Landed in Minsk, on time, at around 2:30, and got through formalities quickly, met Natalia from the Center for Ecological Solutions, the local NGO, and we picked up the driver, Denis. Much to my surprise (and delight) the car was an Audi A-6 Quattro rather than the Lada I had expected.
Because the first presentation was scheduled for 3:30 and it was a 40 minute drive into the city I had to shave on the way, and the only lunch I got was at the newest (not the only) McDonalds in the city. There was no opportunity to take pictures or make small talk as Natalia had to do my briefing on organic agriculture in Belarus during the ride, with Denis both driving through city traffic and translating Natalia’s briefing.
We arrived at the Academy of Management of the President of Belarus just as the room was filling with the students (actually middle-management professionals doing continuing training) but had to divert to have tea first with Viktor, who had arranged this deal, and then his superior, the Rector of the academy, where I made a short impromptu presentation about myself, the project, and its prospects.
That all seemed to go well, and after another march through darkened halls of wood and what seemed to be marble I was ushered into a lecture hall filled to about third capacity with 30-35 people, including Viktor.
Obviously, this first lecture was in many ways the most difficult. I had not worked with a translator in about 18 years, and so I had to relearn that skill quickly. Also, I had to assess the audience, which I assumed included the managers of some classic Soviet state farms, who would not normally be enamored of my kinds of arguments, despite what pressure there might be from “upstairs.” Also, I only had two of the (minimum) four lectures done, and no idea of their focus and importance to the other audiences I would be facing.
Finished around 7:30 P and was driven to the Yubileiny hotel (first time). Checked in, handler and driver left and I went upstairs. Happy to find that I had high speed internet but was not more than 15 minutes settled in when phone rang and it was a hooker who addressed me by name and offered herself (apparently they buy the name and number of guests from the front desk). Of course I said “No thank you.”
This was both for the obvious sexual and relational reasons but also because I was carrying $4500 cash, and the idea of letting a local hooker in to my room on my first night in the country did not seem so wise….<G>