Thursday, 9 October 2008

Russki shopping lists

Having a nanny who speaks not a word of English is certainly not boring! Alia is proving to be a great buddy to have around - cheerful, chatty, a bit scatty but also affectionate, playful and pleasant. So far so good. She is also, thank goodness, a patient woman (must be something to do with having lived in soviet times), since it can be unbelievably drawn out having to communicate with each other with a total lack of common language. I don't think that on taking this job, she expected to have to use her reading glasses so much, as we pass the dictionary back and forth, trying to work out what the other wants to say!

Yesterday, while I was having a Russian lesson and the baby was sleeping, she went to the Green Market to buy some fruit and veggies. So before she left we sat down to make a list: I was armed with the Almaty International Women's Group's emergency food shopping translation list (laminated so you can keep it in your handbag), she with a pen and paper. We concocted a list and off she went. 

When I got back from the school run, there she was with her spoils and some unusual and un-ordered items. One of these was a bundle of asparagus which Alia found utterly baffling. "What is this?" she asked, picking it up and gnawing at one of the spears, "What do you do with it? Is it a herb?" I think she asked. It then transpired that the reason she was so intrigued about this vegetable was that it had cost me 30USD!! She was amazed that I had wanted to buy this (I hadn't!) I still don't know what it is called in Russian, it is not on the AIWC list, and neither, I believe, was it on Alia's list. I think I managed to explain that really if anything costs more than 10USD that we could live without it and she needn't buy it, we would wait until it was in season. 

Then we continued, I had a few things to explain to her, and so we laboured on with the dictionary, gesticulation and the odd word in Russian. At one point I looked up "Not easy" and explained that I realised that this communication was tortured, but that I was sure it would get easier with time. She nodded emphatically and then spent an age looking up a word herself (she has not taken the sticker off her reading glasses which says, in quite large writing, +2.5 , and which I am sure is making it hard for her to focus on the tiny print of my pocket dictionary). I spent the time sending a couple of long texts to friends, and then eventually she slapped the book down on the table, pointed at the identified word and pronounced: "Gail...... capable!". 

I am glad that she has the faith that my Russian will get there. Perhaps I should spend more time learning my vocabulary and less time writing this blog! 

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