Last weekend my wife and I were invited out by our landlord and his girlfriend (wrongly described in a previous post as his wife). He is an Ossetian, and thinking about it he looks as though he’s from down the Caucasus way. His girlfriend is a local girl from a village somewhere up the coast which makes Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk look like Moscow. We’d quickly made friends with the Ossetian after we’d rented his place and he’d come round to fix the shower and replace the remote control for the TV. He’s only 30 and after five minutes of my wife rabitting away to him about something or other, we invited him to stay for a cup of tea, then another, and just as I was beginning to think it would be good if we all went out on the piss, he pipes up with the exact same idea himself. This is Russia, after all.
So, at ten o’clock on Saturday evening we went downstairs where they had come to pick us up and found a limousine waiting for us which, considering where we were, was somewhat of a surprise. Inside were our two new friends with a bottle of champagne. Apparently, the Ossetian’s girlfriend works in a company which hires the limo out for weddings and parties and she’d arranged for the driver to give us a half-hour whirl of the city, presumably once his shift had finished. I’d hate to think there was a tearful bride somewhere wondering where her wedding car had got to; the car was still covered in ribbons and flowers after all. And truth be told, I had never been in a limo before. Despite three years living amidst the wealth of the Middle East I’d never even poked my head in one, so it was with some amusement that I observed that the first city I tour in a limo should be Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk. Which when you think about it, is not as surprising as it sounds. Despite the enormous wealth of the few Arabs I knew in the Middle East, their famed hospitality consisted in its entirety of empty promises of trips in their boats or to their summer house – always next month. Which of course never came. But this is Russia, and the Russian hospitality consists of not only promises but delivery of same by way of being fed mountains of food and vast quantities of alcohol within days of first meeting. Indeed, in just two weeks of being here we’d been to two barbecues and had a ride in a limo, albeit one driven by a chap in white trainers. Beats eating dates washed down with fruit juice in an iftar tent after a four month stint in Kuwait.
Anyway, we polished off the bottle of champagne and played with the interior lights and DVD player, and eventually got kicked out at a place calling itself the Continental Club. By then we’d been joined by the Ossetian’s cousin. We’d heard of several nightclubs in Yuzhnii over the past couple of weeks but not this one, the reason being this was a Russian club and expats would not frequent it, not least because nobody spoke much English there. It was pretty empty when we went in at about half past ten, but later on it filled up nicely. We had reserved a table, and we crowded round and ordered a bottle of vodka, a jug each of orange juice and coke, and a tub of ice. A waitress brought the glasses, and we were off. Highlights of the night include the DJ playing a hard house mix of the Baywatch theme tune, which was much catchier than it sounds; a show which consisted (of course) of tall, attractive girls dancing around wearing practically nothing; the toilets being inexplicably closed for fifteen minute periods throughout the night; and the sole expat being an old and rather ridiculous looking Japanese gentleman in a green lumberjack shirt in the company of a young blonde Russian girl. At some point, after being assured the kitchens were open all night, we tried to order some food only to be told that salads would take a minimum of 20 minutes to arrive with anything else taking at least 40 minutes. Yup, this was definitely Russia. Several hours worth of vodka, dancing, and not eating saw us stagger onto the street at about 4 or 5am, lots of hugs, kisses, and back slappings and promises to do the same again in the near future.
I look forward to it.