Wednesday, September 1, 2004

In the Loupe, Chapter 1

In the Loupe: vol. I

Salut les amis!!

I'm getting better with this French keyboard, so I'm ready to tackle a group letter. Also, it's four hundred degrees outside and I'm living up the cyber cafe air conditioning.

Let me tell you something: this is the most beautiful place on earth. There's nothing to be done. For those of you who don't know, I'm here as a English teacher for nine months and I'm doing the group letters as per requested, but if you're not into it, I'll take you off the list. No hard feelings, no clogged inbox, done and done.

A few things for you to know: Guadeloupe = Gwa-duh-loop and it's a French island in the Caribbean, near Grenada and Dominican Republic and that group. It's a whole lot bigger than I thought, though I have a habit of talking out of my ass, as when I imagined that I would walk to the beach from any house on the island and would know everybody within a week. There's lots of people and they live far apart, and there you have it.
Listen, if you want to say Guadeloupay, that's just fine. Kind of exciting, and I, for one, love excitement. Just stop calling it Guatemala.

Karine is the lady in charge of the English department of this region, so she picked me up at the airport and has treated me like family. It so happens that her kids are the cutest two people I've ever met, and they think I'm the funniest thing on the planet. Something about the face I make when I get sea water in my throat: always a favourite.

So Karine found me a place to stay, three houses down from her, in a room and bathroom flat in the house of Cinette (see-net), a sassy older lady with lots of funny habits and a sometimes friendly way. I'm torn because I would love to stay, and there are many advantages to living in a furnished house with laundry, ironing board, fridge and so on, not to mention Karine's family right nearby -- and Cinette has a piano! and it's in tune! -- but the buses don't run after 6:00 p.m. or on week-ends, and I need to take the bus to get anywhere near town, the beach or, presumably, school. (I start teaching on Friday, so I find out my schools on Thursday -- opa!) So I'm looking closer to town as well, and as I'm paying by the week, if anything comes up then I can relocate. On the other hand, Cinette's son is super cute and he visits often... am I that shallow, to give up convenience to see a cute boy from time to time? Well, we'll have to see. Very probably yes.

Though, you want cute boys? Come to Guadeloupe! Shit man, they're everywhere. Beautiful people. Men, women, children, old, young, no matter: frankly, it's a bit irritating. I'd better get tanned and fit in a hurry, because everyone here is out of a calendar and I'm feeling it.

Anyway, that's the background. Fun details:

-Speed limit, shpeed limit! Stay the hell out of the roads.

-If you have to go anywhere, you'll have to go uphill. Unless you stay in the water. And it's steep, and it's bloody hot out -- the deal is that no one cares about sweat, and sweat is what you do. I walked up to the bakery yesterday and my legs were shaking on the way down! Karine says hers get sore sometimes too, but I think she's just being nice; she jogs in the neighbourhood. And everyone says hello as you pass and sometimes they like to stop and talk, so I'm standing there, gasping for breath, hot, shaky, trying to sound interested about this year's banana crop... it's so exciting.

-I'm the bottom half of the island (which is shaped like a butterfly), Basse-Terre, and it's the volcanic half (black sand beaches) and the banana half, so very lush and banana-filled. White sand and sugar plantations on Grande-Terre, the top half.

-This is my all-time favourite: you can own a cow or a goat and not have any land yourself, so you drive it around and tie it up on random grassy patches. So everywhere you drive, you see cows and goats by the side of the road, in the middle of a round-about, above the beach.... lots of animal action.

I don't know what else; everything is new and different and it's hard to describe. The water is amazing and people set up drumming circles on the beach, so you have singing and drumming in the background as you tackle the waves. Every corner I turn is more beautiful than the last, every beach more stunningly situated and every house lovelier. And everybody keeps complaining about the crazy heat, which is fantastic because it means it isn't just me; it's exceptionally hot these days.

On the other hand, damn Beyonce is playing on the radio right now -- can we never escape?

I heard these two guys speaking English beside me and was just about to say something, but then -- uh-oh! -- little name tags and something about Jesus Christ... goddamn missionaries, even in Guadeloupe. They're wearing their stupid black pants and long-sleeved shirts, though, even though it's close to 40 degrees out, so that's what they get.

One other problem: my accent is good enough that I sound French, if not from a region people know. But my actual French has some -- yes, we'll say "some" -- holes in it, especially with local accents and words, so people think I'm simple. She speaks French, clearly, but she doesn't know what a ___ is? Moron.
So I'm all about mentioning right away that I'm new here in hopes that they'll ask where from; I feel weird about throwing Canada in unprovoked. But then they're convinced that I'm from Quebec, so it doesn't help -- is it time to pretend to be American? Have the tables turned?

I hope I'm not rubbing it in your faces that I'm in paradise and you're not -- that's really too bad for you guys. A crying shame. Wooooooooooo Guadeloupe!

All right, that's it. I'm going to venture back into the heat to find some goggles and a laundry bag -- you have to forget something at home -- and I hope you're all well and happy. Let me tell you, though: Karine and her family, while not pale, are not brown, either. So maybe I won't be that tanned when I get home, after all. What a bust. You won't believe I was here!

Puff Daddy just came on the radio - that's my cue: à la prochaine!


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