Some people collect stamps. I collect musical instruments I can’t play, the more exotic the better.
In real life, I don’t like shopping. I can go months telling myself I don’t need a new pair of shoes, just to avoid the agony of trying to find a pair of size 11s that don’t hurt my feet. (And then, thank God, it’s flip flop season, and I can put off worrying about it). I detest trying on clothes. And I would starve if David didn’t do the grocery shopping.
But put me in different country, and I become a credit-card crazed shopaholic. Who knew I NEEDED that French witch (not watch; witch); the Italian oil-and-vinegar dispenser, the wooden replica of a Swahili dhow, a hand-carved coffee-table (get THAT home from Africa), or the endless assortment of colorful fabrics that mostly sit folded in a drawer somewhere. In Tahiti, black pearls seriously threatened my retirement savings.
Not to mention musical instruments: I have drums from Uganda, Belize, and South Africa, along with instruments I can’t play, or, really, even spell.
On a recent trip to Egypt, I brought home a small Nubian string instrument string that the vendor told me was called something like a ”‘sensemill”? That’s what it sounded like (after I repeated it several times). To remember it, I equated it with “sensemilla” in my mind, and figured I’d look it up when I got home, but thus far, Google has been uncharacteristically unhelpful in either confirming (doubtful) or correcting the spelling. Maybe Google needs something closer to start with.
I had a similar problem when bringing home a Greek — what was it? That’s the question I was asked when I put the long thin package through the scanners at the Athens airport.
“A sort of bouzouki” I replied, which is true, in that the instrument resembled a bouzouki, except it was thinner and smaller and had three courses of strings, not four.
“Impossible,” the security guard said, and asked to see the instrument. Several other guards clustered around my package, ignoring all the other suitcases and packages rolling through the X-ray machines, and the conversation went approximately like this.
Security Guard: “This is not a bouzouki. It is a jurass.”
Me : “A jurass?”
Security guard: “No, a JUR-ass”
Me: “Okay, a JUR-ass.”
Security Guard: “NO, a JOUR-ass.”
Security guard: “How do you say Jurass like in Jurassic Park ?”
Me (brightening): “Ah!…. Jurass….”
Security guard: “No!! Jurass….”
Me: ”Can I bring it home even if I can’t say what it is?”
According to Wikipedia, the little instrument I bought was a Greek baglama, which doesn’t sound ONE BIT like Jurass-ic Park to me.
Although more Googling did finally yield an answer: the word I was looking for is tzouras, which appears to be a synonym for baglama.
Now, if only playing it were that easy….
For more on buying souvenirs in a whole bunch of places: