Wednesday, April 25, 2007

My husband is French too!

A new group of friends had formed around New Year. In Marc’s class a new girl called Eva had arrived. Eva was half Scottish and half-French, her father worked as a top pastry chef in the Hilton. Nina had made friends with a new girl in her class, Elodie, who was a beautiful mix of Phillipino mother and French father, who also worked as a top pastry chef at the Shanghri-La hotel in KL. Thinking they would have something in common I introduced Scottish Hilary and Phillipino Maribeth to each other at a school event.

Maribeth then introduced us to Youssy, an Indonesian woman also married to a French pastry chef, with a boy in maternelle. Maribeth was studying French with Sasi (or Mem) a Thai lady married, naturally, to a Frenchman, who had a boy in Nina’s class. We then met Yuen-chi, who had been one of the Vietnamese boat-people as a child and lived in Canada, married to a Frenchman and had a daughter the same age as Nina and Elodie. Our last member of the group was Audrey, who was a Chinese heritage Malaysian with French hubby and a daughter a year younger than Nina in the French school.

Although it was a diverse mix, Scottish, English, Phillipino, Indonesian, Thai, Malaysian and Vietnamese/Canadian, we bonded quickly. They had all lived abroad before in places as diverse as Dubai, Korea or America, and we usually moved every two years so we knew we must make friends fast before time ran out. Very quickly the group became a regular weekly fixture. We began having coffee together and comparing notes on our class teachers and the French school. Once a month we would eat at one of our houses, Maribeth was famous for her spring rolls, Sasi her spicy soups or I would make a quiche and salad. The group then graduated to sampling the posh hotel lunch buffets (with discount because the father worked there), or meting up in twos or threes to try out local Thai, Japanese or Malaysian restaurants. We even did Girls Night Outs, sipping cocktails or watching a band in the hotels.

We had a certain camaraderie, a safety in numbers against the stuck-up French-French families, that we all disliked, and we would welcome each other with smiles at the school gates. At school events it was wonderful to arrive at a class show or cultural event and find one of the group had saved me a seat. Six or eight people seems to be the ideal number for a group, and we could pair off or meet as a trio without any rivalry or hurt feelings. Although I felt closest to Hilary in character, I enjoyed greatly Sasi and Maribeth’s company.

However there were certain days when I felt split between my group and making efforts with the French. At one class coffee morning the maman’s split linguistically. I was in the middle, torn between talking in English (to Sasi and Maribeth and Yuen-Chi) or speaking French to the French mothers. We all had a few French friends through our children, and we took pride in them and tried hard to maintain contacts with ‘Friendly French’. However in a crisis we knew who to turn too. We were there for each other, when we felt homesick or when we didn’t understand the homework, when our kids got bad reports or our French husbands drove us crazy!

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