Life At Point C

Experiencing Life along the Silk Road

Russian Encounters

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So, for that last two months, Magevney and I have been in Istanbul, Turkey, where our second child was born one month ago. We are excited to be returning to Karakol in the next few days and finally get to introduce our youngest daughter to our adopted home. Now, while we have been in Turkey, we have attempted to keep plugging away at learning Russian. That may sound strange to try to study Russian in Turkey, but there are a lot of Russian speakers here.

There are a lot of Central Asians living in Istanbul. It is hard to put a firm number on it but it is easily upward of 100,000 or more, just in Istanbul. Add to that the large number of Russians who vacation in Turkey and you have a reasonably large number of Russian speakers, even native speakers. So we have tried to make use of that fact and worked with a Central Asian university student while here.

But that hasn’t been all. I’ve actually had several Russian encounters by chance on the streets. Many times, I’ve heard Russian spoken on the street by tourists. But on several occasions I was able to have conversations. The first was as my oldest daughter and I were out one morning and an older man stopped to talk. When I said I don’t speak Turkish, he immediately asked if I spoke German. I don’t but I thought, “I’ll try some Russian and see what happens.” Well, next thing I knew, I was having a conversation with this random man in Russian outside a shopping mall in Istanbul!

Fast forward a couple of weeks and Magevney and I are going to a friend’s apartment for dinner. When we arrive, we are introduced to a friend of theirs who is Central Asian and speaks very good Russian. We spent the evening talking in Russian with her, English with our friends, and they conversed together in a two other languages! (That actually has happened twice to me here, multi-lingual conversations, the other time in an Uzbek café.)

Then the third time also came as I was walking home one afternoon with my oldest daughter.  This time, I thought I would show her a small fish stand off the main road. As we neared, I was speaking in English to her and lifted her up the high curb to see the fish. It was rather cool that day in Istanbul, at least by local standards. It was probably mid 60’s so we were not wearing coats. We were in t-shirts and were probably the only ones on the street without a coat. The fish seller looked up at us and instantly greeted me, in Russian! Why?? Was it our lack of coats? Our pasty white skin? I don’t know why I didn’t ask him why Russian, but nevertheless, I got a little more impromptu Russian practice.

So I guess Russian isn’t a bad option for travel, though I do recommend Turkish when in Turkey.

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