“Ya hachoo Pasha”

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.


Sadly, this is the only photo I have of Company Plus, the local Internet Cafe where I first Pasha.  Here's my laptop sitting amidst his computers in the weeks before the Interneet part of the Cafe opened.
Sadly, this is the only photo I have of Company Plus, the local Internet Cafe where I first met Pasha. Here’s my laptop sitting amidst his computers in the weeks before the Internet part of the Cafe opened.



How about you? Do you have an embarrassing moment you’d care to share?

6 Responses

  1. David Christopher
    | Reply

    Another good entry, Janet—I love these little stories!

    • Janet
      | Reply

      Hello David, and welcome. Thank you for your kind comment.

      I’ve been to your website

      and was struck by what a wide and varied background you have.

      Fascinating. I hope to read more as time goes on.

  2. Kathleen Pooler
    | Reply

    Oh, Janet , how I can relate. My husband and I will be going Italy and hope to meet my Italian relatives. We are listening to tapes and practicing our Italian every day. I keep wondering how I will sound to them as I struggle to remember key words. Hopefully they’ll be as patient with us as Pasha was to you!

    • Janet
      | Reply

      How exciting: a trip to Italy and a chance to meet with locals that are also your relatives. I can’t imagine anything more exciting. I hope you bring back at least one embarrassing language story. They can be such fun.
      I’ve found that — except for the French — locals love it when you try their language. I imagine you’ll find much appreciation for any attempt.
      thanks for stopping by. (Still no CommentLuv for you? I wonder if you have to have a WP site?)

  3. Diana Beebe
    | Reply

    Don’t you love how different languages use words the way we don’t mean to? Great story!

    (And I’m glad the new Like button works! 🙂 )

    • Janet
      | Reply

      Hi Diana, So VERY glad you posted. I hadn’t seen the LIKE button; it didn’t show up on the Edit version, or the Preview. But here it is. Thanks so much for guiding me through it. And, yes, words can be so mangled. I’m hoping Woody will post at least one of his words-got-mangled stories. He’s got a bunch from his year in Holland. One has to do with asking the grocery clerk (a very young girl) if she didn’t have any “little bags” so he could carry his groceries home. Turned out he actually asked if she had testicles. Ah, language. Words … indeed.

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