Let me begin by helping you understand something about waiting in lines: Russians have no concept of them. No concept of the line part and no concept of the waiting part. But, that is OK; when I get home and people ask how I got so good at boxing out in basketball my reply will be, “Four months of keepin my place in line at McDonalds.”
Although my favorite “line” experience to date took place at the Post Office this week and is not likely to ever be topped :)
After finally getting the mail system here figured out it was time for Grandma and Grandpa to get their letter from Russia. Now, the fastest way to get these letters to the U.S.A. is by airmail, 14 days. I am sad to admit that I have not miraculously become a fluent Russian speaker over the last four months. So, I had my coordinator, Natasha, write out a little note that said I needed an airmail envelope with enough stamps to get to the U.S. I would show this to the Lady at the Post Office and everything would be hassle free right? Wrong.
I walked through the door only to find a mass of people everywhere in the room- No sign of any line formation anywhere! This was gonna be interesting… So, I started motioning to people asking with my hands and facial expressions “Are you in line?” Some pointed to places which didn’t make any sense and others said, “Huh?” Which is always discouraging when you know they’ll be even more confused if I really try to say anything at all. But, most of them said, “Niet” (No). I was rather perplexed and confused. How did this work? Where do I go? What do I do? How do they all understand what is going on? This makes no sense. It felt like my first few days in Russia all over again.
Then, a purple haired angel came to my rescue. You can always count on Babushkas to help you out! She put her hand on my back and started spouting off in Russian to me. Since, I always seem to conveniently forget the full phrase for, "I don’t understand Russian" when it is needed all I said was, “Niet Parooski… Pongliski”. (No Russia…English) Haha oh man, that sounds so desperate. She looked at me confused and said something else. I repeated my broken reply then she chuckled and started talking to the guy next to her.
The next thing I know he’s talking to the guy next to him and they both laugh a bit and guy #2 says, “Niet”. He starts walking around the whole room while pointing at me and saying somethin to each person where I could only make out the words, “Nipo daymyo Paruski… Pongliki.” And “Niet”. Well, that right there is my favorite, having a bunch of Russians talking about me. The room got pretty loud after that got started; everyone was talking to each other and looking at me. I figured the guy was going around trying to find someone who spoke English. No success. If I had any chance at blending in during this visit, that chance had flown out the window- Now everyone knew there was an American in the room.
So, my new purple haired Grandma started gabbing at me again. Noticing the note in my hand she took it, read it and… well, that was our first bit of success as she now at least knew why I was there. She snatched my hand and started pulling me across the room and through all the people, heading straight for the counter where there were probably six people standing. Oh, I guess I found the beginning of the line- the blob off shoving elbows.
….Haha I still can’t believe what she did, she started talking really loudly at all of them and a few stepped to the side, she stuck her hand with my note in front of the Lady sitting behind the counter! Can anyone say, “BUTTER!” I guess Babushkas have access to 24/7 fast passes :) And, this one was still holding my hand… kinda weird.
Haha the Lady put her hand up and kept busily to her work. Guess butting is allowed but interrupting isn’t. So, we waited.
One other Lady started talking to me. I caught bits and pieced together that she was asking if I was from America, I said “Dah”. (Yes) Then, I thought I heard her say something about… Colorado. Was she asking if I am from Colorado? What the random? How would she know Colorado? California I understand, but Colorado? I said, “Niet, Colorado. Utah”. Now, it was her turn to put on the “What are you talking about?” face. Okay, maybe I didn’t know what she was saying.
Then Purple Hair took my letter out of my hand and started looking at it. She smiled when she saw the heart I had drawn on the back with my salutation. I pointed at the recipient and said, “Babooshka y Dyadooshka”. I figured she would be amused that the letter was to my Grandma and Grandpa in America. She was :).
Well, Miss. Postal Lady finished and I was up next. Gma Purple Hair did all the work for me: she gave her my note and took my money to give her as well. Lightly aggressive, yes. But, I thought it was funny! Next thing I knew what I went there to do was completed. And, I’m pretty sure I jumped in front of a good 20 people to do it!