I had never been so happy to have a sore throat, especially such a bad one. My throat hurt so much that it actually woke me up. Surely this was a reasonable excuse to get out of the talk I was supposed to give in a couple days. I sent a text to the organizers saying that I wasn’t feeling well and would probably skip the trip to Kazakhstan if I didn’t feel better the next day, when I was supposed to leave.

Four months earlier I had felt differently about the trip. My friend Ben Yu got a random email inviting him to speak at a conference called GoViral in Kazakhstan. The people organizing it offered to show him around the country if he could make it out there. When he asked if I wanted to see if they would have me come too, the idea sounded wild enough

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