So I was in France, but only for a few hours as well. No, I didn’t visit the Eiffel Tower. (I at least said “Bonjour” and “Au revoir” to some woman, and she smiled back if only for a second. That should count for something.) Commuting from one part of the Charles De Gaulle airport to another, I couldn’t help but notice a very wide range of African clothings worn by the Africans and non-Africans moving through the airport. It gave a beautiful view of a colourful town. It was the first airport I’d been that had such array of cultural attires. American airports have everyone in jeans, tops and sneakers, or in jackets, ties and boots. No variety. Go to France and see a real multicultural environment. Well, not totally: everyone there spoke French. But in dressing, they all seemed to assert their identity, and I felt a little out of place wearing my SIUE sweat shirt.

Buying at airports have never always been my thing, but I saw a couple of nice “I was in France” t-shirts in the lounge and I tried to buy them. The conversation that ensued went somewhat like this:

Me (approaching the empty counter. It was about 5.40am, French time): Hellooo. Who’s here?

About two people who were already (window) shopping in the open shop looked at me for a brief second, and looked away.

Me: I’d like to buy a few of these. Who’s in charge?

Some young woman then came forward from the corner. She spoke some French that I couldn’t comprehend.

Me: Bonjour.

She speaks some more French.

Me: Erm, sorry. I don’t speak that much French. Do you speak English?

She: Yes.

There is something innately beautiful in a French person speaking the English language. I was mesmerized.

Me: Good. I’d like to take this, and this. How much are they?

She: So-and-so euros.

Me: Euros?

She: Yes.

Me: Do you accept dollars?

She: Yes.

Me: Alright, here is a hundred.

She: Oh, I’m sorry, we don’t have change for this.

Sigh.

She: If you’d go down that hall, you could get it changed.

I was too tired from the previous trip, and I didn’t want to make any more efforts so I said no.

Me: Do you take cards?

She: Yes.

Me: Good. Have this.

She collects it and swipes it on the machine.

She: It doesn’t work.

I gave up. I know I shouldn’t have expected an American card to work in a European country without first having directed it to by the issuing bank. The disappointment from the encounter was not only that I couldn’t buy some fancy French clothes and perfumes as gifts, but that I couldn’t stay long enough to hear much of that French English of hers. Super, I tell you.

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