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I notice about a dozen eight-year-old schoolgirls staring fascinatingly at this strange apparition...

Wednesday, December 3rd, 2003

Tolyatti, Russia

Kids Are Kids

Breaking the language barrier

After three nights in Balakovo, Amarendranath Prabhu (tour coordinator), Ashutosha Krishna Prabhu (tour translator) and I get up early and get ready for the drive to the next city on our tour: Tolyatti.

Our previous driver, Igor, who lives in Balakovo, will remain here. We have a new driver, Eduard, who drives us northeast to Tolyatti, a manufacturing center with a population of 700,000, about five hundred kilometers further along the Volga River. Tolyatti is one hour ahead of Moscow Time.

In the evening I give a lecture at the Dvorets Kultury (Palace of Culture). As I walk through the foyer on my way to the auditorium, I notice about a dozen eight-year-old schoolgirls staring fascinatingly (but politely) at this strange apparition (replete with loose flowing robes and danda!) bearing down on them.

I decide to give them a thrill:

"Hi, girls!" I say, smiling down at them.

One of the girls finds her voice only after I have swished by (it takes a while for discretion to turn to bravado!) and squeaks, "Hi!"

The spell is broken — all the girls go into a paroxysm of excited squeals and giggles! :-)

Kids are the same the world over. Now let's see if I can charm their parents...

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