Caveat: Svekolny for Christmas Dinner with the Presidents

I haven't been sleeping well, lately. I attribute the issue to some of the side-effects of this medication, but there may be other things going on too – it's spring, and that means a lot more allergens in the air, as well as many smoggy days in Korea.

I awoke last night at around 3 am, from a very vivid and complex, novelistic dream. The main outline of it was that I invited Vladimir Putin to Christmas dinner – not once, but twice. The first time, it was somehow in response to some kind of weird contest – he was visiting Korea and so there was some kind of contest and next thing you know, Putin was visiting me for Christmas dinner. Of course, I didn't know what to do. I tried to make some svekolny (a kind of Russian beet and garlic salad), but there were also some strange Mexican dishes, as well as sides of things like kimchi. It was all kind of ad hoc, and Putin, with an entourage, showed up and was polite. But when he went to try the svekolny, he made a terrible face and accused me of trying to poison him. This caused the to-be-expected media conflaguration: "American in Korea tries to poison the Russian president!"

Somehow, I convinced the Korean authorities that it was all a mistake, and the case was dropped. And then there was a "fast-forward" in the dream (novelistically), and it was the next Christmas. I sent Putin an email message to his personal email (which I somehow had access to because of the previous year's events). I told him that this year, I would do better, if he came to Christmas dinner.

This time, instead of at my apartment, I borrowed one of my coworker's larger apartments, and coworkers from Karma helped me prepare. I made more Russian dishes, including svekolny, and I also made a turkey and some traditional American food.

I didn't hear from Putin until Christmas Eve, when, unexpectedly, he sent me a message accepting my invitation. This time, the Korean politicians tried to get in on the publicity, and President Park showed up (she was wearing a Korean hanbok – traditional Korean clothing). In the dream, she was being very polite to me, like I was some kind of celebrity, but one of her police protection agents pulled me aside, and told me in a frighteningly cold tone that if I screwed this up, I would be expelled from Korea forever. In the dream, I wasn't worried.

Some of my coworkers were there, and I also invited some of my favorite students – about 20 of them. But when the Russian FSB agents showed up prior to Putin's arrival (to clear the area's security, I guess), they said that the children were too dangerous, and would not be allowed to see the Russian president. 

President Park was put off by this, and she said she would go with the children into the other room. But the children said they didn't want her there, so dejectedly she returned to the dining room just as Putin showed up. 

He sat down and leaned close, almost whispering. "You are very brave," he said. He was speaking Russian, but somehow, I understood him (which maybe makes sense – I did, after all, study Russian for two years in college). 

"Why am I brave?" I asked. He was so close I could smell his breath.

"To invite me back. Because of this, I respect you." 

I felt like I was talking to some kind of Mafia boss. He asked me what I thought about the Panama Papers (here we see the "current events" issue that perhaps brought about the dream?). 

I told him that I thought that the world was showing a double standard – everyone is all for online privacy, but if you're rich and powerful, you're not allowed privacy, in the name of "transparency." This argument is actually one that has occurred to me, but I'm not sure I fully endorse it. In the dream, I suppose I was trying to ingratiate myself with the Russian president, so as not to antagonize him. After all, my stay in Korea now was contingent on success.

I offered him my svekolny. He tasted it, and made the same disgusted, horrified face as he had last time. My heart fell, and I saw the Korean secret service agent glaring at me. 

Putin looked around, and appeared to notice President Park for the first time. "Try some," he said, like a serpent. "It's delicious." 

"I only eat Korean food," she averred, shaking her head.

Putin took several more bites, struggling to eat it. I wondered what I had done wrong – it tasted OK to me. But then again, my sense of taste is pretty deficient, these days.

He did not complain, however. He persevered through the rest of the meal quite politely. He asked me what I thought of Trump. I told him my sincere opinion. He made another face, but he said nothing. President Park was looking annoyed, because he wasn't talking to her at all. He was talking to Curt and Helen, from work. They seemed smitten by him, but I was only impressed with his tact – that he was clearly putting up with this for some ulterior reason of his own.

He left, with his security detail, without further incident. Park and the other Koreans left too. I went in the other room to check on my students. They were very curious to hear how it went. As I told the rapt kids about the experience, I fingered a very short "thank you" email to Putin on my smart phone. I asked him why he had tolerated my terrible cooking.

Almost instantly, I got an answer. "You showed great strength of character, asking me back, and so out of respect I had to eat it. It was truly terrible." His email included a smiley emoticon in the Korean style: ^_^. 

That was a very strange dream

[daily log: walking, 1km]


  1. David

    Hey Jared,
    Thanks for sharing that bizarre dream about Putin.
    How odd that, of the few people I have lived with over the years, two of them have cooked for Putin, even if it only was a dream in one of those cases. While it is certainly a rarity (at least in “Western” circles) to be allowed to cook for Putin, it might be ever rarer to dream about it.
    Приятного апетита!

  2. Elizabeth Wieland

    Do you have a Dream Book where you capture your dreams as soon as you wake up in the middle of the night. This recounting is incredibly detailed.

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