Signs of the Times: “Leave your fancy footwear behind — oh, and your feet, too.”

© Sue Browne 2013

© Sue Browne 2013

Yangon, Myanmar. I love this sign, and it’s actually pretty famous in terms of funny mistranslations from around the world. Good family friends visited Burma earlier this year and took this photo. I’ve since seen it in Lonely Planet’s Signspotting and other blogs. I think it goes particularly well with the photo below.

© Stephanie Glaser 2013

© Stephanie Glaser 2013

McDonald’s, Colorado Springs, CO, USA. This completely cracked me up. I can’t imagine running in heels after toddlers in the first place. In fact, I only started wearing wedge sandals and heels occasionally when with my kids about one year ago (and only on completely sturdy surfaces.) Being a geeky English teacher, I also noticed that an unnecessary apostrophe appears with Moms. The poor apostrophe — it’s so misused. However, that’s a different post.  

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Signs of the Times — Please and thank you kindly, Pain-In-The-Butt People!

 ©Stephanie Glaser 2013

©Stephanie Glaser 2013

So many signs are straightforward, indifferent and lack personality. The following messages are actually quite polite and even include script writing or a fancy insignia (above at the Mandalay Bay, Las Vegas). However, there’s just a slight edge in the voice that borders on sarcasm — a sort of yes, we must be polite to you imbeciles. Or I could just be reading way too much into these signs. It’s entirely possible since I just spent the last ten years teaching high school literature.

© Stephanie Glaser 2013

© Stephanie Glaser 2013

East Bentleigh, Victoria, Australia. I can just hear what the sign maker of this Coles store really wants to write with this one: okay, hooligans, no joyriding, no racing or using as a moving van.

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Priceless Products and Packaging

durian pancakes

 Priceless Products and Packaging is a new feature on Travel Oops that celebrates interesting products and packaging from around the world. Wandering up and down the aisles of grocery stores or markets is always enlightening when you’re visiting another country. The text included on the packaging and in marketing campaigns often reflects characteristics and values of a nation. Translations are the best because, understandably, sometimes the meaning is inadvertently lost or tweaked slightly.

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Travel Oops: Oh Yeah…I’m a Yank

from: Herbert Hoover Library, National Archives and Records Administration

from: Herbert Hoover Library, National Archives and Records Administration

During my first parent teacher conferences at Le Fevre High School, I met with the parents of my one British student, Jessica. They had just moved to Adelaide, and, like me, they were adjusting to the Australian school system. So we discussed our observations about the differences in education.

For some reason, they seemed to forget with whom they were talking and shared an interesting insight with me. “Well, I don’t know what to think many days. Australia is getting closer and closer to a new America,” Mrs. Ford confessed while shaking her head. I believe she actually wrung her hands, too.

The observation didn’t seem quite charitable toward the US nor Australia.

Football pro bowl

Despite that mild statement, which one would generally expect from a British subject, I never encountered any outright US bashing. Always, I felt welcome and accepted in Oz.

In the beginning, I was aware of being a “Yank,” and Australians have some definite opinions on Yank tendencies as well as our activities. For the most part, Aussies strongly dislike American football, which they have dubbed, “Gridiron.”

“Ah yeah, a bunch of pussies out there with all that armor. They think they’re these bloody gladiators, but then take all those breaks,” said my colleague and friend Brad. “Sooks!” he calls American NFL players.

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Travel Oops: The Queen’s Birthday — A Royal Rager?

© Stephanie Glaser

© Stephanie Glaser

The Orange crush streaming out of Centraal Station and on to the streets of Amsterdam indicated that the Dutch — especially young people — must love their Queen Bea.

© DirkvdM

© DirkvdM

Throngs of Dutch citizens waved flags and sported the Netherlands’s national color, orange — lots of orange. Revelers even dyed their hair in flaming shades of tangerine, tangelo and clementine.

To be honest, it looked like my roommates and I had stepped into a Florida citrus convention.

It was Koninginnedag — Queen’s Day, which recognizes the Queen’s birthday and is celebrated every April 30.  As an American, I could barely say it let alone did I know exactly what Koninginnedag would be like.

© Emiel Ketelaar, FrozenImage

© Emiel Ketelaar, FrozenImage

But, like her loyal subjects, I figured I could drink tea with my pinky up in the air, eat crustless cucumber sandwiches and wave to Queen Beatrix as she rode by in a horse-drawn carriage.

Leah, Amy and I, who were on a college study abroad program based 30 minutes away in Leiden, wanted to check out the whole monarchy thing.

However, as we walked out on to the Amsterdam streets, we got sucked into the detour to debauchery. People spilled out of the packed bars, slammed beers on the streets and sat on rooftops. It was clear that we needed to start drinking alcohol right away. It was 9:30 a.m.

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Travel Oops: “Tenemos un Problema con el Baño” (We Have a Problem with the Bathroom)

© Edward Schuck

My sister Suzie and I © Edward Schuck 1981

Becoming fluent in Spanish was an important goal of mine in seventh grade at Santa Barbara Junior High in 1981. Already, I knew that I wanted to travel.

Every Sunday when my dad brought in the Los Angeles Times and placed it on our kitchen table, I rifled through for the travel section, which was huge. I scanned all the ads and articles as well as filled out every form, requesting brochures and tourist materials. Many of the countries to which I wanted to travel were Spanish-speaking nations.

© Dhscommtech

© Dhscommtech

Consequently, to learn Spanish, I dutifully conjugated verbs, poured through my textbook and practiced the book’s basic dialog scenarios at home. Literally translated into English (only in present tense), the riveting stories went something like this:

Carmen: Hello, Juan.

Juan: Hello, Carmen.

Carmen: I go to the shoe store.

Juan: I go to the shoe store, also.

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Avoid the Oops — Not Trying the Language

Katerina, my new Greek friend who taught me the proper Greek alphabet
© Stephanie Glaser

During a layover from Athens to Amsterdam, I took advantage of a free minibus tour of Budapest, arranged by the airline company on which I flew. Because the tour was conducted completely in Greek, I didn’t learn much about Budapest, but I befriended the seven other travelers on the van who were all from Greece.

The only Greek word that I knew was “Efharisto,” (thank you) so whenever I could use it, I did.

Katerina, a seven-year-old girl who was part of the minivan crew, giggled and said something to Gabriella, one of the two English speakers in the group. Gabriella told me that Katerina found it funny that the only thing I could say in Greek was “thank you.”

Through Gabriella, I told Katerina I actually knew the Greek alphabet. I spared relaying the details of how I had learned her language’s alphabet, along with such skills as playing quarters and other drinking games, while in a sorority at college. Then in a moment of silliness, I sang her the version I had learned courtesy of Delta Gamma.

For a minute, as everyone sat in silence, I thought I had offended them. Then all the Greeks broke out into uproarious laughter. Clearly they got a big kick out of the Alpha Beta Gamma ditty, and they had a hard time composing themselves again.

Although slightly embarrassed, I never felt like they thought I was an idiot. Entertaining, yes, but stupid, no. In fact, Katerina and her grandfather offered to give me a proper lesson in the alphabet. They patiently waited for me to repeat each letter after them.

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The Travel Oops Interview: Laxatives + Bus + Terrorist Turf = Bad Situation

Beddingfield would eventually see Machu Picchu after her Oops.
© Sheree Beddingfield

To Sheree Beddingfield, Latin America means a few different things. It’s a place where she loves the culture and language, and it’s also a place where she has encountered full on adventures as well as episodes of GI distress. However, just because she’s had a few bouts with intestinal issues, do not think this traveler has a weak stomach or is a damsel in distress. Beddingfield is one tough traveler who has taken on Hemorrhagic E. Coli in Honduras and super potent laxatives while on a bus traveling through terrorist territory in Peru.

Beddingfield, a physician assistant originally from Texas, first traveled to Latin American at 19 when she had volunteered to help at a medical clinic in Cayos Cochinos, Honduras.

Sheree inspects a lizard on one of her South American adventures.
© Shree Beddingfield

Living solo in a small village, she befriended the children who helped her fine-tune her Spanish. Because “Sheree” was hard to pronounce, the kids called her “Shitty” (not knowing really what they were saying). The women, who hadn’t yet warmed up to her, called her “Espaguetis” (Spaghetti) because they said she’s skinny and white.

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“Où est Jim Morrison?” Looking for the Lizard King’s grave at Père Lachaise

© Stephanie Glaser

Not long ago, I was a substitute teacher for a high school French class. Right away, I confessed to the students that my knowledge of French was very limited. Basically, it consists of pleasantries, “petit déjeuner” (“breakfast”) and “Où est Jim Morrison?” (“Where is Jim Morrison?”)

My admission was met with confused looks, and they asked, “Who is Jim Morrison?”

“Jim Morrison? You know, the lead singer of The Doors…The Lizard King…sound familiar?”  Blank looks.  Maybe song lyrics would work. “You know, ‘Come on baby, light my fire?’ That’s a song, by the way, I don’t really want to light your fire.” I tried to sing the refrain for them.

More looks that said, “Wow, CRAZY sub. We wish we had Mrs. Johnson right now.”

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Dropping the “F-Bomb” in Class

Heads Up:  As you may have guessed from the title, this post contains a bit of profanity — and it’s the big one. I said it — a few times…in front of kids. These definitely were not the finest moments in my career as a teacher. I’m not really proud of what I did, but it definitely makes for a Travel Oops story. 

Here I am…calm and collected.

Many teachers, at one time or another, have considered the potentially heavy consequences of dropping the “F-bomb” in class. On the other hand, you also consider the liberation of uttering the ultimate.

Teachers on the ledge may have an interior monologue that goes something like this: “What will actually break me? How will the kids react? How many parents will call? Will I be fired?  Will my colleagues dismiss me or applaud my actions? Will it be as satisfying as I imagine?”

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