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!!!

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