Thursday, June 28, 2012

At the airport

My cousin is getting married on Saturday and I’m en route to the wedding. I came to the airport in plenty of time and reported to the waiting area at my gate, where I found some twenty or more kids lounging around and talking to each other in a language I didn’t recognize. I went off and sat by myself so I could be quiet, but presently one of the kids started playing a three-stringed instrument and singing. Her friend joined the singing and I came over to listen.

I have to digress here. I am carrying a handmade plush-toy rabbit. (Americans would call it a stuffed animal, but that idiom has caused such consternation that I hesitate to say it now.) Elena made the rabbit for me and dressed it in a shirt like one I actually own. She named him Bulbashik, which might possibly mean potato eater… there’s no doubt it’s about potatoes, a staple of the Belarusian diet. Elena asked me to bring him along so I could get a picture of him with the bride and groom.

Back to those two kids singing at the airport. They didn’t appear to mind my attention, and in fact they started another song after the first. Once I felt certain that I wouldn’t interrupt their momentum, I got Bulbashik and my camera out of my bag. I put Bulbashik into the lap of the girl in the middle, who listened attentively but did not sing. As I prepared to take photos, another member of the group came over with a drum and started playing along. Presently a second drummer arrived. With such intense social pressure, the accordionist got out his instrument and the band started playing with fervor. One of the guys went out and performed a little folk dance. Then a couple of girls came out and, well, you know how it goes. Suddenly we had an entire troupe putting on a well-rehearsed performance, the audience clapping along, and the entire gate area transformed into a performance hall.

I got a video of part of their performance, but the sound is weak because the musicians were behind me. (Click on the image to the right.)

It turns out that I was about to fly with a Georgian folk-dance troupe beginning their first-ever European tour. At least some of them had never even been in a plane before they began this trip flying to Minsk. We parted ways in Amsterdam, and already I miss them. We had a very jolly time together.

The dance troupe sat directly behind me as we flew to Amsterdam. I didn’t try to join into the festivities, but I could tell that they enjoyed traveling together. I had a pleasant flight too, seated beside a translator who had spent summers in Virginia until ten years ago, presumably when she turned 18. She came as a participant in the Chernobyl Children’s Project, and she was returning for the first time to see her host family. Kristina surely speaks better English than I do Russian, but we conversed nonetheless in the local language. I really like being able to do that. I learned that her host sisters don’t know that she’s coming, and now I look forward to hearing how the reunion went. I greatly enjoyed this morning’s human connections.

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