Saturday, December 8, 2012

And we did it again...

I remember once, many years ago, my Man and I decided to visit a "Mom and Pop" restaurant for breakfast. We had heard it was really good and were excited to finally find out for ourselves.  When we walked in, we knew the rumors about it must be true because even at that early hour it was already filled with people. We saw an available booth in the opposite corner and began weaving our way through the crowded tables to stake our claim.  We sat down but slowly grew frustrated when no one came to take our order. Finally, we were able to get the attention of a server but she seemed confused by our attempts to order food.  We started to think we were in the twilight zone. After several minutes of sitting there commenting to each other about the lack of service, a man stood up and in a loud voice, called the room to attention: "The meeting will now come to order."
A few moments into his welcome, we deduced that this was a political party gathering.  The speaker said he noticed there were some newcomers (that would be us) and he asked us to stand up and introduce ourselves to the group. My Man, ever unshakeable, rose to his feet and said, "Good morning, my name is A and this is my wife.  We're very supportive of this political party...but actually we just came here for breakfast."
By the time my Man was donating money in the hat they passed around and commenting on the subjects they discussed, I was laughing so hard I couldn't even speak.
We never got breakfast.

Last night was a little bit like that.  Really, I blame the language barrier.  A local friend invited us to a soiree she was helping put on.  I didn't know what that was, but it sounded fancy.  So, we got all dolled up, got a sitter and went out.  It was at the fanciest hotel in Conakry (a little perspective--they still don't have toilet seats.)
On the way there we inspected our tickets (all in French) for a clue of what exactly the event was that we were attending.  No clue.  We shrugged it off as probably just another party.
We were one of the first to arrive. Our friend was there to greet us as we entered. She directed us over to the area for cocktail hour before dinner.  My Man and I got our drink and positioned ourselves where I could sip my fruit soda and we could try to figure out some clues from the other guests who were streaming in.  No one spoke to us, they all seemed to know each other.  When a photographer came by and snapped our photo, we joked that we hoped this wasn't some type of radical meeting to overthrow the government or anything, now that there is evidence of our attendance.
Finally, a short man approached us and said "Esku vous Francais?"  (Are we French?)  The dumb looks on our face answered that before our mouths could.
 "You're American," he said.
Then he continued with, "What are you doing here? This is a meeting of the French Ex-Pat Association."
I responded, "We're here to foster good relations between the French and American communities in Guinea"
That bought us some street credit for the moment, but we quickly learned we needed some tie to France. Imagine how excited we were when we realized all we had to say was that we had parents in Paris. (Texas....but we could leave that part off)
 Three more Frenchmen walked up while were talking and  like a script, each of them said the same thing: "You're not French. What are you doing here?"
You know, in America that would actually be considered rude but we understood they were being...well, French.
Eventually, we won them over, and by the time we were directed into the "ball room"  for dinner they had saved us a the front.   We enjoyed a delicious meal, flown in from France, survived the storm of second-hand-smoke, danced like Frenchmen, and then slipped out before our babysitter abandoned our kids at home.

So the evening was a little awkward, at first, but our new French friends welcomed us in with an amazing measure of hospitality.  And somewhere in our evening, the memories of those two hungry, young twenty-somethings came back.  And with it, a flood of gratitude that three kids and three countries later, there I was with the same dark-haired stud....
still laughing.  

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