Saturday, November 27, 2010

Saturday number 22

If all my saturdays are destined to be like this one, there is no living for anything other than the weekend.
My brother said he would take me running, and it only took a few minutes to realize that either the trail was for hiking, not running, or my cardio has failed miserably since I’ve left home. The minutes that had elapsed before I admitted defeat and started walking were so few that I’m lead to (hope) believe it was both. 
He was very patient with me, and didn’t make fun of me for marveling when we finally made our way out of the brush and onto the mountain chain trail. It reminded me of Cape Breton, only with parasol pines, and little villas freckling the hills. For a moment, I was immobilized, and moved, and craved hearing an eagle cry. I felt so far from home. A good friend wrote to me once, and asked that I have an unconquerable faith in my dreams, but that I never fly so fast that my guardian angel couldn’t keep up. 
I had a lonely moment, and conveniently, had a trail to run it off. He’s much faster than I am, but he walked with me when I stopped, and waited for me to catch up. Sometimes words don’t make it better, and sometimes cold is a sage healer.
Mountain air ripping through your lungs, feeling a tense wind tearing through your hair, coasting from the waist up and feeling your heart beat in your heels it chilling. It took hail to warm my heart. 
On the 27th of november 2010, it started snowing in Nice. 
Global warming, yes I’m sure, say what you will, but someone was out to remind me that home is where the heart is. No eagle graced the sky, the shriek was mine, but in glee. You don’t have to see to know someone is there, just as I didn’t need to see the snow, that melted on foreign soil so quickly one could doubt it’s existence. I know he was here. 
We hurried home, and brought in wood, found Christmas decorations, spent an hour trying to find that one box that goes missing every year. We went to a Christmas fair, and took our time examining local art, and I walked the stands, thinking of Grammy with each angel, of my Mom inevitably at each stand, Nana when I came across a pig in a manger set, Pépé at the honey stand, Parrain would love that apron for summer barb-qs, that necklace would look so pretty on Nanny. Nothing makes a person more homesick than wishing you could be there to give the people you love a reason to smile. 
I was less jolly walking out as I was walking in until we opened the door and snowman material snowflakes started cascading from the sky. Silly me. 
We bought a christmas tree on the way home, even though they usually just use a fake one, we came home and tried to find a christmas CD, squabbled over what goes on first, the ornaments or the garlands, and ended up all smiling in the salon, imagining the fires and roasted hazelnuts to come.  
Changing plans at the mast minute are always a massive pain, and in less than 12 hours, I’ll be halfway down town to meet up with my friends, assuming everyone got the same message, and everyone is on time. And assuming busses are working in my particular case. 
To end a splendid day, I saw from start to finish for the very first time, Little Women. Is there anyone who can get up and stretch, feeling four sets of emotions swelling in their chest, and not feel peaceful? Reflective on one’s own life, the time we have to change it, and the things that are so much closer than they seem. 
A thank you goes out to Louisa May Alcott for reminding me of the standards I have set for myself. Do I dare hope for a tomorrow as good as today?
I do believe I do.

Friday, November 26, 2010

I have been 16 for 33 percent of a year today- Christmas day in one month!

Okie Dokie.
I'm having a harder time maintaining this than I had anticipated... Everyday it seems like there's something else on top of the schedule, still buzzing fresh through my mind. Every other Friday from here on out, I'll be tutoring sets of 5 of my prépas for an hour each before my spanish lesson.
Today, I had lunch with them, and I am completely inspired. They are without a doubt the most dedicated people I've ever met. 12 hour days of solid lessons are far from foreign, and they're bolting for a goal none of them deem themselves successful enough to achieve. Their drive for a dream they've filed as unrealistic for the satisfaction of being the best they can be. It's an honour to work with them, and I do believe more frequent lunch dates are in order :)
Less good today, I spent an hour, flabbergasted and more than slightly repulsed arguing with someone who believes in child abuse, to install and enforce respect. I'm going to leave that there, since I already feel nauseous.
I want up to the conservatory today, and one of the guards (security guards I met before I started to understand the laws of the bise, so I'm the adorable little Canadian, and none of them bother with the tough face around me :) asked if I would potentially be interested in a babysitting job. !!! I miss munchkins! Of course I'm interested! So I'll be getting details on that monday at the same time that I'm meeting a fellow Canadian (Québecoise).
The azure sky is particularly enjoyable sitting on a tended lawn under olive trees with music wafting through the airs and sonatas from the building a few feet behind. There's a little patch of lawn in front of the CRNN, walled with the usual stone plan, and it makes a great picnic spot with the ladies. I took a break this afternoon, and chatted about Christmas, rock bands from years ago (think Sum 41, Blink 182, Simple Plan, all that good stuff :P ), country air and the world in starlight vs. full moonlight.
In other news: I am finally going to see Harry Potter this Sunday! I'm coming Daniel Radcliffe, my darling! It's almost sacrilegious that the girl who went as Hermione Granger four consecutive halloweens  to not go see her first crush almost die on the big screen. This is a grave error on my part, but fear not, there will be a gushing, lamenting review as soon as the issue is rectified!
Shall we play a number game?
Not including breaks (Christmas break I'm gone, February break is potentially claimed, this leaves spring break, and then it's summer (!!!), and not counting any days of summer since I don't know how much time I'll spend here, tomorrow marks the first of the last 22 Saturdays I have in France. This is a number I don't dare share with my girls, who had their bi monthly "you're staying. You're not leaving. Don't be silly, you can't leave" day. I love my class, they're cute :) It's flattering, but I feel guilty since, after all, I am leaving them.
This Wednesday coming (that would be the first of December already ladies and gentlemen!!), is the trial date of one of the guys in my class: Depending on the decision made at the Class Consultation, he may be expelled from the program, in which case, he would have to return home, and go back a grade level since he can't join the normal classes now. He's not a strong student, and this would be a condemnation. Fighting for him, and trying to find a loophole to shove him through, anything to convince them to let him stay would be condemning the rest of the class to two more frustrating and inefficient terms. To complicate matters father, another girl in my class, his buddy, has decided that she wants to drop out and couldn't be bothered to attend school today. That would leave our class toll at 8. They would be a group of seven come fall.
Numbers, numbers, numbers. In one month, I will have already adjourned and represented my class, serving as the defendant of all voices (I may sound as if that's exaggerated, and I'm sure in most cases it is, but it turns out, it's for cases like my class that the official document had to be signed when we accepted the position.), given not only the major result of guy and girl in my class, but distribute results, and play messenger between teachers and students until all the wrinkles are ironed out. I will have squeezed in two courses with my prépas ladies, three more sax scale sets, packed for, driven to and spent a week in Paris, and creme de la creme, will be in the land of Christmas! :) One week later is back to school and diving back into second term. Ack! time should really slow down a little bit, I think I'm prescribing the poor thing a nap, it must be exhausted from running all the time.
A friend pointed out to me today that I can either lock myself in my room here, and have things go by slower, or hold on tight and treat this like a really fast ride. He says that I'd do better to leave with the wind knocked out of me and as many memories as my mind can hold than to leave and simply go home.
There are times when I'm serious out of my element, I recognize that I still don't know all the rules and that there is a stark difference between the norm and the outsider, but I'm pleased to report that the line is starting to fade. I don't think when I speak, I understand jokes (so long as my lack of sense of humour doesn't interfere), and expressions don't escape me like they used to. Even when I don't know things, I can usually work my way through them.
I'm going to wrap this up now, because I'm singing along to John Lennon and my host brother is going to sleep now.
I'll write again before the weekend is over and tell you how Saturday number 22 went.
Much much love

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Roller Coaster

Last Sunday was a great day, spent with Rhett, his mom and little sister. We saw my viola player in Ta Bouche, second row, and were entertained by the set of munchkins in the front row who found playing peekaboo with me almost as entertaining as watching their parents squirm in risqué passages. Then, our quarto braved crowds to get into the final showing of Natalie Choquette, the Diva from Quebec, and what a show it was! If anyone ever gets the chance to see her, jump on it! She's an operatic comedian, if ever a wonderful operatic diva, there was, Natalie Choquette is one because, because, because, because, because! Because of the wonderful show she does!
Monday, it poured as though the sky were mourning the end of the world. I had the high heeled construction boots mom just sent me, and when I got off the bus at the wrong stop (it was the first night I headed for my MAO course), I stepped in a rather rapid river up to my ankles. Unpleasant to say the least. I made it to my course, bringing a comedic value that only a bewildered student could bring to a teacher, after having run through rain. The punch line is that it was too windy for an umbrella. My bag left a puddle. Enough said.
I can't remember anything particular that happened on Tuesday. Not sure if that's a good thing or a bad thing.
Wednesday, I went to the fair in Monaco, and it was a lot of fun once I convinced the girls to get on a few real rides with me. We ate churros; a delectable deep fried pastry that you dip in melted nutella, and temporarily paralyses you after you work your way through a dozen of them (you're stuffed after 5 or so, but the thought of such a scrumptious treat wasting away in a trash bag is practically unbearable, so one only forfeits around 10). The other class delegate and I drove there and home with her parents, and stopped in at her house for a little while... I love being there. It reminds me of home. Not sure why, since both of her siblings have moved away from home, and it's a very musical family, but I just feel like me there. Choir went as well as Bach can go, followed by a rough night.
Thursday was both polarities: excellent, and catastrophic. My english lesson to the prépas went so well she assigned me another topic to cover this week, and by Friday morning when I had my english class with my homeroom teacher, they had spoken, and apparently, it was as if I had replaced her, and given a real lesson. As of next week, I'm taking on a smaller personal class for another hour! The girls invited me to have lunch with them if I like :) But of course, that didn't last. The very next class went from a moving conversation about our work done on WW2 to escorting one of my classmates by the elbows to meet with the head of the lycée, where we stayed for an hour despite three interruptions, all turned away, because he was dealing with a very serious matter. Youpi. The collateral damage should be reported next week after the second meeting and report is written, but in the meantime, another blinded us. Well, one of our other classmates rather. See, he couldn't. Something is wrong with his eyes and it's been two weeks now that he's been having an awful time (two trips to the infirmary for him alone this week), but the minute I walked out of the class, my attention was frantically brought to my friend, who was unable to open his burning eyes. Needless to say, the canteen meal of pasta was typical, and almost as fun to deal with as guiding him through the city to the conservatory. I survived my harmony and sax lessons.
Yesterday was almost as fun as the precedent. My morning course was fine (c'est à dire English), math was a madhouse since everyone shouts and whines and laughs hysterically as we slowly lose our minds for lack of concentration. A friend rescued me from both babysitting a second day in a row, and from getting lost trying to find an obscure little side street where my sax mouthpiece had unexpectedly come in and needed to be retrieved that afternoon. I've never taken the bus back to the lycée. I got off at the wrong stop. I took the tram in the wrong direction. I missed my spanish course. I have evaluations next week to asses my level. I was not happy to say the least. Even better, I needed to go get new jeans. It was night when I got off the bus at home and had to walk up the drive in the pitch black, and turn off the alarm alone. I ended the evening with a late night chat, and had a surprisingly difficult time getting to sleep.
This morning (note, it's Saturday), I woke up late at 640am, and leapt out of bed, and had my new jeans half on before I noted that it was Saturday. I proceed to sleep until noon, and drizzle the gloomy afternoon away in dribs and drabs of french comics, National Geographic s, history magazines and a few songs on replay.
We just finished watching Schindlers List, and I'm in a rather sober mindset, so, I shan't depress you all. Tomorrow I take back up running! Enthusiasm!
It's snowing at home. It's still 15 during the day here...
On that note :P
Goodnight <3

Saturday, November 13, 2010

I lied, but this can't wait until tomorrow.

I have to tell you about the concert tonight, tonight, because I’m already losing precious details that I need to share.
The day was planned around going in town to meet up with Rhett, and see the John Williams tribute concert, day two of C’est Pas Classique. And until I got into town, and realized that I could squeeze in a few minutes at a Satie concert in Old Nice, there was no trip for Soca and some other unidentifiable desert in the plans. However, walking back from the so called Satie concert (a bunch of children and their parents... Turn out they were playing the entire set, which lasts 20 hours, so the shifts aren’t always well known musicians per say) with my host parents, I almost walked into a mob of people in front of the Acropolis! What is this blockade? I have a concert to get to! Silly people!
... Who are all trying to get into the same concert as I am.
Oh Dear.
I made it through the jungle of people waiting in line, and grit my teeth, ignoring the people who cut in line, because I knew as soon as I got through the entry doors, Rhett was waiting to accompany me in doing the same. Ickyyyy. 
We arrived to the front of the line where he and his friends had already been waiting for an hour just as the wave of people flooded the floor. Security guards chopped the line literally in front of us and told us to wait, that the first two floors of the 2500 seat auditorium were full. -WHAT- Which would have been fine, had Rhetts mom and little sister (who is my buddy, she drew me a picture!! <3) had already gone ahead of us, and would be waiting with seats. 
The first time we tried to force the doors to get to them, we got yelled at by a security guard, who proceed to go yell at someone else. Rhett put on his serious face, walked up to the door man and told him that we were going to go meet with his mother, and that two more people were coming later to join us. The guard, though not as impressed as I was, was enough so to let us all pass (five of us!) into the “full” levels, and sent us off with best wishes for the evening. 
The family charm obviously doesn’t start or end with the future delegate, because by the time we caught up to his ladies clad in pink, they had sealed us an entire row, for whichever friends were going to join us later. A feat near enough to impossible, since as I already stated, this was the floors closed to the public already. But as always, it gets better! 
Which row did the adorable smile of a little girl in a pink jacket win us? 
Third. Yes. Three rd. 
My host brother managed to join us after pulling a needing to find his parents line, and also be escorted by Rhett, and I can’t tell you how hard he laughed when he seated himself, and received a call from two friends on the balcony letting him know he had an identical twin sitting way up front. 
None of that was pressing enough to make me stay up and write, so say farewell to emoticons and exclamation points, and brace yourselves for an excessively wordy text. 
The announcer started the evening off by congratulating us on surviving getting seats, and said that it was only fitting that we started with what easily could have been our theme song for the past two hours: Indiana Jones. One hit knock out. I was sitting dazed clapping my hands numb by the end of the piece, startled that a band of 100 could be so perfectly synchronized, and keep an audience of two and a half thousand so perfectly silent. 
The 7 by 15 meter screen in the background displayed movie clips, and the next to be featured was Jurassic Park, the very first scene with the little girl, crying out that she found something. I wonder how many others in the audience had the slightest idea what she was saying. It was then that I realized that while my attraction to this show was a union of famous movie music, that every other soul in the room was there to have their will to speak taken away, be gracefully and perhaps even gratefully silenced, to understand something beyond the spoken word, whatever language it may be.
The next piece gave me goosebumps before the solo violinist had even raised her bow, and that’s a powerful statement, since the first notes played in the Schindlers List theme  belong to the soloist. My memories of the film are few, and faint enough as to only induce one tear, as I tried to recall the plot line. The violinist on the other hand, was visibly possessed. No, possessed isn’t the right word. How can I describe the way she swayed, the way she drank into the notes? It was as though she had no instrument, but a third limb, and she was being consumed by it’s tragedy, writhing to escape from the murderous grip of their fingers and strings tangling. The piece reached it’s climax, and the release was not only that of a single sustained note, but of the breath of thousands, a simultaneous oxygen rush, so unified there was a change in the pressure of the room, though the unmistakeable shift in objectivity may to have been to blame. To be granted the right to breathe, breathe free...
Naturally, I was so lost in my thoughts at this point, the Superman theme song struck an unpleasant chord within my currently peaceful and pensive soul. My mind wandered, and waited out the end of the melodramatic chords, and decided to stop on the song lyrics to Insensitive by Jann Arden. 
Bringing me back to earth, and almost giving me the impression of being brought home, I laughed out loud when a shot of Emma Watson in the Sorcerers Stone flashed across the screen, and images of me four consecutive Halloweens flashed before my eyes. I guess some things will never change: I still have a crush on Harry Potter, and I would still tolerate Hermione’s hair to be go to Hogwarts. Embarrassing confession checked off the bloggers to-do list, we move onto another series embedded into my memory. 
We were treated to a 5 part Star Wars: Luke’s Theme, Leia’s Theme, (we were invited by the director to put on our official Darth Vador masks for the) Force Theme, (and were invited to exchange the Darth Vador mask for a shrink ray and little green suit for)Yoda’s Theme and finished the show with a bang on the finale. 
My first instinct was, as predicted, a reflection on all the times I refused to watch the Friday family movie because it was Star Wars again, how mad I would get when I had to hear Anakin’s theme for the second time in one day, and that if I heard a light saber one more time on the car ride to Cape Breton I was going to snap. Believe it or not, I smile thinking back on those days. 
I didn’t reflect too long on memories though, because the familiar spectacle or listening and seeing mesmerized me again. Suddenly, I was day dreaming about the Nutcracker, where not only did I know which notes come next, but the rise and fall of the bows and chests of the musicians are familiar, predictable even. 
Being in the audience of a concert like this was different. I knew all the notes, but there had never been a visual like this, all I ever “saw” when I “heard” Star Wars was film clips. This time, and despite a lack of a score, I saw what I heard for the very first time. There were no staves, no notes, no rhythms to count, or dynamics to account for. But the orchestra looked like a loom with a hundred needles, treading each fine thread of the melody together into a tapestry, rich in all it’s colors, and richer for it’s absence of a particular image. Does a song not warm the cold heart more deeply than any material? They're the same, but one you can touch, and one you can feel. 
I’m no good with the written word when it comes to expressing what only the written harmony can express. Being able to give a material, personal form to each nuance in a song is mind blowing, and slightly out of body. As you try to stretch your mind around the concept that the four arms leaning and dipping, seemingly tied by their unique strings to some ethereal puppeteers finger is perplexing enough without expanding your focus, and realizing that for the metaphor to be accurate, they would be tied to one finger, and to each tutti their own. Who could possibly master the complexities and abilities demanded to read a dozed lines of a different languages, translate and program  it into the corresponding individual’s heart, while simultaneously teaching and accompanying them in the recital of this new prose? Who could fluently speak such languages, posses the patience and technical ability, and emotional fluidity? Who could overcome the massive and impressive beast that is the connexion uniting a song?
A composer, who interprets the undeniable inspiration. 
An orchestra’s director, who interprets the unidentifiable intention.
A musician, who interprets the unspeakable inflection.
A human, who interprets the unalphabetized indentation on the soul that is music. 

Khakis or kakis?

Though knowing my luck, there is probably a third way to spell what sounds like "kah- kiis", and that's probably how you spell the fruit we picked today.
The orange gourd-tomato type fruit still isn't ripe despite the trees nakedness, and has to be lain out on boards to dry out before they're edible.
I'm told they're not related to tomatoes... But if they're not, they're pretty good at identity theft if you ask me. Perhaps my favourite horticulturist can clear up the situation?
For the past few weeks, I've been working on an application to a school in BC, and this blog came up in one of my questions. I expressed what a great outlet this is for me, and how often I smile at the demographics of my readers, so this is a shout out to to my international readers! Hello world!
In all seriousness though, I really appreciate knowing that people who don't know me care to know the comings and goings of my séjour. So thank you :)
In other news, my package arrived from Germany last night! I suppose it's logical that sweaters and scarfs made in Canada are made warmer, but logic didn't make the surprise any more pleasant. Also tenderly swaddled in bubble wrap (which was very quickly and much less tenderly popped) came a few gifts to pass along (one of which being a bottle of prune and blackberry jam my momma made from my grandfather's orchard and the boughs of our front lawn), a spectacular necklace from my german grandparents ( <3 ) and more sweets! YUM! I'm spoiled rotten (my teeth have a mind of their own). One of the people who I shared the gingerbread puffs with particularly appreciated the gesture, because her great aunt used to send them to her! This is course made me smile.
I know he doesn't read this, but I feel like everyone should know that my baby brother chose the cutest card ever to stick in the goody bag. Please in mind that he is a 10 year old boy trying to express how he feels about the big sister that only last week he replied "fighting with her" when asked what he missed about me. The front read: If anyone were to ask me if I miss you, I would have to answer "yes".
I was thanking Hallmark for giving him words that I knew he never would have found himself, when I opened the card, and realized that he very well could have chosen the words printed inside:
"And then kick them in the shins for reminding me."
There you have it folks! Be careful not to ask my playing-in-the-provincial-football-tornament-this-weekend little brother if he misses me, because you will get kicked in the shins. I tease, but I know that in little boy that means "I love you O".
So I love you too Buddy.
This is short, but you'll hear from me again tomorrow, and I shall bear news of tonight's John Williams tribute concert, and tomorrows 'Ta Bouche' operette! There shall be musical reviews, most likely accompanied by a barrage of childhood Star Wars related memories.
"Stick around, things get much stranger. "
- some pin I saw a while ago when I was going somewhere
Oh! Spoiler Alert: next week the olives will be ready to pick!! :)

Thursday, November 11, 2010


November 11th 1918.
92 years ago today, millions of girls just like me were crying, not unlike the day that will have precede it, or the months that precede those days. But for the first time in four years, they are without a doubt, tears of joy. Maybe some of them already have their husbands, their fathers, their sons, their brothers back in their arms, because night has fallen on a peaceful France, Europe, World.
The end of WWI. The atrocities were over, and in retrospect, had only begun.
My grandmother asked me to attend a ceremony today, and bearing in mind the monuments and plaques that I seem to see everywhere, I got up early, dressed in black and headed out to church.
Churches intimidate me as it is. I played the right hand of a song my host father sang, and my host brother played the organ in mass, stood when called, and said Alleluia with everyone else. But I couldn't help but be distracted and fall behind in the prayers that are unfamiliar to me as it is. My mother tongue is english. Everyone surrounding me were French. Reflecting on all the wars that came before the War to end all Wars, I never could have been here.
And the world still has so far to go, because there is still someone dying tonight.
The graveyard that we went to say a prayer to my host father's parents was beautiful, covered by flower pots left over from Toussaint. The part of the ceremony that we got to consisted of playing the french equivalent of The Last Post, and the mayor reading off the names of the young men who died, to which the solemn crowd muttered each time "mort pour la France" which means died for France. There were men in old uniforms, and an American flag represented, because they liberated this town.
Today is hugely important, more so than May 8th, as is the case Canada as well. However there is a startling difference. Here, November 11th is strictly l'armistice, the end of the first World War, not Remembrance Day, in recognition of peace, and respect for those lost to war. The losses suffered by France in the second World War were a tiny fraction of what they lost in the first, because most of the losses in the Second were members of the resistance: France was taken so swiftly in the second, they didn't lose many men in battle before they were under German rule. The first, on the other hand, was 52 straight months of bloodshed.
I think it's time people swallowed their pride, and accepted that no matter how superficial the statement has become due to medialism, world peace is the greatest dream of them all.
After all, it's the rare, good and dazzlingly simple things in life that are the most sought after.
This post is short, but so too is the day of recognition, and thus sobering to admit that it's fitting.
My closing statement is brief:
The parents, lovers and children we are shooting at recognize that we are parents, lovers and children too. The problem lies in being paranoid and over protective parents, proud lovers eager to come home heroes, and that when both sides are reduced to terrified little children, we'll both just keep shooting.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

three Bill Evans CDs later, I hope this serves as an apology for my neglect

I feel so old.
When a child hears their parents say that they get up in the morning, and don’t know how they got back into bed a full day later, they swear they’ll never be that way. When a child hears their parents say that no matter how many times they starts the dishwasher, it seems like they’re always reloading it, maybe the child helps clear the table, but won’t think anything more of it. When a child hears their parents lament never feeling caught up at work, and knowing that they’ll barely spend 12 hours at home before they start a new day headed for the office, a child sees the simple solution of choosing a job they like, and maybe it gives them motivation to do better.
I know seeing exhausted people, slaving to jobs they hate has driven me to make sure I’ll slave to something rewarding, and that because I know everyone else is just as tired as I am, I always help clear the table. But I’m still a child. And despite that, when I go to turn out the light, and reflect on my day in the darkness that still scares me sometimes I feel like I’ve lived three days. And despite that, when I get to friday (again) I wonder where my week went. The weeks melt into months, and suddenly, you realize that 10 days from now, you’ll have been gone from home for 3 months. That’s a quarter of a year.
The second wave of the same old questions, don’t you miss home? Don’t you miss your family? is hitting. I can’t put to words how strange it is to admit, a bit guiltily that the answer is still much the same. Of course some days, and lots of nights, I miss telling my mom goodnight, or watching tv with my dad, hearing my brothers shout at their video games. I miss falling asleep with my head tucked in the crook of poster covered walls, and waking up and remembering why I put each one there. Avril Lavigne, my canadian idol (no pun intended) that Dom gave to me for christmas two years ago, and the one from last year with a Bono quote ‘where you live should no longer determine whether you live’ under Africa. The John Lennon, an Audrey Hepburn, dad’s old Beatles poster I rescued, and the Tragically Hip plaque from their tour the week I was born. 
A deeper analysis of my room might very possibly end in the conclusion of the content of my soul. But one way or another, that room will change when I get home, after I leave home, and even if it were to stay the same, it would look and feel different for the change in me.
Of course I miss having a space where I am in my own, with shreds of magazines for collages, my shoe collection, books I honestly do intend to read and half written songs are scattered on every flat surface. Of course I miss getting to hug my baby cousin (who’s rather quickly seeming less and less a baby), and not being scared that the next time he sees me on Skype, he won’t smile, and reach out, kiss the screen. Of course I miss waking up on Sunday mornings and fighting with my brothers and their assortments of friends because they didn’t leave any milk. 
I miss the rotation of my week coming back to a supper table with my family around it, bickering, laughing hysterically, and acting our daily roles the the Theater of the Absurd. 
And I say ‘I miss’.
But in all honesty, it’s not so much that I miss it, which suggests a longing, but it’s still more of a consciousness that what I’m experiencing is completely and utterly different. 
We have a sit down supper every night, here in the white kitchen, say grace, and I can always tell how hungry the men are by which one they choose, because there’s a really short one. It’s still a family meal, and I know they actually care when I tell them how my day went, but it’s not my dining room, that usually still has decorations from some holiday of birthday in one orange corner or another. 
Sunday mornings when I get up, I never have to fight with anyone about milk, or waking me too early, or needing the computer, because when I go downstairs whenever I wake, by bowl is set out. There are my chocolate flakes on the table, and I don’t have to share my laptop with anyone while I check my email, and work on whatever, quietly, until my family gets home from church. 
My host brother is wonderful. He really is an amazing person, and I’m incredibly lucky that he’s the one that I spend the most time with of anyone here. But he’s the rule, not the exception to the strange coldness people here have. I’m breaking my new friends, my classmates into the habit of hugs, and some are taking the beating very well, I’m pleased to say. But the guys aren’t built like the guys back home, it’s like tending to a pine when you’re used to oaks. The girls are adorable, there’s no better word, but it strikes me as odd that we never laugh out heads off, never kidnap each other’s old comfy sweater. 
As for the churning inside of a black hole that is my bedroom, I still have all those things, they’re just neatly filed away, in folders, drawers, containers, shelves, where they tend to be forgotten. 
My room here is yellow. My room at home is blue with clouds on the ceiling. The only common factors are a butterfly I made back in second grade, my dream catcher that I’ve had since I was tiny, the japanese character for ‘friendship’ with one of the many angels Grammy gave me hanging from it, along with an behemoth of a teddy bear. Here, I have a row of dictionaries, a music stand and an entire shelf of National Geographic s at my disposal. They not at all, however, the ‘cut out interesting articles, and turn inspiring quotes into bookmarks, or, oh! that picture is the missing puzzle piece for my next scrap book page!’ kind of disposal. 
This space, freshly rid of a coat of wrapping paper bits, and tape adhering to random angles everywhere, is my place here. It’s so permanent. It’s hard for me to grasp that the only difference anyone will see when I’m gone is one less row of textbooks, no saxophone case, an absence of cowboy boots and slippers, and that the months of the Toy Story calendar are full of past events. 
Like going to see ‘Ta Bouche’ that it seems that Eva just started rehearsing for, just the other week in September. 
Like the class assembly that’s going to hit us all with our first trimester marks like a ton of bricks on the fourth of December. 
Like my flight date to Paris, the day after school lets out here. I won’t blink, and I’ll be on my way to Germany, ( <3 ) where I won’t be meeting up with a friend, who’s going home. He’s sick of going to bed with headaches from speaking a different language all day every day, for smiling, thinking at the end of your last course, I get to go home, and then not knowing where to find the vacuum cleaner. He misses faces that look at him, and smile at him, not ‘the canadian’. He’s tired of having to explain for 15 minutes before he can make anyone start to understand what he’s feeling. He has the strength to overcome his pride and say that this incredible adventure of ours isn’t for him after all. I can’t say how proud I am of him for that.
But I don’t wish I were going back with him.
If I were to go home now, I wouldn’t ever take the initiative to learn to appreciate electro)acoustic music that my friend Christophe is teaching me about. I wouldn’t see the old city ruins that I pass on my way to school everyday, nor will I see the butterfly museum in the old tower of Tourettes. I won’t get to see if the old stone house fixes their ‘moulin’ in the spring. I wouldn’t get to pick olives next week, or be eternally amused by a full state shut down if it snows this winter. I won’t know how my prépas exams go, and it wouldn’t seem wrong come next fall for my class to be 9. I would waste all the money left of my canteen card. I would miss the new years eve party with my choir, and I would only see pictures of Aurélien with his braces off. I would never see the carnival in Monaco with Greta, and I would never see the Chateau D’If in the spring.
I could give you a reason why one week after another, it would really be a waste for me to go now. 
I chose this direction one year ago now. With the help of my mom, and Pépère, and the support of everyone around me, I’m carving this trail. I figure I might as well see it to the very end, and worst comes to worst, I’ll get to the top of this mountain, and find that I’ve come to a cliff, that I can’t go any farther. I’ll enjoy the sunset, and bask a little bit in the sun of what i’ve accomplished before I make my way back to start again. The way home is always going to be easy now, the trail is there, and after this, my hike should get easier, since I think this is the hardest road I could have chosen. I will bear in mind to wear sneakers, not ballet flats, since my blisters are only just healing now from my second day in Marseille.
That’s all inspiring, fancy talk to say that I’m too busy, too determined to make it on my own, to let home sickness catch up to me.
Exhaustion, on the other hand, is another story. 
Tomorrow, we have the day off, but I’m getting up early for an Armistice ceremony, and then spending the afternoon getting ahead on my work for this week coming, since this week ends on the ‘lendemain’ which means the day after tomorrow. But next week, in turn will come soon enough, and I’m trying not to let it catch me off guard. Besides, I’ll be behind again by Tuesday, and by the time I get through another Wednesday, the week will practically be over. 
Another week that is. Another week that missing anything won’t find a fissure to seep into. 
And so it goes, and so I reply to them, I love this place, I’m finding new reasons every day to be here, and I’m so busy living each moment I’m here that I don’t really have the time or energy to miss home. 
But my quota of time and energy for today has been spent. Lights out, again. 
I really do feel old. 

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Train Ride Back From Marseille

Day sheds a whole new light on the world
2, 15, 85, and I’ve found my place.
What tales do I have to recount to you all about the city of Marseille? To start, let me tell you that it’s filthy. It seems to me that my reason for existing this year was to describe the caricature that is France this year. A people, riled up in revolt against a senseless government isn’t something extraordinary for this country. 
As for stereotypes of the french lifestyle, stripes are very à la mode this year, I can probably count on one hand the number of meals I’ve been served without bread and indeed, they eat an insane amount of cheese. They do hold themselves in a way I’ve never seen a canadian walk, and they tend to like beautiful things. 
Focusing in on this city, any travel brochure, any review with forewarn you not to travel here in the company of germaphobes. It is fact, not fiction, that the streets are littered with bits of paper, cigarette butts, empty Cola cans, I could go on. On this particular year, in this particular month, and this particular week was the beginning of the mass clean up. Why so particular?
Among the many workforces to go on strike against a raise in the age of retirement were the sanitation and disposal workers: Indeed. The garbage men. A week ago now, they had to quit the strike, because the health department were interfering, for fear that the water (contaminated by rat urine) was going to cause widespread illness. Charming. The incessant rain didn’t held matters, reducing the piles of carton boxes, restaurants leftovers and household trash to piles of sludge 2 meters high. There was literally no where to dispose of trash but the streets, so the streets turned into long, traffic and trash jammed dump yards. 
Luckily for me, they had called in the army a few days before my arrival, and the bulk of the work had been done. One of the first things I saw when I left the Gare St Charles was an incredible palace, built five years before the Eiffel Tower, under the same principal. It was stunning. 
Graffiti, graffiti, graffiti.... This is the city of a thousand fading colors and names. There is no exaggeration to say that it is on almost every building. What are the stories of the people who thought that their names were so important, they should be written? What sorrows were they enduring to cry out for someone to recognize them, without a voice? What are the messages they’re pleading for someone to decode? Have any of them faded with the elements?
We’re on the outskirts of Marseille now. This trip will be a lot longer than my last, since I’m passing Toulons, Cannes, Antibes, and headed all the way home to Nice. When I get off the train, I have to take the bus, to get to the tram, to arrive at the Gare Routiere where Thierry will be waiting for me. I will do all this carrying my satchel (laptop, three books, one binder, two textbooks, and most of my other heavy items. It’s a force of habit to travel with my items of weight and worth on me at all times because of airports), saxophone (affectionately nicknamed “le bete” meaning the beast, or the stupid one), and my duffel bag (it suffices to say that a Girl Guide packed for a week and a half long trip, and foresaw rain and cold, heat and excercise, and a costume party. Needless to say that almost polishing off one’s Christmas shopping didn’t lighten the load any). I will do all this? In black suede pumps. Aurélien will love the justice of it all. 
During my stay with the Chamouleaus, I (cringe to offend any athletes by saying “played”) tested Christophes patience (he passed!) by trying to embrace an education in squash, I blundered, and tripped, and would have made a fortune had I made a video out of my attempt at soccer. I lounged in a 19° pool while the boys did laps, and laughed when they complained about the “cold” (has anyone else ever been to the ocean water pool at White Point Beach Lodge back home?). I rediscovered an (dare I say it?) enjoyment of badminton, only after rediscovering that only idiots play sports with rings on because they give you water blisters. 
The single blister, beyond worth the glee of realizing I’m not a miserable failure at every single sport on earth, was barely noticed as it was. The hike that the boys took me on, saw me home with the bouquet that Mathieu will surely remove from his desk now that he’s recovered his room, and a collection of blisters. Four band aids later, I was able to enjoy my mothers cackles, knowing that there was a little shred of butch in me after all. :) 
Yesterday, despite the threat of rain, Mme. Chamouleau took me in town before lunch (we were back by 1, and were gone for two hours, let your mind theorize the hour I’ve been getting up), and took me to what is possibly the city’s best known feature: L’eglise de Notre Dame de la Garde. I’ve been to a few churches since my arrival, but I have to say that this one is beyond special. Perched on it’s mountain overlooking the city, it’s crowned by a multiple meter gold painted statue of the Virgin. The inside of the chapel is adorned by plaques, thanking her for the boat men she returned safely from long voyages and storms. Strung from the arched roof are chains of exquisite boats, offered to her as thanks for delivering ships home safely. The basement, however, was what caught me off guard.
There was an aerated chamber downstairs full of the candles for which a circulation system was specifically installed. The point was to allow the candles to burn all the way out, never being put out even through the night, which is only slightly short of evil. The candles are wishes, said to be granted by Mary if they are made with pure intentions. In Marseille, she is more prominent, and these candles in her name are more potent than prayer to Jesus.
As always, it was only stepping out of the church that I realized that I was moved almost to tears, felt the same quiver in my heart that I feel every time I’m in an old church. Either way, getting off the topic of religion now.
On our way down from the mountain, after capting the panorama to the best of my ability on my cell (camera is dead again), she stopped the car in the middle of the road to point out a tank from the second world war. It was guarded by a white picket fence, and the fresh writing on her side read Jeanne D’Arc. She told me about the canon that was dragged up to the church in the last year of war by the Germans to destroy the 26 century old city below, and she told me about how the soldiers who manned that canon managed to destroy the German counterpart and saved the city before they all died. My throat was already tight before she looked at me and smiled gently, and told me they were all Canadian. 
Just thought that I should let you all know that I think I’m learning more about my culture, my history and what it means to be Canadian since I’ve left than I ever would have known at home. My country just keeps meaning more and more to me. 
Tomorrow is my little man’s first birthday. That’s impossible, I forgot about even putting together my application together when he was born, how can a year have passed already? Where did the time go? 
The train is stopped in Toulons. I still have three quarters of the trip to go.
But am I talking about the train, or this year?
Two weeks from little Shane’s birthday, and I will have been gone from home for three months. Two weeks is nothing at all.
Two weeks is sight reading and a first run through a new vocal piece.
Two weeks is two or three scale sets in saxophone.
Two weeks is buying a sandwich on the run to choir twice.
Two weeks is only putting a dent in my lesson for the prépas.
Two weeks is a quarter of the new session we’re starting in gym.
Two weeks is barely any progress in spanish class.
Two weeks is almost half of a month.
And I just said that two weeks go by in the blink of an eye, a month passes, and the only change I notice here since there really aren’t seasons is a little surprise when I start have to change from writing Sept to Oct and Oct to Nov on my worksheets. Other than that, one month flows quietly into the next, without a distinction in the whirlwind I’m waging war against. Holy accidental alliteration (can you tell my dad was a journalist?). The point is, I honestly didn’t realize much time had passed until vacation started, then I knew that I had already done 7 weeks of schooling, and had two off. 
But those silly little two weeks are over now, just like the preceding, and the next two will fly away just as quickly.
My trip is flying by, in a flash of cypress trees, music scores and marks out of 20, in castles I didn’t have time to see (this trip), smiles of people I’ll see again soon and the days that melt away between one event and the next. On the 14th, I’m going to see Ta Bouche, an Operette where Eva and her brother will play (and sing). That’s 10 days away now, but when I first arrived at her house it was a week short of a month away. 
I’ll blink and a year will have gone by, and I’ll blink, and a year will have gone by and I’ll be gone again. 
Somehow, when I had imagined a train ride through the mountains of Province in france, I didn’t imagine as many factories, and storage plants. How strange, to look up one minute, and be in a concrete graveyard, and the next be passing a winding road that leads up to a villa on a hill, over looking infant vineyards. How beautiful, to see a 2 meter high farmhouse, in the middle of a field where a nameless farmer is storing his rusty old tools. It’s like a photograph my mother feel in love with, only a fall rendition. I guess there are seasons here after all, I just have to stop looking for red maple leaves.
Actually, I guess I wouldn’t find such a spectacle at home either, since you’re already sleeping under flurries. What a funny friend you are time, it seems to me that you steal everything that we r.