You can see in the background that the Roma houses were very spare, most without any furniture at all, but seemingly well-built and sturdy, sufficiently heated, although by wood-burning stoves, and surprisingly all contained televisions the size of which seemed to vary with level of status in the community.
There I am more judiciously handing out a piece at a time to the kids. Not because I am any smarter than Melissa or Ian but because I learned the same lesson the hard way distributing sandwiches at my OSCE-sponsored event for International Roma Day 2007 in Kosovo. The other lesson I learned organizing that event at the primary school in Novo Brdo was that if a Serbian school director tells you that she would be happy to prepare a "cultural program" for International Roma Day, you should insist on attending a dress rehearsal. As the "cultural program" for International Roma Day 2007 began, a girl with long blond braids got on the small stage all in red and started wailing a song that went something like "Serbia, my homeland, Kosovo, my homeland, Kosovo has always been and will always be a part of Serbia, our blood was shed for Kosovo, we were bombed for 78 days but we will never surrender our homeland..." I went red too as it became clear that I had unintentionally used OSCE funds to put on what amounted to a Serbian nationalist talent show. When I pulled the school director aside and asked how this was possibly a cultural program for international *Roma* day, she gave me a great-blanked eyed Slavic stare and said "Well, we *are* letting the Roma kids participate in the event," as if this were a revolutionary act of inclusion. Ah, Kosovo, you make Russia seem so well adjusted.
Also note the freezing geese in the background of many of the pictures. The village was overrun with an impressive number of livestock, mainly geese and ducks who were quite nonplussed to find themselves with their wings clipped and living through a Russian winter.
One of the women who made off with Melissa's candy
Her kids were ridiculously cute little things.
This guy was also very interested in having his picture taken with me and Melissa.
I am making weird rabbit teeth I believe because the girl to my right had called me a Vampire Bunny. She called Melissa a Giraffe and said that Ian looked like Jesus.
Soon after this photo was taken a man came out of his house and started yelling at the girl who had decided that we were a posse of Jesus, a Giraffe and a Vampire Bunny to get home immediately. He shook his fist and screamed at her in a language that might have been Romani until she scuttled off home. He then came over and apologized to us profusely for her behavior saying that the way she cavorted with strangers she was bound to wind up as a prostitute by the time she turned 13. On that note, we left the village and began the odyssey back to Kazan very grateful to Sohei and Lilya who both need to get websites so that I can put up links to their fantastic photos!