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Sunday, November 7, 2021

Switching Stables

 The children and I have now been riding together in Tashkent for three years.  When we first moved here and were looking for a stable, Brandon brought home a flyer for a local stable.  I didn't know anything about stables here - not even knowing if there were any other than this one - and it looked like a nice place on their website, so we signed up for lessons.

We found out that it was new, only having been open for a year, and was very nice.  The horses were well taken care of, the facilities were in good condition, and the teachers were good teachers.  I got to start jumping again and the children were progressing pretty well and getting pushed to learn new skills most lessons.

But after the first year and a half, the teachers started leaving.  New ones would appear but mysteriously leave after working for a few months.  Eventually there were only two teachers left.  After I broke my arm last year, I wasn't allowed to jump any more and the lessons every week just consisted of a lot of trotting and nothing else.  I knew that things had gotten to a bad point when Kathleen - the most horse crazy of any of us - admitted that even she was bored at her lessons.

So I decided that it was time for a change.  I don't really like changing things up.  I'm a creature of habit and will keep doing the same thing for years on end if there's no really, really pressing need to do something different.  We've been eating the same twenty dinners for the last ten years, and I don't plan on varying those dinners any time soon.  

When I finally decided to look for somewhere new, it was with a lot of trepidation.  After all, our system was working okay, and we will be leaving in less than a year anyway. Why go through the trouble of finding a new place? But after talking with Brandon about how bored the kids were, he was all for finding something more for the kids.

I went to my favorite place - the internet - to start doing some research.  Half of the trouble of getting things done in a foreign country is trying to figure out the systems.  Everyone who lives in the country is so used to the systems that they don't even realize that there is a system and they probably can't explain it to someone who doesn't understand it.  The first stable we went to had a system close enough to the American one that it made sense to me.  The stable owned all the horses and paid the teachers, so we just had to contact the manager to get things done.

Eventually I was able to find a teacher who was willing to take us on and scheduled a trial lesson.  When I set things up with the first stable, I took my Russian teacher to act as a translator.  But this time I decided to try and do things on my own.  My Russian is about the level of a two year old's, which means that I can understand a lot of what is being said to me - especially when it's kept simple - but I'm limited to pretty basic replies.  I can't just sit and chat about whatever comes in to my mind; I have to keep the conversations pretty straightforward and concentrated on business.  I dream of one day making it to the conversational skill level of a three year old, but we'll see if that ever happens.

One of the issues we had to work out was how to get all six people taught without taking three hours.  Our teacher only had two horses and so could only do two lessons at a time.  So at my Russian lesson on the day of my trial lesson, I practiced telling my Russian teacher that I didn't want to have three hours of lessons and could we maybe do it in two?  This sounds like a simple conversation, but it involves asking questions, listening to the replies, and then asking questions based on what the reply was.  It's not a simple 'please give me two kilos of cheese' request, but something that evolves as it goes along.  

By the end of our time together, I had managed to chat about my family (seven children!!!), my riding experience, tacking up a horse, follow the instructions during my lesson, and then work out the scheduling of how to get six people schooled in two hours.  There was another teacher who was willing to take on the overflow and so we got to talk with him, too.  It sounds like a simple conversation in print, but in the nature of all conversations with Russian speakers, it was very long and everything had to be said five different times in five different ways.  But by the end, I had done everything entirely by myself in a language that is not even close to my native language.  I felt like the six preceding years of Russian torture lessons had finally been worth it.  

When I brought the girls the next week for their lessons, they loved the new place and the new teacher.  It was certainly not nearly as fancy (at all) as the previous stable, but I got to jump, Sophia got to canter to her heart's delight, and Kathleen worked on having a more stable seat.  And everyone got to practice their Russian a lot.  There were quite a few instances of having to make people explain what they meant, but we all understood it in the end.  Everyone was happy about the switch.

As we were leaving, I commented to the girls that it's probably a good thing we've been studying Russian so long.  "Yeah," Kathleen replied, "there's no way we could have done that without speaking Russian.  I guess it's useful after all.  We would have been stuck at the first stable if we weren't able to speak Russian."  

We'll have to see how the boys like their lesson this week, but so far everyone who has gone has been happy about the change.  So I guess change can be good sometimes.  And so can Russian lessons.  

1 comment:

Patti said...

Very big deal! Making a change and conversing in Russian. Bravo!