Farewell, but not forever:
On completion of my assignment at the university, the dean invited me into his office to tell me how pleased he was with what had been accomplished. He then asked me if I thought everything had gone well and was satisfied with the outcome. I indicated that I was very pleased with the help, enthusiasm and cooperation of every one of the staff, the student’s participation and especially with the assistance of the interpreters and Vladimir. I then had the temerity to suggest that the washrooms on that floor were not well ventilated nor looked after and were not conducive to the good health of students and staff. To my surprise he agreed with me and said that he would look into it. When I returned again a year later they had been renovated and were extremely clean and well looked after.
During my free time, I undertook to meet with several prominent business people to encourage them to think about inviting other CESO Volunteer Advisors to come help them in their business or possibly do business with Canadian firms. One of these men invited me and my interpreter to meet with him and some of his colleagues at his office one evening, to discuss such an undertaking. He sent a car to transport us to his place of business. When we arrived we had in-depth conversation about the pros and cons of how this could benefit his organization, and afterwards he took us into an adjoining room where he had prepared a sumptuous feast in our honour, consisting of many Russian delicacies, some hot, but most items were traditional cold cuts and salads.
Russian hospitality required that each one present, propose a toast with vodka or cognac to the host his guests. The guest must then respond with an in kind toast to the host. This kept going for more than an hour as we ate. I tried to match our host drink for drink with a disastrous result. Just as we were about to say our farewells and leave his office, I felt sick and did not make it to the washroom before I threw-up all over the reception room floor. My gracious host came to support me, asked his staff to clean-up and he left with me to personally take me to my hotel, with a whole entourage, to make sure that I was going to be all right.
Completing my assignment the end of November, I returned by train to Moscow, reported its success to Alexander and left the next day for home via Lufthansa Airline.