A wonderful thing has happened. There's a Starbucks. Open. Near me. NEAR ME!
Normally that isn't a cause for all that much excitement. Believe it or not, when I'm in the U.S. I don't actually go to Starbucks all that often. I just make a big deal of it when I do go. But American coffee is something that I miss a lot (a lot) here in France. You see, they drink their coffee in these itty bitty cups and it's strong and bitter and they rarely give you milk for it. So Starbucks when here in France is like a big, tasty home-in-a-cup.
Today I was sitting in Starbucks with my French friend Sophie. We were speaking English, because, you know, even though my level of French surpasses that of most French people now, *cough cough* I find that I still like English more. And then suddenly this older gentleman walked up to us, looked me straight in the eye, and said, “Are you American?”
I was silent for a moment as I debated how exactly I should answer that question. You see, being American can bring about quite a few different responses, ranging from wildly enthusiastic to ‘I-hate-your-stinking-American-capitalism-guts- now-go-away-and-stop-polluting-my-air!’ Of course, I’ve never gotten the latter reaction, but the possibility never quite leaves my mind. Unfortunately, I could tell by his accent that he spoke English far too well for me to deny my nationality successfully. So I smiled and nodded.
And then he asked me why I’m in France. I’ve been told the word ‘missionary’ is often heavily misunderstood, so I gave him the same answer I give everyone else. “I’m working with an evangelical church here.”
And then something scary happened. His eyes lit up in delight. That can only mean one of two things. One, he’s already a Jesus-follower and he’s ecstatic to meet another. Or two, he thinks following Jesus is a load of rubbish and has just been dying to disillusion some unsuspecting, naive American girl.
Turns out that it was the latter. It usually is here in France. I think. Okay, well actually I knew immediately he wasn’t actually French because French people never discuss religion! and certainly not with strangers! Buddy pulled over a chair, made himself comfortable, and for the next hour attempted to make us look stupid for our inability to read Hebrew, being conditioned by our society, and asking silly and unimportant questions like, ‘What happens after we die?’
He also told us that Starbucks is poisoning our society with sugar. I would have to disagree. I think Starbucks is making people do happy dances inside one cup of coffee at a time. But I didn’t tell him that. He asked us if we consume sugar. Sophie, being the health conscious person that she is, said “No.” She was being honest too. Imagine a life without sugar.... (Insert shudder here)
Then he looked at me, as I had expected he would.
“Do you eat sugar?”
“Yes, lots of it.” I just barely restrained myself from adding, ‘And I love that I eat it! Every day. Always.’ In case you don’t believe me, I’m currently drinking some extremely sugary coffee and consuming my second ‘pain au chocolate’ within the space of five minutes. Yes, that’s right. That’s probably 2,000 calories stuffed into my digestive system in just a few minutes. I should be feeling regret. Or a sugar high, in the least. But for some reason all I feel is satisfaction.
Anyways, that’s not really the point. The point, is that the crazy old man then told me that I was fat, and that if I consumed less sugar I would get skinnier. And then he oh so kindly warned me not to get too skinny because I needed to make at least several Christian babies. And come to think of it, why wasn’t I married and making babies already?
What does one say to that? My initial reaction was to laugh, and then I couldn’t think of anything to say after that so I laughed again. It’s been several hours now and I still can’t really come up with a different response.
It was probably one of the more bizarre experiences I’ve had here in France, and that’s saying something. One never quite knows what to expect when they leave their house in the morning. It reiterates the fact that even when you feel like you're entirely prepared to step in a new culture, there's always going to be something to throw you off.
Oh, and have I mentioned the pure, unadulterated bliss I feel at the fact that a Starbucks has opened just two miles away from my house? No? Oh, let me tell you about that....