Friday, 28 March 2014

The Language of Travel

Travel, I have discovered, has a language of its own. Over our many years as bed and breakfast hosts we have welcomed visitors from over 50 countries. Most of these have spoken passable to excellent English. Some few have not.

Yet, communication between guests and hosts, though challenging at times, is always established.

One summer, several years ago, we were graced with the presence of three couples from different countries who spoke very little English and none of each other’s languages.

It all started when one of these non English-speaking guests showed some curiosity over a creamer that Mary Helen had displayed in the dining room china cabinet. Mary Helen proceeded to explain, first in words, and – as she became aware that no one was understanding her - then in charade and finally in pantomime -  how she had acquired this curious china piece.

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Now, in a word, the story was that Mary Helen had bought the creamer at an auction for $2, mainly because it was part of a set with a missing sugar bowl. And when I asked her why she wanted half of a set, she retorted” I don’t.!  I’ll find the matching piece at another auction sale.” Which she did … in a space of about two weeks!

Before long the six guests, perhaps out of sympathy for their hostess (who, though still undaunted, was becoming frustrated with her inability to make herself understood), began also communicating in gestures and the most bizarre facial expressions - all amid gales of uncontrollable laughter.  After twenty minutes the story was told. To this day, however, neither Mary Helen nor I is sure just how much of it was understood.

My favourite vignette on this topic involves a German couple who stayed with us for two nights. The second day, upon their return from Algonquin Park , the husband, with eyes as big as saucers and obviously quite delighted with himself, kept repeating  . “Wolf!  Camera! … Wolf! Camera!”. We surmised from this that the couple had encountered a wolf while on a trail hike and managed to capture it on camera. Naturally, I was pleased for him and impressed that he had successfully expressed himself with knowledge of only two English words.

It was only some years later when I was recounting the incident to two German guests (whose English was excellent) that I learned that the words ‘wolf’ and ‘camera’ are identical in both English and German.

Yes. Lasting memories. We have many of them.

1 comment:

  1. Looking for missing china pieces gives me a reason to check out china and gift shops like the one at Madonna House in Combermere.