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!


Calico Sky said...

Oh Kate, I really really hope that happens in December. What a wonderful Christmas celebration that will be!
I had to laugh as on the train this week I re read A Year Au Provence!!!
Sometimes I laugh reading your posts at the similarities we have!!!
Well done you getting those decorations up, not even thought about starting.

Deb said...

Congratz on being so close with the dossier. I'll be praying for you.

I enjoyed your turkey story.

Anonymous said...

What an ordeal to get a turkey! I just bought mine yesterday (went out of town for Thanksgiving and I want leftovers).

I hope hope hope you get to register your dossier by Christmas! That would be WONDERFUL and I bet such a relief for you! You've certainly had to jump through many, many hoops in this process.

Happy belated Thanksgiving.

Betsy said...

The language thing IS funny as I've been trying to learn a few Russian phrases and in the process DO seem to call up a few German ones from when my dad was stationed there when I was in elementary school. Interesting!
Congrats on your progress!

Anonymous said...


Hi! This is your secret blog pal. I went to the P.O. to mail you another package today. When I did, he handed me a customs declaration to which I had to sign my name, put my address, etc. I told him they had never had me do this before when I mailed things to you. Anyway, he asked if you had ever gotten the other packages. I explained the secret pal thing to him and he said it was likely that nothing had ever made it to you. Therefore, I need to know if you have received anything from me at all and if so, what, so I know what I need to track down. I have sent a few things, including one package full of American goodies and your fav Jif pnut butter. I have not forgotten about you, but the postal system may have let us both down. Please comment or post so I know what to go after.


Your Soon-to-be not so secret blog pal

kate said...

Hullo, blog pal. I have only received one letter from you with a little teahcer-apple in it. Sounds like you have some inept postal workers!! Kate

Lea said...

Your turkey story had me laughing out loud. I enjoy your writing and hearing about your life in Russia. I am glad I have been once, so I better understand what you discuss on your blog. We are waiting for our courtdate. May God bless your adoption process.

Jennefer said...

Your story about the turkeys reminded me of when M and I went to a little Russian market here. Nobody could speak English and we were trying to ask them what sort of Russian foods would a 2 year old enjoy. They kept shaking their heads and finally got someone who could sort of understand us and the only recommendation was milk. They thought a 2 year old was too young to eat any of their food. We were the ones shaking our heads as we left. Anyway, I am glad you got your turkeys and could celebrate Thanksgiving. It sounds like you have great taste in Christmas decorating!