Wednesday, September 13, 2006

land of milk & honey

It's really weird hearing myself speak another language. Sure, I'm not that competent in German and if the usual Q&A involved in buying food at the supermarket deviates from the regular script I'm screwed. Ask anyone who's taken LSD and then attempts to buy a Mars Bar from the Hindley Street Servo at 3am and they'll know what I mean. But back here in Austria, I can follow some conversations (sorta), understand most adverts (kinda), and pronounce stuff correctly (maybe), without totally slaughtering the language (almost). There are times where I wished I had learnt another language when I was at school. It may have made this baptism of fire a lot less toasty. But I'm finding that I'm clinging onto the words I learn with more passion than could be found in the shitty schools I attended. This is thanks to the situation or challenges involved in adding that word to my vocabulary. Geez.. I can now say "hello/goodbye, yes/no, please/thankyou, Cheers!" in six languages. What frustrates me is 90% of the people I'm meeting speak reasonable to excellent English, so there's really no pressure for me to learn new words.

However, today I was talking to a friend, retelling my stomach troubles from a couple of years ago and some of the more amusing arse situations that have reared (ha!) their ugly heads while I've been travelling and I was reminded of just how lucky I have it here in Austria. This subject came up after posting 20 Euros to Porvoo for a forgotten medical bill, which was acquired (thankfully indirectly), via a large lubed up hose and an attractive but severe Finnish nurse ("so when was the last time you.. err... make a shit?"), who assured me it would all be over real soon.

In China, there was the great laxative hunt, which included such classic moments as me miming to the chemist that I couldn't poop (pointing to my bum and then making a cross with my arms), and that I needed something that would make me poop (miming the taking of a pill, pointing at an imaginary watch then miming the blast from behind). Once the message had crossed the cultural divide, she handed me a box covered with Chinese Kanji and again I made the "taking a pill" mime. She started laughing at me, shaking her head and made it very clear that it wasn't to be taken orally. Oh ok. Xie xie. I tried the tea, but that didn't shift it.

In Russia, I tried the same mime I used in China at a chemist (aпteka), only to be scowled at by some nasty looking babushka. пpobaлиbaй. Not to be fazed by this hurdle and to get to the bottom (ha!) of my issue, I went to a book shop, found a Russian-English dictionary and carefully wrote down the Russian word for laxative (cЛaбйteльнoe cpeдctbo), on a piece of paper. I went to a different chemist, handed the younger, embarrassingly attractive clerk my piece of paper (to which she answered in English: "oh, so you are having trouble going to the toilet?"), and walked out safe in the knowledge that relief was almost at hand. Cпacиbo. Looking back, I was in discomfort for most of April and May thanks to my lockdown, but because it was my arse that had the issue (sounds familiar?), it had a humorous edge to it which lacked the severity of a stingray barb through the heart or a baby with cancer.

Anyway, the person I was telling this to (who speaks decent Russian and has just quit her job as a nurse), said that the best cure for constipation is a milk and honey enema. This, as you could imagine, came as a surprise to me and I quizzed her on its effectiveness. She then told me about a woman who reported to hospital with chronic lockdown, had vomited poo a couple of times (yes, that really happens), and was on the verge of surgery to remove the blockage. About an hour before the operation was to take place, the nurses in her ward took it upon themselves to give the milk/honey/tube technique a go. They handed the tools to the new girl and got her to perform the procedure and within 5 minutes the lockdown lady was sitting on the toilet enjoying her first bowel motion in nearly a month.

Moral of the story: No matter what language it is, I'm still talking shit. And even when I present something as comforting as milk and honey, some people will just tell me to stick it up my arse anyway.

An amusing, non-poo related appendix to this story is that "Rad" in German slang means "bike". So it gives me great pleasure to present to you a new improved version of Radz on a Rad. True power needs no translation.

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