The language barrier

Okay, we finally hit the wall. It took us a while.

Kazan is far enough away from Moscow that you’ll be hard-pressed to find much English. The most we saw was on the sign at the kremlin. Since English is the official language of the UN, all UNESCO sites have to have signs in English. After that, we were on our own.

Ordering was fun. We’ve figured out that digging a few key words out of our Russian phrase books helps, as does pointing. Knowing brand names helps, too. And every McDonald’s seems to have one person who knows English pretty darn well.

As I’ve already written, Ekaterinburg was fun just finding our hotel. But the fun continued even afterwards. No hot water. After 20 hours on a train and lugging heavy bags around, we needed showers. Cold water doesn’t make for a good shower. Bleh. The building, for some reason, was also quite cool. Initially, it felt great because we were so hot. Not so much after we cooled down. It seemed heat and hot water weren’t wholly necessary. We managed to have warm water this morning, though. A few words out of our dictionaries and a few from the attendant’s managed to solve that problem.

Without question, though, the best experience was ordering dinner last night. The restaurant — Troli Bali — had no English at all, and our server knew less English than we do Russian. We managed to order beer (that much we’ve picked up) before trying to decipher the menus. It took 20 minutes just to order a pork chop. Food just tastes better when you have to work for it.

This is one of the great things about traveling — having to adapt to the challenges put before you. Language is only one of them, though it’s one of the toughest. Russian we’re not exactly getting the hang of, but it’s getting easier. By the time we’re comfortable with it, we’ll be switching to Mongolian, and then Chinese.

Home is just too far away!