Monday, July 30, 2007

The late bird special

The staff at every lodge in Namibia has been impressive. They try so hard to please, swooping in with white gloved hands to remove a plate the moment you're finished a meal, and responding to every "thank you" with a drawn-out "pleasuuuure" and a smile. As tourism is Namibia's leading industry, jobs in hospitality seem coveted, and the largely African staff are well trained. But there's such a difference between colonial/European culture and the many many native cultures that the subtleties get lost in translation. Recently, we arrived at a lodge early and asked for a light lunch. We were escorted into an empty restaurant with open windows looking onto spectacular rock formations and watering holes for the wildlife. When we were pointed towards our table for two, I gasped when I saw a dead bird on the floor next to our table. The waitress looked at me, sighed and said "its dead." And so the standoff began. We were not permitted to sit at any other empty table in the restaurant because they were not "tables for two" and no one present was willing to deal with the dead bird. The waitress said to me "please, Ma'am, you sit now, we move bird later." I guess she hadn't yet been trained for what to do in the case of a dead bird in the restaurant. And, I can't pinpoint the guideline that prevented me from eating in the presence of death, but I knew it was not kosher. So, we picked up our plates and moved to the deck to enjoy the meal and observe some wildlife.

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