Funniest Thing

July, 2018 Issue

This month’s winner is JANE B. HOLT of Hinesburg, Vermont:

Kyoto was booked solid for the 2018 sakura (cherry blossom) season, so my husband, Clyde, and I stayed a 9-minute train ride away in Otsu at the Prince Hotel, on the shores of Lake Biwa. We took the hotel’s free shuttle to the train station to dine at a different nearby restaurant each night.

On April 13th, we lucked into Toriraku, a 3-minute walk from the station. Toriraku is a small izakaya (pub), and it was filled with parties of locals, who were discreetly curious about us interloping gaijin (foreigners).

We have no Japanese to speak of so were pleased to be given an English menu, but the list of specials for the day was in Japanese only. Happily, my iPhone and the Google Translate service worked for those.

I wanted to confirm that Google was right and the duck special really was duck. I asked the waiter in English and got a blank stare, so I tried “Quack, quack?”

The waiter was much relieved and said (using the Japanese pronunciation), “Hai! Quoc, quoc!”

I still wasn’t certain so returned with “Aflac?!” (As in the US, the insurance company has a big presence in Japan, where their spokesmascot is the same quacking duck.)

This the waiter thought was great, and the adjacent table of men, who had secretly been watching us, broke into cheers. The other tables in the restaurant saluted us, and the waiter even relayed the story to the chef.

When the duck arrived, it was presented by the chef, himself, who, with a great flourish, announced, “Aflac!” This resulted in another round of laughing and cheers.

The duck, which we’d assumed would be roasted, was, in fact, duck sashimi, cured in black tea and presented very thinly sliced. It was very, very good, indeed, despite my initial dismay over the edge of raw fat on each slice.

As we were about to leave, the chef peeked out from the open kitchen, and Clyde gave him a thumbs-up for the Aflac. As we put on our shoes and made our exit, the other tables all gave us high-fives and thumbs-upand waved good-bye.


Tell us about the funniest thing that happened to you while traveling in a foreign country. (ITN prints no info on destinations in the United States.) There are no restrictions on length. ITN staff will choose each month’s winner, who will receive a free one-year subscription to ITN. Include your full mailing address. Entries not chosen cannot be acknowledged.


June, 2018 Issue

This month, the winners are DENZIL and JENNIE VERARDO of Elk Grove, California:

In October 2017, we went on an Adventures Abroad safari-tour to Tanzania to see the spectacular wildlife within its national parks. In our trip preparations, we had read an article in the Los Angeles Times on the Tinga Tinga folk art painting style developed in the late 20th century by the Tanzanian artist Edward Tingatinga. He is no longer alive, but his style is being emulated by young artists in East Africa. We felt that a piece by him would be a unique souvenir and a nice addition to our home.

While our guide was exceptional in his wildlife knowledge, he was not really into regional art. When we asked if he would let us know where we could stop to purchase a Tinga Tinga, he was truly puzzled about why we wanted to purchase one in Tanzania. He also said that it would be very expensive and that the shipping might not be possible. 

We said that we hoped a copy might not be as costly and said that we would just roll it up, put it in a tube and take it back, ourselves. 

He quizzically asked us what we thought a Tinga Tinga was. We showed him the Times article and he began to laugh, so we asked what was so funny. 

He explained that in Swahili, tingatinga means “tractor” or “bulldozer”!

He did take us to an area in Zanzibar with numerous artists’ shops, where we purchased a Tinga Tinga art piece. The artist rolled up our purchase and we easily carried it home.


 

Tell us about the funniest thing that happened to you while traveling in a foreign country. (ITN prints no info on destinations in the United States.) There are no restrictions on length. ITN staff will choose each month’s winner, who will receive a free one-year subscription to ITN. Include your full mailing address. Entries not chosen cannot be acknowledged.


May, 2018 Issue

This month’s winner is ELLEN RADO of Hollis, New York:

My husband and I were traveling north from Guatemala City one morning by bus. People would just stop the bus at various points to board.

When we got on, the bus was already crammed with people and chickens. There was not a free seat for us and the other newly boarding passengers. 

The driver got some planks from the back and put them across the aisle from one side to the other. This meant the aisle was blocked — clearly illegal. So, as he drove, the driver kept his eyes peeled for policemen, and if he saw one, he loudly shouted, “¡Todos abajo! ¡Todos abajo!” (“Everyone down!”), at which all plank sitters had to slide down so they wouldn’t be seen.

We got more exercise on that bus ride than we thought we would.


 

Tell us about the funniest thing that happened to you while traveling in a foreign country. (ITN prints no info on destinations in the United States.) There are no restrictions on length. ITN staff will choose each month’s winner, who will receive a free one-year subscription to ITN. Include your full mailing address. Entries not chosen cannot be acknowledged.

 


April, 2018 Issue

This month’s winner is JOHN MAAS of Raleigh, North Carolina:

At the Iglesia de San Pedro de la RĂșa in Estella, Navarra, Spain, there is a long set of stairs to climb up to its portal and cloister. However, 100 meters down the street, my wife, Aura, and I took the easier elevator to the entrance of the church’s beautiful cloister. We went inside.

I’m a faster sightseer (no dawdling), so I went ahead into the church, where almost immediately the caretaker asked me to leave because he was locking up for a couple of hours to go to lunch. 

My wife was still behind in the cloister. I went back around to the outside of the cloister looking for her and saw from above, through some iron fencing, that she was searching for a way out. Then I realized she was locked in.

She waved at me from afar, and we started chatting through our cell phones. She found a long ladder, but, thankfully, it was all chained up. Finally, I found the phone number of the town hall and called, and, soon enough, a young woman came with a key and let my wife out.  

My wife and I shared a laugh at her learning what it means to be cloistered!


 

Tell us about the funniest thing that happened to you while traveling in a foreign country. (ITN prints no info on destinations in the United States.) There are no restrictions on length. ITN staff will choose each month’s winner, who will receive a free one-year subscription to ITN. Include your full mailing address. Entries not chosen cannot be acknowledged.

 


March, 2018 Issue

This month’s winner is SANDRA GORRY of Yonkers, New York:

Crossing the street in Hanoi can be a life-altering experience. With no traffic lights or crosswalks and all manner of vehicles — mopeds, bicycles, motorcycles, pedicabs, cars — converging in total chaos (or so it seems), the pedestrian wishing to cross is coaxed to seize a moment and plunge into traffic with no hesitation, eyes straight ahead and no breathing until safely on the other side of the street.

On a visit about five years ago, I had just negotiated this traffic maelstrom and stopped to take a photo of the lovely French-colonial building directly in front of me. With my back to the street, I stepped off the curb, raised my camera and immediately was hit from behind by a moped.  

I watched in horror as the camera flew out of my hands and soared heavenward. I thought, ‘Oh, no. I’ve lost my camera on my very first day in Vietnam.’

But horror turned to amazement when I saw the moped driver stick out his hand and scoop the falling camera out of the air. He handed it back to me with a flourish, apologized for hitting me and drove off.  

One of the other members on the tour asked me, “Did that man just try to steal your camera?”

“On the contrary,” I replied. “He just saved it for me.”


Tell us about the funniest thing that happened to you while traveling in a foreign country. (ITN prints no info on destinations in the United States.) There are no restrictions on length. ITN staff will choose each month’s winner, who will receive a free one-year subscription to ITN. Include your full mailing address. Entries not chosen cannot be acknowledged.


February, 2018 Issue

This month’s winner is JOAN L. WELCH of Saint Petersburg, Florida:

On a Holland America Line cruise in 2001, during a port call in Lisbon, Portugal, my husband and I booked a table at an upscale restaurant in town.

As we were leaving the ship, Harry realized he had forgotten something and returned to the cabin. I waited for him on the pier.

Standing there in my 2-piece navy-blue business suit, I suppose I must have looked a little like a crew member. A very agitated-looking woman rushed at me with fire in her eyes, opened her mouth, looked into my face and then said, “Oh, you’re nobody!”


Tell us about the funniest thing that happened to you while traveling in a foreign country. (ITN prints no info on destinations in the United States.) There are no restrictions on length. ITN staff will choose each month’s winner, who will receive a free one-year subscription to ITN. Include your full mailing address. Entries not chosen cannot be acknowledged.

 


January, 2018 Issue

This month’s winner is PEGGY PARKER of Milwaukie, Oregon:

While standing in long lines at airport security and Customs for a very early flight from Guatemala, we noticed many locals carrying large takeout bags of fried chicken, to be eaten later on the plane.

As we boarded and were getting settled into our seats, we felt as if we had gone to a chicken franchise, due to the aroma in the plane.

We decided that “boarding with chicken when leaving Guatemala” was not so very unusual when the flight attendant gave her safety speech before takeoff. It went something like this:

“Please stow carry-on luggage in the overhead bins, and all purses, small bags and chicken under the seat in front of you.”

Experiences like this are why we travel, right?


Tell us about the funniest thing that happened to you while traveling in a foreign country. (ITN prints no info on destinations in the United States.) There are no restrictions on length. ITN staff will choose each month’s winner, who will receive a free one-year subscription to ITN. Include your full mailing address. Entries not chosen cannot be acknowledged. 


December, 2017 Issue

Tell us about the funniest thing that happened to you while traveling in a foreign country. (ITN prints no info on destinations in the United States.) There are no restrictions on length. ITN staff will choose each month’s winner, who will receive a free one-year subscription to ITN. Include your full mailing address. Entries not chosen cannot be acknowledged. 


This month’s winner is JAMES A. THORSON of Buffalo Grove, IL:

By 1982, my wife and I had not done much international travel yet, nor were we very familiar with foreign environments. That year, we took a trip to Russia that included an overnight in Helsinki. I certainly was not aware that, even then, most Finns spoke English fluently.

Having a little heartburn, I tentatively made my way into a pharmacy, where I acted out for the pharmacist and her assistant what I wanted. 

I indicated that I was opening a bottle and shaking out a couple of tablets into a glass. I mimed that I was pouring water into the glass, which I then swirled, making a fizzing sound. The two people in my audience were enjoying this. Then I motioned that I was drinking it down and even patted my tummy and, lastly, burped. They were trying not to laugh, at this point.

The pharmacist then said, “Oh, you want some Alka-Seltzer. It’s on the shelf behind you.”


November, 2017 Issue

Tell us about the funniest thing that happened to you while traveling in a foreign country. (ITN prints no info on destinations in the United States.) There are no restrictions on length. ITN staff will choose each month’s winner, who will receive a free one-year subscription to ITN. Include your full mailing address. Entries not chosen cannot be acknowledged. 

This month’s winner is JAY LEVY of Takoma Park, Maryland:

 

In a hotel in Cienfuegos, Cuba, several years ago, our group was on our way down to the lobby. While waiting for the elevator, I commented that the rather dreary-looking hotel reminded me of the drab, box-like structures in Russian housing blocks. 

No sooner was the last word out of my mouth when the elevator door opened and an angry man shouted at me in a foreign accent, “This hotel was built by the East Germans, not the Russians!” 

As we all gaped at him in disbelief and the door slowly closed, no one made a move to catch the elevator. When we took the next one down, thankfully, the man was nowhere to be seen.


October, 2017 Issue

This month’s winner is MICHAEL BRANDT of El Dorado Hills, California:

It was a beautiful, sunny day in Bahamian waters, and there was a hypnotic spell about being on the open sea. I decided to walk on the cruise ship’s track, located on Deck 11. The track was one-tenth of a mile around, so 10 loops made a mile. It was a nicely laid-out track, freshly painted blue and located on the upper deck, overlooking the pool. 

I tracked my mileage using my iPhone’s GPS. In a short time, I found that, even at the age of 75, I had walked faster than a running cheetah in search of a tasty Thompson’s gazelle. In 20 minutes, my GPS had captured 6 miles. A world record, I must say! And then it dawned on me that I was recording the ship’s movement in addition to my walking. 

Welcome to the mysteries of the Bermuda Triangle, or was I bending time?


Tell us about the funniest thing that happened to you while traveling in a foreign country. (ITN prints no info on destinations in the United States.) There are no restrictions on length. ITN staff will choose each month’s winner, who will receive a free one-year subscription to ITN. Include your full mailing address. Entries not chosen cannot be acknowledged.