Friday, August 7, 2009

Sunshine's photo meme-Lost in translation

Thankfully Laura at Love at Home has tagged me with a meme that as given me something to sink my teeth into. I'm going on two weeks without any real ideas for posts and its starting to bug the hell out of me. So this meme is a welcome chance to try and jump start my sorry ass brain.

The rules of this meme involve opening the fourth file where I store pictures and then chose the the fourth picture in that file then write an explanation of that photograph, so here it goes.

Witness this simple, small balcony jutting from the side of an ornate house, named the Owens-Thomas House built around 1816, in beautiful Savannah, Georgia. Through the years an untold number of people have strolled the sidewalk beside this balcony, most unknown and long since passed into oblivion. However, Savannah's lovely architecture, parks, and history has drawn famous people like actors, writers, and the occasional national war hero but even many of them have slipped beyond living memory. While a mere footnote, or at best mild curiosity, now to most Americans a very important Revolutionary War hero, the Marquis de LaFayette, who did much for the cause of liberty spoke from this balcony in 1825. Even with his passing from the memory of the general public there is an even more historically tragic angle to his story.

The first day of our most recent family vacation had us driving into Savannah on a hot, humid morning. Our destination was the visitor center to catch one of the several companies running sightseeing trolley tours of the historical part of the city. Along with twenty or so other tourists we piled onto the trolley and without any air conditioning we listened to the African-American tour guide drive around and give her scripted lecture of the city. Right off the bat it became uncomfortable for several of the passengers on the trolley since the nice lady driving had more than a slight Gullah accent that made her some of her speech hard to understand.

For those who do not know the the Gullah are descendants of African slaves that were forced to work the many plantations that made up the backbone of the economy of South Carolina and Georgia's Lowcountry regions. The semi-tropical climate of that region was very hard on the rich whites. As sort of an unintended revenge the slave ships that brought Africans to these shores also carried various tropical diseases that cut through the masters and their kin. Africans were far more resistant allowing their population to grow much faster than the whites that controlled them.

During the Civil War white planters, fearing an Union invasion of the sea islands of the Lowcountry, fled abandoning their plantations. The Gullah people eagerly took up the defense of their freedom serving in the Union Army's First South Carolina Volunteers. After the war the white owners never returned due to labor issues and hurricanes. The Gullah people left more or less to themselves returned to their traditional culture free of most outside influence until the twentieth century. Such an isolation allowed their language to evolve its own way and I will admit to those not exposed to its particular cadences it can be hard to understand.

Growing up in the Lowcountry of South Carolina I have a decent knowledge of the Gullah language and was able to clearly following the lecture the tour guide was heroically giving while negotiating the streets of Savannah. Fairly often though I could hear those around me whisper, "What did she say?"

The tour was rather long and with the heat and humidity the interest of most of my fellow passengers faded quickly and they fell into a sort of heat induced catatonia. Even for me the tour was taking its toll with most of the historical sites involving homes that was the location of some local special event or had an architectural importance that did not carry much significance for me. That was until we came upon the Owens-Thomas House. Our tour guide went on to explain that during General LaFayette's 1825 visit to the United States the Revolutionary War hero stayed in that home as the guest of the city of Savannah. The general's visit was close to an end at that time with him about to set sail back home to France. However, before he left he came out on that balcony to address the large crowd that had gathered to show their affection to someone who done so much to aid the cause of American independence.

The tour guide had pulled the trolley to the curb coming to a complete stop in front of the balcony while starting that part of the lecture. The stopping of the trolley and a fresh, cool breeze had the effect of somewhat rousing my fellow tourists. The tour guide went on to ellaborate how it was written in several accounts by Savannah residents about how the old general gave an impassioned speech to those standing before him. After it was done the general turned, entered the house, and sometime later boarded a ship for France. The kicker of General LayFayette's speech that day in 1825 as explained by our tour guide was that several of the city residents wrote in their journals that despite what they felt was an excellent speech no one in the crowd gathered around the hero understood a word of French and whatever was said by him was lost to history.

After concluding her story the tour guide, who had been giving the entire lecture from the driver's seat, looked up into the mirror above her head expecting a big laugh from her hot and dispirited audience. But with her Gullah accent kicking in all she got was quizzical looks and several shrugs. Except for me who was laughing my ass off about to roll out of my seat. The other tourists then started exchanging looks with each other about me and my family was wondering if they could disown me right then because of the way I was acting. But shit, while the heat might have had a greater affect on me than I thought the conclusion of her story was funny.

Now comes the fun part, I get to nominate four others to cough up some inspired crap... I mean story to go along with their pictures. So here are they are:

Keshi: Because her beauty is only exceeded by her wisdom and charm.

Lime: Because her beauty and intelligence is only exceeded by writing and culinary talents.

Zeppo: Just because I want to see his talented writing on this subject.

MadMike: Just because I know he hates memes.

So go forth and do like me and grovel in the verbal emissions of your own pomposity.


sunshine said...

Thanks for doing it! I"m off to soccer and have only read half of this. I'll finish this afternoon when I get back.
Very interesting so far...

Randal Graves said...

Jeez, all I had was a goofy shot and poorly-written snark, you give us an entire tale reaching from history to the present day. Overachiever.

sunshine said...

Haha! Poor Randal.

Great story! That's hilarious that he gave the speech in French. I guess they didn't have interpreters back in "the day" eh.

I really enjoyed your story and your photo! Great job!

Beach Bum said...

Sunshine: It was best you read the post after soccer. I had some proofreading to do on it.

Randal: Yeah, but otherwise I'm flat burned out with no real ideas to play with. My much delayed short stories are going nowhere.

Sunshine: I am uncertain of the accuracy of that report but pretty much that is what the tour guide told us.

MadMike said...

This was a great story Beach, or should I say Meme, which is fancy way of saying story, and you are right I hate Memes, and run on sentences like this one:-)

goatman said...

I ended up with a pic of my four ducks!
Who wants to hear about ducks?

lime said...

with a compliment like the one you just laid on me how can i possibly refuse?

i was aware of the origins of the gullah people but you filled in a few gaps for me that were quite interesting. had i been on the tour i'd have been laughing right with you. the irony was too rich.

i am curious though because i've never heard a gullah accent (that i am aware of) but i somewhat pride myself on being able to discern what most folks are saying regardless of accent because i've had so many firneds and teachers from all over the world and the year in trinidad (let me tell ya, if you can pick up what a toothless hindu trinidadian is saying at you, you're doing ok.)

Beach Bum said...

MadMike: Frankly I have to idea why you have something against run on sentences. I use to be quite friendly with them given that they inhabit much of my writings.

As for the story, it was all I could do to figure out something to write.

Goatman: Ducks? Go for it. I think ducks are cool.

Lime: Actually, straining the inner workings of my memory, Gullah may be related to some of the accents from the Caribbean. One thing that I am curious about but have never had it answered, several of the university professor types on television I have heard have described the Gullah accent as a language. Don't know if they are being politically correct or that the accent has drifted over some abstract line into another language.

Whenever I got around any Gullah people, like you, I have been able to discern what they are saying. I will admit though that I knew a lady from Scotland one time whose accent was so heavy I had to ask her husband what she meant.

Beach Bum said...

Sweet Jesus, looked over this post and found two more typos. I need a beer.

MadMike said...

I have family in Scotland, and I can't understand my nephews when they talk. They claim they can't understand me. Go figure:-)

Beach Bum said...

MadMike: I hope to go visit Scotland in a couple of years. It will be fun to get lost in some city like I did down in Cancun. But I don't expect to be worried about having my throat cut.

zeppo said...

I got a chance to visit Savannah a few years ago. I was visiting a friend and she gave me a small tour of the place. Quite interesting! We visited the Garden of Good and Evil cemetery. We had lunch in this little corner resturant where 90% of the clientele was African American. Great pie. We all stood up, for some reason, during the proceedings and followed along the owner as she sang God Bless America... It's a little too hot for my tastes, and I understand the termites will eat your house if you let them and sand gnats are quite unbearable. But it was a great place to visit.

Thanks for the props, BB! That was quite unnecessary. My writing these days has certainly taken a nose dive. I think I am more depressed now than I was when Bush was president. Then, I was angry and frustrated. Now, I am just depressed that this country of ours is apparently in the grips of some sort of insanity. I can only hope it is temporary.

Beach Bum said...

Zeppo: Savannah is hot and humid except for just a couple of months during the year. But there is an advantage to that given that tube tops and other light shirts cling very well the female tourists. Those pictures from my vacation are highly classified.