Friday, February 06, 2009


I have one more story about dogs, love, and death but I posted this remembrance at Nancy Nall's site and thought it was worth republishing here.

In 1995 I was working for the Washington Attorney General's office. That year, the head of the Antitrust section of the Washington AGO spent a year in Belarus, teaching lawyers and other government officials about the laws of competition in the US and Europe. When his year was over, heconvinced the attorney general and the governor's office to pay for a delegation of Belarussian officials to come over to the US for a several week visit (with their KGB handlers too) to learn more about capitalism up front. When the delegation arrived at the SeaTac airport, they set off all the dogs in security, because along with the copious amounts of vodka in their suitcases, they had packed large quantities of pig fat which they believed, if they ate before drinking their vodka, enabled them to drink that much more vodka.

Well two other couples and my ex and I hosted the group for dinner one night and they brought their vodka, lots of their vodka with them. One of the first things they did however, was to open the refrigerator and the stove in the kitchen to make sure that they were real (they’d been told that American’s houses were stuffed with fake appliances for appearances sake). Then they got down to eating our grilled salmon and drinking their vodka neat, which they did with furious and dedicated abandon, toasting all of us numerous times, and eventually singing many long Russian songs in minor keys quite loudly. We’d been warned about the hazards of drinking with the Russians, so all of us took very tiny sips and nursed our shot glasses for most of the evening. All except the ex.

The ex was two sheets to the wind as a result of his attempts to keep up with the Russians, and although extremely jovial and outgoing for 3/4 of the evening, he eventually became very vocally and extensively sick thereafter (I have blackmail pictures somewhere). We poured him into the family car, and I drove him home where he slept it off.

But our Russian guests left 3/4 of a bottle of vodka with us as a parting gift for the evening. I put it in my freezer and it lasted for almost two years. It was extremely good. I still have the bottle and the top name on it in cyrillic is ‘rapevka’ only the e is backwards and the v is upside down. and there are two dates to either side of that: 1893 on the left and 1993 on the right. The number 100 is prominently displayed in silver under the other name on the vodka bottle which looks like ‘kpbiwtavb’ again with the v upside down.

PS. The other good story to come out of the Belarussians visit (at least the one that is printable generally) was when they were taken on a tour of Costco. The first question from a group member to the Costco representative was, “But what do you do when you run out of all this stuff?” I wonder if that has changed for them now.

1 comment:

Kristina said...

I spend a lot of time in Belarus, and I love the people there. I hope you ended up with a positive impression, for they are (mostly, as anywhere) wonderful.

Of the words you describe the first is likely the name of the producing company, I'm guessing it would be pronounce "Yarelka." The other is "Krishtal" which translated into crystal, meaning clear/pure/the highest quality.

Times have changed dramatically in Belarus, but it is still a different world. Not better, not worse, but definitely different.