For seven long weeks I lasted as a regular in the Kyrgyz family. Somehow, now when I think back, I don’t know how I did it.
Some days were more trying than others. As a complete newbie to Russian, I quickly realized just how much brain power I expended at my lessons constantly thinking, translating and deciphering all day long. When I came home, I simply didn’t have it in me to struggle with the family. Instead, I would take to my room and start on my hours of homework, which of course was not fun, but it was very necessary in the beginning.
After thanking my happy little caller for her notice, I would stumble out to the living room and help prepare the table for food. The dynamics of the family situation were very strange to me, for quite some time, and preparing the table and babysitting were some of the few duties I ever had to carry out. Maybe since I was paying to live there they felt the need to treat me more like a guest than a member of the household, meaning the mother felt the need to always serve me even when I offered to help.
So, serve me she did, along with the other two children. Yes, I said it; in my role of trying to learn the Russian language like a child, I had actually become like a third child to this woman. And, I could see it in her eyes – when she asked me where I was going, when I would be back, and also when she had to ask me the same questions over and over again until I could respond – she felt like she was my mother.
Yep, just like her third, older and yet somewhat more retarded child, I sat at the dinner table getting the same reactions to my lack of speedy responses as both Mira and Rasul, who were simply unruly four and seven year olds.
Really, there are a million and one ways I could explain just how incredibly child-like I felt in those couple months with them, but none so vividly do the point justice than this following incident:
Let’s flash back to the moment that I walked in on poor Mira in the bathroom. I know, more toilet humor on this blog; it’s just what you were looking for, right? Well, I feel like I need to explain the setting a little bit better. See, the toilet in that bathroom was actually on a little platform, making it a little taller than normal toilets. Therefore, after sitting down, you could not help but have to deal with your pants falling completely to your ankles when you have to basically jump down in order to get off the toilet.
I guess it’s hard to explain without drawing a picture, but I feel that might be a little too much toilet imagery, which could very well take this blog to a new low. I’ll leave it at this: What seems so simple in a normal bathroom setting was made just a little bit more difficult in this situation because of the added height. That was one of the things I quickly learned.
The second thing I learned was that apparently the door to the bathroom doesn’t really lock when you might think otherwise.
Yes, my reader friends, I was just about to grab my pants that were so low at my ankles when I heard a jiggling of the door handle. My mind went into panic mode.
Jiggle, jiggle… What do I do? What do I say?!
The moment happened at a normal door opening speed, but to me it was in slow motion. I wanted to say, “Stop!” in Russian, but I forgot the word under pressure (strange considering I had to use it every day on the marshrutka). I wanted to scream it out in English, but of course I was in this limbo period where I was so used to trying not to say something in English that even that couldn’t come out.
No words. Only a small yell as the door started to swing would remove itself from my lips, but it was too late. There was not enough time to pull my jeans back to their proper position…
… and there I was, stuck like a deer in the headlights as my host mother realized someone was in the bathroom already… me.
My eyes were probably 10 times their normal size as I tried to cover myself. My host mother, too, was in shock, but laughed as she closed the door again.
I had a flashback to poor little Mira standing there the same way maybe not a week before, only I was on the other end. This time, I was the child, and as corny as that sounds, it was just so suiting to the way I felt living there and not being able to communicate.
If you want to learn more about language study abroad, check out the guest blog post I did for Runaway Jane: Language Study Abroad – How to Make the Most of It.