A ‘trashy’ tale

A ‘trashy’ tale

Have you ever been in a situation when you wished you could curl up and die? From sheer embarrassment? 

Of course you have! That’s probably one of the things you’ve blogged about as well. No, I’m not judging you. I’m just saying that it’s more common than you think.

Way back in my teen years ( Ha, thought I’d say how many years ago?), I was the unwitting victim of just such a scenario. My family had just moved to Kenya and to the incredibly chilly city of Nairobi. My sister and I were busy ‘ooh-ing’ and ‘aah-ing’ our way through the different rooms of our home, which didn’t sport fans or a radiator. The whole aspect of being in a new city, a new country, heck a new continent, was so darned appealing! 

As we were busy settling into the new home, a couple of days later, my mother decided to send me on an errand. She wasn’t sure what the trash disposal practice was in our apartment and decided it would be best to check with the security staff manning the gates. So, trash bag in hand, off I skipped to the large iron gates which protected us from the world outside. As I got there, the burly security guards stood up and asked me in Swahili what I wanted. I didn’t know the language but I could gauge what he was asking.

For a second I was at a loss, as I didn’t know what the Swahili word for ‘trash’ was. Then, a brainwave hit me and I pointed to the bag in my hand and said ‘Garbage’. They looked at me suspiciously and then at each other. One fellow shook his head while the other stepped forward and said, ‘Gabbage’? I nodded vigorously, a huge smile on my face. Then, with a curt nod he motioned for me to follow him. He stepped out of the gates. 

Okay, I know I am not supposed to go anywhere with strangers, but this was the security guard, right?  So, throwing caution and a teeny bit of fear to the winds, I waltzed out the gate. I assumed the trash bins would be right outside. To my surprise, he was walking ahead and signaled that I should follow. This time, I did pause for a second. What was I doing, exactly? Where was I going? Then, tightening my grip on the garbage bag (which was a squishy mess of kitchen refuse) I tagged behind him, keeping a distance of two feet between us.

Photo Credit: Stuart Miles

He walked for about a quarter of a mile and by now, my legs and my mind felt very uneasy. Next thing I know, we were entering a vegetable stall, off the main road. The hefty guard beckoned me closer and with a smile that threatened to split his face open, he held out something for me.

A bright, fresh, green, leafy cabbage!

My jaw dropped and I wasn’t sure if I should cry or crawl into a cave. Blushing a bright shade of crimson, I looked around for help. A kindly soul saw that I didn’t know the language and offered to help translate. After conferring with him, I waited as he turned and spoke in rapid Swahili to the guard. The guard looked at me, at the bag in my hand and at the cabbage in his own.

Then, relief washed over me as he threw his head back and laughed, showing his pearly whites. Wiping tears from his eyes, he said, ‘Oh, you mean “Taka-taka” ‘. 

Well, at least someone was laughing.

{Word count: 597}

Note: Taka-Taka is Trash in Swahili


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0 thoughts on “A ‘trashy’ tale

  1. I am grinning wide as I picture the 'teen-you' behind the guard, holding a garbage bag while he goes looking for cabbages 😀 😀 Did you learn Swahili after that ? I'm sure Kenya must've been a special experience to cherish for a lifetime !!

  2. hahaha Gabbage to cabbage 😀 what a mess up 😀 actually I was actually curled up in the darkest corner of my house out of utter embarassment 😛 will of course blog and laught about it once I am over it 🙂

  3. Haha….lost in translation all right! 😀 As for embarrassing stories that make you want the ground beneath your feet give way, I have heaps. To the point where I've stopped caring now… 😛

    This happens in india too u knw. My friend who only knows malayalam and english was interning in an office in Mumbai. She needed a folder to keep a few documents in and asked the errand boy for a folder. Now the errand boy only new hindi so he cocked his head and asked her to follow him…..and lead her to the LOO. He thought she wanted to go to the loo. 😀

  5. LOL That was quite an adventure! Always confusing when you don't know the language. I never would have guessed that Taka Taka translates to garbage.

  6. Shailaja, this is a great story. It sounds like you've traveled a fair amount. I'll bet you have lots of fun and exciting tales to tell. Thanks for sharing this one, it made me laugh. Karen

  7. What struck me was how relatable it is to be following someone when you have no idea where they are leading you. We all do it sometimes, just praying that they are not leading us down a dark path. Well written, enjoyable read.

  8. Kenya is an experience that is special for many reasons. Made some of my best connections there and the place itself was a beautiful paradise! I did learn a smattering of Swahili, though not enough, I regret to say.

  9. I liked the voice of this piece as in the line “Okay, I know I am not supposed to go anywhere with strangers, but this was the security guard, right? So, throwing caution and a teeny bit of fear to the winds, I waltzed out the gate.” Fun humor. A great topic for a post–trusting in a stranger, experiencing a language barrier. Cabbage is a memorable prop.

  10. Happy that it all ended with a chuckle. That could have been a dangerous situation for a young girl to find herself. You are lucky to have come out of it with only a good story. 🙂

  11. You know, I never thought of it that way. How much we are instinctively born with trust. You can see that in children too. Thanks for opening up that line of thought 🙂

  12. Hence forty garbage in our home shall never be garbage.. It shall be called taka taka. What a poetic name for rubbish! On a serious note what a risk you took S! Did you get a dressing down from your mum? And by the way…. How far back were the teens?

  13. Risk yeah. I never really thought about it 😉 Mom had a panic attack and yes, I got the whole 'go off with strangers, will you?' talk! Teens were far, far, far back. No, you are not getting more out of me 😉

  14. *hahaha* Your story cracked me up. I can remember working with a visitor from Kyrgyzstan who was staying with an American family. Her English was minimal. One day, she told her host mother that she needed to buy a goat to bring home with her. Host mom floundered a bit, and they went back and forth. “A goat? No, no goat.” “Da, yes, a goat!” The exchanged got more and more heated with wilder and wilder hand gestures and charades, until finally the Kyrgyz woman flounced off and grabbed a dictionary. Looking something up, she finally pointed to a word on the page. “Goat! Goat!” The host mom looked, and a light went on in her head. “OH! You want a COAT! That we can do.”

    🙂 Great little story. You made me laugh, which is a great thing!

  15. Even though things were lost in translation, I think it's great that the guard took the time to walk you to the cabbage. Sure, that wasn't what you needed, but it showed a willingness to be helpful.

  16. OMG! You must have been mortified at the time. Teens always see everything as so exaggerated and embarrassing. Makes for a very funny story years later though. I enjoyed it.

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