Continued from previous blog: Wine Party: The Dutch Guy With Helvetas
[Here is my article in Kantipur daily about the Beaujolais Day wine party: फ्रेन्च वाइन कूटनीति]
Behind every handsome ambassador is his beautiful wife: Gilles-Henry Garault, French ambassador in Nepal and his Chinese wife Shen Miao in the wine party on Beaujolais Day in Kathmandu. Pic by Bikas Rauniar
I am still looking some other people to talk to. Someone tells me that the ambassador’s wife is a Chinese and they communicate in German as the lady doesn’t know French and the man can’t speak Chinese. So I want to confirm this from the lady herself. “Excuse me ma’am,” I went to her and introduce myself as a reporter with a Nepali newspaper. “Can I talk to you for a few minutes?”
Sure, why not?
Yes, that’s true that the lingua franca in the family is German. “First we talked in German,” she says. “Later I tried in English. He can’t speak Chinese, I can’t speak French.” They are learning each other’s language but the lady says that the busy schedule of the ambassador is keeping him from improving quickly. “Sometime I teach him but he is busy,” she beams.
“What’s your name?”
She tells but I can’t get it right. She repeats, I find it difficult to understand.
“SHEN Miao,” she writes on my notebook.
“Miao! As in the cat doing miao?” I want to confirm the pronunciation because in Nepali we write how we pronounce (with some exceptions) and it’s very important for me to get the right pronunciation. Having correct spelling in English is less important than getting the right pronunciation. But I try to get both correct for I write in both languages.
“Yes, yes, yes,” Miao smiles.
I smile back.
“How old are you?”
“You are younger than me. I am 28.”
“Really? You look younger than me.”
“Well, today I don’t have beards which I usually sport.”
Okay, that’s enough with my beards. Now the main point of the conversation: Tell me the love story.
Gilles-Henry Garault had gone to Chengdu (if I correctly heard the pronunciation that Shen repeated four times) in 2004 to train the Chinese government officials in the city. It was the month of May, which day she doesn’t remember. Shen, a student of Economic and Hotel Management in a German university in Hamburg, had also gone there. They met. “We went to hills and mountains,” she remembers. Sounds like it was the love on first sight! I wanted to learn more about the love but it was really difficult to communicate in English. I wish I had learned German.
So the story continues like this: After the training sessions, Gilles-Henry Garault went back to France, Shen Miao to Germany. The separation only brought them closer, the love relationship became firmer. The 26-year-old married her man last year.
I must bring in talk of wine in this conversation because my article will primarily be about wine. I glance at her glass and ask:
“So you like wine?”
“I like wine very much but I can’t drink too much because I am pregnant. Five months.”
The liquid in the glass is not wine but grape juice.
“When I was not pregnant we used to drink wine with food everyday.”
She came to Nepal on 10 October and tells me that she found the air in Kathmandu fresh. She hopes to live here for the next three years- which is the length of the ambassadorial term of her husband.
“You are a Chinese. How is the life with a Frenchman?” I ask.
“I am very happy. He is very friendly and interesting. We have very good relationship. I like him.”
“Had you always wanted to marry a foreigner?”
“No. I never thought about whether my husband should be a Chinese or a foreigner. Life is already fixed. I can’t change it.”
That’s so true. The interview is over. I must find another person to talk to. May be a man.
Shekhar Kharel comes in between an interview with a beautiful French travel guide in Nepal. “Do you know why he is asking that question?” Shekhar says when I ask Pauline Pretet when she started drinking wine.
“That way he will calculate your age. And his next question will be “do you have a boyfriend? And if you say no, he will say ‘come and drink wine with me!”
We all roared into laughter. I though the interview was hijacked by the wonderful wit of Shekhar Kharel.
1. The Talk of Wine & GF [2005.11.21]