Sunday, September 4, 2011

100 % knackered

The biggest piece of information I have to impart is - I got a bike, and am in love with it! Any excuse to get it out, and I do. I'm literally obsessed with it, and with the idea of taking it anywhere I can. Before I go on to describe my biking habits - as I'm sure many of you are desperate to hear about that particular aspect of my life - let me begin by sketching out brief outlines of the 'friends' I have come to acquire over the past 3 days. Before I begin, I'll give you a 'too long - didn't read' breakdown: it's pretty shabby.

  • Marcel - NB: not his actual name, but a name I have chosen to give him due to his grandfatherly like ways. This is a guy I met when sitting the entry exams back in June, along with a second guy (T-Bo), who will be moving down here on the 12th. Anyway, we started chatting, kept in touch, and have basically been spending every day together. For those of you who like to put a face to a name - he's basically really tall, with hair down to his waist, a mad kind of goatee thing (I'm afraid I'm not au fait with men's facial hair terms), and wears stuff from army surplus. Here are a few interesting facts and things about him:
      • He hates bikes with a passion, because they go too fast and are wobbly
      • He is anti-social, apparantly
      • He plays electric guitar
      • He's French
      • He has a pretty shit studio, but it's right next to the university. Seriously, I went to visit this place,'s quite dismal. It's the same kind of structure as mine, except it's ground floor and reaaaally dark, and to get to the bed you climb up this shaky weird ladder, and downstairs is the kitchen, a desk, and a space you can just about turn 360 degrees in. Anyway, this guy seems like a nice, generous person. We've been striding/cycling around town together everyday, setting ourselves objectives ('today, we will fight the CAF system', 'today, we shall locate the book market', 'today, we will find a park that isn't covered in dog shit'). The reason I say in my title that I am physically broken, is due to all of this pavement-pounding. We have literally been covering the town for 4/5/6 hours at a time without stopping, mainly due to getting lost. Not only that, but it also happens to be 30 bloody degrees out here, and I cannot STAND it anymore. Especially when surrounded by golden-skinned cool as a cucumber French women. I'm just standing there, melting into the road, my uncooked-chicken-style English skin slowly fizzing under the beating sun, hair plastered to my head. I caught a glimpse of myself in a car window, and the only adjective that came to mind was 'florid'. Shudder.
    • Erfal: this guy is from Iran, and lives on the same corridor as me. We first met when I was outside having a smoke and he was moving a box into his room - his room, which just so happens to be the worst room in the world. The door faces right onto the fire escape, so basically you get everyone coming in and out all the time. The window faces out onto the main road, so you've got the traffic noise. And it's also right on the corner of the building, so the wall where the bed goes is at an angle, so the bed actually doesn't fit. Nevertheless, he seems like a pretty cheery chap. He comes out to sit with me when he hears me going out for a smoke, which is nice. He's 26 and studying graphic design, but is also working part-time so seems quite busy. He also seems to have this massive group of Iranian friends here in Strasbourg, so obviously when I mentioned shisha off he went, inviting me to a shisha bar his friends go to near the train station. Doesn't sound shady at all. He took me into his room to discuss the angle problem with me ("what is solution? None is here! What can I do, Ali?"). Yes, he seems to think my name is Ali, so this evening I wrote it down on a post-it for him, despite his protests of "but I know your name!" No. No you don't. So he showed me this video he made for his friend who is leaving Strasbourg. He showed me all 8 minutes of it, a photo montage set to a wailing, slit-your-wrists Iranian trad song. 8 minutes is a long time when you're trying to keep smiling. Then he gave me a glass of milk, and I left. This morning, he wanted to know about my bike, and wanted to see it so he could judge whether I paid a good price for it (I had). Then he asked me if I'd used my door key to open the bike shed, to put my bike there where he keeps his. Actually, my key doesn't work in the lock, but I realized that I could fit my child-like wrist through the metal wiring and turn the lock from the other side of the door. He found this hilarious, and went on a "aren't the French just SO fucking stupid?" rant. Then he tried, and his hand fit through too. Conclusion: the bike shed lock is bogus. This evening, I staggered in from yet another day of exhausting physical endeavours. My feet look like the feet of animals: dirty, hoof-like, but hooves with CLAWS. I have these massive weeping blisters on my feet, I mean they look like the feet of an actual tramp (UK meaning, not US). So I dragged myself up the stairs and onto the fire escape, where I had a smoke, and Erfal came out and gave me some peaches, and had a great laugh over today's escapade: me and Marcel left my bike somewhere in town, crawled around under the hot sun like bloated ageing lizards for 3 hours, and then spent 2 bad-tempered hours going round and round that fucking cathedral trying to find the side-street where I left my bike. Everyone we asked for directions was a tourist, and did that big smile "hahaha, I'm a tourist, I can't help you, isn't that funny?" thing that just made me want to punch them in the fanny pack. Erfal enjoyed that story, and much laughter was had. We spoke for a good hour about Arabic and Persian, and how Europeans assume they're the same just because they use the same alphabet and numbers, like how Iranians assume Italian and English is the same. Crazy.
  • UK Girl: here's a new one. There's this English girl coming to be an assistant, and she arrived today. We casually arranged by Facebook to meet for a drink when she got here, except this evening I was checking my messages and saw one that read 'Hi Hannah, this is UK Girl's Mum. She can't get internet working, she's in Strasbourg, here's her number, please text her she wants to meet tomorrow'. Mkay! Soooo: tomorrow I'll be meeting someone new! Will take the bike, bien sur. I'm not gonna lie - having lived with S, I am finding now that I miss being able to speak to someone in my own language, to natter away naturally. I don't want a big gaggle of anglophone friends, it's not what I'm about, the whole cliquey 'brits abroad' scene, would be nice to have someone who understands where I'm coming from culturally, and who you can have that easy relationship with.
So there you have it guys. It always starts off slow when you move somewhere, and cobble together the beginnings of a life. Rest assured that I am exhausted, but vey happy. I will leave you with some images of what I cycle by every day to get home:

The Orangerie park right next to chez moi!

Random EU buildings on the way into town - I can almost smell the over-priced EU-approved packed lunches wafting on the air as I whizz past the men in suits chomping away on those grassy banks

1 comment:

  1. I see what you mean about not wanting to have so many Brit friends. When I first arrived in Paris, I didn't want American friends but now that I've been there for a few years, I've made some great American friends (and some real piece of shit ones too : / ) but theres something nice about speaking in your native tongue. You'll get your groove of a nice mix of Frenchies and Anglos!

    LOL - I love what you wrote about 'Marcel's' 'shit studio'!! AHAHAHAHAHA! Studios in Paris can be pretty crusty!