"I'm going to speak my mind because I have nothing to lose."--S.I. Hayakawa

Friday, April 30, 2010

Lost (and Found) in the Translation

[Note: Just for the heck of it, I decided to illustrate this post with photos of a mural painted on the side of a boat house in Halibut Cove. I think its whimsy is comfortable with anything I have to say below.]

I have an itchy trigger finger. There is a direct correlation between the severity of the itch, the length of my bucket list, and the wholly imaginary amount in my wholly imaginary travel budget.

Factor in that I spent most of the winter at home and this cold and dreary April, and you can understand why every e-mail from a travel company receives my whole-hearted attention and my trigger finger itches to click on "enroll in this tour."

Like the one I received just yesterday, the one that caused me to spend several hours in front of the computer looking up hotel reviews.

I have a big, mega-monster, budget-blowing trip planned for this fall. I’m giving Elderhostel a try for the first time. They have changed their name to Exploritas, hoping to appeal to a younger clientele also. I’ll be going to China with them, as well as another country whose name I am instructed NOT to mention on my visa application.

Visiting that-country-which-shall-not-be-named has been a childhood dream, and I blame that all on my dad, who used to entertain us kids with wild tales of things mystical and metaphysical and paranormal. My mother called them “his kooky ideas.” I thought them fascinating.

With the disparity of beliefs in the household, I think I kept a balanced perspective. I tried to apply a kid’s logic to anything he said, but I also had a burgeoning imagination as well as a fledgling writer’s sense of creative license, and his tales snuggled right up to that imagination and poked my creative license on the funny bone.

But, oh, how I longed to visit that-country-which-shall-not-be-named. I was only seven years old when the young spiritual leader of that-country-which-shall-not-be-named escaped in a night-time adventure, but I remember hearing about it on the radio. I remember listening to Lowell Thomas Sr., that world-wide adventurer, talking about that-country-which-shall-not-be-named, and then daydreaming about going there.

So, I am. And that’s why I got my itinerary and researched reviews about the various hotels I’ll be staying in when I’m in China. Some of them were written in Chinese characters. I found the Google translate button on one review, and this, in part, is what popped up:

“But the hotel’s architectural style is very general, may be green would be better, may be that Chinese buildings are like this bar,…” it read.

And then came the best line of all. “…internal to the external kind of lost.”

I love it.

It’s so Zen-like, so (pardon the ethnic cliché’) inscrutable. “Internal to the external kind of lost.”

I think I’ll print it out and tack it to the wall above my computer.


  1. I got so caught up in the photos, when I reached the end I couldn't remember a word I read. I'll try again tomorrow.

  2. If you happen to see Ronald Colman anywhere around, say 'hi' from me.

  3. On the flipside (and I don't know if your travel people explained this), it may be a nice place to visit, but the trip home can do really nasty things to your complexion. Just ask Jane Wyatt.

  4. I am so insanely jealous!
    I hope you take tons of photos when visiting China and especially when you are visiting that-country-which-shall-not-be-named.

  5. This blog post is delightful in every way. The photos and your description of your trip were a joy to read, in fact, I went through it twice, just for the fun of it.

    It seems to me that your muse is back and behaving better than ever.

    I especially love the entire paragraph that includes "...his tales snuggled right up to that imagination and poked my creative license on the funny bone."

    Everything you wrote is engaging to say the least. Besides that, I'm excited that you're taking another trip and curious about "that-country-that-shall-not-be-named."

    The mural is whimsical, indeed. I loved viewing your photos of it as I read of your thoughts and plans.

    Splendid, my friend, splendid indeed.

  6. I was laughing so hard I could hardly read.

  7. My folks did a lot of Elderhostel trips. You should enjoy it . . . it always seemed that they put together a good program.

    I've never been to Mainland China (only Hong Kong and Taiwan), but sounds fantastic. Happy Trails!