Saturday, February 21, 2015

One Month Down

The temperature has crept a bit above freezing here in Minsk, positively balmy weather, and I have developed a cold. I can't complain, really. My days have been spent exploring the city, developing lectures, and even experiencing some local culture (including an evening of Wagner's "The Flying Dutchman" at the National Academic Bolshoi Opera and Ballet Theatre). So after a month of new surroundings, new people, and new food, I'd expect my body to call a temporary time-out.

Getting to know new friends in Minsk
I first felt the onset of headache and scratchy throat just before I delivered a Route 66 lecture for a group of visiting English teachers at the U.S. Embassy's office of Public Affairs. Even so, I thoroughly enjoyed that event, which included opportunities to answer and ask a wide range of questions. For example, when I wondered aloud what qualities lead me to stand out as a foreigner before I open my mouth to speak, one audience member explained that my face lacks Slavic features. Also, I smile way too much. We all got a good laugh with that one.

Getting revved up to sing "Get your kicks on Route 66"
I walked back to my flat, bearing the gift of a painted plate featuring illustrations of Belarusian towns, and collapsed into bed. After catching some sleep, the next day was dedicated to prepping a lecture for my MBA students on Google's hiring and workplace practices. My nose was stuffed, so I needed a quick trip to the pharmacy. Happily, there's one on pretty much every block here in Minsk. Before I entered, I used my trusty Google translate app to look up "nasal spray" in Russian. No way I'd stammer myself to embarrassment this time! Turn's out, it's just pronounced "Na-ZELL-ee spray." Again, thank goodness for cognates.

Winter weather gear
I finished my lecture-prep, rested up a bit, and took the metro past the train station to the building where I teach, ready to hang out with my students during our Friday evening class. Problem is, they're used to starting our meetings with a friendly handshake. And I was still nursing that cold. So when I couldn't explain my uncharacteristic reticence to shake quickly enough, I took the opportunity to introduce them to the "Obama Fist Bump" - which they all seemed to think is pretty cool.

Time and place to rest
Now at last I have a day or so to recover. Tomorrow I'm joining my fellow Fulbrighters and English Language Fellows (yeah, they're called "ELF"s) for an evening at the Chargé d'affaires' residence. And then next week I'll start planning some travel throughout the country and beyond.

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