Monday, March 14, 2011

Murphy's Playground

On any given day, to my daughter's good fortune, we can walk a 100 ft from our front door onto the playground, or Aire de Jeux, as it's called in French. She has spent more time on the slide in the less than three weeks residing here, than she did back home in two months time. Definitely a plus for the premises. And in less than three weeks, I've discovered the intricacies of playground dealings... the mothers mingle, the kids play, and encounters are a little more than interesting the French way.

On a particularly beautiful day, there are many as I believe Mother Nature seems to favor this part of the world, trees were budding and flowers blooming. And after our first walk to town, I stopped by the playground nestled between our loop of buildings. As expected, there were a group of children running, jumping, screaming... being kids. Jasmine smiled and ventured on her own, trying out two slides, and two little bouncy things. I sat on a bench, looking on, hoping I wouldn't have to talk to anyone. My French is limited, very limited, embarrassing actually. However, Murphy's law was in effect in more ways than one. Within ten seconds, I was approached. A young girl about the age of thirteen holding a book, made a beeline for me, taking a seat on the small bench I sat on. She looked at me, as if to say something. Before her mouth uttered a word, with panic I smiled, got up, feigned helping Jasmine with something, and then took a seat on another bench. Discreet, I thought I was ... Uh-uh. The girl stood up and came over to sit with me again. And this time she was quick to ask “Vous parlez anglais? (Do you speak English?)”.Assuming she heard me speaking with Jasmine, I nodded “Oui (Yes)”. The girl giggled, and then peeled the price sticker off her book, put it on her forehead, laughed, and looked at me with googly eyes. Unsure of what to say and before the situation got anymore bizarre, I got up once again and went to Jasmine. This time, I didn't leave her side.

It wasn't long before I was spinning Jasmine around in this big yellow carousel. The other children quickly joined, including another little boy around her age. I noticed he had been staring at Jasmine, trying to get her attention since we arrived. Boy, they start young here. Anyway, some of the kids asked if Jasmine spoke French? When I told them we spoke English, they began saying the only English words they knew -Hello/Goodbye, yes/no, I love you, and tous the colors of the rainbow- all this in between commands of “VITE! VITE! VITE!” (FASTER! FASTER! FASTER!). We were having a grand ole time. Leave it to me, the first friends I make are all under ten years old.

At one point, the little boy of Jasmine's age, asked me to stop, “Arrête, s'il vous plait. Arrête”. Immediately, I halted the yellow spinner. I helped him off, and he wobbled away to a woman who seemed to be looking after most of the children there. The other kids, impatient, asked me to go again. I turned with all my might. The more they laughed, the faster I turned... well. until we heard the noise. When I turned around...projectile vomit hurled from this little boy's mouth. I had spun so hard, I made him sick. Oh no! I felt instantly mortified. I stopped the spinner once again, grabbed Jasmine and ran over to him. The older caretaker of African descent, cleaned him up. Squatting in front of the little guy, I repeatedly apologized “Je suis désolée. Je suis désolée.”, but his stare was vacant. We crowded around but it was like we weren't there. I felt the corners of my mouth point South.

A chuckle came from behind. The older woman waved her hand in the air, telling me not to worry. “He does this all the time... tomorrow the same thing will happen...He is used to it”, she said in French. I may not speak it but I can understand about a good 80 to 90% of what's being said. She then gathered the children, and waved to me again, “A demain. (Til tomorrow)”. Feeling a little more reassured, I waved back at her and the kids. Walking away, they called out to me in English... “Hello/Goodbye, Yes/No, one/two/three...twenty”and “I love you”... including vomit boy.