If you have ever travelled to a foreign country, you’ve likely found yourself attempting to communicate with strangers when you don’t speak a common language. Often, despite our best efforts, some things just get lost in translation.
I love the fact that I speak 2 languages fluently: French and English (the two official languages in Canada). Since moving to the Cariboo and joining the ranks of a tourism operator, I’m attempting to learn a third language – German. Yes, German! Enter Duolingo. A free language app that keeps it easy and fun to learn a new language. Why German? Apparently, this region of BC is a very popular destination for Europeans seeking to re-wild. Countries like Germany and Switzerland that used to have lots of wilderness landscapes have lost much of it through urbanization. But Canada still has plenty of wilderness, which is a big draw for tourism. And the Cariboo region along the Gold Rush Trail is predominantly forest, lakes, and ranch land where exploration can go on for days and weeks.
Most of our foreign guests have a particularly good understanding of the English language and communication works out pretty well. Every so often, Google Translate is needed to ensure key information is not misunderstood. I thought, if I simply learn a few key phrases in German, I could make our foreign guests feel more at home. I don’t know if you’ve ever done this…speak a few sentences in a language in which you only know a few sentences and the person answers you in a paragraph like monologue with such speed and enthusiasm that the look on your face quickly tells them you have no idea what they’ve just said! That’s going to happen, so it’s best to start your friendly foreign conversation with, “I only know a few words.” And even then, the thing about learning a new language through an app is that your ‘accent’ is going to be really bad, despite your best efforts.
Some of my favourite moments with guests at Ruth Lake Lodge Resort have been when accents and translation have us breaking into laughter. In 2019, we had a lovely young couple check in and they were suddenly very aware of the wilderness location they had entered. Even though our resort is only 30 minutes from the District of 100 Mile House, we are surrounded by forest. They spoke English very well, albeit with a heavy accent, but we were managing fine. They wanted to explore the lake, take in the sites, and enjoy the outdoors. We talked about things to do and where to go if they needed to restock supplies. The young man asked if we had beers. Since we don’t have a license to sell alcohol, I gave him directions to the store in town and showed him on the map where he could get beers. He looked at me a bit confused. So I paused and thought…how do I use sign language to explain beers. So I bring my thumb to my mouth in a hang loose and tip it back…right? Isn’t that the ‘international sign’ for beers? And the light came on and he said ‘no! not beers!’ (using the same sign as I had) BEARS! with his arms overhead, hands in claw shape, and he grrrrs! “OH BEARS!”, “oh you don’t need to go to town for those. You can see bears right outside your door!
Now, of course, I think, everyone who comes to the Cariboo region is hoping to see some kind of wildlife and a black bear would be the ultimate sighting. Turns out, not everyone is excited about that. We always do a bear safety talk to everyone who checks in when black bears are active in the area, and there’s a really handy info sheet in the guest binder in your accommodation. It’s important to us that the wild animals stay wild and for everyone’s safety, we want guests to respect a safe distance from any wildlife and never EVER feed any wild animal, including birds or squirrels.
It’s also why, as a pet friendly resort, we insist dogs are on leash. We have wolves and mountain lions in the area, and these animals are natural predators of black bears and their cubs, so an off leash dog is a disaster in the making. Our domesticated pets have some of their wild instincts still intact, mostly that of following the scent of other animals, but our pampered little pooches may not have the survival instinct of their wolf ancestor. A dog can often lead a bear back too close to accommodations and guests.
There are also deer, bobcat, lynx, fox, and many creatures from the rodent family. It’s always best to enjoy their territory from a safe distance. If you’re a bit apprehensive of a wildlife encounter, we’ll gladly take you on a guided nature walk if that is of interest to you and we’ll always make you aware of any wildlife sightings on the property if you prefer to stay indoors.
While we’re enjoying reminiscing about stories that shape who we are as a resort and why we do what we do, we’re also reminded that during the summer, we often don’t take the time to enjoy all the fun activities brought to us by life on the lake. We often say that we live vicariously through the guest experience. We invite you to share your stories with us by posting on our social media channels using #ruthlakelodgeresort and @ruthlakelodgeresort. Remember your favourite experience, share a photo or two and dream of your next vacation with us.