"When good Americans die, they go to Paris" - Oscar Wilde

Saturday, July 31, 2010

it all starts here

I've realized that for a while now I've been waiting for my life to begin. Paris -- and travel in general -- taught me how to be completely myself, how to live in the moment and yet when I was placed back into my university bubble my life went on hold again. It's hard to live in the moment when your life is consumed with essays and exams . . . or is that just an excuse because life will always be filled with some sort of equivalent to essays and exams, right? Yes, of course, it's just an excuse. Even right now as I write this all I can think about is the future: (all-consuming) visa worries, looking forward to seeing close friends again, and the delightful nightmare of packing up everything I own. I feel like I'm in a vacuum; I swear I can hear the roaring of the space between today and August 19th colliding. Let me figure out to live in the moment despite the distracting noise.

Friday, July 30, 2010

21 days

If all goes well I will be arriving in Paris in 3 weeks. I say if all goes well because I don't exactly have my visa yet -- a minor detail, right? My visa appointment is Monday, as in 17 days before my departure date which means more than likely my visa will be mailed back to me in time as long as my nightmares of bringing the wrong documents (or envelope), missing my appointment, or being refused my visa altogether don't come true. Either way I know these next few weeks are going to fly by and soon I will begin my new post-grad life in Paris. :)

Monday, July 26, 2010

strikes, les martiniquais, and how the english saved the day

After waking up at 3:20am to catch my flight to Martinique -- and arriving 17 hours later -- the ride to the hotel felt like a dream, especially in the somewhat delirious state that my lack of sleep fostered. It was too dark to make out the landscape, but I could make out the occasional "Carrefour market" signs which made me feel like I was back in France (and I guess technically I was). Man, I miss brioche.

The next morning, after a night of much needed sleep, I woke up to this amazing view outside my window. This picture sums up my vacation quite nicely: I spent most of my days going to the beach, going to the pool, and reading which is not my typical vacation style (I prefer fast-past urban vacations to lounge around getting sand in your shoes vacations) but I have to admit that it did feel nice having absolutely nothing to do for once. Plus, I was in good company. :)

Then all hell broke loose the last full day I was there. Arnaud was leaving a day earlier than me because of work. He and his fellow coworkers were planning on eating lunch at the hotel, then leaving for Fort de France. This plan was ruined by the kitchen staff striking in a sign of solidarity because the hotel was closing down soon. Would striking save their jobs? -- Of course not, but I feel like it's more of a reflex action. I found the whole situation bemusing particularity to do guests comments like "Did they announced this in advanced? Une grève sauvage, ça se fait pas!" To me strikes seem inherently "sauvage" but I guess there is a proper, civilized way to go about refusing to work.

Waking up the next morning at 5am I am unaware of the chaos that awaited me. Arnaud had arranged for a car to pick me up at 5:30am and by 5:15am I was waiting in the reception area, reading to kill time. Minutes go by and still no car -- I begin to get a little nervous. A little voice inside my head is telling me "This guy isn't going to show up." By 5:40am, there is still no car. I start to panic a little. My flight is at 7:35 and the airport is about 30 minutes away. My cell phone won't make calls but I notice the phone on the reception desk. No one was at the reception so I go and start dialing. When the phone starts ringing I feel a little relieved, but then curiously the hotel phone on the other side of the desk starts ringing as well. I tell myself it could just be a coincidence. The security guard enters the room and answers the phone and I hear his voice in my ear "Hotel de Baie Galion." I explain the situation in French, my checks flushed red with embarrassment, "Sorry, it's me. I'm trying to make a call." Fortunately he was very sympathetic, though not very helpful. I explain how my taxi is late, I'm worried I'm going to miss my flight, and my boyfriend is the one who has the driver's number." "Your boyfriend in England?" he asked. How to I always end up British in these situations? "No, my boyfriend's in Martinique. Are you sure there is no possible way to dial a cell phone from the hotel phone?" "No, I'm sorry. It doesn't work for cell phones. Is your boyfriend Martiniquais?" I wasn't really in the mood to make small talk about where my boyfriend was from. At this point I was almost in tears. I had no idea what to do if I couldn't get in touch with Arnaud.

Luckily, a hotel worker drove up. She and the security guard make small talk for several minutes, then she notices me sitting nervously and helplessly in the lobby. After explaining my situation, she kindly offers her cell phone. I call Arnaud who said he'd call the driver then get back to me. His call back isn't great news. He got the driver's voicemail, so he called his friend, an English women named Suzy, who agreed to come to my rescue. She pulls up around 6am, and I jump in. Just as she is making a u-turn to exit the hotel, who other arrives than my driver. Suzy rolls down her window, yells at him, then speeds off. At this point, I have a dreaded feeling that I am going to miss my flight. When I rush up to the ticket counter, there is still a long line waiting and I feel relieved. As I try to enter the line, a man stops me and asks for my name. Fortunately he lets me in, and not even a minute later hands me a sheet of paper with my name written on it, stating "Give this to the last passenger at 6:30am". The poor guy who arrived after me was denied access to the plane. One minute later and that would have been me as well.