25 November 2006

mind your language

I don't footnote. Neither in my writings nor in my little brain do I include source information. This is either very trusting (of course people are telling me the truth), very arrogant (of course I can decide what is true or not) or very...integrated (I read it and now it's mine). I take in new information, decide if it's keep-worthy, and then store or discard it without keeping the source information in most cases. This means that I am a goldmine of information that I cannot support. The self-dubbed "language folders" mentioned below are an excellent example of this lack of source information. Know that this has proven itself through my filters and personal experience, and then decide its validity for yourself. Or, if you're that sort of person, you can research it for yourself. (Tell me if you find the source and I'll try to remember.)

I learned somewhere that our brains basically have two language folders--one for your first language and one for all the rest. Did I find this to be true in France! While I knew my little bit of French (one quarter in junior high and various life experiences ranging from travel to friends to reading "A Year in Provence") long before I learned my little bit of Russian, when I was in Nice the first language out of my mouth was Russian. Even "oui" came out "da" unless I really thought about it. This made my haircut (yep--back to that bob I seem to sport more often than not) an interesting experience. Fortunately, the kind hairdresser took pity on me and lost his irritaion when I explained that I lived in Russia. It seems that my brain just clicked on the foreign language folder and pulled out words at random--Russian, French, Italian, Spanish... It was a bizarre situation. (My haircut, however, is a great success.)

My other recent language experience came when we went to pick up the Thanksgiving turkeys. Our secretary at school had ordered them. She even wrote out a note for me. I, of course, wanted to be able to ASK for them instead of just handing over a note. I was assured that the entire butchery staff knew who we were, remembered us from last year, and were fascinated with our needing turkey to celebrate an American holiday.

I did not find this to be the case. The Russian word for "turkey" is not one I use often. There is never any turkey to buy or discuss! But, I'd looked it up and thought I remembered it. I approached the first girl, told her I was from the Anglo-American School and that there were two turkeys for us. She had no idea what I meant. Doubting my Russian "turkey" (and without my dictionary, nach) I told her that I didn't know the word "turkey" but that there were two large...chickens, birds waiting for us. She knew nothing and sent me to devochka 2. Same reaction--didn't know us, didn't know about the birds. I pull out the note. Still no sign of recognition. I am sent to devochka 3. She tells me there are no turkeys. I tell her there are; there are two turkeys/big chickens/birds. She says there are no turkeys. I cannot have turkey. I tell her I know there are turkeys, that we telephoned and the turkeys are here. She wants to know when we telephoned. I tell her we telephoned yesterday. She tells me that yesterday is not today. Today there are no turkeys. Devochka 4 comes us and says good morning. (At 7 p.m. I'll take any English I can get.) I repeat my speil about telephones, two turkeys and the AAS. I give her my note. She disappears and comes back...with ONE turkey. I tell her there are TWO turkeys. A butcher man from the back comes out and debates with her, me, and the third girl. I insist on two turkeys, that TWO turkeys are reserved for us. Finally, a second turkey is produced. It's bigger than we requested, and might not fit in the oven for which it's intended, but I'm just happy to have it.

The next morning there is a cross message on the school answering machine asking why we have not collected our turkeys. I don't know whose turrkeys we were given, but I'm very thankful we have them!

I'm cooking mine today and am putting up my Christmas things. I don't like decorations on a tree--just lights and an angel on top--so I'm just decking the bookshelves with the creche and angels and Santas that I've been given over the years, and the Dyed Moros (Grandfather Frost) I bought last year. I'm hanging baubles from red, white and green ribbons on my living room wall. I've got flashy Russian lights (no plain white available here) to put around the room. Then, with cinnamon candles and gingerbread cookies, I'll be all set for Christmas.

As we segue from one celebration to the next, I'm hoping to have one more reason to celebrate. Once my guardian letter is in (the agency wants a re-write) and my social worker makes changes to my homestudy, we can celebrate the registering of my dossier! I'm REALLY hoping this celebration comes before Christmas. I'll let you know so we can all celebrate together!

22 November 2006

NICE Thanksgiving

Sorry to have been so neglectful of my readers and fellow bloggers. I spent the last few days enjoying the sunshine, walking along a rocky beach, eating croissants, browing through shops in winding lanes... Sound like an idyll that is inconguous with this blog's address? It was. But it was very Nice--Nice, France. And yes, Nice was nice. (That statement gets a big giggle in second grade--especially when teamed with "My niece is nice.".) I even replaced the tea towel I burned a few posts ago.

Now I'm getting ready to celebrate Thanksgiving with my class once again. Tomorrow evening I'll spend it with other American ex-pats. We've even got a skipe(sp?) box so that we can watch the parade. I'm not a parade-watcher, but this sounds like a lovely way to spend an evening.

I think that our bodies are conditioned to rest not only based on circadian rhythms, but also on an annual, cultural cycle. All the Americans are tired right now. Our inner clocks know, even if the world around us doesn't, that it's time to take some time out, to relax with friends and be thankful. Since we'll only have the opportunity to do the last bit, we'd better REALLY be thankful. I love Thanksgiving. This is a holiday I look forward to all year--maybe even more than Christmas.

I listened to my class buzzing with excitement as they prepared to celebrate their first Thanksgiving (a seasoned few are celebrating their second Thanksgiving and my US student is regarded with the awe rightly due her expertise on this holiday), and decided I don't really mind being in school tomorrow. We learned about the Pilgrims today. We learned about how these first European-Americans weren't satisfied with the status quo. We learned how they searched for alternatives, didn't find what they wanted in Holland, and then took a huge risk and jumped in whole-heartedly. We learned about their courage, their determination, their resourcfulness, their faithfulness, their ingenuity and their diligence. We learned aobut their grateful hearts and their celebrations with friends new and old. I think that sums up the American spirit and is what makes Thanksgiving a uniquely American holiday--not the football and the parades and the turkey.

So, friends--new, old and virtual, happy Thanksgiving.

13 November 2006

what's in your wallet?

A young blogger-friend (who asked to remain nameless and linkless because our "blog circles don't exactly overlap") tagged me to list the contents of my handbag.

I actually carry a brown leather backpack with me back and forth to school, the shops, etc. because I ALWAYS have something to carry. Inside it there is:

my wallet (has my kartooshka, a copy of my passport, ATM card, Maestro card, 648 rubles, 2.02 GBP and Oкие card)
way cool stripy notebook from Paperchase
my LUSH purchase--Angels on Bare Skin, Imperialis and Marilyn
brownie recipe I brought to school for a pregnant ex-pat
"The Eyre Affair" which I'd loaned to a friend and wanted back for the plane ride later this week to NICE!!!
hairbrush that I've been meaning to leave at school for the last two weeks
mobile (turned off)
BLUE ink pen
lip stuff--Burt's Bees, Clinique lipstick, blistix, some Belgian stuff and a Cliniqe lipgloss that was free and too goopy to use
Wendy's acorn necklace from "Peter Pan"

Not terribly exciting...for the second post in a row!! So, to those loyal reader who managed to comment on a burnt tea towel...

Lauri, Carrie, Suz--what secret mysteries are filling YOUR handbags? (Please tag three others when you're through. And, since OUR blog circles DO overlap, feel free to link back to mine.)


11 November 2006

where there's smoke

I discovered this week that my flat has no smoke detectors. Huh.

Last night, while I was putting on the remains of a tomato and ground chicken pasta sauce to heat, I nudged the pan of brownies out of the way. (A student was moving to Switzerland and we had brownies to say goodbye. There were three left...) The pan was covered with a tea towel, aluminum foil and saran wrap being luxury items here.

I love things with a history. My sugar bowl is art decco. My tablecloth is from a Christmas in Kiev. I have bits of Broadway and Palace Square as paperweights and coasters. My dishtowels are vintage--and so soft from years of washing. The cotton feels like silk, but they're still a nice weight. They're a cheerful, homey, familiar touch in my kitchen-that-is-not-mine.

The newest bit of tea towel history--my favorite blue checked one has, as you've guessed by the brilliant foreshadowing, literally, gone up in smoke. I even remember thinking when I turned on the gas under the pasta sauce that the brownies were a little close to the flame. I just didn't nudge them far enough. Was it laziness or overconfidence that had me nudging instead of putting them on top of the microwave? Not sure. Perhaps both.

Obviously, as this is a post about tea towels, there's not much new to report here. Go ahead--make me feel better by offering a pithy comment on THIS one! ;>

05 November 2006

Did you know...

...that elephants in South Africa are being trained to track poachers? They have an incredible sense of smell and can track a person even through two feet of running water! Sounds like poetic justice to me.

...that "sleep tight" is a reference to the ropes that supported mattresses back in the olden days?

...that only two dozen people in Russia accounted for 70% of Russia's Gross Domestic Product?

...that my blogpal sent me a note? Thanks for thinking of me. ;>

03 November 2006

xyz pdq

Growing up, I really like taking standarized tests. Give me a number 2 pencil and let me start bubbling in! It was a game. I wanted to beat the tests, to outsmart them.

SAT's? No problem. I took them my sophomore year and scored high enough to be a National Merit Scholar Finalist. I had a good book with me that I'd just started and quickly went through each section so that I could get back to my book. Maybe I should've taken them again...

I don't mind doing my taxes. I simply follow the directions and fill in the boxes.

I know. People tell me all the time that I am sick.

I thought, being afflicted with this sickness, that filling out the adoption paperwork would be a breeze--even enjoyable. The list looke so much shorter than I'd imagined when people talked about all the paperwork involved. I thought that ticking off the list of needed documents would bring great--and quick--joy.


Part of the problem is that the directions don't apply to me. I'm a good direction-follower. But, living here, I cannot simply get everything notarized and apostilled. Granted, that's a pain (and can be expensive) but it's not even an option here. So, I'm left negotiating solutions and trying to find the right directions to follow. Those directions change OFTEN.

I think the trick is to keep asking until you get the answer you want and then do that. This theory works well in other bureaucratic situations. I'm hoping it works here, too.

Have I shared this before? (Sorry if it's a repeat. My oral anecdotes, e-mails and blogs are all blurring...)

A typical conversation regarding my paperwork:

You must have x.
I don't have x.
You must. You must give us x.
I can't. I don't have x. It is not possible to give you x.
You must. You must provide x. It is the only way.
But, there is no x. I cannot give you x.
Then we cannot proceed. You must have x.
But I don't have x.
You must. You must give us x. Or y.

This conversation can take days, weeks, months to get to y --which is usually much easier to do/get than x was.

Recently, after I'd gotten everything for y, I was told I didn't need x or y. I needed z. Deep breaths. So now I'm hunting for zed--which is strangely snipe-like.

I'm still hoping to be all xyz'd pretty darn quick.