Saturday, March 15, 2014

Speaking a Different Language

There are huge groups of people travelling together – like the French Canadians on board who have come under the auspices of the CAA.  That is a wonderful way to travel – The Canadian Automobile Association makes the arrangements and the only like-minded qualifications is that a person wants to go around South America.  There is also a big group of German-speaking people on board, some Swiss.  Well, the bottom line is people from 47 different countries.  Now here is one of the tricks of the voyages.  The head waiter has to find a way to get all of these people at dining tables where everyone speaks the same language.  And the menu has to go to them in their language of choice.  And something can go wrong even when all of the above gets done correctly.  For instance, I wanted the Rasperberry Meringue, but the waiter snatched the menu from my hands and said, “Somehow by mistake you got tomorrow’s menu.” I had to begin to deliberate on today’s choices but it put me behind.

I make the mistake of speaking to people – in halls, on elevators, while climbing stairs.  I forget how multi-national the passenger list is.  And English just doesn’t work for everyone.  I really notice in the market how difficult it is when there is a language barrier.  It just doesn’t help much to say the same word slower, or louder, or over and over again.  We were shopping last night in the loveliest market.  After the organized tour, the bus guide told us that if we would come back to the main street, turn left and walk 200 metres, we would find a 3-block long market. Greg is the perfect companion for this kind of event.  He walks along beside us, waits at the stalls as we go right to the back of them. Sometimes Greg is right out on the streets, for small cones have been put out there blocking off the parking lane, to let busy shoppers pass each other stepping off the curb for a while and then back onto the streets.  Their cone-shaped devices must be their way of trying to preserve the lives of the tourists making their way up and down the streets.. 

The guide had told us during our excursion that people in Chile are allowed to have as many dogs as they wish.  Some people have 3 or 4.  They roam the streets freely. I think he was explaining to us why there were so many dogs – I saw them all over – for example, three just sleeping side by side in the crevice between the road and the curb outside of a busy shop, people stepping over and around the dogs, back out into the road, around them, back to the side-walk.  Wyona buys a cape.  I buy a colourful knitted sweater.  Greg quietly comes by each of us, takes the bags we are carrying.  We are empty handed again – able to admire the beauty of the alpaca scarves or check out tooled leather purses that have Chile written on a pocket, or embroidered into the flap of a finely woven bag.

Greg is quiet.  He pulls more money out of his wallet as we run out. He did buy himself a sandwich one day.  A sad day. Wyona’s last shopping moment in Argentina was when she wanted to buy a pitcher for her grand daughters to pour water out of this summer.  She was short of money – just the amount he had spent on the sandwich.

My highlight of the market was Wyona buying a poncho for $20.00.

“No forty,” said the vendor.
“Why?,” said Wyona, wrinkling her brow.

“Chile.  Chile.”  Then she pointed to other products in stall saying dismissively as she touched them, “Synthetic.  Uruguay. Peru.”  Then smiling and touching the shawl Wyona wanted, saying “Chile.  Chile.  $40.”

That the moment was well worth $40. 

When we got home at night, Greg asked if we could stop in Miami and go to the post office.

“What do you want to buy there?”

“I was thinking that we could stop and ship some of the items you have been buying to Calgary.”


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