Tuesday, September 21, 2010
One Way Or Another, It’s The Little Things: Part 2
19-IX Arusha Hmm, cheese burger! Of course it will be terrible, but there’s only one way to find out! “You have cheeseburger?” We’d missed breakfast, spent an hour going through countless restaurants that didn’t serve lunch, it was getting past noon, and we were hungry! The stage was set for another day of the traveler’s eternal game of “battle and surrender.” Dealing with cultural and developmental obstacles is just part daily life - make that minute to minute life - in many places in the world, and if you don‘t learn to deal with nothing going your way, you won‘t last long. But when it concerns something that MUST work out, such as food or lodgings or time-sensitive transport, then things get a bit more personal. It can be anything from life-and-death to “just one of those days,” and as I looked up at our waiter I knew the game was on. You learn to recognize instantly when things are going to be a little more complicated... which is most of the time for a budget traveler. “You have cheeseburger?” The waiter squints at me with the exact expression usually provoked by someone suddenly squealing "Ekwa Gobbly Goo!" “Yes?” “cheeseburger.” I point it out carefully on the menu. “You have?” “chapati?” “cheeseburger.. Here.” “yes. ” “One cheeseburger please.” “Yes.” My experienced traveling companion Steffen has already ordered by pointing to a dish served to the next table and holding up one finger. “One of these.” “Yes.” My not-so-experienced companion Jan spends the next 10 minutes tearing (almost literally) through the menu. “Do you have milk?” “Milk finished.” “Milk finished. Okay, what about some chicken with rice or vegitables or something, do you have anything like that?” “chicken finished.” “Finished. Then I’ll have a hamburger.” “Burger finished.” “Of course, then maybe some fish. What kind of fish is it? Is it fresh?” “Yes?” “Yes it’s fresh or yes you have?” “Yes?” “Fish?” “Fish finished.” “Fish finished. So I guess I’ll just have some pastries. You have some pastries there behind the counter, right? What kind do you have?” “…” “There, what’s that?” “chapati?” “No, no chapati, that one there. The fluffy one.” “…” “Here!” Jan gets up and points through the glass. “Give me two of these.” “yes.” “And now to drink I’ll take... I suppose if you don’t have milk you don’t have milk tea, right?” “yes?” “Milk tea? Do you have it or not?” “Yes.” “You have it? How do you have milk tea if you don’t have milk?” “Milk finished.” “Yes I know milk’s finished, so how do you have milk tea?” “Milk finished.” “I’m almost finished with this restaurant, you know that?” “Yes?” Somehow Jan ordered something, all the while with Steffen and myself stiffling our snorts of amusement and bracing ourselves for whatever could (and probably would) go wrong with our orders. But in a few minutes Steffen had his meal, a nice sausage thali, and I had my coke, and there seemed to be some hopeful activity in the kitchen. Jan got his pastries, Steffen was informed that “coffee finished,” Jan that “Fanta finished,” and I waited happily for my cheeseburger. Both finished eating, I finished drinking, and after another 10 minutes I called over the waiter. “cheeseburger coming, yes?” “Yes?” “cheeseburger.” “chapati?” “No, here, look. Cheese-burg-er. Coming?” “yes.” “Okay.” It’s always a good idea to check your watch often in these countries. Once you adapt to “African time” or “Indian time” you can find yourself waiting two hours for something before realizing that it’s never going to happen. I set my timer for 15 minutes. The time passes quickly. I stand and peer into the kitchen, a risky move but sometimes necessary. I see the cook leaning against a wall, and no cooking in sight. I return to my table and call the waited. “my cheeseburger?” I point again to cheeseburger on the menu and tap my watch. “cheeseburger finished.” “You tell me three times yes and now finished?” “Yes?” “Right, great. Bring me three samosa.” “Samosa. Four?” “Three.” “yes.” Two minutes later four samosa arrive. I eat them hungrily. The bills shows a predictable attempt to overcharge us by 50%. After a few minutes of obligatory arguing we calculate our own bill, underpay ever so slightly, leave the money on the table, and leave. Finished, yes?