Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Mingling With Foreigners

       Back from our trip to Alaska where we hoped to enjoy some wildlife encounters.  And we did see a few moose, including a mother and her calf, in Denali National Park,.  Also got brief glimpses of grizzly bears on our day trip into the national park aboard a tour bus.  But what intrigued me more than the wild animals were the foreign tourists we encountered during different stages of our vacation.

       When we took our seats aboard the converted school bus for what was called the “tundra-wilderness tour” in Denali, we found ourselves amongst members of a German tour group.  They spoke mostly in German with very little English.  And they were quite exuberant to the point that I wondered whether they came directly from Octoberfest, never mind it was May.

      Not long after the beginning of our tour, in the forest surrounding the visitor’s center, I heard one German tourist inquire, “Where ist bear?”  It was obvious that’s what they wanted to see most, though they also became excited when we happened upon some grazing caribou, which they referred to as “moose.”  After more time had passed I again heard, “Where ist bear?”

      But we had not yet reached the tundra portion of Denali where most grizzly bears are encountered.  Then we rolled up to the entrance to that portion of the park, reserved for specific vehicles like our own.  A uniformed ranger exited from the checkpoint booth and approached our bus.

     “Inspection,” I overheard one German declare.  I thought this to be a quintessential response for a citizen who has probably heard all about the frequent inspections that occurred during the Nazi occupation, then the communist domination of East Germany.  He probably expected the ranger to board the bus and call out, “Passports and identification.”

     We were simply waved on.  Several buses almost exactly like our’s traversed the only road into and out of this part of the park.  Occasionally we would stop for a restroom break or photo opportunity, our bus parking among other tour buses.  During one of those stops we were getting ready to move out, the driver starting our engine as the last few passengers straggled aboard.

      One young Asian woman made her way to the back of our bus caught my attention because I hadn’t seen any Asian women aboard our bus before.  “Are you sure you’re on the right bus?” someone asked her.  She immediately realized her predicament but looking outside saw no other buses in the lot.  “They’re gone,” she exclaimed, seeming truly frightened that she might be booted from our bus to be left here in bear country.  We made room, however.

       At least she was quiet.  Afterwards, we DID see a mother bear and her two cubs rather close up and the Germans were ecstatic, finally able to put their expensive cameras to good use as well as getting admonished by our driver to be quieter, so we could all enjoy the sounds as well as the sights of the park around us.

       We did have a group of Chinese aboard when we entered the park on a different bus.  They also spoke very little English, one Chinese gentleman nudging me, then pointing to the floor when something dropped out of my pocket.  This same man was called out by our bus driver when he asked, “Who is in charge?”   He wanted to impart some instructions for a hike they wanted to take.

      The Chinese fellow summoned a woman to the front of the bus, but she quickly disavowed that she was the leader for this group.  Turns out there was a misunderstanding, the Chinese man thinking that the bus driver wanted to speak to his wife, since she’s apparently in charge at their home. 

     Little language issues here and there.  But it made for an interesting trip.  And this month’s blog.