Wednesday, January 26, 2011

instant espresso.

A French woman, who lives in Venice, asked me to help her pick out a packet of instant espresso from the shelf at the 7-11 on my soi (side street).

"Tout cela est-bon café?".

I will never think of the phrase "nineteen baht" the same. My role was to interpret between her French-English and the Thai-English spoken by the boy who works the till. We were all trying to speak a language not our own.

sip gao.


nayen ten?

I am pretty sure the instant espresso she picked out wasn't worth the sip gao baht she paid for it. I was feeling a little guilty that I'd probably helped her pick the worst one. I should've told her about the little cafe down the street, instead.

But then she stood on the street corner outside 7-11, telling me how very terrible it is to grow old in France. And I didn't feel sorry for her, anymore. We stood there in our clashing foreigner flip-flops: she with bad instant espresso in her hand and I with hand-wash laundry detergent in mine... contemplating the demise of the aging population of Europe.

She'll spend the next few weeks in Koh Phi Phi. It is a much better place for her to be, she says. She loves Thailand. But I asked: how can you really love a place where you have not actually lived? You don't know what it means to love a nation until you've been sick in it. That is my theory, anyway.

But the truth is... I do know what it is like to love a foreign city that has not made me sick. We came to a common understanding when she pointed out that I love Paris, but have never actually lived there. I had to agree. I told her where to go down the road for a good Thai meal ... and wished her a bon nuit et bon voyage a demain.

She is right: Thailand is a good place to be. But, I would love to grow old in France... or Italy. And, when I am growing old in Europe, I hope there's a local who will help me buy a decent espresso.

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