Un homme deux fois étranger

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Monday, October 15, 2007

Ever since I bought my first wheel, I've sort of had a tolerate-hate relationship with Camembert cheese. I've always thought it smelled like vomit, but I was actually able to enjoy the taste well enough to continue eating it. I even found it to be a delicious substitute to American cheese on a fried egg sandwich. But, no, not anymore. I'm sick of Camembert. It smells like a vomit, and it tastes like one too. My first wheel was my last, and it's become a real chore. Et donc adieu, Camembert, quoth the raven...

I've been playing a decent amount of "French Football" here in Pau. First there is the university-organized club every Tuesday night from eight to ten. Through that, I met those terrific German students that I can't get enough of. They first invited me to play some informal games with them during the weekends But as a matter of fact, those sketchy Germans have flaked out every time so far, so I still have yet to play with them outside of Tuesday.

The Chinese are much more reliable. They constitute a rather large group as well, so I have had the pleasure of playing a little four on four with them these last two Sundays. According to my friend Wen, most of these Chinese students have been living in Pau for at least several years. One guy's been here for seven. They all came to study at the university. My classmate, Li, with whom I've spent the most time, has lived here for a year (that is, he's only been studying French for a year, and he already speaks about as well as I) and wants to eventually work as a professor of French Litterature in China. Other guys I've talked to are studying for business. Assuming they all would like to return to China someday, French seems like a fairly practical language to know, considering its familiarity in most south-east Asian countries.

Despite the fact that most of the Chinois speak French fluently, they naturally prefer to speak their native tongue when congregated together. Last week, this peculiarity put me, the sole non-Chinois, in an interesting position. When I stuck out my hand and greeted one of the guys with a hardy "bonjour", he laughed and replied "bonjour" mockingly, then looked to his friend and said something incomrehensible.

I can see where he was coming from. There's something absurd about two members of two different cultures from opposite sides of the world meeting together in a country whose culture and language are completely foreign to both parties and endeavoring to humor the customs of this third-party foreign culture when there isn't a single stinky-cheesy Frenchman in sight. In a case like this, being an étranger deux fois étranger, it only makes sense that I learn a little bit of Chinese.

So from now on I greet them with "nee-HOW!"
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