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The one and only time I used it turned into a disaster of no mean proportions. It was when my Mom was alive and my sister in law called to tell me that she found a nurse for her who had worked for some people in Gouna, but her charge had died and she was now looking for a job. But she was a foreigner, I think she was Belgian, and spoke only French. I told my sister in law that that would be a problem as neither my Mom nor I spoke French, but she insisted that we try and see how we all adapt. As she was kind enough to go to all the trouble I thought the least I could do is give it a shot.

So I had the maid’s room upstairs prepared for her and thought to write out a kind of welcoming little note to make her feel at home. I did that in English and then had the brainstorm of getting it translated into French through Google.

The woman came and I received her with a smile and immediately handed her the note. She read it then looked blankly at me. And there I was grinning like a lunatic and nodding my head off to emphasize my welcome. She looked at the note again and started to stiffen up. I was puzzled because it was really a very nice note, full of welcome.

Anyway I took her up to her room to settle in and left her there. Half an hour later I got a call from my sister in law that the woman called her complaining about the room. It was too far from her charge, on another floor, and she cannot do her job properly if she is not next to her charge. OK fair enough. The next morning I prepared the room across the hall from my Mom’s room so that she could move in. She did. I then wrote her a note that if she wanted anything or had any complaints to address them to me and not anybody else. And had the note Google translated into French. She looked at it, glared at me and nodded. Ok so my message got through. It was good enough of my sister in law to provide me with this women, it would be too bad to keep bothering her with every little communication we have at home.

A couple of hours later my Mom rang her bell for the woman to come help her go to the bathroom. No response. She rang again. Nothing. I went and knocked on her door. Nothing. I knocked louder. Finally she opened the door. I gestured that my Mom needed her. She came immediately and helped my Mom. I then asked her in a Google translated note if she heard the bell. She looked blankly at me. So I took her and demonstrated. Ah! She understood, pointed to her ear and shook her head. Ok she had not heard it. Though this bell was very loud so that if the nurse was even in the garden she could hear. So I moved it right next to her door and we tried again with the door closed. She did not hear it. The woman was practically deaf!

It was then time for lunch. I wrote her another note that she will be eating the same food we were having, but that Mom ate first. And translated the note. She read it and I could see her color rising and a very nasty glint come into her eyes! What? I was just telling her about lunch! What was wrong with this woman? Can’t she accept anything I say to her?

A few minutes later another call from my sister in law telling me maybe I should let her do her own cooking, maybe she likes food done in a certain way. I thanked my sister in law, but this really irritated me. Our food was good enough for us, so if she did not like it and wanted to cook to her taste, well and good. She can cook for all of us. So I wrote her another note telling her if she liked to cook then she can cook for all of us and we will all eat the same.

Her reaction to that note was totally unexpected. She turned completely red, looked daggers at me, then shouted something at me that included my sister in law’s name, stood there with her hands on her hips and dialed my sister in law’s number. This was getting to be too much, for me and for my sister in law. Once she was done, I was about to call my sister in law to apologize for all the inconvenience caused by this woman, when I found her calling me. She said she could not understand what was happening and wanted to know from me. I told her everything. How I welcomed her, how disgruntled she was from the moment she stepped into the house, how every time I told her something she would not accept it and looked angry. It looked like she could take orders only from my sister in law but would not accept any instructions from me.

Things had reached a point where it was impossible to go on. My sister in law asked me if I would like to terminate her employment and I said that this might be for the best, neither party is happy with the association. She then kindly told me that she would be sending a driver to pick her up that very evening and return her to Gouna, which she did.

It was weeks later that I wrote something in Arabic and wanted to have it translated into English and thought to try Google again. That was when I discovered what had gone wrong. Not only was it gibberish, but also it seemed to add meanings on its own. This made me wonder what the poor woman was being told by my translated notes, and it was only then that I realized that the reason everything started going sour was because of the translation by Google. Only God knows what I had been saying to that poor woman!

5 Nov. 2014