The last month or so has been interesting. The wife and I planned to travel through Russia for about 25 days. As usual since i left my research for the last few days my wife took the lead on it. She figured out where to go and places to see. This included the trains we had to take between cities etc.
One of the things she did mention that i conveniently ignored was that lots of people wouldn’t speak English and i would have to download an app or figure out a way to communicate. We spent a couple of days in Thailand where almost everyone spoke English so i dint feel the need to download an app. I figured that if i wouldn’t need in Thailand then i wouldn’t need it in Russia. We got on the flight to Irkutsk and the in the first 30 mins i figured that this was going to be a tad difficult. The Flight attendant asked me what kind of food i wanted and i tried telling him that i am a vegetarian but he couldn’t understand what i had said. We landed at about 1 am at night, came out of the airport and wanted to catch a cab. Since we could not find the taxi stand we went to a cafe for a cup of coffee, we tried to talk to couple of guys there to help us to the taxi stand but they could not understand us. Cathy did have google translate on the phone but without internet it was useless. Here are the times i believe that kindness plays a vital role. Using sign language these guys offered to drop us at the hotel. We quickly learnt there names and thats about it. At the hostel we got the receptionist to translate for us. its hard to say thank you and a couple of sentences if you don’t know the language.
A day later i downloaded the google transalate app. What i dint do was down the Russian keyboard so that people can respond to me. I used it a few hundred times and even got people to understand that i was vegetarian. We happened to meet this old lady who invited us home and took us on the city tour. We communicated only with Google translate with her and that worked reasonably well. I also happened to meet a army kid who was going home after his mandatory army service and had a brilliant conversation. Everywhere we went we used google translate or sign language to communicate and it worked flawlessly. For obvious reasons you cannot use it to translate long sentences since the damm thing sometimes gets it incorrect but such is life. On the last day at the Kremlin at Moscow i had this really nice conversation with this couple, they gave me a history lesson using google translate. What you normally need is a stable internet connection and you are set.
Sometimes when sign language fails, google translate comes to the rescue. I wonder how we managed before without apps like these. Traveling seems to be easier atleast these days.