Communication mishaps have become a dependable source of light entertainment in my life. However, fending for myself in Kyrgyz was not always such a quaint production. When I think back to those first six months in
So, I have a gorgeous 17-year-old host sister, Dilbar, who is as skinny as Popeye’s gal, Olive. I’m always joking around with her, making dramatic gestures over offering to give her some of my inner thigh or a slice off my back side. She gets a kick out of it, responding with remarks like “Oh, thank you,” or “Miss Erin, how is your baby? (while gently placing a hand on my bread baby).” Well, you get the point. Then, one day in August, my parents came for a visit and in the midst of a furry of greetings, she boldly introduced herself to my father: “Mr. Mark, give me some of your oil.” Of course, my dad’s like, “Some of my oil? My oil?” Then she points to his stomach, at which point it registers that she is referring to his body fat. He gave her a hearty laugh and had us near tears when he told my mom and I about their first conversation later that evening.
The other story involves my 12-year-old host brother, Almaz, and Chris. My brother had called to catch up and I decided to briefly pass the phone around the dinner table, so that he could say hi to the member of my host family. When the phone got to Almaz, he transitioned from something like, “We are eating potatoes and tea,” to “I am a smelly brother.” Unable to hear the other end of their brotherly conversation, I took my cues from Almaz’s face – he was simply beaming after listening to Chris’s reaction to this comment. Immediately after passing on the phone he shares that Chris had said, “Me too!” When I finally got back on the line, I had to revisit this…I mean, I had recently laughed at Almaz because he had passed gas and things were spinning out of control…I was trying to discourage such juvenile humor, and here was my brother, conspiring against me. But, when I asked him why he had agreed to the statement “I am a smelly brother,” he sounded equally shocked and amused. He admitted that he may have heard correctly, but it just wasn’t what he had expected Almaz to have said. So, he interpreted it as “I am a small brother,” as in I am