Fake Swedish and Fez Facial Failure

In 1973, my girlfriend Barbara and I stayed a while in Fez, Morocco. While there we met Dave, an Australian linguist studying Swedish literature in Switzerland. While backpacking the ability to switch languages at will is a talent, better by far than being able to instantly convert exchange rates. Dave was a marvel; he could flash from one tongue to another in a flash. His facility with Swedish was especially useful when trying to shed the torrent of street urchins imploring us to come visit their uncles’ stalls in the Medina, the market. The impish lads were polyglot, but Swedish was not a languages with which they were familiar. For a while they were baffled by Dave’s real Swedish and the straight- faced fake Swedish that Barbara and I gabbled. But the Fez boys were not fazed for long: in several languages they told us that as travelers we had to be able to speak German or French or English or Italian or Spanish. And they teased us with such charm that we would give up and laugh. And off we would go, following them to Uncle’s brass stall, where haggling, we would buy cheap, lovely, and heavy knickknacks, unsuitable for knapsacks, to be mailed home to Vancouver.

Barbara and Dave were formidable teasing wits, especially after I had a few days flu’ which brought on a partial paralysis that froze one side of my face. I could not blink, chew or use my lips properly. I had to wear dark glasses and could only eat soups and stews, which I prevented from leaking out of my mouth by closing the useless part of my lips with my fingers. My fake Swedish was really garbled, and besides the teasing of my friends I had to suffer the gibes of the urchins.

After a week of worrisome paralysis, we went to an apothocaire, where I asked an elderly man sitting on a tall stool behind his counter: “Monsieur: avez-vous quelque chose pour mon visage tres mal”? To which the chemist replied” “Oui. Bien sur! C’est rien!” And having declared my trouble nothing, he hopped down from his stool, grabbed a crutch with his sole hand, and with one empty sleeve of his lab coat flapping, hobbled over to his shelves to get me some strong painkiller pills…

About Ed Medley

Ed Medley has been on a random walk for over 50 years. Many scribbles and snapshots at this site are from his vagabond transits; others are from his decades of international experience in geological and geotechnical engineering, academia, and mineral exploration prospecting.
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1 Response to Fake Swedish and Fez Facial Failure

  1. Pingback: Traveling with Barbara | Ed Medley

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