Part 6: Around & About the Witch Island

Siqujor was so much more than just party, though.  Even though we happened to be on the island in the peak of the “party” season with every village and island district having their own Christmas and New Year “fiestas”, over the 4.5 days we stayed on the Witch Island, we did have a chance to experience a lot of other things it had to offer.

I have to say a couple of words here about the Philippines in general, which were well represented and well-observable on Siquijor in particular.  When getting ready for the trip, and reading up on all the places we were thinking of visiting, a sentiment from Jody of Legal Nomads got stuck in my head: “Philippines is a Latin American country, that by accident got plopped up in the middle of South East Asia”.  Having visited it now, I can only second this opinion.  There are way too many Latin American, or Hispanic (if you wish) things there, for it to be considered “true Asia”.

Starting with the Catholic religion, brought in by the Spanish invaders in the 16th century.  It sprouted serious and deep roots in the country, and today Philippines are probably more Catholic than the “old world” Catholics themselves.  Churches are everywhere.  They are grand, richly adorned, and revered.  God is even more ubiquitous – Bible quotes decorate every tricycle and jeepney all over the country, Jesus, Mary and the saints are looking at you from buses, buildings, and street food carts.  Catholic holidays paralyze the cities and villages, and turn into a frenzy of celebrations, commonly called “fiestas”.  The signs with “Happy Fiesta!” were all over Siquijor during the time of our visit, and each island district appointed a dedicated day for celebrations, so that the islanders and visitors could party all over the island every day over a period of several weeks.  Each fiesta started with a big prayer, followed by an even bigger feast (with food, chairs and tables brought in by the neighbors), and then a huge party/disco/mayhem of hard-to-believe proportions.

Christmas decorations were another thing worth mentioning – simply because they were in you face literary everywhere.  Imagine all the glitter and bling-bling you have ever seen anywhere, and double it.  Philippine Christmas decorations, just like celebrations were over the top.  Humongous Christmas trees were all over Manila, and it seemed that hotels and official buildings were competing with one another for the biggest, brightest, and shiniest Christmas tree.  On the islands, the decorations were not so grand, but no less shiny, and much more imaginative: we’ve seen Christmas trees made out of old polished CD disks, color-coordinated plastic bottles, coconuts, washed and shiny glass bottles, and everything you can imagine.  Philippines do take their Christmas seriously, and so far beat every other country we’ve ever visited in the scale of decorations and celebrations.

Cemeteries in the Philippines also have a very Latin American look and feel – they are stacked up, with vaults sitting on top of one another.  There was a very picturesque one not far from Sunny Side on the main road of Siquijor, and though much smaller in size and much more modest in look, it definitely brought up the memories of the famous Recoletta Cemetery in Buenos Aires we spent hours exploring several years earlier.

I don’t know if love of pork can be attributed to Catholicism or not (there are definitely parallels with Catholic Bavaria here, but I won’t stretch my imagination that far), but this was another big thing on the Philippines.  Pork was everywhere – every menu, every dish, every local delicacy screamed “pork!”  The food wasn’t particularly imaginative, and compared to other cuisines in the region would lose every time.  Not because of pork per se, but because of absence of spices, or any elaborate art of preparation – it was hearty, heavy, and dropped into your stomach like a brick to sit there for hours to come.

In the Philippines, pigs are kings! That is, untill they are eaten…

Another definitely Latino thing was children.  They were worshipped, and like in Spain or Italy could do nothing wrong.  Unlike Spain or Italy, though, Philippine children did not really abuse their status, and were very well behaved.  Kids were everywhere – smiley, curious, exceptionally smiley and friendly, they would wave you off from the side of the road, would gladly engage in conversation, and give you the warmest and heartiest smile you can imagine, that would melt your heart on the spot.  During our trip around the island we saw numerous school and family parties with dozens of children screaming their lungs out at karaoke, and adoring parents gushing at them from the sides.  Schools were everywhere – every island district had at least one, and judging by the school parties they were all full.  Absence of TV entertainment paired up with Catholic beliefs works miracles!…

What definitely made Siquijor stand out from Manila, and many other places we visited on this trip, was its cleanness.  There was no garbage on the side of the roads, and on more than one occasion we even saw locals sweeping the streets in front of their houses or shops.  This did not look like the “holiday special”, and definitely made the island look neat, tidy, and festive.

By the New Year’s Eve we were all partied out.  The “fiesta” that day was happening somewhere else, far from Sunny Side, and in the morning of December 31st our part of the island seemed unusually quiet.  We started the day by a long and lazy brunch with Chris in Marco Polo.  Sun, prosecco, good company, great ocean views – what else does one need for a happy morning?…

Morning view from Marco Polo
Prozecco breakfast!

It turned out that on the island menu a waterfall was an essential ingredient of happiness, and we were ready to throw that into the mix!  Lugnazon Falls were only a quick scooter ride away, and after parking our mighty steeds and trekking through the jungle for just 10 minutes or so we had them all to ourselves!  Being there all alone, just us with no other people had a surreal feeling about it.  All we could hear was the water, the birds, crickets, and the lazy wind ruffling the tree leaves.  The boys took a dip and splashed around in the turquoise waters of the falls.  I was not quite ready for the swim just yet, and consoled myself with taking photos.  When we were ready to leave, a bunch of local kids showed up, and immediately started making crazy jumps from the top of the falls, and from the rope swing on one of the nearby palm-trees.  The boys were looking jealously at these acrobatics, but were quite a bit smarter (and heavier) than the skinny Philippine teenagers, and wisely stayed away from the jumps.

After the waterfall swim Chris went back to Sunny Side following the call of duty, cold beer, Layka, or all of the above.  We decided to continue with the tourist program, and went to see the Century Old Balete Tree, also known among the locals as The Tree Where The Witch Lives.  The balete tree belongs to the fig tree family that includes about 800 species.  It is a type of ficus, also known as the banyan in other parts of the world, and has prominent air roots that makes it easily recognizable all over the world.

The Tree Where The Witch Lives

In addition to The Witch (which was nowhere to be seen), the tree had a fish spa pond, organized by the enterpreneurial locals from the spring originating from the tree’s base and stocked with garra rufa, or Doctor Fish who happily nibble at the dead skin on visitors’ feet.  This sounds gross, but together with the cooling sensations of the spring water is, in fact, is a pleasant experience.  Entrance to the tiny grounds of the tree used to be free, but now visitors are required to pay a nominal sum of a couple of cents for maintenance of the pool.  When we arrived, about a dozen tired travellers were already splashing their feet in the pool, to the joy of the doctor fishes, hungrily circling around.  I experienced the “fish massage” a couple of years earlier in Cambodia, and while not totally unpleasant, it was definitely a weird and quite ticklish sensation. 

The water was cool, and sitting on the side of the pool was a good opportunity to relax and admire the Witch Tree.  One had to be careful, though – some of the garras in the pond were quite huge, and looked like they could swallow a human toe whole.  We spent a relaxing half hour by the pool, watching the tree, giggling from the little fishes’ nibbles, and shushing the really big fuckers away from our feet.

The New Year celebrations were relatively tame, compared to the mayhem of the two previous days.  Layka fished out two vuvuzela from the depths of the kitchen, and together with one of the neighbors set everybody within the 500-meter radius in the mood with the mental squeaks of these horrible devices.  

Vuvuzela madness

There was the obligatory end of the year fireworks, which I believe happen everywhere around the world, regardless of the culture, religion or general energy levels of the local population.  There is something about the New Year that seriously affects people’s pyrotechnical inclinations, and makes even the most peaceful representatives of our species want to blow shit up.  I’ve observed this phenomenon in the US, Russia, Cambodia, Germany, and was yet to find an exception to this rule.  Philippines happily followed suit – Chris stocked up on cheap Chinese fireworks and petards a week ago, yet with every day closing in on New Year’s Eve he got progressively more worried that what he had would not be enough, and would buy up additional pyrotechnics.  They weren’t especially safe or reliable, and I am to this day amazed that nobody managed to blow up a hand or a head when the time for the fireworks came. 

We are gonna blow these babies up!

Some were more skillful in operating the pyrotechnics than the others, though…  One of Chris’ tenants, a tall Dutch guy, who just arrived on the island that morning, managed to shoot a firework into one of the tents in back, and set fire to it, to the horror and joy of the two English girls who happened to be the unfortunate owners of said tent.  The fire was extinguished quickly, the tent survived, and the girls continued giggling throughout the evening, at the same time trying to stay as far away from the Dutch guy as possible.  The hit of the evening was not the burning tent, though – Chris won the “most memorable firework of the night” competition with a huge firework garland he hung on the big palm tree in front of the Sunny Side.  When he set it off a couple of minutes before midnight, the garland spewed fire around for a bit, after which dis-attached from the palm tree, and fell on top of Chris’ motorbike (with a full tank of gas), continuing to burn and ready to explode.  The Dutch guy redeemed himself by jumping up to the bike, picking the garland up and throwing it into the nearby bushes, where it happily exploded, setting a minor fire to the bushes.

Happy New Year!

The New Year was officially in!  The pyrotechnics stopped (we simply ran out of shit to blow up), Chris and Layka danced a slow Viennese Waltz on the deck of Sunny Side in celebration of the new 365 days, friends and neighbours joined in with songs and dances.  The New Year definitely started on a positive note – one of the bayots who left without saying good-bye the night before, came back, and offered tearful apologies and hugs to his former employer.  Chris was generous and soon the staff of Sunny Side was complete, and re-united, and everybody joined in on the celebrations.  We did not go mental, and were back at Stella’z in bed about an hour into the New Year.

The next day, we continued with the tourist program, and went around the island, to experience everything it had to offer.  The main drag, the Siquijor Circumferential Road, had tarmac, and was relatively good to ride.  We saw nice beaches (deserted due to low tide), numerous kiddies’ karaoke parties all around the island, a couple of big-ass churches, and bright green rice fields on the East side of the island. 

Somewhere on Siquijor

The best experience of the day was another waterfall – the three-tiered Cambugahay Falls were nowhere near as deserted or remote as Lugnazon, but the waters were so clear, so blue and refreshing, that even I ventured a dip.  It was amazing!  Every New Year should start with waking up on the beach, and after enjoying picturesque islands, taking a refreshing swim in the clearest waters of a waterfall!  The place was packed – families with little kids, groups of teenagers, young and old couples were all there, and all shared my newly-found belief about the proper start for the year.  The waterfalls were big, and nobody seemed to mind others – people were enjoying the fresh water, each other’s company, and were just having fun.  Siquijor was definitely good for that!

Cambugahay Falls – the upper level

What the island was not too good with, was ATMs.  Our round the island trip was partially driven by a desire to get some cash.  Honourable plan, which failed miserably.  The only ATM that was not disgusted with our Maestro cards was in the town of Siquijor, and was out of cash.  We found two more ATMs on the island, but they wanted nothing to do with our cards, and just spit them out without offering any other options.  We did know that getting cash would be a problem on the island, and came prepared.  Local prices were low even by Philippine standards, and we still had enough left to buy us two ferry tickets to Bohol for the next day, and even for another nice dinner at Marco Polo.

Las dinner at Marco Polo with Maestro Giulio!

We came back to Chris’ and to our horror realized that January 1st was a dedicated day for the local fiesta in the San Juan province, and the party was being set up right opposite the Sunny Side. Fuck!…. More party… Well, looked like it was inevitable, so we decided to just relax and enjoy. Chris also donated some food and drinks to the party, so we joined in as almost celebrities. We skipped the starting prayer and the meal, and walked in when the disco part of the fiesta was kicking in. It was absolutely mental – the music was blasting from the speakers, everybody was singing and dancing at the same time, blowing up remaining fireworks and drinking. We joined in, dancing our assess off, and singing our hearts out (luckily nobody could hear us in the cacophony of music and noise around!), and in the end of the evening had to partake in some un-identifiable shots of local palm moonshine. This was the end of it – the next thing I knew was waiking up the next morning. Luckily at Stella’z, and with Nic snoring by my side.

Every celebration comes to an end, and so did our never-ending Siquijor party.  We did not meet any witches or sorcerers on Witch Island, but reunited with a good friend, made some new ones, partied our asses out, and were not ready to see more of this beautiful country and continue with our trip.

Next stop – tiny little monkeys and the Chocolate Hills of Bohol !

New Year sunset on Siquijor

A Ballet Poster

Some people’s sole purpose in life is to make others around them miserable.

The Task

I have a task for you…”, she said staring into the air above my head with a dreamy look on her face.

A task?  Wonderful!  Only 2 weeks into the new job, I was all ready to prove that there was nothing I could not do.  Even though the exact opposite was probably closer to the truth, I was inclined to type E-mails, organize things, make coffee and answer the telephone around the clock, if need be.  I would make this job happen, if it kills me.

Polite attentiveness and alert desire to please registering on my face, I kept waiting for my young hip boss to word it out.  She was beautiful, smart, professional, and she took her time.  She always did.  If I were the person who hated inconveniencing others and putting them in an awkward position, feeling the need to fill in all the uncomfortable silences, she seemed to actually take pleasure in making people wait and feel uneasy by creating as many pauses, as humanly possible.  I was not even sure she actually had a task in mind – it was probably just that one of those business self-help books piled up on her disgracefully cluttered desk must have had a chapter on the importance of keeping the lowly subordinates busy.

Speaking of desks – what was it with prom queens and their innate ability to make a mess around themselves?  I mean, seriously – if you want to be perfect, why not start with throwing yesterday’s sandwiches in the garbage bin instead of pushing them to the side of the desk and camouflaging them with documents, only to bitch to the cleaning lady later for not finding them and allowing the place to stink of stale mayo and last-week’s tomatoes?…  The cleaning lady was, of course, expressly forbidden to move the papers on the desk, poor woman.  She had the nerves of steel, though, every time patiently listening to Her Highness’s complaints about life’s imperfections in general, and her way too small office in particular, and just going about her cleaning routine as usual.

I could not believe myself now that I once thought Her Highness to be nice and awesome.  A few days into the job I remember sharing my sincere admiration of her with a girlfriend, saying how wonderful it was to have a boss who was young, smart, beautiful, and not a bitch.  When this same girlfriend then bumped into the two of us exiting the office together a couple of weeks later, she could not hold herself, and called my cell seconds after, shouting at the top of her lungs “You mean SHE is not a bitch????  Open your eyes, girl!”  To my credit, the eyes opened quite fast after that, and my initial rosy impression of Her Highness did not survive the first month.  The phantom “nice and awesome” creature was replaced with a harsh reality – the “I’m too busy & important” snow princess.  And the ballet poster played an important part in the process of opening my eyes.  But I am getting ahead of myself….

Her Highness was not even exactly my boss.  My real boss, who I was hired to assist, barricaded himself behind a locked door, barely saying a word to me, and she gladly assumed the task of “breaking me in” and molding me into a perfect employee.  She made it clear, that she took up this mission out of the pure goodness of her heart, and it was already a lost battle …  But then – nobody’s perfect, and she would just have to try to make a cookie out of the crappy ingredients she got.

…So, I was thinking….”, she suddenly woke up from her contemplative trance, and smiled in my direction in an almost tender and loving way.

She was obviously not seeing me, but enjoying the reflection of herself in the glass door of the shelf behind my back.

We have this important client, Mario, you know, he was just here a couple of months ago…

But of course!  I have only been here two weeks, so sure, I absolutely and definitely know Mario!

He is a hu-u-u-uge ballet aficionado, and when we were driving to this fancy restaurant downtown one evening, I remember him pointing out a poster on the street – something about the tour of The Bolshoi Ballet Company, or something…  And I was just thinking…, you know…, how ma-a-a-a-arvelous it would be if we could send it to him…”, she sang, looking closely at her nail, contemplating if it was just the right shade of pink.

I loved all those fancy words she had a habit of sprinkling her tirades with, all pronounced with a fake French, or bigger-than-life American accent with all the rolling “r”s!)

Uhm…, send what to him, exactly?…

The poster.  You see, in client relations, it’s these personal touches that make all the difference.  Wouldn’t it be absolutely sublime to courier him the poster he noted a couple of months ago?…

… and probably forgot about completely”, I was itching to add, but held my tongue.

… just to show how much we care”, she finished, satisfied with herself, and obviously impatient to see me getting the fuck out of her office.

I was not buying it just like that, though.

Uhmmm…  But what kind of a poster was that?  What was on it?

What?”, she snapped out of her pink nail polish meditation, and stared at me with open disgust.

What was there on the poster?  Since I have not seen it, and was not there with you, when you were driving through the city to dinner, it would help to have some idea what I should be looking for.

Oh, you know, it was just a ballet poster…  A shape of a ballerina with a background of the Bolshoi or something…

Or something?...”

Well, I happen to have more important things to remember!…  I have to run the whole business development side of this company, you know?!  It was a ballet poster, it was all over town, it’s easy.  Use the Internet – you can find anything there!  Now, excuse me, I have a telephone conference with a potential client, so why don’t we both get down to work?

And with a wave of her pink-nailed hand I was dismissed.

A ballet poster.  Nice.  Was all over town 2 months ago.  Fuck, that is just what I need!  Rummaging through the shreds of my memories of the last 2 months, I could not, for the life of me, remember seeing anything with even a distant resemblance to what was described by Her Highness.  How the fuck am I supposed to find something I have never seen, something that has been vaguely referred to me as “a ballet poster”?…  The fact that I could not NOT find it was not an option.  I had to.  Find it, or die trying.

The Search

I sat morosely at my desk, wrecking my brain as to how to tackle this treasure hunt mystery.  Googling “ballet poster Bolshoi background” did not bring any remotely fitting results.  It did open my eyes to the fact that, apparently, ballet porn was an item, but we seriously don’t want to go there…  Still trying to erase some of the images I stumbled upon from my memory, I decided to tackle the problem in an old-fashioned way: by phone.

One of life’s little mysteries is that while I absolutely hated talking to strangers on the phone, and was probably the worst liar one could imagine (I literally felt my ears burning and nose getting even longer every time I was trying to make things up), this was exactly what I did next – I picked up the phone, and started lying my socks off.

I called The Bolshoi Theater administration in Moscow, and boldly inquired whether any spare copies of the theater’s ballet company latest tour in St. Petersburg were available.  The bored voice bordering on obnoxiousness on the other side asked who the hell wanted to know.

Uhm…  I am calling from St. Petersburg.  From the Mayor’s Office.  My name is Victoria, I am the secretary of the Mayor (and I gave the name of the then City Mayor).

If I am going down, I might as well go all the way!

The voice immediately woke up and almost visibly directed a big Cheshire green into the telephone, simultaneously hissing to somebody by their side:

Hush, you idiots – it’s the St. Petersburg Mayor’s Office!

I repeated my question once again, this time to a much more receptive audience, with every word expecting my fake cover to be blown, and the voice threaten me with the cops, or at least demand some sort of proof of my announced identity.  Nothing like that happened, and if anything the voice only grew sweeter and more scared by the minute.

How wonderful to hear from you!  What can we do for the Mayor?  How can we be of service?  Tickets to tomorrow’s premier, maybe?…

No, no, thank you”, I interrupted, “This will not be necessary.  If you can just point me in the direction of that poster, I mentioned, the Mayor will be much obliged”.

My nose was getting longer and longer by the minute.  Shit, I was good!

Oh, but of course!  Which poster would she like?  We have just ordered an anniversary one – we can send the 1st copy directly to St. Petersburg next week!

No, no, it’s your previous one, in fact.  From the tour in St. Petersburg, you know?…

Of course, of course, I see!  Your wonderful city!  How lucky are you to be living there!

The voice was openly gushing, and I could almost see the middle-aged lady on the other end jumping in fake excitement.

Let me check which one exactly was from that tour.  We keep all the extra copies, you know?!

Thank you so much, this would be wonderful!

Shall I call you back in just a couple of minutes, or would you mind awfully to wait?…

Yeah, right – call me back in the office and call my bluff?  No, thank you!

I’ll wait, no bother at all!

Oh, you are so sweet!  That’s St. Petersburg manners!

I was rolling my eyes.  Together with the red face and the Pinocchio nose I must be a really pretty sight right now.  Thank god Her Highness barricaded herself in her office for her important call, and I could hear her cooing and laughing into the telephone behind closed doors.

There!  A ballerina with the background of The Bolshoi.  Are you sure your boss wants this one?  This is not our best, to be honest…

I assured the voice that this was exactly what the Mayor of St. Petersburg was dreaming about, and no better substitutes were necessary.

How many copies would you like?  Fifty?  A hundred?…

No, no, just one will be OK.

Just…. ONE?…”, the voice started sounding suspicious.  “But what if…

Of course!” I interrupted.  “I was just kidding.  Let’s make it 5, or better 10, if that’s all right with you.

Absolutely!  We will courier them to you right away!

What?  Fuck!  I did not expect that.  What the hell would I do with the posters couriered to the Mayor of St. Petersburg?  Think, think, think!

Actually, it’s a bit of an emergency, if you know what I mean?...” I had no idea myself, but the voice expressed full understanding.  “Would you mind if our representative picks it up from you this afternoon?…

Of course!  If this is not an inconvenience!…  What an honor!  Everything will be ready by lunchtime!

Thank you SO MUCH”, I exhaled.  “You can’t imagine how helpful you’ve been.  I will be sure to mention this to the Mayor.  Our courier will drop by in the afternoon”.

I dropped the receiver as if it were about to bite me.  So far so good.  Now, where on earth am I about to find a courier to pick up the bloody things up?…

The Pick-Up

A quick mental tally of people I knew in Moscow came up with the total number of 4.  Three were relatives, and thus unreliable.  The 4th one was a former childhood friend I lost touch with about 10 years ago, so also out of the question.  Then, suddenly I remembered: when I was interviewing for this job, they said something about having an office in Moscow.  This would be perfect!  Who can I ask about it?…

My choice wasn’t too big – in two weeks on the job the only people I interacted with were Her Highness and the office driver we spent hours at the airport with, picking up visiting clients.  Bingo!

I dialed his cell.

Igor, hi, it’s me.

Why are you whispering?

I don’t know.  Listen, I am kinda in the shit, and need your help!”

Fuck, did we forget to pick somebody up, or something?

No, no, all good.  We do have an office in Moscow, right?

If you can call it that….

Do you know anybody there?  Anybody at all?…  Preferably not an asshole…

Ha-ha, any other requirements?…

Nah, just somebody I can call and ask for a favor of.

There’s this girl, Anna – she is a kind of an office admin, and runs all the errands there.  Try her.

Thank you, thank you, thank you!  A Big Mac is on me!!!

I hung up.  A Big Mac was not just an empty promise.  After about a week of our airport vigils Igor and I worked out a procedure.  We would leave the office 10 minutes earlier and stop by at McDonald’s on the way to the airport.  I’ll have a cheeseburger with coke, Igor will have a Big Mac with fries, and breathing fast food and ketchup on each other and later on the unsuspecting clients, we would continue on our way.

I cherished the airport pickups.  Not only did they give me an excuse to escape Her Highness, but also provided a rare opportunity to eat.  When I was in the office, one of my tasks was to answer the central telephone line, dedicated to clients and other important communications.  The office was small, and if I did not answer after three rings, the call got transferred to Her Highness, and if she could not be bothered to pick it up, to the Big Boss after her.  Since Her Highness expressly stated that it was not her job to do mine, I was afraid to leave my desk even to go to the bathroom.  Going to the kitchen to heat up some food, or chop a salad, was unimaginable luxury, so I was happy about visitors, as they provided much needed food and toilet breaks.

I looked up Anna on the company telephone list, and dialed the number.

Hi, Anna, my name is Victoria, I am a new girl in the St. Petersburg office”, I started.

Hi, yes I know.”  Anna sounded ok, but very business-like and in a hurry.

Sorry to bother you, but I don’t know too many people in the company yet…” – I wanted to say “I don’t know anybody yet”, but although it felt real, it was not technically true. – “I need your help!” I blurted out.

Sure”, said Anna.  “What is it?

It’s for….”.  I gave Her Highness’s’ name, and Anna visibly tensed.

Yes?…

If you don’t help me, she’ll eat me alive!

Ha-ha, she can, can’t she?”  Anna laughed, and repeated in a friendly tone: “What can I do for you?

I need somebody to go to the Bolshoi Theater, and pick up some posters from them for one of our clients.  Today.

Posters?  From the Bolshoi?…  This is something new!

Can you do that?…  Please!!!!!

Sure.  I actually have an appointment nearby at 2 in the afternoon, can drop by there right after!

Oh, my God, I don’t know how to thank you!!!!

Don’t mention it!

Just one thing – tell them you are from the St. Petersburg Mayor’s Office.

Really?…

Don’t ask…

OK.” Anna sounded unperturbed by her new affiliation.  “Anything else?  What shall I do with the bloody things afterwards?

Is anybody travelling to St. Petersburg from your office this week?

Not that I know of…

No worries, I am sure we will have somebody travelling to Moscow soon, I’ll ask them to pick the posters up.

Sure. They’ll be in the office.”

And with that my Moscow savior hung up.

The Delivery

I spent the rest of the day fidgeting and checking my watch every 5 minutes.  I calculated and re-calculated the times: Anna said her appointment as at 2.  How long was it for?  Half hour?  One hour?  Two?… How far was it from The Bolshoi?  She said she would pop in right after…  When would it be safe to call?

My patience lasted till 5, when I dialed the Moscow office number again.  Anna picked up on the 1st ring.

Hello?

Anna?  This is Victoria.  I am very sorry to bother you…

I got your stuff,” she interrupted.

Really?…  Oh, thank you, thank you, thank you!!!  You are the best!

Not a problem at all.  They were actually quite nice there, in the Bolshoi.  Tried to push some premier tickets on me.  I barely escaped.

Did they ask for an ID, or something?

Not even my name.  I mentioned the Mayor of St. Petersburg, as you said, nearly pissed myself how friendly everybody got right away!

Anna, I owe you.  Thank you so much!

Yes!!!!  I pumped both fists in the air!  I did it!!!!

By the end of the week, one of the colleagues frequently travelling between Moscow and St. Petersburg dropped a roll of posters, carefully wrapped in several layers of paper, on my desk. 

Trembling with excitement, I grabbed them, and marched straight into Her Highness’ office.

Here,” I announced beaming.  “I got it!

Got what?” She looked mildly annoyed.

The ballet poster.  For Mario!  As you asked!” I announced.

Ah, yes, the poster…  Very good.  Just leave it here, I’ll take a look after my conference call.

I can send it to him right away, if you give me the address!”  My energy knew no limits.

Just close the door when you go.  Thank you!

Nothing could spoil my triumph.  I did the impossible, I beat the odds, I found the unknown and outdid myself!  I was chuffed.  Surely, when her stupid conference call finishes, she’ll see the posters, and even if she would never admit this openly, she would see that I was not as useless as she made me feel.  I might even be able to make it through the trial period!

The End

A year later, when Her Highness was finally offered a bigger office, it was me and the cleaning lady, who were left to pack up her stuff and move it to her new digs.  She flew her coup the moment she heard the good news, and left the two of us to fight the debris.

While throwing away old sandwiches, digging through piles of magazines, books and papers on her desk in a futile attempt at organizing the chaos, I saw a familiar-looking tube, wrapped in several layers of paper and half-squashed with a heavy dictionary.  I took it and unwrapped the paper.  Inside were 10 copies of the ballet poster.  A ballerina on the background of The Bolshoi.  My ill-gotten and lied for trophy.  It did bring back memories.  I stared at the posters for a good 5 minutes, and then threw them in the bin.  I did not even swear – admirable self-control!…  I probably should have kept a copy as a souvenir.  Of my entrepreneurial skills, of my stupidity, or both…

I did not say anything to Her Highness.  What would be the point?…