>Guadeloupe is still here.

8 Oct

>I’ve been remiss in my posts. Guilty as charged. I have to ask myself if life is simply less interesting once you’ve spent some time Someplace Else or if I really am just that lazy. I like to look at it as just trying to fit in. You know, I will get to writing when I get to it but if yawning and organizing my vacation schedule get in the way so be it. I heard an Englishman who is teaching English in mainland France say, “Let’s face it, the French don’t want to work…and that’s why I’m here, because I want to be a part of that!” I’m not sure they don’t want to work entirely, although that depends on the individual, but I would venture to say that they want to work their way. Yeah well, they have as much a right to do that as Americans do to never get out of their cars in order to get food while working 60 hour work weeks for two weeks of paid vacation per year.
About fitting in, I think I know by now that I would rather fit in to the working their way thing. As my Aunt who knows lots of Worldly Stuff told me, in France, life is good. She was right.

Well then besides yawning and vacation planning there have been lots of interesting Guadeloupe style moments to share which simply weren’t shared. Overall I sense some sort of slow marked change occurring within me. This was especially evident when I last touched down in Guadeloupe coming back from mainland France and caught myself thinking how nice it was to be home and in the heat and sun…what the?!?! Who am I? The metamorphosis becomes evident in other ways, day by day, and I am certain we haven’t arrived at the end result just yet. No no, times, and my ways, they are a changin’. Take for example the driving. Before it would confuse me, confound me even, the methods over here. Now, I can anticipate with the expertise of a Nascar driver the movement of the car furthest to the right in the roundpoint. I know that driver will take that car directly across three lanes of traffic to make a left turn without batting an eye. While singing along to the radio even. I also gracefully maneuver my vehicle around those who stop in the center of the two lane road to… to….well that I still don’t know but it’s not important. I glide past these testers of my car’s agility with ease due to complete mental zen on the road. I am a champ.

The shopping. I speak the language now, and I am not talking about French or Creole, mais non. I mean that it is habit now to look at every food item’s expiration date and inspect the package for any sign of forced entry by tiny hungry beings who may now be residing inside. I don’t wince at the pile of bananas hidden by a cloud of fruit flies, I simply change recipes inside my head and find the fruit that is not under a cloud that week. It’s a cakewalk, once you begin to adjust.

The Game. I know the game. How to play the game is actually something. It exists. I know this because I discovered it in a fantastically funny book called Talk to the Snail that it does. The author Stephen Clarke offers ‘Ten commandments for understanding the French’, focused on mainland France and based on his ten or so years of living in Paris. Reading this book brought me to realize that it’s not just me. There is in fact a game. In Guadeloupe there is that little extra island spirit add-on to the game which can create more of a challenge for mall wandering suburban babies like me, but I’m handling it. It is all about how you play. In his book Mr. Clarke offers examples of conversations he has had to demonstrate, and I would like to use this method of demonstration here. Just today I played the game:

A cafe, 11:00am. Sign on wall behind counter reads that they offer petit-dejeuner for a small price including one juice, one coffee, and one pastry. I ask for it. The reply is no, it is not available. I say okay, no problem, as I eyeball the coffee, orange juice and pastry in all their glory behind the counter. It was just that the time for the deal was over by maybe one hour, but they had not yet set out the items for lunch. So you see, pas possible. Very good. Mental ninja weapons out and ready, thank you Mr. Clarke:
Me: May I have a coffee?
Her: Yes
Me: May I have an orange juice?
Her: Yes
Me: May I have a croissant?
Her: Anything you want
Me: Okay I will take those then, thank you.
Minutes later as she took my money, presumably at the more expensive lunchtime price, she offered me the price of the petit-déjeuner “even though it is one hour past the time for that.”
I thanked her and told her it was very kind of her, wished her a good day.

Essentially I followed the recipe offered up by the author of Talk to the Snail. I highly recommend his strategy if you ever consider going to France or a French department. It worked like a charm. I could have accepted her no and left and she never would have stopped to offer me anything else. I mean really, the deal was so over, I guess she took pity on me for not understanding.
See? Metamorphosis. Two years ago I would have (The Pirate likes to tell me that this is SO American) simply listened to the rules, and followed them, gone someplace else or settled for a meal full price or nothing.

I do love to talk about people who have struck a cord, and think you should read Stephen Clarke’s books if you have a chance. He’s very funny and intelligent, a killer combination. Plus his French is way better than mine and of that I am jealous.

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