Sunday, 26 September 2010

Not Getting to know Olga and Vladimir.

I'm off quite soon, off to visit my son who lives and works in a remote part of Central Asia.
In the meantime I struggle with Olga and Vladimir.

I need to get to grips with these two, because for some of the time I will be free-range in a very foreign place. I want to be able to wander around and chat to people while my son is at work.
I will take my small-scale sketching things, because I have learned that the way to attract a bit of company is to sit and sketch.
If you want to keep people away you sit and write in your Moleskine notebook, but if you produce a sketch book and a little box of water-colours you have someone sitting beside you in no time at all.
At least, that is what happens in England.
What will happen in Kazakhstan, I wonder?

Which is why I'm working on Olga and Vladimir.
They are Russian, but many people in Kazakhstan speak Russian.

Olga and Vladimir meet at a business conference.
'Hello!' they say to each other,'What is your name?'
They exchange names. They tell each other how nice it is to meet. They agree that Moscow is beautiful. They agree it is time to part. They say goodbye with no apparent qualms.
That is Lesson 1 Part 1 of the multi-disc set of Conversational Russian. It is called Getting to Know People.

I don't feel I am getting to know Olga and Vladimir, but will press on.

Olga and Vladimir meet again. They remember each others' names. They ask each other how they are. They are both well. They part again, but now I sense a lingering regret.
Things begin to warm up. Olga wants to find the way to the Post Office. She wants to buy a stamp. I expect she needs to write home to say she may be away longer than expected.
Now she wants to find the Bolshoi Theatre. Is she going to buy tickets and invite Vladimir?

By Part 2 Valdimir and Olga are in a restaurant; beer, borshch and salad for Vlad, red wine and chips for Olga. Oh, and an omelette. And white wine instead of red. Then coffee with milk and tea with lemon.
They summon the waiters repeatedly. 'Young man!' 'Young woman!' they cry. Olga changes her mind about the chips, the wine, the tea. Vladimir asks for the bill. It's really not promising.

I knew it!
By Part 4 Olga is off to the football stadium and Vladimir? Well, Vladimir is heading for the hospital. He is on the number ten trolleybus, three stops away from the hospital.

They never get it together. They buy samovars and matroshka dolls, but separately.
They make an attempt to go to the Puskin Museum but it is closed on Mondays, and, of course, it happens to be Monday.
Vladimir has a mild dose of man-flu and goes to hospital, but is told to take an aspirin and stop fussing. Olga loses her handbag and is locked out of her room.
The pair of them go to supper with another colleague where they partake of three bread rolls, a half kilo of cheese, tomatoes and three bottles of beer.

One wonders about the quality of the conference as well.
I expect things are different in Kazakhstan.


marigold jam said...

How exciting and adventurous. Beats having a son who works in Dagenham or Birmingham or wherever when it comes to visiting! I do hope that you will attract some interesting people with your sketch pad. I found when visiting Turkey that language wasn't always necessary to get the feeling of friendship with the Turkish ladies so maybe you will find the same. Have a wonderful time and we will look forward to hearing all about it on your return.


marigold jam said...

PS No offence intended to the good people of Dagenham or Birmingham they were the first towns to come to mind for some reason.


Jane said...

I should hope the eating opportunities will bring something more exciting than cheese rolls and omeletes, and you won't need to have the vocabulary to visit the hospital!

Relatively Retiring said...

Marigold Jam: I'm glad you got that in about Birmingham and Dagenham!
Thank you for the good wishes.

Jane: best to be prepared, I think,and I have to go where Olga is leading! I've got a feeling that I'll have cooking opportunities too, but Olga only seems to shout at people in restaurants.

Zhoen said...

Maybe in Russia, it's polite to shout at waiters? Probably not in Kazakhstan.

You could take a camera, one of the digital ones with a largish display - another way to communicate without the same language.

Have you seen The Long Way Round?

den said...

I wonder if you will be able to see more stars?
What an adventure enjoy.

pohanginapete said...

Any place prefixed with the word "remote" gets me interested. I guess I should add Kazakhstan high enough on the list so I make it while my cousin's still there :^)

I've just signed up for Spanish lessons, which I trust will be less of a struggle than Olga and Vlad. I don't have an aptitude for learning languages, but hard work will help, and at least I won't have to learn another alphabet.

A wonderfully written post, as always :^)

Isabelle said...


I'm sure you'll have a lovely time and probably more enlightening than I did last Sunday, visiting my son in Perth (Scotland) but all the same, K. does seem an awfully long way away for one's son to be.

Relatively Retiring said...

Zhoen: these finer points of culture are important. From what I hear, Kazakh people are much more smiley than Russians. Apparently it's considered over-intimate to smile too much in Russia- especially at the waiters!

Den: that's a lovely point. I'll look out for the stars.

P.Pete: YES, do a little travelling in comfort while he's offering couch-surfing.
The non-adventures of Olga and Vlad are becoming a bit wearing. I'm sure you'll find Spanish more exciting.

Isabelle: remember that 'distance lends enchantment to the view'. I hope that my adult sons and I have very strong relationships, much closer than when I was nagging at them about homework and dirty socks. We now have to give careful consideration to our communications and be sure to say the things that really matter.

Relatively Retiring said...

Zhoen: I'll track down 'The Long Way Round'. Thank you.

leslee said...

That's hilarious. I've done audio lessons before (Spanish, French) and the scenarios are helpful albeit stilted. Good luck (however it's said in Russian) on your trip!

By the way, my nephew is in St. Petersburg, doing a university semester abroad and living with a local family.

Relatively Retiring said...

Leslee: your nephew must always say,'K sazhlen'iyoo mn'e n'il'z'a alkago'.
Apart from that how wonderful to be in St. Petersburg - and he won't need stilted CDs if he's living with a local family!

herhimnbryn said...

I am expecting lots of photos! Have a grand trip.

Frances said...

The picture at the head of this post is beautiful, interesting and intriguing, RR.
I trust, and expect, that your trip will be the same.

Molly said...

This reminds me of our days listening to German tapes as we drove to and from school before we went to live in Germany. Wo ist die Banhoff? It is so satisfying when you finally see a spark, however vague, of recognition in the eyes of a native! Don't give up!