Mes chers famies*,
I arrived in Angers relatively hassle-free. I lucked out with a first-class seat on the plane and since I’ll never have it that good again, I’ll probably never come home. From there, I took a train to Angers which passed through picturesque countryside, full of peasants sticking out their tongues to catch the wine that rains from the sky in France. (Okay, that part might be an exaggeration. There were no peasants.)
Despite having a feather bed and several servants in the first class section, I was cracked-out tired by the time I reached Angers. I took a taxi to the foyer where I thought I had reserved a room for the night, only to be told that I could only have a room if I would take it for a month. I was so desperate to put down my bags and shower that I begrudgingly agreed, gritted my teeth and handed over my credit card for them to rob me blind, and then burst into hysterical tears when I realized that I had to carry more than my body weight up four flights of stairs.
It’s a weird place. A foyer is just a dormitory where you don’t have to be a student to live there, though I get the sense that it’s about 90% students anyway. It’s on the outskirts of Angers, adjacent to a university, so in the neighborhood, I have yet to see anyone over thirty. I wonder if it’s because it’s a college town or because government-subsidized healthcare just wants you to die young? (Mom, that was a joke. I love socialism.) Also, it’s a dudeville. Apparently there’s a boys’ school nearby, so when I walk through the lobby, there’s always a pack of garçons playing billiards.
I don’t really have any meta-understanding of anything that’s going on around me now, so the rest of this initial post will be in list form.
Things that have made me happy:
1. The French do indeed have a national uniform of white boat-necked shirts with thin black stripes.
2. The entire country smells like French bread.
3. I keep feeling super nostalgic for when I first arrived in Cameroon. For instance, right now there are a bunch of dudes playing football among some junk cars outside my window. It’s just like my neighborhood in Yaoundé!
Things that are weird to me:
1. Milk is shelf-stable. These people are really proud of being the inventors of pasteurization.
2. There are digital price tags on the shelf at Monoprix.
3. You enter a building on the zero floor. This means that my third floor walk-up is actually a fourth floor walk-up.
Things that have surprised me:
1. Toilets are different. They don’t have handles; they have buttons.
2. I thought the French would be less wasteful than Americans, but they’re not. For instance, at the grocery store, everything is in small packages. On the one hand, selling milk by the gallon may be one of the jillion reasons that Americans are fat–but selling it by the (warm) liter uses très très plastic. Also, they will not sell you a bottle of water without also giving you a plastic cup to drink from which to drink it. Civilized, yes. Carbon-conscious, no.
Okay, I’m off to meet my new British friend downtown. More soon.
EJ in Angers
*That’s not a real French word. It’s a pun that I made up, combining famille (family, pronounced “fahmee” and) and ami (friend, pronounced “ah, me”).