Monday, November 1, 2010

Peace Talks

Heavy winds and waiting for my package had me exploring Perpignan.  I
walked into a 13th century cathedral that was really neat.  There was
some kind of service going on though, and I thought it rude to be a
tourist during a service, so I took a quick look around and then left.
For those of you who don't know, the 13th century was a really long time ago.


I walked through a park that had naked statues of people.  The park
had small canals and old trees and was exceptionally pleasant.  The
naked statues were all looking into the distance or at the ground,
which gave them a removed feeling, as though it was OK that they
didn't have any clothes.

I found an open market and walked through it looking at mostly garage
sale-like displays.  I didn't think that I would see anything I
needed, but it was interesting anyway.  Then I saw something that I
needed.  A metal whistle.  There where two of them.
I asked the proprietor “Parlevue Englei?”
“No.  Francai? No?”

I picked up the whistle and rubbed my first two fingers with my thumb,
asking how much it cost.

He showed me a two Euro coin.

I thought about it.  I had a great whistle that was stolen and it
would be nice to replace it.  But in order to determine if these
whistles were any good, I would have to try one out.  I wasn't
inclined to.  I got up to walk away and the price dropped down to one

I thought about it some more.  I tried one, it wasn't very good.  I
tried the other, not very good either.  I went back and tried the
first one again, giving a more serious blow, still no good.

As I got up to walk away again the proprietor gave a solid blow into
the second whistle, and it was very loud.  I was back again.  I went
through my change to find 80 cents for an offer.  The man grabbed out
of my hand a one Euro coin as he saw me searching through my change.

“No!”  I said.

I pulled out four 20 cent coins to make an offer.  The man looked at
it, took it, counted it again, and acted as though I had tried to
cheat him.  If I wanted that whistle it would now cost me two Euro
because of the alleged cheat.  I began to walk away and the price went
back down to one Euro.

I parted with my one Euro coin and a had a hopefully-fine whistle.  It
was made in India.

A moment of stereotypes:  I had bargained with an Arab, but as an
Israeli I was not outclassed.  I have a bad feeling that my own
attempt to get a whistle for less then a Euro and the retailers
attempt to sell if for two was a microcosm of the Israeli Palestinian
peace talks.

Later I joined up with an Israeli tour group that was walking around
the city.  The group was mostly Russian so there was a Russian
translator for the Hebrew speaking tour guide who was translating a
local guide who was using a weak English.  I followed both the
English and Hebrew and noted the things lost in translation.  We
admired one of the oldest movie theaters in France that became the
oldest when translated to Hebrew.

One fellow in the group was talking to me.  He told me that I should
do more research on cities before I visit them.  I had been walking
around the old Jewish quarter without even knowing it.

“I would, but it's hard to do that when I kayak everywhere and don't
know where the weather will leave me.”

“Yes, well.  You shouldn't wear your skull cap in public, there are a
lot of antisemites here in Europe.”   He went on to elaborate how
there is no real obligation for Jews to wear skull caps.

I explained to him that it wasn't about obligation, it was about pride.

1 comment:

  1. When I was in the Czech Republic I met a guy who was really friendly but then when he asked me where I was from and I said Israel he gave me an astound look, turned around and ignored me. that was pretty funny actually :)
    (But I still refused to hide the fact that i was from Israel.)