My Schedule — Questions Answered

My Schedule — Questions Answered

Page from a Letter to Kiev written July 28, 1977. Date in European format and number 7 has a bar across the middle.

Are You Saying You Are Busy?

The translated excerpt (below) from my letter dated July 28, 1977, attempted to answer the question how could I be busy, in spite of not having to stand in lines, not for groceries, not for anything. Note that the number 7 has “the bar across the middle” that the brochure

Entering New Culture (in English and Russian). Published by HIAS in 1976.

Entering a New Culture: A Handbook for Soviet Migrants to the United States of America” taught us not to use. And I didn’t, except in letters to Kiev because then seven would look like one.

This question from my old-country correspondents hinted of their doubts in the fairy-tale life depicted in my letters—they would not be easily hypnotized by fairy tales.

Several months in America, I was still wide-eyed and openmouthed, still pinching myself. So I understood the disbelief of the consumers of my reports—I was still them. Just think about it: my letters gushed about American abundance and in the same breath complained how busy I was. How do you square these facts? You couldn’t.

All I could do is hope that they trusted my diary-like letters because they trusted me or emigrated to see for themselves.

What Do You Do With Your Time?

I get up at 7 am, go to bed around 11 pm. A 16-hour day. 1 hour to feed everyone breakfast and get the girls to summer camp. On average, a total of 1,5 to 2 hours in the kitchen. A 2-hour weekly grocery trip plus half-hour follow-ups each other day; 2 hours a week for non-grocery shopping—including the time to get there, to choose from a mindboggling selection, decide what to buy, and search for lower prices.

Every 2 weeks, 2 hours for big laundry and 4 hours for ironing (washers and dryers are available in the basement of the building). 1 hour a week for small laundry. Practice typing 2 hours a day and the typing class 4 hours on Saturday. Clothes-mending – 2-3 hours a week. About an hour a day reading to the children. Another hour a day talking on the phone.

Also I take my parents to doctor appointments, welfare offices, friends – not on a regular basis but frequently and each trip takes most of the day. Once a week I clean for an old lady; as a bonus, her English is wonderful. This job pays $35 for 16 hours which almost covers the charges for gas, electricity, phone, and Dima’s train fare to work ($1/day). The old lady lives in a 10-minute walk.

In the evening but not every day I watch TV. It’s entertaining and helps with English. Then I read before bed. And, I write letters: to the Soviet Union, to other cities in the US, to Canada, and Israel. This takes half-hour to an hour a day. All the bills are paid by mail. On Sunday, we go to the Lake Michigan beach. Up to 2 hours in the evening: showers, supper, putting the girls to bed.

More Questions Than Answers

I’m not sure I’d accounted for the 16-hour days but it looks like I really was busy. Where would I have even found the time to stand in lines?

Line in a grocery store. (Photo from

And how had I ever found the time in my former life for anything besides standing in lines?

The rest of the letter answers more questions but that and the explanation of how I got it back is in the next post.

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