Hello, my dear John,
How are you doing today, my love? I woke up thinking of you and imagined how I was making breakfast for you. Then we sat on our porch together, ate croissants and drank your favorite coffee-I think, you mentioned it was Southern pecan. Then you read your newspaper as I poured another cup for you. I sat down and stared into your eyes and thought how handsome and nice of a man you are.
Yesterday, a friend of mine came over to visit me. She told me she's going to take a 9-month massage course a few days from now. I was a bit envious because I just love giving massages. But when she said how much the lessons cost, I lost my heart. I don't have $500 to pay for it, unfortunately. Oh well, it isn't really a problem because I have you, my dear John. And this is the most important thing for me!
Today I went to the banks of our river Neva and sat on a bench to read a book. This is my favorite entertainment. I hate shopping and spending money for dumb things like the latest fashions, as my girlfriends do. I think money has to be spent for more important things. So, I was sitting there, trying to read my book but I couldn't concentrate. I watched the water flow by and my thoughts went back to you. This time I imagined I was giving you a massage and how pleased and relaxed you were in my hands. I'd love to spoil you, honey. It's too bad those massage courses cost so much. I was even thinking about saving some money so that in a year or so, I can learn to massage like my friend. I wish I knew how to do it professionally, so that I'd give one to you every day, when you come home from work tired. I know we've talked about it a couple times, but you don't even know how much I want to get married and be with you forever. I miss you so much!
You know, in my whole life I didn't love anyone as much as I love you. I didn't know what real love was until I met you. Your kindness and attentiveness awoke a volcano of feelings in my soul. My heart is dying in its flaming lava!
Have a nice coming week. I'm sending you hugs and kisses. Tell me how you spent your weekend.
P.S. Can't wait to finally meet you in person and cuddle together.
John fell back in his deep leather chair as he read the latest email. He stared at his computer monitor for a couple minutes, deep in thought. Yana-she's so beautiful, young and innocent. She hasn't ever asked me for any money within the three months that we've corresponded. Never even mentioned money. And now.... John scrolled back up and re-read the letter.
But she didn't ask for any money. All she said was that she wished she could take a course. John rubbed his forehead and recalled how he had read on an anti-scammer website that as soon as money is mentioned, you'd better be suspicious. But she really didn't ask for money. No, she never did-just told about how she spent her day.
John opened Yana's photo from a folder stored in his computer. He delicately touched her face on the screen with his fingers. He remembered every detail of her appearance because he'd seen her in his dreams many times.
No, of course she can't be a scammer! She's an angel, so pure and unspoiled. She's never lied to me. She never gave me a single reason to be suspicious about her. She's a simple girl who works with kids in a daycare. It's not her fault that her salary is so small and she can't afford to pay for the course. My poor girl! A bitter lump formed in John's throat as he again stared at the photo of the pretty blonde with huge, childish green eyes. He closed his eyes tightly and imagined her warm hands gently kneading his shoulders and neck.
I've got to help her. Besides, she could give me a massage every day when we get married. I'll propose to her soon. She's the one I need as a wife.
John jumped out of his chair, grabbed his wallet from his dresser and headed in the direction of the nearest supermarket where there was a Western Union. He decided to send the full amount for the massage course plus a little extra so she could buy something nice for herself. Seven hundred dollars will surely make her day. John stepped harder on the gas and roared down the Interstate.
When he came home an hour later, he emailed Yana about the money he had just wired to her. He included a special code for the money pick-up.
* * *
The next day, thousands of miles to the east, in the picturesque Russian city of St. Petersburg, a young woman bounded up to the window of the local Western Union bank. She was tall and stunningly attractive. Her blond hair fell almost to her waist. In her hands she held a Hermes handbag and Chanel sunglasses.
"Good morning," the girl said as she handed the clerk a form for the money pickup that she had filled out a minute earlier.
The young man behind the glass smiled. He didn't need to ask for her ID.
"Good morning, Yana. You're not usually here until early afternoon, but what a pleasure to start my day with you as my first customer."
"Oh, are you keeping track?"
"Well, not really...." The man's cheeks began to turn pink. "...but I guess that means you're taking off again today."
Yana gave him a broad smile. "Yes, another business trip to the Canary Islands. That means you'll get your tip a few hours earlier."
The young man handed her seven hundred dollars. Yana placed her usual ten-dollar tip onto the counter and said good-bye. The clerk watched her leave and quickly put the bill in his pocket. No customer ever gave him a tip, but this one did every time she came.
Yana left the bank and at the corner of the next intersection she came upon a clothing boutique with all the latest fashions advertised in its window. She stopped. Then she spun around. Yana slid her sunglasses down her nose and glanced over the lenses into the display case. These will match my blue handbag. She waltzed in and bought a pair of two-hundred-dollar summer shoes.
After she left the shop, she strolled down the sidewalk to the beauty salon. A man repairing a crack in the sidewalk quickly looked up. He dropped his chisel and his eyes followed her as she passed by. A middle-aged woman with dyed burgundy hair and eyebrows waiting for a tram scowled at her with envy. Yana lifted her chin as she paraded by her and laughed out loud. Life was good for her-thanks to imbeciles like John.
"...But don't think it's easy. My fingers sometimes get real sore and they hurt for days."
"From typing all those letters."
"But you said before that you use copies and drafts. Isn't that right?"
"Aha! You're learning quickly. Good!" Yana smiled.
"I'm trying to do my best." Larissa turned to Yana and grinned back.
"Well, I do have templates but I respond to each letter separately. I learned to answer all the important questions. I don't answer all questions due to lack of time, of course. But you must answer all the significant ones. Those lousy and unprofessional scammers send copies of the same letter to everyone. That's why they don't earn much." Yana gave a scornful gaze across the open sea.
"You mean you read all the letters and respond to them individually?"
"You're really catching on, my dear." Yana winked at Larissa. "Yes, I read them all. But I don't read everything. I run my eyes through the letter and look for questions. If I feel it's an important one, I answer it. Then I insert the answer into my template response. For example, I may write how I went to a movie theater with a girlfriend. Then I'd add my answers to their questions at the end. I don't write long letters. I write short, two or three paragraph messages. But I write them often. And my letters are always personal, tender, and gentle. I also ask many questions. Like I said, people love it when you show interest in them."
"You're right." Larissa slowly nodded. "You're dead on."
"You know, those guys lack attention and affection." Yana continued as if she was a professor giving a scripted lecture. "This is what I give them. I listen to their complaints and cries. I pacify them. I give them hope and support. They lick it all up like a starving cat. Then they show me how grateful they are for my kind words. They repay me with flowers, gifts, and money. You know why? Because for them, my sincere attention and support is more valuable than money."
"It seems like it's the hardest part of your job," Larissa noticed.
"Yes, it is hard. But I like it. I really believe I help people. I give them what they need and what no one gives them. They're lonely but I create an illusion that they are not. I don't send them meaningless and impersonal copies of the same letter without answering their questions. I show my genuine interest in them. I love them all. I give them what they need and crave for. They want joy and pleasure-and so I give them joy and pleasure. I give them excitement, love, and feelings. They wake up from apathy, from the doldrums of life, and from the grayness of their everyday routine. They fall in love. I make them forget their problems. I listen to them. I do the job of a psychotherapist. A job like that should be paid well. And they do pay me well."
"That's a very interesting approach," Larissa said with astonishment. "I'd never think this was possible."
"It's exactly what you need to do. Because only then you won't be accused of being a scammer. They will love you and will be generous to you. They will want to spoil you. And that's exactly what we need, isn't it?"
"But isn't it cruel to make them fall in love with you. It's all a deception anyway." Larissa's struggled to justify the endeavor she was about to throw herself into. She knew her sense of right and wrong would have a hard time wrestling against her craving for money.
"C'est la vie. Such is life, as the French say." Yana's words were sharper than ever. "There are those who give and those who receive. Make your decision and choose one or the other."
"I've already made my mind up." Sparks of rage spat from Larissa's eyes. "I'm going to be the one who takes!" She thought about her former husband who had failed her and left her with a baby son. He hadn't given her a penny of support for all the years that she lived alone. Her anger was also towards the government that turned decent people into beggars and at the men who used her for their own pleasure and then would leave her. Not until now did she sense there was a way to dissipate those emotions and channel them in a manner by which she could get back at men, but also profit from it as well.
"You shouldn't be angry. You need to love those you're going to work with. Otherwise, you're going to have a hard time." Yana knew all the feelings that Larissa had just expressed on her face. She knew what Larissa thought at the very moment since Yana had experienced many of them herself.
"But I can't fall in love with all of them," Larissa said with an air of protest in her voice.
"You don't have to fall in love at all." Yana suddenly became the patient schoolteacher. All you need is to love those people. Those are two different things. You have to be gentle and attentive with your men. Because your income depends directly on this. Just imagine you're a psychologist and they're your clients."
Bob forehead wrinkled and he tightened his lips. Bob didn't agree with Patrick that it was wrong for him to want a beautiful young wife who would work on his farm. Even though he wanted a farm hand, that wasn't the only reason for him to desire a foreign wife. He dreamed of the day when he could make his friends envious by bringing home an attractive and youthful wife. He still resented his former wife because of the scars she had left in his life. A young bride would soothe the pain.
Another matter that propelled Bob to go to Eastern Europe was the rumor that Slavic women were modest and simple. That was a real treasure for a farmer like him. He had been thinking about that for a long time and that's why he decided to pay several thousand dollars to go on the dating tour to the Ukraine and to Russia.
"Listen, guys, I know it would be a dream come true if a forty-six year old man found a wife twenty years younger than him." Bob forced himself to overcome his desire to lash back at Patrick. "But don't you think it'd be too expensive to bring a foreign wife to the States? The airfare alone costs so much."
"What are you getting at?" Patrick folded his arms and crossed one leg over the other.
"I mean, is it wrong to expect them to somehow pay back the several hundred dollars for bringing them here?"
"You're not serious about them costing only a few hundred bucks, are you?" George bent down and pulled his suitcase out from under his bunk. I have some notes here somewhere..." He grabbed a notebook from a side pocket. Then he turned around and gave Bob a look as if Bob better sit back and listen.
"What do you have there?" Patrick asked.
"When I flew to Kiev several days ago, I met an American man who sat next to me. He actually married a woman from the Ukraine. He and his wife were flying back to her city in the Ukraine to visit her parents. He told me all about the expense it takes to bring a foreign bride to the United States. I had even jotted down some figures during that plane ride into my business organizer." George grinned as he glanced down at his notebook.
"Should I want to hear this," Lorenzo asked.
"You'll need to spend approximately ten grand." George finally answered.
The other three gasped.
"This amount will cover at least one visit to her country or, if necessary, a meeting in a third country. You might need to meet several times. You may also need to come and help her move, as she'd have a lot of stuff to bring with her. Usually, as I heard, they take lots of books with them. The girl usually won't be able to afford to pay for her airfare because their wages are next to nothing. Then you'll need to pay for a fiancée visa and all the associated paperwork. Then you'll have to pay for an engagement ring, which can easily be one to three months of your salary. Don't forget about gifts for her and her relatives."
"That's outrageous!" Bob rose to his feet and slammed his cowboy hat onto the bed." Why would I have to buy stuff for her lousy family? I'm not bringing them home too."
"It's the customary thing in their country. It shows your interest in the girl and also that you're not greedy. They'd realize that you'll be willing to spend money for her once you marry. The girl would get seriously offended if you didn't bring some nice toy for her child and some expensive gifts for her parents, such as a digital camera for her father and French perfume for her mother. Those gifts don't cost that much but this all adds up."
"Maybe for you they don't cost much," Lorenzo said.
"Well, even though none of you may make as much as I do, it's something you will have to consider when the time comes."
"That's just great!" Bob wiped his forehead with his sleeve. "Now she'll have to work longer on the farm to pay off the costs of those gifts."
"Are you for real?" Patrick asked. "This is a real, live human being we're talking about. Not some investment."
Bob clenched his fists but before he could respond George continued with his lecture. "When she moves to your house, she can't work at first because she needs work authorization and a social security number. And most likely she won't have enough local work experience for a job better than a bagger at a supermarket-even if she has an excellent education, like most of them do."
"I hope you're almost done." Patrick forced out a half-smile.
"Oh, no. Not even close. Of course, you'll have to feed and support her, and buy her new clothes because the kinds of clothes she might wear in her country would look as if they were only good on prostitutes here."
"Didn't you see them all the other night?" Lorenzo tapped Bob on the back. "You think she would really look like a farmer if she dressed that way walking down Main Street in your Hicksville, USA?"
Bob turned around and mumbled some profanity under his breath.
"Let me go on before you two end up scrapping on the floor here."
"Go ahead, George." Patrick was the only one who kept a calm demeanor. "I need to hear this."
"Well, often, you'd have to pay for her language courses, either in the States or back in her country. Then she'll want to go to a hairdresser since they're used to doing that quite often in their countries. Or she'd want to go to a beauty salon. The Slavic women take good care of themselves. You will pay for every bottle of cream or bubble bath until she finds a job. Don't forget that they think America is a paradise and life in our country is a bed of roses."
"I think I'd go bankrupt before she even came here." Patrick shook his head. "Now I'm not sure I can afford it."
"Then it's better to hear this stuff now so that you can budget your finances or forget about the entire endeavor."
"But wouldn't an American woman also cost a lot?" Bob sat back on the bed but kept his hat on his lap. "Look how much they want to spend on their weddings, especially the receptions."
"Then let me compare an American woman and a foreign one." George looked down at his notes. "Usually, an American woman has a job, her own car, often her own house or condo, plus some savings. After paying her bills, she has some money left for whatever else she might want to buy. She wears clothes like all other American women, which means, her wardrobe doesn't need a complete update. She can afford new clothes and a hairdresser or beauty salons. Sometimes, she can even afford traveling. She is usually self-sufficient and independent. When an American man marries an American woman, they only have wedding expenses-like you said, Bob. If she owns property, she could sell it and add the money she gets from the sale to the purchase of a larger house for both her and her new husband. You guys agree with all this?"
"Now, that you put it that way-." Patrick glanced at Bob and Lorenzo. They also nodded in agreement. "Man, I didn't think of this. It's really something to consider."
"I'll chew it up even more for you," George said as a smile slipped across his face.
"There's even more?" Bob's lips became thinner and his brow ridge lowered as if he wanted to get up and pound George.
"Like I said, you need to spend about ten grand. Some of you might spend less, but it's rarely possible. Everything the girl would bring with her would fit in a suitcase, except for books."
"Books?" Bob asked.
"Yes. They read an awful lot of books."
"My wife won't have time for reading books. She'll have to work on my farm."
"Most likely, she won't have any savings," George went on without commenting Bob's remark. "If she received a college education back in her country, she will need to have her diploma evaluated to see if it represents a comparable education in America. This costs money and takes time. Very seldom will she retain her equivalent Bachelor or Master's degree after her diploma evaluation. Very often, she will need to take at least several college courses in order for her degree to be worth anything in the US. This also costs money and takes time. She won' t be able to work legally right away and it might take several months to get her work authorization."
"How about insurance?" Bob asked. "I don't even have one for myself."
"When she arrives at your home, she will need medical insurance. You never know what might happen. Especially if you plan to have kids. You'll have to pay for it. You'll probably have to take her to a dentist as well. Most of them have problems with their teeth. I heard that's because of their bad water and poor diet."
George thought for a few seconds as he looked down at his paper.
"I hope you're nearing the bottom of that list." Lorenzo's smile had disappeared.
"Here's more. Not only will she need new clothes, but she'll need new shoes too. Most of her shoes she brings along will be with very high heels. Now, tell me, Bob, where will she be able to wear those shoes in you town? Right, nowhere. Therefore, she'll need new shoes as well. And she'll want a lot of shoes. It's us, guys, who can have three pairs and wear them year round. Those women are crazy for shoes and need dozens of them. You'll see it later, I tell you."
"A pair of sneakers will be enough for my wife," Bob waved his hand.
"Yeah, right." George shook his head and grinned at Bob. "So, your wife won't be able to wear most of her clothes or shoes and so you'll have to pay for everything new. Did you ever think what a female wardrobe is like? She'll need dresses, skirts and shirts, sweaters and pants, jeans, shorts, bathing suits, socks and underwear. You'll have to spend a lot of money for that. At least, several thousand dollars. And you'll have to buy almost all of that at once. If you live in a colder climate, you'll have to buy her winter coats, jackets, warm boots and sweaters."
"That's a lot of stuff!" Bob sighed. "But she'll work on my farm and pay me back."
"Now, do you know how much make-up those women use?"
"George, I think we get the picture." Patrick stood up and walked to the window.
"But I'm doing you guys a favor. Where else would you have learned this? From the dating agency? I don't think so."
"Then keep going and let's get it over with."
"OK-then they'll need all sorts of creams, hair care products, lipsticks and mascara, to name a few. She'll also want a lot of perfume. Women can't live without it."
"My wife won't need any perfume," Bob said with a frown. "I'm allergic to them. Besides, have you ever seen a farmer's wife wear perfume?"
"Anything else?" Patrick asked.
"Yes. Keep in mind that your Russian wife won't want to give up her Russian food so easily. She will look for stores that sell Russian food. It'd be almost impossible for her to stop eating her buckwheat, herring, and sunflower seeds."
"They eat sunflower seeds?" Bob asked.
"They sure do. In fact, they're crazy about them. They'll roast them and then sit all day on a sofa peeling and eating those seeds. They will suffer if they're unable to find a Russian store or a local supermarket that carries some Russian food. They will make you drive to the nearest city where there are such stores. Sometimes several hundred miles away. And then they'll try to feed you with their traditional food such as herring with beets and mayonnaise."
"Yuck!" Bob stuck his tongue out.
"Also, like I said, in most cases, you'll have to send her to language classes. It's a must, even if her English isn't too bad. This also costs money."
"Why would she need those if she's going to stay with me at home?" Bob asked.
"Because you want her to know English well enough to understand what you want her to do on your farm, right? She won't be able to walk to the language school nor will you be able to drive her there every time, so she needs a car and gas for it, not to mention car insurance, taxes, and all other car-related expenses. She will need a driver's license as well, so you have to send her to a driving school first. Even if she has a driver's license issued in her country, she will need to have one from the state you'll be living in. For that, she'll have to take a driving test, for which she needs to prepare. So, she should take at least four or five driving lessons, which also cost money. Then you'll pay for her driving test and license. How much do you think you'll have to spend for her?"
"Yeah, it adds up to quite a bit." Patrick scratched his head.
"And remember, you'll have to send some money to her parents and relatives. Yeah, you heard it right. Usually, those women live with their parents before they get married and very often, when they marry local men, they still live together with her or his parents. That's because they can't afford to live separately. When she lived with her parents, she was giving them part of her salary for various expenses, such as food and bills. They still have communism in their families."
These words made Bob release a nervous laugh.
"So, you're not en exception. You'll have to contribute too, even though she'd no longer live with her parents. Her parents might be too old to make good money. Most of them have never been abroad and think America is a paradise where dollars grow on trees. That's why they're green."
"I don't get it," Bob said. "This is frustrating. Why does a woman have to give money to her parents?"
"In Russia, families are very strong and cohesive. They support each other. Even siblings who do well help their not-so-lucky siblings. Children take care of their parents until they die. Usually, they live together with their old parents. Elderly homes are almost non-existent in Russia. And even if they are, it's a nightmare to end up in one of them in that country."
"I've heard that many Russian women who are looking to marry foreigners have kids." Lorenzo glanced at George who nodded back.
"Right. Many Russian women have children from previous marriages. They marry young and they divorce young. Almost always they have small children. In their country, it is customary to marry at the age of eighteen."
"That's a very young age," Patrick said.
"Not in their culture. A girl older than twenty-five is considered an old maid. It's a very bad feeling for those women to stay old maids, that's why they marry young, usually without thinking. A majority of them marry because a girl gets pregnant and the guy has no choice but to marry her. That's their custom too. Many of those young couples divorce within a year or two, and the children usually end up with their mothers."
"I don't need a wife who has children," Bob said. "Man, this is getting frustrating."
"Could the kids stay with the father if their mother moves abroad?" Patrick asked.
"You'll almost never see that in Russia. Those women would never leave their children behind, so you must be prepared for accepting her kids if you meet a woman who has them. Russian women believe that Russian men often don't make good fathers. A single father in Russia is considered a hero. They are virtually non-existent and single fathers are highly respected."
"That's incredible and hard to believe." Patrick stared at George in bewilderment.
"But it's true. That's why those women are amazed with American men who have custody of their children. They think those men are heroes. It would be something extraordinary if it happened in Russia. Those girls have no idea about life in States."
George had a tickle in his throat and Patrick handed him a bottle of water. He gulped down half the container before resuming.
"So, don't be surprised that those very young women already have children. And if you marry the girl, you'll have to pay for her child as well. That means, you'll pay for an additional airfare, medical exam and visa for the child. You'll have to pay for the child's clothes, toys, books, food, education and entertainment. That costs a lot. Not to mention college, when that time comes. And if you get common children, your expenditures will grow even more."
"Wait a minute," Lorenzo said. "I know you've been over to this part of the world several times, but how do you know such details."
"Ah! Good question." George saw another opportunity to gloat. "I'm a businessman. I approach this whole issue as if it were a business. I calculate the cost of everything-it's my nature. I write things down and can easily recall facts and figures."
"Then, these girls are just commodities for you," Patrick said shaking his head.
"But you can't enter into these relationships unless you do know the cost of bringing a foreign girl to the States." George gave Patrick a serious look as if Patrick was unable to think realistically. "I've done my homework and I'm sharing all this with you three-no charge of course."
"Real funny," Lorenzo said. "Now go on with your lecture. We're all ears."
"All right. So, your wife may also want to change things in your house to her