Traveller T Shirt

July 7, 2007

Tavel T shirt Andy sent me a link to this shirt, knowing I’d like it. He was right. :)

I had a similar idea for a visual phrase book, but it never moved past the conceptual stage. I always found it easier to pantomime when I was unable to communicate verbally. I’d place the palms of my hands together, bring them to the side of my head and tilt slightly to the right, in what seems to be a universal symbol of sleep. Then I put my arms to my side with my palms up, lift my shoulders, open my eyes wide and perhaps and shake my head gently. This is seems to be a pretty universal look for bewilderment that conveys the “where?” effectively. The result usually involved pointing or a follow me gesture and worked as often as needed. While figuring out food and bathroom pantomime should be an easy exercise for the reader, what I found hard to convey (on more than one occasion, but most memorably in a small town in Tibet) was my effort to pantomime “where can I buy additional credit for my prepaid local sim card for my cell phone”. This precise message was pretty hard to convey even when I had the cell phone in hand and could point at the sim card, but I hadn’t remembered to bring the phone with me that day. Before giving up, I followed a nice man 2 blocks to his shop where he offered the use of his land line, I was directed to an electronics store (that didn’t even sell phones), offered the use of a passerby’s mobile phone, and sent to a store that looked very promising, but in in the end only sold calling cards not mobile phone recharge cards.

But back to the shirt. Besides the difficulty in asking where to do your laundry when the shirt is dirty, I think it has one additional problem. The envelope icon could get you either a post office or an internet cafe depending on the country, and perhaps the age of the person being asked. If it is an internet cafe you want, I’d suggest a keyboard or perhaps a mouse as an icon.