Monday, September 21, 2009

In the Open-Air Market

Me: May I have one of those -- amerikanskoe? (The sign was for “American” cookies. I’m usually quite adventurous with Russian sweets, but about 60% of the time it’s not in keeping with my taste buds.) (Mozhno mne, pozhalujsta, odno…amerikanskoe?)

Not Cookie Monster (check the nickname section), but her friend from across the way: How prettily you speak Russian! (Kak krasivo vy govorite po-russky)

Me: Thanks. (Spasibo.)

Cookie Monster’s Friend: Where are you from? (A vy otkuda?)

Me: From America. (Iz Ameriki.)

[She looks at my cookie choice, in a “really? You’re in Russia and choosing that cookie?” way.] I continue: I…er…miss home? (Ia…er…skuchaiu po nej…)

[Cookie Monster and Friend both immediately change their postures and expressions.] No, no! You should not miss it! (Ne nado skuchat’!)

Two notes:

1) still feeling ambiguous about my Russian language skills. I have apparently ditched the American accent; at least, Russians can’t always tell, as is true in this case, that I’m from America, or even a native English speaker. She wasn’t anticipating that I’d answer “From America” to her open-ended question. Then again, she could tell, immediately, that I was a foreigner. As can most people. Except for when I get asked directions. I guess I’m turning into Woland.

2) that conversation continued for a while, and ended up with me giving my email address to CM’s Friend for her to pass on to some people that she knows. My interpretation – the charge of that hypothetical grant I might have received, to make cross-cultural connections…it doesn’t always have to be people with whom I’m going to be the best of friends, or with whom I’m presenting myself in a formal, academic environment; I’m ok with it being those people with whom I’m able to find a common tongue. Even if said people are the vendors in a rynok whose senses of motherly anxiety are awakened to the bedny i bledny amerikanets (poor and pale American) in front of them.

You’ve gotten enough ROD from the translated conversation. From the semiotician, Vygotsky:
Every higher function is divided between two people, is a mutual psychological process.

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