Wednesday, September 7, 2016
Wednesday saw me on the morning bus bound for Emmaus once again. This time the driver was a young man, with earbuds firmly planted in his ears, who was still able to provide a quick 'Bonjour.' Things are looking up, I thought, happy to say goodbye to the last driver. However, that thought was short lived as a few minutes later a small incident ensued. In France, as in Canada, one must give advance indication if one wants the next stop by pushing a button. When we got to the next stop, it happened to tally with a traffic light. At the back doors, a man stood waiting to get off but when the doors didn't open, he spoke loudly from the back, saying 'S'il vous plait,' the usual form for such a request. The driver then started to criticize him for not providing advance warning. The passenger insisted he had and there was some back and forth between them. Finally, the driver opened the door, allowing the man to exit. After that, two other passengers told the driver he was wrong so there was a bit more of a verbal exchange with the driver ending it by muttering under his breath. Not what I am used to in Victoria.
The time at Emmaus passes quickly, despite the uncomplicated work. There is a lot of camaraderie and joking, and I often hear different languages used among the workers. Mbinti and her countrymen speak an English Krio (just as Haitians speak a French Creole), sort of a pidgin English, as she explained. It sounds interesting but I cannot pick up anything from it so far. However, their expressions and mannerisms are quite colourful as well so tone plays a large role in understanding its gist. Mbinti understands a lot of French, more than me, so sometimes, Josiane will ask her to translate for me. Ironically, she rarely speaks French and Alpha chastised her the other day, saying, "Why don't you speak French like Muriel?" Sometimes, they say I speak French well but I know that's not what they mean; it's just that I try hard to string words together and that counts for a lot in these parts.
Today, they served a veal stew with puree, their version of mashed potatoes, which is a lot thinner than ours but just as tasty. To the French, since every region, and sometimes even city, has one or more food specialties for which they are widely known, it is a real focus for them. I have been asked many times what the specialty is of the city or region I come from in Canada. At first, it took me aback as I didn't have a ready answer. Now, I just respond with Pacific salmon. Today, the cook, Roget, asked me the question and seemed satisfied with the answer. It was easier than explaining Canadians have a wide variety of local and ethnic foods represented in many locales across the country.
Adrien, the guy from Romaina, is a bit of an odd duck, asking me a lot of questions about Canadian immigration. He wants to practice language with me so he speaks in English and I, in French, neither of us well. When I described that to my mom, she said it sounded like a Woody Allen movie. Not one I'd want to see, I don't think.