Lost in Translation: Kiwis say it otherwise

For our first tour outside the United States, we decided to make things easier by traveling somewhere with a common language. We had read about New Zealand’s beauty, the friendliness of its people, and how pleasant a place it is to stay, as well as its claim to speak English.

Upon arrival, we found that even though we spoke the same language, sometimes it didn’t feel that way. Some things still got lost in translation.

For example, for dessert one night, we decided to try a New Zealand milkshake. And not just any kind of milkshake, a “thick shake.” Here in the US, a thick shake is, well, thick, usually requiring a spoon to enjoy it properly.

When our thick shake arrived at the table, we were a little disappointed to find that not only was there no spoon, but it was liquid! It was mainly milk, with flavoring, and a scoop of ice cream. I guess that’s where the “thick” comes from. Ah, well. It tasted good regardless.

Bacon in NZ is not necessarily what Americans would call bacon. I ordered a “bacon burger,” thinking it would be a hamburger with slices of bacon. Nope. It was basically a ham sandwich, on a hamburger bun, not even including a hamburger patty. Slightly disappointing. If you are looking for proper American style bacon, the Kiwis call it “streaky bacon.”

On our last day in NZ, I needed a late afternoon pick-me-up, and we popped into a coffee shop. They advertised “iced” drinks, so I ordered an iced coffee. I expected to get coffee, with ice. Instead, the waitress served me a coffee milk shake, complete with ice cream, milk, and chocolate syrup. It was delicious, and even better than the aforementioned thick shake, just not what I had expected.

A bicyclist stands next to a road sign which reads "slumps"
Matt puzzles over a New Zealand road sign

As we rode our bicycles around New Zealand, we were constantly amused at the differences in road sign wording that our two countries use. Over time, we became used to the differences, but every once in a while one would stand out. We actually came across a sign that we still have no idea what it could have meant: A hazard sign (orange with a black exclamation point), and underneath the word “Slumps.” We’re still puzzling over the meaning of that sign. And, sometimes the road signs were polite to the point of ridiculousness. For example, a sign in Christchurch read: Buses and heavy vehicles to use High St one way system as Manchester/Taum intersection not suitable. Seems like a much more polite way to state: Large Vehicles Prohibited.

The longer we were in New Zealand, the more we found ourselves adopting the local words for various activities and things. In a small way, we were able to pick up a little bit of the culture of New Zealand, even in the short time we were there. We had a fantastic time, and look forward to traveling to many more exciting places in the future.

Paying it Back (and Forward)

Recently we found ourselves with some spare time after a trip to Monterey, California. Instead of taking the most direct route back home Pam and I decided to take the scenic Highway 1 down the coast. This put us on the prime bicycle touring route in the beginning of June. We thought it would be neat if we grabbed some snacks and drinks for any cycle tourists we encountered on our way home to Los Angeles.

We started off from Monterey and saw no one for miles and miles. In fact, we were beginning to believe that there were not going to be any bicycle tourist on our entire route. But finally we happened upon Jean from Quebec, Canada. We offered him water or snacks to which he politely refused (I never thought a bicycle tourist would refuse free food). However he did share some of his story, and as Pam put it: “He was full of happiness.” Jean and a partner have been going for 30 days straight with no rest days, yet Jean still had a smile on his face and was a blast to chat with.

After Jean we ran in to one more tourist who wasn’t interested in talking to us and a few tourists going northbound which we couldn’t stop to say hi to. We kept on driving down the coast and made it to Lompoc. From our own Pacific touring we knew that from Lompoc to the coast is a challenging ride. About ¾ of the way to the coast we saw a lone tourist battling a headwind and an uphill. We stopped to offer him some water and snacks. Dave graciously accepted and chatted with us.

Dave was also from Canada, but more from the Western side, and was 29 days into his tour, also with no rest days. We were certainly impressed; he was flying down the coast, and seemed to be a having a great time of it. We chatted on the side of the road for a bit and shared a little information on what was coming and where to stay.

Then Dave mentioned that we made his day by stopping and offering him some food and water. That in turn made our day. We had set out hoping to give a few people cheer along the way and had succeeded. Being tourists ourselves we know how much these random acts of kindness mean when you’re touring, and now we were able to pass that on to others.

What did it cost us other than a few moments of time, a bottle of Gatorade, and a few granola bars? Almost nothing, and we made a few people have a better day because of it. So as a thanks to everyone who has supported us on a tour, today we tried to pay it back, or pay it forward for the next adventure we embark upon. Either way, it was a terrific experience.