Monday, March 19, 2007

Je suis anglais……

We arrived at the Club Med resort in Cherating at the end of the holiday. I loved the east coast of Malaysia, with it’s painted wooden houses on stilts, open-air batik workshops and traditional villages spread out along the perfect coastline. Club Med had excellent all-day childcare for Marc and Nina, who did activities like the trapeze, archery or bungee-jumping and played team games, while we swam, did our own sports activites or just chilled out in the bar. The staff and guests were friendly in a genuine way. It was popular with expats from KL who could drive there. As fate would have it, Nina’s two best friends from school, Isolde and Alya, were there, along with Marc’s friend Danton. We also bumped into Christine from the Mercredi club along with her three children, two of whom were the same age as ours. It was sociable and we ate together at large tables for lunch and dinner. I managed to complete two dares, one from Ghania to climb the wall and the other from Mahes to do the bungee jump. I did them both and although my heart was racing it felt good.

Every night there was a show, preceded by short welcome to new guests and a run-down of weekly activities. The Club Meds in Asia had clients from several countries and needed to be multilingual. Alongside the Chef de Village (who was in this case a French-speaker) was an English, Japanese, Korean and Chinese speaker from the staff. The five simultaneous translations were fast-paced and as far as I know correct (I could only verify the French-English one). The language group in the audience would look attentive when their speaker came on and then chat rudely through all the others. The Japanese lady ended all her sentences with a bow and said ‘Hai!’ to which the Japanese responded ‘Hai!’ like kids at school acknowledging their teachers instructions. The Chinese one always started with ‘Ni Hao’ or ‘Meoww’ as Nina mimicked it. After a few times we found ourselves mesmerized by this multilcutural mélange and the kids starting saying ‘Hai!’ in all the right places…

On the last evening the children from the Mini-Club did a ‘talent show’. The multilingual Algerian GO in charge introduced the kids one by one, trying to use the right language. She had heard Marc speaking French to Danton and chose French. She asked: ‘Marc, tu vien de quelle pays?’ (Where are you from?) Marc replied ‘Je suis anglais’ (I am English), with a perfect French accent, to our amazement. Why didn’t he say he was French and English? Why say he was English in French? Did he mean to say it in English but having been asked the question in French felt it was polite to answer in French? Could a seven-year-old know what he was saying? We puzzled over it, watching bemused parents say ‘What? Is he French or English?’

Then Marc, looking all angelic and sweet, said he would sing the classic French song ‘Au Claire de la Lune’, but he sang the naughty version, to the same tune, that his cousins had taught him:

‘Au claire de la lune,
j’ai pète dans l’eau,
ça faisait les bulles,
c’était rigolo,
ma grand-mère arrivait avec des grand ciseaux,
elle me coupe les fesse en quatre mille morceaux…’

Which is roughly translated as ‘In the light of the moon, I farted in the water, it made bubbles, that was funny, my grandmother arrived with the scissors and cut my bottom into four thousand pieces…’ and he was smartly sent off stage by the GO to giggles from all the French-speakers.

Marc’s Malaysian/French friend, Danton, was next and when asked the same question in French he said that he was from Switzerland. I wondered why he had said Swiss when his father was French? It turned out that Danton was born in Switzerland. We all laughed, joking that next time Marc would probably say in French that he was Hungarian…but it brought home an issue to both families. Where are our children from? The country where they were born? Where they have a house? Where they have lived the longest? Or where they currently reside? Now that’s a tricky question…

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