16 July 2013

Salami, Borscht and a Killer Conversation

There is a Russian and Italian Networking event being held in Singapore this coming Friday. I have been invited to this soiree by both the Italians and the Russians - even though I am neither. 

Italian or Russian that is. 

Some Hungarian Jewish and Irish Catholic blood courses through my veins but I am mostly white Anglo Saxon Australian. The Hungarian is from my mother's side of the family and the Irish is from my father. There is a trickle of English in me which is very diluted. I am eternally grateful for this dilution as I consider English blood to be an impurity.

A vile one at that.

However there is a small village in Yorkshire in England that bares my family name. My surname is an uncommon one and I shall not reveal it here as I wish to maintain my anonymity. There are people looking for me. 

These are dangerous people who wish me harm.

I do not want them to find me.

I am unable to attend the Russian and Italian Networking event this Friday as I have a prior commitment. This is a great pity as I think the convergence of the Italians and the Russians will be interesting and entertaining.

It will be cracking in fact.

I had a quick lunch today with two of my Italian friends and two Russians. I bought along the two Russians. They do not live here on the Island like me and the Italians. Their names are Vlad and Oleg and they are visiting for work. I only met these Russians a couple of weeks ago but I thought that they would be interested in attending the Russian and Italian Networking event so I invited them along to the lunch to meet the Italian guys. Vlad and Oleg work for a Russian Oil and Gas Company. Vlad manages the Security operations for his company but I have no idea what Oleg does.

I befriended Vlad and Oleg and a couple of their other colleagues in a chance meeting at a bar where they were drinking copious amounts of vodka. During the evening Oleg casually informed me that Vlad has killed men before - with an icepick. 

This captured my interest immediately. 

As it would.

I was also endeared to Vlad by his generous offer to assassinate my deranged Danish neighbor Jens. I have recanted this event in previous writings so I will not go through it all again. Needless to say I thanked Vlad for his kind offer to slay Jens but I told him that it was not necessary.

Not yet anyway.

The Italian friends with whom I lunched today are named Alberto and Rocco and both are wine merchants. I met Alberto and Rocco several years ago through my friend Ornella. Ornella owned a restaurant called "InContro" here in Singapore. I used to eat there quite a lot with my Irish friend James. The pasta and risotto was superb. Ornella left the Island about a year ago and 'InContro" has since closed. Ornella went to live in Zurich where she is now married to a fellow Jehovah's Witness. I miss Ornella and I miss "InContro" a lot and I miss the pasta and the risotto as well. I do not miss my Irish friend James. 

This is because he still lives here in Singapore and I see him all the time.

He is a good mate of mine.

Life was difficult for Ornella in Singapore as a Jehovah's Witness. The Singapore Government de-registered and banned the activities of the Jehovah's Witnesses in 1972. Being a Jehovah's Witnesses in Singapore is illegal. Many things are illegal here. The main reason that the Jehovah’s Witness faith is banned in Singapore is that their religion disallows them to vote and undertake the mandatory military service that is required for all Singaporean males. There are at least a couple of dozen male Jehovah's Witnesses incarcerated in Singapore for refusing to do military service. The initial sentence applied for failure to comply is 15 months imprisonment and there is an additional 24 months applied for a second refusal.

Faith can be tough sometimes.

My friend Ornella taught me quite a bit about the Jehovah faith. It is a relatively strange and almost cult like offshoot of mainstream Christianity. The Jehovah beliefs are based on their own interpretations of the Bible and they do not observe Christmas, Easter or birthdays. They consider these to be 'pagan'. They do not believe in nor accept blood transfusions either.

The act of 'witnessing' is knocking on the doors of strangers and spreading the word of their faith. They produce a publication called "Watchtower" which is full of stories of doom and gloom and the Jehovah's path to salvation.

Jehovah's are not allowed to 'witness' in Singapore and the "Watchtower" publication is banned. It is verboten. 

I have no idea why they choose to live here at all given their faith is not legal.

Singapore is full of crazy fuckers and I just accept this as a given now.

The Jehovah's are big believers in Armageddon and they are firmly convinced that the only salvation for us all is conversion. I told Ornella on more than one occasion that I find it difficult to believe in God or Jehovah - or whatever a higher deity might be called - given the amount of death and destruction and wickedness that goes on in the world. I did agree though that Armageddon could in fact be imminent. I told Ornella that I thought that it may well all start in the Middle East.

My Russian and Italian friends and I dined at a nice Italian restaurant called Limoncello in Robertson Quay. 

The food is nice but it is not as good as InContro's was.

When I introduced Alberto and Rocco to Vlad and Oleg they were cordial but I could tell that they were eying each other off a little warily. I broke the ice by telling Rocco that I was very disappointed that I could not attend the event on Friday as I was sure that the food, the wine and the company would be excellent.

"Vil there be borscht?" Oleg enquired.

Borscht is a disgusting Russian soup with beetroot being the main ingredient.

"There willa be all a sortsa Russian and Italian food" Rocco replied.

"Vil there be Italian vomen?" asked Vlad.

"Si" said Alberto.

"Si?" said Vlad.

"'Si' is Italian for 'yes' Vlad" I interjected.


"Russian for 'yes'" I jumped in.

I could tell already there were going to be some language barriers over lunch.

"Let's order food boys. I haven't got long and have to get back to the office"

Rocco waved one of the waiters over and let loose with a string of Italian. There was a lot of shrugging and hand waving and Alberto joined in as well. I love listening to and watching the Italians communicate. They are pure emotion and talk with their hands as much as their mouths.

It is poetry in motion.

"What are we eating?" I enquired of Rocco.

We willa have some anti pasta and some veala and salada Pietro" he replied.

The Italians call me Pietro and the Russians call me Pyotr. I don't mind being called either. Call me anything you want. I don’t give a fuck.

"Vodka?" asked Vlad.

"Sure" Alberto responded.

"We willa have some Tuscany vino as well ifa you want"

"I will just have a lime juice please" I said.

"I have to go back to the office and deal with the English so I need to have my wits about me"

Plates full of delicious smoked and dried meats and a couple of types of salamis arrived pretty quickly. These were accompanied by an assortment of grilled vegetables. Also arriving quickly was a bottle of Smirnov vodka for the Russians, my lime juice and some sort of chilled white wine for the Italians.

Rocco got the waiter to pour a mouthful of the wine into his glass and he swilled it about, sniffed it then eventually put some in his mouth. He swooshed it around in his gullet for a while then he spat it out. I find this all a little pretentious and wanky and I think that the spitting out bit at the end is quite disgusting and unnecessary. 

It is perhaps as disgusting as Borscht. 

Vlad and Oleg didn't seem to mind. 

They were woofing down the anti-pasta and hurling down their vodkas. They drink their vodka neat. 

No ice. 

It is the Russian way.

As the Italians got into their wine and the Russians drowned themselves in vodka the wariness that the two groups seemed to initially have of each other soon dissipated and conversations warmed. We chatted about all sorts of interesting and international things and we laughed quite a bit. It was apparent that the Italian guys like Russian women a lot and the Russians like Italian girls. I know quite a few of the Russian and Italian women who will be attending the Networking event. They are mostly brazen and arrogant and I can say with some surety that they won't like any of the men there at all - Russian or Italian.

The veal we all ate for our main meal was quite delicious and was served in a creamy mushroom sauce.  Rocco and Alberto were into their third bottle of vino when they called for the dessert menu and the Russians had polished off most of the bottle of Smirnov.

I gulped down a quick double shot latte while they were collectively debating the merits of Tiramisu and Panna Cotta. The boys looked like they were going to be there for a fair while yet. 

I told them that I had to go back to the office.

"Thanks for the lunch guys and I hope you all have a great night on Friday" I said as I stood up to leave.

They all stood up in unison and hugged me goodbye. Russian and the Italian men are quite emotional and physical fuckers and I would have been quite OK with just a quick handshake and a wave. 

I didn’t need a cuddle.

The Russian and Italian Networking event on Friday will be a most drunken and interesting event I think and I am looking forward to hearing all about it.

Rocco and Alberto gave me a cheery "Ciao" as I walked off and Vlad and Oleg yelled out "Do Svidanya Pyotr"

I gave them a "Seeyezlater fellas".

That is Australian for 'goodbye'.

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