Tuesday, May 08, 2012

In the Foothills of the Pan . . . and other mysteries of life

This past week my husband and I had the great pleasure and good fortune to host two visitors from Russia. 

ffAs members of The Friendship Force for years we have both traveled occasionally to stay with other families in various parts of the globe.  And we have hosted visitors in our home for a week or two at a time.

My husband loves the idea because he says the experience makes people real individuals not faceless millions and promotes world peace. I say it makes people real individuals and gets me to clean my house.

In  other words, everybody wins. 

This past week we had a mother and son as our guests. The son was nineteen. His mother didn’t look much older, but she was the age of my children.  She was an accountant. He was a university student.  Neither of them spoke very much English.  The two members of the family who spoke English – the father and other son – stayed home.

No problem.   My husband speaks about half a dozen words of Russian. I know two: “thank you” and “good-bye.” 

borshtThe first one got a big workout. The second one I didn’t use until Sunday morning when they left. But I didn’t want to use it then. I was so sorry to see them go. We’d had such a wonderful time with them.

We took them along the Mississippi River, showed them the high points (geographical and cultural) of our town.  We visited local museums and shops.  I had to teach one day so my husband took them canoeing. 

I cooked them Mexican food (native to my California roots) and they cooked us borsht (no translation needed, I’m sure) and golsbki which are stuffed IMG_1814cabbage rolls (and which I learned the Armenian name for, which doesn’t sound much like golsbki, but  at least it starts with a G, and that’s as close as I can get using the tools at hand). 

Suffice to say, it was a meal to remember. And we will be dining on them for the rest of the week as she left us such a big batch.  They were wonderful.

I actually learned quite a few Russian words this week. I also decided it would be a language I could really learn if I lived long enough. But in the meantime, I will make do with what I  can.  And we are now connected on Skype, so we can stare at teach other and smile if nothing else.

But the truth is, we learned a lot about each other through the week.  And in doing so, I also learned just how smart my Smart Phone is. I also learned that besides being able to translate Italian magazine articles that catch my eye (can you say, Raoul Bova?), Google Translate really helped me be able to communicate with our new friends.

Between the Smart Phone and the iPad (now christened the “aypad.”) we did quite well.

google translateI wrote things in English on my regular American keyboard. Then I hit “translate” and amazingly, in barely a nanosecond, there was what I’d said translated into Russian in their Cyrillic alphabet. Of course it helped if I used words that didn’t have several meanings. Don’t try “lead mine” if you want anyone speaking Russian to understand you.  I finally resorted to Google images and a picture of a miner for that concept. 

But on the whole we managed to make ourselves pretty well understood.

They used the “aypad” to write on a virtual Cyrillic keyboard in Russian and then it translated  their words into English. Almost always it was, if not, perfect at least reasonably understandable.

There is only one sentence that she wrote that I’m still struggling with. I can’t reproduce the whole Russian sentence here because my Cyrillic handwriting leaves a lot to  be desired, so I am not even sure of the letters I copied down. But the translation of her question came out: in the foothills of the pan if you do not put the stew?

question-marksSay what?

I tried breaking it down word by word. No luck. 

I think the key is in the word: foothills. But I’m at a loss. We were cooking at the time, so the stew and the pan seem like they are probably right.  But whichever way I tried dealing with подгорит , it always came out foothills.

I'd welcome a coherent translation from anyone who wants to take a stab at it. 

The first one to come up with a reasonable translation I’ll send a copy of my latest book, Savas’s Wildcat, to. Or one of the old ones in Russian, as you can obviously read it!

savasswildcat_usAll in all, it was a great week.  I highly recommend it.

If you want a way to come to terms with the rest of the world as “real individuals” take a look at Friendship Force and learn more about what they do. It might inspire you to travel on an exchange with them or host visitors from another nation.

And, like me, you might get the added benefit of a clean house!

On the other hand, maybe yours is already perfectly clean. If so, you can enjoy the visit even more because you won’t be exhausted from cleaning by the time your guests get here.


TashNz said...

Hi Anne. The first five letters in your pic translate into the word "preparation", could it be possible there should be a space somewhere? The word preparation could fit into the sentance somehow... In the preparation of the pan if you do not put the stew... could she be asking how to prepare the stew in the pan? Or can a stew go in a pan? How do I prepare the stew in the pot? Can I prepare a stew in a pot or pan? Haha, I'm not sure but I reckon preparation is a good fit :D

Kaelee said...

Hi Anne ~ what a great way to get your house clean and to meet with the world a few people at a time. I haven't got an aypad but this is a great endorsement.

TashNZ idea sounds like a winner.

Natalija said...

Greetings from Italy, Anne! I have a copy of "Savas's Wildcat" already, thanks to you :) Since I come from a Russian-speaking family & I know the meaning of "подгорит", no entry for me. Good luck to everyone! P.S. I can give a small hint: "подгорит" is a verb in a future tense.

Kate Walker said...

I'm not even going to try to translate - I'm just going to say how envious I am of your great experience - and the borsht. Would I like the stuffed cabbage rolls? They sound good but it depends what they are stuffed with. And like Natalija I have a copy of Savas's Wildcat already to enjoy so I hope someone else will win this lovely book.

Pat Cochran said...

I agree with TashNZ in that the word
"preparing" fits into the situation.
As "In preparing the stew, do you not
mix the ingredients together in the
pan?" That would be a question I would
ask if someone was teaching me how to
put a stew together.

Pat C.

Anne McAllister said...

Wow, you guys are great! I should have you come and stay along with the Russians. Thanks, Tash, for the insight into the word. And Natalija for the "hint" and Pat C for coming up with ways to make the words work.

Natalija, if I promise books to both Tash and Pat, will you translate, please?

Kate, you would like the cabbage rolls, but we would have to replace the minced beef with something veggie-ish. Or just add more veggies. I think they'd work with just more veggies.

So, Tash and Pat, if you will send along your snail addresses to me via the contact on my blog: I'll send your books right out!

And thanks again, everyone!

Natalija said...

Hi Anne! "Подгорит" is a future form of "подгорать" which means to burn(slightly), to scorch. So I guess she was asking if the stew will burn on the bottom of the pan/pot or not (or at least something similar :)

TashNz said...

Oh neat! THANK YOU Anne and THANK YOU everyone who were so kind about my post. I'm so glad you were able to translate Natalija, I read your post earlier but my computer at work doesn't let me post. When i got home from work and waved to my neighbours also arriving home, it suddenly him me that I'd totally forgotten my neighbours are Russian. I'm going to ask about stuffed cabbage rolls... sounds so interesting :)

Natalija said...

TashNz, in my family we call them "golubtsy", I mean stuffed cabbage rolls :) They are yummy if you don't mind cabbage.