Fun With Google Translate

I have a word problem. I really, really like words. A lot.

It should come as a surprise to nobody that on my trip to the Balkans I took pictures of words to look up later.

Nor should it come as a surprise that I can spend hours playing with Google Translate.

Forget squirrels or shiny things — these are the rabbit trails I follow for amusement.

For instance, this photograph was taken of the tray back on my Croatian Air flight.

I recognized molimo vas from the language app I used before the trip. It means please. However, I wanted to figure out the rest of the words even though the translation was right below it.

Vežite se dok sjedite means Sit while you are sitting. (Google Translate: Croatian to English) But vežite, by itself, get translated tiePerhaps the literal translation is something about tying yourself in your seat?


The one time I was brave enough to use Croatian was in the Franciscan monastery in the Old City Dubrovnik. “Dvije,” I said to the man at the ticket table, indicating that I wanted two tickets.

“For that you get in free,” he said, in perfect English. He was delighted that I attempted Croatian.

Inside, we visited a beautiful garden and an art gallery. A war scar was framed on the wall.

Udar granate means A missile shot according to the sign below.  Google Translate (GT) says it means grenade attack. Close, I guess, but different.


This one is a mystery.

GT translates ĆIVU FRANA CUNDULIĆA NAROD means THE LIVING OF FRANCA CUNDULIĆA NAROD so maybe it’s a person’s name.

But if I drop the capitalization, the same words mean  a living shroud of crowds of people.

If I drop the “narod” because it’s on a separate line, and just look at the first line in all small letters, it means (according to GT) some cranium brake or the black break crank.

I kind of thought our guide said it was a music hall, but who knows?


I used the public restroom at The Tunnel of Hope Museum outside Sarajevo. There I encountered my first squatty potty. It caught me by surprise, especially when my phone fell out of my pocket. Ew. Thank goodness it didn’t fall in. I took a picture of the toilet itself to show my children, and then this one of the sign on the tank to see how it translated out.

Molimo ne bacajte papir u wc šolju, već u kantu za smeće translates to Please do not throw paper in the toilet, already in a garbage can (GT: Bosnian to English) Not bad, really.


Last, a tee shirt.

I have no idea what the guy thought when I snapped this picture. This was after the soccer game (fudbalski) — and it looked like one of those “I’m with Stupid” shirts.

GT defaulted to German for Er heiratet, translating them he marries.

We were in Bosnia at the time, so I tried to force a Bosnian translation — but GT said it meant Er hieratet.

The other team was from Croatia, so I checked the Croatian translation, and GT said, That’s a heir. I thought GT would know that it should be an, not a. But I’ll forgive GT because the words were, after all, German.

GT couldn’t translate Wir sind nur sum saufen hier from Bosnian or Croatian. In German, however, the words meant we’re just drinking here.

A groomsmen shirt. Wedding humor.

When words are playthings, and Google Translate is available, fun is all around. I found that on my trip.

The Elements

One of my favorite family trips was in June 2015 when we all traveled to British Columbia for Sam and Donna’s wedding.

The Pacific Northwest is God’s country. It’s wild and beautiful.

Sam drove us to an amazing vantage point, looking down on the city of Vancouver.

Sky (and earth and water)

It made me feel small and big at the same time.

That same day we visited Whytecliff Park where we climbed around on rocks and skipped stones in Horseshoe Bay.

Earth and Water

My Facebook profile picture is from there that day.

Earth and Water (and me in between)

Everything about that trip was wonderful. My family was all there. A dear friend joined us. The wedding was beautiful.

Since we had to fly out of Seattle, we spent a day there on the tail end of the trip.

We walked all around Seattle. Through Pike’s Market. Though the Olympic Sculpture Park. To the Space Needle.

We didn’t go up in the Space Needle, but instead went to Chihuly Garden and Glass Museum which is near the base. The intermingling of glass sculptures and native plants is stunning.

I sat for a while at the base of the “Sun”  in the heart of the garden —

Fire

A robin sang its familiar song. I could hear him long before I found him, perched on one of the rays of the sun.

I’m sure there’s an object lesson somewhere in that — but I’m not going to try to find it.

Rather than try to tie all these random thoughts together, I’ll leave with a quote:

I don’t ask for the meaning of the song of a bird or the rising of the sun on a misty morning. There they are, and they are beautiful.

Pete Hamill


In response to this week’s Photography Challenge: Elemental


My friend, Renee, tagged me in a photography challenge that involves posting nature photos (taken by me) for seven days. She did it on Facebook, but I’m going to do mine here, starting with far away places and moving closer to home every day.

For Day #4, I used pictures from Vancouver, BC and Seattle, WA. I was just under 3000 miles from home!

I’m going to tag some of my favorite bloggers to take up the challenge too. If you’re tagged and don’t want to do it, that 110% fine with me. I totally understand.

…Relax (Sorry, I realized that I don’t even know your name!) — I’m tagging you. I know you don’t post many pictures, but maybe you can use 1,000 words instead. You do have a way with words. 🙂

 

Learning a New Language

Ayla’s English was impeccable. Well, nearly impeccable.

When we first met, someone asked her how old she was.

“Twenty,” she said, without batting an eye.

“Twenty?” someone else questioned.

She flushed and giggled a little, realizing her mistake.  “No, twelve.”

I turned to Amina, our official translator. “Are twelve and twenty similar in Bosnian?” I asked. It would make sense, because they’re pretty similar in English.

“Yes,” she replied.

It reminded me of words that I hesitated to use in Croatia. I had learned over 350 Croatian words using an app before I traveled. Some words, however, I consistently confused.

For instance — zabranjen, which means forbidden, and začinjen, which means spicy.  It would have been kind of funny if I pointed to a food asked “Zabranjen?”

apricots(?) and plums

It turns out that Bosnian food really isn’t terribly spicy, just delicious.  Everything is fresh. The bread was baked fresh for us every day. We had fresh plums, apricots, watermelon. A salad made with fresh tomatoes and cabbage, lightly seasoned with salt, oil, and vinegar was served at several meals (I even got to help make it once.)

They made a most delicious soup called čorba.  The secret ingredient, I learned, was okra. Not fried okra like one would find in the south, but okra that had been cut into little pieces and dried and strung. I’d like to make it here, but I’m not where to find the okra.

Yes, that’s me slicing tomatoes, but Anna, next to me, is eating čorba

Back to Ayla — as I said, her English was excellent. When Amina wasn’t available, I would ask Ajla for help communicating and she was fantastic.

I had brought along a friend’s book to read, a children’s book called Henry and the Chalk Dragon, and finished it on my flight to Dubrovnik. I quickly realized that Ajla had the language skills to read the book — if she was interested. She was.

Ajla and Amina

Some things get lost in translation, though. Mary and I were talking yesterday about the time when Mary was telling a  story she made up with talking and flying animals, Ajla said, “You are a great storyteller  — in the lies.

How could we explain the difference between imagination and lies?

Henry and the Chalk Dragon is a very imaginative book, with chalk creatures coming to life — but it’s also full of truths. I hope Ajla can see them.

She wants to be an artist, and here’s one truth  from Henry that she needs to understand:

You have to be brave to be an artist…. It takes a fearless knight to imagine something and then let it out into the world.

Jennifer Trafton Peterson, Henry and the Chalk Dragon

Little Things in Dubrovnik

“I suspect many of us walk past true gems every day without considering where they came from and what journeys they have endured.”

Richard LaMotte, Pure Sea Glass: Discovering Nature’s Vanishing Gems

After our morning swim in the Adriatic Sea, Leah set about collecting sea glass. She gathered quite a few pieces in her hand and then left them in a little pile on the beach. The fun for her was in the finding.

Sea glass from the Adriatic

I imagined some child coming to the beach after we left and being delighted by the little collection of green, white, and amber bits. The pieces had lost the smooth shimmer of new glass,  but they had a better beauty given to them by the Adriatic Sea.

For me the lesson was in leaving it behind. I am a saver from a long line of savers. We save everything. In fact, I took a few pebbles from the beach home that day. They were so pretty and I wanted to remember that morning.

They’re still in my bag, though.

And the snapshot of the sea glass is enough to help me remember.

I need to learn to let go — of stuff.

On the sea glass morning, when we got back to our apartment, a small turtle poked his head out in the garden.

A little turtle in the garden at our Airbnb

One of the biggest lessons from my European travels is that Americans need to slow down. We’re always in a hurry, always watching the clock. So much of the world takes life at a more leisurely pace — and it’s wonderful.

It’s good for the body.

It’s good for the soul.

Take a walk with a turtle and behold the world in pause.

Bruce Feiler


My friend, Renee, tagged me in a photography challenge that involves posting nature photos (taken by me) for seven days. She did it on Facebook, but I’m going to do mine here, starting with far away places and moving closer to home every day.

Today, Day #1, is from Dubrovnik, where I was 4500 miles from home!

I’m going to tag some of my favorite bloggers to take up the challenge too. If you’re tagged and don’t want to do it, that 110% fine with me. I totally understand.

Anna Brown — I’m tagging you first for three reasons.

One — because when I first discovered you, you were in MONGOLIA. Talk about the farthest reaches of the world. Plus, I think you’re still pretty far away — somewhere in the wilds of Canada.

Two — you’re somewhere in the wilds of Canada (did I already say that?) and I think Canada is absolutely beautiful.

Three — I love when you write, and you haven’t written much lately, my friend. (nudge, nudge)

 

The Texture of War

Imagine to yourself a gloomy city, all burning with brimstone and noisome pitch, full of citizens who are unable to leave it.

St. Francis de Sales, in Meditation VII: Of Hell

Leah and I watch a short movie about the 1991 siege on Dubrovnik. In it, we saw people clustered in doorways and pressed against walls as they watched the attack on their city. Buildings burned in the background. When I read St. Francis’ description of hell, I thought of Dubrovnik.

When I traveled to the former Yugoslavia, reminders of war were all around me.

I saw shells of buildings, or were they shelled buildings, or both?

I’m the kind of person who averts her eyes in war movies, but I couldn’t avert my eyes there.

I drank it up, storing far more images in my mind than I did on my camera.

War leaves a texture all its own. Even 25 years later.

From Dubrovnik:

Dubrovnik

From Mostar:

Mostar

From Sarajevo:

Sarajevo

From Gradačac:

View from an armored train outside Gradačac

We stayed in a castle in Gradačac. Here’s a picture of the castle in 1992.

 

And here’s what it looked when we were there:

Gradačac castle

Rebuilding brings hope.

Summer Swimming

Hitting is like swimming. Once you learn the stroke, you never forget it.

Stan (The Man) Musial, inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame 1969

A baseball quote, because Baseball Hall of Fame induction weekend is closing in, but the topic is swimming.

I hadn’t gone swimming in well over a year. Our local pool had been closed, and I’m rather loathe to be seen in a swim suit.

But during my travels, I swam multiple times.

I got in the first time because I was so hot. Leah and I took a kayaking tour around Lokrum Island. The guides had told us the temperature in Celsius which didn’t mean a whole lot to me. 

But it was hot.

On our way around the island, we stopped at a cave. Leah was, I think, the first to hop in the water. Then other people from the group jumped in — so, finally, I joined them. It was so refreshing. Refreshingly cold.

That was swim number one.

A few days later, we walked down a gazillion steps to a little swim area we had noticed on our way to and from the Airbnb.

We got there early. A young woman was doing yoga on the pier while a handful of people were already in the water. Of course, Leah ventured in first. I followed.

Even at 8 AM, Dubrovnik was hot, so the water felt good — cold and refreshing. I swam to the far post, to the mouth of a cave, and back to the post. I hadn’t forgotten how to swim, despite my hiatus.

Swim number three took place during a tour from Mostar. We spent a few hours at a place called Kravice Falls.

Our tour group consisted of Leah, a family of four from Sweden, a young woman who was a recent college graduate, and me.

The two girls from the Swedish family immediately headed for the water. The rest of us sat at a table and ordered some lunch. The girls called and waved to their parents from the water.

“The younger one just learned to swim on this trip,” said the mother.

Subconsciously, I scanned the swim area for lifeguards. Nada.

“A week or so ago, she just decided she would swim,” the mother continued.

There were ropes out in the swim area, but no clear designations what they were all about. People just seemed to swim wherever they wanted.

“There are no lifeguards here,” I said. “Does that make you nervous?”

I asked because it was making me nervous.

“No,” said the mom, “they’ll be fine.”

I realized that Americans are far more safety conscious than the rest of the world.

And that someone who has been a lifeguard/swim instructor/swim coach can’t turn off that part of her brain.

I swam at Kravice Falls with the young woman who was part of our group. We got in the middle of the swim area on our way to the falls, and she said, “I’m feeling really panicky. I don’t think I can make it.”

We stopped and treaded water for a while. Right there, in the middle, we paused and talked. I told her that I was a swim coach. I asked her about her life. I watched the anxiety dissolve before we continued to the falls where we sat on a rock together and let the water beat down on our backs.

My fourth swim was at a lake in Bosnia.

One of the men from Gradacac had made arrangements for us to visit a scuba club. At a lake. In Bosnia.

We didn’t scuba, but we did go out on a boat tour of the lake.

Our sweet translator, Amina, didn’t know how to swim, so she put on a life jacket. And clutched Nicole’s leg.

I reminded her to breathe. And took lousy pictures of her.

After the boat ride, I swam out in the lake. It was cool (not cold, like the Adriatic) and refreshing.

Swimming again gave me great satisfaction.

I hadn’t forgotten how.

I still loved it.

Now that the pool has reopened, I need to get back.

Things I Would Have Done Differently in Bosnia

While I was in Bosnia, I began thinking of things that I would do differently next time.

First, I would bring my computer.  I intentionally did not bring my computer on this trip, so I could “unplug” a little. I had my phone which I thought would be adequate.

I learned something about myself, though. When I journal with a notebook and a pen, I tend to write little notes to myself. Reminders of the day. Conversations occasionally, but with minimal extras.  When I write on my computer, I write complete sentences. Or complete thoughts. (<– see what I did there?) I edit, delete, rewrite, and write a little more — because the process of writing helps me to unfold my thoughts more completely.

In Bosnia mosques and churches – side by side — something I’m still pondering

For two weeks, I didn’t do that. Now I am left with a hopelessly tangled knot. I try to write about an experience I had there and I can tell something isn’t right about what I just wrote, but I’ve lost the moment. Sigh.

So — next time, the computer travels with me, and journalling will be worked into the schedule.

Second, I would bring more gifts. I was overwhelmed with the generosity of the Bosnian women. They gave us clothes, jewelry, hand-made lace items, plums — not because we needed them, but because they wanted to express things that only a gift can express — Thank you. I appreciate you. I want you to remember me. I was thinking of you and I wanted you to have this.

Group photo — I’m holding some clothing given to me as a gift

Quite frankly, I wasn’t prepared at all for that. I had thrown a few things in my bag to give, and gave them on our last day. (Stay tuned for a future post about that.) But I really wished I had more, much more, because I wanted to say all those things that only a gift can express. (See previous paragraph.)

Third, skip the brick brigade.

Passing bricks

Ostensibly, we were there to help build a house. I was a little skeptical of my part in that from the get-go, but figured there must be something I could do. A prerequisite for the trip was the ability to carry bricks uphill. Well, we carried them downhill. And not even that. We formed a brick brigade and passed them down the line in the many-hands-make-light-work spirit. Moving a palette of bricks took, maybe, 20 minutes. It just felt like, um, fluff — well, as fluffy as brick-moving can be. Later in the week, I saw a truck deliver bricks much closer to the work site. It made me wonder how much of the original delivery site was so that the Americans could feel useful. I didn’t want to feel useful; I wanted to be useful.

Which is why, fourth, I would have volunteered more in the kitchen. On the last day, I went into the kitchen with the Bosnian women. Perhaps I should have stuck with moving bricks because I was pretty terrible at scraping potatoes. Had I started earlier in the week, by this point, I might have gotten the hang of it. Had I known I would be doing that before we left, I would have brought some peelers. As gifts. To say, I want you to remember me — every time you peel potatoes.

Cutting cabbage

But peeling potatoes and cutting cabbage were the highlights of my week. We communicated through hand gestures (when the translator stepped out) and demonstration. We laughed at my clumsiness – ineptness needs no translation and neither does laughter. The women asked if I wanted to make the traditional pie, but, if I couldn’t peel a potato well, I was afraid what I would do to the pie.

Our hostess making pie

Next time, though, I would head straight for the kitchen. I would help with the daily bread-making and soup-making. And I would learn the Bosnian way of rolling out pie dough. (It was pretty amazing!)

Last, I would leave the photography to other people. If I had left my computer home so I could be unplugged, I should have left the camera off so I would stay in the moment. I’m not the greatest photographer. One girl on the trip was truly gifted in that area. My pictures are adequate at best.

In addition to shoveling cement, Nicole took fabulous pictures

Once, when we went out on a boat, Amina, our translator, asked me to take a picture of her. The first three or four pictures that I tried to take were so bad that she turned to someone else. I should have warned her that I was lousy photographer.

As the week went on, I took less and less photographs. I tried to memorize the things I was seeing, smelling, tasting and feeling. All the pictures in the post were taken by someone else — proof that I didn’t need to take any.

A number of people have asked if I will go back to Bosnia.

I guess I need to, if only to do it better.