Home At Last

Home At Last

By Robert Scott

All writers in Op Ed are here to inform and acknowledge issues of importance to our communities, however these writings represent the views and opinions of the authors and not necessarily of The Advertiser.

After a Danube River tourist cruise, a fall and breaking my hip, hip replacement surgery in (of all places) Novi Sad, Serbia, and an enforced convalescence while waiting out the airlines’ four weeks prohibition against flying too soon after a major operation, I am home at last! 

I would not recommend to anybody falling and breaking a hip. It is not fun. On the other hand, there is the old saying: if you are dealt a bunch of lemons, then make lemonade! I found that, even in dire circumstances involving pain, being alone in a place you’ve never been before, where even the road signs are indecipherably written in an unknown script (that’s Greek-based Cyrillic rather than our own Latin script), there are opportunities to make lemonade. I’ll share some of my thoughts, now that I’m home and looking back over this two-week vacation cruise that somehow stretched into six weeks.

The first is this. Even if you have no foreign language skills and the people you encounter know no English, smile at themand they will smile back. While it’s impossible to ignore things like pain and misfortune, it is possible, still, to smile and to be polite. Thank people even for little things and make the effort to learn how to do so in their language if it’s different from yours. If you have a cell phone with internet access everywhere (highly recommended!), then Google Translate will easily teach you how to do what your mother taught you as a child: say “please” and “thank you” at every opportunity. Also say “good morning” and “good evening” and “I am okay today, how are you?” You would be surprised what a difference that makes to people who otherwise might be overworked, tired, and underappreciated. Make it a point to appreciate them and to tell them so. It really does pay dividends.

You will find that in the lemonade you’ve made, there are some genuinely sweet things. I met people I never would have met otherwise, and I enjoyed meeting them. Both a men’s and a women’s basketball team from Poland and later, another set from Lithuania. A tour group of 25 very friendly people from Australia. Serbian doctors who seemed to relish the opportunity to practice their English, and hotel staff required to learn English plus one or two other languages, who appreciate comments on how well they do so. Wait staff that you can thank not only verbally but visually, perhaps even with a gentle pat on the handand genuine thanks for those little things like refilling your glass of water when you cannot possibly do so yourself. The airline stewardess who checks more than once on a long flight, to make sure you are comfortable and don’t need anything more than a bright disposition after eight hours of your relaxing, their working.

With all that now in my rear-view mirror, I’ll end with how I started: always smile, and always do so sincerely and openly. Sometimes the resulting lemonade is very tasty, indeed.

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