Saturday, November 29, 2008

Toasts. Not the buttered kind.

Anyone who knows any Russians knows about their crazy toasting habits. To Russians, American parties are exceptionally bland. At most, we might, once or twice in a night, mumble "Cheers" or "To us", but that's about the extent of it. Russian drinking follows a lengthy, set pattern of toasts.
I read the following and smiled. It's obvious that our astronauts have spent some time drinking with their cosmonaut comrades.

"We decided to propose a toast," Pettit said. "So here's our cup filled with tea, and Steve has a cup filled with tea, and again, this is using the contact angle wetting phenomenon that rocket engineers use in fuel tanks in rockets to make a tea cup. And what we're going to do is propose a Thanksgiving toast on orbit.

Both astronauts tipped their cups and took a sip of tea.

"And now we're going to propose a toast to Thanksgiving, wishing everyone on Earth and off Earth a good Thanksgiving," Pettit said.

The astronauts took another sip.

"And now we're proposing a toast for future explorers."

The astronauts took another sip.

"And finally, we're proposing a toast just because we're in space and we can!

Even though Pettit sort of violates the rules of toasting (the first toast he makes is rather generic - he doesn't really toast anything - he just informs us that he's going to toast), he is following the pattern of repetitive toasting.

Here's a rough guide: The first toast is to the occasion, the second to the hosts, the third to our spouse. (Traditionally, to "the woman we love." After all, shots are historically a male thing, surprise surprise.)
After that, knock yourself out, but keep it interesting. It's also customary to toast world peace when you're among foreigners.

Russian toasts are usually accompanied by a story/joke. It's not uncommon for the pre-toast story to last quite a few minutes. Here's one of the shorter ones:

There were two best friends, Ivan and Sergey. One day, they were walking down the street. "Hide me!" yelled Ivan suddenly. "Why?" asked Sergey. "Do you see those two women walking up the street? That's my wife and she's walking with my girlfriend!"

"No it's not," said Sergey. "That's MY wife walking with MY girlfriend."

To best friends!

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