This past week my husband and I had the great pleasure and good fortune to host two visitors from Russia.
As 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.”
The 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 cabbage 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.
I 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?
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!
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.