Saturday, November 25, 2006

Something That Makes Me Uneasy

I've always had this nagging feeling that I'm living in macho country. Little things I've noticed, like how one neighbor called Pierre to ask if I were allowed to go out without him, and to practically ask his permission to invite just me to a girls-only dinner party (His great reponse, "She's 33, not a child, and even if she were, I'm not her dad."); how when a woman is out with a man, the waiter and maitre'd will maintain eye contact with only the guy; how when we bumped into a group of neighbors celebrating a children's party at a fastfood in Montpellier, I noticed that instead of mixing all the mothers were together in one table and all the fathers were in another. Now there's a study proving my gut instincts right. Read about the Gender Gap Index here. The Philippines is in the no. 6 position while France is way down there at no. 70. Now I'm even more fired up about convincing Pierre to vote next year for socialist party candidate Ségolène Royal. I think this country could use a woman president.

P.S. Last night, Saturday, having dinner at Timgad, I asked restaurant owner Karim about observation no. 2 above. He looked a little bit confused at first, said he never even noticed he'd been doing it. "I guess it's a sign of respect?" he tried a response. "To the man," I said, "but could it be a sign of disrespect to the woman?" "But no!" he protested. "That is just how it's done." Then he gave us a cute little smile, and since he really is a very handsome guy, I decided not to annoy him anymore and said nothing as he escaped to the kitchen.

Monday, November 20, 2006

What I'm Learning

I'm back in school for four short weeks, primarily to improve my writing skills and the correspondence of my tenses. My mind gets blocked when it's required to conjugate too much, so good thing that first-day lessons dispensed by fortysomething teacher Patricia were not limited to questions of language. She also delved into the rules of loving, the French way.

Teacher P: A (a young Hungarian male student, absent for the day) has recently become much more extroverted, hasn't he?

S (a Swedish female): Yes, now that he can speak some French, his pick-up line with girls is, 'How do you say this or that in your language?'.

P: He has found a girlfriend?

E (an Australian female): Oh, but he has one already!

P: But she is in Hungary, so it's not the same. When you are young, it should be like this, shouldn't it? You should leave such things like being faithful to just one person for when you're much older. (Then a visible sigh that says she doesn't understand why she must explain something so obvious.)

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Hello, It's Me

They see my Asian face and automatically the majority of people here think that I'm sympa, gentil, douce. Translated, it basically means that solely on the basis of race they believe that I'm mild-mannered and super nice. A very good stereotype, you probably think, but being put in a box and easily labelled is just not my thing. My friends will tell you that while I am kind (or at least, I try to be), I am not at all sweet. I can mouth off almost as well as your average southerner.

One night, I saw a video clip of the comedian Patrick Bosso, who gets his material from his growing-up years here in the south. One of his skits had him saying that in Marseille, where swearing is an art form, people have even gone as far as replaced their commas with "putain" and their periods with "enculer."

That gave me an idea.

The following day, while setting up my stand at the market, the usual morning ritual began: one after the other, fellow vendors came to chat before customers arrived. One was in a particularly playful mood, and kept rearranging my necklaces.

It was late, I was running out of time, so I said, "Lee, arrêtes tes conneries." (Lee, stop your nonsense.)

He looked mildly alarmed. A sweet Asian lady shouldn't be saying that. "C'est vulgaire," he told me. (That's vulgar.)

Putting on my sweetest smile, I told him, "Pas du tout." (Not at all.)

I continued by replacing my comma and my period as the comedian had taught me. "Comme ça, c'est vulgaire: Lee putain arrêtes tes conneries enculer" (Like this, it's vulgar: Lee fuck stop your foolishness assfuck)

His jaw dropped, but he finally left my necklaces alone. I smiled sweetly once more.

P.S. Don't worry, the guy grew up here, so we're still friends. I think.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006


It's not enough that Borgy Manotoc is pouting his way all over fashion ads back home, now his grandmother Imelda Marcos is launching her own fashion label. Read the story here (the link of which I'm filching from Carlos Celdran's blog). I won't be surprised if she sells well and you see people strutting around Greenbelt in pink sneakers with diamond-studded laces. Martial Law has been dead 20 years, and the old dictator is himself refrigerated away in Batac, so, what with the Filipino's infamously short memory, let's forget about the whole awful of episode of thieving and murdering, why don't we. Let's make the Marcoses cool again.

Opposites do attract, however, and my husband is still reeling from what the Hundred Years' War has embedded on the collective French consciousness. Centuries after his ancestors made peace with the neighbors, Pierre is still disliking all things Brit. Some of his notable quotes:

"You just have to ask about the poverty of a culture whose national food is fish and chips."

"I ordered bread, they gave me bread. It wasn't bread. There was only air inside."

"The accent! The accent! Even when they're speaking French, they still have a British accent!"

"I don't dislike them, I just have bad chemistry with the entire country."

"I asked for some salt. Believe me: Their salt is not salty."

Such is his conviction that one time she was here on vacation, his daughter Angie, before flying off to where she lives in England, reminded me at least two times to please pack in her suitcase a box of the French salt, fleur de sel. She was, after all, going back to a place where the salt is not actually salty.

Saturday, November 04, 2006


I like this picture Nicky Sering took of me. It has innate dramatic potential, don't you think? I wouldn't dare ask my mom, though. She would probably say that this is the statement the photo makes: "Excuse me, I need to go. Hinahabol kasi ako ng plantsa, eh!"

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Ain't It Funny?

That it's a Halloween party, you're all a bit drunk and dressed too weird, there's been some very funny jokes told and you're a little tired from laughing too much, so you decide to sit quiet for a while and watch: your friend, dancing with her estranged husband, in a flirty-sexy-lovely way that tells you that no matter how many times she's told you that she's quitting the guy, these are two people still in love. You feel all giggly, and blame it on the wine.

Slow on the Fastfood

It must be all those long dinners and lunches. (I've been to lunch at a neighbor's that began at one and ended at seven!) Something in the French brain makes it so that they don't understand the concept of fastfood, so even if Pierre claims to like McDonalds, I can never let him order alone. There's always an incident.

One time he announces, "I want a Best of Menu." "What kind, mister?" the counter girl asks. He just looks at her. "A Big Mac, a Royal Deluxe, a McChicken, or a McNuggets, mister?" His eyes open wide. "Oh, I have to choose?" "Yes, mister" she responds. "Big Mac, please." He looks content with himself. "With what, mister?" the girl continues. "What what?" says my husband. "With what siding?" (She seems to have lost some respect.) Long silence. "Regular fries, fat fries, or a salad," she enumerates. "Fries." "Regular or fat?" He starts to look confused. "Uhmmm..... regular." "And what drink?" I finally butt in, "Just give him a medium Sprite."

Another time he was torn between two sandwiches, I forget which ones exactly, let's call them Royal Burger A and Royal Burger B. "How is A different from B?" he asks the hapless boy at the counter. "Uhm, the sauce, mister." Pierre is not content. "What about them?" The boy tries to appease him. "One is barbecue," He doesn't succeed. "And the way they are cooked," Pierre continues, "one is different from the other?" The boy glances behind him, looking for help, I imagine. I oblige. "It's McDonald's, honey." Pierre just looks at me. I take a deep breath. "They just take it all out of cartons and plastic bags." I speak slowly. "It's. Not. Real. Food." "Oh." He finally kind of gets it, I start to think. Until he begins again. "They taste how though?"