Friday, October 16, 2009

Ding Dong Delivery! And Other Fun Moments in Foreign-Language Land

Monday, I ordered some groceries for delivery.

The heavy stuff.

I use this site.

Because even though I can practically SEE my grocery store from where I'm sitting right now, it's a pain dragging heavy items home.

So I ordered the following. I love how the Russian gets translated into English.
  • Detergent powder Persil Gold Plus automat 3kg Russia 2 @199.00 [that's $6 US each bag of laundry soap]
  • Sour-milk drink Actimelle multifruit 1.5% 100g 6 @12.90 [$0.43/little bottle]
  • Fruit drink Ya cranberry-wild strawberry nonaer. 1l pack 2 @85.90 [$2.86/1-liter carton]
  • Cat`s toilet Filling Catsun Ultra crumpling 5l Germany 2 @589.00 [$19.63/5-kg bag]
  • Olive oil Borges Extra verdgin 100% 0.75l Spain 1 @439.00 [$14.60/0.75 liters]
  • Milk Domik v derevne (Country House) sterile 6% 0.95l tetrapack 4 @52.90 [$1.76/liter]
  • Vodka Russian Standard original alc. 40% 0.5l gl.bottle Russia 1 @289.00 [$9.63/half liter]
  • Utensils Gel washing Prill frut's extract 1l Russia 3 @46.90 [$1.56/liter of dish washing soap]
  • Spring water Saint Spring aerated 1.5l pl.bottle 12 @19.90 [$0.66/1.5 liter bottle of bubbly water]
  • Soft drink Coca-cola Light aer. 2l pl. bottle 4 @60.90 [$2/2-liter bottle]
You can specify when you want your ordered delivered, but you have to give them a two-hour window starting at 9:00 in the a.m. I asked for Wednesday between 9:00 and 11:00, which, if they delivered at 11:00 was a bit tight as I have to be at school at 11:25 on Wednesdays, but I was willing to risk it.

Except they called me.

They always call if they don't have exactly what you ordered. For example, I never, in a million years, would order two-liter-sized bottles of Coke. They barely fit in my fridge. Also, I ordered a different brand of vodka (Yuri Dolgoruki . . . just to see what it was like), but they were out, so I went with the Tried and True.

Oh, and also, we can't deliver between 9 and 11. How about 2:00 p.m. on Wednesday?

Nope. Doesn't work for me (that's ping-pong/fencing afternoon). I counter with "Thursday?"

Sure. Thursday it is. Thursday between 12:00 and 2:00. They even have English-Speaking Colleague call me back to confirm. Because, everything that has happened over the phone so far has been them speaking Russian and me saying, "Okay!" because really, it doesn't matter which laundry soap they bring me. Just bring me laundry soap.

So Wednesday at 2:12 p.m. my phone rings.

A harried-sounding, Russian-speaking man says,"This is Sedmoy Continent! We're at your house. Where are you?"

"TOMORROW!" I say.

"Blah blah, blahblahblah blah," he tells me.

Um . . . does this mean he will come back tomorrow? Or does he want to know when I will get back home?

"THIRTY . . . no, FORTY MINUTES!" I say in my very bad Russian.

On the off chance he is waiting outside my building, the girls and I hurry to the Metro. On the platform, my phone rings again.

Same Dude. "Blah blah, blahblahblah blah! Your house blahblah," I hear.

"I'm in the METRO," I stammer as a train pulls out. He can figure that out based on the deafening noise. "THIRTY MINUTES. I'M ON MY WAY!"

I turn to the girls who are allegedly better Russian-speakers than I am but who, invariably, don't have the vocabulary I need. "How do you say that in Russian?" I ask, with Delivery Dude still on the line. "I know how to say it in Slovak."

I'm pretty sure it's the same because I heard a Russian say it this past weekend and I even asked, "Did you just say We are on the road?" and she said yes.

"ON THE ROAD!" I say in Slovak/Russian and hang up because either he understood or he didn't and nothing I can add will change the situation.

We exit the Metro and I ask the girls, "How do you say It's not my fault in Russian? In Slovak, it's ne bola moya vina. My Slovak teacher told me if I was ever in a car accident, I should come charging out of my car shouting that. Is it the same in Russian?" I'm thinking I can say it's not my fault, it's not his fault . . .

Again, the girls are useless. How much am I paying for their international, multi-lingual education?

Phone rings again.

"FIVE MINUTES!" I say in Russian. I say the name of my street.

"Ah!" he repeats the name of my street. "Blahblah blah blah blah blah!" He sounds happy.

We reach our building.

No sign of Delivery Dude.

We enter our building.

No sign of Delivery Dude.

We exit the elevator on our floor.

No sign of Delivery Dude.

Is he making other deliveries in the area? Or is he going to return tomorrow as I originally expected?

I change my (sweaty) clothes. I start dealing with dinner. The girls begin their homework.

The doorbell buzzes.

This is not even the front-door-to-the-building doorbell. It's MY door doorbell.

And there is Delivery Dude and Delivery Colleague with my delivery.

He just seems damn glad to see us, all sweat and apologies. I sign, pay, and even tip him for his trouble (much to his surprise).

The girls and I had a similar Fun With Russian moment yesterday when we decided to attempt to schedule a haircut appointment for Skittles.

"Should we try?" I ask the girls while standing outside the Persona salon in our building.

Sure, they say.

"Do you know how to say appointment? Or haircut?" I ask. Because I don't.

They don't either. But what else could I want in a hair salon? And we can say Saturday. I figure when vocabulary fails, miming and context succeed.

We enter the salon. I hold my hand over Skittles' head and say in Russian, "Her? Saturday?"

Message received. He points at the book, and we settle on a time.

Except now I have to specify who I want to cut her hair: the master, the top master, the stylist, or the top stylist. Because the price varies depending on the experience level of the person doing the work. And I can't remember which one is the cheap one. Nor do I know how to say cheap or expensive. I really am useless.

"MIDDLE!" I pull this word in Slovak/Russian out of my ass.

Middle it is.


Tina in CT said...

Do you have a Russian/English dictionery to refer to for times like you posted about?

englishmaninmoscow said...

Yes I had the same experience they said it depends on the master when I went to get a hair cut in Moscow (see englishmaninmoscow blog) How can a hair cut depend on the master? or the masters experience? It should be one price for a hair cut and shampoo and other prices depending on what's done to your hair. It should not depend on who cuts the hair !! crazy or what!

The Expatresse said...

English Man: In the US, you can go to the schools where they train stylists and get a haircut for less. But you are being used for practice. I used to be a model for a friend who was already a stylist, but was getting advanced certification in various skills (including chemical processes like color and perms). That I got for free. It was fun.

The Expatresse said...

Tina: Yeah, I have a small phrasebook somewhere, but I haven't remembered to put it in my purse in ages. In Slovakia, you could access a dictionary through your mobile phone for a small fee. It was very handy.

English man In Moscow said...

The place I went for a hair cut was not a hair school but a hair salon. I went there as I could and have not been able to, find a normal no frills barbar in Moscow for a normal price. If you know a hair school in Moscow where I can get a hair cut on the cheap let me know, not that I'm mean or anything :-)

The Expatresse said...

Englishman: Not in Moscow.

Ashira said...

What cell phone provider do you use? Megafon has/had a free SMS translator, but it was buried in a bunch of menus. I'm not sure if this still exists, since I'm going back 2 years... Maybe the service you use has the same?

valentina said...

Why don't you just carry a Berlitz little pocket phrase book? It covers just about any situation short of gushing over the dogs which is a universal language anyway!

They are cheap and lightweight and can fit in your purse or coat pocket.

Dictionaries are sort of cumbersome.

It is cold and gray here today. Really yucky, like Nov. not Oct! Only 43 out. On Monday I start giving midterms so I will have non stop paper marking from now on into the end of the term. I like reading them but I hate having to mark them... Teacher's bete noir...

I am waiting for FUC. aka Friday Upwords Club which meets here every Friday at 4.

Some of those grocery items ARE really expensive but delivery would be worth it. Can you get cat food delivered and litter and paper products, stuff which is a nuisance to schlep?

Of course anything done by the "master" costs more! You are paying for their experience and often they are the owner of the salon. I can certainly understand your wanting a midrange haircut for Skittles! It's not like she's getting it colored or anything important! And it's short!

The Expatresse said...

The prices are not much different than what I pay when I walk into the Sedmoy. I also have a loyalty discount card, so I get 10% off either way.

Anonymous said...

It is so funny!
On rare occasions when we traveled with our friends in Europe in the countries which language none of us spoke, we had the same scenes over and over again - Do you know how to say that/ Do YOU know how to say that (usually to the one who bragged the most about his or hers language skills) and so on. Most of my travel were business trips, and I usually travel alone, so I reserve to smiling a lot and learning really well how to say Thank you and even better how to say Thank you very much.
Do not know how it might help with laundry detergent and kitty litter.
Good luck.

MoscowMom said...

I LOVE how crazy the grocery store lists are in English! I've been thinking of a post about that for a while! My favorite is the "flavored toilet paper" (scented, obviously).

What a sense of adventure you and the girls have!

Tina in CT said...

I traveled around Europe by myself, a Eurail pass, a pocket dictionary and large suitcase a year after college graduation. I would have been lost without the pocket dictionary (French) as my high school French did not make me fluent.