The content and opinions expressed in this blog are mine. They do not represent the US Government or US Peace Corps - Jud Dolphin

Saturday, August 1


August 1st has always been a day that I remember. Back in 1956 when I was 11 years old, I had a dislocated hip pinned back into place during an operation that took most of the day. It was a pivotal event in my growing-up. Each year I give it a nod of remembrance.

This August 1st comes at the end of the work week. For me it's been a funky week. I was not feeling terrible, but not good either. In my life, I have come to accept these times and try to keep in mind that the sun will come out tomorrow. YIKES! That would make a great lyric for a song...huh?

I have been struggling with language. Well to be honest, I have been mostly ignoring language. I have not devoted much time to it. There is always something else to do.

For sure, I think about studying - a lot. I imagine opening a book or drilling through vocabulary cards. Like a computer, I'll never forget a word. I imagine having real adult conversations in Russian. And then, it's back to reality. I procrastinate. I always have a good reason to do something else.

My language tutor came by this week. The Peace Corps not only invests in 11 weeks of intensive language classes, but also provides modest funds for a local tutor. He is a great motivator. We have a two hour session. We have been working on the 200 most common Russian verbs. I know about 40.

I try to learn the sounds of these words in the context of a simple sentence. Russian sounds are mostly foreign to western ears and while there are some cognates, most words must just be memorized. Repetition upon repetition. In one ear and out the other. More repetition. It is not easy. At times every fiber in my brain rebels.

“Stop, no more!” I think that's procrastination reason number 11. “Forget it. You'll never learn Russian.” That's reason number 12.

Today I get up early with new resolve. No matter what, I will sit at my desk and study some Russian. I work through simple sentences and vocabulary drills for about 45 minutes. I feel better. I figure that if I only learn two verbs a day, I'll know all 200 in about 3 months.

“Yes I can! Yes, I can!” YIKES! That sounds like my first anti-procrastination reason and not a bad idea for a political slogan. If you want to hear some Russian, you can visit me or listen via this link

I get to the office a little early and meet Valaya along the way. She has a son with special needs and is devoted to him and her younger daughter. Along with Yelena, she is at the Children's Center every day. They make a great team.

Today, she greets me with a special surprise.

Out of her hand bag, she pulls a set of keys for the building. As you can see, these keys are huge. They're like nothing I have ever seen outside of an old cowboy movie when the sheriff jails the bad guy.

Carefully, she explains how each is used. One is for the gate and two are for the door. One must be turned three times to lock properly. Another won't lock until you nudge the door a little. “Now, you try it,” she says. We go through all the mechanics of locking and unlocking the door and gate.

I never asked for keys, but apparently something has changed. Unknowingly, I passed from American visitor to someone who can now be trusted. “Here, these keys are for you.” Maybe I am making too much of the passing on of keys, but I like to think that trust is connecting me in lots of ways to my new friends.

Amazing things continue to happen. My funk is gone. I'm learning Russian a little more each day. And the gift of keys gives me new reasons to remember this time of year.

August 1st – I'll be remembering you again.

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