Sunday, April 18, 2010

Lost in Translation

During our first full day in Budapest, Mariana’s Great Aunt showed us the city by buying us all passes from a tour company aptly named Hop On, Hop. The company offered a guided bus tour of the city that highlighted landmarks, monuments, and other places of historical significance in a wide variety of languages. In addition to the valuable information provided, the buses allowed every patron the option to either “hop on” or “hop off”, so that they could explore each site on their own. It was a wonderful way to get acquainted with the city, but after a 2-hour bus ride, Mariana and I found ourselves in dire need of a restroom. So, we turned to our lovely and energetic 84 year old tour guide who spoke primarily Hungarian, but also a significant amount of Spanish, English, French, and German, and politely asked her if she could take us to a bathroom. Surprisingly, she looked slightly confused, so we proceeded to say “Donde esta el bano?” Still confused. I chimed in with “Ou est le toilette?” Even more confused. We turned back to English and ran through a variety of nouns like bathroom, restroom, toilet, and water closet. Finally, a light gleamed in the eyes of our lovely tour guide as she promptly led us to the toiletries aisle of a neighborhood grocery store. We shook our heads and mimed going to the bathroom as our guide blushed, realizing (in her mind) that Mariana must need something more private. She then led us to the section of the store that was stocked with feminine pads and tampons. Frustrated, I walked directly out of the store, followed by my wife and her Great Aunt, only to make a complete fool of myself as I grabbed my crotch and proceeded to do the “pee dance” in the middle of downtown Budapest. Seeing that our guide was now more appalled than confused, I decided to take point and navigate us to the nearest restroom, which happened to be in a coffee shop. A few minutes of sweet relief later, Mariana and I found ourselves trying our best to assure her Great Aunt that we could completely empathize with her confusion as we had plenty of our own difficulties communicating in foreign languages. For instance, I once asked a very baffled shop owner in Mont Saint Michel if she had any “petit journal’s” for sale as I shopped for a journal for Mariana. Unfortunately, “petit journal” means “tiny newspaper” in French. Later that week, Mariana’s cousin (Evi) would describe one of her dear friends as a “very genital person”. Being lost in translation can be frustrating, but most of the time it is just simply hilarious.

1 comment:

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