After hearing about this supposedly project-X like party and vaguely agreeing to join, I found myself in a cab with two Czechs and another Dutchy on a cold, dark Friday evening. The two Russians who invited us were overly secretive about the whole event and we had no idea where we were going and what awaited us on the outskirts of Moscow. After driving for two hours, we approached a gate, which was opened by a guard in uniform. After going through security clearance, we arrived at a large Soviet-style building: partly a hotel, partly conference rooms.
At the entrance, we got our welcome shots, which would prove not to be our last liquor this weekend. After meeting my Russian and Belarusian roommates, we started exploring the building and I gradually discovered where I had ended up. Porech‘e is organized by and for students from the Higher School of Economics, and this year, the event hosted 500 people and celebrated its 29th edition. Activities took place throughout the whole day – mainly involving drinking – while the atmosphere was comparable to the vibe at summer music festivals in the Netherlands. The first night started with vodka shots and ended with human bowling: rolling people down a hill in a barrel.
‘I have to admit that the Russians are tough’
On Saturday, the damage of last night became clear. Our neighbour smashed his mirror barehanded, another broke his jaw falling out a bunk bed and another had his ear cut in half. I have to admit that the Russians are tough: they stitched up their wounds, applied some bandages and continued partying. Our hall was covered in glass because of the two smashed TVs and there was a guy who thought it to be an excellent idea to get an amateur Lenin haircut (by shaving the top of his head).
We were quite a big hit, being among only a few foreigners at this year’s edition, and after we participated in the Beer-Monopoly game, we were fully accepted. We lost to the eventual winner of the tournament, which was not that bad, considering the fact that we found one of the finalists passed out on our floor half an hour later. The official program ended with a large stand-up comedian competition, where the enthusiasm of the crowd rose to its zenith. ‘The jokes are very hard, but all students know these are not real insults’, one of the guys told me.
There was a university professor encouraging attendees to get completely wasted, a guy in a wheelchair stealing the show at the comedy performance, a guy who fought in eastern Ukraine and lots of other crazy people. Somehow, I ended up in my room together with eight Belarusian guys, including my roommates, enjoying some of the finest sausages I have ever tasted. Absorbed in the moment and overwhelmed by the generosity of the people there, I managed to propose my first real Russian toast, involving, among other things, friendship between our countries (as far as I remember).
The night became morning and all good things come to an end. After saying our goodbyes and paying for the broken items in our room, we took a taxi back to our dorm, feeling like we had really experienced something unique. My personal favourite moment took place at the spontaneous semi-professional concert Saturday night. Already completely content with listening to Russian songs I never heard before, the last song that was played is actually my current favourite. The moment when suddenly you fully understand something so foreign is, for me, inexplicably satisfying.