Thursday, August 14, 2003

Faux Pas... an awkward social blunder in which you find (or put) yourself: saying "what a cute little girl" when it's a boy, tripping or falling in an elegant setting, smiling broadly with the large bit of salad stuck in your front teeth, pushing the door then realizing it says "PULL" in big letters, asking when she's due when she's not pregnant, etc.

Living in a different culture gives you the opportunity to explore new and ever more awkward blunders... ones you'd never even imagined like asking the lady behind the counter at the corner store if she's has testicles when you meant "eggs"; like ordering the sexual organ icecream sundae when you meant "Caramel sundae"; like saying you are so pregnant when you mean "so embarrassed"; like being told the dinner starts at 7:00 pm - arriving at 7:00 pm - and being greeted at the door by the hostess still in curlers who you've horribly embarrassed because everyone knows that it really begins around 8:30 or 9:00 pm.

A sunday hike in the mountains afforded us a new and agrarian way to "faux pas". We took our dog with us so he could get a little exercise and as we neared the top of a hill we came upon a flock of sheep and their adolescent shepherd. It was an idllic pastoral scene - sheep grazing, shepherd with cowboy hat leaning on his staff, his 3 dogs resting at his feet - then our golden retriever's hunting and herding genes were reminded of their reason for existence and he took off. The sheep fled, scattering in all directions. Our dog was jubilant, bounding after the wooley critter closest to his nose. The sheperd's reaction was indecipherable, he just looked at us. Annette was mortified, "Oh no... poor things... poor shepherd... Tim do something, get the dog!". I just stood there like an idiot, caught between feelings of awe at our dog's speed and fearlessness in the face of 80 sheep larger than him and those of embarrasment and a desire to resolve the chaos which we were ultimately responsable for.

What seemed like an hour later (Annette assures me it was more like 30 seconds) our dog got chased off by the 3 sheep herding dogs and returned to us, tired but still intoxicated by the heady mix of sheep fear and canine adrenaline. The shepherd finally stopped staring at us and, heading in the general direction of his heard, began the process of reorganization. The sheep, showing either their keen interest in grass or an incredibly short memory, went back to munching and fertilizing. We continued our hike, holding our dog closely by the collar and wondering if the shepherd had noticed that we are gringos.

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