Me Talk Pretty One Day

#8 I can speak Russian, just not so good.


If you've asked me if I can speak Russian, I’ve probably told you this story.


Fall 2000, and I’m still living in Russia. I tried patching things up with my ex, but this ended when she sent me a letter saying, “You know how you always say I should try new things? I had gefilte fish at my boyfriend’s family’s house!”


Yeah, I should’ve seen that coming.


The teachers at the school where I worked at had a simple answer for my heartache: date a Russian woman. I waved them off, thinking that it would be too complicated, with the language barrier, the culture barrier, and the fact that I planned to leave the Far East as soon as summer snuck back into Siberia.


Days later and I’m on the bus to go to town and a woman tapped me on my shoulder. A beautiful woman. A stunning woman. If you saw her in a magazine as is, you would’ve sworn she was airbrushed, photoshopped, and whatever else they do in marketing. I’m of the opinion that Russian women are some of the most beautiful women in the world, and she was a breed apart from the best. I thought she was going to ask me for the time or if the driver was sober today. If she did, I would piece together my slow-fifth-grader-level of Russian and hopefully answer her questions.


No question, just a statement. She was from a nearby village, she was my surprise blind date, and the teachers at my school had set us up as a surprise.


She spoke no English, and like I said, my Russian was never good. She was also amazingly beautiful, so I took a chance. What’s the worst that could happen? We dove into the first date small talk that everyone in the world has to do. She asked me what I did in America. In America, I was a teacher, so I tried to say, “В Америка, я был учителем.” This is an easy sentence, one that the Peace Corps had taught me from Day 1, and one I had used countless times in those 18 months. All I tried to say was, "In America, I was a teacher."


Yeah, I screwed it up.


“В Америка, я был преступником.”,


In English that reads, "In America, I was a criminal."


Not realizing my mistake, I kept going with it.


Family? I have two sisters, and they’re both преступники.


I think that преступники are very important to children.


Russia has some of the best преступники that I have ever seen.


One day, I hope to be a great преступник.


Her eyes got big, she made a play at checking her watch, and had the bus driver pull over immediately.


I never saw her again.

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Taken on August 17, 2008