Youthful French Faces

I was relaxed inside the minivan; the driver went inside a deluxe resort, parking the car in front of the main gate. I reached this colonial town of Cambodia just on time to take an island tour. Ignorance is deliriously vindictive, so I understood here. This small town has all those soulful expectation I had from Sihanoukville, yet my stay in this place was ludicrously short. But nothing could be changed then, but to utilize most of my time I had.

After about seven minutes the driver came back to his seat and didn’t start the engine. Within a minute, two humpty dumpty of ladies came out of the resort and got into the car and took the front seats facing me. Wearing sea fresh strawberry daiquiri delight on their faces, they were two gleeful ladies. One of them had all the possibilities of being an azalea Westerner, where as the other had a typical from-homeland features on her face.

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‘Hellloooo!!’ greeted the azalea lady with blushing apple cheeks.

‘Haaiii, I think considering our weight, we should not risk of going at the back seats!’ said the lady with from-homeland features on her face, especially her eyes.

‘Hello! Good Afternoon!’

‘Oh, there’s only you in the car! Are you alone?’ Asked the azalea western lady

‘Yes I am travelling alone.’

‘Aaah.. How nice! Where are you from?’

‘I am from India.’

‘Ooh, India? Where in India?’

‘Kolkata, it’s at the east.’

‘Ook, is that a small city? I have been to Mumbai, Chennai.. and another city… Cali.. can’t remember..’

‘No Kolkata is one of the metro cities of India, and it’s actually been the former capital of the country during British rule.’

‘Say the name again?’

‘It’s Kolkata.’

‘I had heard of some Cal-coo-ta!! Is there anything?’

‘I think you mean Calcutta?’

‘Aahhh yes yes, Calcoota!’

‘Sorry, it’s my mistake, actually Kolkata is the Bengali pronunciation and Calcutta is what the British named it, and both this names were used for quite some years, then the government decided to name the city Kolkata, officially. So be it English or Bengali, Kolkata is the pronunciation now. And we have become so used of this that I didn’t realise people still may recognise the city as Calcutta!’

‘You see we are old people! We only remember our old school learning! We are from France by the way.’

‘Do you live in Paris?’

‘No, we both are from the northern part of the country and we see a lot of rain there. So, this weather is really nice for us. Currently it’s very cold in France. How long are you here?’

‘Oh I just came an hour back, and unfortunately I will be leaving tomorrow.’

‘Oh, just one night? So have you been to other places?’

‘Yes, I have been travelling across Cambodia for some days now, and I’m almost at the end of my trip.’

‘Ohh! We have been to Cambodia for 4 months now. We were here for NGO work. So finished our project, then we had to take a small break, we have really worked hard and we deserve it. So we are here for a week and tomorrow we will go to Phnom Penh and the day after tomorrow, I will fly back.’

‘Yes, actually I also wanted to go back, but these children, they are calling me every day to come back.. Then I said.. Ok give me some time, I will come back! So I probably will stay another two months and then go back to France.’ Said the lady with from-homeland features.

‘Oo, I thought you are local.’

‘I am.. I am Cambodian. But it’s been 38 years now that I am living in France. Though I have my family living here.’

Ooo, they would love to talk, they would love to ask, and they would love to tell. We reached the pier to take our boat to Rabbit Island. At the pier, every foreign tourist had to share their passport details at the registrar.

Both the ladies weren’t carrying their passports, neither did I, but I already had a picture of my passport which would do the work (the manager of guest-house had told me about it already). I told them to find a picture of their passport at their phones and that worked. Seeing us talking so much, the registrar asked:

‘Are you all family, then maybe you share your (which is just me) details, and it’s ok. We will get the rest from the resort.’

‘No we are not.’

‘But she looks like your mother! You look similar!’ one local lady announced pointing to the from-homeland French lady as my mother!

‘Does she look like me? She would be of my daughter’s age though!’

‘May be, but my mother won’t be very happy to hear this!!’

‘Ooh, I have two daughters!! But you have big eyes!’

‘Yes, our Asian complexion makes us alike may be.’

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The ladies were carrying their picnic lunch to the island, boxes full of medium sized fried crabs.

‘Why don’t you have some food with us?’

‘I had my lunch before coming here, I am all full, I am only having a juice.’

‘Well we have plenty, don’t be shy.’

‘No I really am full, can’t eat anything at the moment. Thank you very much.’

‘So where are going tomorrow?’

‘Oh, I am also going to Phnom Penh tomorrow.’

‘Ooh, just like us, and after that?’

‘After that I leave on Saturday.’

‘Aa ok. So Calcutta.. I have heard of the city, and I went there a long long time ago. But next time if I come, I should tell you.’

‘Absolutely, please do, we will meet there.’

The next day was the departure time. Again I was alone in the car, the car stopped at the same place like yesterday, and I thought my hunch would pay off. Yessss!!

‘Hiiii, we meet again!!’

‘We do.’

‘Good we meet, I didn’t take you contact details. Will you give me?’

‘Sure I will.’

‘Are you on Facebook?’

‘Yes, I am.’

‘Fantastic. We will be well connected then. And I have to come to Calcoota to see you there’

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