When America Gets a Runny Nose
D. Craig Horn, Weddington, NC
It was 5:15 AM when our phone rang on the day after Christmas. Pretty much all of us have the same reaction to such an event; what has happened? Who was hurt or who died? Generally nothing good comes out of a 5:15 am phone call on any day.
The voice was familiar, yet distant. One could immediately tell that the call was from overseas, the line was a bit strange, the buzz and crackle were reminiscent of long-distant phone calls in decades past. â€œWhat time is it there?â€ the deep male voiced asked. â€œ5:15 AM,â€ my wife replied in a somewhat groggy state. The reply came with a smile, â€œI should say â€˜good morningâ€™ rather than â€˜Merry Christmas, then I guess.â€ The call was from Ufa in Russia, about 900 miles southeast of Moscow. From nearly halfway around the world, came Christmas greetings from Damir Yalilov.
Let me provide a little background, but please stay tuned for the ending of the story. I shall try to make it worth the wait.
Several years ago whilst living in Maryland, my wife and I provided home-stays for visiting young Russian entrepreneurs who would come to this country thru the auspices of the University of Maryland and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to learn western-style business practices. This was during the eighties and early nineties when Russia was in the process of democratizing and moving toward capitalism. Among the several â€œguestsâ€ that we had stay with us during the time in which we participated in this project was Damir Yalilov, a twenty-something young man from Ufa with unlimited and unbridled exuberance, who was determined to draw every drop of excitement and life from this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity in America. And he did! He arrived at our home on the first Saturday in May. This is important to note because that is â€œDerby Dayâ€ in the household of anyone from Louisville, Kentucky. My wife is from Louisville and we do NOT, under any circumstances, forget about Derby Day.
Damir arrived carrying a small overnight bag (which contained his entire wardrobe for his 6-week stay), some kind of balalaika instrument (a gift to us) and wearing a rather unusual cap (also a gift to us). He arrived about 3 minutes before the start of THE race. We immediately rushed him inside, sat him in front of the television and told him to â€œwatch thisâ€ and we will explain later.
The next six or so weeks were an adventure during which we fell in love with each other. Damir had an internship with a public-relations firm in Baltimore. Each weekday morning we took him to the Laurel train station and picked him up upon his return each evening. He would then walk from Camden Station in Baltimore the few blocks to his job and then back to the train station at the end of the day. Along the way, and in fact everywhere Damir would go, he would never, NEVER, hesitate to catch someoneâ€™s eye, extend his hand and say, â€œHi, I am Damir from Russiaâ€ in his deep well-accented voice with that mysterious Russian twang. And when I say â€œeverywhere,â€ I mean EVERYwhere; in restaurants, on the street, around the nationâ€™s capital. He went to the Preakness race at Pimlico and to Fells Point; he went into the US Capitol building, he went to Arlington Cemetery and he went to Ocean City. And in every case, he met and made new friends always with the same opening, â€œHi, I am Damir from Russia.â€
Damir was often a bit out of control. In Washington, DC, we encountered one of the many demonstrations that occur along the â€œmallâ€ between the Capitol and the Lincoln Monument. In the flash of an eye, there was Damir introducing himself to the demonstrators. And in another flash he was waving two signs, â€œJail to The Chiefâ€ and something else that I have forever stricken from my memory. I was aghast! On another occasion, he was invited some unnamed young ladies to our house to meet â€œDamir from Russiaâ€ that he had contacted through the Internet (a phenomenon about which I knew nothing!). I was more than aghast! I rebelled and said â€œAbsolutely NOT!â€
And one last Damir story: Each day, or so it seemed, Damir would ask for aspirin. After about a week, we began to seriously question the frequency. He said that he was experiencing severe headaches but insisted that he felt neither ill nor was indulging in any inappropriate behavior. Into the third week of these regular requests, we decided to take him to a doctor. He then confessed that just a few days before coming to the USA, he had broken his glasses. He did not want to miss this great opportunity, so he borrowed glasses from a friend and they were giving him headaches.
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