Blog 17: Tape Measure Communication, Cats of Kotor, Plastic Bag Madness

Tape Measure Communication

The tandem frame-build process requires various body and bike measurements which Co-Motion are using to design our new bike. As a result – we really needed a tape measure in Dubrovnik.

Tape measures are cheap enough to buy in Croatia, but buying one would’ve been a complete waste for a one-off measurement. Luckily we were staying in a family-run guesthouse who likely would’ve had one we could borrow. I walked downstairs to the family house so that I could ask our lovely host Maria for one, armed with my iPad and two pictures; one of a tape measure and one of a ribbon measuring tape.

I greeted her using all the Croatian I know. She was chipper and asked me in her broken English whether we were staying or going. I told her we were going to Montenegro soon, but not just yet. I then asked her in what I thought was a clear manner if she had a tape measure I could use for five minutes, accompanying my foreign language with a picture of what I needed. She then excitedly said, “Ok, ok, you will go in five minutes, no problem!”

I then re-tried my sentence without the five in it to avoid that confusion again, pointing to the picture of the tape measure on the screen. In the space of about one second, she had completely disregarded what I had said. It seems she was putting lots if energy into her next sentence during the time i was talking because she asked me if I saw any other people in Montenegro coming to Dubrovnik to let them know about her guesthouse.

For a third time I tried “do you have a tape measure I could use in your house?”, emphasising the ‘you’ by pointing to her body and even translating some of the words into Italian to maybe get my point across. “Ohhhhh” she responded. She then started to point down the stairs of her house, giving me a left, no, a right, then a left, then a right – as she directed me to what I’m sure was a hardware store.

I was shaking my head wondering how I was going to get my point across. I had all the resources I could think of using. I tried once again, really emphasising the ‘you’ and ‘house’, pointing at her body and down her hallway explicitly, and then at the tape measure. Maria then wandered down her hallway and came back with her husband.

I retried the same sentence on them both with the iPad, emphasising the same things. I got some directions from her husband to what I think was again the same hardware store. In the middle of directing me, they even had a little argument about whether one of the turns was left or right!

It just wasn’t working. Everything was just completely lost in translation. I was about to give up when Maria’s husband produced a tape measure out of his pocket! I yelled out a “yes, yes, yes” to which Maria was really apologetic and started telling me about how her memory is no good these days.

Just after I had obtained the tape measure from her husband, Maria pulls out a 1m ribbon measuring tape from her very own pocket. Not believing what I was seeing I ran upstairs and started measuring!

Cats of Kotor

Kotor really is a city famous for their cats. If you aren’t aware, Alleykat is particularly mustard-keen on the feline species.

There is even a shop in Kotor which sells cat handicrafts, and of course, cat food which you can use to feed the amazingly healthy stray cats.

We were told by the Cats of Kotor owner that cats were originally brought to Kotor when it was a major port city. Along with the trading of grains and spices over a thousand years ago, came mice and rats. Cats kept tabs on these pest populations during these times and have been famous to the region ever since, despite Kotor’s major income now from tourists.

If you sit anywhere in Kotor, you are bound to be serenaded by the cats. Whether the cats would like to eat your food or devour your attention, friendly ‘meows’ followed by the rubbing of cat fur against your legs are stock standard.

If you are eating lunch, you can expect an army of cats. They will glare at you for as long as it takes to melt your soul, knowing all to well that this tactic will see their bellies full.

The ‘Cats of Kotor’ are not only a pleasure to be around, but represent Kotor’s history told in a unique way.

Plastic Bag Madness

Alleykat hate producing waste. It is a policy of ours to either take plastic bags to the supermarket with us, or if we forget them, the punishment is that we have to carry everything we have just purchased in our arms. Even with this policy we tend to accrue bags.

One particular chain supermarket in Montenegro uses an unfathomable quantity of the suckers. If you want a carrot, and a cucumber and a capsicum – you get three bags. But the inconvenience of carrying three bags is obviously difficult, so they throw in another bag to carry the bags! Then you go and buy three different items from the supermarket bakery; that’s four more bags. Then some cheese and olives from the deli; three more bags. Without even hitting the register you are at 11 plastic bags.

Alleykat brought their own bags into the supermarket as per usual. This supermarket is pretty fancy for Montenegro, so there are employees assisting customers everywhere. Europeans don’t weigh goods at the cash register, instead everything is weighed in the deli, bakery or produce sections. Normally it is a weigh-it-yourself affair, but not at this fancy-shmancy supermarket.

The produce lady rips off a bag from a roll and sticks her arm out to grab and weigh my carrot. I shake my head saying ‘no’ to the bag and pull one I had previously used out of my pocket. I stick the carrot in the old bag and hand it to the lady to weigh. She then shakes her head, takes the carrot out of my bag and puts it in her new bag.

I tell her that I don’t want her bag, and put the carrot back in the bag I brought along, but that doesn’t go down all that well. Knowing that I couldn’t understand 99% of what she was saying, I’m sure there was swearing coming my way. I somehow got the lady to use my bags for four or five different items… but not for long…

We then walk to the bakery where we try to use our bags again. Unfortunately the bakery lady has already picked up our goods with her plastic bags.

All of a sudden, what seems to be the manager of this huge supermarket taps us on the shoulder. We try to explain that we have lots of bags and that we don’t want any more. But that isn’t important; the manager grabs all of the things out of our basket and trots off to weigh everything herself. Instead of unbagging everything, she simply puts everything we had into new plastic bags!

We now have 11 more of these plastic f****rs and approximately twenty Montenegrins who want us dead. Every time we walk past an employee we are getting ‘death’ stares.

We eventually finish our shop and head to the checkout. At this supermarket every checkout desk has an employee that bags items. Even after explaining that we don’t want bags, it is a competition to see who can pick up the groceries faster and bag them. I manage to strike fastest, but only after a stern ‘NO’ (in Croatian) every time she tried to pick up an item.

I’ll tell you what, we are quite lucky we made it out alive.


1 comment
  1. Love the Kat in Kotor. We had a similar plastic bag madenes last year on French super markets! Great blog Alleykat! Really enjoy the reading
     Will see your folks at Christmas no doubt.
    Hope you have an unusual one somewhere exciting Cheers Julia Armstrong

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