It started with the children's performance I mentioned last week. See, I didn't realize John was sort of the guest of honor. But when we arrived at the theater, we were escorted into a separate room where all kinds of treats, along with highly breakable crystal glasses and porcelain cups, were laid out on a table. Since everyone around me was speaking Russian, I smiled and nodded and said spasiba repeatedly like an idiot, without the slightest idea of what the hell was going on (I think it's safe to say this is going to be the status quo for the next two years). I just assumed there was someone way more important coming, so I smacked Jack's hand away every time he tried to eat a cookie or touch anything. Eventually we were taken down to the theater, where it quickly became clear that everyone had been waiting for us to take our seats. And then the show began.
This had to be one of the most...unusual performances I've ever witnessed. Don't get me wrong - the orchestra was absolutely phenomenal. But this was a tribute to American film scores, Russian style. So before the songs were played, previews (as in movie trailers dubbed in Russian) for various American films were shown - Indiana Jones, Pirates of the Caribbean, The Lord of the Rings, etc. They also threw in what appeared to be a montage of video game animation for reasons unknown. But like I said, the music was wonderful, and hey, it's not every day you get to see a Russian dressed up as Jack Sparrow.
We'd been told that John would speak about forty minutes into the program, but after an hour had gone by (Jack was squirming around in my lap for most of this), intermission started and we were escorted back to our private room. By now I'd figured out that no one else was coming, so I let Jack have some of the candied fruit. Then he smacked his head on the table and gave himself a black eye, just ten minutes before John was supposed to give his speech (and take Jack with him).
After the program started again and a few more songs were played, the host (who also doubled as Indiana Jones) came down and handed John a microphone. Jack was dangling off his arm the entire time, but John pulled through beautifully and delivered his short speech (the program was being sponsored by the consulate, and John was there as the representative).
|Photo credit: Consulate General of the U.S., Yekaterinburg|
We had originally been told we could leave after intermission (not because we wouldn't enjoy the show, but because we had a tired and cranky two-year-old with us), but it quickly became apparent that we couldn't leave without offending about 1,800 Russians. Fortunately, the girls choir performed at the end, and Jack enjoyed watching the little girls singing, at least when he wasn't lying on his back in the middle of the aisle.
As far as representing America that day, Jack didn't exactly do our country proud.
After one more quick stop in the reception room, John and I hightailed it out of there before Jack could bring down an entire tower of tea cups and saucers. We felt like morons wheeling Jack through the lobby of the symphony hall in his stroller, because we were literally the only people who BROUGHT a stroller. (Anyone in the theater who might have missed the giant spotlight on us earlier would have quickly realized who the Americans were.) Jack looked rather smug, however, as roped off pathways were opened up for the little prince in his chariot.
Since last Friday, I've found myself in all kinds of awkward situations. Like at the grocery store, when the woman behind the counter asked me for smaller change because I'd handed her a 1000 ruble note for a bill of 800 rubles (apparently Russians are weird about change, but I didn't know any of this until later, when I asked John about it). Or on the tram today, when the woman who collects the fare went on and on at me in Russian, even when I told her I didn't speak Russian, in Russian, multiple times. Or at a different grocery store, when I didn't realize you had to weigh your produce ahead of time and the woman behind the counter had to do it for me.
So far no one has seemed too pissed off at me for being the clueless foreigner, but I'm not exactly getting a lot of sympathy either. I'm really looking forward to this weekend, when my resident translator will be home from work, and I can fall back on my newly acquired skill set of smiling and nodding and saying spasiba repeatedly like an idiot.