Sunday, September 2, 2012

Russian Language Reality check!! из России (from Russia)

Willa and Celia On Arbat Street in Moscva.  Tired but happy!

I think it must be this way for all new language learners... in the privacy of my own books, Rossetta Stone program and kitchen, as I articulate everything I know a Russian word for out loud and try to form primative sentences with my daughters.....I feel pretty excited about what I have learned.  And when I get an ending correct (this is the terribly hard part - apart from the vocabulary!) I get super excited.....
..........Well, HELLO!, earth to Celia!!! Yesterday Alex, our driver was patiently waiting with a sign when we came through Immigration at the Moscva airport. Alex is a professional driver not a taxi driver. These are very different, I think.  The taxi drivers line the exit from immigration at the front and smile and wave and probably occasionally wink. All of them ask as you walk through the gauntlet... " Taxi?" often with other rapidly uttered enticements.  If one is not very familiar with Russian culture, and language, I have been told, one should avoid these offers:-)  However, Cheryl Joyce, Karen Boldis and our student from PSC Jen Lucas, actually spent a day in Moscva several years ago with one of these guys, after much agonizing decision making, who turned out to be a wonderful man!.. Tak......

We towed our luggage out into a rainy, cool early September afternoon, practically running across the disorganized, busy multilane, traffic to keep up  with Alex.. I was in the rear, occasionally shoutingenc ouraging things like... " keep up! here we go! heads up, this is how it is!!" Laughing half outloud and half to myself as I watch my 'raised cautious' girls hustling across the roads to the crazy parking lot, looking left and right and then left again - mild fear mixed with wonder in their expressions.  We don't even cross the road much without a crosswalk in Saranac Lake!

But I digress.....On the way out of the airport I make my first attempt at language with Alex.... (transliterated here)  "Menya zavoot Celia"  I say hurrying after him, putting my hand on the center of my chest indicating 'my name'. "Alex" he replied without a smile, which I remembered was the way of drivers in Russia (at least those that you don't know) as opposed to some of the taxi drivers.  After piling our 3 large suitcases, 3 carry on bags and selves into a small gold/yellow hatchback, I attempt more useful conversation....... "oo vas address? Kvart Apartments?"..... and then, like a furnace blast to my faultering, beginning language skills, I got a full on rapid Russian response. I never did learn how to ask someone to speak a bit more slowly please.  I did figure our that the answer was 'Net', or no.. . So I pulled out my Russian notebook in which a had written the address so I didnt have to attempt those big numbers in Russian and  I suggested we telephone Oksana as she had suggested we do if we had communication challenges.  We did.  She was her incredibly helpful self (I know I said this before, but the people in the Fulbright offices in both countries are so amazing! Mike, Ted, Oksana!!).

We did end up having some laughs with Alex about trying to figure out the rate for the driving. My girls were in stitches laughing at our broken sonversation from the back, and my hope was I at least showed them not to be afraid to try to communicate in the language of other's countries!!! Alex chuckled at my attempts sometimes nad sometimes he answered (briefly) and I understood!! so there were bright spots, but I was appropriately humbled..... Humbling experiences are great precursers to more learning I think!!
Alex was a great help as we drove to the City and around the Center to the busy Arbat Street on which our apartment building is located, pointing out things and naming for us.

We currently are writing from the 23rd floor of a small 2 room apartment that looks right down Arbat Street and at night the windows are flooded with colored lights from the signs, building tops and building sides all lit up like a bit of Las Vegas with undulating lights changing colors and the sounds of traffic from below.  Pretty great. Big city for a few small town girls.  See Elsa's facebook if you are a facebook user and Willa's blog posts ( more of a description of the lights and the city!

Today will be a lot of walking. Red square (Kracneeya plochat), the Kremlin, St. Peters Cathedral ( I think that is the name of the wonderful Onion domed colorful church just off  Red Square) and some local color window shopping in our neighborhood.  Tomorrow eve we head to Barnaul to be met by my lovely friend and colleague Natalya at 6:00 in the morning there and drive to Gorno.  Several more hours time difference. Im excited to get started with my work.

I will continue to study and practice my Russian and Natalya is an amazing teacher so I will stay positive! I also hope to learn some of the Native Altaian words as well, since the region we will live in has about 60% native people with a beautiful and complex turkic language all their own (more on that soon!).  Thankfully, they speak Russian as well.

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