Sunday, October 15, 2006

Why I Must Be in France

How Much?! Is what, in your head, you're almost always exclaiming. And the loudest I've recently screamed was at China Vina in Montpellier, where I made a first visit last Thursday. Pierre had been forever telling me to buy it, if I ever happen upon a green papaya, for he'll make me one of the best dishes I'll ever taste, a salad he learned to make on the border of Thailand and Laos. And there it was, in the Asian grocery's vegetable section, long and just big enough. With a basket full of other purchases I went to the cashier, and swallowed my surprise when the lady weighed and put a price on the fruit. Four euros ninety-nine cents for a papaya! Excuse me for being Third-World and gauche, but I still occasionally do the conversion, and that adds up to almost 350 Philippines pesos! Back in Manila I'd pay just 20! I went home and handed to my husband the prize, which at dinner time he returned, on a plate, grated and mashed, with peppers, tomatoes, sugar, and lemons, fresh and tangy, the world's most expensive atchara.

Shut Up! Is the other thing you most want to shout. But do not. It's an Asian thing, to smile and want to make personal interaction go smoothly. So last night at a dinner party I threw, when everybody was for some odd reason talking about the ragondin (a large rodent ubiquitous in the Camargue) and bears, and guest Fabrice put forth the opinion that they were very much alike, I smiled politely and made the noncomittal sound, "Uhm." The other guests--French and a North American--would not let it go at that. Essentially, they told him, "What an idiotic thing to say!" He grinned, explained that he thought we were talking about the ragondin and the lapin (rabbit). All was well. Until, a few minutes later, an argument began between my friend Cindy and my husband Pierre, a full-blown one, complete with raised voices and an insult thrown in. I tried to mediate, but they would not be stopped. We all just let them at it. I started thinking how this would end if we were back home. Somebody would scream, maybe cry, and then very definitely end it by walking out. The adversaries would never speak to each other again; my own relationship with my friend forever strained. Ten minutes later, it was done. Cindy and Pierre were friendly again. Everybody else went about the evening as if this were all completely normal. Everybody, except for one, who excused herself from the table to chew an antacid tablet, calming a nervous stomach. Asian I.

9 comments:

analyse said...

re: shut up! when i just arrived here, i was quite shocked about how they carry their conversations here, normal lang pala sa kanila yun.

Makis said...

Debating or arguing on the table is one thing I had a hard time getting used to. And in the end, they say it's "sharing."

apol said...

And the thing about it, ANALYSE and MAKIS, is that I was already an argumentative, not-afraid-to-be confrontational kind of girl to begin with! But here I am olats!!!

Katrina said...

I was really surprised at your reaction, Apol, as I do know you to be the opinionated, outspoken type -- which is why we get along so well! This Asian trait of not wanting to disagree annoys the hell out of me. I'm constantly ribbed about being such a contrarian. The thing is, I don't think I actually disagree so much more than everybody else does; it's just that nobody wants to *say* that they disagree. I love a rational, intelligent debate and I don't mind my beliefs being challenged. I think it's fantastic that Pierre and Cindy could discuss so vehemently but still respect each other enough to remain friends afterwards. But over here it's called an "argument" or even a "fight," which means it must be avoided at all costs. My theory is that most Asians are innately pikon. So they prefer to pretend to get along, rather than risk anyone losing face.

Sorry for LONG rant. This is a hot button for me! ;-)

apol said...

KATRINA, I don't mind "rational, intelligent debates" as long as people retain a certain cool, but but the two were REALLY getting at it. As in near insults, girl! In loud voices! Even you, I think, would have blanched.

haze said...

Haven't encounter though but there were instances but not as intense as of this one ! Was it your first time Apol? Medyo mukhang kalmado ata mga tao sa paligid ko eh :) But getting ready for that ! I can imagine how you wanted to break the tension Apol, huhhh hirap talaga! I agree with Analyse normal lang sa knila yon & Makis, that's what I call "nagbabagang" sharing !

KatsMeow said...

I know what you mean, Apol. Ako natuto na rin ako makipagsapalaran, especially because Sean is very loud and opinionated, and sometimes when he gets into arguments at parties, feeling ko, bubugbugin siya. I try to diffuse emotions by changing the subject or just distracting the other person. Flashing helps.

Katrina said...

Katsmeow -- Hahaha! "Flashing helps." :-D Unfortunately, I've nothing to flash...

apol said...

Not my first time, HAZE, not at all. Living in the South gets you used to people shouting all the time! Except that it was my friend and my husband, which made the difference, I think.

KAT, gaga ka! :) I'm surprised. Sean looks so docile.

KATRINA, try mooning? We REALLY need to have a lunch chatfest when I get back there... or when you come here? Felipe will absolutely love the laidback provincial feel of it all!