The presentations were improving over time, though at one moment here, while I was facing the screen, arm outstretched toward some glimmer of colored light washed across the back of my hand, waiting with held breath, anticipating what I would have to say next to remain coherent (and relevant), I was struck by my total inability to do this, and the total inappropriateness of the whole venture.
And then – guess what? – we had lunch in the VIP dining room and went on a tour of the university related facilities. It struck me during this little interlude of pleasantries and stories over borscht that this is the life of the politician: going from place to place, letting people show you their worlds and their lives, exchanging pleasantries and words of mutual support, turning occasionally to your earnest young staffer to ask them to jot down and action or follow up point for when you return to your office. There is such a simultaneous feeling of effect and waste, a feeling that this is a necessary part of moving things forward, and yet such a total, sucking vacuum (inside the bubble?) for the person who has to play that part, be the image, the icon. At least in a foreign country, though, with a different language and a different alphabet, you have by design some personal space that no one else can really enter.
After lunch we visited two of the university’s training facilities, one for aquaculture and one for dairy. The aquaculture facility was brand new, and generally along the lines of the Freshwater Institute, though using some Finnish technology. It all looked very cool and I was hoping for a real tour but they only showed us the front of the building, and the classroom, which had video of all the parts of the facility…so the tour consisted of watching TV.
Then we went to a dairy training facility another few kilometers away. It was more impressive, and I picked it out on the horizon ten minutes before we got there, as there was a large wind turbine and an even larger barn. When we arrived there was a group standing in the driveway which included the university VP from morning tea, his boss from Minsk, the director of the facility, and, standing next to his shiny new SUV, the director of the state farm adjacent, a man in his 70s or 80s who oozed “commissar. The VP praised him grandly, which Denis translated for me, as having managed the farm for more than 30 years, and overseeing the operations of 10,500 hectares (about 24,000 acres) on which they ran 8,500 beef cattle and 2,000 head of milkers.
We left for the drive back to Minsk around 3 PM, arriving after dark at my new hotel – about 2 blocks away from the old one, on the same street – the Planeta. It was considerably nicer than the Yubileiny (IMHO) and I was to spend the weekend there.