In 1993, my Russian husband (at that time fiancé) and I took a boat ride down the Volga River. It sounds beautiful and romantic (and in some ways it was) but honestly when I remember my trip, this random guy (in the blue t-shirt) sticks out in my memory more than anything:
I have no idea who this man is or was, but he was the life of the party. Here's another shot of him:
Officially you would call our trip a "river cruise". In reality it was a "Booze Cruise". Yes, it deserves capital letters. It's no secret that Russians drink a lot and I saw many incidents of public drunkenness during my time in Russia, but I was blown away by the ungodly amount of drinking that took place on this boat. The actual boat is in this pic here:
From the time we got up in the morning until we went to bed, people were drinking and dancing and drinking some more. Like I specifically remember eating breakfast and people were already drunk. I don't know if they were still drunk from the night before or if was already a new day of drinking. I guess it doesn't really matter. People were happy and dancing much of the time. I remember EXACTLY which song the Happy Drunk Man was dancing to in the top photo. It's this song:
The song is "Faina" by the Russian group Na-Na. It played on the radio NON-STOP when it was popular in 1993. I mean, I even bought a cassette of that song because it's so annoyingly catchy. Whenever Happy Drunk Man danced I remember it set me off into hysterics. When I try to remember what he did that was so funny, I couldn't tell you. I just remember that this guy amused me to no end. Just like the MC Hammer pants on the guys in the video also amuse me. I apologize in advance if the song "Faina" is now stuck in your head for the rest of the day.
I wish I had remembered to take a photo of our cabin on the boat. I probably didn't bother because it was so small and utlitarian. We thought we'd be having this romantic trip together but when we opened the door of our cabin it turned out that our sleeping accommodations consisted of two bunk beds. I have to tell you that getting, uh, intimate, in a narrow bed attached to a wall in a tiny cabin is hard to do but not impossible. Still, I wouldn't recommend it.
One of the cities that we visited was Uglich, which is famous for being the spot where Ivan the Terrible's youngest son was murdered. A chuch was built over that spot, which you can see in the background behind The Russian:
Here's me in a photo I have entitled "Nerd Photo" because my hair looks like crap and my glasses look huge on my face (but those kind of glasses were popular in the 90's!)
When we visited Uglich, we had time to walk all around the city. The Russian and I found ourselves in a field (not the one above but close enough) next to an old abandoned church (which I didn't photograph, dammit! I think I ran out of film). While we were walking in the field, an elderly Russian woman approached us (I think she had goats with her) and said, "In the city they are selling pineapples for X amount (I can't remember the price). I've always wanted to try a pineapple." I should remind everyone that the jokes about the food shortages in the Soviet Union were based on fact. My husband was 20 years old before he ever ate a banana. Anyway, The Russian talked with the babushka (the kind Russian way of calling all older women "Grandmother"). Because my accent always gave me away, I just nodded and smiled while they talked. After the babushka walked away I told The Russian, "I want to give her money for the pineapple". With the exchange rate being so favorable to American dollars, the exorbitant price was just a few dollars for me. I ran back to the woman and the words just spilled out of me (poorly, I'm sure): "Please take this money and buy a pineapple." The woman looked so shocked and then she started crying. To the day I die, I will never forget the look of surprise and pure gratitude on this woman's face. I pushed the money into her hands and ran again, because I was afraid she would refuse to take it. You how know they say in life you often regret things that you DIDN'T do as much as you regret things that you did do? If I hadn't given that woman that small amount of money, I would have always regretted it. So moral of the story is this-- be kind whenever you have the chance. I know this is not the typical funny anecdote that I usually share but don't worry, this won't be turning into an inspirational-type blog. One of my future posts will include the word "McTurd". Seriously.
I'm the worst kind of asshole-- I think I'm funny.
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