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Destinations, Dreams and Dogs - International adventure with a fast-track family (& dogs) of Old World values, adopting the Russian-Italian-American good life on the go…!

Adoptive Parent Phrases

There’s a big difference between foreign language phrases learned in college and the everyday vocabulary needed by those doing business, or living in a foreign country. For adoptive parents, it’s even more challenging.

In university, I recited acadmically-oriented phrases: “What is your course of study?”  “Do you live in the dorms?”  “Is Raisa Serge’evna your instructor?”

Meanwhile, foreign language books for businesspersons usually include, “At what time will we be meeting?”  “Can you send me an e-mail?” “Have you been working long in this industry?” “I need your signature for approval.”

When I adopted for the first time, I got together with a tutor who was worth her weight in gold. Probably more, since her weight was negligible. Tatiana was from Ukraine, but helped me find the Russian phrases I needed for a child. I had never commanded anyone to brush their teeth, or make their bed before! Along with the vocabulary and sentence structure, she shared about how get out of drinking vodka, an important part of any business conducted, and not good if you’re a tea-totaler like myself. She told how not to crack a smile on the street and be spotted as a foreigner. Not to mention the importance of fancy footwear, but we’ll have to cover that at another time.

There are a couple of good adoptive parent CDs out there. Benedetto used one on his daily commute to work. Listening just fifteen minutes in the morning, and fifteen minutes in the evening, helped him to understand the most basic words necessary for child care: “Do you need the toilet?” “Don’t be afraid. Don’t cry.”  “Mama and Papa are here to help you.”  “Would you like more to eat?”  “It’s time to go.”

On our first visit to meet Petya, who was a seven year old boy at the time, we talked and played together for hours. There were interpreters and facilitators and official observers who came in and out of the room. When we moved to the playroom, Petya suddenly had a need.

“Papa, I am going to the bathroom,” he whispered to Benedetto and took his leave.

“I understood him!” my husband beamed. “He’ll be right back.”

He did not become an overnight linguist. Petya understood his new father’s limitations.

“You don’t understand anything I’m saying, do you?” our son would query once home, and having just recounted some long and complicated story to his papa.

“Mama, could you tell this to Papa?” he came to me.

Still, they had an unbreakable bond. It happened similarly for Pasha, our second son and Petya’s friend from former days.

But now that I think about it, the tapes and books don’t have the lines that many need, want, or desire during their adoption trips. This is the “get real” Russian where the rubber hits the road. I have compiled my own list for meeting your facilitator in Russia, being driven to official appointments, eating in a hotel, and meeting your child. Offerings might include:

“I’m pleased to meet you, too. Where are my five million dollars in unmarked, unfolded, and unripped bills? Why in my handy-dandy sock safe, of course.”

“Could you turn down that raucous rock music seeking to drill a hole in my brain?”

“Are we supposed to be driving on the left side of the road? You’re going up on the sidewalk! Look out!!!”

“Is there a Walmart nearby?”

“I need to find an ATM that is linked to my Swiss account.”

“Is there a toilet anywhere in this country that is not a hole?!”

“Fish eggs for breakfast? Okay… can they be scrambled or fried?”

“This is to be my new son/daughter? What are those green medicine blotches all over his/her face?”

“I think I now have scabies. No, it is not a food allergy.”

If somebody puts this on tape, with Russian translation, you’ll have thousands of overnight buyers. Adoptive parents will be forever indebted to you. And you will be forever indebted to Alexandra and give her a percentage of every sale. (It’s the Russian way.)



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