Lost in Translation

6 Mar

Laura (or Auntie Laura, as Finn will know her) is coming out to Egypt in a couple of weeks to meet our little guy and tour the ancient wonders of the world. I’m really excited and we’ve been making plans for her stay. She and Joni will be going on a Nile cruise similar to the one we took and then the four of us and Finn will be going to Dahab, a resort on the Red Sea, for some snorkeling and camel trekking. We found a little beach hotel that has great reviews and seems to have lots of personality (hopefully not Habiba Village personality though). The only quirk is the motto: “Come take a risk with us!”


While this alarmed Joni, especially after she wikipedia’d Dahab and came up with an article about terrorist attacks there a couple of years ago, I took it in stride as just another example of the typical case of Egyptian lost-in-translation. It’s one of those things you get used to here. Otherwise, who could keep a straight face when a store wishes you a “Happy Vlentimtim’s Day” on February 14.

Because some letters in Arabic and English words don’t match up, correct spelling of things is an understandable casualty of culture. It’s even pretty amusing, the way the sign at Golden Dragon in South Bend said “we delivery!”.

It gets annoying though, when one is communicating person to person, each knowing only half the other’s language but not wanting to admit they don’t understand. We’ve gone through this so many times, talking to a shopkeeper or someone in the Housing office. Patrick will hang up the phone sounding completely confident of the conversation. But when I ask him what happened, he’ll shrug and say “I’m not too sure.” And then we cross our fingers and hope that whatever we asked for was understood, be it vegetables delivered to our door, or a wheelchair to take a certain person in labor to the delivery room without dropping her down a flight of stairs.

All in all, it’s just one of those quirks that you get used to here. When you ask the friendly taxi drivers on our street how much a trip will cost, you’ll get a smile and “no problem, as you like!” But woe unto he that underpayeth. When I went to the travel agency yesterday to inquire about details of cost and itineraries for various options, I got the usual Egyptian wave of the hand and “no problem, no problem” with the funny feeling that the guy didn’t understand what I was asking for. Perhaps that’s what resorts feel the need to invite customers to come take risks with them. We’ll see how it all turns out.


6 Responses to “Lost in Translation”

  1. jeff carrier March 6, 2008 at 6:13 pm #

    No risk, no reward. Alternatively, no risk, no chance of terrorist attacks… What to do, what to do?

  2. Kay March 8, 2008 at 6:36 pm #

    Because of the considerable lack of comments, I’m beginning to wonder if anyone reads this anymore. Maybe awaiting Finn’s arrival wore everyone out. Anyway, I’m so happy that Laura gets to come and visit–a little jealous, but glad all the same.

  3. Patrick March 9, 2008 at 8:46 am #

    Kay, I’m guessing that fewer comments probably has something to do with lack of production on our part.

  4. tracy m March 10, 2008 at 7:04 am #

    I’m still checking in!

  5. mom March 10, 2008 at 2:35 pm #

    I still read your blog daily. But it tends to leave me speechless when you mention snorkeling, camel trekking, and Finn in the same sentence. Then I have to wait a couple of days before blogging in or I might respond with ARE YOUR CRAZY???????????

  6. Dre March 10, 2008 at 10:35 pm #

    What Luisa said. And to think I left that baby with those two children when I could have made a run for the border.

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