Cute friend: ‘Hey Ms W, have you been writing of late?’
Me: ‘Eeerm, no, not really, not much going on…’
Cute friend: ‘Surely you must have something interesting to say, especially since you are in France’
Me: ‘…I guess…’
So that is the conversation that inspired this post. Haven’t done much inspirational travelling of late. (Tried booking a trip to Italy but when I saw the prices I nearly vomited, so, well…)
Neither have I had any profound, life changing experiences, at least not that I can openly share without extreme embarrassment, since I choose not to hide behind a secret internet identity…
But I always wanted to write about the mundane things about my life in France, and it seems that the moment is now. So here goes: a random list of the things I find weird, bizzare or hilarious about my life in France:
1. The only French food I have ever eaten is in the school cafeteria: People like to think that France is the gastronomical capital of the world. Maybe it is, I wouldn’t know. My experience with French food is mostly from the school canteen- that is, under cooked meat, ‘mystery’ stews and some over cooked french beans. Oh, and some very, very frightening cheese.
Don’t you have any french friends?
I do. Only that they are the kind that will make pancakes and eat them with ham (still don’t get it, I hate pancakes, even when they call them ‘crepes’ and dress them up with jam and cheese and fish and make a party around them.) Or buy bread and eat it with some greasy pork fat, elegantly packaged and named as something I cannot remember right now- all I know is that it looks like Kimbo with some black sh*t in it.
Why not go to a French restaurant?
Indeed, why not?
Hmm…let’s see. There are all kinds of cheap here. Cheap Chinese, Cheap Lebanese, Cheap Turkish Kebabs (remember those?), Cheap Japanese, Cheap Congolese, Cheap Afghanistani (yeah, that’s right). Only thing missing here is cheap French. Which does not exist. The day I am willing to spend my rent money on a meal in a french restaurant, you will be the first to know.
2. My effin hostel: I live in a hostel charmingly named ‘Bois’ (the forest). After living there for a couple of weeks, we renamed it the ‘Ghetto’. Why? Well, it is dominated by minorities. Africans on the first floor, Chinese on the second, Indians on the third, and a few misplaced exchange students and more Africans and chinese on the fourth.
Any time I want to lose my appetite I open the windows and let in the smells of ethnic cooking waft up to my room. Or leave my door ajar, and inhale that very special smell that only six foot plus basketball players can manufacture with their shoes. The smell that sticks to the back of your throat, the kind that only a very, very strong shot of whiskey can erase.
Did I mention that we have to share kitchens and bathrooms? All I can say is that we once found bloody intestines in the kitchen. Where did they come from? Lord knows, because I have never seen anyone buy a live animal here.
3. Embarrassing Africans: It’s not news that we have a poor reputation here, and almost no respect (with the whole thing about the entire African economy being the same as Mexico’s and all that..) but the brothers ain’t helping at all. Any time anyone mentions a story about harrasement, sexual or otherwise, you can bet that somewhere in the story is ‘and this black guy..’.
I’m not saying that all black people behave as though they come from the lawlessness of the Congo forest, but, you know the deal with stereotypes.
One good thing at least, is that no one messes with me. (At least not yet). Though the only people that make me uncomfortable are these gangs of Moroccan/North African boys, who’s moves I can never predict. And who are contenders for the ‘Most violent/misbehaved’ immigrants, right with the best of them.
4. My classmates: When I was applying for my masters studies (I know, how pompous..) I had these images about how I would suck the knowledge from my wiser, OLDER and more mature classmates. Oh, how I was wrong. I am in a classroom full of fresh faced, barely-out-of-their-teens young’ins like me. On the plus side, the parties rock. On the down side, I am in an intellectual wasteland. Topics of conversation include: ‘Did you notice that Saad has a big belly like an old man?’, to ‘I wish I had more time to go shopping!’. Spoilt for choice, aren’t I?
5. The old men: I don’t know, the last time I looked at my pictures, I don’t think the word hooker came up. But it doesn’t stop wrinkly little french guys asking what my price is, or desperate middle aged men offering me lifts in their flashy convertibles…
Of course, there is a lesson in all of this. Diversity, multicultural understanding, tolerance and all that jazz. Right now, I cannot see it. But then again, I’m sure that it’s one of those things I will understand once I leave and I can tell everyone, ‘Back when I was living in france…’