Childhood

What happens to a dream deferred?

Does it dry up
Like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore—
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over—
Like a syrupy sweet?

Maybe it just sags
Like a heavy load.

Or does it explode? – Langston Hughes

Years have a way of adding to the meaning of things.

One day you just wake up and you’re like “snap!, this is what this woman meant when she kept repeating this saying…”

Yeah so we sit in tiny school rooms and recite in oblivion, after all a letter grade is all we really need isn’t it?

And then there’s that part of the story where we fold little pieces of paper and throw them at our friends trying to get their attention. We grew too smart to allow carelessness to allow us get discovered.

-“psssst…look how big his butt is, why did he not chose pants that were a little less tight?!”

It was absolutely annoying to utter a string of words in all excitement and honesty only for your friend to stare blankly at you and say huh?

-“huh”?!

-“Oh boy”!

-“Are you telling me you DID NOT HEAR ALL I SAID”?!

-“Noooooooooo”….

-“Sigh”

-“Then write it on a piece of paper”.

-“Noooooooooo if it gets intercepted, we’ll be in big trouble”.

-“Oh well then wait till after class”

-“Sigh. The info will lose it’s relevance by then”

-“Tant pis”

-Mtchew.

“So what were you saying?” My friend now has the time to come back and ask useless questions. I give in anyway, just for the sake of conversation and a giggle or two. One of the things a teenage girl does is gossip. “So his pants were too tight and there was that bulge and he sat on my table and I had that mathematical instrument in between my fingers all the while! I really just wanted to pierce the skin beneath his zipper with it just to see what he would do”!

“Hehe”.

 

Dany Laferrier, The Enigma of the Return

Dany Laferrier’s the enigma of the return is a novel that is intimate and captivating mainly because of the emotions that are clearly projected everywhere in the novel. First of all it is very difficult to not make out the mixture of poetic and prose structures consistent in the novel. The poetic structure dominates the narration though since a few aspects appear in prose. The poetic structure is more than justified because as we all know poetry conveys strong emotions with the help of diction and even the way that these words are arranged, presented and chosen. This is a story of a tree uprooted abruptly from its roots because of dictatorship that exists in Haiti at the time when Papa doc reigns. The writer is forced to leave his country out of fear of being killed. He settles in Canada and has to visit Port au Prince suddenly when that call that every middle aged adult has to expect at some point in their lives comes through. His father is dead and he must make his way back to Haiti immediately. The story describes this transition in detail and focusses on how the writer feels about being away for so long. He finds himself constantly comparing Canada and Haiti bringing out a mixture of pain at having stayed away for so long against his will and nostalgia at all the things that made Haiti his first love. He also clearly shows a preference for Haiti stating that Canada is a vast land of cold that only a native can find their way through. I love this book for many reasons one of which is the ability to relate to all it contains from beginning to end. After having lived in a country that is not your own, every single thing you see upon returning home reminds you of your experience before your exit. The writer speaks of eating mangoes while bare chested. He also remembers to add that each smell, taste and sound transports him back to his childhood. ‘My childhood cuts through me like a knife’ and that is the beauty of specific memories that cannot be laid off because they are ingrained in us and gnaw at us until we give way to them dominating our thoughts and taking a hold of our emotions.   He speaks of sending his mother expensive plates which she keeps under her bed while still eating from a beat down plastic plate. His mother does this not out of hatred but out of a special reverence for a token from her son who lives in a faraway place. She only eats in these plates on special occasions. Growing up I saw my grandmother treat items sent us from close relatives in the west with this same reverence. In the midst of all this happening, Dany Laferrier feels he missed out on special moments with his nephew, sister and mother because he feels he has been away for so long. He feels a disconnect from everything around him and even remarks that ‘speaking creole isn’t enough to become a Haitian.’ That ‘you can be Haitian only outside of Haiti’ because the irony is that once outside ‘home’ you can boldly claim a national identity but then you come back and realize you’re not quite enough of what you thought you were. The separation that comes from migration creates deep holes that nothing concrete can refill and that’s the irony because money or gifts are not always enough to fill the gaps our absence leaves. Much like Simone Schwarz Bart’s Ton Beau Capitaine, money sent ‘home’ regularly did very little to strengthen a weak and emotionally drained spouse from caving into the urges of adultery.

Let’s Make Palm Soup Tomorrow

The afternoon sun beat the back of our necks; by this time mama was frustrated and hurled angry words at the ever slow to react chameleon Gladys. I chose to call Gladys a chameleon because of her slowness in everything. Chameleons always look around and take calculated slow rythmic steps as if unsure of the very ground they tred on. I wondered if Gladys herself even knew what a chameleon is. Gladys was the kind of girl I felt a mixture of pity and slight admiration for. At the age of thirty five or so, she had four children; two from one and the other two with different men each. I wondered every time I saw her being slow how exactly such a slow person could engage fervently in acts that ended in procreation. Who even told me acts of procreation had to be fast? I wondered if she was forced or partook of these experiences willingly; or if they were consensual. How did she not know to protect herself against four unwanted pregnancies? How could one person make such a mistake four solid times?! What exactly was she told each time she set out on the same path and how did she not realise all the paths led in one direction? At the same time, another half of me felt like I needed to admire such a courageous woman who though impoverished, courageously had each of her four children and never for once thought of an abortion. She worked as hard as her slow body and attitude could let her and earned an honest living from mama out of which she sent these four children to school, fed and clothed them and ocassionally paid for their medical bills. Mama had had enough of Gladys, I could tell from the looks of disdain, the ice in her voice and the way she related to Gladys. To say mama was satisfied was a lie and on several occasions, she settled on sending Gladys home only to rescind her decision. Mama was a demanding hardworking perfectionist who would’ve sent types like Gladys home long ago if it weren’t for her four children. ”Maame!” I was jolted back to reality by the sudden and urgent mention of my name.

”Maame!” the call came a second time and I was forced to abandon my midday musings in direction of the voice that called, ”Yes!” I answered back with the same urgency as I stumbled to the front of the shop. Mama’s shop sat on a piece of land, comfortably and competively perched between a line of shops whose owners came by in the day to sell off their products admist general banter, constant comparision, conversations about life, the economy and gossip. Mama was in luck because unlike the other vendors, she was a vendor of food, the kind of eatery that could neither be classified as a restaurant nor a basic table top food business and was therefore classified as a bar for eating, or in a local sense, chop bar. I hurried to the front to find a dignified looking man, bespectacled, light skinned and tall. The type that could dress/speak or act as modestly as possible but still looked affluent or content due to unexplainable reasons, it sure had to be one or the other. I mean, one couldn’t go wrong with associating a lighter complexion with affluence, dignity and all that is beautiful. It was what we were unconsciously brought up to believe. So much for negritude and all the abstract ideologies Senghor and his friends pushed. Everywhere in Ghana, men made not too serious but serious comments about how a light skinned woman was an asset because one could make her out even in the dark due to her radiant skin tone. This led to the common metaphor that came about as a result of the repetition of these lines. Light skinned women were now referred to as ‘’Akosombo Kanai’’the reference that stemmed from the comparison between light skinned women and Ghana’s source of electricity; the Akosombo dam. What was it really about being light skinned? Right from slave farms where lighter skin was favored and given easier work or kept in the house for the master’s special use to contemporary instagram posts that projected a sense of pride for having light skin  with the hashtag #TeamLightSkin, it was clear that Ghanaians still associate a lighter complexion with affluence, class and all that is good. And now, this Akosombo kania of a man! I chuckled slightly at this thought because he was not only Akosombo Kania, he was mulato, a term that Ghanaians crudely reduced to ‘half caste’. Half caste people while not necessarily favored in the West due to the question of their true racial identity were ironically favored and well looked upon in the Ghanaian society. As a half caste child, l was seen as one that was priviledged and special. The high school I went to growing up gave half caste girls the special privilegde of not cutting their hair short though all other students had to cut theirs short. A drop of white blood gave us the privilege pure black students did not have. In retrospect, that made no sense yet at the time it seemed like the perfect thing to do. Why was purely african hair fit to be cut while half caste hair wasn’t? That was a debate for another day.

‘’Maame meet Tucker’’ mama’s firm voice broke into my thoughts,…okay, hi…my voice trailed off, confused as to what title exactly to give this lightskinned man..was I to call him uncle Tucker or Mr. Tucker?..I thought for a second and decided to simply call him by the name with which he was introduced..of course, that was his name wasn’t it? There was no need to exaggerate respect by adding a title to a name that already sounded gallant. I always wondered anyway, why titles mattered so much, and why the overdone cloaks of reverence were cast on people due to status or priviledge…as if titles could lenghthen one’s life or provide food..These titles were many; from ‘’bossu’’ an adulterated from of ‘’boss’’ for a grown man who seemed to be in a better financial situation than the giver of the title to ‘’senior’’ also used for the same purpose. Ghanaians are just an interesting group of people who like their Nigerian cousins understood and knew how to adorn people with accolades and titles..mostly to their advantage There is also the bit about respect which makes Nigerians and Ghanaians use titles incessantly.

What To Do With Your Accent

So I get asked why my people and I say “docta” (doctor) when the word is “doctor” hence the need to say it as doct-OR with an emphasis on the ‘OR’ since the two letter word is pronounced ‘OR’ and not ‘er’ and I go crazy trying to break the heads of these Nigerians the same way I get irritated when they question me about why I say ‘pasta’ and ‘pastor’ the same way.

So in West Africa there’s that constant disagreement between Anglophone countries, mostly Ghana and Nigeria over who better speaks a language we do not co-own but inherited as part of a colonial gift package. This isn’t a history lesson though, so I’ll go on and share the fact that I was also quite pleasantly surprised to hear my professor say that French people do not regard the French she speaks as the original version since she is Belgian, and the fact that growing up she sensed a lack of national pride with regards to French spoken in Belgium since France mocked them and regarded their French as not standard. I also remember sitting in a Francophone culture class and watching a snippet of a show with a Canadian couple whose French pronunciations our teacher asked us to analyze. For what I thought.  At the time it was to help us understand that different cultures possess the French language and have an entirely different approach to it; in terms of pronunciation, lexicons and expressions, etc. Beneath this exposure though,  I felt a hint of mockery but that wasn’t apparent enough so there was no need to explore it. Back to my professor, I would learn that her parents moved around quite a lot and so she had the opportunity of studying in the US, France and Northern Africa all leading to a career that exposed her to the French Caribbean and its own intricate linguistic culture. She would say words a certain way and her mother would be quick to say no do not pronounce it the Belgian way; say it the Parisian way; better still let’s enroll you in a school that would perfect your diction and pronunciation, and help you speak the standard French and so they did.

Moving back to Francophone Africa, it still surprises me how Ivorians, Senegalese or Congolese feel their spoken French is the best. Similar to the raging war between Ghana – Nigerian English. Interestingly enough, Ivorians have this overwhelming sense of superiority (I’ve known too many of them not to be able to safely generalize) and actually make fun of Beninese and Togolese accents. Learning French however, I hung around quite a number of Francophone Africans, mostly West African. I got used to some expressions that did not necessarily apply to other cultures, I also overtime developed an accent other French speakers claim they are unable to place with a specific place. I don’t know if that helped, but as an anglophone, I feel my dream of acquiring Parisian standard French was flawed. In retrospect it was flawed because no matter how I speak or how anyone else speaks for that matter, the key thing is the ability to be all rounded enough to understand when an African, Canadian, Island dweller (Caribbean) or European spoke to me in French. My goal as a French speaker is to understand and be understood and not have a bias against different accents. A year of surviving the swift Parisian and Rennais accents taught me above all things to tune my ears to be able to pick up what was being said to me since these were not as slow or  as stressed as African delivered French.

Talking and listening to American professors who have studied French language and have managed to perfect their French despite an overwhelming urge to gloss over words with American linguistic trade marks such as the infamous ‘R’ sound; the very sound that the French also emphasize especially with the throat and not the lips, I feel I’ve come a long way. Even in the same country, people based on their origins, native language and many other factors, would always have accents.

Accents are a huge issue. My professor argued that if people sought to have neutral accents, things would be better. I’m still thinking about how possible that is.  Accents are still a huge deal though, huge enough to make a person lose their self esteem and huger enough to leave impressions and conclusions and even stereotypes about the person before they have hardly finished their sentence. However, through all of this, I think the most important question is the ability to understand what the other person is saying. Understanding accents, cutting through this layer of haze (if you like) is the most important thing, so i’ll conclude by saying seek to understand, that’s the bigger thing at stake, not necessarily  the battle of accents much like the overrated Ghana and Nigerian Jollof.

What to do with a lying Tongue

She’d spoken about him for weeks and frankly all the other girl wanted to do was to meet him. Let’s see who he is already! She thought about high school where girls would go on for days on end about boys they had crushes on and how they couldn’t wait to have them come up the hill to see them for nothing more than a conversation, a hand squeeze and maybe a hug or two all under the eagle eyes of teachers who thought no better of these girls. Why did these adults think so lowly of the girls anyway? Had they themselves been this unworthy of trust when they were growing up? Or it just had to do with this generation and how untamable they were? Back to the subject of the boy, yeah she really was curious to see him. Not that she was that thirsty or ‘boyco’ (boy conscious), it was just that when you kept hearing a name, all you wanted to do next after a while would naturally be to put a face to the name…….and well also to decide if the face matches your expectations…there, I said it ! Evil grin..

So she met him; AND when she did, she was with Ewurama who decided to pull her along. They had just stumbled out of Rahama, the best Ghanaian food place literally in all of Virginia where she’d bought a pack of spicy jollof with fried plantains for herself and a pack of boiling green soup and Tuo Zaafi for the glutton she called a sister. Now to the man’s place. They get there, get dilly dallied by concierge and then finally up to the apartment he called a home. Door’s open, someone is home, music playing, lights low, we look round, no one…so where is he though?!…Oh he’s in the bathroom…well okay, either way, today be today.

She takes in the space, it looks clean and kept. A single bookcase sits up against a wall in between two impressive windows that rise from the floor to the ceiling. The windows give an impression of actually being on a roof top with no barriers because the view below is both intimidating and beautiful. His apartment overlooks a busy mall and is very well situated meaning he probably pays a lot for this space. She goes through the books to get a sense of who this person is and quickly finds that these are books she loves. Well the fact that he has a bookcase full of books you like doesn’t mean anything. So relax.

Her sister and Mr. Steele seem quite fond of each other. Mr. Steele does his part of playing the role of a perfect gentleman. He seems well put together, appearance wise albeit not that drop dead gorgeous. He takes both ladies out for dinner and the evening ends with good conversation and the perfect feeling of time well spent with good company. All this awesomeness which is perfect but does not quite become that perfect since its not a fairy tale. Fast forward into the future, Mr. Steele tries to stir up trouble between sisters. All he has to do is tell Ewurama something mean about her sister, something mundane like oh your sister is jealous of you. Really? So  be careful…….People still say backward stuff like this in this century? Ewurama decides to reveal these details weeks and weeks later after Mr. Steele says this to her. Sister in turn decides to tell Ewurama about how Mr. Steele tried to touch her inappropriately. Shall we confront Mr. Steele? Ewurama wants to do that immediately yet sister feels rather amused by the shallow turn of events. Me jealous?! Wow that’s a first. Yet questions still hang…

Why would he even say that and why would she also be amused by the ‘shallow turn of events?’

 

Akata Witch

The very first thing that pulled me to this book is it’s fierce title. I know the word ‘Akata’ is used in reference to people of African American descent but also literally translates as a wild cat (or that’s what the Nigerians said). Well, flipping the first few pages of this book, I realize there is more to the meaning of the word ‘Akata’;  the protagonist is an American of Nigerian descent who is also coincidentally albino. She finds out later that she possesses magical powers and that her suspicions of not being as normal as every other kid her age is right. She seamlessly finds herself in the company of two friends who also possess magical powers and her quest of self discovery begins.

Though beautifully written, and with a title that draws one in with an urgency to satisfy some curiosity, I found it quite hard completing this book, (and maybe I should have) but it felt like a Nigerian version of Harry Potter. Three friends, Orlu, Sunny and a third same as Harry, Ron and Hermoine, the whole magical powers aspect and the fact that there exists a human world which is different from the world of the paranormal beings though they all exist simultaneously and the paranormals look normal to humans. All these elements killed the interest and urgency to complete the book because I felt like it was something I had seen before. I liked the frequent references to Nigerian and American elements though, like kids wearing converse all star shoes and all but then I also struggled to keep a keen interest in the events that unfolded in the story. Maybe I’ll come back to this novel in future with a different pair of eyes. Or maybe someone would challenge me and actually help me see what I did not see earlier…

I’d be glad to hear from other readers who have different perspectives about this book!

Les Mouches – The Flies, Jean Paul Sartre

Why you need to read this play..

The ideology of existentialism presents the notion of finding the meaning of life through free will, choice, and personal responsibility. It has a slight penchant towards atheism since this same concept also alludes to being self reliant and independent ( not relying on external sources, a higher being etc)

So the play mainly presents us the city of Argos which is in great agony (great agony, I know! Colloquial language! sigh!) because the new tyrant king has successfully brainwashed the people into thinking that they must share the guilt of his murdering the legitimate king. For this reason, they celebrate a ridiculous festival of the dead, (‘festival des morts’) to ask the dead for forgiveness for living while they stay frozen in the land of the dead. Then there is the God Jupiter who seems to be happy about the whole situation and actually feeds off of people’s guilt. His aim is to keep a person crippled and under his power by reminding them of their guilt. Jupiter does not fail to remind the current king that the slain king’s blood is on his hands. The queen (Clytemnestre) who is also guilt ridden has a deathly face which is as cold and as unfeeling to the point that her own daughter Electre can not stand being around her.

The pivotal and didactic part of the play comes up with the arrival of Orestre who refuses to go with the culture of guilt that exists in the city. Orestre is important because he is the legitimate hier to the throne; as a baby, he is given to strangers who are leaving to another city so he is unable to grow in his own legitimate country; but luckily he grows in the care of an affluent couple in a city where life, beauty and harmony reside so to arrive in his native country and meet a place that is physically filthy and reeking of guilt, fear and regret is something Orestre is simply unable to accept. He reveals himself to his sister Electre and together they decide to assassinate the king and their mother who they both agree is disgusting. After the initial murder of the king, Electre crumbles with guilt and is unable to go shake the guilt off or continue with the two’s initial plot. Now the flies are literally the workers of the God Jupiter who feed off of people’s guilt and create this false sense of being a safe haven. Jupiter and the flies’  secret aim though is to encourage dependency so that he/they uses this tool to forever remind the victim of his or her guilt which makes him/them happy.

Why I love this play

This play has a background that touches slightly on French history and hard times the German occupation of France brought in 1943. The play is also very dramatic and has strong symbols that are used to convey good ideas. Example are how the flies/ Les Mouches are the physical representation of the guilt one feels. Flies are attracted when there is something unpleasant or something that appeals to them (which we generally know is disgusting), therefore the flies used in this play communicates a sense of the damaging and ugly effects of guilt. If you reek of guilt, you attract flies which hound you for life until you get the courage to shake them off. We also learn that one of the components that attract guilt is regret. I like this play because it draws you in and throws a lot of issues at you but at the same time, it contains rich information perfect for analyses.

Papa Doc and the New BMW

We hadn’t seen papa doc in a long  while. Calls to his cell phone relayed the same old rehearsed voice message. He had accused us  of being users who called on him only when we needed rides. On those days, papa doc would listen quietly and depending on his mood, would give a brief harangue about our abrupt calls and the fact that he isn’t a taxi driver that we could have as and when we decided. We would swallow our pride and listen as he ranted with the hope that after the brief nkwasiasem, he would finally show up, and then after we hung up, we would wait hours and hours on end for his arrival.

‘Yes I will be there at 4pm’….

Papa doc would show up at 5 or even 6 amidst a flow of ‘je suis desolés’. On other days, he would appear defensive because after all, the car was his and he was the one giving us a ride. On other days also, he would arrive on time, drive us to our destination amidst love and conversation and general banter only for us to get there and for him to snap at us and create a scene about how slow we were being. ‘Hurry up!’ He would spit, ‘Hurry, I don’t have all the time in the world, dépêchéz-vous,les filles!’. Ei, so was this how life was?! A common ride could warrant this much disrespect?!. We thought we were women, who needed to be addressed as such, but really, where did ‘les filles’ come from?! Had we missed anything? Had he morphed into our dad ?! And did the change suddenly grant him the chance to call us girls?! We had had it and so we decided to buy a car too. It was that simple.We loved papa doc, but, love just wasn’t enough especially when you mostly got nonsense in response to help you wanted. We could no longer swallow the spittle and the words he threw in our faces. Papa doc himself had taught us a Senegalese word, ‘deng’ and this word was supposed to be used in reference to a punk. We concluded quickly that the teacher of the word deserved the word the most. He was indeed deng and no one could wrestle that title from him.

So on one bright day, well it wasn’t exactly bright, but then our good fortune made it bright enough  we decided on a car. We bought the Silver Ford and paid cash for it. It was such a delightful day and the birds seemed to chirp even louder. Progress! Ah such sweet relief! We could go anywhere, any day, anytime and all it took was consistent dexterity of American roads and a slight press of the accelerator. Victory, independence and dignity smiled at us and we in turn, hugged them back. No one could tell us anything! We were women of our own and we could do whatever we wanted…yeah thanks Queen B!  we had that hop to our steps and our Friday trips uptown increased. The only intimidating part was THE POLICE..they were bad news from hell and in the era of #blacklivesmatter -ing, we weren’t trying to get stopped, arrested or worse,- killed! So we had fun, but we were cautious, vigilant and responsible about it.

Had we told papa doc about our new baby? No. Had he noticed we had dogged him? Yes!

(..Dog, – a Ghanaian slang that means ignoring someone especially when you no longer have a need for them).

He sure had noticed that we’d dogged him and everyone knew about it thanks to his leaky mouth.  Since information had legs, this piece of juicy information about papa doc calling us users and slave drivers came knocking at our door days after he had said it. We went ballistic because guess what, we had called him endlessly to break the good news to him only for him to leave our calls unanswered and unreturned as always. This guy! We called him once again, and guess what? No answer. Days later on a calm Friday afternoon, we caught him in our parking lot! We literally had a huge free space for parking which meant that our friend had come all the way from his hinterland apartment to park right in front of our house without so much as passing by to say hello. And you say papa doc isn’t deng?! We pounced on him and nearly tore him to pieces. He had on a navy blue kaftan that looked starched and well pressed with complimentary slippers and that Taqiyah cap that he hardly washed. He looked dignified enough so we couldn’t rough him up but then for some reason, the stream of ‘je suis desoles’ came out and we forgave him and showed him our latest toy.

A week later, we saw a photo uploaded on Facebook by a worn out papa doc who was perched on a bicycle. The caption beneath the photo read;  ‘me and my new bmw’. The caption was both humorous and overly comprehensible;  Papa doc’s smooth Volkswagen had developed a fault and he was going to be carless for weeks to come. (Evil grin)…

Who were the bosses now?! 🙂

PS.Do not gloat on the misfortunes of your enemy friend

*       *        *

“The part of the towel you clean your bum with today could be the part you wipe your face with tomorrow; be nice” – anonymous

 

The Grasshopper and the Ant – La Fontaine

The Grasshopper having sung all summer found herself ill provided for when winter came. Not even a scrap of fly or worm. She went and told her neighbor the ant, begging her for a loan of a few grains to survive until the new season.

“I’ll pay you back”, she said, ‘before August, animal’s honour, principal and interest.’ Sadly the ant was not a lender.

“What were you doing in the hot weather?”, she asked the grasshopper.

“Night and day I sang to all comers” replied the grasshopper.

“You sang? Great! Well you can dance now” said the ant.

At a cursory glance one realises that this little anecdote is didactic and tells of the need to save. Jean de la Fontaine, the French fablist is author of about two hundred and thirty more fables that are equally entertaining.

Papa doc II

Papa doc was Congolese, ebony skinned, bespectacled and immensely dramatic. We just loved him for his occasional constant awkwardness and pure heart. The thing about papa doc is that he has ultimately good intentions. Good intentions that make him want to genuinely extend a hand to friends in need but somehow, lack of planning, a lack of an awareness and respect for time, his overwhelmed life among a host of other unknown factors prevents him from being the truly helpful and optimal version of himself. There seemed to be a constant battle between his ideal and real self.

So on one pleasant Saturday, I entrust my precious plans into the loving plans of papa doc and what happens? He disappoints as expected. I once heard someone say that  expectations breed disappointment. I gave the saying a thought and decided I was no longer upset being that I was also to blame to an extent for not measuring my expectations.

Later that day, he offered to make up by taking me and my friend out to the Chinese restaurant that reminded us of home. Since an invitation to eat together did not directly translate into eating freely, we clutched our purses tightly and sped off in the direction of food with empty bellies and salivating mouths. We imagined the particularly fresh, seasoned and crisp taste of the chicken the restaurant was known for. Contrary to the usually grumpy and burdened waiter who often served us and acted like he was rather paying us for eating at the restaurant, we were met by a rather pleasant waitress who was clad in a neatly pressed uniform. She came up to us and after several negotiations of meaning, including modified Franco-Anglo and Sinophone accents twisted and beaten up in a melodramatic scene, our order was finally taken and our meal on its way. We ate and had a good conversation and expected to go the Dutch way after lunch.

‘Bill together or separate?’

‘Separate!’ My friend and I chanted!

In a bit, the crisp sheet that would spell the monetary value of our eating came in. We walked up to the cashier and swiped away. Papa doc remained motionless. Monsieur, its time to pay, let’s go man, aren’t you ready?!

Moments later, we arrive home amidst laughter and tears. Papa doc knew he had no money in his pocket, yet, he invited us to wine and dine. We ended up paying for him; in addition to good company and conversation and free gossip. In effect, he did nothing at all in the sense of making up for the earlier inconvenience. All this was too funny…but once again, he was our very own papa doc, so AGAIN, we will let it slide.