Thursday, October 30, 2008


Storks in nest
Originally uploaded by psteenhoff

Here's a joke told at a Polish party a few days ago....

Some storks are on their migratory flight back south for the winter -- toward Cape Town or Jo'burg perhaps? And they're having a little chat.

Stork 1: "So... what did you do all summer?"

Stork 2: "Ah, tak! Well, I'm tired! I circled around and around, over Gorzyński's house, ever since about March. Six months."

Stork 1: "And?"

Stork 2: "Yup. They had a baby a few weeks ago!"

Stork 1: "Aha. Great job! And you?"

Stork 3: "Mmmm. Me? Well, I circled over Szczepanek's house. Only five months. But still."

Stork 1: "And?"

Stork 3: "Yup. Another baby. A little boy!"

Stork 1: "Excellent. And what about you?"

Stork 4: "Me? Ah, well. I circled endlessly over the priest's house for the whole summer."

Storks 1, 2 and 3: "WHAT? What HAPPENED? A baby?"

Stork 4: "No. But they were sooooooo afraid!"

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Harlot approaches Tower of Babel

I’ve always been interested in languages. Well, always. Right. Since I was six, then.

We moved around a lot when I was kid. I began kindergarten in September in Los Angeles and continued on to finish first grade that June in Washington, D. C.

That’s how smart I was when I was six.  Whoo hooo! Are you not impressed?

My best friend in Washington was another new girl, Christiane, who’d also arrived midyear. She came from France. I think she started out not knowing a word of English. We shared a double-desk (oh, the olden days!) and I was supposed to help her if she had questions. 

Six-year old expateek, teacher’s aide.

Christiane soon far out-stripped my limited ability to help. I think she needed me for all of about four minutes. After all, she was two years older and could already read, write, and do maths. And in French! Within a couple of months she was promoted to the next grade, and within the year, I’d moved away again, this time to Wisconsin.

But spending time with Christiane and her family made me desperate to learn French. Once in Madison, when I’d gotten my own library card, I checked out the children’s Learn French book month after month after month. I read Madeleine, and all those children’s books about Paris and “la belle France”. I was smitten. I was sure if I worked hard enough, I could teach the language to myself, by myself.

Christiane and I corresponded over the years as pen-pals, but it wasn’t until grade 7 that I could choose French as an elective. I studied French through high school and on into university, and I've taken French classes and studied the language off and on ever since. 

If the number of French books and dictionaries purchased had a direct effect on fluency, I'd be a genius in French. 

Sadly enough, buying a book several thousand books doesn't get the contents into one's head. I can get along easily in French, entirely thanks to my impossibly strict, Sorbonne-educated high school French teacher, Mme. Nestler. But I would never call myself fluent. I reserve that word for those who’ve lived in a francophone country for a few years. Not me, not yet.

But that wasn’t the only language study I attempted. In high school, we had the option to study Russian. It was the Sputnik era: high Cold War tension all over. And my little language classroom in Madison, Wisconsin was going to be the secret weapon by which America would WIN the Cold War. I took Russian for two years, but remember little. Just an overall feeling of terror and imminent doom, which was intimately associated with the Byzantine complexity of Russian grammar, including cases, variable endings, and a whole lot of other mind-blowing bits and bobs.

You'll notice that this is the Simplified Russian Grammar. As opposed to the Incredibly Complicated and Entirely Impossible to Understand Russian Grammar. 

Because truth in advertising hadn't been invented yet, back when I was a teen.

You'll also notice that I was deep into my "tiny writing" phase during high school. 

How small can you write? This actually had a practical application, because for the final end-of-year Russian exam, we were allowed to bring in exactly one page of notes as an "aide memoire". Clearly, the advantage goes to a Tiny Writer. I tried to get this whole book onto 2 sides of an 8.5 x 11 sheet of paper. Pretty nearly succeeded too. Ahhh, the joys of miniaturisation.

Good thing it wasn’t up to me to defend our country with my awesome language skills. Oddly enough, last week whilst in Turkey I was trying to resurrect some Russian, as the four major languages used in Turkey appear to be Turkish, English, Russian, and German. Who’da thunk it?

Check out this sad little girl who's thinking, "Why on earth did they take my picture wearing those hideous goggles? It's almost child abuse. God, the shame! I'll never live this down." 

However... she can probably think that thought in four different languages. So good on her!

At university, I continued my French, but dropped Russian and added German. Because I was in luuuurrve with a boy who had lived for a year in Germany, and I thought it would be so thrilling to whisper sweet little German nothings in my true love's ear. 

Whatever. He dumped me two months into the school year, so by November I was despising German and everything about it. Happily, German had fewer cases than Russian, and no Cyrillic alphabet, but I had to complete the entire year of the class to gain credit for the course. So for another six months I got to think about my fabulous ex-boyfriend every single day in German class. Didn’t do much for my study habits.

Also note that the textbook and I didn't get along very well. German: A Structural Approach. Frankly, I like to approach my language studies pell-mell and with absolutely no discernible plan in mind. After all, it's a pretty random process, learning a language. Leave it to the Germans to pretend that there's an organised way to do it. I resent the whole idea.

The dialogues for German were entertaining, however. Check this one out.

And here.

Of course.... Hepatitis? Whiskey? What were you thinking, Fritz? Please! 

Maybe, Fritz, if you didn't drink so much, you could see better AND you wouldn't have so many children. AND you wouldn't have to WORK so much, leaving your wife Inge alone for long days with all those shrieking little brats of yours. 

In fact I think, Fritz, that Inge is already on her way to Frankfurt to buy that little red sports car. And I think Dr. Anton Fischer's footing the bill. Too bad you didn't listen to my advice early on. Lay off the schnapps, buddy! And the whiskey. It's your funeral, pal.

Those Germans sure drank a lot didn't they? I would have too, had I continued on with German 201.

Fast forward to three years ago. As I relocated to South Africa, I decided to work on learning Afrikaans. I mostly taught myself using audio CD's and children's books.

Though I put my current reading level at about a 10 year old’s,

it’s given me lots of pleasure, and I enjoy visiting my little Afrikaans-speaking neefies when in London. At this point, the South African diaspora touches all countries in the world. Truly, every time I turn around I run into a Saffer, so there’s certainly some entertainment value in knowing a bit of daardie taal.

And now, of course, Polish. Mmmm. More books.

It helps to have studied Russian, even if that was back in the Dark Ages. At least I absorbed the shock and horror of all those variable endings and cases years ago… so now there’s only the hard, hard business of really learning it.

Every day I try to practice a little more. The fish lady at the Bomy supermarket gets a funny look on her face whenever I approach. I just know she’s thinking, “Whatever will come out of her mouth this time? I musn’t laugh!” Especially because it generally seems to kill Polish people to smile in public

My work is never done.... 

Mission: provide endless amusement to Poles in all walks of life. 

So far, brilliant success!

Turkish Blogger

Ok, whew, it wasn't my fault after all. I didn't break Blogger in Turkey.

Read about what's happened here and here and here.

And then thank your lucky stars that you live in a country that protects freedom of speech. 

Whatever or wherever that country might be.

When I see politial behaviour like this, I find it unbelievable that Turkey is at this very same moment petitioning to join the European Union. 

Cultural values clash, anyone?

Łorld Syris!!!

Still workin' that Polish alphabet, and workin' it hard. And soundin' a little like Sarah Palin. 

Ok, we'll stop that now. Droppin' the "g" at the end of words. Ugh. Who does that?

What, you're wondering, could this post possibly be about? Lord Cyrus? Some British or Polish nobleman? Or is this a new pet name for the amazing Mr. D? 

Nawwww... it's using the Polish orthographic system to write "World Series" (thanks for providing that big four-syllable word, Pinolona! You rock!) 

You all knew that by now though, right? Faithful Readers Reader? You were paying attention after I wrote all about We will rock you and got that tune stuck in your heads head, correct? (Sorry all over again, Isabella -- I promise I'll stop soon. Maybe we can move on to Abba. Or Paul Anka. Or Neil Diamond. Cracklin' Rosie anyone?)

Anyway, here too in Poland, we can watch THE WORLD SERIES. Because after all, it is the SERIES of THE WORLD. So of course it's very very very important.

In fact, one of our home teams is playing: The Philadelphia Phillies. 

How do we determine what our home team is? Hmmm. Not sure on that one. Based on where we've lived, we could variously root for the Boston Red Sox, the Phillies, the Baltimore Orioles, the Milwaukee Brewers, or the Chicago Cubs or White Sox (ok, not the White Sox). I'm sure Mr. D has some important value-based system for evaluating what his current or forever home team is. 

For my part, I just root for whoever is winning today on the tv. I like to root for the WINNER. Mainly because tomorrow I won't remember the score or even who played. Clearly, sports are not my thing. 

But Mr. D was quite excited to watch game 4 of the Series last night. Game Four? I think? Here he is, completely on the edge of his seat during the 8th inning.

Ahhh, the soporific effect of baseball! Just as sleep-inducing as cricket and almost as good a nightcap as a shot of Żubrówka. Just with a few more zzzzzz's!

Monday, October 27, 2008

We will rock you!

Prize for first answer goes to Jim for correctly identifying Freddie Mercury of Queen as the artist in question. It's We Will Rock You, if you haven't figured it out yet.

Prize for pointing out that I offered no prize (oops, sorry!) goes to Isabella. Thank you! Next time I'll think this through more carefully. Perhaps some pisanki (Polish Easter eggs) or pierogi (dumplings) are in order next time? 

Prize for asking an intelligent question goes to my sis Martha for asking, "Well, what does that actually mean in Polish?" 

Answer: nothing. Just writing English words using the Polish alphabet. 

I warned you it wasn't that funny.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

I broke Blogger. Sorry guys!

I did it. It’s all my fault. I broke Blogger in Turkey.

We spent the week here, and I updated my blog a couple of times, and then about Wednesday I noticed that everything Blogger-related was slow or simply not happening.

I thought maybe it was me. My bad behaviour in this venue.

You know, I took up too much band-width at the hotel and the hotel manager looked at my personal site-viewing history, and said, “Whoah, boys, I think we’ve found the problem! It’s that twit up in Room 2513. She’s slowing down the whole damn hotel complex. Look at this! Blogspot here, Blogger there. Damn. Why doesn’t she just go out to the beach already?”

“I know what we’ll do, we’ll just restrict access to all Blogger stuff, just for her. That’ll get her outside and onto a sunbed. Bingo! Done!”

So fine, I gave up on Friday, decided to catch the last few rays before heading back to winter in Warsaw. And here I am at the Antalya airport, picking up some free wireless. Time to look at my blog again and think about what to write next.

I hit my Blogger bookmark, and this is what I see:

Blogger is apparently now OUTLAWED in Turkey. Or something! What can it all mean? What have I done now???

Gosh, I feel awful. It's always MY FAULT!!! Really!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Pop Quiz!

Here's a quiz/joke if you're just beginning to learn Polish. 

I'll warn you in advance. It's not that funny. Just in case you were putting your teacup down in breathless anticipation.

So here goes:

As you slowly sound out the following, you will be mouthing the words from what famous tune?

"Ły łyl, ły łyl rak ju!"

Just about the right tempo too, if you're anything like me. Slowwwww reader.

(Extra points if you can name the band. I had to Google it to be totally sure, because I am an utter idiot when it comes to artist/song associations. No musical Trivial Pursuit for me!)

And oh by the way, I've already forgotten the answer to this question.

Which question, you're asking? Ohhh, the "who is the band?" question, pardon me! Attention deficit disorder strikes again. I'm already thinking about something else. Forgive me.

 I Googled it only about six, count 'em, six days ago. Gad. Cotton fluff for brains.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Lightweight post, in so many ways...

In case you were wondering, I've gone missing because I'm on a "business trip" with Mr D to Turkey. It's all hard work and serious electrical things, you know, like figuring out how to ... oh, I don't know... how to turn on the lights in the bathroom so I can put on my eyeliner. 

Hint: insert key into keycard-thingy by the door to turn on room's electricity. Otherwise, all the switches in the room don't work! Duh.

I leave the important business-y things to Mr D, because I have extremely vital leisure-type activities to pursue.

So instead of working, I'm trying to figure out how to use my new version of PhotoFlop 1.2x, beta edition. The software's still in the testing stage right now, but I was so inspired by Jaywalker's new contest/"Outsider Craft" project, I thought I'd give it a go.

Take a peek.

It doesn't measure up to the hilarity that is Jaywalker's. But it's a beginning.

Of course, once you get started fooling with this stuff, it's kind of addictive....

See what I mean???

Friday, October 17, 2008

Blog Action Day 08 -- Malawi's Poverty Problem

What we did... or what we tried to do.

In late autumn of 2006, Mr D and I traveled from Jo'burg to Malawi. We went to visit our domestic worker, Oscar, at his home in Mzuzu village. At least, I think it was Mzuzu Village. It's not even marked on a map. (Don't mistake his village for the city of Mzuzu. No, we're really talking about a village. Oscar's tiny town is near Kapando, if that's any help.) 

We'd been told many many many times by Oscar, "People are suffering there. They are suffering."

And we knew it, from reading the papers. Malawi was in the midst of a drought that, throughout the whole of 2005, had spread across much of the southern half of Africa and had reduced harvests by more than half. Malawi, with its deadly trifecta of drought, poverty, and AIDS, was in a terrible state. I wrote about it briefly here, back in 2005.

Oscar wanted us to come see Malawi, so we did. He also had a long list of things he wanted us to provide for his family and his village, and we decided to do our best. The main thing he asked for was a diesel-powered grain grinder for his village. This would enable the people in Mzuzu Village to run their own micro-business, grinding grain at home, rather than having to walk up to 10 km to the next town, carrying huge bags or baskets of maize atop their heads.

How we got there was like this: Flew from Jo'burg to Lilongwe. Note the very busy airport schedule. Arrivals today? Ummm.... three.

Rented a car. Drove four hours north to Mzuzu, on a long straight 2-lane paved highway. 

We then went to the local bank to get approximately one trillion bazillion Kwatcha in cash to pay for the grain grinder (no credit cards accepted.) This amounted to literally stacks of bills. As in a whole briefcase full of bills, bound together with elastic bands. 

We met up with Oscar, and walked over to the local large machinery store to buy the grain grinder. We ended up buying two, as the maize throughput was the same with two smaller machines versus one larger machine. We also figured that if anything went wrong with one machine, there would still be a second machine working all the time. That was the idea, anyway.

Lots of standing around in the sun, haggling and discussing horsepower and diesel and whatnot. We were certainly a curiosity. The grain grinders were to be delivered to Oscar's village early the next week.

Then we drove 2 more hours on winding, washboarded clay roads, ascending higher and higher into the mountainous back-country of Malawi. We only had to make three turns during that two-hour drive (but there weren't very many roads to choose from). 

As in, pretty much none.

Great. We hoped it would be easy to find our way back.

The farther and farther we drove ("How much further is it going to be, Oscar?" "Not much further, very close!") the more we began to wonder where in the world this village was going to end up. Turns out, almost Zambia, but don't worry. It was only petrol.

We were driving slower and slower, passing mud huts with thatched roofs, tobacco drying shacks, and lots of people (women and children) hoeing out in the fields. The sky was dark and foreboding, and as we passed, people simply stopped what they were doing to stand and stare. We felt very strange and out of place. Like white skinned freaks, really. 

We finally arrived at Oscar's village. We met all of Oscar's family and every person in the village (about 60 souls). The children were excited to meet us, and thrilled to have their photos taken, except for one little three-year-old boy who found me terrifyingly white, and ran away screaming bloody murder as soon as he clapped eyes on me.

But the children were all so small and so frail. Their clothes were literally almost worn off them. Dresses had faded from green to yellow-green to gray, torn at the shoulders and elbows. The little girls were in old petticoats and chiffon, clothes that were now utterly dusty and bedraggled. It was hard for us to believe we shared the same planet ... especially because we hadn't shared nearly enough of our stuff. The poverty was both limitless and stunning.

After greeting everyone and playing with the children, we sat down to eat a quick bite of mielie pap and veg, before turning around at last and driving back to the main town of Mzuzu ... two more hours in the car, in the dark. 

We did manage to find our way back, though the road looked mighty different after sunset. No road signs or signs or directions or anything ... just the moon, which was lovely.

And now? 

Well, it's been almost two years, and I'm ashamed to say that I don't know what's happened in Oscar's village. In mid-2007, Mr D was transferred to Poland, and I left South Africa even earlier to return to the (relative) safety of England, on my way to Warsaw. We tried to be sure that Oscar could keep his position at the home in Jo'burg, staying on to work for the next tenants. But he was dismissed late in 2007 and I don't know where he's gone.

I'm hoping that he's okay. After all the xenophobic violence in South Africa this year, killings directed against foreigners (for example, Malawians) working in South Africa, it's really concerning. 

But I don't really know what to do, or what I should do, or what I should have done. 

I feel very sad. This is a story without a happy ending. No ending at all, really.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Blog Action Day 08 -- Poverty

A day late and a dollar short, that's what I am. But here goes.

I've been thinking a lot, lately, about money, and the lack of it. Poverty or wealth. It's kind of ironic that we've been having this continuing world-wide downward economic spiral lately. I'm guessing that the topic for Blog Action Day 2008 was chosen long before this newest global economic mess began, but that's just me guessing.

But how does one define poverty? Is is having less than some certain defined amount of money per year/month/week? Only earning minimum wage? Or is it being jobless? Is it being homeless? Hungry? 

Or is it having a mountain of debt that you know you can't possibly pay off in your lifetime? Is it not having money for immunizations for your kids or the money for shoes to fit their growing feet? 

Or is it having nothing, with no hope for anything ever getting any better?

I've never known poverty. For the first year of our marriage, I was the main breadwinner, bringing home a grand total of $411.00 a month. Our monthly outgo on the house was $121.00. Mr. D also received some money via GI Bill payments, but that went right out the door again to pay for his tuition at engineering school. So we didn't have a lot of money left over. In fact I remember getting hollered at for buying a Glamour magazine ($1.50?), because we didn't have the money to "waste" on such tripe.

Mr. D had a point there, 'cuz glamourous I'll never be, so yeah, that was a total waste of money. I'll admit it, he was right. Once in 30 years, whatever. I'll give him that one.

But we didn't feel poor, even though by most standards we didn't have much. We had a roof over our heads, thanks to Mr. D's obnoxiously disciplined saving habits whilst in the Coast Guard. We had food on the table, thanks to Mr. D's good vegetable gardening skills and his ability to hunt and fish. (I can skin a deer... me and Sarah Palin have something in common. Although that's it.) We had a teeny old Honda Civic, with no radio, purchased by Mr D with his saved money. 

And we had that damned Glamour magazine. (Looks like I wasn't bringin' much to the party, doesn't it?) 

So we weren't poor, really. 

But the thing was, we felt any fiscal belt-tightening was only temporary. We knew that when Mr. D finished his stint at university, we could go anywhere in the world and either of us could find good well-paying jobs, with good salaries and health insurance and 401k plans and all the rest of that jazz. We had no doubts. We just knew.

But millions of people don't have anything like that assurance.

And I don't know what to say or do for them.

I read an interesting essay at African Expat Wives Club the other day, and it highlights some of the problems working with individuals while trying to do your bit to end poverty. We tried ourselves whilst in Africa, to make a difference to African poverty. To be honest, I don't know whether we made things better or worse... It was our own particular brand of hubris to think we knew better than big international aid organisations. 

To be continued.... later today....

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

World Financial Crisis. SOLVED!

Yeah, yeah, lookin' here for answers? Well,don't.

However, today I'm going to yammer on about more things Polish. Simply because I happen to be in Poland again. Finally. A little too much traveling lately, even for me. I'm tired.

Perhaps all that travel is a part of the world financial crisis, you're asking? Certainly the Mastercard bills look a bit friendlier lately with fewer transcontinental flights listed. 

Why am I not married to an airline executive (Don!) or a pilot (Lane! Michael!) so I can fly for free?

(I know, as a feminist, I should say, "why am I not a pilot or an airline executive?" but that would mean I'd have to go to work every day and hmmmm... I'd rather not. Let's leave the heavy lifting to Mr D.)

Grrrr. Oh well. As my mother often says, "You'd cry if you were hung with a new rope." 

Which I never understood, except in the most general way, thusly: 

"You'd cry if you were hung with a new rope" = "SHADDAP!"

Ok, point taken.

Anyway, I'm working on learning Polish, but it's slow. Of course, if I had started learning Polish fourteen years ago, when I first had the chance, I'd be pretty fluent by now. 

Maybe. Polish is pretty. damned. difficult.

"But expateek!" you exclaim. "How could you have learned Polish, way back in 1994?"

Aha. I knew you'd ask that question.

Because I was living in Chicago in 1994, where I met my good friend Mira, who's Polish.

Here she is. Beautiful, isn't she? She's really really smart too.

Mira's easy to pick out in a Chicago crowd because, amongst all the people clad in khaki trousers and floral print dresses and red-white-and-blue sweaters, she alone is almost always wearing simply ALL BLACK. She assures me, "not so much!", but look at the photos for evidence.

See? All black. One of the other charming things about Mira is that she's had that camera she's holding for at least two years, and she still can't figure out how it works. So maybe not quite as smart as all that, but then again, she admits she never even tried to read the instructions.

Anyway, Mira suggested back in our homeschooling days that she could teach us Polish. "Us" included her charge, Miss Benny, and my own four rambunctious children and me. I jumped at the suggestion, because I love a new project, and a new language, and then she said...

"Oh, no, really. I was just kidding. When would you ever use it?"

When, indeed, Mira? When indeed?

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Romanian rat's nest

And you think the wiring under your desk is messy! Check this out! Honest-to-goodness photo of a light-pole on the biggest, busiest boulevard in Bucharest. 

Here, let's see if we can attach about seven hundred and forty-one more cables to this poor pole. At least it's not gonna blow down in a windstorm. Mr D, ever the fascinated electrical engineer, was agog. To be fair, workers were doing some construction nearby, but gadfry, what a snarl. Looks like an Amy Winehouse hair-do.

"Let's see.... Connect the cable labeled A-412 to box IG-1... Insert male cable coupler here (see illustration 114-a, page 73.) ...Ok, then.... Unwind 80 miles of cable. Female coupler is inserted in 42-04BBa, while male jack goes into 30462 adapter." Uh, yeah. And make sure the electricity is turned off for all of Bucharest while you do this!

I like electricity where you flip the switch and the light bulb goes on. This just looks scary.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Smiling in Zoliborz

Yesterday morning I backed out of my driveway, trying as usual not to get broad-sided by some maniac Pole barreling down my tiny little street. As I've noted before, Poles drive like bats out of hell, whether tearing down the main drag or speeding though my itsy-bitsy little neighborhood. It doesn't seem to matter where they are, but dammit, those Poles are in a hurry

Backing out of my driveway is even more of a hazard because on my street, like everywhere else in Poland, everyone seems to love parking all over the sidewalk with their giant SUVs all higglety-pigglety and blocking the view. (Yeah, SUVs are popular here too, even with the price of petrol at about $10/gallon.)

I'm taking my life in my hands whenever I go out of the drive, but believe you me, I am careful. I back out sooooooo slowly. Like your grandma. 

Your grandma on very strong drugs. Sedatives, perhaps.

Anyway, as I finished this extremely slowwwwww automotive maneuver, a well-dressed man about my age was walking past. (My age? Hmmm, classified. But let's just say, around the half-century mark.)

I stopped, shifted into first gear, looked up at him, and he flashed THE BIGGEST AND MOST GORGEOUS SMILE at me!

And my first thought was, "Whoa, somebody got up on the wrong side of the bed this morning! You're in Poland, remember? Poles do NOT smile at strangers!"

Good God, what was he thinking?

Unless, perhaps, he wasn't smiling at me, but instead at my Hello Kitty air freshener hanging from the mirror? Now that would make more sense.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

10 miles of cling wrap

Here's a quick one, for those of you who fly a lot.

If, as you check in, you notice there are more people employed as freelance baggage-wrappers than airline personnel, then by all means get your bag wrapped too.

I'm thinking Bucharest and Johannesburg, specifically.

Sort of looks like a trussed chicken, doesn't it? 

You don't want to be the only fool with a naked bag. Especially because for 18 Romanian Lei or 10 South African Rand you'll also end up with a cool sticker like this.

The small print is both calmly reassuring ("protecting your baggage from damage due to manipulation" -- and what in the world would that be?) and weirdly dismissive ("The service providers hereby disclaim any responsibility for loss, theft, or damage of the baggage or its content." Like there's only one "content" in there! Hah! I've got loads of contents!) 

And phew! It's 100% recyclable, non-toxic, and "environmental" friendly to boot.

If you check out the SecurePlus website you'll learn this about baggage-wrapping: "Originated in US, the concept of baggage protection using a special polyethylene stretch film came up as an answer to the passengers' need of having their goods effectively protected during both handling and air transportation, mostly as a result of the numerous compensation requests that the airlines had to face."

Hmmm. Like the compensation request I didn't make for the shoes and biltong stolen from my bag flying out of Jo'burg? Oh well. Next time, next time I'll claim. I didn't know you could.

Oh, and check out the FAQs at Secure Plus. Apparently, it should be Frequently Asked Question, because there's only one. But it must get asked all the time.  And it's this: "What are some characteristics of the plastic film that protects the baggage?" I leave it to you to find out more.

But it sounds a lot like cling wrap to me.