Приятно познакомиться! in Chinatown

Second casting call ever, today. This one for a fashion show in Chinatown.

One of the wonderful things about Chinatown is that their reaction to any circumstance that involves gathering more than three people in any one room is to feed you. Volunteering? They feed you. Taking a class? They feed you. Coming to watch the fireworks? They feed you. If the first extraterrestrials to make contact with humankind touched their spaceship down in Chinatown, there would be people out on the street with big steel trays of scallion pancakes, beef on skewers, and tiny mysterious desserts fashioned out of sesame paste before the aliens could get the hatch open.

I'm not sure it would ever occur to Americans to hand fashion models food, although there would probably be plenty of coffee on hand. The feeding thing is much more useful. Models, especially models who don't have a day job, tend to be like writers -- determined yet dead broke.

This was the first time I've ever tried a pro catwalk show, and I cheerfully told them I had no idea what I was doing! On the one hand, their trainer had to give me a crash course in catwalk -- I keep wanting to do things like I learned in dance, and let me tell you, a dozen years of ballet is one of the hardest things ever to unlearn -- but on the other hand, there were a lot of people getting the same course, so if the designer ruled out everyone who needed to walk more than once, she'd have an awfully small show.

One thing the internets are completely correct about is that there a lot of very beautiful Russian women who are trying to work as models. Well, Russian-speaking women. You apparently score major human-being points with them when you ask where they're from and they say 'Russia', and you say 'actually Russia, or another former Soviet country?' because Americans are only vaguely aware of other nations, and I think they've gotten tired of trying to explain geography to people who are not entirely clear on the fact that "Canada" is not the 51st state.

"One of my classmates in college was Kazakh," I assure them. "I learned a lot about places that are NOT Russia."

They all speak Russian, though, because Russian is the lingua franca of commerce in much of Eastern Europe. Russia itself has tried to sort of run over pretty much everyone in the region at one point or another, so while most of them have stood their ground and insisted quite firmly that they are their own country, thankyouverymuch, it's much easier for everyone to sell food and horses and the occasional plot of swampland to the invaders if the entire region just speaks Russian. They're not generally offended if you speak Russian at them or ask them how to say things in Russian, but they're ever so much happier if you mention that obviously they are from a place where people really speak something else at home.

I finally broke down and asked one of them how you say 'nice to meet you' in Russian, because while I can read Cyrillic script, that's about as far as my Russian lessons ever went. It's "Приятно познакомиться" ("pree-YAHT-na paz-nah-KOM-ee-tsah"), if anyone is wondering.


  1. I think the World needs a lingua franca as well. So which language should it be? The British learn French, the Australians study Japanese and the Americans prefer Spanish.

    Yet this leaves Mandarin Chinese out of the equation.

    A neutral non-national language is needed and we already have it with Esperanto :)

    Only a few people know about Esperanto but their course http://www.lernu.net is currently receiving 125,000 hits per day. That can't be bad :)

    1. Mi parolas Esperanton. De tempo al tempo, mi aŭskultas al podkastojn, kiel "Radio Verda". Amazonaj Kindleoj, mi malkovristis, presas signojn kiu estas ŝarĝantaj per cirkumfleksoj, akorda kun Unicode. :)

      Unfortunately, nobody else ever does. So aside from the podcasts and the occasional newsletter, I never get any practice.

      Also, Americans prefer different second languages depending on where in the country they are. Where I grew up in Arizona, everyone spoke bits of Spanish. (Usually very badly, à la Peggy Hill.) The preferred second language in New England, as measured by how many random appliances, cleaning products, and toys choose to print their instructions in it on the reverse of the English ones, is French.


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