A Foreign Travel Memo, by Vladimir Vysotsky (1977)

Last night, forging in the foundry, I poured twice the monthly plan
And, as a reward, I found I’m sent abroad by my own plant.
So, I ate some cold smoked bass, I showered off the grime and goo,
And I sat in a special class on what to do, what not to do.

Over there, they’re better-heeled than us for now,
And to make sure that I do not goof somehow,
They made me read a little pamphlet so I’m clear:
There, I can’t act like the dimwit I am here.

He told me, very sympathetic, of them shifty foreign pests
And my trip to the democratic Polish town of Budapest:
“They have their own ways, it’s rather hard to get them figured out;
Try to show respect, my brother, even just a small amount.

If vodka enters the debates, do not agree!
Say: no, my democratic mates, I’m choosing tea.
Turn your face away, be gruff if offered gifts.
Say: at home we have this stuff in piles and drifts!

Live in a comfortable fashion, save your funds but don’t go nuts,
Don’t go crazy with dry rations, don’t go croaking like a klutz.
This Czech town of Budapest right now is going through a lot:
They may provide drinks, food and rest, or they may offer diddly squat.”

I’ll check out the German market, yes-siree!
See Romanian chicks out there in Hungary!
Guys said democratic chicks are a good time,
They won’t charge us Soviet citizens a dime.

“Their bourgeois disease ensnares, it always trails you everywhere!
Extramarital affairs are worse than evil eye, beware!
Their shapely spy chicks have their ways, you shove them out, back in they go!
Tell them that we did away with all that nonsense years ago.

But they could also work in ways that aren’t so crude:
Sneak in your train car and act like they’re a dude!
She’d stuff her corset with explosives like a wiz…
So be sure to check what sex your bunk-mate is.”

Here I really had to press him:”I don’t know that I’m that apt!
Do I check her up the dress? But that’s how people get bitch-slapped!”
But the instructor was hardcore, he was all business, he knew best!
He went on and on to bore me with his shifty foreign pests.

I’ll explain not for the brains but for the rest:
I’m off to see Bulgarians in Budapest.
If they raise some iffy topics, shut them up.
But no punching! What they don’t get, we’ll clear up.

I can’t yammer in their grammar, all I can is gawp and gape.
If I only had a hammer, I would quickly give them shape!
But I am no agitator, I’m a blacksmith like my dad!
I won’t go to Ulan-Bator to those Poles, and that is that!

I’m in bed next to my wife and I can’t rest:
“Dusya, should I just forget the foreign pests?
I am not baked from that batter, I will scram,
I don’t know a single letter, not one damn!“

Dusya, sleeping like a baby, all her curlers in their place,
Answers half-awake: “Just maybe, you know, Kolya, shut your face.
Kolya,you are way too scared, I’ll divorce you, yes I will.
Twenty years that we’ve been married, you whine “Dusya, Dusya!” still!

You promised me and then forgot – now that is fresh! –
That you would bring me some oilcloth from Bangladesh!
So save up a couple rupees, don’t be thick!
Buy me stuff! Buy me a devil on a stick.”

I slept cradling my wife Dusya who’s my darling tender elf.
I dreamt I made a blade, a shield and a chainmaille shirt for myself.
They have standards we don’t know, you miss a beat, that’s it, you’re gone!
I dreamt of Hungarian ladies and they all had beards and guns.

I dreamt of Dusya’s tablecloths a shade of flesh
And those sassy lady spies from Bangladesh.
I’ll stay awhile with the Romanians, hopefully.
They come from the banks of Volga, just like we.

Women do the darnedest things: she sends me off, she starts to sing!
She irons all my shirts so nice they look like they would fit a king!
Bye, my foundry, bye, my plant, all nails my own down to the last,
Bye, my five-year-counter-plan, which I myself have now surpassed.

Vodka seeped through my aorta, we drank up,
The whole way to the airport I had hiccups.
At the steps, I heard a wail behind,”Oh why,
Why have you forsaken us, dear Nikolay!”

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