One day I walk into a Russian grocery store in Watertown, and the owner starts speaking to me in Russian; I don’t understand a word. Another day I walk into a Russian grocery store in Waban, and the employee at the register starts speaking to me in Russian. Waiting to check out a book at the Boston Public Public Library, I can’t understand a question from the next patron in line, because — you guessed it — the question is in Russian. Buying new glasses at LensCrafters, I remark to the optician that I assume from his name that he must be Russian, and he says yes and that it’s clear that I am too.
Do I look Russian? Apparently I do, though I never thought so. I suppose it isn’t surprising, since that’s what most of my ancestry is. But I speak only about 20 words of Russian, and the only phrase that’s really useful to me is, “Я не понимаю.”