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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Charade (08/14/08)

TITLE: Hand Communication
By Beckie Stewart


The winter of 2005 proved to be the most frigid winter in fifty years in the northeastern land of Kazakhstan. Within minutes of being outside, the cold promised to sap the breath out of those who walked in its domain.

Nestled 700 kilometers southeast of Omsk, Russia, the city of Semipalatinsk's temperatures dropped below forty degrees Celsius at night. For the middle-aged couple from America, the opportunity to learn about the region was kept to day when sunlight warded off the worse of the bone-chilling weather.

One particular afternoon following their visit at the local Dostoevsky museum, the husband decided to finish up their souvenir shopping before returning to their apartment. With the translator beside the husband, the wife remained in the van with the driver. A communication barrier loomed between them as neither spoke anything but a few sporadic words of the other's language.

As the two men ventured into the snowy winds, the driver lifted his head, peeked through the rearview mirror at his passenger, and gave a grin that displayed jagged spaced teeth with portions of silver and tan. He rocked his head back and forth and pointed to the two men. Wrapping his arms around his body, he chattered his teeth. With his voice raised at the end of his sentence, she knew he asked her a question.

Nodding her head, she circled her finger around the side of her head and said, “Yes. They are crazy. I have no desire to be out there.”

The two sat in silence for a few minutes. They watched cars scurrying up and down the street. Some cars parked, and those dressed in proper winter gear exited out and preceded toward the outdoor shopping bazaar. This place with the best bargains for traditional Kazakhstan kitchenware as well as clothing provided safety from the frosty weather with only a tent covering.

Tugging the flaps of his hat, the driver pointed to the various men and women who walked by in their long mink coats. He shook his head, “No,” as he pointed to his head, the others, and then her. The woman seated in the back understood by now that one wears a head covering under all circumstances, but especially during these severe weather conditions. She learned that the men wore either a mink tundra hat or a leather beret. The women wore fur hats that resembled a huge ball of animal hair. Regardless of the style, each hat included flaps so the ears were protected from the icy winds sweeping through them.

“I was too hot in here to keep my hat on,” she said. She waved her hand in front of her face, stuck out her tongue, and panted like a thirsty dog. The driver laughed and turned down the heat and reached to touch her head. Not wishing to offend him in anyway, she put her hat back on.

“How do the ladies walk in those boots?” she asked the driver as she lifted up her foot and pointed to the heels. “I would fall down and break my neck,” she said as she collapsed onto the seat and grabbed her neck.

The driver chuckled, lifted his foot, and with force rammed his heel down to the floor.

“Well, that makes sense,” she said as she shook her head, “But I’m sure I’d still fall.” She dropped back down on the seat again. He laughed and fell down on the front seat. When he sat back up, the two exchanged smiles with each other.

As he asked her a question in Russian, he swung his arms and reached around his back and said her husband’s name.

She nodded as she recalled the evening her husband recollected to her about his experience at the men’s bathhouse with the driver and translator.

“Oy! Oy!” he said several times.

“Yes. He said it hurt when you hit each other with the sticks,” she said as she swayed her hands like she cracked a whip.

The driver’s smile disappeared and with hesitation in his words, she realized he was concerned that her husband didn’t enjoy his experience. She wrapped her arms around herself and smiled to assure him that he liked it. He seemed to comprehend her message as his colorful teeth gleamed from his mouth again.

Time quickly passed as the two continued their charades with lots of laughs shared between them. The lesson learned that day. “Actions do speak louder than words.”

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This article has been read 559 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Laury Hubrich 08/21/08
This is a unique entry. You wrote about charades very well. Good job:)
Yvette Roelofse08/21/08
Beautifully written. The idea of a cultural barrier being bridged is a unique and interesting interpretation of the topic.
Anita van der Elst08/21/08
Fascinating glimpse into another country. Great descriptions of communicating with body language!
Jan Ackerson 08/22/08
Well done!
Marlene Austin08/22/08
Unusual slant on the topic. Title very appropriate. :)
Cheri Hardaway 08/25/08
Love the unique take on the topic! Good job! Blessings, Cheri
Verna Cole Mitchell 08/27/08
I enjoyed my visit away from my own country. The examples you used to demonstrate actions were excellent.
Anne Linington09/07/08
Nice interpretation of the use of charades to bridge a language barrier. I work with adults with learning difficulties, and we use actions to accompany words all the time. Not sure about the final sentence as a summary of the article, but overall very interesting.