Friday, February 10, 2006

A few lost bits

I've been trying to wrap my mind around the fact that I've been here in France for four and a half months, which feels like a blink, and also that I only have two and a half months left in my contract. It's funny that, before I left, this all felt like such a monumental and long-term committment; that I'd be handing over a year (oh heavens!) of my life to this life-course-altering experience of Living Abroad. Really, it's little more than an extended holiday. It's like I'm a much dumber person, who has only half a grasp on the language and local ways, who is enjoyed a realllllly long weekend.

That's not to cast it in a negative light. I mean the whole "dumber person" and "half a grasp" in a fun, wonderful way.

Anyway, I've also realized that some things are really becoming normal to me. So normal, in fact, that it doesn't even occur to me to share with people.

When Jim came to visit me, we had this moment when we first walked into town. I was talking about something really insipid, not thinking about the route, as it is the same one I walk to school every day. In a pause during my monologue, Jim said, "This is amazing!" Then I realized that... well, gosh. It is pretty amazing, especially when it's the first time you've ever seen a town like this. I sort of forgot.

This isn't to say that I'm taking this place for granted. I don't know how that would be possible. What I am feeling now, though, is similar to some pre-nostalgic high school senior, months before graduation, saying to myself, "This is the tenth-to-last time I'll ever..." um, I don't know, "buy coffee at Shopi." Suddenly, I'm feeling like I have to take note of every little thing that I see think of every day, as it will, someday, end.

So, in order to get this ball rolling, this little ball of unrecorded things that I'd like to record in my "I'll never forget math class with you!" yearbook sort of way, I'll tell you about the amateur autoshop that goes on behind my building. From my window, you can see a long garage, with 10 ports. In this town, very few buildings have attached garages, or basements, for that matter, so storage space is at a premium. With most of the garages, I never see anybody come or go. Generally, it's a gathering spot for the town's many, many stray cats and that's that. One space, though, is often used. A family has a blue SmartCar, which leaves and returns every day. I've seen the guy working on his car often throughout the year. Recently, though, he's been working on other's cars as well. On the weekend, at about 8 o'clock, people start to gather. It's ususally three men (who actually wear blue coveralls!), a couple of wives and two to four children. The blue SmartCar is there, along with another being worked on, and the junky shell of an old car from which they're salvaging parts. These people spend nearly their whole weekends standing around and working on the cars. Sometimes the radio plays really loudly, but mostly I can just hear everyone chatting and the kids running around, entertaining themselves. Around 1 o'clock, they all leave for lunch. I always think about them, how good it must feel to walk inside after standing in the cold all morning. I always think about how they're probably hungry and how they'll enjoy a huge french lunch with wine and bread and coffee and desserts. I bet they love that, taking off their cold coats and sitting down at the table.


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