True story: Back in the 80s, a friend of mine flew home from the Dominican Republic with her Spanish-speaking grandfather and a gallon-size container of honey from his farm. As if he were traveling with gold bars, he carefully placed the jug of honey in the overhead bin a few seats away. About half-way through the flight, the unlucky man beneath said bin found himself completely doused in honey, which seeped into his ears, covered his eyes, and slid down the space between his collar and his neck. As everyone on the plane turned to see what the shrieking was all about, my friend–who was eight at the time—became the impromptu translator of some colorful language from the flight attendant to her grandfather.
My memories of cultural dance performances are not fond ones. Taking the stage to a thunderous “A-LOHHH-HA” and demonstrating the hula to hundreds of tourists at the Polynesian Cultural Center was not my idea of a good time when I was 10. Then there was that time at the Greek Easter festival when an elderly man pulled me into a humongous dance circle to solicit a good laugh at my expense. But I digress…
More recently, I met my mother for an indulgent week of eating and shopping in Buenos Aires. I was keen to distinguish us from the tourists who had no doubt shelled out lots of cash to see one of the famous tango shows (you know, the ones with live horses on stage?). Being cheap – I prefer “frugal” – I mused that only tourists go to those shows. Travelers like us sit in bars until 4 a.m., drinking Malbec and smoking cigarettes, even if we’re ardently anti-smoking at home.
As someone who makes a living inspiring travel, I can’t help but feel a little sorry for Kazakhstan, given the flogging it’s taken lately with the success of “Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan.” In the optimistic spirit of The Other Iraq (yes, really) and travel ads for Chernobyl, Kazakhstan has launched a slew of TV ads, promoting it as the “heart of Eurasia.” I love a savvy marketing campaign as much as the next gal, but I’m guessing it’s going to take a whole lot more to get people to spend their summer vacations in, say, Northern Iraq. All empathies aside, “Borat” might just be the funniest movie I have ever seen.
I’ve taken 13 flights in the past two months, and if there’s one thing I’ve learned – besides mastering that “Lost in Translation”-like blank stare on people movers, escalators and airtrams – it’s that good things really do come in small packages. By small, I mean 3 oz. or less.
This really crystallized for me after watching a woman, who was undoubtedly somebody’s mom, cause quite a ruckus at security because she was forced to check her designer purse (or risk having the nearly $300 worth of beauty products that it contained tossed in the garbage). Then, there was another passenger who accused security of stealing her jewelry (while her husband moseyed toward the gate). I had a good chuckle because she was merely being asked to remove her necklaces before walking through the metal detector.