A few weeks ago, my doorbell rang. I put on my orange Croc knock-offs and shuffled through the bright afternoon sunshine to my gate. I pulled open the door and Albina, my new Russian teacher was standing on the other side. With an inward sigh, I brought her in the house, sat the children down, and we started our first Russian lesson.
Back in 2010, after our assignment to Baku had been made final, Brandon mentioned one day that it would probably be good for me to learn some Russian. I had been able to get around okay in Cairo on the one semester of Arabic I had audited in college, well enough that I could hail random taxis on the street, go to the market, and tell people to leave me alone. I wouldn't have that in Baku, where Azeri and Russian were the languages I could choose from. I agreed, knowing that Brandon was right. Good idea. Definitely. I'll have to look in to that.
In 2011, Brandon brought up the Russian thing again. Yes, I agreed with him, it was definitely a good idea. But how about after I'm done having our fourth baby and we're settled in a little bit? Maybe right now isn't the best time.
When we moved to Baku, a friend mentioned that she had a wonderful Russian teacher who she had a great time meeting with twice a week. When did she have time to meet for an hour, I wanted to know. I couldn't think of an hour in my day that was child- and nap-free (naps have higher priority than Russian lessons). "Oh," my friend replied, "she comes in the evening after the boys are in bed." I nodded my head. Good idea, that.
When Brandon asked about my friend's tutor, I waved him off with a vague answer about having to check and see. But really, I knew Russian wasn't going to be taking up two of my precious evening hours every single week. Mime was getting me just what I needed, thank you very much. Sure there was that garden hose incident that one time, but miming eventually got the message through. Even if it took ten employees looking on in amusement to get the dang hose. I'm willing to go through that if the other option is two evening hours sucked out of my life every single week.
When we moved to Falls Church for Tajik training, Brandon made me flash cards one evening with all of the Russian letters. We kept at it diligently for at least three separate sessions before the cards got shoved in a random drawer, waiting to be thrown away with all of the other junk accrued over nine months' time in our Oakwood apartment.
After our move (and move again) was finished at the very end of 2014, Brandon brought up lessons again. Yes, yes, I agreed. It was definitely time for Russian lessons. My housekeeper didn't speak English, my gardener didn't speak English, and I couldn't even talk to people who rang my own doorbell. If my gardener wanted to tell me that the bags of dirt she had gotten weren't enough, I had to call a friend's housekeeper to tell me that there wasn't enough dirt. Then I had to have the housekeeper tell the gardener that yes, we should buy some more dirt. So, yes. Russian. Soon. Very soon. Just as soon as we get settled. Then.
Then we got busy reestablishing school patterns and then it was summer and then we went on R&R and finally after five years of prodding, I had my first Russian lesson. The girls and I managed to make it through the first one without crying, and the next day we had another one. We got a one-day break before the next Russian lesson. Then I got excited about this learning thing and made flashcards for all of us to reviews every day. And for a little bit of extra fun, I bought Rosetta stone to do daily, too. Because, after all, I have five years of catch-up to do.
So, after two weeks of lessons Kathleen and I can pretty much read in Cyrillic, and Sophia's working on it. We can talk about our family (That's my brother. His name is Edwin. That's my sister. Her name is Sophia), say hello and good morning, and know very useful vocabulary, like the words for sound, beer, and hole. I can now greet my housekeeper and ask her how she's doing. Brandon has a fun time quizzing us on what we've learned at dinner each night. It's all very fun.
I'm not setting my sights on any ridiculous goals like fluency or even anything approaching fluency. I'm not in school and so I don't have to kill myself to learn everything to get that A for my GPA. I'm taking Russian because it will be useful, and I figure if we all keep at it three times a week for the next three years, we should have something to show for it by the end. I can at least tell people who ring my doorbell that I'm not the person they're looking for and they should move on. I don't really care if the children keep their Russian skills once we move on from the Russian-speaking world. Maybe one of them will keep at it, but I'm not holding my breath.
But for now, we're learning Russian. And Brandon can finally stop nagging me.