Sunday, January 08, 2006

I'm Back



For now a few glimpses (for the sake of a couple jokes) into how I spent the last fortnight.

Belgorod (Dec. 31, 2005 - Jan. 1, 2006) -

While celebrating the new year at My Girlfriend's house, I was somehow convinced to karaoke “Yellow Submarine.” If I was under the influence of something, it was not alcohol. In fact, after stopping by a friend’s house earlier that night, My Girlfriend had explained to the man of the house – more than once – that I didn’t drink, not a little champagne, not even just a shot of vodka. “Visiting Russia and not drinking?” he laughed. “That’s like going to Disneyland and not seeing Mickey Mouse!”

If I was quick enough, I would’ve told him about my trip to Disneyland as a high school senior, when I didn’t see Mickey Mouse but did drink too much vodka mixed with Donald Duck orange juice. But then a quick wit’s the stuff of fiction, and that’s a story for another day.

Kyiv (Jan. 5 - Jan. 7) -

While passing a bookstore, I saw a familiar sight in the display window: Bill Clinton's smiling face on the cover of his very thick biography. The title's "My Life" in English, and apparently the publishers (or Clinton's own protocol specialist) didn't think it necessary to tinker with it for the Russian-language edition. "Moy Zhisen," it reads, which made me think Monica could come out with her own edition and all she'd have to do is change a pronoun: "His Zhisen."

~

On the Seventh, we left Kyiv, but only after visiting Maidan Nezalezhnosti, the central square that was home to last winter's Orange Revolution. On this day, no protesters were present, but the place was thick with Santas (Orthodox Christmas is Jan. 7, owing to the old calendar -- the Julian, I believe). All of the Santas were prowling about, looking for a camera and someone to throw their arms around. But even though we didn't want to pose with one, we were still asked for some money. This one kept trying to get 3 Griven out of me, maybe 60 cents, just to take a picture with the square in the background. No, I kept telling My Girlfriend, I don't want to give him money, tell him we don't want him in the picture, just us. Finally, when he did relent, he just stood there staring at the back of my digital's LCD screen while we shivered before him with smiles as frigid as the temperature (-5). He kept pushing the camera's button -- too lightly, I thought -- and kind of shaking his head, as if he weren't sure if he'd taken a photo. Then at last, when I was sure we had an Idiot Santa before us, My Girlfriend on my urging went to show him how to work the damn thing, and I, apparently, looked off in disgust, going, "God, this filthy Santa can't even take a picture, and still he wants sixty cents?"

But of course, as you can see above, he was in fact getting it right all along -- several times, in fact. And for some reason, though My Girlfriend asked that I delete it, I love this shot.

As for what's in the bags I'm holding, the short answer is: the end to a very long quest. I'll give you the long answer later this week.

3 Comments:

Richard said...

Bad Santa, no pixels. I hope your bag contains some Kellogg's Frosted Flakes. You've probably heard they're great.

Kevin McMahan said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Kevin McMahan said...

Stephen,
It looks like some Kiev Dynamo Jerseys.
Am I right?