Since last Friday a chain reaction of events happened... I talked to a friend (M) who told me all sorts of things about herself and the people in this school and this town. I also told her about some problems I was having with this other friend of mine (K) who is of course 'related' to her through 6 degrees of separation. Actually it's even less than 6. She is friends with his sister!
This past Thursday night, I spent 2 hours talking to a friend here at the school (Y) and I casually mentioned K and he tells me it's his brother's friend/former classmate. I swear everyone in this entire town is linked somehow.
I get along really really well with him and we can talk about pretty much any subject under the sun. Apart from M, he's another dear friend to me as he actually told me he wanted to show me a job ad he found for me, as well as some photos from Time or National Geographic, and told me that even though they are beautiful, I could take better pictures than that.
After that I then spent an hour talking to the Italian assistant. I feel like I'm getting closer and closer to all the people I know here* and then when I think that one day I'm going to have to leave this town leaves me with a horrible feeling inside.
This past Friday night, I hung out with M again and we both had a blast! There are actually a lot of things to do even if you live in a small town - but you need a car. There are so many other towns/cities nearby to drive to within one hour and she showed me a few in one night.
I was aching, dying for some Asian food so she took me to an all-you-can-eat Chinese buffet (buffet à volonté) and it was awesome! We also went to an Asian supermarket (épicerie) for me to stock up on supplies... I can't believe I was so excited to see something that I an fined easily all over Sydney. The shop owner also wished us a Happy Chinese New Year (something I almost forgot about, and along with Australia Day, I did not celebrate this year) :(
She took me to this shopping mall (centre commercial) that was opened until 10:30pm! Unbelievable. There were also restaurants there and a big cinema complex. The funny thing was, she was so excited to show me this and then I told her that they are a dime a dozen in Sydney and much much bigger too. At times like this I feel like France is 30 years behind Australia!!
We'd invited the Italian assistant but she decided not to come (because she wanted to go out with someone else) and she really missed out. She even told me she regretted not coming after I showed her the photos I took and told her all about our wonderful girls night out...
So that night I told M about my continuing problems with K and she gave me a whole lot of advice.. we even did a role play in the car where I was me, and she was K, and it had us both in stitches!
The next day (Saturday 5 Feb) I was due to meet K and I had no idea what was in store.. The day started off badly because I thought we were meeting around lunchtime and then we didn't meet up until 5pm. Whilst waiting I managed to watch 2 movies that I recently downloaded so that was good.. I like watching movies to 'escape' from my everyday life.
I assumed by 5pm it would be practically dark but it wasn't and K took me to visit this big, beautiful Fort, which coincidentally I'd passed with M the night before, and even asked her what it was (because it was all lit up when nothing else was).
I never mentioned that I'd passed it the night before and I didn't even get a chance to tell K that I'd like to go and see it and he took me there. Talk about a strange and wonderful coincidence!! Unfortunately we got there too late or on the wrong day or wrong entrance or something (I'm not sure what) so we couldn't actually go inside... It was getting dark and very cold though so we'll have to revisit it another day.
That was just the start of our adventures though.
That night, K was going to take me to a restaurant located literally in the middle of nowhere. He thought he knew how to get there but we got lost. Let me try to paint a picture of it all.
It was almost 9pm by then (our reservation was for 8:30pm) and when I haven't eaten for that long I tend to get very very light-headed. Then, due to all the winding roads (virages) I was getting super nauseous. I should add that it was also pitch black with no street lights whatsoever, no other cars to be seen, we were in the woods, and we were at an altitude of 1200m. There was snow all over the side of the roads that had never melted (because we were so high up). My ears even started to hurt a bit due to the change in altitude. I joked that I was Little Red Riding Hood and he was the Wolf and about to take me into the woods and eat/kill me...
Suffice to say, I was not feeling the greatest. And we were lost. With zero phone reception. A part of me in the inside wanted to scream and cry at the same time. I very very very nauseated. We just kept going and going and eventually we got one tiny bar of phone reception and K called his dad for directions and later called the restaurant as well. I was already thinking about what the heck we're gonna eat/drink if we can't find it as we were in the middle of nowhere!!
When we stopped (to try and get reception) I got out of the car for a split second (it was freezing) and looked up at the sky and I don't think I had ever seen anything like it in my entire life. The sky was FILLED with stars! Because we were so high up and so far from civilisation the beautiful cloudless sky was dark, and the stars were so bright and there were SO MANY of them. There was hardly any space between each of the stars. I was blown away and mesmerised and temporarily forgot how hungry I was...
Luckily. Thankfully. Finally. We found it. Yay! Well, K found it. I did nothing except close my eyes wishing that the horrible nauseating OMG-please-don't-throw-up feeling would go away.
Once we got to the restaurant, all was fine. Despite it being 9pm, noone had started eating! These Frenchies sure eat dinner late (but not as late as the Spanish do, as I keep getting told). I kept eyeing the bread and wishing the waitress would hurry up and bring it to us. When she did, we both chowed down like two hungry dogs (or wolves? ;) ) K decided to order the speciality which was the frogs' legs (cuisses de grenouilles) and they were really delicious. Lots of tiny little bones though. Covered in garlic, butter and some kind of green herb (not sure which one). It was served with cheesey baked potato (gratin dauphinois ? gee those French names escape me now) and grilled tomatoes. We were totally stuffed and including wine, it cost only 30 euros altogether.
I decided it was totally worth the wait and getting lost etc etc. Walking back to the car I looked at the sky again and it was one of those moments in my life where I'm so utterly breathtaken I could cry....
The next day (ie today, Sunday, 6 Feb) I thought it would be fun to have a picnic. This weekend has displayed gorgeous delicious sunny warm weather. Today it was 16° and felt like summer to me. No coat, hat, scarf or gloves. So so nice and warm. Totally windless.
Well I thought we wouldn't make it to Carrefour in time (it closes at 12:30pm on a Sunday) but we did and it seemed like the whole town was there. I bumped into someone at the school shopping with her husband and kids. I wanted to buy a baguette or croissant or some bread thing but there was nothing left! K decided we should just go to McDonalds so we did. I said I was not in the mood to bump into anyone from the school again (I like to keep my private life and my work life separate thank you very much, but it's impossible in a small town!) so we went though the drive-through. It doesn't sound like a big deal but having something like that in France, in a small town, is a huge deal. It's like something that's... so... erm... futuristic and cool! haha
It was my idea to have the picnic but it was K's idea about where we should go. I was completely blown away by where he took me. I've seen quite a bit of my town and surrounding areas but I had never been to this spot before. It's just one of those places that all the locals know but I would have no idea if noone told me. And the weather was gorgeous. And it seemed like everyone else thought the same thing too as the tiny carpark there was full.
We were at an altitude of 1000m and could see the entire Alps region and all the mountains - Mont Blanc, Chamonix and more. There was also snow there that had never melted and it was the best feeling for me, being able to see and be in the snow and yet be deliciously warm in the 16° sun. It looked like a dreamy painting with wispy clouds as well.
So we had our McDonalds picnic there and enjoyed a lovely sunny afternoon together... That conversation I had rehearsed in the car with M? Well I never ended up having it because I didn't need to! Everything ended up being perfect.
It was a perfect weekend. I couldn't have asked for anything more. Je suis très contente. I am so thankful for all the (few) wonderful close friends I've made here.
Sorry, a bit off topic...
* When I was in primary school, all my friends were female (well most). Then in high school, I had a few male friends but I still mainly hung around females only and then in my early 20s I hung out with my boyfriend or other male friends. I had both female and male friends but probably a bit more of the latter. Then I reverted to females again and avoided males for a few years and now, I have more male friends again although I get along equally well with both, it just depends on the person.
It's really interesting when you talk about the same topic/issue with a female, and then with a male. The ideas and advice shared are totally different. I admit it's quite hard to be friends with French females. Especially single ones. I don't know why that is. It's easier to be friends with married ones with kids but those that are still single tend to be quite bitchy and competitive. I know I am generalising but that's what I feel. I felt the same thing in university where I studied a course that was 75% female.
I went to a co-educational high school and so did my sister but I have plenty of friends who went to single sex schools. Teaching in a co-ed school now, and observing the teenagers... I still stand by my opinion that this is a better way to go. I still can't understand what's the point of trying to segregate the sexes when we live in a co-ed world? I see how easily the boys and girls mingle here (and I assume it's the same everywhere in France)... I remember reading somewhere that 'boys night out' and 'girls night out' are less common here and from my experiences I would tend to agree. The sexes just mingle harmoniously and you don't go to a party to find all the women in the kitchen and the men slacking off. In fact, from what I've seen and experienced, the men are just as competent (if not more) as the women and will quite happily help out. I think this is getting a bit too long and way off the topic of my wonderful weekend, so I will write more about my thoughts on this topic in a later blogpost.