French lessons at a Buddhist temple

The reason I call this blog “Alien Adventures” is that – besides my rather odd provenance: gay, Chinese, fashionista who grows up in the Calvinistic hot-spot of Pretoria during the dark days of apartheid – I seem to continually find myself in similarly odd situations. It just happens and I’ve stopped questioning why?

On a recent trip to Thailand I found myself temple gazing in Chiang Mai. A group of Thai schoolboys approached my partner Chris (the lone westerner around at the time) and asked him if he spoke French. He answered “no” but directed them to me.

Now here’s the odd thing. I have a Chinese exterior but an African heart, and culturally I am 100% South African. As a result my first language is English, second language Afrikaans, and third language French (unfortunately my supposed language of “origin” – Cantonese – limps in shamefully, in fourth place). The reason I speak passable French is that I lived in Paris for about two years as a post graduate, and return there on business once a year.

It turns out that the Thai schoolboys had a project that involved engaging with a French speaking tourist and asking them a list of questions (in French), the answers of which they had to translate and recount back to their class. So in the middle of a sightseeing trip at a Buddhist temple, I found myself giving an impromptu French class to a group of bemused Thai schoolboys who did not expect to find a French speaking, South African, Chinese tourist as their subject.

The moral of the story?

As any good hotel concierge will tell you: appearances can be deceiving – never judge a book by its cover, or in this case, an Asian tourist by his camera.

2 Responses to “French lessons at a Buddhist temple”
  1. Bethea Claton says:

    Love it ! More adventures please

  2. mothership says:

    A charming tale and an important lesson. Reminds me of the time I was completely baffled to find myself as a young teenager surrounded by a busload of smiling Japanese tourists wanting their photograph taken with me by the Golden Gate Bridge. It was only as they were leaving that their guide explained they wanted an image of a ‘California Blonde’. I couldn’t quite bear to tell him I was a bleached British tourist..
    Please write more. I’m adding you to my blogroll.

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