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Thursday, March 19, 2015

Spelling Mistakes and Other Confusions: from free drinks to elephant pups!


Speaking several languages and a few words of Swahili now, has not helped with misunderstandings and confusions...

At Kati Kati camp we were told that beer was four dollars and soft drinks were free. When we went to pay, after 3 days, we discovered that the ‘free’ was 'three'…

We asked for a wake up call at 5:50 but they came knocking at 5:15 because they misunderstood…

During our visit to Oldevai Gorge we found out that the name really is Oldupai but a German scientist mispelled it many, many years ago. 
This world renowned valley where mankind’s oldest traces have been found by the Leakey’s, is a dusty, wind swept place. We expected an impressive museum, possibly built by Unesco. Instead we found one lonely Maasai guy manning a little gate. Once we entered the compound, there was a rinky dink old museum with old, faded photos on the wall. 
The story remains impressive: of how the Leakey’s and other archeaologists have unearthed, so to speak, the oldest footprints of humans found on earth: 3.5 million years ago a father, son and mother walked in this valley leaving tracks in volcanic ash.  

The cradle of civilization

It took me a while to figure out that the park ranger, who took us on a guided hike along the edge of the Ngorogoro crater, was not talking of cooking when he mentioned the Maasai kettles. Turned out he meant the Maasai’s cattle.

He also kept talking of elephant pups. After a while I wondered if he really didn’t know that baby elephants are called ‘calves’, not pups. But then he poked in huge elephant droppings and I realized he was talking about the multiple poop of elephants… 
Interestingly, he explained that the partly digested, dry dung contains a lot of bark, plants and grasses that are medicinal. He said “we burn the pups (poops…) and put a blanket over our head to inhale the smoke to cure illnesses….” Suddenly, my grandmother’s bowl of menthol steam that I had to inhale as a kid did not seem so bad anymore…

The many ‘bastards’ flying around Serengeti turned out to be buzzards… 


But the story that crowns it all was one I was told by a lovely lady who came home one day and her housekeeper, a proper Christian woman, told her in a loud voice that the fucking machine wasn’t working… “What?” she gasped. “Yes,” the housekeeper repeated very annoyed, “the fucking machine isn’t working.” It took a while until she finally showed her the machine in question that she understood it was the ‘vacuum machine’…

Language barriers.. You gotta love’ em.



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