Project Complete

Today is the last day of the installation of our video conferencing system, and everything is ready to go. The day started with the usual breakfast ingredients, with an omelet. Before we left for the classroom, I wandered around until I located washing machines and dryers. Now that I know where that is, I can wash my clothes before packing them for St. Petersburg tomorrow.

We headed over to the classroom, where we were greeted by the arrival of a new computer and projector to complete the set up. It takes a few days, but eventually it all comes together.

Chuck worked on setting up the final componenets, while I messed around on the internet and played some Civilization III. Pitr came in shortly, and presented Chuck, Alexey, and I with gifts of Vodka, chocolate, and what I think is seltzer, though I'm not sure, I haven't asked Alexey to translate the can yet. We presented Yuri, Andrei, and Pitr with some UNI-branded gifts that we'd brought along, things like playing cards, shot glasses, and other assorted knick-knacks, as well as a pound of Twizzlers candy. All of which were well-received.

At 1:00 Alexey took us over to meet Tim & Holly from UNI, the folks from our International Programs office, as well as Olga, the head of the same program here, and Vladimir, their Vice-Rector for...something that escapes me at the moment. He was an outstanding host, and we were treated to an unbelievable meal. I started with some Savingon Blanc white wine, and bread and cheese (which is always good here). Next we had some pork, potatoes, and some fish which was excellent as well. Vladimir came around the table, and before I'd realized it, had deposited about 3 oz. of black caviar on to my plate for me to try. I'd never had caviar before, and being faced with what I'm sure is an expensive quantity of it made me somewhat nervous, but I was determined to be a good guest so I gave it a shot.

I got a laugh from everyone for putting it on my bread with my cheese at first, before I realized that it was butter you were supposed to use, rather than cheese. Tim took over, and instructed me in the proper way to eat it. It wasn't nearly as strong as I'd feared it might be, it's very mild, and not at all unpleasant. You can tell it has a high fat-content, as it's very rich, though I thought it tasted better after it had warmed in my mouth. I ate all the caviar I was given, using about 4-5 pieces of bread to do it, and wound up consuming almost 3/4th of the bottle of white wine, as everyone else was drinking red.

For dessert, Vladimir presented us with some "sugar-melon" which is outstanding. It's a white melon, which tastes like cantaloupe, only with two or three times the sugar content. It's very sweet and juicy and practically melts in your mouth, I don't know why I've never seen it in the U.S., it's delicious. After dessert, we toasted each other some more, and talked about our experience in Moscow. I mentioned how much I had enjoyed the Vodka that Alexey had ordered for me, and Vladimir insisted I take the bottle of Vodka that was on the table for dinner. I graciously accepted, and noted that it was of a different brand than the stuff Pitr gave me. I'm glad we have plenty of room in the equipment cases for our gifts.

Vladimir also insisted that we try the unique Russian garlic pieces, which he said were fermented or pickled, I didn't quite get it clearly, and he said the process used to do it is a closely guarded secret. They were quite good, and I ate the whole garlic clove before I quite realized how strong it was. Chuck was amazed I'd eaten the whole thing, but I'd already had most of a bottle of wine by this point, so it went down fine. After another toast by Olga, we broke up to return back to the classroom to test with UNI.

We stopped back by our rooms, so I could deposit my vodka, and attempt to brush my teeth, as the garlic I'd eaten had remained quite strong in my mouth. I like garlic, but man, I could kill a rhino with my breath at 30 paces. My toothbrush didn't do much to dull the taste, but we headed back across the courtyard (Chuck walked, I sort of staggered, being a light-weight when it comes to drinking alcohol).

We arrived in time to be presented with some gifts of chocolate by Andrei, which he said were the best chocolate in Russia. We then sat around watching a Russian-dubbed copy of The Matrix Reloaded on the projector while waiting for UNI to come online.