Elephants, Diarrhea, and Motos

I think there could be an entire blog focused on funny cultural difference and translation miscommunications. It seems that at least everyday I find myself laughing at something that was misinterpreted. Today, three things happened that I just had to laugh at.

This week I have been attending a training course on safeguarding children from abuse.  I have learned so much from the course and I believe that Sparrow’s Nest will benefit from the conference. The conference was put on by the British Embassy. By the way, at the conference I got to shake the British Ambassadors hand. (The picture is of Vouen and I after receiving our awards from the ambassador.) I was very excited about this. I was under the impression that every country has only ONE ambassador that travels the entire globe for the country. My bragging that I meet the ambassador (which I thought at first was the prime minister when he showed up in his fancy car and posy) became a lot less cool when I found out not only was he not the prime minister but there are many many ambassadors for Britain.

One of the speakers was presenting on how people never forget. To illustrate his point he put up a big picture of an elephant. Jesse and the other Westerners in the room were understanding where he was going with this. We all know that elephants never forget right? Well, Cambodia does not have that saying. Actually, elephants have a deeper and more spiritual meaning for Cambodians connected to Hinduism. So when this Beatles looking twenty five year old showed a picture of an elephant to explain one of his main point and the room had these very confused looks on their faces I could not help but crack up laughing. As his eyes and others turned towards me I realized that I may have laughed a little too loud. He then understood that this is obviously not translating so he continued to laugh and say with a defeated but still comedic tone, “Well, I guess I just showed you a picture of an elephant and your wondering why. Well, I like elephants.” To this I began (and some other westerners in the room) all joined in laughter and he quickly moved on to his next point.

This may be totally not funny and you may be wondering why you are still reading. Well keep reading I’m not finished. Guess you had to be there.

Communication issue number two. So in Cambodia you have diarrhea, aka BigD, all the time. This is a normal occurrence for just about every foreigner. (My boss has even re-written a Michael W. Smith song about the topic of BigD. I will have to record and sing it for you.) For the sake of the persons privacy I will not name any names but today the word for BigD in Khmer was not translating well. So the person decided to act out what BigD sounded like with motions and all. Oh, I love communication difficulties. Brings a smile to my face.

The third and final thing that happened today was that I found myself riding home on the back of a strangers moto. Ok, let me explain. If you live in Cambodia you don’t think this is a big deal I know. Here we have two main ways to get around the city. Tuktuks and motos. You are followed around all day by men shouting, “ladyyyy tuktuk, madam moto,” I hear it in my sleep. Moto-dope drivers are men that take you to where you want to go by jumping on the back of their moto. This is beyond normal in everyday life. I had never taken a moto-dope driver before, not because I was apposed, but never needed to or never had a helmet. So this morning Vouen picked me up for the conference and I teased him that he was my moto-dope driver. People were looking at us funny when I used his name said hi and jumped on. It was time to leave and Vouen looked at me and said, “Moto?” I thought he was trying to be funny. Like, do I want to have him be my moto driver again. As we walked outside I clarified with him that he could take me home, he kept saying,  “Yes, moto.” He kept looking at me funny when I was laughing at him like it was a joke. We got to the front and before I knew it I was on the back of some guys moto driving home. When I thought he was making a joke he was really telling me that he would get a moto-dope driver to take me home.

Oh goodness. The things that happen here. There are more stories I could tell. Like accidentally using the F word in front of the children A LOT or peeing behind a Khmer guys house. Maybe for another day. This country is slowly growing on me and I enjoy the laughs I get to have daily because of this wonderful place.

BreanneBreanne4 Comments