Friday, September 16, 2011

chile con carne?

Today i had lunch with the japanese. A while ago, I wrote to the Japanese aid agency because they had a project that overlaps one of ours and the guy wrote back and was all “you don’t remember me? We went to grad school together!” and I felt really horrible because I didn’t recognize his name, even if it was fuji yakashima and hiroshi majato, it’s all the same. because i'm so ignorant.

we decided to have lunch. My Japanese friend suggested the Cercle Gourmand, the really fancy french restaurant at the golf course. I didn’t want to go alone (and I really needed a ride) so I invited the loudmouth French guy, cedric, whom I’m working for at the ministry. I’ll totally go! He says, in his messed up hair and dusty jeans.

So we careen into the parking lot in a cloud of dust with our dented up pickup, and realize it’sone of those places were you get dropped off under the awning and a guy with white gloves opens the door. I asked cedric to drop me off at the awning but he said no.

We go in and it’s all classical music and oil paintings on the walls, and white table cloths and wine glasses. We’re just laughing and pointing at things, and I recall this is the place where I ate a duck salad with a former American governor 4 years ago and puked my guts out.
Anyway, we ask the host – there’s a host, I’ve never seen a restaurant in DRC with a host- if there are any Japanese people here and he says, yes, of course, the ambassador is right this way. And I’m thinking, really? They brought the ambassador? And I look at cedric, who’s sweating through his shirt and has a backpack and think this can’t be right. Then I see some asian dudes with ponytails on the patio and point – are those guys Japanese? Looks much more our style. they are.

I goof around with my 3 words of Japanese and we sit down amidst the foliage and sounds of parakeets. They get right to business. They have business cards, handouts, a giant map. Cedric is digging through his pockets for a pen and the Japanese guys are inquiring about the lunch special and there is some drawn out description, I’m not paying attending, I'm looking around at all the fancy people and what they are eating and when the waiter asks me, I just say, yeah, me too lunch special.

So we start talking, and sweating, the Japanese guys are wearing full suits, super rigid, radios on their belts (security) sitting straight up, occasionally answering their cell phones. It’s all rather surreal. The one guy baaaaarely speaks French or English, it’s super choppy incomprehensible accent and when I ask him what he thinks of Kinshasa, all I can make out it

“so very dangerous!....But!....Exciting!”

True dat.

So our meals come out, silver bowl over them and everything. White gloves delicately remove the cover to reveal a steaming…wait, is that chile con carne? Indeed it is. The beans were so undercooked I thought they were peanuts. And it cost the same as a monthly pass to a berlin gym. robbery. i thought the japanese would have paid but then i thought it's probably a cultural thing, or we weren't dressed well enough.

There were a few awkward moments but that was the jist of it. Cedric, as usual didn’t have any money, with his daily ritual “can I tax you 50 bucks?” and it basically blew my budget. Chile con f-ing carne? 

No comments: