Category Archives: Tourism

Foreign Tongues

I wrote this poem that answers this prompt so long ago that few who are now following me have ever read it.  If you have read it, perhaps you have forgotten it, as I had..

Foreign Tongues

When I was a child, I thought as a child.
In short, I didn’t think.
My faulty reasonings were piled
like dishes in a sink.

While other children responded to
“What do you want to be?”
with “Cowboy! Teacher!” (right on cue),
these answers weren’t me.

When it came to having career talks,
I fear I was a purist.
My answer was less orthodox.
My aim? To be a tourist!!

I thought tourists then to be
a sort of gypsy pack.
Jobless, they were wild and free,
their luggage on their back.

Or in their cars, packed front and back,
traveling evermore––
a footloose, wandering, feckless pack
unsettled to the core.

I saw them passing on the road
just one block south of where
my family hunched in their abode
year after passing year.

I had to wait for 19 years
to earn my traveling shoes––
to assuage my parents’ groundless fears,
abate their travel blues.

I took off on a sailing ship
to visit foreign lands.
When foreign words evaded lip,
I merely used my hands!

Back home, the English seemed to me
common––sorta dowdy.
Instead of “Moshi, moshi”
I had to murmur, “Howdy.”

As soon as school was over,
I hopped upon a plane.
I’d pass my life a rover.
Inertia was inane!

I packed up my regalia
with neither tear nor sob
to head out to Australia
for my first teaching job.

I thought that English I would teach.
It was our common tongue.
Enunciation would I preach.
Oh Lord, I was so young!

My first day there, I heard the word
“Did-ja-‘ave-a guh-die-mite?”*
I found it all to be absurd.
They were joking. Right?

Don’t come the raw prahn on my, mite”**
was next to meet my ear.
What foreign language did they cite?
It puzzled me, I fear.

I rode, I walked, I sailed the seas
and ended up in Bali.
Said my “Terimakasih’s”
And then, “Selamat Pagi.”

My move to Africa was one
that some folks found quixotic,
but “amasaganalu
was a word I found exotic.

After two years, I went home.
Wyoming was the next
place that I agreed to roam,
though I was sorely vexed.

For though the words were all the same
I’d learned at my mom’s knee––
(I’m sure that I was all to blame)
they all seemed Greek to me!

California was where I hung
my hat for many-a-year.
There Español was half the tongue
that fell upon my ear.

I liked its cadence, liked its ring.
The words ran fluid and
their foreignness was just my thing
in this bilingual land.

So Mexico is where I’m bound.
I’ve reasons numbering cien.
The main one is, I like the sound
of “Que le via bien.”

 * The American accent version is “Did you have a good day, mate?”

**  “Don’t come the raw prawn on me, Mate!”  This strange retort is similar in meaning to: “Don’t try to pull the wool over my eyes.” Many Australians have told me they’ve never heard this phrase, but I swear I did–more than once.

The Prompt: Futures Past: As a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up? How close or far are you from that vision?