Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Russian Ballet

While I was in Ireland, the Z girl started ballet.  It was much anticipated.  Hundreds of hours imagining (aloud) what class would be like predated the beginning lesson.  I got in on all the eagerness but missed the first lesson. 
Calla sent me this picture and Zadie narrated the whole experience.
"The teacher sits outside smoking until class starts, and then she comes in and yells at us."

"What!"  Visions of dance class in the U.S. floated into my brain--graceful teachers who are sweetness personified, nary a harsh word spoken, and enthusiastic praise showered on one and all--then popped one by one.  We're not in Kansas anymore.

"Does it make you feel bad?" I questioned, being a product of an educational era when self-esteem was paramount.
"No," she shrugged, "we're used to it."

Well, then.

I really wanted to see it for myself.  Would the teacher change her style if I sat in?  I could only hope.

 Yesterday morning I decided to attend.  I inventoried my dowdy attire and stringy hair and put Mother Spruce Up Plan into action. 
When you were young, didn't you love it when your friends admired your mom? 
Zadie is our 7th child.  My days of admiration are numbered, ya'll.  I figure the time will come when I'm mistaken for her grandma.
Anyway, I broke out the curling wand.  I know.
And I put on something a little more out-there than the Mish-conservative I usually wear in our neighborhood.

Then we drove to ballet.
Sure enough, there was the teacher sitting outside the Soviet-gray building.  Zadie introduced us and asked if I could watch.  What could she say?
When I walked into the room, I was inundated by little girls.  Did I speak English?  Is Zadie my daughter?  Does Zadie speak English?  What is "twenty" in English?  Did I want to hear them count in English?  Did I know how to count in English?  How about the alphabet? What is "thirty"?  How old was I?
I was having a good time.
 Then everyone sobered up and toed the line.  BT(Ballet Teacher) had arrived.  She put on some music and watched while the girls danced a long warm-up routine.  Then she stood up and told them everything they had done wrong.  She spoke only in Russian, but I understood.  From her tone. 
 Then she made them do it again.
 Zadie was front and center.  Not because she is the most talented, let me tell you.  She's not klutzy, but it's her first year, and she's never been too great at "left" and "right". 
 My presence did not dissuade BT from giving my daughter personal, uh...attention.  I promise she did not hit her.  But I think the fact that Z is a bit directionally-challenged drives BT a little crazy and makes her want a cigarette really bad.
I put my phone camera away so I wouldn't get in trouble. 
The girls then took turns doing some waltzy steps and ballet turns to upbeat music. 

BT despaired after every round.  Out loud.  She went down the row telling each girl what they had done wrong.  When she got to Zadie, she spoke Kyrgyz.
"It's ONE, two, three.  ONE, two, three.  You have to listen to the music.  OK?"
Zadie nodded vigorously like that instruction made all the difference in the world, and she would never count four beats to a waltz again.
BT moved on to the next tiny ballerina.

I determined to work on waltzing at home before the next class.

BT told one girl she looked like "this" when she did the steps and proceeded to wiggle her arms and legs absurdly.  Everyone laughed, and I immediately checked out the mocked girl's face. 
Was she crushed?  Crying?  Shamed?  Embarrassed?
I'm a pretty good face-reader, and I couldn't see anything but humor behind her laughing eyes.  Maybe she was covering up but I don't think so.
"Zadie, does it bother you when the teacher yells at you?" 
I had to ask again later.
"Not really," she airily breezed. "Mom, watch this!" And she sank into the splits.

Touchy-feely ballet classes may be over-rated.

During a short break, half the girls had to go to the restroom(?).
When Zadie came back in, she hurried over to me and whispered, "ALL the girls said to me, 'Your mom is so pretty.  Her hair is so nice.  Her clothes are so cool.'"


At least it happened once in her lifetime.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Birthday Language

 Zadie's Kyrgyz bestie turned six the other day.  Her mom threw a bash in the village where they live.
 Her mom, Allie, is my Kyrgyz bestie.  She's also my language helper.  And I love her so much.  She's possibly the nicest person in the wide, wide world.
And she speaks distinctly, with words I can usually understand.
 Unlike the rest of the folks at the bash.  Seriously, I think they put the audio on fast-forward, threw in a bunch of slang, and then turned the volume down at the end of every sentence.
It was discouraging, language-wise.
 This partially helped my attitude.  Sorry, Grandma of Birthday Girl and Precious Baby Cousin, but I had to share the baby pic.  (I know you're prettier in real life.)
 Your grandbaby is squeezably perfect.
Babies and language woes aside, the party ebbed and flowed with the influx of children and various dinner courses. 
If you spotted the "7" candle, don't be confused.  Allie had a "mom moment" and bought the wrong age.  Ha!  Doesn't that make you love her too?
 When I stopped feeling sorry for myself and my Kyrgyz ineptness, I realized what an honor it was to be included in a celebration.  How amazing to be intertwined with someone who knows me intimately and shares her life and family with me.  We have laughed uncountable hours together and cried enough to be real.

How lovely to have a friend who speaks heart.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

It's Not All Moss and Rocks

This is Northern Ireland.  Did you realize that's a separate country?  Like with its own currency.  Like you can't buy tortilla chips with Euros there.  
But you CAN buy tortilla chips.  With a credit card.  Trip highlight.  
I want to start a campaign encouraging Jalalabadians to paint their houses like this.  Don't you think it makes life happier?  
 Then there were these grape Jelly Belly plants.  What ARE they??  They were seriously this color.  We did not taste them.  But we wanted to.
If I had stopped the car to photograph every house decorated with window boxes and hanging baskets, I would still be in Ireland. 
 This place was too sophisticated for petunias.  But they did coordinate their pampas to the external paint chip.  I was impressed.
 We stayed at a bed and breakfast straight out of Peter Rabbit.  

Everywhere we went, there were blackberries begging to be eaten.  Coming from Kstan, where all fruit within reach is fair game, we felt obliged to partake every chance we got.  It seemed downright wasteful to walk by without snagging the ripe ones.  When I realized we were the only ones doing it, I thought maybe the Irish spray toxic chemicals with abandon or something.  Indeed, one lady saw us blackberry picking and warned us heartily, "Don't eat those berries.  There's bound to be creepy crawlies in them.  Especially after the rain." 
We nodded our purple-lipped heads and held in our giggles.  If we worried about creepy crawlies in our food in Central Asia, we'd starve to death.
 Every Ivy should have a matching bike.
  Close up.

  I didn't drive in Dublin.  I am not stupid.
 In Dublin, we saw The Book of Kells.  You can google it.  But if you really want to appreciate it, go to Dublin.  No flash photography allowed.  Take my word for it.
 Pedestrians have rights in Dublin.  It's amazing.
 Finally, this.
We kept seeing the sign, Guinness, in EVERY town and village.  Not being up on our beers, we had to research the meaning.  Turns out, he was an Irish guy who brewed his very first batch in one of the castles I showed you yesterday.  Then he got famous, I guess. 
You guys, I had never bought a beer before.  But, hello, we were in Dublin. 
I liked it! 
Sort of.  In a this-isn't-as-horrible-as-I-thought kind of way.

The sweet server apparently spotted us as newbies.

"Now, ef et's too strong for yeh, jes' say the word, an' I'll drizzle some currant jam on t' top to sweetin' it up for yeh."

Alas, it was an Irish pub, and they weren't offering a side of tortilla chips.  The traditional food, live music and River Dancers made up for it.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Thanks a Million

That's definitely an Irish phrase: Thanks a million.  I know this to be true from personal experience in the Emerald Isle.
  This girl set off last month into the wild blue yonder, braving the world and all the newness that young-adulthood serves up.

I went too.
Ha!  It's not as pathetic as it sounds.  Well, almost.  I am doldrumming about the whole empty nest thing.  I know I still have half-a-nest-full, but it seems empty-ish.

Why do offspring have to up and split once they finally become your bosom friend?  I'm just asking because, as we all know, life revolves around me.

So I went with her.  To Ireland.  The official statement read like this:

Isabel is taking a course in England.  Wendy is dropping her off.  On the way (in lieu of a graduation party/18th birthday present),  they will stop over in Ireland for 12 days. 

The truth is I wanted some uninterrupted, quality time with my middle child, and I figured out how to justify it.  We all know Ireland isn't on the way to England.

We rented a red car, drove on skinny asphalt strips, and tried to remember to stay on the left side of the strips.
Along the way, we noticed a few castles.
Like everywhere there was water.
There's quite a bit of water in Ireland.

And sheep.  I told Zadie I saw Shawn.
And other pull-out-the-big-camera-worthy sights.

 But Isabel's favorite parts were the green, elvish lands.
 I thought
 she might never
 come out.

  But the little red car waits for no elves, and so we were off to the next ruined castle and the lighthouse on The Hook.  Pronounced HUKE.  I love the Irish.  I couldn't always understand them though.

 This castle was made of the mountain rock it's sitting on.  No tunneling underneath for their enemies.
 And they had a good view.
Creepy now though.
Fun fact:  There are A LOT of redheads in Ireland.  It's not just stereotypical.  It's true!
I've decided I'm Irish.
Isabel too.

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