Sunday, October 21, 2012

Good ole American consumerism, Thanksgiving dinners... and a smile.

Wanna hear something unreal?

Tomorrow, I will have been on this island for one month.

WHAT.  No.  Surely I just left Georgia last week.  Really?

I mostly find this amusing because I feel as though I've done very little work.  (Which, to be fair, I only officially 'worked' for one of the four weeks I've been here... life is so hard.)  It also makes me realize that I only have 6 MONTHS LEFT.  While that seems like forever, I know how fast one month went.  The next six might go even faster.  It helps me remember that there's so much I need to get done.  I have a cool little to-do list that I might post later that has things from "go skydiving" to "eat a lychee" and everything in between.

Before I do all of those things, though, I'll recap the past week!

Last weekend, Eileen (fellow American) and I hopped on a bus to St Pierre, where we spent the day layin' on the beach, eating some incredibly fabulous pasta and partying it up with other assistants.  Some of the assistants in St Pierre bought an apartment unfurnished, so it was really awesome seeing how they'd furnished their apartment with odds and ends.. my favorite, by far, being the tire that they found on the side of the road that they thought would make a fantastic chair.  It's a bit bouncy, but it certainly gets the job done.

We had our first night out in St Pierre, where I learned that you should probably invest slightly more than 3,50 euro on alcohol unless you're cool with drinking something with a taste akin to cough syrup (and I'm not talking about the good cough syrup like Robitussin, I'm talkin' like that horrible stuff you have to take to clear mucus out of your throat that burns all the way down.  Absolutely vile.) and also that a party immediately becomes 400 times classier if you bring bread and cheese.  Roquefort has never tasted so good.

After the girls generously offered to let the northern crowd crash at their house, I awoke with an unexplainable hankering for chicken tenders.  It was actually painful.  We talked to the gas station to pick up a pain au chocolat for breakfast, but it just didn't satisfy.  We started walking up the hill, looking for something else.... when we saw it.

How much are those chicken nuggets?  Six dollars, you say? 
Yup, I'm down with that.

I thought, when I came here, that surely Reunion was obscure enough to avoid the long-reaching tendrils of America's favorite fast food chain.  Nope.  Not at all.  And while Rachael and I gorged ourselves on our respective quarter pounder and McNuggets with fries on the side, I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a little grateful.

Saint Pierre was an awesome time, and the rest of the week in Saint Denis has been nothing short of lovely.  The beginning of the week passed without much incident, aside from our discovery of a cute little tea shop near Jardin de l'Etat, where they served somewhere close to 100 types of tea, coffee, and hot cocoa.  We spent our time drinking tasty tea, making plans for the year and swinging on the awesome swing-chair in the 'Indian Room' of the coffee shop.

In addition to swinging, I spent a lot of time getting sassed.  Just a typical day in the Reunionnais neighborhood.

Then, on Wednesday, Kayla and Jesse, American and Canadian assistants, hosted an early (for Americans)/late (for Canadians) Thanksgiving dinner for everyone!... with a twist. Since they couldn't find turkey, they cooked chicken.  They couldn't find cranberry sauce, so they stuck cranberries in the stuffing instead.  Their creativity was AWESOME, and the food was nothing short of incredible.  It was especially fun introducing Thanksgiving to the Brits, who have no such thing, and who spent all night asking questions about the food, the traditions, and the pilgrims.

The whole Thanksgiving gang :)

The drama leading into the weekend has been the Grand Raid!  For those of you that are following me closely enough, the Grand Raid is the race, also known as the "Diagonale des Fous" that that kid told me I should participate in a couple of weeks ago.  It took place this weekend, and it ended in Saint Denis, so as people ran up and down mountains for over 300 km and subsequently collapsed in exhaustion onto the ground at the finish line, people all over town crowded the finish line to half-congratulate, half gape-in-awe at the 5,000 "Crazies" that ran the race this year.  Obviously, we had to be among them:

People/paparazzi freaking out over the runners

The finish line! We were lazy, so we only saw the tail end of the runners, honestly :P

This weekend, we also took a short trip to Boucan Canot, which is one of Reunion's beaches that is INFAMOUS for shark attacks.  All day long, a man rode around on a jetski, looking for sharks while people swam in the water.  Lucy, Alice and I decided that putting our feet in was enough. :P

No need to tempt fate, guys!

We also indulged in some incredible gelato, which pretty much sealed the deal on our day.

Okay, now I have one little anecdote for you guys from this week, and it's a little scary.  This frequently happened in my France blogs, so I'm warning you now that the blog's about to take a rather serious turn.  So be prepared.  It's a scary story, but it has a happy ending.

I've always hated taking the bus home at night, alone, and last night wasn't really any exception.  It makes me jumpy, but I throw in my headphones and try to forget about it.  Last night, though, as I'm sitting on the bus, jamming out, a really, really incredibly creepy man hopped on the bus.  After he got on, he looked right at me, grinned and muttered "Mademoiselle," in the creepiest fashion imaginable.  After leaving me alone for about .5 seconds, he sidles over to me and starts saying things like "Are you gonna call me up tonight?" and "You're not in France anymore, sweetheart," and a bunch of other things that one generally doesn't want to hear when they're riding on the bus at nighttime.  Lemme be clear, though, it's not like I was on the bus at midnight.  It was 7:00.

So, as I'm pulling my pen out of my purse (the better to gauge out people's eyes with, my dear) and simultaneously berating myself for not taking a self defense class before I left, I start looking around the bus, giving people imploring looks.  The entire bus is full of kids.  And mothers of kids. And I know they're all listening, but what can they do?  My big, tough, muscle-y Reunionnais knight in shining armor is nowhere to be found, and this man keeps on yammering on and on about me calling him.  My mind's going a thousand miles a minute, and as I'm nearing my stop, I'm debating whether to get off or not.  I take my chance, jump out of the bus, ready to scream and run, and the doors slam shut behind me, leaving Creepy McCall-Me-Maybe on the bus.  I let out the biggest breath I've ever held.

The bus pulls up at the light and is still sitting there.  I'm leaning against the wall, heart poundingThen, one woman from inside the bus taps on the window gently, getting my attention.  I look up at her, and after a moment, she and her son both smiled at me.  It's weird, but I felt like I knew exactly what they were saying.  "Don't worry, we're not all like him.  We're sorry, and you're gonna be okay."  And I smiled back at themThe relief was instantaneousAll it took was one second, one look, and this woman and boy who I'd never met were comforting me.  As the bus pulled away, I felt like I'd experienced something very simple and profound about human nature.  I've never felt so much compassion conveyed in one look like that.  You know that really hokey quote about a how a smile can make someone's day?  Never again will I scoff.  So, although the whole experience was nothing short of terrifying... that final moment was absolutely unforgettable.  Really, really beautiful stuff.

At the same time, I may not take the bus at night for awhile.  (Read: ever again.)  I want to reiterate this, though.  This one, ridiculous instance doesn't make Reunion a terrible place.  Not at all.  I love it here.  The same thing could have happened in a metro in Paris.  Or a bus in Boston.  I'm not saying that it didn't suck, but I don't want people to think that this place is horribly "savage" or "out of control," because it's not.  It's just not.  Next time I write, I'm gonna make a list of common misconceptions about Reunion, because I swear if I get one more comment like "are you gonna get rabies?" or "do you have running water?" I'm going to explode.

ANYWAY, back to happy stuff.  My first *real* week of teaching is this week.  I'm jazzed beyond belief.  So ready to hop into a routine.  Until next time, guys :)

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