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As anyone who has ever been to Russia will know, you can never be sure what to expect when you arrive
there. No two days are ever the same, which although can seem daunting at times, it is also what
makes Russia ‘Russia’, and personally, what I love the most about it.
The same can be said of your host, or ‘bab’ as we lovingly call them. Sometimes it can be a love-hate
relationship, but the love is always there! Fortunately I was lucky when it came to babs. I had the
loveliest, coolest most flexible bab in Yaroslavl, who enjoyed showing me off to her friends, taking
me to interesting cultural events, and, naturally, feeding me until I burst.
The only flaw she had was that she would never take no for an answer. This was never a problem
until she took the ‘cultural events’ that little bit too far…
I came home one evening, and as soon as I opened the door, my bab bounded towards me, very
excited about something. She proceeded to tell me that she was in charge of organising an ‘event’
( note the vagueness), and that she really wanted me to take part because I was an ‘English girl’.
When I asked her for a more detailed explanation of this event, she just told me that it was ‘ like a
festival’. Thinking that she wanted me to just join in some songs or something, I simply said ‘maybe..
I will think about it’, as I thought it might be a laugh. Mistake number one.
Judging from the amount of jumping up and down, hugging and clapping that went on, I can only
assume that in her mind ‘maybe’ means ‘yes’. Nothing more was said about it for a few days until
she randomly asked me if I was free that Saturday morning. I asked why and she replied that there
was a preparation meeting for the ‘festival’ and I might find it very interesting. Consequently, I yet
again agreed, and she was over the moon. Mistake number two.
Saturday morning came, and my first clue that something wasn’t right was when she asked me why I
wasn’t wearing stilettos. I just looked at her. It was Saturday morning, and, as far as I was concerned
stilettos were not normal Saturday morning wear. She dropped it, and we left for the meeting.
However, when I was in the car, doors locked so I couldn’t escape, she let the cat out of the bag. She
casually dropped into conversation that I might want to start thinking about my ‘talent’. My talent
for what you might ask?! Well, after a rather demanding conversation, she reluctantly admitted that
this was less of a festival and more of a contest, where girls would dress up in ‘beautiful dresses’
prance around together, show their talent and make a speech about Yaroslavl. Oh, and that we were
on our way to a photo-shoot for the paper, not an ‘interesting meeting’.
So, one week later, there I was in the paper, my photos next to all of the stunning Russian girls’
photos, in preparation for my contest.
Lesson of the day: never say maybe when you mean no! Or you will end up in a concert. Probably.
By Hannah Ward
The UoB Linguist Magazine
Guild of Students,
University of Birmingham