It’s strange when people from other countries perpetuate American stereotypes. A few days ago, three middle-aged French women moved into the hostel. They are on vacation, enjoying the many onsens Beppu has to offer. They are also loud, and one in particular, let’s say she hasn’t been skipping any meals, laughs heartily at her own jokes, which are numerous. They are also sleeping in the room right next to ours, and hostel walls being notoriously thin, we often wake up to an early morning chorus of French.
Ah but French is so romantic sounding, no? Well, the French these women speak is about as romantic sounding as Gilbert Godfrey’s English.
I haven’t caught their names, so I’ll just refer to the one who laughs at her own jokes as Mother Goose. She is, after all, the ringleader from what I gather. Perhaps that is because she is the largest of the three. Maybe there is something in human nature that automatically defers judgement to the biggest person, like mobsters choosing the biggest tough to lead the pack. In any case, Mother Goose is large and in charge.
We had just finished work for the day and were relaxing in the kitchen when we heard the booming voice of Mother Goose and her fellow hens. The three of them come barreling into the kitchen like bunch of drunks who have just caught whiff of a pizza, and they loudly begin saying hello to everyone in the room. The Koreans are petrified; unsure of what to do, they remain as motionless as possible, hoping the French threat is similar to that of the tyrannosaurus rex: if you don’t move, it can’t see you.
After their gregarious hellos, they collapse into chairs and begin pouring out lamentations. All the trains have stopped due to tropical storm Talim, which has left them stranded at the hostel. Unable to go out due to the weather, they sit at the kitchen table and chat.
Mother Goose notices some bags nearby, and says:
Mother Goose. Whose bags are these?
Mother Goose. In France, if you see unattended bags, they’re your bags. *laughs loudly*
Mother Goose. Yes, they’re yours, or it’s a bomb. *laughs even louder*
Later, Billy and I noted how Mother Goose was far more stereotypically American than either of us. Large, loud, and friendly. She’s a force, but the only trait I find fault with is her volume, and even that is a small thing for me to gripe about, for it is ultimately my own problem that I’m occasionally bothered by this woman’s loud voice. Being with lots of different people from all over the world makes one wonder who stereotypes are really for. They’re for people who don’t get out much, I think, because when you are out and about, you see just how wrong they can be.
Meanwhile, two middle-aged French gentlemen have sauntered into the kitchen, long abandoned by Billy and I, but still occupied by the three hens. I come back into the kitchen to make some noodles, and the five of them are speaking rapid French over what looks like a five course meal. After they eat, they clean up, and, despite the tropical storm, stand outside in the wind and rain for a cigarette break.