Monday, November 07, 2005

Butter in Russian

I don't speak Russian. I can say yes, no, thank you, your welcome and good bye and that's it. This is really about all I can speak in any language and usually, grudgingly or not, people speak English and I can get by. Here in Tajikistan this is not the case. Most people speak either Tajik or Russian, but people really don't speak English with the frequency you find it in western Europe or even in other former soviet block countries. For our work here we are using translators and are fine but negotiating the day to day aspects have proven a tad challenging and occasionally really amusing.

Last night we went to a restaurant that is more of a local restaurant than an ex-pat restaurant. At some point I will post about the ex-pats, but anyway we were kind of proud to find our way to this place and get a table and order. When our bread came, one of my fellow travelers wanted butter. For what ever reason people do not seem to use butter with bread here. We asked the waiter but he didn't speak enough English to understand. Then one person said that they thought people here called it cow butter, that it had been on a menu as cow butter and if you said cow butter you would be understood. So she tried that but it didn't work either. Then she motioned to a piece of bread and mimed spreading butter on it. The waiter looked utterly perplexed. Finally I tried miming milking udders, apparently this combined with the mimed buttering of bread was enough to get across what we were looking for. The man nodded and went into the kitchen. He came back five minutes later to tell us that they had no butter. I think we are going to start bringing it with us.

-A. Monkey