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Life Lessons Learnt in Asia: Russians, Moet, and a Machete

When I sat down to write this next ‘lesson’ from my travels, a childhood story came to mind.

As a teenager I used to read my youngest brother the book,“If You Give a Mouse a Cookie”, written by Laura Numeroff. The story starts:

“If you give a mouse a cookie, he’s going to ask for a glass of milk. When you give him the milk, he’ll probably ask you for a straw. When he’s finished, he’ll ask you for a napkin…” and so on, until it goes back to, “he’s going to ask you for a cookie”

This premise applies to a memory about a wonderfully enthusiastic group of Russian guests, a bottle of Moet, and…a machete.

A Peculiar Evening

Photo by John Baillie

It was two months into my contract at the historic French colonial hotel, Sofitel Legend Metropole in Hanoi, Vietnam.  I was performing on stage inside Le Club, the hotel’s all day restaurant and jazz lounge. I was half way through my set when a beautiful, casually dressed woman walked in and stood next to the bar.

She watched me for the rest of the song and then returned to sit outside by the pool.  The next night I was on stage, again half way through my set, and the same lady passed through Le Club. She stood next to the bar, watched me for a song, and then proceeded to walk back outside to the pool.

When it came to break time, I did my usual walk around the restaurant to speak with guests and then decided to go outside and thank the woman for her appreciation. When I saw her she was sitting outside with a large group. They sat around a long table which was covered with food and bottles of high end vodka, some full, some empty.

A Table of Russians

My first thought: “This is not the start of their night”.  I went over to say hello and I was kindly welcomed by several very friendly, intoxicated gentlemen. When I introduced myself as the hotel’s singer, they started to make song requests.

The men, “We love Sinatra, can you sing ‘New York New York’ or‘My Way’”?

I responded, “Yes. If you come in for the next set, I will sing ‘New York, New York’, okay?”

The men, “okay.”

The deal was done and I had some new audience members. At the start of the set, as promised, I called “New York, New York” and the band started up. What came next, I did not expect.

Photo by John Baillie

A Russian Appreciation

My new friends smiled and quickly cleared the central dining tables from the floor. They called over the waiter.  As I broke into, “New York, New York” with, “start spreading the news”, I could see the waiter returning with a bottle of Moet and four glasses. Great! But, that was not the end of it.

I watched as one of the men called the waiter back over for something else. A minute later I see a bartender, holding a machete which he handed over to the burly Russian.  Our new fan proceeded to swiftly pop the cork off the bottle with the machete and Moet flowed to the floor (and fortunately into our glasses as well!). We finished the song and raised a toast!

Going back to my original reference to, “If you give a mouse a cookie”, this ‘life lesson learnt in Asia’ is that, if you sing a Russian a song they like, they may order you a bottle of Moet. If they order you a bottle of Moet, they will consider how to open it. When they decide how to open it, they may want a machete. If you give them a machete, they will use it to open your bottle in style…and after they’ve joined you for a glass of Moet, plan to sing their favorite song one more time!

(P.S: Russian guests, I love you, please come to more of my gigs!)

Read More of Kristen’s life lessons here


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Kristen Rossi
Kristen Rossi

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