Sunday, September 30, 2012

The new apartment, the beach, and my unsolicited pet lizard

Yes, you read that right.  I have a lizard.  At least for now.  More on that in a moment!

So, I finally got hit with my "holy crap, I'm living here for 7 months" moment, which began when Christiane and I were at the grande marche downtown two days ago, looking through tons of Saint Denis artisans' creations - from lamps to paintings to tablecloths to rainsticks... so cool.  But I started getting rather emotional, and as I returned back to my host family's house to collect my stuff to move over to my new apartment, it hit me pretty hard.  It's going to be incredible, I know it.  I just hate getting all of the logistics and paperwork sorted out in the meantime. 

I'm ready to get into a routine and really settle in here.  And it's definitely gonna take some time, because I'll be observing classes next week, but then the schools have two weeks of vacation!  And I'd love to get up and travel somewhere for the next two weeks, but I'm just getting settled here, so I hope that I can make little trips with the other assistants and get into the swing of things over the break - I definitely intend to find somewhere to play volleyball again!!

Anyway, I unpacked my stuff the night before last and was pretty emotional about it, crying like a silly person as I unloaded my life onto shelves.  My landlady, Marie, came in and saw me crying and held my hands and looked at me and said, "Sometimes we have to leave people behind in order to remember that we love them."  That was pretty powerful for me.  I do miss home, and I do hope all of you back there know how much I love you.  At the same time, this year is gonna be good for me.

After unpacking, Marie took me downstairs to meet the other boarders and... oh... oh goodness.  We walk in and stumble upon two shirtless 20-somethings eating dinner.  Oh okay.  I can get used to this apartment.  I forget their names at the moment (and I will die if they ever see this blog, obviously) but let's just say I found it hard not to stare as I'm trying to carry on a conversation.  Quite a nice welcome to my new living space! ;)

The next morning, I kept getting things and order and continued to be rather emotional... but I got a text that said the British assistants were taking a spontaneous trip to the beach!!  Rather than wallow in sadness all day long, we embarked on an adventure to St. Gilles les Bains, which is an hour-long bus ride from St. Denis and is BEAUTIFUL.

Me with Susannah and Tim!  (La vie Reunionnaise is so difficult...)

This also included my first ride on the Car Jaune, which is Reunion's public transport system that encircles the entire island.  It's pretty awesome, and because there's no 'stop request' button, you have to clap twice on the bus to let the driver know that you want to get off.  I volunteered myself to do the clapping, because I thought it was awesome, but then I chickened out and gave probably the most meager clap the Car Jaune has ever seen, so thank goodness someone else was getting off at our stop.  I'll be a seasoned clapping professional before long! 

For the rest of the day, six of us just laid on the beach for hours, talking about everything, and finished off the day with our first Dodo beer, Reunion's beer celebre, named after the infamous extinct bird.  I'm not a big beer fan, but this one was SO delicious - a perfect end to a lovely day.

Then came the bus.  Or I suppose I should say... and then the bus came, but we weren't assertive enough to actually hop on it.  Evidently at rush hour, the buses are packed to the brim with people, and we had to wait for the next one.  I was stressin', but we made the best of it, and I learned that public transport can be rather finicky around here.  So I'll have to learn 1) to be patient and 2) how to go ninja-style and politely push/circumvent people to get where I need to go.

When I finally got home, we had delicious cari poulet for dinner (a Reunion staple) and I wandered into my room to head to sleep.  Then, I looked down next to my shoes and - eeeeeewwwwww - there's a lizard on my floor!  So I timidly walk back into the kitchen and say "Marie!  There's a lizard in my room!  What do I do?"

She looks at me and walks into my room, sees the lizard, and says, "Nothing!" 

I was like... what?  Do nothing?  But... it's a lizard!  In the house! and she says, "These are margouillats!   They're awesome to have in the house! They eat mosquitos and other bugs. It'll protect you."  So I have let my little margouillat stay.  I choose to think of him as my lizard guardian angel.  He actually is rather cute, and has currently taken refuge under my alarm clock (it's a nice little cozy dark space that I think he feels safe in) and I'm now accepting suggestions for what I should name him.  But if I find him in my bed... it's off to the garden, my little reptilian friend.

Today has been rather uneventful (welcome to Sunday on Reunion... not unlike Sunday in France, everything is closed) EXCEPT for when I hear Marie's voice echoing from the garden: "Hey Bridget!  Wanna help us cut some bananas off of the tree?"

Um, OF COURSE I DO!  So this morning, I helped my landlady cut bananas off of her tree.  They'll be ripe in a couple of weeks and then we'll eat them.  I totally wish I had pictures.  Such a cool new experience.

Tomorrow, we have our "stage," also known as the first official meeting for all of the teaching assistants (of every language... English, German, Spanish, Chinese, etc.) and I'm pumped.  It'll be cool to meet the other assistants in my school.  Woooo!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Days Three & Four (so that I forget NOTHING about these first few days!)

Tonight at dinner, Christiane's (temp host mom) sister was here to visit, and Alain (temp host dad) said, "Yes, Bridget has been here since Monday, it's been great having her here!"

Hold up.  I've only been here since Monday?

Time passes weirdly slow and weirdly fast here, so I'm gonna recount some more of the things that I've learned and experienced over the past two days, so that I don't forget them.

No worries friends, I will stop being this diligent with my blog in about .5 seconds.  But for now, I shall continue. :)

Day 3!

Rather uneventful day.  We headed down to the bank to open up an account!  Although not as painful as I feared, the process was still rather tedious and included the following: a trip to my new landlady's house, a trip BACK up the hill of death to Alain/Christiane's house, and a subsequent trip by foot that I completed solo today (more on that later) to get all of the necessary documentation.  Yo francais, stop being so crazy about paperwork.  Using reusable bags at the supermarket doesn't make you an environmentally friendly country if you still make all of your citizens make 4,000 copies of all of their documents.  Especially if you're taking away from pretty/old/cool Reunion trees like these:

Pretty tree in the Jardin de l'Etat, more on this later :)

I'm pretty sure Reunion doesn't really take much part in the paper industry, but I've made my point :P Anyway, the bank account process is all done-zo. The rest of the day was spent chillin' at home, debating the American election and watching lots of random French/Reunionnais/British/Mayotte/Mauritian television (cultural melting pot!!!!).  The only exciting part of the night was when a group of ephemere flies ("ephemerals" in English, which are called this because after they're trapped inside for 10 minutes, they lose their wings and die, as my host father told me with rather morbid amusement) invaded the house and Alain spent 20 minutes running after them with a vacuum cleaner and laughing maniacally while I acted as the ephemere scout, helping with the roundup.  We had a night full of random compiled leftovers (plus bread and cheese, "ba oui bien sur") and essentially just relaxed, which is good because DAY 4 was simply packed to the brim with fun and games!!!

DAY 4 (also affectionately known as "the day Bridget walked for 7 hours straight")

Woke up, made my own breakfast (toast and jam, I'm a real culinary savant these days) and headed down the arduous, painful, lifetime-of-knee-problems-inducing hill of death from Alain and Christiane's apartment to the bank.  After navigating a couple of miles downhill, then uphill, then sideways, over to the Super U where I had to see that delicious Reunionnais man just one more time pick up a couple of things at the store, I met Alain for lunch and officially called my first solo sojourn into Saint Denis a success.  We went to a creperie and I had a delicious galette with ham and cheese, along with cider.  Just like being back in France again! 

While we were there, we had a really interesting convo about his first week at school on Reunion.  Long story short, one of the girls in his class basically had a fit in class.  Flailing around, eyes wide, yelling, all sorts of problems.  It wasn't a seizure, she wasn't sick, nothing was wrong with her, she just had a fit.  As Alain was telling me this, I had no idea what he meant.  He explained it to me twice more, and I still had no clue what he meant.  Like, a tantrum?  No, he said.  Was she mentally ill?  No, not that either.  I told him I still didn't understand.

He looked at me and said, "I know you think that Reunion is a lot like France.  But this is something that's tied very deeply to our African roots.  The Reunionnais are a very superstitious people.  They are an emotional people.  And they believe in things, tribal religions, rituals, that are completely impossible to explain."

So basically he meant, without actually saying it, that she was being affected by some sort of voodoo spell.  I was skeptical.  It was certainly interesting for me to hear the whole story (hint: it includes a beheaded chicken, red ribbons and the school headmaster being pushed to the floor by a small child), but it was even more interesting for me to hear Alain talk about it.  Because clearly he doesn't believe in spirits and voodoo and all of that (even though he's actually had a personal experience with it that is out-of-this-world weird, if you wanna know just ask) but he wasn't derisive or patronizing about the way the Reunionnais approach their beliefs.  He essentially said to me: 'If you ever encounter something like this, obviously don't get involved, but don't shy away or scoff either.'  Because reverence and respect for another person's beliefs is an invaluably important part of being human, and it's that respect and reverence that will help you to understand people better at their core.

My host dad is so cool.

That was a long anecdote, but I really wanted to share that story with you guys.

After lunch, I made my way up to the Jardin de l'Etat, which is a big pretty garden in the center of down that has all kinds of trees and fountains (AND CHAMELEONS!!) and other pretty creole things.

The fountain at Jardin de l'Etat!

My first chameleon!!! (of many, I am sure)

And finally, I got to meet some other English assistants!  I met up with Rachael first, who's British, and we ate some ice cream (actually, we ended up dropping most of it on ourselves 'cause it was so hot, oh well) and then Susannah, Lucy and Jesse joined us, two more Brits and a Canadian respectively, and took a tour around town!  We walked down Saint Denis' pedestrian street, and went into the market where we saw beautiful baskets, fruits and I continued my search of the best fruit in the universe, the goyavier (it's a berry that grows ONLY on Reunion, sweet and bitter and perfect) and finally walked down to the ocean.

Me and the British gals at the water!

It was so nice to be able to share stories about our arrival and our difficulties and everything else we'd encountered.  I am so excited for this year, ahhh!

Okay, one more anecdote.  Tonight, for dinner, we had this really awesome dish: some sort of bitter vegetable wrapped in ham and sprinkled with cheese in a special creme fraiche sauce.  It was in-croy-ableeee.  BUT THEN.  I bore witness to the most ingenius thing I've ever seen.  It's called "Lost Bread."  What is Lost Bread, you ask?  It's the best thing in the universe.  Christiane takes all of the bread ends and pieces that people hate eating (they're still good though, not stale or moldy) and mixes it up together with vanilla, sugar and milk and some other ingredients.  Then, she turns it into a cake. AND THEN, she serves it with a jam she made out of goyavier (if you've already forgotten, that's that awesome awesome berry I was telling you about... so awesome) and it is the most incredible thing in the entire world.  So cool, I'll now be making Lost Bread for the rest of my life.

I am gonna miss the amazing cooking in this house just as much as the amazing people.  But tomorrow's a new adventure, and at the end of the day tomorrow, I'll be all moved in to my new apartment!!!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

A Lil Stay in France and My First Two Days on Reunion!!

Oh my gosh, guys.  Seriously.  I love this place.  Omg.  Just like, what.  So awesome.  Waaafjfdjksf.

Well hold on crazy, I'll just slow down for a sec, shall I?  Allow me to return to coherence for a moment and catch you up on my voyage thus far.

Long post is long.  You've been warned!   Alright, here we go.

I headed out on Wednesday (holy crap, was it only Wednesday?) to spend a few days with my wonderful, beautiful, perfect host family that I missed SO MUCH in dear old Angers.  The flight was pretty amusing; I got stuck between a very attractive Frenchman with a very bad head cold and an elderly French lady whose friends that she was traveling with thought it would be funny to wake her up every half an hour.  I actually found all of this very funny, which meant that I didn't get any sleep either, but eh, that's what my life has been for these past few days.

After deplaning, the nice customs officer joked with me about charging me 5 euro for my passport stamp (I'm sure the French Residency Bureau wouldn't appreciate your sass, Frenchman!  But I certainly did, hehehe)

After spending most of the flight in a homesick/worried/rather terrified state puncuated by sneezes and elderly French women, we touched down in dear old 'Paree'.  Walking into the terminal, I spied a stand selling pain au chocolat and my face split into this awesomely creepy sleep-deprived grin because everything was just so FAMILIAR and FRENCH and LOVELY.  I'm pretty sure a few French people saw this, and as such I got that look that one receives so often from the French population when you do silly things in their presence.  Anyone that's ever been in the presence of any French person ever, you know what I mean.

Finally, I rode the 20-minutes-late TGV train into the arms of my French mamie, and after going on a very long vaccine-related adventure (if you wanna know, just ask), I was once again eating quiche au chevre with my host family from a year and a half ago.  It was so amazing being back, even if I was a little loopy.  The next night, I went out to Matt Murphy's bar with the incredible Kate and Marla, where we compared stories about how terrified we all were to be going to a place that we had never been.  It was great to know that there are always people in your boat, and we annoyed the bartender by ordering only non-alcoholic drinks and catching up on life!

The next day, a huge group of us went out on the town to shop, so me, Amanda and Sarah (Madame's current American host daughters) along with their friend Caitlyn (sorry if I butchered that spelling waah) headed out to meet Kate and Marla, and ended up running into basically everyone from Allegheny that was staying in Angers.  We shopped and talked and laughed and had some fantastic times, the most memorable of which, in my opinion, was spying on adorable French children and puppies in the middle of Place du Ralliement whilst chowing down on a delicious box of macarons.

Marla and me in Place du Ralliement! (Photo credit: Kate)

And of course, Kate and I had to rep some international KAT luv. 
(Photo credit: the one and only Kate Chambers-of-Secrets)

Then, THE FETE! :) It was Christelle's 48th birthday, so we had a big dinner party, which, of course, was composed of 4,500 courses (give or take a few hundred).  We had a lovely raclette-filled evening (one of my FAVORITE staples at the Besnardeau house, where you melt cheese on small plates and pour the fondue over meat, potatoes and tomatoes and subsquently die of happiness) that ended with some awesome chocolate cake.

The next morning, I said a very (very) tearful goodbye to my host fam (note to self: stay longer in France next time, silly goose) and boarded the train, and then the flight, to my home for the next seven months.

Okay, back to freakout time.  Omggggggg.  I won't lie, I was so nervous getting off of the plane that I literally gagged.  I had so many questions flying through my head.  Will my host family like me?  Will I find a place to live?  Will there be time to see the volcano?  Is it gonna erupt?  What if I forgot a vaccine and can't visit Africa?  When did I shower last? (It was that morning, by the way, just so you guys don't think I'm stinky and weird.)  I was so apprehensive, and after waiting for what seemed like an eternity for my baggage, I walked outside to a large sign that read BRIDGET in the hands of my smiling host dad, Alain.  And as soon as he opened his mouth and started speaking English with a British accent, I knew we were gonna be best friends.  We took my stuff to his car (he drives a Ford, by the way) and from that moment on, it was go-go-go. 

Day 1!!!

I arrived at 8 am without too much jetlag, which is good because we didn't stop for a second for the entire day.  It was exactly what I needed.  No time to stress, no time to overthink things.  Just go!  We went immediately to check out a potential apartment for me to live in (literally hadn't been there 5 minutes and stuff was getting done, so awesome).  On the way home, we took a little drive through town and bought me a cell phone (productivity, I'm tellin ya) and he showed me some of the center of town.  We passed by the boulangeries, the creole houses, the chinese restaurants, the mosque, the church, the market.... need I go on?  It's like, cultural melting pot personified.

I also learned my first creole phrase, "getali" [get-ah-lee] when we turned the corner onto one road.  There are little gazebo-type things on street corners, and on Reunion, you can always see the road above you because it's so hilly.  So once upon a time, the men who did work on these gazebos often got distracted by the pretty women walking by and stopped working, according to my host dad.  The women, in return, would look at each other and sigh, "getali."  Hence, these little gazebos are named "getalis," which, in creole, means, "look at him," because all that you ever do from them is nosily look at the people above and beneath you. :P (Also, for you French aficionados, this is kind of the way creole works: this phrase is derived partially from "regarde à lui," which is 'look at him' in French.  Perfect example of how if you are a native French speaker, you can grasp some of the creole, but if you're not a native French speaker, there is absolutely no way you would EVER know. 'Cause to lil old me, that sounds nothing like 'regarde à lui' whatsoever!)

Aaanyway, we dropped my stuff at home and got settled in.  We had a lunch of mixed veggies, a fish and shrimp dish with some amazing sauce, along with golden creole rice (which I was warned that I would eat a LOT of on Reunion... hello Chinese influence) followed by bread and cheese (hmmm I wonder whose influence this might be) with papaya juice to drink. :)  We ate with the sun shining down and benefitted from an absolutely gorgeous view.

There aren't even words!!!!

Then, I hung out with Christiane, my temporary host mom, who told me that she really wants to learn English, so we're gonna speak English as much as possible when we're together!  My host parents are so cool, they're world travelers that have lived and visited what seems like absolutely everywhere.  Apart from Reunion, they've lived in Malaysia, Morocco, England, and I'm sure many other places, and it seems like every time I bring up a country my host dad is saying "well when I was there..." SO. AWESOME.  Gonna aspire to be like them.  They have three daughters who are all grown.  They're all fluent English speakers and they all currently live in Australia.

Geez, this entry is long.  Moving along!  Spent the afternoon researching more apartments and then took a little walk around the neighborhood.  Then, I got home and my host fam was like, "wanna take another walk?"  So we headed down to what's called "Le Volcan" (the volcano), which is not a volcano (sad) but in fact a park, complete with a super cute playground, running paths, and giant slides that go down a huge hill (only kids 12 and under can use them, trust me, I asked.... twice. :P) And we walked up the Volcan to get an absolutely beautiful view of Saint Denis from close to the coast.

Behold my ville!

In Saint Denis, it rains a lot, so it is evidently very rare to have the grass under my feet be as brown as it is.  Alain says that once the rains come in late October, everything will be so green and lush that I won't even able to believe it.  Can't wait!!

Night comes early on Reunion - the sun goes down at about 6:30 every night, without much variation in the seasons - so we headed back up to the house and I caught a photo of the town as the sun waned on the horizon.

We had a delicious dinner: a sort of homemade 'pizza' with fresh veggies, cheese and spices, bread and cheese, and pineapple for dessert!  We had a really great dinner conversation about what the kids will be like at my high school.  They're supposed to be super nice and awesome, which is baller.  We also discussed, though, that Alain talks with a British accent and I've got an American one, which is pretty darn impossible to understand if you've been learning only British English your entire life.  Is this a potential problem, or is it an excuse for me to talk in a British accent for an entire year?  ... Defffffinitely the latter!!!

The Reunionnais go to bed early, so my fam was off to sleep by 9:00.  I chilled in bed for awhile until finally, after this immensely long and crazy day, I crashed.

Day 2!!!  You thought this blog post was over, didn't you?  Ha!  Read on, friends :)

I woke up at 10:30 with a full-on breakfast chilling on the table for me.  (My family is SO AMAZING.)  Both host parents had left to play golf and go biking already.  (Reunion schedule = go to bed early and get up early.  Nobody wastes any time because the morning is the time to do all of the cool athletic activities... later, it gets too hot!)

Very soon after breakfast, it was time for lunch. :P This time, we headed off the have lunch in town.  We went to a small 'cantina' that offered everything from grilled octupus to udon noodles to beef bourignon.  (I sense a pattern emerging - hooray cultural melting pot!!!)  I chose to have something that I forget the name of but was essentially a chicken kebab in a delicious sauce with fresh peppers.  Yum!

Then, we went to visit another potential room: a nice house in a section of town called Montgaillard that just so happens to be between two HUGE apartment complexes.  Like, it's almost comical.  It reminds me of Stuart Little's house.

The town of Saint Denis is growing rapidly these days, and apartment complexes are shooting up everywhere.  It's really awesome that the island is seeing a lot of economic growth.  And it's not like in the US, where there are all of these houses and complexes that have been started and abandoned.  Saint Denis is most definitely a town that's moving!

Anyway, the house is really awesome, and (spoiler alert for later) it's gonna be a really great apartment for me.  The proprietaire is a very nice and maternal lady named Marielyse, who has a daughter in high school and houses three other boarders.  I'm excited to meet them!  My room is lovely, it's full of light and has a view of the ocean, even though it's a lot more entrenched in the town than my current host family's place.  Plus, I have a washing machine and internet. (Rejoice!)  Marielyse grows the following fruits in her garden: banana, guava, papaya, mango and these weird things that I forgot the name of but look like weird upside down plums.  Talk about a tour de fruits!!!  I am so pumped.

After that, we stopped by Super U (yes, Saint Denis has a Super U - French supermarket extraordinaire!!) where we bought groceries and encountered the following individuals: the most attractive Reunionnais guy I'm likely to ever see at the front of the store (tall, dark and handsome doesn't even begin to describe it), a dancing, laughing woman from Mayotte at the meat counter, a friendly man in line from Spain, and a very nice girl at the checkout counter who is one of the first people I've seen with skin as white as mine.  I'm sorry, have I explained how COOL this is yet?  We were in the supermarket for five minutes and I met people from four different countries.  Vive la Reunion!!!

By then, it was pretty late and we headed back home.  I called Marielyse to tell her that I would be honored to live with her for the next few months (!!!) and I move in on Friday!  Until then, I'll be chillin' with Alain and Christiane, who I'm very sad to leave but I know I'll see tons of throughout the year.  Dinner was croque-monsieurs, an uber-French dish that's basically a grilled ham and cheese sandwich, but the French know how to make it AWESOME.  Then, I had possibly the most interesting salad of my life, which is interesting because it was so basic: lettuce and beets mixed together and sprinkled with garlic.  It had a quite unique taste that I definitely enjoyed.  It was weird to have three ingredients you can buy in the US mixed together in a way you'd never expect.  It's not something I've ever experienced while abroad!

After dinner, we watched a French gameshow on TV and I took a look at a book that Christiane handed me called "Le Ti Pins." And I said, what's this?  And she said, "I'm pretty sure you know it."  And I looked at it for awhile and in sounding it out, realized that it was Le Petit Prince (classic French children's book) all translated into Reunion creole!!! I flipped it open and it was like trying to solve a puzzle.  The words are sort of similar, but, like I said before, they really aren't at all.  It was still a cool learning experience.  Can't wait to pick up some creole so I can understand the students when they whisper to each other in my class :P

Hokay, so.  This entry was really long, but basically, in short, I am so excited for the next seven months.  I can't believe how much I have learned in only two days, mostly thanks to the extreme openness and kindness of my host family, who are so amazing, and I hope that every other day on Reunion can be as magical.  We shall see!  Cheers to my most exciting adventure yet.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Six Things That Could Potentially Impede Your Trip Abroad

Sup, friends.  Things are getting more and more hectic as the departure countdown winds down (5 DAYS eeeek!) and I feel like the closer I've gotten to leaving, the more things that have appeared to prevent my timely departure from the good ole US of A.  It's really quite a hilarious situation, so I'm cataloging it here to serve as both a fond memory and a cautionary tale.

Basically, if you plan on leaving the country to go abroad, try to avoid these six things that have tried so valiantly to hinder my journey across the pond.

#1: When the French play 'hot potato' with your documents.
I should expect nothing less from the country that invented the word "bureaucratie," but in order to get your visa, it starts to feel like every single person in France needs to see all 14 forms you have to fill out.  You've got the board of education people, the labor department people, the residency people... who all sport their trusty rubber stamp-makers so they can studiously stamp every single document they encounter and staples are flying everywhere and pages whiz through copiers and scanners and papercuts are cropping up left and right and it's utter bureaucratic chaos.  That's how I imagine it, anyway.

I'm not poo-pooing on this at all, I do think it's an effective way to make sure that everyone's cleared and legit and ready to go.  It just takes a reaaal long time.  And so after three weeks of waiting for my work contract, the FINAL PIECE of my visa package, biting my nails every day and hoping everything was cleared, finally I got to hop on the visa train and everything started getting processed.

#2: When duty calls.
After weeks and weeks of waiting, the visa finally came!  I got a text from my mother around noon that read as such: "A Fedex package arrived for you!!! I put it right under your jury summons."

Oh yes.  Jury duty.  Well, clearly it would be quite difficult to judge a case on an 8-hour time difference (plus rumor has it you have to actually, you know, be in the country or whatever), so I translate my work contract into anglais, a two-hour endeavor since I haven't actually written in French since I turned in my senior thesis (whoops) and got cleared.  Thank you Universe, but I'll have to judge the good people of Georgia another time.

#3: When your former host mom forgets who you are.
Once the visa had arrived and the jury duty had been circumvented, I gave Madame a call to make sure she knew when I'd be staying in France with her, etc. etc.  I call and she picks up the phone.  And I say "Hey Madame, it's Bridget!" and she says "Who?" and I say 'Bridget' again, and we play this little game for awhile where she says "Qui?" over and over and I try to describe myself saying things like "You know, your former student," or, when things got more desperate, "That one who always forgot to shut the bathroom door and who liked to say cool French slang things to you!  Je suis une pute!  Remember?!"  And after several attempts, finally she says, "Mom, here's the phone!" ... and I felt dumb.  I had been talking to her daughter the whole time, who obviously wouldn't have remembered me.  Turns out Madame does, in fact, remember me, and as soon as she got on the phone she said "I'm making you goat cheese quiche when you get here!" (my fave) and all was well with the world again.

#4: When your mom thinks you got a really great discount on your flights to Réunion, and it turns out that really you forgot to pay for one of them.
This one was definitely the worst.  Upon looking at my credit card statements, the charge for my flight was just over $600, and my mom said, "Wow hun, you got two flights for 600 dollars, that's great!" And I said.... that is most definitely not right.  Turns out, I'd managed to choose an option on my Paris to Réunion flight where I was supposed to call the airline to finalize payment on my flight.  If you didn't call within 48 hours, your reservation would've been cancelled.  And I'd booked the flight three weeks ago.  Oh, good.

I called a very nice woman at the airline and sorted it out. (And I didn't call anyone 'monsieur' this time, so it was definite progress!)  Can't imagine what I would have done if I'd gotten to the gate in Paris and they told me I wasn't on the flight.  So, again, MAKE SURE YOU CHECK IF YOU HAVE TO CALL THE AIRLINE TO FINALIZE PAYMENT.  Kind of important. :P Thanks for saving my life, ma.  Anyways, we got the other flight all paid for and good to go... until...

#5: When you get a phone call from the credit card company after booking that second flight.
The fraud department gave us a ring to make sure I wasn't being... y'know, fradulent.  But we cleared that up real fast.  That whole deal wasn't too bad.  It was just icing on the cake, really.

#6: When your school isn't six blocks from the beach.
This one really wasn't something that would have prevented my departure, but it certainly would have been an issue if I hadn't realized it before I had to go teach.  Anyway, this is fun.  Apparently Google maps, if they don't recognize your address, puts you in the center of town.  So I am not, in fact, in the middle of town, I'm actually a bit further up into the hills.  But I did get to creep on some of the pictures of my area, and it looks GORGEOUS!  Here's an area near my school:

Photo Credit: Hendrik Matt

I love the pretty white buildings against the ocean :) Basically, it's gonna be swell (hahaha ocean pun).  And housing is cheaper there, so YAY :)

Basically, despite all of the crazy, I'm still nervous, but I'm as excited as ever.  And those things can't bring me down, maaaan!  Time to throw together a beach time/pump up playlist before I leave, I think!  

And this thought keeps more going more than anything: 
The next time I write, I'll probably be there!!!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Florebo Quocumque Ferar: Getting Ready!!!

Oh hey guys.  Remember that time I started that blog when I went to France?  Welp, under beautiful peer pressure from numerous people, I'm taking a crack at another blog for my seven-month stint on La Réunion, the tiny French island next to Madagascar where I'll be teaching English.  This time, I almost promise to be more diligent.  I say almost because I'll be doing things like looking at this all day: 

 Credit: Google Images
and this...

 Credit: Google Images
(Yeah, I'm not excited at all omgomgomgomgog)

I shall do my best to bring you every single nail-bitingly exciting second of what will surely be an outrageously leisurely life on Réunion Island for the next seven months.  Here's an update for you all on what exactly I'll be up to.  My official title in English is "Assistant of Living Language," which I find rather funny, especially since the title of this blog post is in Latin (I will ressurect you, Latin!) More on that later.  Anyway, I will be assisting an English teacher at a high school that is six blocks from the beach on the straight up northernmost point of Réunion.  A visual aid for y'all:

 Credit: Google Maps

There's me, right at the top.  So next time you're pulling out a map of Réunion Island (because that happens so often), you'll know exactly where I am!  As far as my job description goes, I know pretty much nothing.  I'm not sure what grades I'll be teaching, how often I'll be in the classroom, or anything else.  I do know, however, that there's apparently no school on Wednesday afternoons, so I guess I'll have to schedule my parasailing lesson for then (I'm kidding... but I'm totally, totally not).

The countdown to my departure is officially two weeks and one day.  I'm super pumped because I'm making a pit stop in France to visit my former host family in Angers (and I guess Kate Chambers is  gonna be there too, which is kinda cool I guess ;P) so I'll get to enjoy some quality time with the other mother (and my sweet beautiful sausage dog Topaze!!!!) before I jet off to Réunion.  I'm hoping I'll get a chance to practice some French, since I know I'll be dealing with a lot of bureaucratic mumbo jumbo after I arrive.  Though I guess I can't complain, everyone I've dealt with so far has been incredibly kind to me, even the very nice lady at the French Dept. of Education who helped me with my visa question even after I called her 'monsieur' (I'm sorry Armande!)

I've already gotten in touch with my mentor, the guy who's gonna house me for a week and help me find an apartment so that I can settle into life on Réunion as quickly as possible.  Talking with him has made everything seem much more real than ever.  I absolutely cannot wait.  I am so incredibly excited to integrate into Réunion's culture!  This teeny tiny island is absolutely busting at the seams with diversity.  The island has tons of French influence, but its proximity to Africa also brings in a bit of African influence, and there is Chinese influence as well, as the Chinese settled the island prior to its fall into the hands of the French.  Réunion Creole is different from any other creole on earth.  The island also boasts numerous religions; it's got Christianity, Buddhism, Hindu, Islam, and even some African tribal religions.  Oh yeah, and the island's got less than a million people.  SO COOL.

On top of that, while there are 11 other assistants coming from the US to Réunion with me, there are also assistants coming from Germany and Spain and a ton of other countries as well, so I'll truly be surrounded by a mixture of people and cultures, even in day-to-day life.  On the downside, I'll also be surrounded by a lot of horrifyingly large insects, but we don't need to talk about that.

Okay, time to explain the title of this post.  I was reading up on random Réunion facts, and I found this phrase: Florebo quocumque ferar.  It means 'I will flourish where I am planted.'  It also happens to be Réunion's motto.  Talk about a perfect mentality to adopt when you're heading to a new place for seven months.  I am excited, and nervous, and so so jazzed about the parasailing and hiking and teaching and learning and fun that awaits.  I could not be more lucky.  Allez-y, guys.