09 August 2007

Um, yeah, that bread there ... sure.

[7/31/07 Dear Jenni, Sometimes even the simplest of tasks here remind me of what a goof I am. This morning, I walked across the street from the apartment where I am staying to get some breakfast at an episserie. There are dozens of these places all over the streets. Each is a four-wall construction of corrugated iron, with wooden shelves built inside, and a counter, where pastries, breads and fried munchies are displayed in a glass case. Not that the glass keeps packs flies from swarming the food. But at least there’s a case. So anyway, I go up to the counter, as I have several times now, say “Bonjour,” the language of the oppressor, and ask for “this one, this pastry here,” pointing repeatedly at a cinnamon roll-ish bread thing in the glass case. She points to a croissant. I say, no, “This one here, please,” not knowing the name. Then I ask for “orange juice.” She says, “In a bottle?” I say sure, and then watch as she scrapes through a cooler to find a glass bottle of orange soda. Whatever. Close enough. She uncaps the bottle, and hands it to me, along with the pastry, on a plate, which is rare here. I thought, Wow, she must recognize me, since I’ve come to this shop all of four times now, and she wants me to take a seat on one of these benches, next to other Malagasy customers. I’ve arrived. I’m wanted. I’m not the silly foreigner. So I politely move to the side, and begin to eat my pastry and drink my sugary breakfast nectar. I finish the bread, leave the plate, and decide to walk off with the bottle. I cross the street, dodging a rickshaw and a 1970s Renault taxi (looks kind of like The Mini, if it were in a Dick Tracy comic book). I’m walking down the street, towards home, past the bank, around the corner that smells like urine, when I hear a girls feet clapping on the rocky road behind me. Someone wanting to sell sunglasses, I think, and keep walking. There are people all over this town who tote around displays of Wal-Mart-quality sunglasses on wooden planks. Sometimes they walk down the streets when the displays on their heads. But this girl is persistent, and although I can’t understand what she’s saying I turn around. She says, Blah, gibba blah, Madame would like to see you. Hm, I am really popular in this town, I think. Yes, non-sunglass-selling girl, I will return to your Madame’s shop for a bit of after-brunch chit-chat. But when I arrived I discovered that all she wanted was my bottle of orange soda. She needs to return it for a refund. That’s why she’d given me the plate, so I could sit there and eat and she could watch to make sure I didn’t take her glass. Damn, I am an idiot tourist. Can’t even get breakfast on my own. -- John]

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