Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Guess where I've been

No, there aren't any prizes becuase the neon glowing thing really gives it away.

I spent a cold, drizzly autumn weekend in Paris and I have a new artist love: Francois Pompon and his white polar bear. Not only does the artist have a very cool name, but he captures the majesty of the polar bear in simple, stark lines.

I also found a fabulous Viet bakery doing Viet baguettes (I missed them muchly in England and I do not have the skills, or the baguettes, to replicate them): Saigon Sandwich in Belleville. It is at 8 rue de la Présentation, 75011 Paris. The nearest metro station is Belleville.

I learned about Saigon Sandwich via Chocoloate and Zucchini's blog. But I really did find the place, because I set off in one direction from Belleville and found myself walking through a grungy, multicultural suburb. It was great to be surrounded by brown faces. All of sudden, it ended. The streets were cleaner and there were fewer people about. I thought, "oh dear, I've missed it." So I turned right back around and wandered down different streets, taking random left and right turns at whimsy (and once to escape a gypsy woman who started yelling at me in French and my pathetic pardon je ne parlais Francais - yes I'm now aware that is wrong, but I was not aware at the time - did not shake her). Saigon Sandwich is actually about 50 metres away from the metro station.

I had their special baguette, which I successfully ordered in French: je voudrais speciale baguette sil vous plais. But then, the man in the bakery said something in French and I had to apologise and say I don't speak French in bad French. He held up a bowl of chillies and I said, oh! ot. Then I braved some Vietnamese. We had a conversation in Vietnamese, and another patron of the bakery joined in. They were pleased to meet a Viet-Australian and I was pleased to meet some Viet-Parisians. Oh, and the baguette was delicious. And very cheap - only 3 euros (about 2 pounds).

After that, I kept hearing Vietnamese at the other tourist spots I visited: Basilica Sacre Coeur, Tour Eiffel, the Louvre (though I did not go inside) and the Musee d'Orsay (where I spent a solid three and a half hours on only the second floor). I did not engage anyone else in Viet conversation. I'm quite shy in a non-English language (and that includes Viet).

I have also learned, from my solo travel, that middle-aged men like me. I was expecting to get hit on, but hit on by middle aged men only? A wee bit disturbing, really.

On a different note, I will soon be travelling home to Brisbane, Queensland, Australia. So, this blog's going to go quiet awhile. If being away for a few weeks is anything like it was last time, coming back to work is going to be horrid, so I may find it extremely difficult to post.

One thing I miss quite a bit about Australia is bushwalking. Something very different from rambling or hiking or trekking. I miss the Australian bush. Here is a photo of me, this time in the Tasmanian bush, looking up at my partner who has gone where I am too afraid to follow.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Bosses and Cherubs

I must stop being so inordinately pleased by the fact that I outwitted a 6 year old. It is ... unseemly.

I babysat for some friends on Saturday night. They went off to see the new Bond movie and for some dancing. I read to their two boys - let's call them Boss and Cherub -, watched them fall asleep and then crept into the loft conversion to settle in with a good book, listening out for any sleep disturbances. There were very few.

As I was reading to both boys, Cherub fell asleep on me and when I finished the story, I shifted him to his bed. Boss said, "Is Cherub asleep?" I nodded. "You know, Oanh, sometimes, when one of us falls asleep before the other one, the other one can stay up to watch TV."

Me: "Hey, that's a great idea. Just to make sure Cherub is definitely asleep, though, let's wait 5 minutes and pretend we're asleep, too."

Boss: "Okay."

So the little Boss curled over, smiled up at me and closed his eyes, pretending he is asleep. He was such a good pretender that he actually did fall asleep. I almost did as well, but as I was sitting on the floor between two beds, and not lying down on a nice comfy mattress with doona, I managed to bestir myself. Grinning because I had not been tricked into letting Boss stay up watching TV, I turned the lights off.

It was a very wet, very windy and overall miserable night. The book I had chosen from my friends' shelves was Diana Wynne Jones' The Time of the Ghost, a rather unsettling story. As the wind lashed around the house and rain beat against the windows, I read. I almost turned the TV on because the story scared me so much - except I had to finish the story so that it would leave me. Otherwise, I would stay afraid.

Every now and then, I went down to the boys' room to see if they were okay. They'd moved from where they'd started, and kicked off their doonas (although being English, they'd probably call them duvets). A few times, Cherub called out in his sleep and I came in to comfort him. The way he sat bolt upright, eyes closed, lurching forwards for a hug was at once disconcerting and utterly charming. The first time, I murmurred at him, "Mum's out, but it's me, Oanh's here. It's okay," He came fully awake, which worried me, until he said, with his head to one side, "Hello, Oanh!" as if I had just turned up at his house. He gave me a hug and settled back to sleep.

Later, Boss woke and came looking for me. "Are Mum and Dad not back yet?" he asked. "No, but I'm still here," said me, "Are you okay? Do you want to stay up?" "No, I'll go back to bed." But he stood, confused, in front of me. I got onto my knees to give him a hug, and asked him if he wanted anything, "Another story? A pee? Water?" To the last, I got a nod, so I trotted off to the kitchen and returned with a glass of water. He drank, gave me a hug and then went back to his bed.

I love the tactility of children. These two, in particular, have no qualms about demanding hugs or climbing onto your lap to talk to you. Cherub has a habit of reaching his hand to your cheek as he talks, or of putting his face right in front of your face. Boss likes to hold onto you while he is talking.

There is something so upsetting about a child upset in its sleep, and something so comforting about being able to soothe a child, with rubs on the back and murmurred words of,"It's okay", even though I don't know what's wrong or what I would do if I did know what was wrong.

Much later, their parents came home. I was comforting Cherub at the time and trying to settle him back to sleep, but they'd missed him so much they were quite happy to take over the settling part. "You okay?" Dad whispered at me. "Totally fine. They were great." Boss woke and said, "Dad!" and "Bye Oanh!" and Cherub sleepily lifted his arm to wave at me, and I snuck off.

Oh, and I finished the book.

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