Sunday, February 6, 2011

Island Taxi

Easter lunch at the the F… family reunion, on the beautiful island of Ile d’Orléans, Québec (April 2006). You are the only foreigner in this 40-strong crowd of French Canadians. M himself does not know most of the crowd as they meet very rarely, and this is his rich uncle’s house by the way. Many of them assume that you are M’s Indian girl friend because he’s “the mad guy who set up the music school in an Indian village.”

A doubt that has to be dispelled by introducing M’s very pregnant wife A to other people you have started conversations with. You are slowly getting used to the weirdness of it all. Especially enjoying the high regard people now seem to have for India. No more mention of elephants and kings, like during your visit to France 10years ago.

After lunch, served at a huge table with a vast variety of dishes, many of which you have to ask A to explain, you go Easter egg hunting with the kids in the huge beautiful garden outside.

When it is time to return to Toronto, M calls a taxi for you to go to Québec City airport. Stéphane, the young taxi driver, has his small baby strapped in a baby seat in the back. He is delighted to know that you speak French – and that too “original” French, not the Canadian one. You are also happy, when you realize that your French hasn’t rusted as much as you had feared. So we no speaka any English at all.

Stéphane is special – he runs the only taxi on the island! Though it is quite a sizeable island, with 6 villages, situated in the St. Lawrence river. Stéphane is from France, he migrated here in search of a better job, 2 years ago. He feels the immigrants are the reason for unemployment in France - he had to suffer it himself. He loves Québec, especially the island. During the summers, he and his wife run a bed and breakfast place as there are many tourists to add to their earnings. There is a school on the island too. And it is beautiful throughout the year, though the winters are very harsh. A small place, a quiet peaceful life. He does not miss Paris.

At times there is a certain discrimination because he is French French and not French Canadian – “Mais vous savez, ce qu’on fait aux Algériens à Paris?”[You know, what we do to the Algerians in Paris?]. “So in a way it all comes back, oui?”.

At the airport, we shake hands like friends. We have spent an hour in delightful conversation in the car, while it was rainy and gray outside. He gives me his number – “Call me anytime you want to come to Ile d’Orleans. I’ll come and pick you up in Québec city. Au Revoir et Bon Voyage!”

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