I was going to write an article about the Coronavirus and how it is affecting the world, but I realized that 1) people are panicking enough about it that I can write about something else that can make people nervous and 2) people are apparently at risk of catching the Coronavirus just for discussing the Coronavirus. In fact, there was a doctor in China who died from the Coronavirus after talking about the Coronavirus; I’m not making this up, by the way. But you can look it up. I don’t want to talk about the Coronavirus any more and risk catching the Coronavirus.
Instead, I’ll write about something else. Like the fact that my son is now traveling with his classmates to Canada. They’re going on a very fancy bus, enjoying more comfortable accommodations than I do trying to fit in an airline seat (excuse me, I asked for the SMALL sardine can, thank you). They’re on a class field trip for 8th graders to Quebec, Ontario where the official motto is: Va-t’en, idiot américain / Go away, you American jerk. Remember, in Canada, everything needs to be written in French AND English, to increase the chances that people standing next to each other will be given conflicting information.
While there, the students have the opportunity to see how people from another country, who speak a different language, and a moderately different culture, hate the average American.
I can’t say I entirely blame people from other countries for hating us; after all, we tend to hate them, they tend to hate each other. Realistically, international relations could best be summed up as 195 sovereign nations staring at each other crossly while secretly giving each other the finger.
All that aside, my son is getting to travel to a place that actually has COLDER weather and potentially more snowfall than Buffalo, NY – and quite often, that’s saying a lot. Of course, it’ll be no surprise if after the trip he comes back feeling a bit run down; travel is taxing on the body; my wife and I could vouch for that fact after our honeymoon. That’s a story for some other time; like after getting proper therapy and medical treatment.
For the kids (probably not the chaperones), it’s one of those enjoyable trips where they will get to learn about variations to culture, and the significance of language in shaping the lives of people from a region. Or at least it can lead to miscommunication when you place an order at a restaurant by asking for what turns out to be “Tax Not Included in Price”. At least, that’s what would happen to me.
I was never really good at foreign languages. They always seemed so… different. Which I realize is the point to learning them. But there is a vast difference between being able to understand a few key words or phrases, being able to speak or write less than half of them, and being able to do something other than saying you don’t speak the language, ask where there’s a restaurant (or bar), ordering something, realizing you need to get to a bathroom FAST, and then asking where a hospital might be, because there was definitely blood.
My son and daughter seem to be much better at stuff like this than I am (I mean foreign languages; not bleeding from digestive trauma). I think that my wife is generally better than me at languages as well. Which is good; they all like to travel, and being that they enjoy traveling, things are likely that they’ll be fine. I, however, am not much for leaving my hometown (except, maybe sometimes if it involves trains). Statistically, I will be the one in a position to require new kidneys, and perhaps to cause the declaration of a travel ban against citizens of the United States of America. It’ll be entirely an accident, I won’t be trying to anger anyone. I’ll intend to say “I really like your family’s tacos”, but it will likely translate into “I wish to fondle your wife’s taco”. You might see a problem with that statement; if not, do not attempt to complement anyone on sausage, either.
So of course, I’ll need the thing about where to find a hospital, in the local language. When trying to communicate with people who speak different languages, you’re probably in a different country or at least a different region of your own country; or you’re in Hell, where everyone is yelling at each other incomprehensibly until the end of time; or you’re in line at the DMV – which is like Hell, but without the ambiance, and lasts much longer. Chances are, too, that there is also a local water supply that your body is not acquainted with, and you will NEED to have some help with issues of a medical nature.
At any rate, my son is traveling abroad, and in 4 days he will come back and share his experiences with the family. He’ll have explored a new place; he’ll have photos of wondrous sites; he’ll have some gifts, perhaps, for family; he might have a case of pneumonia or hypothermia, because, remember, it’s Quebec. And we’ll all laugh. And then he’ll cough a bit and we’ll all freeze because we’re back to thinking about the c**********… if you know what I mean.