I’m a foreigner again. I went to the travel agent yesterday to buy a ticket to the village where I’ll be a camp counselor for a couple weeks. The person at the desk said speaking Kazakh with me was very hard and kept putting her head in her hands and exhaling as if each sentence were a pullup. But I didn’t feel sorry for her - she spoke Kazakh well enough with ethnic Kazakhs. She understood me, she just couldn’t get her words out in Kazakh. Apparently, she was having to override her automatic ‘Russian for yellow folk’ instinct. It turns out that neither of us could find the village on the map, and she gave up and simply helped other people instead of me. I left about then. I looked on the internet and found out that the village, Ridder, used to be Leninogorsk, so it made sense that it wasn’t on the map, but not a lot of sense that tickets are issued by the old name.
So, I went back. I should have gone somewhere else. It was even harder for the travel agent the second time. Her solution to the perceived insurmountable language barrier was to speak very loudly and quickly, mixing Russian and Kazakh and interrupting me as I answered. She asked every question twice without pause, although I understood it the first time. She didn’t answer my questions and constantly talked to other customers. So I was insulted and frustrated, which is rare with me. It was that she was the one thwarting communication.
Whenever I start to get my dander up, I ask myself if it’s because someone didn’t think I was smarter than I am. And usually, that helps me calm down. I’ve learned to take all kinds of treatment with equanimity, from dog talk to wow-you-don’t-even-have-an-accent-please-give-me-an-autograph conversations. Language (speaking and understanding about equally) continues to be an issue. I could speak a lot better if I studied consistently, if I’d had a tutor for more than a month at a time, if I were smarter. But, truth be told, I'm usually happy enough to get by.