Tuesday, July 7, 2009

No Baby

A lot of the summer help on Mt. Desert Island consists of young Russians and Eastern Europeans, who come on four-month work visas. The young woman scooping your Caramel Caribou cone at CJs is likely to ask you if you "vant colored or chocolate shprinkles?" in an accent as rich as the ice cream.

This year, there's Melan, a tall, sweet-tempered Serb, helping out at our inn. He's trying hard to learn English, and spoke very little when he arrived, according to the innkeepers. Since they both have Australian accents and talk a mile a minute, they present an extra challenge to his language acquisition. For the first few days, "Hello!" "Thank you!" and "Serbia number one!" was just about all we heard from Melan. When he saw the Fourth of July fireworks, he reportedly said, "USA number one!" although he also complained mildly that American fireworks were just noise and color — not dangerous, like the shells he'd seen exploding in his own country.

We were sitting by the pool on morning as Melan was having his first lesson in pool maintenance from another young worker at the inn, Mario. Mario was explaining the intricacies of the test strips that are used to test the water in the hot tub to determine which chemicals to add.

Mario had stuck a test strip into the tub and was telling Melan, "So we keep it in the water for about 5 seconds and then we wait another 10 seconds to see what develops..."

Suddenly Melan put his hand on Mario's shoulder, looked deeply into his eyes, and said very seriously, "Baby? Or no baby?"

When we stopped laughing, we realized that Melan is going to be just fine with English.

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