Sunday, March 29, 2009

Driving in first gear.

Today is like a Knoxville Sunday. It's raining so I'm not going on the hike to Cascade du chaudron, but instead I get to sit in my room, read, do homework, and relax. There is a lot of pressure to DO things because I'm not here very long. Only two more months and then I board a plane. That fact alone makes me feel bad for sitting in my room, but sometimes that's all I really want to do: just be quiet.

So, today it was wonderful to wake up late, remember my dreams, move slowly, and just do what I want to do at the speed I want to do it. With two of my classes already finished for the semester, I have fewer to worry about. Now all my concentration goes into translating from english to french and french to english. I also have a grammar course that is teaching me the most and helping with the translations. No matter how you slice it, my life is not stressful. My other class is SCUBA diving.

Last week was the first time in the ocean. I was a little freaked out because he had a power point of all the scary things that could go wrong when you're 20 meters under water and then explained how to prevent them in French. I got most of it, but still some was lost in translation. It turned out just fine, because I went down for 15 minutes just with the instructor. He held my hand for the first five and motioned everything that I needed to do, which turned out to not be that much. Then it was easy, and peaceful, and beautiful! After the 15, we went back up to the boat and got two other girls and went down again. We were down 12 meters for 45 minutes. At one point he motioned to me and another girl to sit down on the ocean floor and wait and watch while he worked with the other girl. It was the coolest, most surreal classroom I've ever been in. There were Nemo-like fish swimming all around us and through the giant coral. Every now and then a current would reach through the valley of coral and push me to the side, where I'd start to float out of my seat on the sand and I'd remember I was under-the freaking-ocean. So tight.

Then we swam around and saw eels and a fish that disguised itself as a rock and a school of fish where each fish followed the other and made a line 10 meters long. The water was so clear, you could see all around you. From the boat you could see the bottom, a good 15 meters down.

It was a silent, tranquil world just chillin' under the surface that separates their world from the one that moves quickly, with worry and with purpose of betterment. Under there, everything is content with the way things are, living in the waves, harmonious and free of desire.

Saturday, March 21, 2009


What I miss most:

The dollar. You are cheap, dear dollar.
Stores that are open all night long. You can do anything you want, anytime you want.
Accessible recycling. Go figure.
Internet that works all the time.
Being busy, going to classes, having homework. Yeah, it was a surprise to me too.
Technology in the classroom.

What I don't miss:
How spread out everything is in the states
How everything is a chain-restaurant, grocery store, etc
Lack of efficient mass-transit and the stigma that goes along with taking a bus

To be quite honest, I like both places. But being here makes me appreciate what I never appreciated about the US. You don't think of the privileges until you don't have them. And that seems like a really obvious thing to say, but I just didn't think about it. You can go grocery shopping at 3am! You can get any type of food you want: Chinese, Mexican, Italian, Greek, Japanese, Indian... You can send an email from anywhere. It's becoming a wireless world and Reunion is just a little behind. No big. Expected even. I'm just sayin'. It's nice to see things how they are.

Brief update on travel plans:
Leave Reunion at the end of May. June in Europe. Back in Nashville June 28. Off to Florida on the 30th or 1st of July for a few days. Back to Nashville. Off to Colorado July 22nd for a week. Back to Nashville. Off to Knoxville, for school, August 17.

I love being busy.

Saturday, March 14, 2009


riots have subsided
even so, ISEP will evacuate us if it's gets really bad
so no need to worry

I love you

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

riots in my neighborhood

Our friends went ahead into the crowd toward the yellow-lit intersection where young men shouted and others threw rocks.  Some were on bicycles or walked with shirts tied around their faces holding sticks and bottles.  My stomach was in a knot. The tension in the air was thick on my skin as it mingled with the light film of rain that was settling on everything.  

The riots are for fair prices in Reunion and they seem to be headed by men, mostly young men.  I looked at Richard who had stayed back with me while the rest moved toward the action; his eyes were focused ahead, alert, and waiting.  He turned his head to look behind, away from the riot, and my eyes followed.  We saw people begin to scatter, begin to move, running across the street in masses thirty yards up.  They were hurried and looking behind them in quick flashes, their shoulders up and their bodies staying low.  My stomach got tighter.  I looked back to the right and saw our friends, their backs to us, still watching the riot.  I felt my feet shifting my weight beneath me when Richard put his hand on my shoulder as his mouth opened, “Ivan!”  he yelled as he whipped his head in their direction.

They didn’t hear. I looked behind me and through the bushes I saw armored vehicles jolting over grassy hills, through the playground, toward the riot.   Police.   Police with shields, with tear gas, with guns.  Both hands were on my shoulders now, steadying himself on his tip toes, stretching his neck and back to peer over the bush behind me as my head whipped from left to right deciding which way to go:  away from the police and into the riot or away from the riot and into the police.  He grabbed my hand and pulled me up the street toward the police.  I turned as we ran and yelled “Chaz!”  who was still watching the riot, his back to us.  They were on the edge of the crowd as if watching a festival.  I took one more quick glance as Richard hand propelled me forward and I saw the mass in the intersection begin to move.  My face was forward but I don’t remember seeing anything when I felt the loud blast against my back.  

Richard’s hand kept pulling me forward despite my fear, my shock, my want to close my eyes, my need to look at everything.  Then I heard Becky yell my name from behind, and as I turned my head Richard changed directions and my Keds almost slipped out from under me in the wet grass.  I didn’t even have time to catch myself because his hand pulled me fast, over the curb into a parking lot.  We shot quickly between two parked cars that sat so close I had to shift my hips sideways to slide between the mirrors.  Then I saw them.  I saw Becky again looking frantic and Chelsea running with Ivan and Chaz.  We all moved like darting fish until we saw an apartment building with an open door.  

A mother had her baby in a stroller stopped in front of the entrance stoop.  The child was maybe a year old and was sitting straight up with his little chubby hands holding onto the bar in front of him; his head craning to see in every direction like mine had moments before.  Richard picked up the front of the stroller, speaking quick French, and she pushed her baby inside while we pressed our backs against the glass listening to the quick pops and explosions, watching the clouds and light.  My stomach stayed tight and my eyes wide.  

The claps and booms were getting closer and clouds of tear gas billowed from the street and blew sideways in the breeze.  We decided to move and we made our way back to the street that lead to our university.  Despite the fires that burned in the streets, cars still whipped past.  

A Reunionais called to us in cool French, “Students!  How kind of you!  But why are you leaving?  Did you get scared?”  Richard said it was the girls.  To that, Chelsea and Becky quickly spat that he had stayed behind and that they were brave and went ahead into the riot.  They were arguing as if they had ridden the roller coaster that he was too afraid to approach.   My whole abdomen was still tight from fear, and the tension of just moments before was still thick in my blood.  I meant to keep quiet but the words swelled up into my mouth, “I don’t think it’s brave to put yourself in a riot.”  The conversation ran quiet as Ivan chuckled and said, “That’s a good point.”

Now I have an odd cool scratchiness at the back of my throat as I sit in my room. I watch from my balcony --watch the orange smoke pushing toward the sky, the helicopter spotlighting the chaos for the police--  trying to swallow the cotton in my mouth and reality of what I just witnessed.  The hazy ginger lighting and the misty rain that continues to fall adds just a touch of Hollywood to the whole hot, passionate affair between angry citizen and police.  

The papers are saying this will continue until the French government caves and begin to cut prices and increase pay.  It’s all about money.  Always is. 

Monday, March 2, 2009

The wheels on the bus

Everyone on this island has similar dietary practices and therefore all smell alike.  The bus is the place you smell it the most.  

I was sitting on the bus on a bench seat big enough for me and another small person, so a ten year old boy sat beside me.  We rode along like that until we came to a bus stop and the doors opened. The boy and I simultaneously sat up, scooted to the edge of the bench, waiting and watching for old people.  

It is understood here that youth and able-bodied persons give up their seats for middle-aged women and grandparent types.  When only college and high school aged people got on, the boy and I both sat back.  In that moment I understood I was part of this island, following their customs and social cues, and just like the boy, every bit at home.