Tuesday 17 December 2013

On the 17th Day of Advent...

... I went to the supermarket.

I've written about doing the shopping in Russia before, and won't bore you again with tales of tussles in the vegetable aisle or negotiating pallets of baked beans blocking access to the chocolate fixture (a particular bugbear of mine...).  Actually, I can't bore you with tales of the former - ruckuses over radishes - because actually, times have changed.  Either I am now immune to the hurly burly of an average visit to one of Moscow's larger hypermarkets - which, I am prepared to admit, may be at least partly the case after 4 years here - or (whisper it) the Lesser Spotted Russian Supermarket Shopper has evolved.

Certainly, their natural habitat, The Reasonably Priced Russian Supermarket, has done; I can now buy Cathedral City Cheddar, organic groceries, and reasonably priced French red wine nowadays, none of which I was able to do when we first arrived (and yes, I know there are plenty of good Russian cheeses, but sometimes only proper cheddar will do for your toastie).  I also find that it causes less consternation to the checkout staff when I pack shopping into my own bags these days, but to my shame I can never remember how tell them in Russian that that's what I'm planning.  I usually end up pulling boxes of cereal out of the flimsy pakyets (plastic bags) that the store provides and repacking them into my own tougher bags in a pantomime of inefficiency, before we understand each other on this matter.

Today, however, there was no problem.

Things started out as usual; I greeted the lady at the checkout, and then proceeded to go into my usual dumb foreigner pantomime of showing her I intended to pack the goods myself before I stopped.  Why not just ask her how to say it?

So I launched into my rudimentary Russian.  "Как сказать... *"  How do you say... intending to finish by miming the action of packing the shopping into my own bags  (I told you.  Dumb foreigner).

She interrupted, smiling.  "Where are you from?"

It turned out that this lady was an English teacher, originally from Kyrgyzstan  (and no, you're not seeing things.  There is not an a, e, i, o, or u in that word...).  She had recently arrived in Moscow and was unable to find a job in the profession she'd been trained for.  She told me how she was here with her husband, daughter and son, and had come to find work.  She told me that she missed home and speaking and teaching English, and that working in supermarket was - she hoped - a stop gap until she could find a job in a school.  And then she told me, without rancour or bitterness, that to do so was proving difficult, because she looks Asian.

For her, that is just how life is.  It seems that things here are changing - but not that much.

Merry Christmas.

*  Pronounced: Kak skazat'...


  1. You see, you DO live a glamorous life!

  2. I have been enjoying reading your advent series. Good for you for keeping it up daily at such a busy time of year! And even more well done you for attempting to speak Russian, particularly as what you had to say sounds a bit rude, kak meaning something altogether different in Afrikaans.

  3. Oh the glamour!
    Kak... Means something rude in most languages, I guess. Maybe that's the reason she can't find a job? Poor thing, really.

  4. Hello

    We're a class of 6 and 7 year olds in Norfolk, UK, and found your blog while looking for blogs from all the different continents of the world.

    Our topic for this term is about exploring and adventuring. We're trying to get as many visits to our blog as possible from different parts of the world, and would love a visit from Russia if you have the time. Our blog is at http://lpsmrslater2013.primaryblogger.co.uk

    From Robins Class @ Lingwood Primary School, Norfolk, UK

  5. We love your post! Made us smile!

    www.ananasa.com- Home for Handmade


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