Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Lots of open windows

The portions of food here are tres grande. I have yet to finish a meal in one sitting. Chelsea told me to buck up and expand my stomach.

It was cooler last night and I slept. It was so great. I also ate fish today, which gave me some much-needed protein. I have abandoned the vegetarian ship for fresh fish from the Indian Ocean.

I got my student card today. Now I can buy a discounted bus pass and go anywhere I want without paying any drivers. The buses have their own lanes here in Reunion, which is a wonderful idea.

Skype works. s.d.packham

I was told by my only Reunionnaise friend, Christopher, that out of the Luke, Chelsea, and me, I know the least. I thought GREAT, gotta catch the f up. Then he gave me a little hope when he told me to stop speaking Creole. Hah. Who would have thought.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

The first day here I noted the obvious cultural differences:

- Cat-calls are even more regular than in the states
- People walk very slowly
- Everything and everyone runs late. Helene (pronounced: ell’en), my Reunionnaise Mom basically, said to just be patient “C’est tropical.” She warned that even buses run when the drivers get there and classes usually start 15 minutes late.
- Chickens sold on the sidewalk is the worst smell I’ve ever encountered
- People here are very open, notably about their views and histories with sex, religion, and politics
- Everyone who has brought it up hates Bush and loves Obama
- Music can always be heard playing from at least 3 different sources
- Everyone line-dries their laundry on balconies and in windows usually after washing them in the shower (I have taken to this practice, too, since it is 2 euro per load.)
- Surprise! No recycling. What? You’re on a teeny tiny island!
- And everyone loves/is fascinated by Katie’s red hair

C’est tout pour le moment.

I thought about writing about my room in detail, but then I thought you’d get the idea with a mere list:

my own room and bathroom with shower
small, but I don’t need much
no air conditioning
great cross-breeze with open doors
balcony complete with Indian Ocean backdrop

Tonight, I went to a bar downtown with a bunch of students, so I had a crash-course in Reunionnaise culture and French.

The first difference I noticed was that we left for the bar at 7:15pm. In Knoxville, no one goes to bars or clubs until 11pm. The bars here also close at midnight. I like it better this way.

At one point we were all dancing (which is serious cardio; no wonder everyone here is thin) to a local band. Stephan, who was dancing in front of me abruptly stopped and pointed to my flip flops and wagged his finger back and forth. I stepped out of them and standing behind them, I looked up at his face. He kicked them off the dance floor and I found myself dancing in spilled beer among barefoot friends. Culture.

On the way home I saw a snail as big as my fist on the sidewalk and no one was interested but us Americans. Everyone, however, was interested when a naked man walked up next to us. Romuelle, a student in circus school (not kidding) and friend who is not much taller than me but is wider by at least 6 inches and pure muscle, said something that made the naked man literally run away. I asked Sarah (pronounced Zarhah, from Germany) what he said, but she wasn’t listening and just said “Probably something mean.” Then she and I continued our conversation on how marijuana, “zamal” in Reunionnaise Creole, is practically legal here. She said, “Even the policemen smoke. No one cares.” Apparently it’s easy to come by and cheap, a pound for 50 euro. Damn.

Today the last of the American exchange students arrived. His name is Luke and we’ve already taken to calling him Jean-Luke (Une idee brillant de Chelsea). He’s from Georgia which makes us all from the American south, but surprisingly none of us have southern accents (or at least not to my ears).

After going to the pool and struggling to speak French with our new friends all day, the four of us ate dinner and hung out together and spoke english. It was a guilty pleasure, but in my opinion, fine for now. I realized I haven’t laughed since Tuesday, laughed a hard laugh anyway because humor is the last thing you seem to get in a language. I don’t know all the puns or ironies, and can barely hold on to a funny anecdote. So tonight, in english, we talked and talked and laughed and laughed with “That’s what she said”s and cultural quips no one else understands.

Tomorrow, it’s back to french, or bust.

I just woke up from another shitty night’s sleep. All I want is to sleep well and this heat and humidity makes it impossible. I sleep with my balcony and hall doors open in hopes for an ocean breeze that will cut the stagnant heat. No go. One day (the day I said there was a great cross breeze) there was wind. Now it’s hiding.

I haven’t cried since I left my house when I teared up saying goodbye to my mom. I was wondering just now if it was because I’m trying my damnedest not to be dehydrated and can’t afford the tears. I’m not sad, just frustrated with the constant heat with no relief and I’m a person that usually cries upon departures and in frustration.

On monday I have to be in academic buildings and I hope they have air conditioning. I also get my student card on Monday so I can finally go to the cafeteria, library, get internet, and a bus pass. I don’t know why they asked us to be here this week if we can’t really DO anything until Monday. They aren’t even giving us our food stipend until February 2, so we have to put our own money on our meal cards for now. C’est tropical, non?

P.S. I love nutella.

P.P.S. After writing the above entry, I realized the vitamins I had been taking before bed have a warning on the label that I missed: "This product contains about as much caffeine as a cup of coffee." I now take my vitamins in the morning and I'm much happier.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Today I loved a stranger.

After my early morning flight arrived in Chattanooga from St. Pete, FL, I started driving. I drove maybe 10 miles out of Chat toward Nashville when I noticed a Honda C-RV, black, just like my sister's passing me. Then, maybe 2 minutes later I passed it. Then it passed me. And we played this game for a while.

At one point the Honda cut it close and got in front of me to go around a semi, but it was on a curve and she used her brakes. So, I raised my voice to my empty car "IT'S DANGEROUS TO BRAKE ON A CURVE!" Then I passed her. Then she passed me. I was irritated with her insistence on fluctuating her speed, since I was cruising at (a mature-for-my-age) 75mph. I even let out a few exasperated sighs.

Somewhere along the way though, between leap-frogging each other, and tucking ourselves behind the other's car, we became road-buddies. The middle-aged, heavyset, African American lady with curly, short hair in her SUV cruised with me and my hotrod 3000GT. We went like that, me cruising at 75 and her behind me getting close then falling behind, us only leaving the right lane to pass trucks together.

She passed me one final time before she got in front of me to exit the highway. She was riding on the ramp that paralleled the interstate and I threw up a hand to wave at the moment she did the same. I immediately smiled. My windows are practically an impenetrable black from tinting, so there is little chance she waved to me in response; she may not have even seen my wave at all. I looked down at my odometer and we shared 95 miles together. In 95 miles we came to appreciate each other, even to the extent that left us waving calmly, honestly, thankfully, to a total stranger we will never see again.

Monday, January 5, 2009



Since I act, react, and interact with other humans, I have the little-spoken-of power of influence.  We can influence the moods and even the decisions of those around us without even really saying a direct opinion.  It's seems unfair to have so much power.  But, now that I've realized it, I can do good and not evil.  No sarcasm.  No belittlement.  I don't want to hurt anyone's feelings, not even if they deserve it. 

I just heard this sweet quote off Six Feet Under:

"The future is just a fucking concept that we use to avoid being alive today."