the World in One Bite

13 Dec

He stood unremarkably behind the counter and asked us if we wanted onions in our kebabs. Spicy? More sauce? He usually faded under the neon sign that displayed his fast food menu. He rarely looked anyone in the eye and he certainly didn’t linger in conversation.

His restaurant is nothing special. The walls feel bare, there are a few tables and the television is always on. But on the wall opposite his counter, framed behind glass, is his secret life. His customers rarely spot it as they rarely look over their shoulders when ordering a kebab. But on the wall opposite his counter, framed behind glass, are dozens of bank notes. On the wall opposite his counter, framed behind glass, are the waves of the ocean.

He had spent 14 years at sea, working as a ship’s mechanic. Carried by the ship, rocked by the waves, he had seen the world. He traveled Malaysia, Peru, Egypt, Hungary, Argentina, China, the United States of America, the United Arab States, Australia, Thailand, Russia. He spent days, sometimes weeks, in each harbor and explored its towns. He lay under the desert suns and he lay beside mountains. He watched the moon over the seas and the moon over cities. He ate the world’s food and he heard the world’s music. And always: the endless ocean, the infinite companion.

He said, “I could never say where I liked it the most. Hundreds of different cultures, each one more diverse and exotic than the last. I liked it everywhere. How could I not? It’s cultures.”

Over 14 years at sea, he collected the bank notes of the world, and framed them behind glass. He didn’t hang them up to boast anything. He hung them up opposite his food counter so that he would see them every day, while he served us our kebabs. They weren’t his trophies. They were his view to the ocean.

If you’re ever in Ulm, take a walk down the grey and highly carbon-monoxided Zinglerstrasse. Should you visit the Balkan Kebab Fast Food Restaurant, don’t let the unassuming man disappear beneath the neon menu. Ask him if you might share his view to the ocean. This man who feeds you has stories that will give you the world in one bite.


11 Responses to “the World in One Bite”

  1. anna December 13, 2010 at 8:24 pm #

    ulm hat ein fenster zur welt! mag die mischung aus detailbezogenem setting und fernweh ohne geschnörkel. ein toller kontrast! ich rieche das meer und kebap!

    • rittisoncco December 13, 2010 at 9:17 pm #

      “The extraordinary lives of the simple people” There is no such thing as simple people! Danke für Deine Worte, Anna. Vielleicht bin ich sogar gut für sein Geschäft. 😉

  2. Sigrun December 13, 2010 at 9:00 pm #

    Es schneit! 😉 Did you do that? It’s kinda fun but also somewhat distracting when trying to read. Especially when it’s such a lovely story. I really, really like it and I like your style.

    • rittisoncco December 13, 2010 at 9:16 pm #

      You leave me no bone to pick with you today! 😉 Thanks for what you said. You know it means a lot to me.

  3. Sanjiv December 14, 2010 at 3:30 am #

    This is excellent! Life in serialized form, with no hints of where the plot’s going. I’m at the edge of my seat. Thank you for deciding to translate the reader-posts as well. Finally I get to peer into your ‘other’ world, and hopefully they get to peer back…Hm, but do you write German versions of your main posts as well?

    • rittisoncco December 15, 2010 at 1:39 pm #

      How’s life on the edge of your seat? I hope to topple you over eventually, so let me know when I managed. And yes, this blog will take even more exciting twists and turns as I mirror the human condition with fiction. And add the odd rhyme – how many more daring twists will she take?! As for your highly valid question towards a German post: no, I only have this blog thus far, and I must confess I am surprised at how many German readers are following! I’m delighted and do feel like I should return the favour and post in German every now and then. We shall see, we shall see… Enjoy the serialized form, Sanjiv, and thank you so much for subscribing!

    • rittisoncco December 21, 2010 at 4:00 am #

      I actually don’t! And that seems a bit selfish, given as English is my first language. I did go as far as to doubting the concept of a blog at all, because many of my readers are German. Then I was waved off with a sniggering “pfff” by said Germans, who exclaimed: “We understand English too, you know!” So there you go. Time you learnt German it seems! 🙂

  4. Jane December 14, 2010 at 10:23 pm #

    I’m still reading and it’s still giving me smiles

  5. aaron December 16, 2010 at 8:21 am #

    thanks ritti. funny how another person’s mementos become our own reminders. makes me wonder what bank notes you have tucked away.

  6. Akinkanju December 21, 2010 at 4:57 pm #

    It seems I have met this person(s) recently high up in the Andean mountains.
    Maybe not with such a worldwide view, but with an admirably deep insight into nature and life.

  7. Strahle December 23, 2010 at 7:05 pm #

    Nice story! It’s the best Kebap restaurant in Ulm, and the nicest Dönermann i’ve ever met.

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