Friday, December 21, 2007

Apologies to Francophiles Everywhere

Yesterday I met the European language teachers, two Spanish ladies, Ladies of Spain, so to speak; a nice Russian lady, my age, who had the same reasons as me for staying in Thailand: Siberia, not surprisingly, made her joints hurt, I told her, baby, I understand, even Los Angeles makes my joints hurt; two Frenchmen, more on that later; and three German teachers, two quite conventional, women, thirty-something women, with hairy arms and big noses, very tall, and one startlingly unconventional: an African man from Mali, Dr. Salif, highly educated and very handsome, his German was perfect and his English was also superb. The Greek teacher of Greek looked so standoffish that I stood well off him.

On my arrival I took a seat, I thought, among the Spanish teachers, most of whom I had met several days ago, hence my invitation to today’s event. To my right was a lady that I’d not met, naturally, by natural instinct that is, mine and every other man’s, I spoke to her first. After that had gone pretty well for a while I asked her if the fellow sitting on my left was Spanish.

Let me backtrack a little. When I sat down, my first horrifying thought was, is that me? There was a terrible smell. After I satisfied myself that no, it was rather the fellow to my left, I had zeroed in on the Spanish woman, kind of cute in a hairy, Southern European way, I am forgiving on those issues. Now back to our narrative.

She told me, no, he’s French! What a cliché! Paul B. was telling me just before I left (redacted) that the French use less soap per capita than any other people in the world. And as long ago as the 1950’s, discriminating relatives were warning me that the French concept of home heating was “the sweater.” And why do they call a “French Bath” a “French Bath?” Like on a very cold day, when it’s been weeks since you’ve sweated at all, and you just take little bits of water and clean your pits.

What a fascinating little zoo! My new playground. Between the teachers and watching the students try to master the intricacies of German articles this will keep me entertained for some time.

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