Thursday, September 25, 2008

A visitor and the return of Misha

People are always blogging about meeting other blogging friends in person. Now it's my turn. A few days ago I met Mary, a young woman who reads my blog and arrived in St. Petersburg recently to work in transitional homes for older orphans. She visited the orphanage with me to see what I do.

As with all visitors, I decided to have Mary act like she didn't speak any Russian, so that the kids would have a chance to practice their English.

Misha had come right out to meet us when we got there. I hadn't seen him yet this year. He told me that he's being adopted in a few months. I'm really happy for him because he had seemed to be really longing for a family. Some kids are less at-risk, but with how withdrawn Misha had been lately, I think a change of environment is going to be good for him. He seems to be pleased with the prospect.

The English lesson went okay. It was chaotic as usual. I suppose it would be boring otherwise.

On the bus on the way home, we had a little adventure. A pair of young men got on with all these bags, and started to hand passengers books to "look at and give their opinion." Then of course the men started quoting prices. I quickly looked out the window to make myself unavailable.

Mary asked me a question in English and I answered quietly. Suddenly the men approached us.

"Excuse me, do you speak English?" Oh no, here it comes. They probably thought we had money and would love to buy some souvenirs. We both just stared at them. I saw no reason to speak English when I speak Russian fairly well. Mary didn't exactly want to engage in conversation either.

The talkative guy gave a little speech about the books in English. He said he would even give us one as a "gift." What a lie! We continued to stare at him. Then he started naming languages to see which we understood. Mary had a straight face, but I started laughing. Then Mary suddenly started speaking to me in Spanish. The man looked at me and accused me in Russian of being her translator. Nooooo. Then I kept having to translate from Spanish into Russian, but my Spanish is pretty rusty. Even after I said Mary didn't want to buy any books, the man kept asking us questions. He was intrigued, especially after Mary said she was from Ecuador.

The guy said to me in Russian, "So you're just learning Spanish, huh? And you get to translate for her? You're lucky, it's a good opportunity for practice." Umm, yeah.

Moral of the story....I don't know what the moral of the story is. Don't speak English in public?


  1. That is absolutely hilarious!!! Who knew Mary knew Spanish too!!

  2. That's pretty funny. And I want to know what sort of books they were, too.

    I would have been a sitting duck (and possessor of several books). I can never get over being too polite in such situations, even when I know better.

  3. Misha looks like such a peach. Who is adopting him?

  4. Книжки были энциклопедии с красивими картинками.

  5. The funny thing is that Mary didn't know I knew Spanish, she just decided to try it out.

    Misha went on the hosting program a few years ago and is being adopted either by his host family or someone who knows them, I think.

  6. Elizabeth - I am curious what ESL program you studied with. I am interested in taking a course like that and getting certified. As I think you read on my blog, I may lose my job here at the church, so am thinking of other, adventurous things that my husband and I might do.

  7. Annie, I took the School of International Training (SIT) TESOL course at the International Language Institute of Massachusetts.

    SIT has other locations too. The certificate might not be as widely recognized in Europe as the CELTA, but it is fully accredited.

    It's worth getting certified, especially if you are teaching already and see yourself doing it in the future.

  8. You know when I started speaking in Spanish I didn't even think of what if you didn't know it. I usually do try to keep quiet and not speak in English too much in public but sometimes I am so happy to speak with someone who understands me that I forget about the people around me.

  9. Some places are riskier than others. And I don't think two people is as noticeable as a large group of tourists.


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