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Sunday, December 12, 2010

Is We Speak Now?

Interpreting what guests want is often a problem.

With hand gestures and rubbing of stomachs it can take over an hour to order a pizza!

We have had to 'phone the corner shop-owner, who can speak any language for help only to ascertain that the guest would like to go to sleep!

We have had a regular guest, Flavio from Brazil, and we have managed to communicate verbally very well. Not so, by e-mail.

Flavio is busy with contract work in Angola, flying in and out, and sometimes brings his mates with him. Sometimes, they are here without him.

Last Monday, I received an e-mail from Flavio:

Dear Joy: Good afternoon,

I notice on the day 10 will be coming to you from the Brazilian personnel who arrived in Luanda for Brazil, who will stay with you, all of them have already been instructed to arrive at the airport when connecting the balcony to picking Steven them at the airport, many of them do not speak English, but has already reported that Steven will make the change to Rands to pay the taxi that had led up to the airport. I asked everyone to show their e-tickets with the schedule the flight for Brazil to program the schedule of the taxi, please help them.

I will arrive on 14/12 at 18:25 and once landed, I called Steven.

Thank you and up to 14/12.

On the day of the e-mail 10 guests did not arrive at the airport. And on the 1Oth, there were no guests either.

Maybe, we can sort this out with Flavio, if he arrives on the 14th.


I need to add that I admire the guests who try to speak English as that is all I can speak, read and write.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

You Say Then I Say

Two BFF's arrived. They dressed alike and even looked similar.

The questions they asked was like a Grand Canyon echo:

No 1 : "Could you please organise us a tour to the Lion Park?"
No 2 : "Would you be able to organise us a tour to the Lion Park?"

No 2 : "Can I have a bath? I haven't had one in ages?"
No 1 : "Could my friend have a bath? Most hostels don't have these."

After the tour they are upset, as the guide could not explain the difference between a lion, a cheetah and a tiger.

No 1 : "I asked, and then my friend did."
No 2 : "Yes, I also asked."

No 2 : "Can I cook some pasta and do you have butter?"
No 1 : "Can I also cook some pasta and can I also use your butter?"

After they have eaten they ask if I can do their washing? Repeat.

I tell them I charge R80 a load, wash and dry. They scurry off to the room and after much shuffling, drag two garbage bags splitting at the seams down the passage.

"Please could you try and fit this all into one load?" (sneakers and caps included!)

I assure them that I do not want the machine to implode. "Could I could make a plan as they only have cash for one wash and one dry." Repeat.

"Sort out the really stinky stuff to do a load," I say.

As if by magic, they now have a R200 note.

Way into the night I am washing and drying but am constantly interrupted.

No 1 : "Is the machine on?"
No 2 : "Is the dryer on?"

At breakfast.

No 1: "Do you have extra milk?"
No 2: "Do you have more milk for us?"

No 2: "Please call a taxi.
No 1: "Is it possible to call the taxi now?"

When leaving:

No 1: "Thank you for everything. I really enjoyed my stay."
No 2: "Thank you for everything. I really enjoyed my stay."

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The Miracle of Laughter

Besides Ma and Da, Blake's first word was Dawid.

Dawid lives with his wife Sanna in the quarters at the Campbells.

Dawid and Sanna have very little materially, but while Sanna smiles and shakes her head Dawid is always laughing his off!

Everything to Dawid, and I mean everything ranges from amusing to downright hysterical.

I once asked him how many children he had, and he nearly collapsed to the ground:

"Twelve, Missus."

Dawid knows everybody in our neighbourhood and will chat and laugh all day and most of the night with them.

As Dawid spent many years serving and protecting in the SAP, Nick has employed him at his company as a security guard.

Should a tsostsi whip out a knife or a gun, he is bound to drop his weapon, once Dawid has laughed him out of any adverse intentions

After Misty fetches Blake from nursery school and he is strapped into the car seat, he stares at the empty space next to him and points.

The next item on Misty's journey is to collect Dawid from the yard. Blake remains very quiet throughout.

Once Dawid steps into the back seat he and Blake start shrieking with laughter!

Dawid speaks Afrikaans, Blake speaks gobbledygook, but it is the power of laughter that unites them over an age difference of 70 years.

If Dawid has an errand, Blake will wait patiently on the front step for his return.

Bless them.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Names and Notes

Celebrities have cornered the market bestowing ridiculous names on their offspring, variations of Pretty Pooh and Funny Hunny.

Steven once employed a man to build a braai next to the swimming pool.

His name was Hitler!

For the uninformed, in South Africa, to cook meat over an open fire is called a braai. A barbeque is a flavour of crisps.

As hung-over Hitler proceeded with the braai-building, under the watchful eye of Steven, his endeavours began to look a little wonky and Steven shouted:

"Hitler, Hitler! Hitler!!, what the f**k are you doing?"

A German couple nearly choked on their coffee.

They were not offended by the swearing, but that parents could name their child Hitler. In Germany, I was told there is a roster detailing offensive, unacceptable names.

"Doesn't apply here," I replied, "You won't believe the names of some of these people!"

My name is Joy McLaren. I am often asked to spell Joy, and then called Jay or Joyce. And, asked if Joy is an African name. No, these are Beauty, Precious and Lovely.

McLaren becomes McLarren, McLeren, MacLarren and MeClerahan.

"Think Formulae One," I say.

"Oh, the racing car. That's easy. Why didn't you just say so? Are you involved in any way? My son is a demon in his go-cart, and I would like to give him an early start."

On the notice board at reception, many guests have pinned paper money, but the pride-of-place, was a use-on-or-before 30th of June 2008, Five Hundred Million Zimbabwean Dollar note.

This was a hot topic of conversation in various languages amongst the guests.

When I told them that Trillion Dollar notes were issued their eyes nearly popped out of their sockets.

Some are journeying towards the Vic Falls and ask if any of these notes are still in circulation? I heard that they are being used as wallpapering for homes and shops.

I am almost sure that Zimbabweans are willing to exchange these for dollars.

One guest, an Economics student, was very grateful as she now had a thesis for her Master's degree.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Mama's House

Charlie booked in earlier than usual and asked if he could have breakfast.

What harm could this do, I decided. A lot it appeared.

I had an appointment in the afternoon and Charlie assured me that he would be alright as he needed to sleep.

On my return, I noticed that he had again devoured cereal, bread, orange juice, tea and coffee leaving the mug, glass, bowl, and plate on the table.

Off he went for a walk and returned two hours later, lay on the couch, propping his dirty feet on the cushions.

Dinner time, and while my back was turned ordering a pizza, Charlie proceeded to have breakfast again leaving the mess. Again.

Now I was pissed off and tired but decided to lock the bread and cereal in the cupboard.

But, forgot about the milk.

When I awoke the following morning Charlie was lying on the couch again.

I check the fridge for the milk - four litres gone and the urn is empty.

"Why did you hide the bread and cereal away as I woke up for a midnight snack?" Charlie asked grinning. You did the right thing though, as there may not have been cereal or bread left over for the other guests."

"I love this place though," he continued, "It's just like my mama's house."

Later that morning, kaboom!

Steven: "You won't believe what just happened. I was washing my hands and I watched a screw falling out of the door. It held for a while and then crashed onto the toilet seat. Stop laughing. I could have been dead and then what?"

After Steven replaced the door, he left seat under his arm for Builder's Warehouse, I placed an Out of Order notice on the door.

On Steven's return, he opened the said door and there sat Charlie regal as you please.

"Can't you read?" asked Steven. There are six other toilets you could have used?"

Sasha called later: "I noticed on your website that you have a lot of baths and showers. But, do you have any toilets?"

Saturday, April 24, 2010

You Can Trust Me. I'm a Doctor

When I opened my business I agreed to uphold the Hospitality Industries Code of Conduct to respect the rights, dignity and professional integrity of clients and guests.

As I was naïve I believed that travellers were honest until I accommodated Dr Knowles from the UK for four days.

He told me that he had only booked at Terrylin as I looked as though I needed his business, and his mate in Sandton was on holiday and they got mixed up with his arrival.

On his departure he asked me to call for a taxi immediately to take him to Kyalami Estates.

Dr Knowles then requested the following:

Three separate invoices. One for accommodation and meals. The second for internet usage and clothes washing. The third for transport.

I printed these and Dr Knowles presented me with three credit cards.

"But, I also need some cash for spending money. At least R1000. You can debit each card as follows, R200 on this one, R300 on the next one and the balance on the third," he said.

I give him R1 000 and the taxi driver arrived.

"Let him in and tell him I'll be out soon," continued Dr Knowles. "In the meantime, I will put the cards through and sign the slips just to help you."

The 'phone rang. Dr Knowles' mate. "Just tell him I'm on my way. Can't talk now", he said and told the driver to hurry up.

Later I realised that the good doctor had conned me out of R2 420 and I called him on his mate's landline.

Dr Knowles: "Where did you get this number?"

"From my 'phone," I told him.

"Ha, Ha. I didn't know South Africa was so advanced. Anyway, I knew I had scored. Tell you what you can meet me at the airport when I leave. Not sure what day yet. You can trust me. I am a doctor. Or, I can refund you from the U.K. This will be better as I can't come over to you now. And you don't know where I am."

"Yes, I do," I replied. "The taxi driver has given me the address. Tell you what, e-mail me your card details authorising the debit or I can collect this from you. Tell your mate I am on my way."

The e-mail arrived in minutes with - I hope you are happy. You overcharged me anyway. I have a good mind to send a review to TripAdvisor letting everyone know what a con artist you are.

Five years on, I am still waiting for the review.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Pissed Poppy

With unhappy and frustrated guests unable to secure flights home because of the Icelandic chaos, there were those in tears hurtling off the airport to queue and queue with one, saying:

"There has been a death in the family. We need a plane now."

Before Terrylin opened Maria told me: "I have been touting at the airport for over 10 years offering accommodation to stranded guests and earning commission."

The problem is that Maria has a daughter from hell, Poppy.

Poppy loves gambling, drinking, smoking and causing trouble all at the same time.

Maria calls Steven to fetch a guest.

Poppy: "Do you know how to order a pizza for this gentleman?"

At the same time, another guest asks for a bigger bed.

Poppy: "My mom can get a bigger commission at a place with a bigger bed."

The baffled guest asks to go back to the airport.

Steven returns again with an exhausted couple who ask him to buy them two bottles of wine. They drink one and offer the other to me.

Poppy: "No, don't worry. I'll take that. I haven't had a drop in ages."

I hand over the bottle on condition that she leaves, and off she staggers.

The following day Maria, flush with commission decides to treat herself and Poppy:

"Steve, please take us to the Mall and fetch us later, around 2. We'll be waiting."

They are nowhere to be found. Steven drives to the airport, to be told by a driver that Maria and Poppy are at the Casino gambling.

At midnight, Steven receives a call from Maria who has 10 guests willing to sleep anywhere, even on the couches or in the bath.

Steven returns with no guests only a skint Maria and Pissed Poppy cadging a lift home.

So, we learn as we go along.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Taxi Tales

Ewan asks me to call for a taxi.

Once I have done this he then asks another guest, Michael, if he would like to share the fare?

"No thanks, I was overbooked at the place around the corner. As I am a frequent guest, they offered me free transport to the airport this morning," replies Michael.

I call the place around the corner to confirm. Maggie, on morning shift and like Manuel, from Fawlty Towers knows nothing.

But she will send the driver over.

Impatient Ewan jumps into the guesthouse van and off they go.

The taxi driver then arrives.

He wants his fare from Michael who refuses to pay.

"Please, sort this out. This is not my fault," says Michael.

I call the guesthouse and the owner came over, paid the driver and Michael left.

Then Kingsley asks me to call for a taxi.

What are the odds? The same driver arrives and Mishaek says: "I am going to have a quick shower."

Later, Kingsley says: "I thought the taxi fare was included. Why can't you take me for free?"

The driver has now had it: "You asked for me to fetch you, didn't you. Get into the car and pay me."

The last couple to leave ask: "Where is the nearest petrol station? We need to fill up."

So tankful, am I.

But, with a major headache I swallowed two Dulcolax instead of Panado.

Now I still have the headache, and the runs.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

African Adventures

The e-mails usually begin with a standard format:

Hello, do you have a bed available for me on .... and, can you fetch me from the airport? How much will this cost?

Nell asked this and there were more e-mails to follow -

Hi, me again, just one question - Could you organise a tour for me to the Kruger Park, Pilanesburg, Lost City, Lion and Rhino Parks, Victoria Falls, Swaziland, Lesotho, Cape Town and Mozambique.

No, Nell, I reply, the logistics would be impossible. Please contact a travel agent. They are qualified to do this.

But they will charge me for that and I need your help, Nell replies. I think I'll go to the Kruger Park first, then Cape Town, then to the Lost City and Pilansberg and then Victoria Falls, Swaziland and Lesotho.

I google seven budget safari tours, e-mail them and forward the information to her.

I cannot afford this. Didn't I say I was on a strict budget? is her reply.

Now I am the hell-in. This took me two hours, I tell her. Now she is on her own.

Two weeks later. - I never knew it was so much work and so many options.

I thought Cape Town, Lesotho, Swaziland, Lost City, Mozambique and Zimbabwe were within driving distance from your hostel and I only intended to spend one night at your hostel anyway.

This is why I did not understand your e-mails about flights and visas.

Anyway, I have booked the tour to the Kruger Park and will be going there directly.

But, I still need your help with the rest of my African Adventures.

Will you have availability for a dorm bed in about two months time?

Brenda, an ex-colleague calls for an update.

We natter for a while and she says: "My, you are so lucky to have retired at your age."

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

I, the Bitch.

'Tis amazing how many locals acquire foreign accents when up to nonsense. Three arrive from the 'States'.

With thirty two years of combined hostel-running experience and much advice, I asked:

"What must I do with the items guests leave behind?"

"If they do not contact you within in a month take their things to the welfare," they all nod in agreement.

After they leave I open the wardrobe and find a bag of wet smelly clothing, mouldy bread and a TV.

I 'phone them. Collection is arranged for the following day. Three days go by. I have dumped their clothing in the garden shed.

I 'phone again and tell them I am dropping off their belongings at the welfare.

Two hours later they arrive:

"You are a bitch," I am told, "and you can give us petrol money to travel back to Pretoria."

The nerve.

Frank, rings the doorbell: "I want to stay for the night. The wife, the bitch threw me out. I will tell you the whole story."

He starts unpacking his car. Not even a rock star has so much luggage. There is a microwave oven and a TV. There was even a desk and a chair.

"This is not going to work," I tell him.

"All you women are bitches," he replies.

Another local, wearing a turban, asks for accommodation for four, from the Middle East for a week.

"But, I would like to inspect the premises first," he demands.

"Why?" I ask, "the place is not for sale."

"My business associates are very fussy about cleanliness and security. They can bath together, eat together and work together, but as their countries are at war they cannot sleep together. Or, with anyone else, he continues.

"This is a backpackers hostel," I say, "with beds in dorm rooms."

"They'll need a dorm room each but I will only pay for one bed."

"And, if I have other guests, what then?" I say.

"Well, you do not have any other guests this morning, do you?" he replies smugly.

"Yes, I do. They are hanging from a hook behind the door," I say.

As he leaves, he mumbles: "Bitch!"