Recently, I was invited to spend Christmas with some other PCVs here in Ukraine. I choose to view Christmas as a time to spend with family and friends, so of course I accepted the invitation. After doing so, I realized a couple of things: this will be the first social trip I have taken since I visited my friend in Lutsk in August (My other trips have been to Kyiv for business-related things!), and that I had to purchase train tickets (something I have not done) to take this trip.
Purchasing tickets for transport is not, generally speaking, a threatening or especially difficult thing to do. However, since I switched languages, and am still in the somewhat early learning stages of Russian, it is a little bit of a challenging thought (especially since the people who work at these places are not known for their customer service skills).
So I got to the train station, with my information at the ready. I had the train number and time written down, and a few words in case I needed them. I got to the window and slowly told her what I wanted, for which train, on which date, in which seating class. She asked me seating class and a couple other questions. When she realized I am not great at the language, she actually slowed down her speech (people usually just speak louder, at the same rate of speed) and was pretty nice. Then I told her I need the ticket back, on which date, on which train, etc.
I left the train station feeling victorious – I had gotten through the transaction, speaking only Russian and understanding most of what she said to me! I had my ticket to Odessa, and my ticket from Odessa, for the exact dates, times, and trains that I requested. I then went to purchase something for lunch and again, only Russian was spoken – no mixing Russian and Ukrainian!
This morning when I got to the library, the electricity was off for a while, so I sat with one of the women who works here and we went through some Russian verbs. She was really helpful, and after a half-hour told me that she now realizes how difficult of a language Russian is to learn! I love it when people realize that, or realize that no, Russian and Ukrainian are NOT just like each other – there are so many differences!
So I am now getting assistance from the women at the Window on America Center at the library, and have been offered assistance from a couple of women from the Technical University (International Business Department) and a couple of friends of mine. And I may have a lead on a tutor as well, so I hope to soon have a steeper learning curve of the language. Certainly to make faster progress than I have been making, if so many people are willing to assist me.
So yesterday and today, I am counting the small victories. It may sound silly, but they add up and eventually make a “big win”.