here, there, everywhere

Russian 101

In Mongolia, Russia on September 27, 2012 at 11:50 am

I decided we’d be in big trouble if one of us didn’t learn a bit of Russian, so on our flight from Irkutsk to Moscow today I learned the Cyrillic alphabet.  Good thing as no one really speaks English here, very few street signs have English translations, and while the metro stops are listed in both Russian and English on the maps, nothing inside the station tells you where you are if you can’t read their alphabet.  Fortunately there are a lot of English, Arabic, French, and other languages’ words which the Russians picked up, so if you can figure the words out phonetically, you’ll find yourself reading something you’re familiar with.

It took awhile to sort ourselves out from the airport to the hostel, not because of the language barrier, but because no one seemed to know where our street is.  It’s an odd side street that points off a main street like a spoke and I guess locals don’t come here unless they live here.  I asked one nice looking business guy if he knew this street, he said ‘nyet’, and then proceeded to look it up on his phone.  Couldn’t find it, and as we said ‘nyet problehm’ and walked away, we noticed him accosting people on the street to ask if they knew where it was.  He finally found a young woman who pointed it out to him and he victoriously waved at us and then the street with a big smile on his face.  See?  Once again nice people are in abundance on this planet.

When we finally found the hostel and got to our room, we discovered we would be sharing it with a young Armenian woman and many other Russians.  More on that situation in another post.  This girl started telling me about mannerisms here and said everytime Westerners say “Excuse me” in Russian (‘izviniste’ in case you’re wondering), Russians think they’re dealing with a crazy person.  Those niceties are non-existent here and you should replace, “Excuse me, could you please pass me that book”, with “Give it to me”.  I’m all for it, I love the directness of that approach and that you waste much less time trying to be all polite and P.C.  She also said we should stop saying “please” and “thank you” so much because it’s stupid.  I asked her when I should use “Excuse me.”  She looked at me for awhile before saying (read this with a deep Russian accent), “I know the state of your mentalization and I know you’re not crazy, but you should not use that.  Ever.”  As for my ‘mentalization’ I could give her the numbers of a few of my friends who might challenge her on that statement.

Hopefully my Russian vocabulary will grow over the next week and a half, it would be nice to acquire some words in a new language, and now that I know the alphabet, I can also go back to Mongolia, the Ukraine, Khazakhstan, etc.  One lesson learned now, a whole world opened for later.  спокойной ночи.

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