Tuesday, April 2, 2013

American Walks Into A Greek Bar. Orders Olives From An Afghan.

On Good Friday, Vicki and I departed on an adventure to Prague for Easter.  We decided to forgo the plane and opt for the train, an overnight sleeper train that is. (More on this trip coming soon.)  

One absolute requirement before departing for an overnight train adventure is to bring along a smorgasboard of snacks.  However, since we were traveling on Good Friday, we were careful to plan a menu sans meat.  Vicki requested olives, but not just the prepackaged store brand olives, she wanted fresh ones from the Greek Bar inside the Albert Heijn grocery store.  I've passed by this area numerous times, but always felt  intimiated for a few reasons: potential language barrier; uncertainty of ordering process; too many good looking choices; and the question: would they take my bonus card?  
But Friday was the day I would conquer my fear and finally order olives.

The gentlemen behind the counter noticed my apprehension as I stood admiring his display of Mediterranean delights.  Then he says, in perfect English; "You try this olive, nothing like it in all of Holland."  Well, I'm a sucker for free samples so I tried it and it was delicious.  Little did I know, that a free olive is an instant icebreaker.  

We got to chatting and exchanged pleasantries as you would.  He asked where I was from, then the panic set in.  Vicki and I have been struggling for a good answer to this exact question for the past few months.  We can't figure out what sounds right.  Do we say we're from:
  • America?  
  • The States?
  • The US?  
  • The United States of America?  
  • Pennsylvania, USA?  
  • South of New York City?  
  • Or my favorite one: "Philadelphia, you know like the cream cheese." I have actually said this, keep reading.
For this introduction with the Olive Man I choose, "Pennsylvania, in the US."  He then smiled and nodded ah, "Transylvania."  I then corrected him and said "No, Pennsylvaia" Confused, he responds, "Slovenia?" I had started to get nervous and a little sweaty; I started thinking that I should just abort this whole dam olive mission.  But I persisted and said to him, "No, I'm American."  "Oh, he responds, why you say this Pennsylvania?"  I then gave him a brief explanation of a State. I spared him the lecture that Pennsylvania is actual a Commonwealth, one learning at a time I figured. He asked if it was near New York since that's where his brother lived.  I then gave him a brief geography lessson of the Mid-Atlantic cost, although I was unable to answer his question about how many kilometers New York was from Pennsylvania   My response was, "Well, we live near Philadelphia, you know like the cream cheese? That's about two and a half hours depending on traffic from there."  His face illumninated, "Yes, I know that cheese!"  This situation was improving.  Coming off my Olive-Induced-Us-Geography-Lesson-In-English-High, I proceed to tell him to load me up a small container of the olives he let me try.

As he scooped, I asked him a question, "So what about you; where are you from?"  He quickly responds "Afghanistan; you know, America's good friend."  Awkward silence encompasses the area around the Greek Bar Counter.  "Ahhh, I see," was my response. Then we both had one of those uneasy, uncomfortable laughter moments.  I immediately changed the subject and asked him a question about some other olives.  And, like the professional he was, he allowed me to sample that one as well.  "Delicious," I said, "I'll take those too."  

Now, in my excitment of overcoming my fear of the Greek Bar plus having a nice English conversation I failed to realize he was weighing my selections and pricing by weight.  Well, 9.95 euros later, I was walking out with these boys:

Little more than what I had anticipated paying but they were worth every cent.  But can you really put a price on good conversation with your Afghani olive man?  No, no you can't.  So in the end I conquered a fear and made a friend.  It was a Good Friday.

1 comment:

  1. Loving the story but I want to tell you that I think the olives were fairly priced. Some olives at Tallutos are $9.00 per pound and include the pits-not some nice stuffing. I think you are a good shopper, Sir.