Chita: Fifteen More Minutes of Fame
Ten years ago, Gary and I had our 15 minutes of fame in Chita when a local TV station sent a reporter to interview us. It was the only city where we provoked such local interest, and we felt like rock stars.
This time around, that old Chita magic is working again. On Monday our host Pasha (more about him below) told us that his friend Svetlana Moskalenko, a local TV reporter, wanted to interview us. She came with her cameraman, and they promptly whisked us off to Lenin Street, the subject of our upcoming Road Story here. She interviewed me for about 10 minutes while her cameraman shot video and David photographed the whole thing.
David joked later about how I'd gone all Hollywood on him, but that night he ended up being the star of another show. Pasha had invited us to see a folk troupe perform at the Chita Regional Drama Theatre, where he works, and we happily took in the sights and sounds of "Zabaikal Uzori" as they sang and twirled through a couple hours of traditional songs. Toward the end, the dancers sashayed into the audience to pull people toward the stage, and a reluctant David got dragged to the fore. He gamely did a little dance, then hurried back to his seat.
But his moment in the spotlight wasn't finished yet. During the next song, the MC thanked the obligatory list of officials and sponsors, then barked, "And where are our guests from Washington!?" We sat dumbfounded, while an entire row of middle-aged women behind us began shouting, "Here! Here!" and pointing at us -- I guess they heard us speaking English during the intermission. With that, we were hustled to the front of the hall, where David was pulled into another impromptu dance with one of the troupe's female performers.
Dear readers, the photographer can shake his booty. The crowd went nuts. I only regret that he could not take a picture of himself doing it.
Pasha greeted us after the concert with a big smile. "I hope you don't mind that I told them about you being here," he said. Energetic and physically fit at 39, Pasha is a friend of a friend -- a person we'd never met before, but who has shown us the kind of over-the-top generosity I've experienced across Russia in both 1995 and 2005.
He has gladly taken us in during our stay, though there's already a sprawling catalogue of people and animals in his small apartment: Pasha, his wife Vika, her daughter Dasha, her brother Edik, their friend Oksana, a dog (Sofia) and a cat (Vasya). So, counting us, there are six adults and one child in this two-bedroom apartment. And of course, they've given us one of the bedrooms. I feel somewhat guilty about this, though it's useless to protest.
Tomorrow: Our 10-years-later look at Lenin Street, Chita's main thoroughfare.
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