Conference day had come. I remembered how nervous I was last year…how I got there so early, barely talked to anyone, and just stewed in my own anxiety for hours. This year I was almost late—Jim and I indulged in another Café Paul breakfast. But I accidentally picked the completely correct way to the conference site and arrived early. I even managed to better capture the Russian Academy of Sciences in photos this time. See?
When I walked in the main entrance, I saw two people I knew already. These are people that work with Sergei. I immediately felt more at ease. Like, I could actually feel the tension release from my shoulders. I dropped my coat off at the coat-check and headed upstairs. As soon as I walked into the conference hall a lovely red-haired woman walked up to me and introduced herself. Her name was Lyala, from Ufa. And, man, does she know how to do conferences. She instantly learned everyone’s name and quickly distributed her business cards. She also kept track of everyone that spoke by ticking off their names in the conference program. She’s my conference hero and, luckily, she didn’t mind my tagging along with her. In fact, she actually encouraged it.
My paper was during the first session this year, so I was able to get it out of the way without a huge build-up of nerves. Look! Here I am speaking! You can kind of see me behind the podium, right?
After a couple of sessions we headed into the Academy dining room for lunch. Thank good for Lyala, because I would have gotten lost for sure. You see in the photos above how the building is kind of freaky and weird. Well, it’s a pure puzzle. Not all the floors are connected, so sometimes you’ll find yourself on a floor and not be able to get to a different floor without walking up the equivalent of three floors of stairs. While creative, the architect was clearly not focused on usability. Anyway, we went for lunch. We asked the man across from us to take our photo. As soon as he held my camera he said, “ALL I CAN SEE ARE BREASTS!”
He must have gotten it figured out because there are many non-breast elements in this photo. That’s Lyala on the right.
After lunch, I had planned to make my escape. But Sharif (the Tajik man from the day before) came up to me and said, “Who is taking our picture?” It took me a minute to catch on that he wanted me to give my camera to someone to take our picture. So I did that. And then he just kept saying, “Photo session! Photo session!” as more and more people joined picture after picture. I don’t know who these people are but we spent about 15 minutes being photographed with various cameras. In large part, I felt like the paparazzi were always on hand when Sharif was around.
After the photography I ran away. I was *so* uncomfortable. I was wearing my least comfortable suit, and my stockings were disoriented in an awkward way and my boots were pinching my toes…I quickly said my good-byes and made my way back to the apartment to liberate my feet. There were several more days of the conference to go!