It was a wonderful morning in Poltava, Ukraine when the mission team and I headed out for a day of camp. This particular morning, I was overly confident in my ability to speak Russian. I mean, who isn't fluent in Russian after a couple of days of speaking it? It's easy!
A couple members of the team and I were walking back for a bathroom break back at the Christian center when I spotted a lady walking a rather large dog. Because it was such a small sidewalk, we broke up to allow her to walk by. I walked a little slower than the rest because I wanted to check out this dog.. and possibly speak some awesome, easy Russian. She was wrestling with her dog to keep him on the sidewalk, and she and I got close enough that a 'excuse me' was in order. PERFECT! I knew the proper AND regular Russian way to say it. "Es nay!!!" I energetically barked as she walked past. She gave me a confused look and walked away quickly. I brushed it off thinking she probably just realized I am a crazy American.. and I was too excited to think I might have pronounced my Russian incorrectly. I power-walked up to my teammates to tell them the good news. When I told them, they looked at me, trying to contain their laughter with a hard smile, and told me that was not Russian.. or any other language for that matter. I thought, "NO WAY! I remember clearly.. es nay is the proper term. The missionary and I had practiced this over and over.." As soon as we met up with our team and the missionary, I asked once again. Had I spoken wrong? Sure enough, my worst fears came true. I had spoken wrong! My confidence took a severe blow.. I thought this whole speaking Russian thing would be easy. I was no where near the correct pronunciation of the word! I have no idea where 'es nay' came from.
However, my wounded confidence quickly restored itself as I made a promise to myself to keep speaking and learning Russian no matter what. I also received an award for 'Most likely to fearlessly pronounce Russian words. That helped my confidence, too. I can always say I tried!