Thursday, October 4, 2012

The Enigmatic 'Gravity Week'

I've dubbed this week 'Gravity Week' because it's become increasingly clear to me that this week, things are falling.  Some things are falling into place, which is awesome.  Some things are falling out of style, as they say, and it's super inconvenient.  And some things... some things are literally falling on my head.  ... All will be explained shortly :P

Oh also, before I start, my sweet lizard friend has migrated to the kitchen.  Unfortunately, our colocation was short-lived.  I will miss him dearly.

Anyway, here we go.  On Monday I headed down to our orientation "stage," where all 58 foreign language assistants finally had the chance to meet!  Out of the 58 of us, here's the breakdown:

31 English Assts (17 Brits, 11 Americans, 2 Australians, and 1 Canadian)
12 Spanish (who I believe are all from Spain)
11 German (this has an interesting breakdown, there's at least one Lithuanian and a couple Austrians, but I'm not sure how many there are of each)
4 Chinese (... from China.)

It was pretty awesome to have met everyone, even though the day dragged on a bit; dealing with paperwork and such is rough when you have to listen to rapid French over a PA system that works about 50% of the time.  Ah well, c'est la vie.

The next day was the first day at my high school, the fantastic Lycee Bellepierre, where I will be spending all of my time as a teaching assistant.  I'm actually incredibly lucky to have only one school; most assistants, especially the non-English assistants, are spread out between 2-3 schools throughout the week, which is fine, except that I feel like you might get to know people a little bit less in-depth.  We shall see.

The first day was eye-opening.  Among other things, I learned that the word in French for paperclip is "trombone" (not sure how I didn't learn this during the 4 months that I was forced to hand in hordes of paperwork in metropolitan France, but eh), that you can ALWAYS find someone who wants to talk about America (met one of the teachers who spent 10 minutes educating me on the vivacity of Atlanta's gay community, I never knew!) and, most importantly: throughout the world, all high schoolers are the same.  They joke, they play, even the most mature ones have so much to learn.  They're inherently curious.  Even the ones who pretend not to care still looked up and stared when the crazy American walked into the classroom.

I had such an awesome day.  The students asked questions, and I asked them questions in return.  They're already messing with me.  One guy said that I should totally do the "Diagonal des Fous" (which translates loosely to "Diagonal for the Crazies") a hike where you head diagonally across the island as fast as you possibly can.  It's supposed to take about 5 days.  The record holder did it in 21 hours, or something like that.  He told me that everyone does it, and that I should totally give it a shot, as the girl behind him shook her head at me, wide-eyed.  Touche, little Reunionnais boy.  Maybe I will try it, just for you.

It was so much fun hearing them practice their English; it was much stronger than I thought it would be, and it's gonna be awesome to work on it with them.  Then, I got what was pretty much the best compliment in the universe; one of the kids asked if I spoke French and the teacher answered for me, she said, "Yes, and the other teachers told me she speaks French so well that they can't even hear an accent."  WINNER.  I'm not sure that I believe it (my landlady told me today that my French was 'comprehensible' ... not quite as high of praise, to say the least) but it was sweet nonetheless.

 Speaking of my landlady, I love my house.  Especially my two little babies, these guys:
Meet Dooky and Tequila (arguably the best two names for dogs I've ever heard) who are just the sweetest lil things, even though they bark at me when I get home because they've already forgotten who I am.

The house is fun, and clean, and school is way cool, yo.  I've gotten some of my paperwork taken care of!  In general, things are falling into place.

Now.  Let me just make this impeccably, perfectly clear.  I heard, once upon a time, that traveler's checks were a safe, effective way to transport money.  That they were not only a good way, but the BEST way, to ensure that you won't lose money.  So, it is with a heavy heart that I must inform you...

FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS HOLY, PLEASE DO NOT BRING TRAVELER'S CHECKS WITH YOU TO REUNION.  Go back, save yourself!!!  You will be so much happier that you saved yourself this headache.  Wanna know the list of people that won't accept traveler's checks?

- Store owners, because "just because." (Ah yes, it's all so much clearer now)
- Banks, because they've vaguely "had some problems with them."
- Your landlady, because the bank won't accept it. (This is legit)
- And my favorite, the exchange bureau because "the further away the traveler's checks come from, the higher the percentage we take from your check."  And then when you say, "and even if I pay the percentage?" and they say, "Nah, we don't take 'em." What?

Why doesn't anyone want my money?  It's money.  You like money.  You make your living off of money.  Completely incomprehensible.  My only consolation is that if my traveler's checks do somehow get stolen, at least I know that said thief has nowhere to spend them.  At least I spent the day being able to joke around with my landlady, who said that we had to laugh about it until we can't take it anymore and we just start sobbing.  After we left the exchange bureau, she looked at me and said, "Hey, wanna cry now?"  It was great having her there.  Anyway, traveler's checks = no longer cool.

Now, for my three literal encounters with gravity that have happened over the past 2 days.
1) Yesterday, a group of assistants went out to lunch!  I ordered a kebab, thinking that it would be, y'know, a kebab, a stick with meat on it.  Not so.  A kebab on Reunion looks a little more like this: 

Except 40 times larger 

and is full of delicious meat.  However, whilst chowing down on my kebab, I start to feel something raining down upon me from above!  But what could this be, the sun is shining, the grass is green!  I don't understand.

Turns out, someone living in the apartment downstairs decided to throw their leftover rice from lunch out of the window.  Evidently, rice showers here are pretty common.  I can honestly tell you that I quite prefer them with water.

2) Found a lizard (a different one) on my window last night.  He was so cute and little, but I had to shut the window, and I didn't want to squish him.  So I tried to guide him out the window with a piece of paper.  This backfired quickly, as he decided instead to attempt a sprawling leap towards my face.  I jumped back and couldn't find him.  For one horrifying second, I thought he'd fallen down my shirt.  But alas, there he was on the floor.  So I picked him up and put him on the roof.  Thanks again, gravity.

3) Today at school, I was waiting at the bus stop with a bunch of high schoolers.  A couple of the guys were playing around and chasing each other with water.  Oh yes, you already know what happened.  One guy threw the entire contents of his water bottle at his friend, and his friend moved just in the nick of time!  Unfortunately I wasn't so lucky.  Eh well, it was hot outside anyway.  And the amount of "OH NO, excuse-moi!"s I got from every single person involved more than made up for it.  Good job, Reunionnais.

Of course, none of these things even come close to the gravity situation of the week chez moi. I found out last night that my poor lil sis was bowled over at school by a high schooler and potentially has a broken nose.  Feel better lil Shura!  Don't blame the high schooler, blame gravity.

Alas, welcome to gravity week.  Hopefully it has reached its conclusion.  Nevertheless, I'm getting EVER SO PUMPED for my first hardcore hike this weekend - we're headed to Cilaos, one of Reunion's three cirques!  Should be a trip.


  1. Bridget, I am so enjoying your blog and reading about your adventure. Keep writing and I will keep reading.
    Love you,
    Ms. Cindy

  2. Paper clip... trombone... it makes so much sense!