a big beautiful mess


The surprises just don’t end. I went out to dinner tonight with Nils, Liv, Rune, and another professor visiting from Norway. When we came back and went to the front desk to get our keys, mine came with some gifties.

One I was expecting: my receipt from paying my rent this afternoon. One I wasn’t expecting but was delighted to get: a package notice! And one was completely out of the blue: a bar of chocolate.

It was left for me by a guest named “Vadim.” Vadim and I met in the kitchen last night, while we were both boiling pelmeni. We had the conversation I have with almost everyone I meet in the kitchen, which consists of a short-term guest asking me if the water is okay to drink, and me responding, “In principle… but the taste is unpleasant.” I finished my pelmeni first, and as I left, I said to him, “priyatnovo appetita,” which means approximately “bon appetit” and which Russians say to each other when they’re beginning a meal. He looked surprised but said it back to me.

When I came back from the grocery store later that evening with a jug of drinking water, he was sitting in the front lobby and asked me why I’d bought water when there was a bubbler in the kitchen. I was feeling particularly confident in my Russian skills and responded in my best self-assured devushka voice, “That’s only for coffee and tea. It’s written there. Didn’t you see it?”

It seems every time Łukasz leaves town I get unwanted attention from male guests. In January there was a man named “Eduard” who had come for a weekend from some town way up north to take a test of some sort. He had never met an American before and wanted me to visit him and told me that polar bears came to his city in the spring. He also wanted me to come out to an unknown bar with him and an unspecified number of his unknown friends who had already drunk an unknown amount of beer.

Our favorite night watchman, the navy man, who was on duty tonight, told me that this Vadim character wants to talk to me in English. We’ll see how things go. Łukasz gets back from St. Petersburg in a week.

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