Wednesday, March 23, 2005

In the Loupe, Chapter 19

It's not a good idea to write when I'm grumpy, but what can I do - it's a grumpy time. Neighbourhood speculation is that I'm allergic to the mango trees' pollen, as they are currently in bloom and I am currently sneezing every 8 seconds. (Except for when I'm doped up on Drixoral, as I am right now, and the problem is more of the falling-asleep-standing-on-the-sidewalk variety.)

Having to run around the city getting paperwork organized so that I can finally get my social security in order is also a pain, not to mention busting my butt to get to my doctor's appointment and then waiting an hour and a half because everyone's on lunch. (Why give me a 12:30 appointment when lunch is 12:00 to 2:00? Are you KIDDING me with this?)

For your enjoyment - or your vicarious frustration, if you're in the mood - I tell you what's written on the sign on the waiting room wall: your appointment isn't so much a fixed appointment that the doctor has to show up for, but more of a tool to help reduce some of the waiting time. In other words, you come while we're on lunch and wait 90 minutes so that we won't waste our precious time once we get back.
Oh, that Guadeloupe. What a blast.

[For those of you who are interested in the original, perhaps to better understand why there is no future for me in translation: Le rendez-vous que vous donne la secrétaire n'est pas un rendez-vous fixe exigeant l'exactitude du médecin, mais une convocation réduisant une partie de l'attente.] [I know "convocation" isn't "tool" - I was just going for a quick approximation. Get off my back!]

Last week was a good one, though, as a certain Madam Honey came for a visit. Bearing English books (hooray!) and deodorant (it's 8 euros a stick here), my mom came to spend March Break in the sand and sun. It was a bumpy beginning, as snow on the plane's wings caused a delay - snow! I can't even conceive of the stuff! - and she got here two hours late and boiling hot, but once she changed out of her sweater and jeans and we piled her stuff into our wee rented Twingo to head home, it was smooth sailing.

Except that my claims of "don't worry, it's cool at night" were obviously ridiculous to someone who had experience a 50-degree temperature jump in one day, and then it was rainy and gloomy where I had so confidently assured sunshine. Hm.

But the weather returned to normal after the first day and we spent the week visiting various rivers, beaches and hot springs while my mom became pink and relaxed. Not as relaxed as she would have been if she hadn't come to my classes with me, though, as two days among my perma-wired students is a rough part of any holiday. (She wisely elected not to make any second appearances throughout the week.)

She did see my precious ones, the ones I want to smuggle home, and the interesting school lay-outs, and went home with a deeper understanding of why her Caribbean-raised students have so much trouble functioning in a Canadian classroom. The base noise level and the teachers' indifference to schoolyard (or classroom) violence make it hard for kids to suddenly sit still and keep their hands and comments to themselves. This is a good lesson for me as well; next time my blood boils into my throat and I find myself going for a ten-year-old’s jugular, instead of shouting, “I hate you! Shut up! For the love of God, shut up!” I will simply smile, zen-like, and remember that the problem is a question of cultural differences and I embrace cultural differences. I. Embrace. Cultural. Differences.

The definite low point for us both was Wednesday. It’s my day off and we were going to do some glass-bottomed boating with a little bit of snorkel fun tossed in at the end. The bus got there just three minutes after the boats left (both boats leave at the same time, which is obviously BRILLIANT) so we stayed on and went another hour along the lovely coast to Deshaies and its gorgeous beach.

I thought it was pretty crappy when a huge wave sucked me under, rolled me around, went up my nose AND stole my all-time favourite and very stylish army-green Che Guevera-style cap, which I was wearing to protect my fragile scalp from the sun, if you must know. (In all fairness, though, I only have the hat because I saw it on Bronwyn and she looked so super cute that I went out and shamelessly bought the same one. Such flagrant style-biting rarely goes unpunished, so here is my one-year-later karma coming back to bite me where karma bites you, and I think you all know where that is.)

I saw things more in context, though, and realized that a lost cap isn’t such a big deal, when we went back to our stuff and discovered that Mom’s money and my cell phone had been stolen out of our bags. How do you like THAT. And the worst thing is that it’s this punk kid I met on my last visit to Deshaies, when he tried to convince me that the waves went further up the sand hill than I thought and I should move my stuff closer to the forest where it’s safe and dry. Not so stupid as that, little man, I thought smugly to myself, I know what game you’re playing and I am not a sucker.

But then I saw him on the beach this time, definitely recognized him, and STILL went confidently in the water because I thought he had left, while he was most probably sitting in the forest behind us, waiting for us to leave all our valuables and run carelessly into the water. You know what that makes me? A sucker.

We called the police and went into the station to make a report. They knew exactly who we meant, confirmed by our finding the right mug shot (mug shot! I thought it was just a little beach brat!), and halfway through our statement-making they got a phone call from the punk’s sister – his family clearly as tired as we are of his punkish ways – saying that he was walking down X street with the cell phone he “found on the beach.” The cops caught him, but not before he was able to dump my phone, either in a friend’s bag or over a bridge or I don’t know where. Interestingly, there is significantly less concern over the rights of the accused here, as the cops went through the kid’s pockets in front of us, found Mom’s money, called some chief guy to okay the thing and handed it over to us. And that took care of that.

Various people I know have since claimed to have extra cell phones they’d be happy to lend me for the rest of the year. All I have to do is buy a SIM card, and I don’t know what that means but apparently it’s cheap and will do the trick. Things tend to fall through here, though, and people are quick to offer unsolicited help but then disappear for three months, so I’m not actually counting on anything coming through. For all that I hate cell phones, when it’s all you’ve got and then you don’t have it anymore – with all the phone numbers in it and the alarm clock, not to mention people calling and getting my answering machine and not understanding why I’m not calling back – it’s a big hassle. Hotmail keeps shutting down, I have no phone, most of the phone booths in Basse-Terre have been vandalized… I’m uncontactable! Woooooo!

So Bronwyn arrives on Saturday, in the middle of the Easter week-end shut-down. The streets are already empty (everyone’s camping on the beaches and eating crab, as is the Easter tradition) and the buses M.I.A. today, the Tuesday before Good Friday, so I’m a bit nervous about our chances of finding a car rental/bus/hitchhike in the middle of the week-end. However. We will find a way, we always do here in sunny Guadeloupe: Pa ni pwoblem.

I hope there's no more snow to shovel and that you have lots of Easter chocolate to keep you warm.


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