I have been in France for only a short time and I am going through that ‘I am not sure that I have made the right decision’ phase. It is so strange being somewhere you don’t know anybody or anything. It is like starting your entire life all over again with making new friends, finding a new job, learning a new language and even a new way of life. It is so scary as it is an unfamiliar situation. Back home I know exactly where things are, where to go for certain things but here I know zilch.
Yesterday I spent ages looking for where I could buy something as irrelevant as a nail file. I went to a pharmacy, supermarket etc but no luck. I know it is not one of life’s greatest mysteries or the most important thing in the world. But because it was so hard for me to find something so insignificant, I found it quite depressing (does that make sense)? I could have asked but I didn’t know what nail file was in French..
Even driving in the city, is scary. They drive on a different side of the road than I am used to. I have to keep that in the back of my mind when I drive. I don’t understand the road signs, so I am not even sure if I can make certain turnings. Scared that I will get myself killed on the roads, I avoid taking my car out. I don’t know which tickets are the most economical for public transport, where the Afro hair salons are and when I find them how do I ask for a protein steam and a blow dry, or which supermarkets are cheapest!! Little things that are second nature to a native seems like the ultimate test to a newbie like me. However I guess it is all part of the learning process, the adventure…and the fun, at least I hope it is.
After a week of chilling out and being a tourist, I feel ready to become a part of the society, to have a routine…a job. This is going to be the ultimate challenge. Finding work..
Anyway my lack of presence on my blog can be explained by the crazy few weeks I have been having. With moving out of home, going to Africa, coming back to the UK and then moving to France in the same week, you can therefore imagine that quiet moments to blog have somewhat been rare . But hey it has all come together and worked out okay as I have now taken up residence in my new home – France
After a journey that took 12 hrs from the UK ( I drove), I have finally arrived. I brought along two friends for the road trip and it was the best thing I ever did. With what seemed like the never-ending journey, it was nice to have people there to talk to and do some of the driving as well!!!
I have now been here a few days and I love my appartment, which is in a really odd location. It is like having an appartment in the middle of Oxford Circus or Times Square (on a far smaller scale) but when you are inside it is so quiet, you can hear a pin drop. Having my friends here has been a great buffer because we can behave like tourists and we have suitably been conned like tourists
It was a beautiful day and we went for a dinner at a restaurant where there were lots of people sitting outdoors, wearing summer sandals and shades, there was this sort of summer evening chilled out feel to it. We thought a crisp chilled bottle of Rose would be the perfect accompaniment to this beautiful summerish evening. The waiter asks us if we would like a bottle from Bordeaux or South of France. It was no contest, South of France obviously!! He promptly proceeded to tell us that was an excellent choice. In my head I felt validated that he agreed with my choice, it of course showed I had impeccable taste.
The Rose was divine, perfect with my seabass with pesto and vegetables. The waitress came over with the menu again to see if we wanted dessert. We were stuffed like Christmas turkeys but hey it doesn’t hurt to look right . At that point we were thinking about the bill and making mental calculations of what this would come up to, I mean we had a rough idea of what our food was but we actually did not know what the wine was. As i scan the menu- there were only two options for the Rose, one was 28 euros and the other was 65 euros (approx £44 or $87 or 627 rand for Chitty). Okay kids can you guess which one we had just guzzled?????? I mean considering that I consider spending £5 on a bottle of vino, as somewhat of a luxury, you can imagine the guilt I felt about this. We sat there smiling like demented freaks. You know that kind of smile that you smile when you are shocked but you don’t want to show that you are shocked. We thought it was hilarious, we have just been done up like a kipper, as we say in UK. The waiter saw us coming. Why did we not look at the menu? We just got carried away.. This bottle had just cost us two times more that the actual meal.
We learned a valuable lesson that day, at least I have. Considering that I did not have a job, I can’t afford to be throwing money away like that. But my friend did make me feel better as she said, as it was my first night in the city, we should consider it our celebration dinner (love my friends). Besides it gave me perfect blog material
There are various things that I love about being in this part of the world but bitten to death by mosquitos is not one of them. The little infectious suckers are eating me alive and I have stupidly not taken any Malaria tablets beforehand. It was rather silly of me but I was so busy I totally forgot. Malaria is something that I dread getting as it is not only a horrible illness, it kills!!
I got my hair braided today for less that five pounds (approx $8 for the benefit of my American chums), this would have cost me 60 pounds in the UK. Money goes so much further here, however I do feel guilty when I go to the market with my sister, as she will haggle the hind legs off a donkey but I always think whatever we are buying is so cheap (to me) that I feel so bad for trying to get it at an even reduced price. Of course the reality is different for my sister who lives in the country, although she is better off than a lot of other people, she does not get paid European or American wages.
Being here can be so weird at times because it is so conservative, little things like my men wearing any form of jewellery like earrings or braiding their hair (as like hip hop artists) is seen as a vagabondish thing to do, it indicates that they are rogues . Women can’t enter a Catholic church wearing trousers and have to cover their heads with scarves, but when I got church in the the UK, I usually wear jeans and some sort of top.
Money is a huge factor in your standing in this society. It is the same everywhere but more so here. If you are twenty three years old and have a lot of money, someone who is sixty something treats you like a God. They would call you ‘madame’ or ‘sir’ just because you have better financial status. It is somewhat sad.
Ooops I have to cut this blog short prematurely
To be continued………………
Before my jaunt to France, I decided to take a detour via West Africa to see some of my folks. This part of the world feels like God’s personal sauna. It is absolutely baking and I have never sweated so much in my life. Cold showers and sitting in air conditioned rooms is not doing it. Simple things like eating makes me break out in a sweat!! You can never wear the same clothes twice without washing it but hey it is doing wonders for my skin. Be under no illusions, black folks do tan!! I am probably five shades darker and my skin is thankful for all the heat, sunshine and sweat.
I love coming back home (and it does feel like home), although I was born and predominately raised in a different part of the world. The heat matches the warmth and passion of the people. Although it is a developing part of the world, with huge amounts of poverty, the people are happy and thankful for they what they have. It makes me appreciate what I have and things that I take for granted, like running water, constant electricity, a free health service, and plentiful food. I feel lucky to have been born into a family that had such things but I look around and see young kids selling things on the roadside in the sweltering heat when at that age I was at school with no cares in the world.
I think after France my next challenge would be to see whether, I can survive half a year here. As much as I love it, there are things that drive me nuts about the place. I will save that for another post
The food is so good and fresh, you can actually taste the meat. It might have something to do with the fact that the poor chicken was probably running around minding its’ own business a day or so prior. The fruits and vegetables are not these perfectly looking ‘stepford wives’ type things, the carrots have peculiar shapes and sizes, and are gloriously imperfect. I am not sure if they have even heard of genetically modified. The processed stuff that is eaten here is mostly imported and I hope it is kept that way.