The United States is renowned as a land which has created a huge array of popular entertainment and sent it all over the world. The Deerslayer, Sleepy Hollow, Superman, Captain America, Terminator, Mickey Mouse, Hannibal Lecter… and last but not least, the saviors of Private Ryan.
Therefore, our ‘Coming to America’ (with a nod to Eddie Murphy) absolutely had to be reminiscent of some suspense thriller (maybe Mark Twain, Edgar Allan Poe, or George Martin). We readied ourselves for The Shining, or Game of Thrones, or even for The Silence of the Lambs. However, the fates had a different tale in store for us, namely variations on The Wizard of Oz.
The role of the Emerald City of Oz was played by the absolutely fabulous Georgetown University; unlike Hogwarts, this exists in reality and has long been educating the intellectual and political elite of the United States. We, the Kaspersky Lab team, pluckily tried our Ruby Slippers on and flew down the Yellow Brick Road from Sheremetyevo to Washington D.C.
However, the evil forces did all they could to stop us: one of us vanished in the Cannibal’s castle, another fell ill, a third had food poisoning, a fourth was refused a visa… Somebody (possibly the Wicked Witch of the West) cooked up a deal with the munchkins, winkies and gillikins of the US so that they wouldn’t let me board the plane – me, the Scarecrow! The wisest man in all of Oz! Clearly they simply were not aware who they were dealing with. So I unleashed my deputy on them. My secret weapon. Natalia Obelets, the Cast-Iron Woman…
Let me stop now to explain that Natalia was born in Siberia, where nouns (including proper nouns) are used in the masculine or feminine gender in an arbitrary fashion. For instance, one of the metro stations in Novosibirsk is called ‘Marshala Pokryshkina’. This means that a certain Mrs. Pokryshkina was given the rank of marshal, hence the feminine form ‘Marshala’.
So we overcame the bad guys; however, our adventures continued once in Georgetown. It turned out that the hotel and the entire expansive university campus is a no-smoking area, and this ban is enforced by concerned citizens, surveillance cameras and the police. As soon as they spot a puff of tobacco smoke, they pounce on you like Winged Monkeys and do all kind of things to the culprit, whether he is a Cowardly Lion or a brave one.
In other words, anyone who smokes must either swiftly switch to chewing or sniffing tobacco (I clearly imagine myself sniffing a damn huge pinch of snuff from a golden tobacco box), or get up early in the morning, don his stylish Bosco di Ciliegi jogging outfit with a double eagle on the back, masquerade as a lacrosse player, jog to the campus gates and then have a smoke there.
There was more to come. On the day when the participants arrived in DC, “the gates of hell opened”, as the narrators put it. Apparently it was the work of the Wicked Witch of the East. It far surpassed the hurricane which lifted Dorothy’s little house and threw it to the ground a thousand miles away. The wind blew noses and ears clean off their faces. It rained, then it hailed, and then it snowed. We might as well have gone to Alaska, given the weather. Despite the atrocious conditions, though, we were still treated to a fabulous site on that Sunday morning as convoys of student girls set off for their daily job. Rosy-cheeked and long-legged, they battled their way through the snowfall.
Finally, though, as the conference opened the weather calmed, the sun came out and it was time for a festival.
It was a magical experience, talking to smart and talented guys who had chosen an interesting path and meeting the professors who helped them along that way. However, adventures reached us here as well. It turned out that the university’s new building is located in Chinatown, and by law all inscriptions in this district of the US capital are in English and Mandarin. The inscriptions in the university building, Italian restaurant, an Irish pub and even in an old synagogue on 6th street are in Mandarin as well (…and God spake unto Moses from the burning bush in Mandarin…)
That’s multiculturalism for you. The struggle for equal rights for everybody, ethnic identities… and, naturally, for a healthy lifestyle. At the gala dinner, Kaspersky Lab’s female employees were flatly denied a glass of wine unless they could produce their passports and demonstrate that they were old enough to drink. These are the benefits of working at the training department and supporting talented young people: no need for the water of life or for the golden apples of youth: our colleagues stay forever young and beautiful, just like Glinda the Good Witch of Oz. Or even more beautiful.
But the real story was that the Washington conference was the best, the most interesting, and best represented of all that came before it. The academic level of the presentations, master classes and discussions boggled the mind. And when amidst the smoke and flame, Oz the Great and Terrible appeared in the form of Eugene Kaspersky with his lecture ‘The Seven Circles of the Cyber-Inferno’ – from this moment on, everything became undistinguishable from a magical fairy tale.
By the last night, nothing could surprise us: crowds of Americans who flooded the downtown area, clad in hockey jerseys dedication to Russian star Alex Ovechkin; nor the photos demonstrated by Eugene Kaspersky, taken from the balcony of Kaspersky Lab’s Washington office which is now preparing to open soon – from the balcony, you can see Georgetown University, the Pentagon, the Arlington Cemetery, and the Washington Memorial; not even the local guide who told the Russian guests on an excursion that Lincoln was the American Stalin – he slaughtered a great deal of people, and now there are monuments erected to him!
And now we leave for Stockholm! It’s a quite a fairy tale city as well: the Moomintrolls, Karlsson-on-the-Roof, the girl with a dragon tattoo… Well, it’s sure to be an interesting trip.