Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Chinese lanterns, buttered bread and double edged swords.

Do you know what a rain drop feels like at 60mph? The white streak on my arm is a little bullet of a drop...

I recall one Christmas when Chinese lanterns were the rage. In fact it proved to be a rather memorable one but not for what you may think. While we spend some time gazing at the night skies lit up with glowing paper bags, we ended up having way more fun reading the direct translations from the instruction leaflets – this had us rolling in laughter for the better part of Christmas. Though amusing, it illustrated perfectly the notoriety of direct translations involving languages from the Far East. Of course for translations to make sense, what is needed is an understanding of the meaning or intent of the subject matter, in this case operating instructions. 

When it comes to popular phrases though, especially when one is dealing with a particular culture that is, say, emotionally rich in expression, chances are that they will have an existing or equivalent saying already. Take for example, “having your bread buttered on both sides”. I stumbled upon a particularly humorous translation of this the other day. It is easy to imagine big burly Russians – perhaps it is all the fur they wear in those freezing temperatures – but would you believe the Russian equivalent is, “it’s hard to have a seat on two chairs at once”? And what about my all-time favourite, an expression that strikes at the heart of those exuberant pasta and wine lovers, the Italians? “To have the barrel full and the wife drunk!”  :) Hehe..!

At the end of the day we all have our own idea of having it all, of having your cake and eating it. (And some have really ruminated the meaning of this expression tiresomely!) Take for example my circle of friends – all lovers of flying, in particular hang gliders, the very best kind of flying one can do – who work long hours to feed this flying passion. They mistakenly think that being paid to fly is the equivalent of having your bread buttered on both sides.

Consider for a moment sitting in a little open cockpit micro-light. Your only landing option is covered by a large dark cloud, streaks of rain falling from its belly. And as the cloud grows and spreads you are ever so more flying further out to sea, putting your faith and trust entirely into God’s hands and a metal machine to keep you aloft and alive. Inevitably you ponder the wisdom of flying and your initial weather assessment that sooner rather than later this cloud will dissipate and the rain will stop. And even though you desperately try not to, because your reason knows it is futile to do so, you worry. You hope. You fret. And while your smile, your voice and your demeanor remains calm, there might just be a reason to visit the Doctor when you land, just to check up on those pesky stomach ulcers.

The startling reality is that if you weren't being paid you would never be up there in the first place – and how quickly having your bread buttered on both sides can turn into a double edged sword.

Rain over the air port while we wait out to sea...

Still wish you were here!


  1. I see your blog is still going strong Johan!!Good stuff mate! ;) It's been a while since I read your blog, but everytime I do read your posts, I find them very interesting & entertaining! Hope all is well with you Johan. Take care. Cheers, Divs

    1. Hey Divs!!! Good to hear from you buddy! :) Yes, all is good thanks. Drop us a mail sometimes - will be good to catch up with your flying. ;)