Friday, June 01, 2007

To the Old Arbat

9:45 p.m. May 31 (Thursday)

It's the end of another day. I just came back from a walk to the Old Arbat district where there's a street market. An Indian delegate discovered it. She said it's the place where one can buy souvenirs to bring home. I asked the hotel reception for a map and where to find it. It's supposed to be 10 minutes to 15 minutes by taxi from the hotel. I said maybe I could walk to the place. She warned me to be careful in crossing the streets, especially the highway. I was supposed to just walk along the Moscow River, upstream to downtown.

I invited my friend Heru from Indonesia if he was interested in an adventure. He said he was game. So we started our leisurely walk past 7 p.m. and found the place after crossing a highway, an underground pass and coming out in front of a very tall building with a hammer and sickle on top. It's a beautiful building but I don't what it's called. We went around it and found the place. It took us about 45 minutes.

The Old Arbat, whatever it means, is a street market, a pedestrian market, the Indian delegate said.

We found those dolls that people in the Philippines wanted me to buy. I bought 20 of the smallest one. It cost 60 rubbles each. That's more than $2 dollars each with the exchange rate at the hotel at $1 to 25 rubbles. (So guys, it's expensive, kaya huwag kayong manglait.) I also bought five shirts for 200 rubbles each ($4). Heru and I took photos and had dinner at a MacDonalds branch. It's the only place we could afford. I spent 120 rubbles for a double cheeseburger, a large Coke and a small french fries.

We went back our way via the riverbank and arrive at the hotel after an hour of leisurely walk. We agreed that it was worth all the sweat and the pain on our legs. Heru, however, failed to buy a watch that turns counter-clockwise. When I reviewed the photos I took I discovered that there was one being sold at one of the stalls. I then just soaked myself in the bathtub for a hot bath while smoking and reading the Moscow Times. I'll be leaving Russia for Norway on Saturday, so tomorrow will be my last day here. It was not a bad week after all. I arrived on Sunday, got drunk on Monday evening, watch dancing girls at a Russian village on Tuesday, had a lonesome adventure at the Kremlin on Wednesday, a long walk to a street market on Thursday, and hopefully visit a Russian nightclub on Friday just for the heck of it.

At the Congress today, we spent the whole morning on discussion about the elections, amendments to the rules of the elections, approval of resolutions, voting on the proposals, amendments and the works. The nominees for officers, executive committee and reserve advisers were give two minutes each to speak. Like politicians, the journalist-candidates took turn speaking about their achievements and making promises on the things that they would do if elected. I spoke for less than a minute.

I removed my coat, revealing my black t-shirt with the "Stop Killing Journalists" emblazoned on it, ran to the podium, with delegates from Asia tailing me with their cameras, introduced my name, and said: "I'm from the Philippines, supposedly where there is press freedom and where media is the freest in Southeast Asia, unless of course if Cambodia, Thailand and Indonesia would object." It made some people in the audience chuckle and smile. "I just want to thank the IFJ for its support in our struggle for press freedom in the Philippines and all over Southeast Asia. I hope you will continue supporting us." My colleagues from the region applauded and the others followed. I hope I did it. I don't want to fail the people from the region who wanted us in Southeast Asia represented in the world body.

The elections for the officer were held in the afternoon. Elections of members of the executive committee and the reserve advisers will be done tomorrow. The Philippines have four votes, meaning I can vote four times. I can give a candidate four votes or give 64 candidates for the Execom one vote each. Of course I will vote wisely - for our candidates in the region and for candidates from the countries that really worked hard to help the Philippines and the IFJ.

So good luck to all of us tomorrow and may the fight for press freedom by the IFJ will continue.

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