I thought I’d have to wait till home to revisit rich food. Not necessary. I am in France. Baguettes, cheese and hot dogs for lunch (the kids loved them). The crepes suzette and crepes with nutella and bananas for breakfast (I loved them). And a glass of Bordeaux with dinner and chocolate sorbet for dessert; rich, and wealthy food. For the price of an espresso, I am eating an entire family’s daily sustenance in Kapsowar.
When I flip to the french menu, I instinctively turn it over. Where there is french, there is english. Happy Canada Day! I am well-trained. Turns out, no english. Well, the occasional english. I boast that my six years of french training has equipped me for conjugating verbs, but Hannah declares that as soon as we step on Paris soil, the french phrases are flowing. Still, I can’t understand a thing they’re saying.
Unlike the stereotypes, all Parisiens aren’t snobby. I’ve had loads of compassionate french souls serve as GPS or manage the Metro. Since Hannah has decided she will move here one day, I will have to become familiar. So maybe one day she’ll see the Mona Lisa. We decided not to wait for the two hours the line appeared to be…first Sunday of the month is free. We’d rather spend our money.
I thought I’d have to wait till home to know reverse culture shock too. Not so. We walked down the Champs d’Elysse and Rachel asked if we can look at the Disney store. Oh no, we didn’t come to Paris for Disney. Never the twain shall meet. Hannah: Mom, what about EuroDisney? Touche. Disney stores, Guerlain, H+M, shopping, shopping, shopping….in Kapsowar, I see stalls of sub-quality plastic chai strainers and laundry scrub brushes. Here, the sky is the limit. Literally. The sky high gift shop at the Arc de Triomphe was worthy of a few Euros.
Everyone is dressed in their best, Hannah observes. Yup, fash-in-able… But I’m gonna guess it isn’t their finest, they’ve got even finer. FANSEE! (fancy, au gauche). We’re still dressed in our African attire. We look like bumbs, says Madelyn. Yup, but we looked wealthy in Kapsowar, cause we were wearing watches, glasses and running shoes. Here, we’re right out of Value Village, and actually we are.
There’s order in traffic here, and a lot of Audi, BMW and Mercedes. In Kapsowar, matatus, with thirty folks hanging out, hanging on, falling off…There are garbage cans and recycling containers here. There is garbage on the streets in pools of running water, and chickens and goats munching through it in Kapsowar.
Brown people live in Kenya, observes Zach. No one stares at us as we’re walking down the street. Everyone is a muzungu here, including the Japanese and Saudis. All the colours of the rainbow live here. We mindlessly say, asante, instead of merci. And I’m awfully tempted to say habari to the African folk.
It’s all a wee bit different, Kaspowar and Paris. Could we have chosen a more striking contrast? I am, unquestionably, more comfortable with the predictable order here. I feel more at home then I did first arriving in London, because the six weeks inbetween were so not familiar. Yet, I am clearly not bringing home anything from Chanel or Versace. We’ll pass those Euros on to our Parisien hotel and the airlines that transported us. But as Hannah shared today, I’d like to go back to Kapsowar…it’s the warmth of the people, the kindness of their generous hands to which any western country has a lot to learn.