Russian language class. My language was (is) French. I have always known that I had a gift for language, and to this day, I kick myself for not doing that in college instead of English/Biology/Psychology. I lived in Finland for summer, and by the time I left, I could get by. I spent three weeks in Germany, and in that time, I learned enough that I could get myself unlost and find the bathroom or whatever. Even as I was sitting there, listen to them and the translator, I quickly got “yes”, “no”, “child”, “government”, “money”, and “thank you”, as well as a few others. I miss languages. I miss having time to learn and read them, and I miss being able to flip on the TV or radio in another language and just listen. I would love to go audit a class at one of the local colleges in another language, but I barely have time for a ten minute workout right now.
Well. Maybe someday. Until then--Do svidaniya!


CM said...

A Chinese anthropologist came to Watertown a year or two ago, and she interviewed various people who were active in town including me and my husband, and then gave a talk about the differences between what she had learned about our town and her experiences in China. I was also surprised to learn that in China, volunteerism was pretty much unheard of, there were hardly any NGOs except for international organizations mainly related to health, and the government runs everything. Individuals starting their own organizations was a totally foreign concept. She thought it was funny how we're always "fundraising."

Grace said...

Yeah, apparently the Russian word for fundraising is...fundraising. Go figure.