For as long as I can remember, I’ve always wanted to be a Renaissance man. You know, the guy who can do many things well: speak foreign languages, play musical instruments, dazzle his conversation partners with obscure bits of science trivia, and light up dinner parties with tales of his travel adventures – all with the verve and panache of someone who knows what life is all about.
It was definitely not a great start to a city visit. Pressed down by a heavy pile of blankets and comforters, I was coughing almost non-stop. The cold that I had attempted to shrug off before taking a plane for Lisbon was now in full force and non-negotiable. I had a headache and something nasty clumping in the back of my throat. Worse, I had no painkillers or anything similar that I could take. A rather naïve suitcase packer, as it turned out, I had put all my first-aid-type things in the suitcase I checked with Vueling.
“So I open the door and I see these two guys standing there with…”
“With like a big bottle?” – correctly guessed my companion.
I was recounting a somewhat odd episode that had occurred just a couple of weeks earlier
to a Romanian acquaintance. We were sitting in a tiny room of a Bucharest café/bar
which the acquaintance said she had used to frequent “in her student years.” Located just off the Bulevardul Nicolae Bălcescu (a major avenue), it would have nevertheless been impossible to find without a local, as it was hidden behind two dingy archways, an unmarked door that I would have thought opened to a dumpster room, and then a badly lit stairwell to boot. My companion's face was barely visible behind the thick smoke filling the room.
“Yes! How did you know?”
As soon as I said that I knew the answer myself: She knew because it was one of the oldest scams in the book. In Bucharest, as well as everywhere else. For a moment, I felt the shameful sting of my stupidity more acutely, even though nothing much had really happened in this particular case, as you will soon hear (nothing that I could detect, anyway). But allow me recount the whole episode.
You gotta love a Western economist who is up-to-date on Russian idiomatic expressions. Barcelona-based Edward Hugh may just be one such polymath–well, at least he says he has seen his share of Russian movies.
While his recent article on Economonitor has little to do with his apparent love for Russian culture, knowledge of the idiom came in handy when Hugh looked for the appropriate metaphor to describe the economic and demographic plight of a country that has long been considered (perhaps, unfairly) as Russia’s poor cousin to the west: the Ukraine.
The expression he picked was ‘suitcase mood’ (чемоданное настроение) which, broadly speaking, describes the mood of someone who has had enough and is thinking of leaving a place.
Why is this expression fitting? Ukraine, says Hugh, is simply winding down…