Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Moments of Triumph

I'm listening to Sufjan Stevens and feeling pretty pleased with myself. It is amazing how much I encounter Russian here. The hard thing though is to make myself interact with it. It was the same when I lived over there. I had to force myself to interact with native speakers. It was a matter of survival. Here, I have no problem interacting with non-native speakers. Most likely because if I make mistakes they won't care or won't notice. At least I think that's my sub-conscious reason for doing it. I don't know, but I really have been trying to interact more with the Russian speakers I encounter.

Last week, Mom and I went to a Russian festival at a local Orthodox Church. Naturally, I had to make a little fun of the stuff, and criticize the "Russian food" that they served (although the Borsh was really good!) but we happened to run across some Russian speakers. My mom said "go on, go talk to them" and I was really nervous about it. Even though you do it all the time as an Exchange Student, it's really really hard to go up to random people and just start speaking to them in their native language. Especially since that's probably the only thing you have in common. So mom, being her personality type, took the lead and went up to the woman, and said "hey, my daughter speaks Russian and wanted to talk to you." so much for introductions heh heh. So I chatted a bit with one lady and then another. I talked about where I lived, and the Moscow metro and Another random thing or two. They told me I spoke Russian well, and that was about it, but I felt good about it afterwards.

Sunday night, I went to an Orchestra concert here on campus. It was free with my SPU ID and one of my friends was playing so off I went. The seats weren't assigned and so I sat myself down and was waiting for the concert to start, half listening to the people around me. The two people sitting behind me were talking about "Something something twenty something" and I'm sitting there thinking "that's nice..." when all of a sudden it hit me that they hadn't been speaking English. (funny how when you know another language your brain just processes it.) So I turned around and looked and met this guys gaze and realized I was staring so I turned back around, although I definitely continued to listen to the conversation. I told myself I would regret it if I didn't talk to them and so at intermission I got up the courage and asked the girl where she was from (in Russian). She told me, and then asked where I was from. I told her I was American but that I'd lived in Russia last year. And the usual kind of conversation followed. The girl was from Turkmenistan and the guy was from Central Russia. It was fun to just chat with them. They told me that except for Mister Doctor who's the head of the Russian Department here, I was the best American Russian speaker they'd heard in a while. I told them that I didn't speak well (because I don't feel that I do. I make so many mistakes and things) and they insisted that I did. It was really fun to just talk to them, and once again I felt really glad about it afterwards.

The last thing happened just today. We were talking about Europe in my "Where in the World Are We?" lecture. We were talking about different languages and then the teacher decided to show different alphabets. The first one was the latin alphabet. Then he showed the Cyrillic alphabet. I got all excited, especially when there was a little blurb in Russian up on the screen he asked if anyone could read it and I raised my hand. So he asked me to read it and I did, I translated it and read it in English. Was very proud of myself because I read it right out. Sometimes when I'm translating my brain does weird things to my English. It was a little thing about some registration for a conference in 1997 or something. Afterwards, the teacher told me good job and told everyone to clap for me. It was pretty funny.

I guess my point is that even when you're not on exchange, those little moments of triumph still matter. You still find them in random places, and they still tend to just make your day!

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