5 days in. And as a few people kindly pointed on to me on Facebook, I seem to have a penchant for posting whiny/complaining/negative status updates, which perhaps is leading everyone to believe that either a) I’m not having a good time or b) I’m a whiny bitch. I’m fairly certain that neither or these options apply to me, but I think perhaps I lean towards the negative ’cause I don’t want to sound like I’m bragging or that I think I am way more fortunate than all the other poor souls that are slogging away at their regular lives back home. Also, neither of which are true.
In actuality, I am doing quite well in Bordeaux. That’s not to say that there haven’t been things to adjust to (the plethora of mosquitoes, the seeds in my grapes and the bizarro corkscrew in my apartment), but I’ve been solving problems left, right and centre, and therefore brushing up on my “suck it up and get over it” skills.
BUT, just in case you still aren’t totally convinced, I’ve decided to compile a list of some of my experiences thus far in Bordeaux. It’s a mish-mash of things – things I’ve noticed, experienced, thought about. But here’s what Bordeaux has shown me so far:
• it is HOT here. And there are some spectacular middle-of-the-night thunderstorms, which I am not used to, having grown up on the west coast of BC. The other night, I sat in amazement at my window and watched lightning at 4:30am.
• balled-up toilet paper works great as earplugs, if you don’t want to spend money on the expensive pink ones in the grocery store. You cannot hear mosquitoes through toilet paper.
• small children who speak a different language are positively, wanna-pinch-their-cheeks-and-put-them-on-a-shelf, adorable.
• apparently, I look German. Or Swiss. Or Swedish. These were the first three guesses my French teacher had for my nationality before giving up.
• 18-22 year olds are fearless. I have encountered a few of them in my travels here and in Ireland, and all of them are extremely confident, friendly and willing to do/try anything. I remember when I used to be like that.
• not many people in their mid-30′s travel solo. I am one of the few people at my French school who fit into the 30-40 year old void. Most students are either less than 27ish, or older than 50ish. The young people don’t know quite what to do with me, but are mostly friendly. The older people seem to be afraid of me.
• I’m not lonely. I am alone for the majority of my days and nights, but I’m pretty content.
• It’s more comfortable to eat alone in a restaurant when there are other solo diners. It makes you feel more normal.
• It’s really, really, REALLY hard to eat alone without pretending to have, or actually having, something else to do (eg. checking your iPhone, reading a book etc.). It feels like you “should” be doing something, or have at least a reason to be eating alone. Otherwise, you end up staring at people and/or listening in on their conversations, and that makes you feel creepy.
• Hearing an English conversation in the street after being surrounded by French all day is particularly jarring. You find yourself wanting to talk to that person, whoever they may be, just so that you can feel intelligent once again.
• Nothing makes you feel more stupid than not being able to fully communicate in a language. It is also really, really difficult to be humorous. I feel like a very boring, extremely unintelligent person when I (try to) speak French.
• Spanish and Brazilian men shave their legs and arms (well, at the last the ones I’ve met). There is a 19-year old Spanish dude in my French class who has sexier legs than me. The 28-year old Brazilian guy has his mom or his girlfriend shave his back for him. Men back home would be mortified to admit something like this, but to these guys, it is totally 100% normal.
• Buying groceries in another country is perhaps the most alienating thing I’ve done. None of the food looks the same, and everything is weird (eg. eggs and milk are kept on shelves and not in the cooler; they sell guacamole mix and avocados, but no tortilla chips; bottles of wine are sold in the grocery store for only 2 euros – approx. $3; you cannot buy one single bulb of garlic – you must buy 6 in a bag).
• I never seem to be hungry. Ever. I cook dinner around 8pm at night, only because I feel like I “should” not because I’m actually hungry.
• Every day this week, I have walked past the same incredibly pregnant woman on my way to school. Today was the only day that I didn’t see her and I wonder if she has had her baby.
• Instead, this morning, I walked past a 20-something dude, sauntering down the main drag of Bordeaux in a bright pink bathrobe.
• Bordeaux is an incredibly beautiful city (in fact, it’s now a UNESCO World Heritage Site), but I don’t think the Bordelais realize how gorgeous this city really is. Funny how sometimes even the most amazing things become commonplace when we see them every day.
In closing, just to showcase how gorgeous this city is, these are some of the sites I see every day, walking to class: