A few summers ago, I did an immersion program in a tiny Quebec village, Trois-Pistoles. While I was there, I did a lot of biking up in the rolling hills of rural Quebec, which is an absolutely gorgeous part of Canada.
One day, I was biking by myself and passed a farmhouse while out on a gravel road. All of a sudden, three big pit bulls, barking and snarling, came bolting out of a barn and raced towards me with murder in their eyes. I guess the girl on the bicycle was seen as a clear threat to them or something.
With my imminent death approaching, I froze in terror. The only thing I could do was yell, "Au secours!"
Luckily, the dogs stopped right at their property line (maybe there was one of those invisible fences installed?) All I knew was that I was lucky to escape with my life, and I promptly bolted. As I pedalled furiously back to my host mother's house , I realized with a rueful laugh that the whole raison d'etre of me doing this immersion program had been achieved - my first instinct in the face of death had been to yell for help in French! I was pretty proud of myself!
Flash forward to today. Instead of a bike ride, I'm out running. And instead of three lean, mean pit bulls, there's a mangy, starved-looking stray dog growling and yapping at my ankles. This time, however, I was too scared to formulate words (I think Russian for help is pronounced "pomaGEETye").
I just SHRIEKED.
At a decibel level that was loud enough to attract the attention of everyone on the busy, bustling Lyotnaya Street in Mytishi.
(Not only does everyone already think I'm a freak for running - apparently the only suitable form of physical exercise for women here is light swimming/floating and walking around in stilettos - now I'm the freak runner who SCREAMS. Great.)
Anyways, some woman shot me a baleful glance and muttered something to the dog that caused it to trot off, looking as harmless as the Easter Bunny and making me look like a hysterical dog-hater. To be clear, I don't hate dogs. I just don't...trust them.
At least I figured out today that knowing the Russian word for "help" isn't necessary. When you really need help (or when you're just convinced a stray dog is going to take a bite out of your calf)...