Sunday, February 20, 2005

The Global Village

Sarah and I head over to M’s this afternoon, bearing early birthday cards and presents. Phil is busy catching up on chores, so the plan is to spend a few hours with M and then come back to pick him up before getting a meal somewhere.

We should probably stop bothering telling M “don’t do food” as it inevitably falls on deaf African ears. I think she’d rather die than let us leave her house unfed.

Mindful of Phil we held back as much as we could (not easy when the girl serves up plantain!) and fortunately didn’t feel so bad about not fully appreciating her efforts, when it became apparent that we weren’t to be the only guests.

All in all a party of seven adults and the cutest baby you ever saw (and hey I don’t generally like babies!), sat around shooting the breeze in a mixture of four languages.

It’s amazing how in such situations, people with no shared tongue can communicate and get along just fine. Certain themes are universal and it didn’t take an interpretation from M for us to work out the leg-pulling that was going on regarding Thiery and Stephanie sloping off to the kitchen together…

Similarly watching videos of pop stars from M’s home country was great entertainment. You also realise how small a world it’s become, when M divulges that several of the artistes are new since she had to flee the country, but she keeps up via a guy that sells DVD’s on a stall in Manchester.

One video in particular did highlight that in other ways the world is still very diverse. My French was good enough to work out the introductory playlet. Basically the female lead refuses the amorous attentions of her husband due to being exhausted, only for him to consequently pack his bags and walk out to ‘get better elsewhere’, deaf to her pleas for him not to leave her and the children.

Sarah and I were expecting the song therefore to be along the lines of “the man done me wrong” (maybe a west African take on I Will Survive”?), but no, our able translator M, tells us quite the opposite is true. Whilst female emancipation is a growing force in her home country, there is equally a backlash calling women back to more submissive roles. This song falls into the latter camp and basically exhalts women to treat their men right so they don’t leave in search of the greener grass.


Faith is restored with the next video however, of an altogether more self-assured woman seemingly far more in command of her sexuality than the bum wiggling eye-candy in the videos thus far. M tells us she’s quite famous and owns one of the countries radio stations. Makes sense – we can’t see her taking any nonsense from men. Or M for that matter…if ever there was a person for whom the phrase “doesn’t suffer fools lightly” was invented.

Eventually we take our leave, pick up Phil and head for the Punjab (where Sarah and I satisfy our selves with starters). It’s probably a sign that we definitely go there too much, when the head waiter excuses his usual litany of good-natured abuse on the basis of “yeah but you guys aren’t customers, you’re…”.

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