Trail of Crumbs

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I would like to take a moment to talk about durian.

I have to. I have spent the larger part of the morning working on a post about the Khmer Rouge, and I very much need a mental break, and talking about stinky fruit will allow for that to happen.

So. Durian.

The stuff is notorious, and you’ve probably heard of it. Miraculously, I somehow failed to take a photo of the inside of the fruit (I think I was hypnotized by the smell) but here is its exterior:

 

I like to think of the spikes as being Mother Nature’s subtle way of saying, “Get back. Seriously.”

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My presumption with any warning sign, or really any sign at all, is that it exists for a reason. Like, you wouldn’t put a warning sign that says “Watch Your Step!” unless a dozen or so people had tripped on that particular spot. No sign, I figure, is unsolicited or unprovoked.

Which is why the two that I saw in Sorrento, near the docks for the ferries to Capri, were so darn delightful. Because they do not feel unsolicited. They feel like a specific response to the crazy actions of southern Italians.

This was the sign in the bathroom. When I first saw it, I thought I was hallucinating, because NOTHING could be so magical. Notice, also, that it isn’t translated. Do you know why? Because NO ONE BUT ITALIANS WOULD THINK TO DO THIS THING IN THE FIRST PLACE.

 

The sign says (and I shit you not): “IT IS ABSOLUTELY FORBIDDEN TO WASH YOUR FEET IN THE SINK. THANK YOU”

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“Is … is that a peacock?” Rand asked me as we walked through the village.

“Where?”

“Over there, by the church.”

“I highly doubt it,” I said, squinting in the direction he was pointing. “I don’t think that-”

And then I saw it.

“Yup,” I said. “That’s definitely a peacock.”

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Rand and I stopped in Garmisch for a quick snack at a bakery (because if I say I need a snack, 90% of the time what I mean is “I need a pastry). Upon leaving, I noticed the sign on the restaurant across the way, and went in for a closer look.

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I’ve learned that certain things which may be considered totally acceptable in one country aren’t okay in another. That customs and cultures don’t necessarily translate. Even the things that we find to be horrifically offensive aren’t universal.

Recently, I visited my family in Italy. I got to talking with my cousin, and she explained to me that the term “finocchio” (literally: fennel) is an offensive term to describe someone who is homosexual.

“You would never, ever use it,” she said, her green eyes wide.

It’s a reminder that words have power, that even something innocuous can be offensive if you are crossing cultural lines.

That being said, I do not consider this to be innocuous. I consider this to be seriously effed up:

This. Just. NO.

 

That is a poster for a recent production of a play (“Othello darf nicht platzen” – literally, “Othello may not burst”) featuring two white guys in blackface. When I saw it in the Munich subway, I found myself just staring blankly, my mouth hanging limply open.

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I’ve noticed a continual trend whenever I visit Europe, and it’s getting downright bizarre: t-shirts with non-sensical English words on them.

I know that this isn’t new – there are entire blogs dedicated to this stuff, but usually it occurs in Asian countries that use a non-Roman alphabet, so the discrepancy sort of makes sense, and it’s very much a two-way street: I knew plenty of girls in college who didn’t speak a lick of Japanese but that didn’t stop them from getting tattoos of what they claimed were the kanji symbols for “harmony” and “happiness.”

I have no idea how they verified that.

But the thing is, practically everyone in Europe speaks English. And they speak it very, very well. And yet there are still lots of shirts like this:

It says (in case you have trouble reading it): “DON’T WORRY BE SEXY -1969- SUPREME LIFE.”

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Rand was in Hamburg last week, while I stayed home and watched American Idol. We were both happy with this arrangement, because he HATES American Idol, and I wasn’t quite feeling up to going to Germany for only two days.

Also, I was able to learn that I kind of hate American Idol, too, and that sort of important introspection can only happen when you are home alone, wincing at the sounds coming out of your TV.

On the way back to Seattle, Rand flew through Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris, and he showed me this picture.

It’s hard to tell, but Rand is making a really awesome WTF face, which he happens to give me whenever I’m navigating us someplace.

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Remember how I said, like, just last week that even though I wasn’t a religious person, I could easily get behind the beliefs of those who are religious? Let’s keep that in mind, and remember that I am sometimes open-minded and loving, and accepting of the beliefs of others.

This, however, is not one of those times.

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