When I found out my family and I were moving overseas, I knew there would be typical American things we’d miss in our new home. I tried to prepare for this by “packing accordingly” — bring favorite games and toys with us, stock up on comic books, pack an entire box full of Oreos, etc.
As it turns out, what I miss the most is pizza. Just plain ole pepperoni pizza.
You can find what passes for pizza here, though Americans tend to think it’s a bit like everything else in Turkmenistan: “interesting”. I have found two typical types of pizza here — pide and cheese-topped-chorek.
Pide originated in Turkey (according to Wikipedia) and is a broad, round and flat bread made of wheat flour sometimes topped with ground meat. Chorek is the local bread of choice. It is about 1 inch thick and up to 12 inches around, and very dense.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I really enjoy pide, and chorek is one of my favorite foods here! But neither are quite pizza.
So imagine my delight when one of my friends has pizza delivered to work for lunch… and it looks and smells and tastes like American pizza (almost)! “Where did you get this?” I asked. It is obviously not from the usual expat-pizza-delivery-place. “Here is the number. There’s one lady that speaks a little bit of English.” Wait. They make actual pizza, they deliver, AND they speak English??? I feel like I just hit the jackpot!
I tuck the number away in my cell phone; saving it for a rainy day.
Well, it rained yesterday (literally). And my husband and I both got off work late. Neither of us felt like cooking. So here I come with my magic pizza phone number to the rescue!
“Алло. Рахат Pizza.”(Hello. Rahat Pizza.)
“Здравствуйте. Вы говорите по-английски?” (Hi. Do you speak English?)
“Да. Speak English.”
“Ok. I’d like to order two big pizzas.” (“Large” translates to “big” in Russian, so it is often easier to use “big” when ordering something in English.)
“Ok. Pizza. How many?”
“Да. два.”(Yes. Two.)
“Да. большой.” (Yes. Big)
Well, it is becoming apparent that this woman speaks English just slightly better than I speak Russian. That should make the next part of the conversation interesting. Have you ever tried to tell someone how to get to your house when there are no street signs, and only most of the streets have names… in a language you barely speak? Yeah….
“где you are?” (Where you are?)
I give my address, the name of the major street, and the name of a nearby landmark. I said all of these things once in English, and twice in Russian.
“Ok. 40 minutes, pizza come.”
Alrighty. All I can do now is wait and hope my garbled Russian and her less-than-perfect English was enough to get my family their dinner.
35 minutes pass. My phone rings. I don’t recognize the number. I answer.
It is a man. He goes on to say a lot more than “Hello”, but I don’t understand most of it. I am able to understand enough of the words to infer that he is the pizza delivery driver, and that he’s asking for directions to my house. Guess my Russian is worse than I originally thought it was.
“Извините. Я говорю только чуть чуть русский.” (I’m sorry. I only speak a little Russian.) I tell him.
“Есть тот, кто хорошо говорит по-русски?” (Is there someone who speaks good Russian?)
Um… no. No there isn’t. My husband’s Russian is just as horrible as mine.
I head down to the lobby of my building, and walk outside to see if the driver is at least in the neighborhood. There are no cars that I don’t immediately recognize. I wonder just how lost this poor guy is.
I go back inside, and realize that the concierge would know how to give directions to the building in Russian! However, I also realize that they speak virtually no English; and I have no idea how to say “I ordered pizza and need directions” in Russian…
I decide to just try in English. They understand “pizza” (it’s the same in Russian). And they understand my “please talk to the person on my phone” gesture. The concierge speaks to the lost driver for what felt like 5 minutes in not Russian, but Turkmen. Apparently directions to my house are far more complicated than I thought.
I wait outside. I see a car that I’m not familiar with pulls up. A man gets out and starts speaking Russian. I can’t hear him.
“вы Aмериканскa?”(You American?)
I feel like a dunce, but we have our pizza… and it’s still hot!
The lesson: if you want pizza in Turkmenistan, go to the restaurant!