Saturday, February 18, 2012

Budget bachata

A series of economic setbacks drastically reduced most people’s real wages here in Belarus. That is to say, the amount of groceries you can buy on a typical paycheck is getting pretty meager. I always enjoyed lunch at the National Library as a way to stretch my own budget. I could never figure out how they sold food so inexpensively there and often wondered if it were subsidized. Today’s lunch probably did not benefit from any subsidy, however. I ordered a chicken cutlet. I had to order that because the people in front of me got the last pork cutlet, which looked meatier. Mine sported an encrustation of little croutons but I thought that was still a safer bet than the mystery meat with cheese on top.

I don’t know how my chicken compared to the mystery meat, but I’ve got to say how impressed I am at the chef’s ability to glue together a crouton encrustation around an airy meat meringue. I can’t guess the total calories from meat in today’s lunch, but I suspect I could count them on my fingers and toes.

Perhaps the financial crisis played a role in tonight’s festivities as well. This weekend there’s an international bachata dance festival in town and I went to the opening party. I figured I’d arrive early and leave early, wanting to leave before people got too drunk. There was nothing to worry about on that account. The bartender had very little to do, and it appeared to me that he sold considerably more water than any other beverage. I stayed until a little after midnight, when I noticed that most of the other non-expert dancers had already gone home. Having already danced at least once with most of the women who appeared willing to dance with me, I decided I’d better go home before I became a public nuisance.

One of the women I had not asked to dance saw me at the coat check and asked why I was leaving so early. I think she was just being nice, because I know she’s a really good dancer and I also know that I am not. Yet. But it doesn’t cost much (more than pride) to go out and practice, so I’ll keep at it.

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