Sunday, July 8, 2007

Kathryn Goes Republican, Chapter Six

My biggest disappointment with Hotel Fun life (if it's really possible to choose the biggest...) is the lack of contact with the country in which I'm supposedly living. Having come here as an attempt to relive Guadeloupe, I've been getting itchy for rivers and jungles and mountains and all the things that you're supposed to have in the tropics, more than just pretty beaches – and the same pretty beach every day, at that.

So when Mateo, a painter with the maintenance team here, invited me for a day at the river, I was torn between my desperately wanting to go and my not so much wanting to hang out with Mateo all day. Which turned out to be exactly the right way to feel; the river was gorgeous and soothing and all manner of good things, and Mateo was irritating and heavy and couldn't go five minutes without coming back to how pretty I was and how much he would love to have a girlfriend like me and how he knew I wasn't looking for a relationship but (sigh) it sure would be nice to give it a try and see where it could lead...

So this week, I went with Emmanuel and Cristobal, a couple of buddies from the restaurant – it’s hard to co-ordinate because we don’t have the same day (or days, for them) off, but they start their night shift at 3:00 p.m. so we met bright and early and did a river morning instead of a full day. I knew it would be perfect from the moment I saw them, waiting at the ugly basilica for my bus to pull in, wearing their regular clothes instead of uniforms (obviously, but it's a change for me), holding an assortment of fruit that they wanted me to try; sometimes I have so much love for these guys that my heart feels like it's going to burst out through my skin. (I don't think I can explain it properly to you – I certainly can't explain it to them – but there it is. Giant, aching love for people I'll never see again after August.) We went all three on Emmanuel's motorcycle, which I thought was really pushing it but turned out to just be really cozy – when Ambioris met up with us and we went two and two, it actually felt kind of lonely! – and drove through hills and jungles that looked like Guadeloupe and filled my heart with even more desperate love.

The river was wide and calm, more like a lake, really, and I was glad to be there with boys: they had contests to see who could hold their breath the longest, who could swim the farthest or fastest, who could jump from the highest point or do the best dive – all the stupid things that stand-around-and-talk people like me never feel compelled to do. I'm more of a chicken than I thought, and was way too scared to jump off the platforms like they were doing, but I did some twisty jumps and an impressive handstand dive that none of them could do and I might be able to psyche myself up for the big jump next time, since they asked me to switch my day off so that we could do a whole day, picnic and all. I think a little bit of exposure to idiot behaviour can only do me good; I definitely need to loosen up a bit. (But next time I'll be more careful with my swan dives, as I scratched up my chin, chest and foot and got so many pebbles in my bathing suit that I almost lost my top to the extra weight. The boys were torn between trying to be gallant and show concern for me and my injuries, and falling over laughing with how wussy I turned out to be.) I do love a good day at the river.

Otherwise, things are good and bad here, as per usual. Good, for example, because I'm now in the circus show as the little girl who dreams of all these magical performances around her. They kept having one of the acrobats act as a character, sort of off and on between his or her own numbers, and when I suggested that they should bring someone in from the outside, they asked me to do it. (Which made sense because I know the show and I hang out with them all the time.) I wear a babydoll nightgown, carry a teddy bear and have my hair up in ribbons, and the G.M.s are all saying that I look like an angel. An angel! At the end, all the acrobats lead me to my bed and put me back to sleep, at which point the audience, who has been eating up the story, always gives a collective cheer. They love the magic of the circus.

And Abdel, who hates me almost as much as I hate him, has to stand on stage at the end and introduce me with all the others – possibly the most beautiful moment of the week, as he looks so miserable and squirmy to hear my applause.

Also good because I've started teaching the yoga class a few times a week and it feels really good to stretch and breathe in front of the ocean. Stephanie, the fitness instructor, does about six fitness classes a day (don't forget how hot it is here) and can use any break she can get, and I obviously am not in any kind of shape to lead her kick-box or body sculpt class. So yoga's kind of the default, but I teach it well and it's just a beginner class so people are easy to please. There have been enough special requests for me that they've now made it an official weekly schedule and I'm teaching eight classes, enough to vary a little throughout the week. I love the peaceful 9:30 class because it's 45 minutes – still short but long enough to do a thorough warm-up and some good poses. The 5:15 one is only half an hour, which I find to be a frustrating length, and there's a lot going on at the beach at the same time, so that we have to try and focus against the volleyballs bouncing into our class, the children screaming in the ocean and The Thong Song playing at the beach disco while we hold the warrior pose and send our breath out to the water. I think there are some details to be worked out.

The biggest bad thing is that Baby Welcome is sucking my will to live. I'll give you just one example: though we have an infinite variety of baby food (any combination of fruit, vegetables, meat and beans that you could imagine), many of the parents want me to make fresh baby food every day. So I've been making five or six bowls and labeling them: potatoes and chicken, carrots and beans, beans and carrots and broccoli, what-have-you. And one little girl was having digestive problems, so her mom asked me for just carrots and chicken, which I put in a separate cup and labeled with her name. So then the other moms said, "why does Gabriella have her own cup?" and I explained that she could only eat certain things. Now, all of a sudden, all these babies who have been eating everything, with no problems, for however many days, absolutely need their own special menu. I am officially making nine specialized food cups today, not to mention however many new requests I'll have tomorrow. (I was off yesterday and they all ate the baby food jars and had no problems, in case you were wondering.) Can you imagine being jealous of another baby having a diet requirement? The parents here are petty, selfish, rude and obnoxious. Not all of them, obviously, but the ones I end up dealing with.

And that's without talking to you about my boss, possibly the ugliest human being I've ever met, the restaurant bosses, the hectic Baby Corner Gala Dinners, the babysitting crises, the mistakes with Reception that I have to fix... this job has turned out to be ass. I quit three weeks ago and they said they'd find me a replacement and then I could go work with the teens, where they don't have a single French-speaking G.O. and are desperate, but then Abdel vetoed the whole thing last week – apparently I'm doing too good a job and I can't leave – so now I'm stuck. In some ways it takes off the pressure: if I'm irreplaceable then they can just get the hell off my back, and I've made that much clear. But it also means that I'm facing down six more weeks of these demon parents, and that's hard to stomach.

Wish me luck.


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