I am a Social Butterfly

Never thought I would say that, ever. I am quite the hermit and quite content to be so. In fact, The Oatmeal drew a comic about me (allow me this dream!)

My colleague dragged me to a Girl Gone International event. She is social in a way I will never be but I felt obliged to give her company. I am not one of those women who bitch about how hanging out or working with a group of women is a nightmare. Quite the contrary, I had worked with a bunch of women in my previous office and I grew to love every one of them. So while I wasn’t afraid of making friends the way she was, I was a bit apprehensive about putting myself out there. The night went well enough. I clicked with two other ladies (an Australian and an American) and since they were both married, gave me a chance to see them again via the age old ‘triple date’ phenomenon. We met them a few times for dinner and it wasn’t the nightmare that I thought it would be.

Cut to a few months, I volunteered to go to another meetup. This time there was free alcohol and my brother’s girlfriend was visiting. You see how this works?

Lesson 1: I need multiple compelling reasons to actually go out somewhere social. I don’t mean travel, I love travelling. I mean the act of actually making an effort and talking. I am very good at it. But it tires me out like no physical activity can.

The night was a success on her part – she made ‘connections’. It was a success on my part because I didn’t spend a dime (when you suddenly find yourself supporting 3 people on one income, you find yourself feeling more stingy than you actually are). There’s even photo evidence that I hung out with a big group of brave and interesting women of all age groups from all over the world and had fun.

Bangkok Girl Gone International
Spot me!

Lesson 2: It doesn’t literally kill me to be social but I am yet to find a compelling reason to push myself to it. I’m not the kind to want empathy or the kind to share deep secrets. I do talk to a select few people who’ve caught my interest and whom I think would help me see a different perspective on life. I am sometimes have blinders on so I like having people around who are polar opposites to me in many ways and in many ways the same and yet with a different set of priorities.

Lesson 3: I am more convinced than ever that I am an introvert. Not to be mistaken by its identical twin, shyness. I am not shy, I just find I expend a lot of energy when it comes to talking to people and hanging out with them. I often find I need a couple of weeks to recover.

The Hive, Bangkok
Beautiful meetup locations

Lesson 4: I actually enjoyed the idea of Meetups. Apparently they exist all over the world and they help you participate in interesting activities in a group and there is absolutely no pressure to meet up again. While I am not a big fan of ‘girl only’ or ‘boys only’ meetups, I do love the other activities that come up. You can go volunteer for the weekend, you can participate in workshops, you can play tarot as cards and not the future prediction thing. In fact, the boy and I went to a brilliant Open Air Cinema and watched the Rocky Horror Show! It was amazing.

Open Air Cinema Bangkok

Lesson 5: I am still learning about myself but there is something about being abroad that accelerates the rate of learning.

I am curious to hear your thoughts about going out and meeting other people. Is it something you like to do? If you are self-sufficient, do you even bother? Leave a comment!

Parlez-vous Francais?

Something about being in Africa has made me think of France – Strongly. It probably is this French looking chameleon that I’m tempted to call Pierre or Didier or something typically French like that. Or maybe it’s how seeing that Asterix blanket in Shukuru’s bed made me think of how close to reality those comic strips are. It probably is just the smell of fresh bread wafting from this kitchen! I made my first loaf of bread and all I can think of are the baguettes of France. Aah the Gauls – they know how to feast!

By France, I don’t mean Paris (Pronounced without the ‘S’). I mean those little hamlets that are the heart of this country – Burgundy, Provence. Towns and villages as endearing as their names – Lacoste, Lubéron, Aix, Cluny, Avignon. Every Sunday, we would walk to a different town. That’s one thing I miss about Europe – the long stretches and the fresh air. You could walk all day and not tire. The thing about France is the weather – it’s warm, almost Mediterranean. Farming is the main occupation – vineyards stretch for miles and miles and miles, village markets that boast of wares according to season – Christmas, harvest, hunting seasons.

And France’s favourite ritual is eating. There’s summer food and winter food. My trip began with lunch in a family owned restaurant. It was stone walled and full. The owner was a man of considerable size who perfected the art of teleportation – he was at every table making sure everyone was alright. It was a meal I shall never forget – if there is such a thing as gastronomic frontiers, this meal broke all records! It started with home-made pizza, 3 of them: Anchovy, mushroom and cheese (In France, you HAVE to have a slice of each). We would then wipe our plates with pieces of bread torn from loaves of bread that are complementary and placed in the middle of the table. Each loaf was at least 2 foot long.

By that time, the second course arrived – pâtés of rabbit, boar and thrush. There was a chunky, pork-based terrine laced with marc. There were saucissons spotted with peppercorns. There were tiny sweet onions marinated in fresh tomato sauce. Plates were wiped once more and duck was brought in. The highly decorated and over priced slivers that they serve you in these fancy restaurants were nowhere to be seen. There were full pieces covered in dark, savoury gravy and surrounded by wild mushrooms.

I was thankful that I was able to finish so much food and I was just about to sit back and relax when I felt something close to panic as I saw people around me wipe their plates with bread again. A huge, steaming casserole (Rabbit rivet of the richest, deepest brown) was placed on the table and was the speciality of Madame, the hostess, wife of whom I now called Obelix. And all this, by the way are wiped down with bottles and bottles of wine – The whites of Côtes du Rhône, the reds from local farmers who I had the delight of meeting and the lightest, tastiest and most delightful bottle of pink champagne I’ve ever had the pleasure of drinking (It was on the house for an Indian guest who appreciated good food)

Aah to eat like a peasant.

When I was there, the breadmaker would arrive at 6 in an old box of a car that was at least 30 years old struggling up the little hill. I grew fond of the man. He would tell me stories in rapid French that I didn’t understand a word of but nodded my head anyway as we cut baguettes and baguettes for breakfast for 50 odd volunteers. One weekend, I decided to humor him and visit him in his bakery. He handed me a brown bag of goodies and I decided to open them only when I went to my favourite spot in the town – a vantage point up the hill of Cluny where I could see the World War II ruins, the old abbey, and the entire expanse of Burgundy covered in the first rays of sunlight that morning.

I opened the bag to find fresh bread, goat cheese, figs from his farm that he always talked about and cool flavoured milk – and just like that under my favourite walnut tree, I had the best breakfast of my life so far!

Something in Africa’s air today has made me miss France!