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Friday, July 30, 2010

Minding my a's and m's

The astute reader might have noticed the q where there ought to have been an a in the last heading. I decided not to change it because it reqlly, I mean really, reflects my life here: Here in Paris I no longer have access to an English keyboard, which I did have in Gannat. There, it was just a matter of remembering that each time I switched programs the keyboard reverted back to the French. Here I have to remember that the a, w, m, z, and I think a few others are in different places! Most frustrating, though, is that most of the punctuation is in different places. The period is upper case, which bewilders me. The exclamation, though, is lower case! And the @ is alt/Gr plus the 0, which really threw me for a loop for a while. And oh, the numbers are all upper case too.

Let me just update you on my trip here yesterday from Gannat. As I think I mentioned, I woke up very early to take down my tent. No one else was awake, except for a man I didn't recognize who came staggering over, asked me what I was doing. He was quite drunk, and likely had been part of our soiree the night before, although I hadn't seen him before. I don't know until what time the party lasted, but would guess it was quite late. I had said my goodbyes to everyone (or hope I did) before I went to bed at about 11pm, having neither the stamina or the desire to stay up any later.

I got to the station in plenty of time, took the local train, with a lot of commuters, some with bicycles. I had a 40 minute layover in Rhiom. Can ( pronounced almost like John) my co-volunteer from Turkey, a really sweet young man, was on the same train to Paris from Rhiom, but on a later train from Gannat. He had only 5 minutes between trains. I'd told him I'd plead with them to hold the train if necessary! But it wasn't, he made it fine. After about a half hour, I think (I'd dozed off) the train stopped. A conductor came thru shortly after to say that we might be there 2 to 3 hours. I was hoping I'd misunderstood, but I hadn't. And we did indeed sit there for about 3 hours. When it was clear I wasn't going to make my 12:30 rendez-vous with JP, the apt owner, I had to borrow someone's cell phone. Can, who was in the next car, had one, but the battery was dead. So were the phones of the next couple of people I asked.

I went for a couple of walks, first toward the front of the train, later towards the back. I could see an ambulance near the back of the train, but never did find out what had happened. I don't know if most of the passengers did know or not. I asked the guy sitting next to me and he said he had no idea. And he didn't seem like he cared. He was watching a movie on his laptop.
Most of the passengers seemed pretty resigned to the situation. I'm sure some had connections or plans that were going to be missed. There were certainly a lot of phone calls being made.On my walk forward I came across a woman whom I'd seen being dropped off at the station. She was probably in her late 70s, had a cane, and was English speaking. I told her what i knew about the delay, and she was pretty concerned because she had an afternoon reservation on the Eurostar to England, She was Welsh. I never found out if we arrived in Paris in enough time for her to catch her other train, There was an announcement as we arrived at the Gare de Lyon, finally, that if people needed help with their connections they should proceed to a particular counter, but she wouldnt have understood it. Can and I walked through the station together: He was spending 4 days in Paris, but needed to call his mom in Turkey who had made the hostel reservation; which he couldn't do, because his phone was dead. So we parted ways, I headed off to the metro, he in search of someplace to buy a phone card.

My other walk on the train took me thru several cars; most people reading or sleeping or working or playing on their computers, And then, I walked into another car and an entirely different environment. It was filled entirely with kids, and a few counselor type teenagers. Some kids were playing games; Parcheesi, pick up sticks, cards, etc; One group was singing a song with lots of hand movements and laughter, One counseler was stretched out across two seats and trying to sleep.
It was obviously a camp group en route to somewhere.I wonder where they were going and if they made it.

When we finally got going, they made an announcement that there would be free meals handed out in car 3, the one in front of mine. It was all very ordely, they had hundreds of meals in boxes. I saw the counselor who had been trying to take a nap earlier, with an armload of boxes, perhaps 8 of them, and teased him about how much food he was taking. The boy across the aisle from me, travellng with whom I'd guess was his grandmother, shouted out, "free food!!"

The meal consisted of packages of lentil salad, not bad, tabouli, which was kind of mushy and not so good, applesauce, and some vanilla cream cookies. And a card with an apology about the problem with the service, No bread, no cheese, almost unheard of in a French meal. There was, though, a package of crackers which were a dead ringer for matzoh. The package had some name on it, I'm going to have to look it up. The crackers tasted pretty good with the lentils.

Well, I finally did make it to the apt, thank goodness a direct line from the train station, those metro tunnels can be long; and am happily ensconced here for the next few days. I had a wonderful Paris day today, which I had been planning to describe now. But it's 10pm, just beginning to get dark, and I promised myself I would take a nighttime stroll down to the Seine. The Eiffel Tower is alight; I just stood up and took a peek at it through my window. No matter how trite an icon it has become, it never fails to impress me, I don't feel the need to go up to the top anymore, or even to wander under it, which is pretty impressive in itself. But I feel truly lucky to have this view of it, over the also iconic rooftops of the city, for the next few days.

I will try to catch up on today's activities tomorrow!

A la prochain...

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