Thursday, June 14, 2007

Mr. Bean tries to use a payphone

Baby smiled again when she saw me today. She was in good spirits and we engaged in what has become our routine for this week: an hour in the playroom until she gets restless and then into the carrier for outside walking around the baby house. She is completely engrossed by the outside. I talk to her and am sometimes inspired to start singing to her, except I'm discovering that I don't know very many songs. On the way back to my house we picked up my translator who apologized for having been out of touch for a few days. I now have a court date: June 21. I’m happy about this and told her that I have no doubts that she and my coordinator are doing what they should be on my behalf. She in turn said nice things back to me and I got out of the car feeling on top of the world. And that’s where the story would end if I were a princess. But, alas, I’m something more like Mr. Bean. So this is what happens if you are Mr. Bean and you have just gotten out of the car that is taking your translator and coordinator away to another region in the country for a court date with another family in the afternoon.

***


You get on the elevator and ride up to the 9th floor looking forward to fixing yourself some lunch. As you get off the elevator, you pull out your key from your back pocket, fumble, and drop it. It falls into the small space between the elevator and the floor. You peer down into the space and see an endless elevator shaft. You didn’t hear the key fall all the way down so you wonder if it’s on a ledge somewhere. You wait for a few moments hoping to wake up from a bad dream. Then you spend the next ten minutes riding the elevator up and down hoping that the next time it stops you’ll look down and see your key. It begins to dawn on you that the features of the apartment that you liked when you took it – the big steel door that looks like the opening to a bank vault, the fact that there’s only one key (yours) – are now distinct disadvantages.

You go outside and look through your knapsack for any useful phone number. You have the landlord’s number, your coordinator’s number, and your translator’s number written out neatly on a piece of paper that is sitting on your desk. In the locked apartment. Amongst the baby stuff in your knapsack you find a scrap of paper with the number of a lawyer in Almaty who might know your coordinator’s phone number. You head off to find a phone. A plain old-fashioned (and increasingly rare) pay phone. You find one at the entrance to the Ram Store and realize that it only takes cards. Looking around frantically you catch the attention of a security guard who points you to a small store nearby. You walk in to buy a card. You make the universal sign for “I want to use the pay phone” by holding your hand up to your ear, but you are in a store that sells mobile phones and every kind of accompanying phone gadget so the signs you are making don’t really help narrow things down. At this point your first English-speaking angel might appear and offer to help you by translating. You don’t have the exact change to buy one card so you buy two. You try calling the lawyer’s number, getting cut off at the third digit, at least seven times before realizing it’s not a Kazakhstan number after all.

Next you head off to an internet café to see if you can find one of the e-mails from your agency from March or April in which they had sent you your coordinator’s number. Your agency has sent you many e-mails. But you find the crucial one and manage to open the attachment by assuming the prompts in Russian say exactly what they would in English. You write down the number, pay for the internet time, and make the universal sign for “Is there a pay phone nearby?” to the people in the internet café by holding you hand up to your ear. You are met with unconcerned shrugs. You walk half a mile back to the Ram Store (casting wistful glances at your locked apartment which you have to pass both ways). You now try to call your coordinator. You try three or four times. You dial, it rings, she answers. You yell her name desperately into the phone but she doesn’t seem to be able to hear you and hangs up. You keep looking around to get someone’s attention or even just a sympathetic glance but everyone you see is too wrapped up in their own worlds because they’re all talking on their phones. On your fifth or sixth try your second English-speaking angel might appear, tap you on the shoulder, and show you a small button on the pay phone that you must press in order to speak and be heard. Supressing the urge to howl WHY??? you try calling your coordinator three or four more times except she is now (sensibly) screening her calls and not answering the ones from your number. Eventually, after a pause, you reach her. It is an hour and a half since you were dropped off.

***

Amazingly, a young woman associated with my landlord showed up within half an hour with a big burly Russian man carrying a small black bag. He eyed the lock for a while, then proceeded to take out various tools from the bag and by a combination of manipulation and brute force literally bust through the lock in about three minutes. The woman told me to pay him 2000 tenge (about $18) and he left. I was happy to be in my apartment but a bit worried about having a hole instead of a lock. The young woman communicated to me that she’d return in a few hours. She did with two other big burly Russian men who installed a new lock which is even more impressive (in a bank vault kind of way) than the last one. It cost 15000 tenge ($130). I’m trying not to think about how many minutes it would take the Russian lock destroyer to get through this one (five?) And I made sure we got two keys.

17 comments:

BT said...

Oh yeah, baby. That lock/deadbolt looks exactly like all the ones on our flats in Ukraine. Pretty powerful stuff. Especially when you lack a key.

How hilarious your story is! I bet you couldn't drop your key down that narrow space if you were trying. Your stomach must have just clenched when you saw what was happening. Did you clutch at the air trying to catch the key before it went down the hole? You were sooooo resourceful in finding a way to get in touch with the necessary people. And the great things you learned! These will be useful to you throughout life, I'm sure. Who would have known that Kaz pay phones have a to-talk button one has to push?

Your time with Baby sounds absolutely magical. You'll learn lots of children's songs in no time once you're home. In the meantime, my guess is that Baby won't mind if you sing her a selection of these fine tunes: Funky Town, The Gambler, Who Let the Dogs Out (is that the title?), King of the Road, anything by the Beatles, or any hits you remember from high school. Baby probably loves your voice so much that she won't care what you sing or hum. However, you actually probably know more kids' songs than you realize: itsy bitsy spider, alphabet song, row your boat, you are my sunshine, twinkle twinkle little star, Old King Cole, ring around the rosey -- I'm betting you know some of these!

A week from this moment you'll be done with court. Yahoooo!

Anonymous said...

Boodles' Favourite:

Baa-baa, black sheep,
Have you any wool?
Yes, sir, yes, sir, three bags full.
One for my master
And one for the thane
And one for the little girl
Who lives down the lane.
Baa-baa, black sheep,
Have you any wool?
Yes, sir, yes, sir, three bags full.

Baa-baa, black sheep,
Have you any wool?
Yes, sir, yes, sir, three bags full.
One to mend the jerseys,
and one to mend the socks.
One to mend the holes in the
little girls' frocks
Baa-baa, black sheep,
Have you any wool?
Yes, sir, yes, sir, three bags full.

David and I also make up songs:
i.e. the Diaper Changing Song goes like this (it's very lyrically complex)

Wipes and Diapes and Wipes and Diapes
AAAANNNND
(dramatic pause)
Diapes and Wipes and Diapes and Wipes.

The neighbour from across the lane came over and commented on this one, which I was singing in the back yard one day (kind of embarrassing).

You're my favourite baby,
you're my favourite baby,
you're my favourite baby
That ever lived!

The other one I sometimes sing goes like this (but I sing it all gentle and only when someone is starting to howl about bedtime):

.... We named him Baby
He had a tooth-ache
He started crying
It sounded like an earthquake
....
etc.
(now we're a family and we're all right now
we got money and a little place to fight now....)

PS. Regarding the picture of your door. Are you renting an apartment over there, or are you in jail?

Ileana said...

What about some Moxy Fruvous hits?

Congrats on the court date!

jane said...

So like just how big & burly are we talking about? It might help to have photos of these men who come to your door and do manly things. Just for clarification purposes, of course. It might also help to know if they have passports.

P.S. I love that Baby smiles when she sees you. Congrats to you both on your court date.

Sky Onosson said...

I have such a fear (irrational, I had always thought) of dropping my keys down elevator shafts, that I am always careful to leave them in my pocket until I am far away from the elevator. Now I will be extra careful...

msr said...

Tough day, Jila. Lucky thing Baby's grins trump keys with wings.

There's a song in that for her...

JG said...

DM: thanks for "thane". I had no idea what rhymed with "little girl who lives down the lane." BT: I know one verse of many children's songs but with key words missing (like "thane"). For instance, in Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star what does the star look like in the night? Jane: Big, burly, Russian men also ask to wash their hands after doing manly things and (like everyone else in Kz) take their shoes off as they step through the front door. They don't smell very good with their shoes off though.

Anonymous said...

Hi again JG,
I remember thinking, "Is it really 'thane' and what's a thane?" It's the lord of the manor--very medieval stuff. I actually looked it up in the dictionary to double check. It seems like a lot of children's songs are from the 17th century. Also it's "little boy who lives down the lane"--but I was all, "f*** that," and changed the wording to "girl."
It's hot and muggy here in Winnipeg, which I rather like. Very green.

Rilke also likes "Skip to my lou"--esp. if you dance around to it:

Skip, skip,
skip to my lou,
Skip, skip,
skip to my lou,
Skip, skip,
skip to my lou,
Skip to my lou, my darling.

Lost my partner, what'll I do?
Lost my partner, what'll I do?
Skip to my lou, my darling.

I'll find another one, prettier too.
I'll find another one, prettier too.
Skip to my lou, my darling.

Fly's in the buttermilk:
Shoo, fly shoo.
Fly's in the buttermilk:
Shoo, fly shoo.
Skip to my lou, my darling.

Skip, skip, skip to my lou,
Skip, skip, skip to my lou,
Skip, skip, skip to my lou,
Skip to my lou, my darling.

By the way: of course Baby's smiling at you! Who wouldn't want to be your daughter? Also: you have the best smile I've ever seen.
DM
PS. Been listening to "Q". It's an excellent show. Do you get it in Kaz?

Anonymous said...

Twinkle, twinkle, little star.
How I wonder what you are.
Up above the world so high
Like a diamond in the sky.
Twinkle, twinkle, little star.
How I wonder what you are.

JG said...

One more point of clarification: I often start off singing Baa Baa Black Sheep and then find myself singing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. Or vice versa. Are they the same tune?

I'm on dial up so haven't even tried to listen to Q. Suspect it would be difficult. I miss it terribly. I think it's a fantastic show.

Anonymous said...

Twinkle and Baa-baa, are very similar sounding, you're right--but I think Baa-baa has more variety to it--has higher notes toward the end of the lines, where Twinkle is a bit flatter. Baa-baa is simply a better tune, I think.
(I can't even believe that I'm writing this, and i sure hope I don't create a blog-controversy over it!).

Here's another good one:

Hush, little baby, don't say a word,
Mama's gonna buy you a mockingbird.

And if that mockingbird don't sing,
Mama's gonna buy you a diamond ring.

And if that diamond ring turn brass,
Mama's gonna buy you a looking glass.

And if that looking glass gets broke,
Mama's gonna buy you a billy goat.

And if that billy goat don't pull,
Mama's gonna buy you a cart and bull.

And if that cart and bull turn over,
Mama's gonna buy you a dog named Rover.

And if that dog named Rover won't bark.
Mama's gonna to buy you and horse and cart.

And if that horse and cart fall down,
Well you'll still be the sweetest little baby in town.

---
Now, here's a question: how are you going to fit Rover, a goat, a horse, a bull, and a bird all in the Highgate?

imagine the chaos when I bring Boodles over to play with Baby, and Grip over to play with Rover?

BT said...

Oh yes, that last song left by DM is a really good one.

Twinkle twinkle and the alphabet song are definitely the same tune. (Peter and I have confirmed this on the piano.) I think baa baa is also the same (which would disagree with DM), but we haven't confirmed this in our household.

Let me know if you want the lyrics to The Gambler. It is a good one because it is very peaceful, goes on and on, and is fun.

Anonymous said...

Inane and unstoppable parent song No. 999, to be sung when you're trying to rock a child to sleep:

You're the little ba-by,
and you're o-kay,
You're going to go to sleep, singing hey-hey-hey-hey
You're the little ba-by,
and you're o-kay,
You're going to go to sleep, singing hey-hey-hey-hey,
You're.......
[repeated endlessly]

Worked like a charm for us!
Congratulations on the court date.
Susan P.

LK said...

When I went to Ethiopia to get S, I couldn't remember any childhood songs and I remember feeling quite stunned by it. We had no crib so I would put her in the bed and try to sing her to sleep. I must have sung "row, row, row your boat" and "twinkle twinkle" 10,000 times. My mom was there, thank goodness, and provided the words to "Daisy", which was great as I could substitute "Sara" for variety.
Daisy, Daisy, give me your answer, do!
I'm half crazy all for the love of you!
It won't be a fancy marriage,
I haven't got a carriage,
But you'll loook sweet,
Upon the seat, of a bicycle built for two!
P.S. MM and I had dinner last night and we've both had such fun with your blog - thanks!

Anonymous said...

What a lock. Yippee for court dates and smiling Baby. I sing my kids Billy Bragg, REM and Lucinda Williams. Blame me if they are trapped in some alt 1980s timewarp. One of the good things about your kids is that they smile when they see you and don't mind what kind of songs you sing.

Adele, who has been having trouble posting comments, and apologizes if there are 900 versions of this one.

David said...

According to Wikipedia, Twinkle, Ba-baa, Alphabet (and a bunch of other songs I've enver heard of) are all variants of an 18C French song, on which Mozart later wrote a series of variations (which anyone whose child has done Suzuki violin will recognise). Another set of lyrics for the same tune reset "Twinkle" with mock-pendantic verbosity:

Scintillate, scintillate, globule aurific,
Fain would I fathom thy nature specific.
Loftily poised in the ether capacious.
Resembling a crystal carbonatious.
Scintillate, scintillate, globule aurific,
Fain would I fathom thy nature specific.

Which isn't particularly enlightening, but could help vary things up a bit -- if you sing to you Baby as much as I did to Nico & Felipe, you will want as many lyrics as you get your voice around. Just remember, the content is less important than hearing your voice and F0. I usually sang to my guys in Spanish, of course, but with some Bragg, Seeger, folks songs etc. thrown into the mix.

Great news about the court date! We are all so excited...

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