Sunday, February 1, 2009

Odds and Ends, Bric a brac, Bits and Pieces

It's been a few days now since my last post, and I suppose it's about time for an update--with the dead cat and the Inauguration, I realize, also, that I haven't yet had time to recount my hijinks from last weekend, and now I have another weekend story to recount, as well.

I'm just gonna throw this out there and say that last weekend I survived a hurricane. There's no skirting around it. I was in a hurricane. There was a lot of wind, 16 people died, and I was there. Granted, it was only a Category 2, but it was still a hurricane. A few of the other assistants and I decided to head to Beziers to visit a another few assistants that live and teach there. We thought we'd do some site-seeing, too, since Beziers is supposed to be quite a nice place. We knew there was a wind storm predicted, but this area of France is always really windy and so we thought nothing of it. We arrived fairly late on Friday because of the train schedules, and didn't have time for much before bed but some wine and card games. The plan was to get up the next morning and go site-seeing before taking a 2:00pm train home. When we got up, the wind was blowing something fierce, and we found out that the storm was a bit more serious than we had anticipated. Site-seeing was not really an option--we would have gotten blown away in more-than-gale-force winds. We pushed our way to the train station, and "indefinite delay" was flashing on all of the incoming and outgoing trains at the Beziers station. We hung around the station for a while, hoping that the signage would change, only to be kicked out of the station as they were chaining everything up and locking everything down.

We sat around at a cafe for about two or three hours, trying to think of ways to get home. Buses? Nope--not running. Rent a car? Nope--too expensive, I was the only driver, too many people, and I can't drive a manual. Walk? Yeah no. We were stuck in Beziers. Defeated, we walked back to the assistants' apartment, and settled in for a long hurricane's night.

Emma and I again braved the store a bit later to go get groceries for dinner, which also turned out to an adventure in the wind. A baby almost touched my face with his, we almost got attacked by scary dogs, and walked past at least 7 downed trees. We brought back the giggles and weird Chinese food from the grocery store deli (the pork in the main dish tasted like chocolate. I don't think it was done on purpose).

We played a lot of cards, drank some more (though less this time) wine, and tried to play poker with toothpicks while listening to the wind howeling outside, banging against the windows and shaking the 60s building's walls. Poker brings out weird animal instincts to keep what's yours, even if it is just a pile of toothpicks.

The next morning, we picked our way through a slightly less windy city, stepping over fallen branches to the train station, only to see "indefinite delay" again displayed on the arrivals/departures board. There were no trains to Perpignan. Determined to not spend another night in that apartment that seemed to be driving us all slowly crazy, we found out that we could take a train to the nearby town of Narbonne, and then a bus back to Perps, but all trains surrounding Perpignan were down.

We arrived home a good 24 hours later than planned, tired and cranky but glad that electricity was restored before our return. School was cancelled the next day, and it was only on Tuesday or Wednesday that things seemed to return back to normal.

The normalcy was shattered on Thursday with a nation-wide general strike, to demonstrate the people's sentiment that the global economic crisis should not affect their jobs (what a better way to say "don't fire me or cut my pay" than not showing up to work for a day). The strike effectively shut down transportation in France, into France, and out of France, as it extended to Air France, buses, and trains as well. Schools were still open, but no one went. Post offices were closed. Even some restaurants, grocery stores, and clothes stores were closed. I pity anyone who went into labor or needed emergency medical services on Thursday last, because even hospital workers in France are allowed to strike. Hospital workers! This country and their effing strikes! It's a joke, really. They plan a strike for ONE day, and they think it will accomplish something. The point of a strike is to force society into realizing the importance of your work--which is exactly what happened when the Boeing machinists went on strike for almost three months. One day without mailing a letter isn't going to help--especially when the point of the strike is to protest the economic crisis. Ridiculous.


Yesterday I took a ski trip with the university and a few other assistants up into the Pyrenees. Yes that's right, I am so posh now, so European, that I took a skiing holiday to the Pyrenees. How bourgeoisie is that? We went to a place called Formigueres, and it was lovely and snowy and beautiful, but I was not confident enough of my skiing prowess to bring my camera onto the slopes, so unfortunately I have no pictures to share. But, I was much better the second time up skiing than I was last year at Baker. I can stop now, and turn, rather than hurtle straight down the mountain and run into a tree, snow bank, or another skier.

Not much else to report. I haven't taken the bus in a while, so I am not sure if the cat is still there, but I am betting it is.


Heather said...

You say that striking for one day doesn't prove how useful the workers are... but if the hospital workers actually strike there? I would say that one day is all it takes to make Them look pretty darn indispensable!

Ashley said...

True, true. The hospital workers...that does work. But, I don't know. I still doubt the usefulness of a one-day strike for most other professions.