Tuesday, June 15, 2010

A study on Inter-cultural Comparison

Recently, my life has become a continuation of cleaning. In fact, I have become a bi-coastal house cleaner. For most modern day workers, the computer is probably the favored machine. For me, it has been the vacuum cleaner.

We arrived at our house on the Cote d'Azur, as they say. The coast may be azur, but the house was more grey than anything else. It rained a lot this winter and spring. A big sprawling Provencal mas can produce a lot of dust and grime. So, we have spent most of our waking hours cleaning the grey out. For those aspiring globe trotters, may I inform you that Clorox in the US is Javel in France?
The balance of our hours have been split between cooking all the food one cannot easily find in the US, and communicating with an unfortunate friend who has had the "honor" of getting our dog Charlie onto a plane to France.

In the spirit of getting the bad news over quickly, an errant airline that will remain anonymous - that means you, Delta Airlines!!!, misled us to believe that Charlie could travel as check-in pet, only to deceive us at the last moment at the airport. As the old adage goes, goodwill always gets punished, and our dear friend was summoned from the land of nod at an ungodly 4 AM to receive a stressed out collie from a stressed out family, and had the misfortune of spending the next 5 days of his life dealing with beaurocracy, incompetence and vets until finally loading our grateful Charles in cargo air freight. Needless to say, we are thankful beyond words for having such an optimistic "friend in need".

On the culinary side, the French DNA in our kids keenly honed into the local bakery, which has found business spiking 300%. The Antibes Carrefour supermarket has been graced with our patronage daily as well. We have consumed gallons and tons of "not readily available in the USA" food in the few days we have been here. Just to name a few, merguez(spicy sausage made from lamb) with grated carrot salad, tabouleh, pintade (probably guinea fowl, and definitely a bird judging from the shape) with mustard and creme fraiche sauce, 200 varieties of cheese, petit suisse (similar to yoghurt but "much better" according to the French DNAs), blinis and accompanying spreads.... Our recipe book lists no less than a dozen pintade recipes, aside from several dozen chicken, turkey and pigeon recipes.

As I gaze at the garden conquered by Mother Nature, I am reminded of the gardener popping in at the kitchen window unannounced, and nearly pitching me into hysteria last evening. We had econimized and had him on leave for 7 months, in which timeframe, the garden has turned into a wild environment, aided by the gardener having turned off the water supply. As I watch the gardener and my husband throw arms into the air, and generally gesticulate in exaggerated fashion while the pintade grows overcooked and dry, I anticipate the worst. I pull myself up to full height (which isn't much) and venture out to save the day. A hesitant "Is everything OK?" is met with a passing "Yeah, yeah..." as i beat my retreat hastily. At dinner, I ask whether it was very acrimonious. To my surprise, I learn that the gardener was actually "very nice". The cultural difference kicks in again. Seemingly nice storekeepers can be horribly sullen and entitled, while seemingly agitated and agressive gardeners can be very nice.

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