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The Travel Advice Service Tailored for You

14 Apr

I’m getting ready to go to Argentina, and part of my mandatory travel routine is to call Ma Jaracz and let her know I’m heading away from home for a little while. As with most trips, she has some advice for me:

Don’t eat the meat!

Wait, what? One of the things I’m most excited about doing in Argentina is eating beef. Chorizo, bife de chorizo, vacio, entraña, bring it. Even better, bring it at 9:00 or 10:00 pm, because that’s when I normally eat! I’m going to be with my people–how can I not eat like them?

Turns out that when I was in Australia, the meat industry in Brazil had some upheaval, with a major scandal exposed where meat processors used chemicals to cover expired meat smells and they filled out sausages with flour and cardboard.

OK, I’m going to Argentina. While it does have a shared border with Brazil, it’s not that long. And Argentina produces its own beef, so why would they import it?

Tell that to Ma J, and she concedes, but still. I need to be careful.

This got me thinking that my mother could probably make some extra money giving her patented travel advice. Remember, this is the woman who told me last year before I went to Alaska:

Just be careful up there. They don’t solve their murders.

And before the Boy and I went to Japan, she told us:

You remember Pearl Harbor! You remember Pearl Harbor!

While Ma Jaracz’ advice might sound a little absurd, I think it serves a good purpose: It makes me forget the stressful and scary parts of traveling, namely getting out of your comfort zone and experiencing a different culture. In this case, it’s going to be my first time in South America, and I’m a little nervous. The second-world country factor is one–though cities in the US have parts that likely aren’t much different–so I’m a little concerned about wandering into the wrong place or getting taken for a ride. I’m also worried about the language barrier. I realize I just went to Dubai, where I was worried about that too, but once I got off the plane and saw that English was everywhere, that fear faded away. I’m not so sure I’ll have exactly the same experience here.

I have been preparing though. Over the last couple of months, I’ve been cramming in lessons on Duolino. According to it, I’m 17% fluent, which is a slight comfort because it’s better than the 0% fluent that I was before I started to learn, but then, I’m learning what they teach me, which tends to be a fair amount about owning a horse or cooking onions. Now that I think about it, I don’t think Duolingo has taught me anything about steak, but maybe Argentina’s a fair ways down on their cultural list when it comes to language learning.

Still, I’m nervous, and because I also have some pre-roller-derby-tournament anxiety, that’s really made me a mess this week. That’s when I think Ma Jaracz’ Travel Advice Hotline would come in handy. Give her a call before your trip. She’ll tell you something nonsensical that takes away your focus on whatever it is that’s worrying you.

Thanks to her advice, while I’m packing, I’m wondering if anybody noticed the cardboard taste in the Brazilian sausage, or if the original just tasted that bland. When I’m on the plane, I’m likely going to remember Pearl Harbor or wonder how the cold cases are going in Alaska. Her advice will get me through some take-offs, some turbulence and perhaps even over the nervousness until I get to a place that I’m actually really excited to experience. And perhaps she can do that for you too–care to find out her rates?



Let’s Agree to Stop Saying This

16 Jan

Recently I was having a conversation with someone and we had differing opinions on a particular topic. That description makes the exchange sound very congenial, but it wasn’t particularly nice. I was trying to enforce a policy, and the other person didn’t agree that their actions were against policy. During it, I got called a name and was accused of being paranoid, and then it all ended with my current least favorite phrase:

So let’s just agree to disagree about this whole thing.

What self-esteem boosting, participation trophy collecting idiot came up with this phrase?* If I’m disagreeing with someone about a certain point, I don’t really want to agree with them about any aspect of it at all. Nor do I want to be told how I’m going to have to feel and act about the situation.

It’s as if some synergistic opportunist thought outside of the box and said that maybe if we add a positive spin on this, it’ll leave us all with a good taste in our mouths and we won’t remember any of that nasty debate at all. Yay for getting along!

Not really. Being told that I had to agree to disagree actually made me simmer a little longer than I would have about the encounter, and it’s really pointless to waste my energy on it, when I’m obviously not going to change this person’s opinion of me–and the policy ended up getting enforced, so points for that. But with the reaction that I got to my take on the matter, I knew I wasn’t going to change this person’s mind about anything. That’s fine. I know that not everyone’s going to like me or things I say and do, and I’m OK with that. But don’t tell me that I’m going to have to agree with you on something when I really don’t want to agree with you on anything right now.

I’d rather the conversation had ended with something more like, “Well, we just have different opinions on this matter,” and left it at that. That’s a lot more neutral, puts a stop to a debate that’s never going to end, and to me it actually says that both of our opinions are valid. We call a truce, rather than someone sounding like they have the upper hand in putting an end to it.

Does anyone else feel this way? Can we agree to not agree to disagree any longer? Or do you have a different opinion on this?

*Apparently, according to a member of English Language & Usage Stack Exchange, a Q&A site about the English language, the phrase “agree to disagree” was first recorded by George Whitfield in 1750 (though in trying to verify this, I think the user meant George Whitefield, a preacher. Or you could say that the phrase “agree to differ” used by John Piggott in a sermon in 1704 was really the first, although it lacks the cutesy-ness that makes the phrase more grating. Did they give participation trophies back then? 

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