Monday, 18 October 2010

Language matters.

Today we left the tourist paradise of Magaluf and caught a bus to Palma de Mallorca, then a bus to a place by the name of Arta and finally, by prior arrangement, a taxi from Arta to Colonia Sant Pere on Alcudia bay. The last stage of the journey was, I felt, a wonderful bit of public transport. It cost us 2€ per person for a trip that had we done it in greater Manchester would undoubtedly have gone into double figures. When we investigated travel to this rather out of the way place we discovered that there was a “bus”, the number 481, which went from Arta to Colonia Sant Pere. The catch was that you had to phone up in advance to book it, giving them your name and passport number. Goodness knows what they would do if you failed to turn up.

What we had not expected though was that a taxi would be waiting for us as we got off the bus i
n Arta but that is what the “bus” was. It turns out that the taxi firm has a contract with the bus company who feel that it is not worth their while running an actual bus as so few people actual travel the route on a regular basis. Wonderful!!

On the way
I collected a couple of linguistic odds and ends. First of all, in a newspaper in the bus station in Palma I came across a strange new word: oenegé. And then I realised that this is a word made from the Spanish names of the letters of the acronym ONG (o – ene –ge) for Organización no-gubernamental – NGO in English. In English we tend to make the acronyms themselves in words if at all possible – e.g. QUANGO – but the Spanish seem to go the other way. In similar fashion I have come across the word deúvede for DVD (de – uve – de). I suppose I should not be surprised; this is after all the language which made the diminutive for José into Pepe because the biblical Joseph was the father of the good shepherd, el Padre del Pastor, PP. I shall now be on the lookout for further examples.

My other discov
ery is that bus drivers on this delightful island have to be multilingual. The bus stopped to pick up passengers in a place called Sant Llorenç and a whole host of people prepared to board. One after another they named a destination they wanted to reach, only to have the driver tell them that this bus was going to Arta and Cala Rajada. Then some passengers actually got on and proved to me that it is not just the British who assume everyone understands their language.

First there was the French couple who asked for “Deux, pour Cala Rajada”. The driver confirmed that they wanted “dos” and so the lady answered, “oui” and on receiving her ticked said, “Merci”. A German lady got on next and asked for “Vier, Cala Rajada” but sh
e did helpfully hold up four fingers. The next group to get on were also German. Their spokesperson simply said, “Cala Rajada, dreimal, bitte”. The driver just handed over the tickets and took the money without batting an eyelid. He was not even fazed when an Englishman with a broad accent asked him, “When will t’bus for Cala Bona get ‘ere?” he just replied, “Cinco minutos” and held up his hand to show five.

A lit
tle further down the road our driver even helped out some Engish tourists waiting for a bus in the opposite direction. Leaning out of the window he told them, “Bus gone, need estación de trenes, walking 400 metros” in a wonderful mixture of English and Spanish. I was most impressed.

And so, finally we got here to find the place really little changed from the last t
ime we came about eight years ago. There has been clearly been some renovation. The rather wild garden at the back of our hotel has turned into a smart, if rather small, swimming pool complete with sun-loungers and a paved terraza.

The rather scruffy workers’ c
afeteria where used to get a very good value lunch has metamorphosed into a pizzeria, rather like the banks that become trendy wine bars. But otherwise the place is much the same as it ever was.

Even the Aquarium restaur
ant across the road from our hotel is still there.

The sea, however, was really showing off for us. There has been a yellow alert for winds and high seas in
this part of Mallorca and we had rolling waves to prove it. Now to see what the rest of the week brings for us and whether the lady who runs the Aquarium remembers us.

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