The Nice Thing About Strangers

Creative Non-Fiction Short Stories. :) Travel, Oldsters, Love, and Compassion.

Maple Leaf

The Canadians displayed flags on their belongings like people flaunting their wealth, like North American nationalists swinging through Bosnia and wanting to ensure that they counted, that they were walking totems of respectful curiosity. One fascinating cultural lesson they learned was that in this Sarajevo café it was typical to share tables with strangers.  This they learned under the direction of a local couple that stopped at their table, staring down at the flag-emblazoned backpack and other objects occupying two empty seats.

Even as the Canadians apologetically shifted their belongings into their laps and gestured to the now available places, the couple gave only a quick nod of acceptance. They sat. They ordered. They waited, pretending to be distracted, until their tea arrived. He took the lemon from her saucer. She touched his knee under the table. The tourists made a friendly remark that fell unheeded.

So the Canadians turned to the tabletop menus, which were printed by Coca-Cola: food products photographed with the overly-confident and refreshing brown liquid. “Pizza and Coke.” “Cake and Coke: Ideal Combination.” The Canadians ordered and the waiter came back with a large red bottle marked “pizza ketchup.” They read the label out loud.

At a two-top table nearby, a wrestler-style father unfastened the top snaps of his tiny daughter’s coat so she could freely eat her inexpensive lunch.

While waiting on their food, the Canadians flipped through a guidebook and map, hoping to spark conversation, commenting aloud how much they enjoyed the city, how many interesting and historical sights Sarajevo happened to have. The lemon thief and his lemonless woman rustled, stood, and departed with another nod–not about to be pulled into a discussion with flatterers, no matter how well-meaning or how far from home.

-Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina

Sarajevo, Bosnia

6 comments on “Maple Leaf

  1. Steven Wordsmith Lincoln
    December 30, 2011

    Hmmm . . . sharing physical space doesn’t necessarily mean sharing anything else. Sad.

  2. eldinsmille
    September 6, 2012

    Typically Bosnian rudeness!

  3. Reblogged this on The Nice Thing About Strangers and commented:

    When in Sarajevo…

  4. M-R
    July 23, 2014

    Can’t help feeling that the Canadians were pretty harmless, regardless of their jingoism …

    • M-R,
      Of course, beyond harmless! This is the way I picture Canadians, actually, shuffling to get out of the way and well-meaning. 🙂

  5. evelyneholingue
    July 24, 2014

    The encounter of deeply different cultures makes it for difficult communication but for great blog posts. Thank you, Paige.

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This entry was posted on December 21, 2011 by in Europe, Inspiration, Travel and tagged , , , , , , .

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