Lena and Vince Dancing
After Dima's dinner, several of us (Dima, Lena (his girlfriend), and Sasha (his best friend)) came back to my flat to drink Jello shooters, dance a little and get changed before heading out to shoot pool.
Birthdays here in Russia are a big deal. Unlike the US where most people like to hide them and wish they would not come, the Russians have big celebrations so keeping to the culture/tradition, so did I. I had a small lunch/snacks for the office on Monday, a little thing with my volleyball team, took my direct reports to dinner, and finally took a few of my Russian friends to one of the clubs last night. So it has been a busy time and is part of the reason why I have not posted much lately, but I do think about you all often!
Before I get into my birthday celebration, I must tell you about Dima's birthday. Dima is one of the people I have met here. He is self taught English and is actually doing a great job. Any ways, he invited me to his house to join his family and girlfriend for his birthday celebration. I knew I was suppose to dress up a little and bring a gift, but I was not sure how dressy so I asked. He told me suit and tie, and I thought, wow, I did not realize that nice, but okay.
My Russian friend from here in Obninsk that is self-taught in English (and very jealous of Dasha that she knows more English than he does...lol)
Guess what, I get there and I am the only one in a suit. Dima and his step father both have ties on, but I am the only one in a suit. As if being American does not make me stand out enough as it is, now I am the only one in a suit. Afterwards he thanked me for dressing up because he wanted his parents to be impressed with me, as an American. This was the first time any of them had ever met ANY foreigner, not just an American, but any foreigner which I thought was amazing in itself. I also found out that his mother and grandfather did not like Americans so he was trying really hard for them to like me. By the end of the evening, suit or not, we were all laughing and having fun. I was even invited over the next day (Sunday) so they could give me a toast for my birthday so that made me feel good!
The funniest thing that happened that most likely broke the ice was my gift/card. Before telling you the story, I will share a little about birthday customs/traditions. First everyone eats some food
There were no open tables at the bar called Elephant where we usually go to shoot pool so we were being silly at the bar waiting. That is Sasha, Dima's best friend in the picture with Lena and Dima.
and it was mostly salad type foods. I am not sure if that is tradition or just at Dima's but we ate a lot of salads and Mom, you would be proud of me, I even ate things that did not look good to at least try them....lol There were two salads that I really liked and asked his Mom for the receipes (that helped for her to like me as well, but that was not the reason I asked for them because at this point, I did not know that.) It is good to get a little food in you because then you start the toasts. Dima's real Dad went first and gave his toast then we all drink and the person doing the toast gives the birthday person their gift. And around the table we went. I was last so it was sort of nice to better understand the tradition so I got up and gave my toast, we drank and I gave Dima his gift (a bottle of Jack Daniels and JD glasses because that is what we talk about/drink when we meet). Inside the gift bag was the card. Dima read it, then looked at me
Vince and Alexander, Director of Operations
funny. You are not going to be believe what I did, I bought him a "Congradulations on your Wedding Day" card. He asked if he could share it with his family, embarrassingly I said yes. Well everyone got the biggest laugh out of it and I think that is what broke the ice that they realized Americans can laugh at themselves too. So of course that was the running joke of the night.
I think I will close since this one is long enough and has a few pictures to post with it and I will finish up my birthday celebrations in the next one. I told you there was a lot going on over the past few weeks.
Last Sunday was baking day for me because I brought food in for the office and then made brownies and Jello shooters for the volleyball team. I will tell you more about both in just a minute and also post some pictures. Finally, on Tuesday, I took my direct reports and a few others from work out to dinner to the local hotel/restaurant for a nice dinner and as you will see by the pictures, most dressed up very
nice for it.
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