“Boa tarde, Senhor. Senhora. Welcome to the Aguia Negra. My name is Luis. Can I get you some drinks to start off with today?” A beautiful breeze blew in off the Indian Ocean, its warm breath still a welcome respite from the blazing sun. The thatched roof rustled overhead and the palm trees waved playful fingers toward the scattered clouds. What a perfect day.
“Sim, por favor. I would like an Appletizer and my wife will take a Coke.” Terry could almost taste the cool tangy Apple drink as he smiled up at the waiter.
“I’m sorry, Senhor. We do not have Appletizer today. Can I bring you a Coke?” The waiter stood hopefully, pencil and paper poised for the order.
“No, thank you. Do you have any Orange Fanta, by any chance?”
“Sorry. The truck that brings our supplies from South Africa is stuck on the other side of the river. The ferry was not running this week. May I suggest a Coke, Senhor. That’s all we have.”
“Ok, I guess a Coke will have to do then.” Terry glanced over at Danielle and rolled his eyes. She almost burst out laughing.
“Please, take a look at our menu while I get your drinks.” He proudly handed a newly laminated menu to each of his guests and walked away.
Terry and Danielle admired the obvious attempt at modernization. “Look,” Danielle said. “It’s English on one side and Portuguese on the other! That’s great for when tourists come – not that we get very many of those around here!” They began reading on the English side. “Oh, my. Terry, what on earth is an ‘I preach on the bread’?”
“I have no idea. Let me check the Portuguese side.” Flipping the menu over, Terry scanned the list. Then he chuckled. “‘Prego no pao.’ That’s thin steak on a bun. It was translated literally. ‘Prego’ means ‘I preach’. I wonder …”
Flipping the menu back over, Terry glanced over the menu once more. Suddenly, he noticed something that made question marks dance on his head. The roar of laughter that burst out of Terry made Danielle jump. “What on earth?” she asked, glancing around the room in embarrassment.
“They used one of those translator programs on the computer to translate this menu. Look at this! This is the best! COCA-GLUE!” Sure enough, though “Coca” was not translatable, the word “Cola” means “glue” in Portuguese. Tears rolled down Terry’s face by this time. Danielle could not help joining in. It was not long before the waiter returned with their drinks, wondering what was going on.
“May I take your order?”
“Yes, can we have two orders of chicken and fries?” Terry figured that would be the safest meal to order, knowing the options would be few. “And, Luis, may I speak with your manager, please?”
Terry sipped on his Coke and chuckled. Danielle looked at him questioningly. “What are you up to?”
Terry winked at her and smiled. “This man is trying so hard to improve his business. I need to help him out. Here he is.” Terry stood to shake the hand of the worried looking man coming toward him.
“Senhor, you have such a nice place here. I can see that you are trying to attract tourists to your little restaurant. I would like to help you. It looks like you used a computer translator program for your menu.”
“Sim, Senhor, my son did it for me on his new computer,” he said just a bit defensively.
“There are just a couple of mistakes on the menu. Would you allow me to translate the menu for you? English is my first language. I would love to help.”
An hour later, Terry and Danielle left the restaurant hand in hand. On the table they had just vacated were two empty Coke bottles, their dirty dishes, and a piece of paper with two written columns – one side in Portuguese and the other in English. Danielle looked up at Terry fondly as they strolled toward the beach. “That was a very kind thing for you to do. I think I’ll have to stick with you. Me and Coke – we’re on you … like glue.”
* This story is based on a real menu. The names of the characters have been changed to protect their identity. The translator wishes to remain unsung.
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