Russian Word of the Day

  • present = padarak

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

The language barrier is always good for a laugh

Day 28

Some of you may remember that while learning Russian, the longest phrase I was able to master was "Mooshna plateet po credeetnay cartouchkia"(may I pay by credit card?)... well, umm, I don't think I'm pronouncing that exactly the way that my Rapid Russian course intended. This morning Tim mentioned, to Shizada and Makhabbat, my attempts to learn this particular phrase and on their prompting I took a deep breath, puffed out my chest and repeated. Immediately Shizada cracked a large gold toothed smile and started laughing so hard that she clutched her side and wiped tears from her hazel eyes. Makhabbat followed suit. Apparently, I was asking "May I pay by credit potato?". The thought of my solemnly querying about "credit potatoes" to well-meaning clerks across Kazakhstan was more than the two good ladies could bear. I had to admit it was pretty funny. I was happy to be the comic relief of the morning.

In my own defense, we have all had similar moments of comedic translations while attempting to navigate the 'Russian Only' world of Kokshetau. Some of you may remember how Tim inexplicably ended up purchasing four of everything on a beverage excursion to the Viola market. Four bottles of Coke Light. Four cans of Red Bulls. Four bottles of beer. Four large jugs of water. He barely made it home with his bulky purchases. To this day, we can't figure out what he said to make them think that he wanted four of each.

Tim's love of Red Bull (I know, I know, I can't stand the thought of all the chemicals in that stuff) has also led to one of the standing jokes of our trip. After several slightly more successful trips to the Viola market, Tim thought that he had figured out the Russian word for Red Bull. Unbeknownst to me, he would stroll confidently into the market and point to the Red Bull. The clerk would take one down and say "Skulka?". Tim, feeling pretty smug at his mastery of the language, would say proudly "Da! Skulka!" The clerk would shake her head and ring him up. Only after about a week of similar transactions, did Tim proudly inform me that "Skulka" meant "Red Bull." "No, honey" I told him. "'Skulka' means 'how many?'. The clerk was asking you how many drinks you wanted!" Makhabbat thought this story was so funny that now everyday after the babyhouse, she asks Tim if he wants any Skulka. Usually the answer is 'yes' in which case Makhabbat claps Nursulatan on the shoulder and says "Skulka!" Knowing the routine, Nursultan answers "Da! Skulka!" and we are off to the cafe on the edge of town for snacks for the long road home.

Mom, too, has had some pretty funny trouble with translation. Just last night, out to dinner with Thelma the adoptive mom from NY, Mom asked the waiter to bring her "sok." (juice). He returned with a bottle of juice. Mom grimaced, shook her head, and said a little more firmly, "Niet. Sok." The waiter blinked and returned with a different kind of juice. Again the little American repeated, "Niet. SOK." The waiter, looking a little frazzled, returned with two kinds of juice. Finally mom gave up. She had been trying to order bread!

I guess the moral of the story is- if you are traveling to Kokshetau, learn Russian! Just a little, or you will be even more lost than we are. Here's the bare minimum of what you need to know:

1 - adin
2 - dva
3 - tree
4 - chitearya
5 - pyat
6 - shest
7 - syem
8 - vosyem
9 - dyevyat
10 - dyeasyat
Hello (informal)- Preevet or Zdrastvuitee
Goodbye - Paka
Yes - Da
No - Niet
Please - Pajaloosta
Thank You - Spaseeba
I Need - nooshna
That/There - tum
Bigger - Balshoya
Smaller - Maleenky
That all/ Through - Vsio
What's that - "Sto eta"
Bread - hlep
Water - vada

Memorize at least that much, and you won't be graceful, but you'll be able to manage here in Kokshetau.

In other news, I'm taking my Kokshetau experience to new parts of the web. In just a couple of hours I hope to be posting a video tour of the babyhouse to YouTube. You'll be able to walk through the front door of the babyhouse and down the hall to Garrett's room. I'll also show you the music room and the nursery and the activity room. All of those juicy details that I was so deperate for before I traveled. Until I figure out how to add the video to the site, here is the link... Click and enjoy!

Garrett was in high spirits again today and greeted us with big smiles and a little coo of happiness. He is such a quiet little bug. I wonder how a few months with my wild man, Calvin will change him. I bet the caregivers wouldn't even recognize their little "vinegreteka." Here he is today cruising around the music room in that little walker.

Here's Makhabbat telling Garrett that he needs to sleep. I don't think he believes her.




Channing said...

What stories you will all have to share with Garrett as he grows up! This seems to have been an amazing trip and the prize at the end is so special to us all. Bring that baby home!

Anonymous said...

I think I just figured out that I've been posting my comments to your much older day's diaries. I have been going to the end of the blog to post a comment and now I see that I should post them at the end of a day's diary. Well, I guess if you guys ever decide to reread this blog start to finish, then you'll be able to see all my notes - whoops!

I did note from yesterday that I think you should just bring Sasha home too. He could be a twin brother for Calvin and a fellow Kazahkstani for Garrett. Let me know how I can help :-)

Looking forward to the grand video tour Becca. Thank for taking the time!


Kristen said...

The tour of the baby house was so awesome! In the first part, where the kids were playing outside, I couldn't help but think that Colin and Nicole would have been part of that group. The infant room is definitely in a new place. It used to be through the door next to the stairs on the first floor. It's also great to see that there are lots of new toys in the playroom. It definitely gave me chills to watch...thanks so much for doing it.

Channing said...

Hi! It's me again.

I just wanted to thank you for the YouTube tour of the orphanage. It was SO fun to hear your voices for the first time in 4 weeks and to see Garrett in motion for the first time ever. He is so sweet and I know that video is so helpful to those going through this process. You Snyders are neat, Neat, NEAT!

Love you!

Caro K said...

Oh my goodness--that video is amazing. Getting to watch Garrett's face as he takes both of you in for the very first time is simply incredible. What a document, what a service. You truly are doing love's work!