(pic 1: sharing this American life)
(pic 2: how about installing these at every mall parking lot in the US?)
I’ve got to repeatedly count in my head to be sure I’ve been on this adventure for ten days already. This experience in Toulon has definitely been one immersed in local culture, yet it has lacked the exploration and movement that I am now craving. Tomorrow will be an excursion to Marseille if the plans that are ever in limbo transpire. I’ve got tickets to a professional basketball game in the evening, maybe watching the unveiling of the next Tony Parker. Sunday, with a quick step onto a train, the independent traveling begins to Spain and Portugal. In some ways I feel so unprepared yet I know the reality is I’ve got to just do it. Intrigued to see what couchsurfer.com turns up for possible places to crash and people to meet. Stay tuned…
What comes to mind from the past few days? My olfactory senses currently remind me that I’ve inhaled enough second hand smoke since I’ve been here to last a lifetime. A few attempts to “do as the French do” has furthered my disgust. However, doing as the French do has been wonderful in terms of wine, croissants, crepes and all those other stereotypical French culinary delights (no escargots though, but I did accidentally step on one). The thought of all the pig consumed here (usually in the form of jambon) reminds me of a useful and entertaining universal communication device: onomatopoeia (oink, oink). And have I mentioned yet how insane the driving is here. I love the round-abouts and competent drivers, they’re just a bit eager. The motorcycles and mopeds apparently have special rights of the road that would get you sentenced in the states. I experienced this first-hand on the back of Johan’s scooter yesterday (OMG). White knuckles and pagan Hail Mary’s for 15 minutes as acceleration, braking, swerving, and passing ensued on busy city streets. The kicker is the centerline. Common sense might lead you to believe it’s to separate traffic, ya know, keep them in their own lanes. No, it’s actually a special lane for the two wheelers to fly past everyone else at 70 kilometers an hour with complete trust that the converging traffic won’t make a human croque monsier out of you. We were enroute to fix the before mentioned broken Twingo (Flo’s car). Quite a bonding experience to tag team replacing the clutch cable. Example: Johan, upside down with arm hanging out of car aimlessly pointing, “yellow, yellow” (the yellow handled pliers), with rotating hand “twisty” (screwdriver). Success was managed before dark and the deal was consummated with a few too many biéres. We truly did connect that evening through fragmented sentences and body language on our shared love for nature, travel, and music, philosophy on raising kids, and the plight of our planet and how to live in accordance with it. I may some day take him rafting down the Colorado River and to Burning Man, or it may just be a satisfying night of bar talk.
The highlight from today was not the shopping excursion to a disorganized version of WalMart (I was humored to see beautiful jewelry and gold necklaces in the same aisle as baby diapers… wait maybe there is a method…) where security escorted me to a private pat-down when my stride repeatedly set off their detector. There were no baguettes hidden in my pants, just a magnetic tag from my previously purchased vest that I was unaware was even there, let alone that I was supposed to cut it out. Merci for not arresting me.
The highlight of the day was giving a presentation on America to a number of students from an immigrant education program. As in the des Ètats Unis immigration (legal and illegal) is a big social issue (here from North Africa). Giggling teenage girls reminded me of many of my own past students and the intrigue of the young ones absorbed in pictures from my laptop was delightful. They were very humored by my attempts to speak French and so proud to say correct phrases in English. The young adults and oldest students referred to my Obama button and sticker with enthusiasm. I ended up gifting one of the particularly passionate with my “DJ’s for Obama” button. He was obviously aware of the global ramifications of our election (as so many are) and was psyched with the offering. I’ve got some remorse with the parting as it is really cool to be a DJ in this region filled with clubs and discothèques. That clout is gone but I feel as I have done good for the American image in at least one dilapidated neighborhood in Southern France. Hopefully they pass it on.