So, the communication weirdness happened again the other night in the hotel restaurant here in Jinja, Uganda, where I’m currently ensconced.  I went to the restaurant about 7pm, thinking this would be a good time to show up for dinner. There was one other customer sitting at a table, eating a generous serving of what looked like fish. They do serve an excellent fresh Lake Victoria-River Nile tilapia here for about $5.00. So I asked the waitress what was on the menu, and sure enough, it was tilapia night. So I ordered fish fillets (they pronounce the “t”) and a soft-drink.

A few minutes go by and the waitress brings me the soft drink. Then, after setting it down, she hesitates, so I look up at her, and she leans in and says in a quiet, almost conspiratorial voice, “Excuse me, sir, when would you like to receive your food?”

So the pistons and wheels and gears are spinning madly in my brain – ummm, restaurant? 7 pm? Waitress, menu, order? …Somethin strange is happenin here, Lucy! – and I look up at her in total confusion. I stammer, “Uh, maybe… n-now?” and I kind of look askance at her like I’m not sure it’s the right answer but I’m really trying – I want her to know I very much want to give her the right answer, but I need another hint. It is not to be so. Watching her face, I can tell my first stab isn’t anywhere near the right answer. So I try hopefully, “Maybe as soon as they can cook it?” Still not much clarity in her expression as she’s looking down over the bridge of her nose at me now, so I try again but with an increasing sense of desperation, “S-s-soon?”

By now, even I think I sound like an idiot, so I stop trying and just look at her. She sort of nods, but definitely doesn’t project the confidence that I have clarified my order enough that she might actually be able to fill it. She turns and walks away. About an hour later, the fillet arrives. Tastes great. But I still have no idea what she needed me to say.

What time do I want to receive my food? Really? I’m missing something here. Maybe they had to go catch it. Argh…