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October 19, 2010

The Honeymoon is Over

Two Fridays ago I was moseying around Digoin, enjoying the sunshine before I headed off to Paris to meet up with my friends Ted and Danielle for the weekend. I took the route by the sun-dappled Loire River, and smiled to myself at the sight of six old French dames squished together on a bench, laughing like school girls. Everyone I passed said "Bonjour!" to me, and José, the friendly bartender at the Café de Paris, stuck his head out to wish me a good trip.

"I love the f out of this place," I thought to myself. "It's going to be so impossible to leave in but a few months."

I had a lovely time in Paris, and made it back just in time for the entire country to go on strike to protest the proposed change of retirement age from 60 to 62. The olds are upset that the government is merde-ing on their sacred benefits, which generations have fought for and for which they pay dearly  with their taxes. The youngs are none-too-pleased that the olds will be stationed in their jobs for two additional years, making it that much harder for them to find jobs in a country plagued with chronic unemployment.

I'm all for the Frenchies being involved in their governmental proceedings and fearlessly yelling, "Aw, hell no!" when they feel those supposedly representing them are no longer doing their jobs. But effectively bringing train travel to a standstill and thus forcing me to cancel all sorts of touristing? Not cool.

I took the bus to Lyon on Friday and was planning to spend the entire weekend there with my bridesbitch Lo. Instead of taking our 5:30 p.m. Sunday train back to Digoin, however, we were forced to cut our trip a day short to take an 8:20 a.m. bus to Paray le Monial, the town next to Digoin. Once we got there, there was supposed to be another bus to take us back to my palatial abode. But it was one big lie, France! Instead we inquired of a kindly looking gentleman if he knew of a taxi number, and he offered to take us to Digoin himself.

Lo and I popped into the Café de Paris to say hi to José, and then headed to a pizza place, one of a handful establishments in the entire metropolis open on Sundays. It was there, upon receiving a personal pizza as large as a car wheel (and you're not allowed to share pizzas there; it's well-marked on the menu... didn't you see?) and feeling the burning desire to take a snap of it, that I realized my camera was no longer in my purse. When we got home I tore through all my possessions and found it neither hither nor thither. The last place I know I had it was on the bus, and I have since both called and emailed the bus line and they insist it is nowhere.

I know a camera is just a thing, and things are replaceable, and I should really stop mourning this loss so hard. But I had some wicked awesome shots from Lyon of Lo and me playing Be the Statue and Be the Painting, as well as some excellent new candidates for Facebook profile pictures. So it felt like a beloved pet had just died.

After I had somewhat reconciled myself to this monumental loss, I came to the realization that I had absolutely nothing to do to amuse my dear friend for the remainder of her stay. We tried going to the grocery store at the edge of town, but we got there after it was closed and thus our 40-minute forced march in the biting wind was in vain. In the end we watched Jersey Shore with my frustratingly faltering internet connection, and then the one DVD I brought out here.

Everything in town remained closed on Monday, so we trudged back to the supermarket for amusement and the makings of dinner. Next we went to Digoin's one museum: la Musée de la Céramique. It was room upon room upon room of pottery. Old pottery. New pottery. Pitchers. Plates. Bowls. Bed warmers. Bed pans. I tried to translate our guide's impassioned speeches about the benefits of different types of glazes for Lo's benefit, but eventually my translations consisted of: "I don't know how to translate that," "I have no idea what she just said," "Glaze," "Chamberpot."

I had somewhat of an emotional breakdown last night because apparently my camera contained part of my soul I can never get back and Digoin is so cold and gray now and the strike is really making my life miserable and how am I going to go to Paris and Arles and Grenoble and Lyon next week during my vacation and nobody said Bonjour to me outside and this is a ghost town on Sundays and Mondays and OMD is this beyond-boring ceramic museum seriously the only thing I can take my visitors to?

There's an emotional cycle of culture shock you experience when you go abroad. First you're in the Honeymoon Period: everything's great and nothing could possibly be better than what you're doing. Then the reality that you're a billion miles away from your loved ones and everything familiar starts to sink in, and everything sucks. Then you stabilize and get used to things. Then, right before you leave, you love everything so much that you get depressed about going back home, where you will inevitably go through reverse culture shock.

I felt better this morning, when we encountered the high school students' protest on our way to get some pain au chocolat for breakfast. Among the protesters were several of the students I've had in class, and they said, "C'est l'assistante d'anglais! 'Ello Nina!" as they marched by. (They like me! They really really like me!) And I came home this afternoon to find a box from my parents that contained my Association sweatpants and my oversized North Branch Cinema sweatshirt, which have contributed to the immeasurable increase in comfort I'm currently experiencing. Then I was able to find a bus to go to my orientation in Montceau-les-Mines tomorrow, which I've been fretting about having to skip since the trains aren't running. And then a teeny tiny sun ray lit up a corner of my room for about three whole minutes!

I'm hoping my Stage 2 (Everything is Difficult) is swift and Stage 3 (Hey! I'm Figuring This Out) is right around the corner.

6 comments:

  1. It will get better Nina. When I first came to Portland at the tender age of 19, I experienced similar feelings. As a result, I almost left my host family to go back to France. The following July, I didn't really want to leave! Ah, the waves of Culture Shock... Have a sunny day and best greetings from the Old West.
    Anne

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  2. I had my camera stolen last year. I still feel like someone stole a piece of my soul. There weren't too many pictures on there that I hadn't uploaded to my computer, but there were pictures of Wyatt's first year on there - including his birth. Grr, I'm getting grumpy just thinking about it.
    AND, the last time I went to Italy it turns out my camera wasn't working (stupid film cameras)so I don't have any pics of David, Pisa or any of the other things we saw.
    But, I still have all my memories :)

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  3. I would be dead if I lost my camera. Kudos!

    Bonne chance :)

    Love your blogg.

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  4. Poor Peachy Pie! The camera loss is bad, but--as you say--c'est la vie. We'll try and send some dvds your way--let us know which ones you'd like.

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  5. Merci tout le monde.

    I forgot to add that yesterday, after I left the camera shop (where I found out a new appareil photo will set me back 140 Euros-- it's the only model he has in stock), I stepped in a big pile of dog doodoo.

    C'est la vie indeed...

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  6. Nina,

    This post just made me laugh (not at the fact that you lost your camera, but in appreciation of the way you describe your feelings with humor)...I'm in the same boat. Knowing we are going through the same thing makes me feel so much better already. Looking forward to seeing you in Dijon soon.
    -Emily

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