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Monday, 24 November 2014

Sprechen Sie Estonian?

By Trudi Kappel

I was in the frenzy of the final weeks leading to the award of my Master’s degree when my college friend Rita called. Her grad school was offering its students and their families a five week, round trip charter flight from Boston to London at an incredibly low price. Would I like to go as her “sister?”

YES! I didn’t have a job lined up. Five weeks exploring Europe would be a welcome break between the stress of school and the stress of a job search.

My parents gave me the charter flight, a London to Rome round trip air ticket with stop-off privileges and a copy of Arthur Frommer’s Guide “Europe on $5 a Day as a graduation gift. This was not going to be a luxury expedition.

I drained my savings; got my first passport and a few days after graduation we were airborne.

We had been warned about aggressive European men especially Italians. The stories were of shady characters preying on young American female tourists at least pinching their bottoms and at worst making off with their money and their virtue. We were wary.

After overnight in London, our first stop was Switzerland. The Swiss economy depends on tourists. Citizens go out of their way to make sure visitors want to return. There were no incidents. They even seemed to understand my high school French! Next on to Italy.

The advance information was correct. We attracted lots of attention. Too much attention. We were having trouble getting to some sights because of the interference. It was a nuisance and it was scary. The men spoke some English, but the word “NO!” was always absent from their vocabulary.

One day we were resting our feet, sitting on the base of a column in the Piazza San Pietro in Vatican City, when we saw two young men approaching. Oh no. Here we go again.

“Buongiorno!”

We shook our head. “Non parlo italiano.”

They tried “Bon jour.”

Again a shake.

“Hello?”

Nope. We didn’t understand that one either. Italian men know a few words in many languages and that day we couldn’t understand any of them. Finally they indicated that we should speak so they could hear our language.

Rita opened her mouth and what emerged was an incredible mélange of Yiddish and jabberwocky. I caught on and babbled back at her. We smiled and laughed. Our would-be friends looked puzzled. They didn’t know this language.

One of them found a scrap of paper and drew an outline of Europe indicating that we should point to our country.

With a nod of understanding, Rita pointed to an area south of the Gulf of Finland and very carefully pronounced ES-TON-IA.

The men looked deflated. This was a language they did not know. Estonia at that time was part of the USSR. Perhaps they thought we were spies! With a hasty “ciao” they ran off.

We used this ploy several more times during our trip to deflect unwanted attention. Nobody ever blew our cover with a cheery “Tere iludus.”

*Hey Cutie” in Estonian.*


[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Please read instructions for submitting.]

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 05:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post

Comments

How clever of your friend Rita to spontaneously come up with the an "Estonian language." And how quickly you caught on and responded in kind.

I really enjoyed this story, Trudi. Did you have any more hilarious encounters on this trip?

How I WISH I could be that quick thinking! My ideas seem to come later....much later, when I realize what I could have/should have said! Delightful story! I, too, am wondering, is there more ?

Delightful story about a couple crafty girls!

Let's hear more.

Janet

Fast thinking! I wish I always had something like that up my sleeve.

True creativity (and a well-told story about it).

Loved it! Short and sweet! A perfect short story.

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