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"Russian Acrobats"

Temp 24-7, Flypaper Press,, 1998.

When lounging about with a glass of red and the third log on the fire, we always start our stories with "Almost everything I am about to tell you is true." We know that the filters of our memories will muck the reality of events, if even just a small bit. I'll tell you one thing, though. I still don't believe this happened.

I was in Sofia, Bulgaria presenting a seminar for cultural exchange experts and veteran educators. Everything was planned to the hilt. Being aware of paper shortages and lack of reliable copiers, I had prepared all handouts stateside . . . not a trivial feat to carry enough for the summer in chunks of 200. Slides were prepared, and videos were duplicated. I dropped by the U.S. Embassy to scoop up computers, tape recorders and VCRs that I knew would accommodate both my needs and the electrical current. Experience had taught me to snag an extension cord, too.

I was setting up the first grandiose presentation when the phone in my office rang. Since I did not speak Bulgarian, the only word I understood amidst the shouting was "Lobby! Lobby!" In the lobby-lobby I found a page looking for a Saudi dignitary with a name similar to mine. They could tell at a glance I was not their man. The ancient, doorless elevator trundled back up to my floor. Even though I am blind, I could tell I was standing hip-deep in Russian tumbling acrobats, none over three feet tall. Twins from the group followed me from the suffocating heat of the elevator shaft into my office. They burbled at me, all the while tugging at my once-fresh silk skirt. I had no idea what they wanted. Had I seen too many movies? Did they want to defect to my custody?

Unruffled and without hesitation, the assistant assigned to me shuttled them back down the elevator to the lobby-lobby and returned with two quietly spoken pieces of advice. "To get on well at this university, never answer the phone. It only brings trouble. Secondly, I would not carry so much equipment on the third Monday of the month. We rarely have electricity on that day."

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The Savory Palette
Deborah DeBord, Ph.D.
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