I was enjoying a very pleasant solo nature walk, experimenting with my film (плёнка) camera and delighting in the very Vermonty autumn, when I came across the most pleasant of nature parties. A family was enjoying a great feast of Russian delicacies, kids were playing by the fire, dogs were grinning and having a blast, and the birds were singing. They asked what the heck a young woman could possibly be doing by herself in the forest (judging by Olga’s surprise when I told her I wasn’t walking around with anyone else, this is apparently unusual) and I opened my mouth and they realized I was a Grade A Entertaining Foreigner and elation began.
From America!!! Eat, eat, eat!!! Do you drink vodka??? Eat!!! (Then an argument proceeded over if they should give me vodka or not. My voice was silenced by babushkas (as it often is) and it was decided that wine was most appropriate). I really struggled with getting some of the fish dishes down. I don’t like caviar, no matter how hard I try, and I couldn’t refuse a single dish. Caviar piled high on a slice of bread (buckets of exploding salt jello in my mouth) and raw fish after raw fish after raw fish really tested my ability to stay open-minded and positive. Also, everyone had already eaten their fill, so their only goal at that point was to watch me enjoy their lovingly prepared dishes. Eventually, we moved on to other dishes: some awesome venison that they themselves had hunted, some incredible pickled mushrooms that they had picked, some tasty potatoes that they had grown, and some good bread that apparently didn’t merit a description. Wine flowed as it does in Greek mythology.
Hours and hours passed and we all became drunk and jolly and we sang (I contributed the songs I know: Пусть бегут неуллюже and Катюша and the chorus of Земфира’s «Досвидания») and danced and played with dogs and sang and danced and drank tea and ate cake with our hands and watched as the kids chopped wood for the fire and I was asked if I was cold and we sang and danced and I was asked if I was cold and we sang and I was asked if I was cold and I gave up and accepted a spare jacket and we sang until we couldn’t see each other’s faces anymore. The other girl my age and I took a taxi home, because I could not be trusted to get home on my own (sometimes the friendly hospitality thing borders on patronizing, but for whatever reason I didn’t resist) and it ended up that the dorms were closed (I forgot that the dorms here have a curfew!) So, I ended up staying with the girl my age, sleeping with one of the delightfully friendly babushkas! Ahh, how alcohol erases social boundaries.