Embarrassing moments. How they make us laugh — eventually. Such was the following scene that happened during my first few months in Kazakhstan, long before the language took root.
This story — written for my memoir, At Home On the Kazakh Steppe — helped me “set the stage” for the town we lived in, Zhezkazgan. But in rewriting my memoir, I had to admit that I had enough “stage setting” and, sadly, this story had to go.
I’ll just call it, “Ya hachoo Pasha,” for that is how my colleagues referred to it over the year and a half I had with them after this “incident.” They’d smile and gently say, “Ya hachoo Pasha,” then burst out laughing. Here’s why:
During the months the laptop was sidelined, Company Plus became a regular part of our lives. Pasha charged us only for our actual Internet time, not computer time. So, I’d compose a letter in Word, then log on — at 240 tenge per hour, briefly — to send. One afternoon, before I’d had a chance to send my letter, the computer I was using went dead.
Pasha was not at his computer so I stood on the stair landing, overlooking his desk and called out. “Ya hachoo, Pasha.” (I need Pasha, which was, I thought, the closest I could come to asking Where is Pasha? without my dictionary.) I felt proud of my expanding Russian.
Customers and staff turned and looked at me strangely. Thinking their stares were because I hadn’t used pajalsta, (please), I repeated my announcement, “Ya hachoo, Pasha. Pajalsta.”
Quickly, Pasha appeared.
“The Internet is not working,” he explained, anticipating my problem, and giving me a very odd look, like he was stifling a smile.
The smile. As quickly as I knew something was wrong, I knew what it was. I’d not said, “I need Pasha.”
Unwittingly I’d called out for all to hear, “I want Pasha.” Twice. As most anywhere, I imagine, this had only one meaning.
Pasha was a nice enough young man, with a disarming smile and gentle, friendly manner. I liked his wife even more.
I couldn’t wait to tell my counterpart, Gulzhahan.
How about you? Do you have an embarrassing moment you’d care to share?