Learn basic Russian. Really do.
People tend to acknowledge Russian as such a popular and universal language that they don’t try too hard to be communicative else wise (like using their hands). Luckily, it is not the most complicated language, especially if you have basic understanding of a different Slavic one. In my first week of travelling around Georgia I would disappoint anyone who asked (and almost everyone did) saying I didn’t speak any Russian. In my second week, I started replying – chut chut – meaning that I speak a little. Then I tried to explain that knowing Polish lets me understand basic Russian. After three weeks in Georgia and two in Azerbaijan I was able to have a not very advanced conversation and keep it going for a whole evening. By Kyrgyzstan I should be able to read Dostoevsky in original version.
We’re having dinner with our host family, the soup contains every single carb known to humanity: there are potatoes, noodles, rice and wheat inside, accompanied by bread. Understanding Elcin, the host husband and father, is rather easy. We’ve got more problem with his wife, the reason is not very linguistic, though. Apparently, in Azerbaijan people don’t pay a lot of attention to dental care, lots lose their teeth before they even turn 30. Those who can afford it, get a shiny golden smile, those who can’t – lisp significantly.
Suddenly the light goes off. The many blackouts in Georgia taught us to be patient. We reach to get our torches, but before we even find them, Elcin takes a card from his wallet and all of a sudden the light is back on. Simple and elegant – prepaid cards for water, gas and electricity! That’s how you take care of public debt.