One of the biggest lessons to learn living overseas is the importance of learning the language. Really, you could learn just enough to “get by” at the bazaar, on the street, and in a restaurant and survive. That’s probably the point I’m at now. But who wants to just get by? Not to mention, if you don’t go further than that in language studies, innocent 2 year olds could suffer. I’ll explain.
Our team was at a pretty modern mall of sorts in Bishkek called Vefa. On the top floor they have a children’s play area next to their version of a food court. The play area is staffed by a sweet, young Kyrgyz girl and parents pay by the hour to leave their kids under her supervision. For American parents this could be either a really sweet deal or a mildly scary one (you can guess which category I fall into).
Well, Ryan was well into an hour of play when Kirsten finished eating and I took her into the play area. The babysitter asked me (in Russian mind you) if I knew Ryan’s parents. I said yes. She then asked me to tell them, well, something about paying (or so I thought). I assumed that since you have to pay up front she was asking me to tell them to pay for another hour. I said I would. I left and came back later to check on Kirsten (I wouldn’t be the paranoid parent, would I?) and she asked me the same thing. I told her I had. She kinda looked at me with a confused look on her face.
When Ryan’s mom came in at the end of the 2nd hour and we were both getting our kids ready to go, I asked LaVena what the girl had been so urgently trying to tell me. It turns out that the Russian verbs for to cry (плакать) and to pay (платить) are very similar. She was trying to tell me to tell Ryan’s parents that he had been crying on and off for that first hour! Poor Ryan. For your sake, little buddy, I will get these verbs down!