31st October 2019
I've started writing my blog during my first Australian trip (Australia : the discovery).
You can read the entire blog (down) or skip to chapters (left-hand side).
Enjoy the ride!
You can choose to support me with donations if you wish. But only if you wish! Thank you in advance!
Strangers talking to you on the street
We were enjoying a savarin when a lady started talking to us. The conversation was sparked by a "Ah yes, that's good!" This incredible lady took us on a journey telling us that she was an archaeologist specializing in ancient diseases. But that her real unfulfilled dream would have been to be a volcanologist. She even had an app on her phone to track volcanic activity around the world in real time. We were treated to a real lecture from this Vancouver Islander, apparently a regular at this Vancouver tea room. She revealed that she was originally from Europe, had lived in Japan and was a widow.
People talk to us, people talk to me. It's incredible how much they open up. Do they know that I respect their word? That I will never reveal anything that could put them at odds? That they can trust me? Is that why they give themselves up to me so naturally?
I made a pledge to myself when I embarked on my career in journalism. It was crucial to make that pact with myself. I think I had it in me even before the journalistic turn, by the way. And I will never forget a lady I was taking care of in Paris, when I was doing home help.
She was not a very nice person, she even accused me of stealing money from her when she went shopping. I think that her butcher had tricked me, but anyway, I gave her back the difference. I don't really know if it was personal, if she didn't like me, if she didn't like my skin color, if she didn't like people or not anymore, but in the end, it didn't matter because she made me live an important moment and that's the most important.
While I was out shopping, while I was coming back panting from having climbed I don't know how many floors with my load, she asked me to sit down for a moment. And she opened up. She told me about her difficult arrival in Paris for a girl from the provinces. She told me about the difficult stages of her life. I felt a kind of relaxation in her attitude. It wasn't nice, but she had to open up about it.
The next day or two, I learned of her death from my employer. I was and even as I write these words today, I am genuinely moved. Perhaps relieved for her, that she was able to confide in someone about this before she left.
Then there is this lady on the Skytrain platform, who started in the same way, on a trivial subject, the presence of works that cancelled the trains from 11:30 pm. This Filipino lady then offered me to sit next to her to continue the conversation. I then learned that she was working at the hospital and that she had knee pain. She said that she was usually shy, but that after the experience of the confinement (which was light in Vancouver compared to the rest of the country and other countries), she finally found it pleasant to talk to someone like that.
She also asked me if we had met before. It's funny because this question came back to me in many different places and countries: one day in Paris in a supermarket, another one in Reunion Island and another one in Australia. It's funny to often sound like someone you know, no matter where you are, no matter what language you speak.
Conversations on the Skytrain
The other day, Yew Meng and I were in a moderately full Skytrain. We could hear behind our backs, a conversation between two young people who were obviously having their first date. This place was quite singular for this kind of discussion.
We listened to the questions and answers, a little stiff of these new lovebirds. There was something rather mechanical in the exchange, perhaps due to stress and emotion. The questions ranged from a simple interest in a color or bread (no, neither of them was French, though) to much more intimate and hard-hitting questions for a first date: Do you talk easily about your emotions?
Why I work on a podcast
Sound is important to me. When you think about it, the appearance of the telephone created, at least for my generation and the previous ones, a very important link with sound. You could perceive tones, it was a beautiful symphony of silences, noises in the background, prosody.
Today, some people are terrified of answering a phone call and take refuge in chat rooms and other instant messaging systems. This world where only notifications animate the atmosphere, when the phone is not on vibrate, is subject to so many misunderstandings and misinterpretations. It is also because the vocabulary is very poor. I was recently reading George Orwell's "1984" (yes, you can nail me for waiting so long to read it) and the novlanguage is there. I am, however, a supporter of the language evolution camp: it is evolving. But it still loses words, and therefore meaning, in the process.
It's strange in a way because technology is more and more advanced so that we can see and hear each other, but socially, we shut ourselves off more and more, we refuse the image, the voice in favor of cold digital messages. At least, the little words scribbled on paper at school left a more personal trace with handwriting.
The gamelan workshop
Publik Secrets, a collective of artists, organized a gamelan workshop as part of the ExplorAsian festival. We were lucky enough to attend, in Hadden Park, not far from Kitsilano Beach. This instrument has always fascinated me.
The gamelan is native to Bali and Indonesia. Its sound is produced by striking either metal or wooden cylinders. It cannot be played in isolation, it is part of an ensemble. The other instruments in the ensemble are percussion, gongs and other instruments that I cannot talk about, as I am only conducting a discovery workshop.
The artists Robyn Jacob and George Rahi introduced us to the instruments and showed us how to play them before we performed. We learned a simple suite. Something very organic happened to me. These vibrations were very soft and powerful at the same time. The sound was relaxing and hypnotic: I was totally absorbed in the sound and the moment. Of course, there had to be some concentration to not make a mistake, but beyond that, the experience took me a little further than that. As I repeated this simple sequence, I began to make a little swaying of my body: it was like the ebb of waves, like a breeze that animates a leaf. There was a gentle movement in me.
Then we played the suite, doubling the strokes and varying the volume. We alternated whisper and presence, rustle and radiance. I felt what I love about music: the organic side of the instruments. For me, nothing beats playing an organic instrument, whether it's wood or metal, and more than anything, nothing beats seeing these artists playing these instruments in the flesh. Of course, that doesn't stop me from enjoying the heavy bass of a good metal music song.
We stayed in the area, invited to watch the ensemble rehearse. It was timelessly beautiful, it was a musical tale, it was an animated painting with sounds. You can see the sounds if you concentrate well. Colors but also forms. This was a painting with a lot of depth, several planes and incredible actions. Some of the patterns really reminded me of the patterns used on the fabrics of the region (Indonesia, Bali and Malaysia): there was a kind of rotation, similar to the leaves that roll up.
At that moment, I felt like everything was a fabric: music, community, time... Fibers that intertwine.
I started music by ear, playing on a small children's piano. I was lucky enough to have a year of lessons with a very good teacher and learn classical music. He was quite flexible and a good teacher: he proposed me to transcribe the music I liked (so rock) on the piano so that I could play it. Then I met Dominique Amouny, an extraordinary teacher of Carnatic music. He set one of my songs to music. But above all, he introduced me to Indian singing and quarter tones, which I love.
I was very happy that people stopped, listened and absorbed this music. Some took pictures and videos, applauded at the end of the piece. I was happy to see the interest of the public for art, for such a beautiful and different music, to see this thirst for culture and sharing, this listening of the human pulse through music.
The pandemic has finally stimulated my artistic activity: two theatrical performances, one of which included one of my songs and the setting to music of a poem that is not mine. I must admit that I am the first one surprised! And apparently, this is only the beginning...
'De la plume à la scène' (From pen to stage) - a journey in times of pandemic
This project of staging letter exchanges between French-speaking adults in difficult situations and students learning French in a Vancouver school (anonymously) led me to play the role of a Mauritian woman, to play my own music, to set someone else's words to music and to assist in the staging. It was incredibly interesting and I would say that I outdid myself. I didn't expect to do all of this and more importantly to be able to do it!
Magda Ochoa, our director, is like a conductor and we are the strings and the keys that they play to create a symphony. It's beautiful! To me, she is a person who wants to bring out the best in us, the best in order to embody the right emotion.
We had a full house for our only performance on March 31, with 100 spectators, in Studio 16 of the Maison de la Francophonie. I am very happy that this project was supported by La Boussole, an organization that I cherish for its actions in the community.
I remember looking for agreements to put this person's poem on my couch. The challenge was that it was prose, so the vocal line was not obvious. On stage, I must admit that I lost the thread at one point and that it was difficult to hear the other musician. But it's the hazards of the job, of the stage and apparently, it didn't get along too well.
I was happy to finally feel my voice "open". Since I came to Vancouver, I had the impression that I had lost my voice, that it was a little curled up, that it sounded less. But since I've been doing yoga, I feel like it's flowing more easily. It must be that you physically open the chest and that it must help the breathing for example. I notice it with the "Om" that we chant at the beginning and at the end of the session. Sometimes I even feel that I can sense "dimensions" in the chanting. I used to feel this in my own songs when I experimented with more throaty sounds. I think some of my readers won't really imagine me doing throaty sounds but that doesn't mean I sing heavy metal!
I felt a communion with the other actors and the whole crew. For the technical side, hats off to the lighting designer who helped us two days before and who accomplished what we wanted on stage.
I met the person I played on stage and once again, I was overwhelmed with emotion. It is even more disturbing because we are connected, a bit like sisters, by the same root, Mauritius. Once again, I really made sure to try to respect the person I played as much as possible, not to caricature anyone, to use the words of our first role, Nunamata (Macy in real life), volunteer of the year at La Boussole.
I also did an interview for the WebOuest channel which made a documentary about the project. It will be very strange to see me in an interview: usually, I'm the one asking the questions!
I was exhausted for several days after the performance but so happy. It's an intense thing, the stage. The performance and the music on the same stage, it's another dimension.
The call of the stage?
It's funny how things sometimes happen. On the day of the performance of "De la plume à la scène", I was waiting in front of the theater and something quite incredible happened. A restaurant shares the premises of the Maison de la Francophonie, as does Studio 16 where we performed. A family came out of the restaurant, the lady smiled at me and I smiled back. We started a conversation. She noticed my guitar and asked me if I would be interested in being a solo artist for a wedding on Galiano Island! To be continued...
Since that show, the person I played said she was inspired by seeing me sing on stage and would like to develop a choir project. After the pandemic, we are all thirsty for meetings and sharing in the real world. This will be a project about the different linguistic communities of Vancouver (and Canada) and I will practice the difficult art of writing. You have to start somewhere!
I've been contacted about another project in a language other than English and French. It sounds very interesting but I can't give too much away right now!
I also played guitar with a friend in a park, a very Vancouver practice as soon as it stops raining (note that I could have said when the weather is fine but a fine day in Vancouver is a day without rain, even if it's overcast and cold). It was a beautiful moment and we will try to write songs in French together.
Judge for a public speaking contest
I will soon be a volunteer judge for the Canadian Parents for French public speaking contest for the British Columbia and Yukon region. I must admit that I am looking forward to being in contact with French education again, even if it is in an indirect way.
I met a very nice lady at the Festival du Bois at their booth and I was happy to see French children's literature, reminding me of my own (especially when I see Glénat albums, reminding me of my long absorbed readings at the library when my mother took the time to choose her books). I have always loved comics and find them to be a sometimes undervalued and underutilized medium in the educational world. As an adult, I still binge on comics and graphic novels. It's not for nothing that comics are called the ninth art.
Multilingualism, a constant in my life
Although I was raised in one language, French, I was always attracted to other languages at a very young age. Although I understood absolutely nothing, I sang "in yogurt" to the songs I was exposed to at home (in English and Brazilian). Later on, I had the chance (we forget too much in France) to learn other languages at school: English, Spanish and even a little bit of German.
In Paris, I had bilingual friends. Then when I started to travel, my friends' skills also expanded. I began to meet people who could speak languages that were very exotic to me but also had the ability to speak three or more...
It fascinates me and I hope to soon enrich myself by learning other languages. That's why one of my next artistic projects will be about this very theme. We must show this beauty!
The Festival du Bois
I went to the Festival du Bois, a francophone music festival with artists from Quebec. It was a great experience after two years without such an event. I admit that I was lucky because in a time of pandemic, I managed to play in two rooms and make a festival! I know that many people are living in total confinement and I do not forget them.
Who says Quebecer says necessarily poutine, the second love of my companion. I must admit that it was good. There were also more traditional dishes but I was so full of poutine that I couldn't taste the rest: next time!
I was representing The Source newspaper when I was there but of course I went to see my friends from La Boussole at their booth. It was a very rainy and cold Sunday and they were quite brave under that tent. Fortunately, they were able to shelter under the main tent afterwards.
Launch of the book "Autour d'Elles: Récits de vie"
Last month, I also participated in the launch of the book "Autour d'Elles: Récits de vie" along with fifteen other French-speaking women of immigrant background in Canada. It was a beautiful moment and the stories were very diverse.
I was very happy to receive the book in the mail and to read the testimonies of my compatriots.
It is available online: https://affc.ca/publications/autour-delles-recits-de-femmes/
Recently, we went to Bowen Island. I really like this small island, easily accessible from Vancouver, with a short ferry ride.
We were on the side of Fairy Fen Nature Reserve. The path is not especially different from what we had done so far, the spring nature was still asleep, the buds curled up. But at one point, we stopped, struck by the beauty of a place, near a small pond. Everything was so beautiful at that moment: the caress of the wind on the surface of this pond, a caress that made its surface sparkle and seemed to reveal a path for the fairies, the reflection of the trees through this distorting watery mirror, totally irregular and very regular in a way, and especially these trees (maybe birches) whose branches formed arms inviting to the embrace. The spring sun was gently warming us at the edge of this haven of peace. Only a few birds were calling to each other and the foliage was rustling.
I had also written a bit of prose about clouds burning at night over Grouse Mountain but my phone was broken so I'm not sure I'll be able to retrieve that little fragment...
Collaboration, compassion and mutual aid
These three values are part of my daily life and permeate my current relationships. It feels so good to be around people who share these values and have a real ethic. In the past, I had forced myself to stay with people adhering to other ideals, very far from mine (especially on possession, material) and I think it hurt me a lot, in an invisible way.
I need truth, integrity and I am happy today to have an entourage that supports me and that is in agreement with what I am deep inside.
Gagarin or the re-enchantment of the world
I had the chance to see "Gagarin" (here is the trailer) during the VIFF and it is a real nugget! An imaginary delight, an absolutely superb photography, an extraordinary perspective. Many qualifiers that were not to everyone's taste. At the end of the screening, while I was still in the film, caught up in the emotion, I heard someone belch out, "Yeah, beautiful but boring." A comment of total sadness and platitude. Of course, one can have an opinion and not like it, but frankly, let him go make a movie and we'll talk about it again, let him go talk about dreams, love and make people vibrate and we'll see.
Finally, I try to stay on the most beautiful note: that of the dream...
The easing of health restrictions in Vancouver allows for a bit more activity and February was a busy month for me, between yoga challenges and rehearsals (and even new performances of Les Éloquentes).
Year of the Tiger Malaysian style
In early February, we celebrated the Year of the Tiger Malaysian style with a typical dish: yee sang. The first time I discovered this tradition was in Kuala Lumpur. We were at a restaurant and they brought us a round dish (for prosperity) with different piles of vegetables and julienned smoked salmon and other mysterious ingredients.
The tradition is that everyone around the table picks up the ingredients and mixes them with their chopsticks, while making wishes for the new year. Depending on the personalities of the guests, this can quickly turn into a vegetable firework display! But this year, we were in a very small group and it was manageable.
It was a beautiful moment of sharing with family and friends.
For the next play with Magda Ochoa, I will create original music. The first time I had such an opportunity was with Natalie Vella, when I created music for her short film, Nocito. I was an actress and a musician on that project. It was very strange to see myself projected on a big screen in a Parisian cinema and to hear my music played in dolby surround.
We are also doing a collective dramaturgy for this piece, which I find extraordinary! It's a beautiful project that shows more than ever that hardship is a great opportunity for learning and growth. I feel very fortunate to be able to be part of this La Boussole project.
Still in the arts but as a journalist, I met Angela Clarcke from the Italian Cultural Centre in Vancouver and we discussed the concept of a queen. I also met Sepideh Saba, a watercolourist of Iranian origin who, by chance, lived in Malaysia before moving to Canada! I conducted both interviews in person and it was a real pleasure to move around and have a human connection instead of always seeing each other in 2D. I could have spent hours with these interesting women!
The yoga challenge
I also participated in the winter yoga challenge with Mandana. It was intense: I did yoga every day in February! But it paid off: I feel better in my body, obviously more flexible and energetic.
I'm doing inversions, something I hadn't done much before. The very first time, I still remember, was with Annabelle Leray in Australia. At the beginning of the course, she showed us how to do it and I thought I would never manage it. But through self-persuasion and hard work, I managed to do it by the end of the session. It's all about confidence!
Mandana has really helped me a lot and I will continue with her. She is doing bilingual classes. Her preparation work is very careful and all the sessions are thought out in a progression. She impresses me by observing well and taking the time to give personalized advice to each student. Of course, there are the right words when giving instructions but beyond that, I believe in energies and I think she is full of good vibes.
The end of Covid?
The restrictions are beginning to ease and we can finally envisage slightly larger gatherings. The epidemic is not over, but let's hope that the upturn is not far off. In Vancouver, wearing a mask is no longer compulsory but recommended, especially on public transport. Our families in Asia are once again confined and the latest news from China does not bode well, but for the moment, everyone is enjoying this little respite in Vancouver...
Despite the protests in Ottawa during the "freedom convoys" last month, the country is still playing by the rules. I was amazed to see internationally, the many convoys and the display of the Canadian flag to show their solidarity.
I am puzzled by the question of funding: how can you find funding, even food, to support such a movement when there are people living below the poverty line in the countries concerned but also in other countries? Why can't we find more funding for the fight against world hunger and the protection of the environment? Why do people choose to support "freedom fighters" financially when we could invest in the protection of life in general?
I now present titles from The Source on Radio Canada's Panorama programme every fortnight, when the newspaper comes out. The first time was only my second live! The first was a live broadcast for BFMTV in Australia about the missing Malaysian plane.
Obviously, there was some stage fright, especially as I couldn't see the person I was talking to. On re-listening, although I found myself stiff on the first article and too fast on the second, it wasn't too bad after so long. The link wasn't great and you lose a lot of quality but hey, it was a first.
I tried a special little mudra before I went on air and I think it helps.
The second time wasn't as steep but I got my feet stuck in the mat a bit. The third time should be more relaxed.
Anyway, it gives me more motivation for my podcast project. That's the hardest thing about this kind of project: keeping the same motivation all along. Fortunately for me, I have some invaluable supporters who are there!
The launch of the collection "Autour d'Elles: Récits de vie
The launch of the book is just around the corner (25 March) and will be open to all by registration for a Zoom conference. During the workshops, I heard some fascinating life stories from francophone women in Western Canada and I can't wait to read them all.
This project, a partnership between the Alliance des femmes de la francophonie canadienne and the publishing house Terres d'Accueil is so interesting that it deserves to be continued and perhaps even expanded. The more consultation with newcomers, the better the experience will be.
I was contacted by a journalism student who wants advice on Australia. It's funny that I'm still being contacted about this, as I left the country almost 6 years ago now.
I've received quite a few requests for contacts and advice from journalism students but also sometimes from Reunionese and even other profiles...
Meeting Reunionese in Vancouver
I was FINALLY able to meet some of my colleagues here! I was so happy to hear the Creole accent and talk about places we have in common. These words rolled around in my ears with pleasure and reminded me that I didn't dream the place I came from. I'm not likely to go back for a while, not being able to leave the country for over a year now.
But this meeting with three people from Reunion made me feel really good, an opportunity to travel a bit without taking a plane...
A warm voice
The sun is sometimes in the voice of people. This enveloping warmth, like a cozy blanket, is there, on the airwaves. I was interviewed Vaughn David for my next article in The Source, a very interesting woodcarver and it was an unmitigated pleasure to hear this artist talk about his love of wood, of colours of the wood, of these beings that he is turning into works of art.
This local artist is métis, in the Canadian way (in France, it means mixed people, with any kind of origins). His work and the person he is impress me. He is a magician, a real human being, the illustration that a human being is not opposed to nature as we may end up believing some days, that we all are children of the nature and that we should accept this condition instead of chasing after neon lights, the hum of factories, the fumes of drugs, the glories of one day. This man knows how to look at wood. We forget the meaning of this word: look. We all see things but we don’t take the time or make the effort to look, to listen the thousand stories unfolding around us.
I still remember the voices of some people. On of them has passed away but his voice is still living in my ear. It is low and makes me think of a precious wood. But it is also makes me think, for some reason, of a whole universe: santal wood, a sunset, ocre colour and dark orange.
As a radio girl, I of course am more sensitive to voices. Sometimes, I have surprises when I listen again to sounds. It makes me feel nostalgic.
The migration journey
I was very stressed about the job search, which was directly related to my status here in Canada. If I didn't find a job, I thought I wouldn't be able to stay in the country, which is true in theory.
I was contacted several times, they found my profile interesting, but as soon as the question of my status was raised (Francophone Mobility, work permit closed), all doors closed. I explored other possibilities with an immigration consultant and I am much more relaxed about the situation. However, Covid has slowed down all the processing and I will have to be very patient.
I am again filling in immigration forms. For some of the information, I refer to the ones I filled out in Australia, not without a bitter aftertaste. I think back to those moments, all that energy, all that time (a whole year of planning, two years of studying and working at the same time in my thirties) and hope I don't have the same unfortunate outcome. It's like opening a scar again. In Australia, there was the novelty of the process. Now there is the fear of falling back into the same situation.
You have to find the addresses and name the jobs over the last ten years. It's fine if you don't move around a lot, but in my case it's sometimes a headache. The advantage is that I already know the process and I will normally be less tired than the first time.
The Myers Briggs test
According to this famous test, I am an ENFJ: Extravert Intuitive Feeling Judging. This acronym is also replaced by the profile of the protagonist or the teacher, depending on the version.
I find the description quite accurate and close to reality. Someone who has an interest in helping the development and growth of others.
Wellness Together Canada
I contacted the Wellness Canada hotline because I was in the process of breaking down and I can only recommend them. I hesitated for a long time: to call or not to call? Do I feel that bad? Am I not taking the place of someone who intends to end his life?
In France and in other countries, talking about one's mental health is still taboo and there is a tendency to stigmatise those who do not hide it. You have to be a good little soldier, never have any faults, but at the same time not be too happy, because smiling in the street for nothing, just because you are happy, is extremely suspicious. But why should we walk straight all the time, never have a moment of weakness, never be beset by depression and hide to die like the birds? I did that for a long time, going into hiding to die in my corner. It was often an abject failure.
If I were an employer and I knew that one of my employees was suffering from a mental disorder (my interlocutor explained to me the connotation that this adjective has here in Canada, different from France where it is a pejorative term), on the one hand, I would really take care of this person and, on the other hand, I would salute his efforts because this step shows that this person has resilience and is capable of overcoming obstacles.
Doing work to know yourself and the more you know yourself the more you become aware of your weaknesses and strengths. There was a time when I was having anxiety attacks. It was so intense that I was very afraid to be near a window. I was on medication. One day I decided to be stronger than the crisis, stronger than the medication. I kept telling myself in my head: "I am in control, I am in control. I'm going to make it, I'm going to calm down. And it worked. I got stronger that day. I've never had another crisis until now. Maybe I'll have one again one day, I don't know what the guarantees are. But I know that I managed to control myself the first time, that I have the strength to say stop.
I spoke to friends and positive people interviewed Yamoussa Bangoura, the founder and artistic director of the Kalanbanté troupe. He is a very wise and inspiring man. A good advice: surround yourself with positive people.
Since then, I have bounced back well and will resume an old project with lots of surprises that I can't talk about right now. After all, I have all the skills to do what I want to do so I might as well go for it!
While reading ("Le château" by Mathieu Sapin), I discovered the concept of kairos. This term refers to "a small winged god of opportunity, which must be caught when it passes (seize an opportunity)" according to Wikipedia.
It's funny because this Wikipedia article also talks about synchronicity in Jung and this is something that intrigued me a lot when I was preparing my thesis for my Master 2 French as a Foreign Language. My thesis topic was "Developing oral competence in a hybrid training". I had mentioned this subject but my tutor rightly dissuaded me from taking this route because it was too far removed from linguistics.
Who knows if he might be passing by and I might pick it up!
But sometimes you have to make your own luck. Recently, after the slump and the call to the hotline, I decided to take care of myself. I was so focused on the outside, on being given a chance, that I let myself down completely.
It took a huge drop in my morale, a kind of moult, for me to create a new version of myself. I had so many negative thoughts, my self-esteem was at its lowest. I had to dry out, crack, burn in order to be reborn.
Now more grounded, physically and psychologically, I may and probably will start a very powerful adventure: my adventure. Again, I am quite mysterious but I can't reveal my plans but I am happy and hopeful.
Back to the stage
I'm back on stage with Magda Ochoa as part of the « De la plume à la scène » (‘From the pen to the stage’) project with La Boussole. I'm glad I did, because stage and performing arts projects at this time can be uncertain.
For this performance, I will be an actress but also a musician! I haven't performed with my guitar for years, the last time being in Malaysia.
I will have a role that fits me but I don't want to give too much away yet, I need some surprises for those who will come to the performance on March 31st! All I can say is that I have a role
that is tailor-made for me...
Happy New Year 2022! My best wishes for peace and common sense. This new year starts with an air of déjà vu: a pandemic that never ends, cases on the rise, rebellious weather...
The weather, always extreme in British Columbia
The beginning of the year was not a smooth one for the province. Heavy snowfall was accompanied by freezing rain. It was beautiful to see flowers encased in ice like glass, it was like being in Murano, but you can't help but think of the people sleeping on the streets. Emergency centres were open but still. Some people refuse to go there for safety reasons, as well as potential exposure to Covid.
I heard from a friend who used to live in Quebec that some people were staying out in -15 degrees.
We also had a king tide in Vancouver, which submerged part of the city's shoreline. And we are now experiencing our second atmospheric river. Some residents in the risk areas explained that they had been evacuated up to 6 times.
Canada's Francophone cultures
On a lighter note, before I knew I was coming to live in Canada, I devoured Guy Delisle's comic books. I think I first came across one of his comics in Madagascar or Australia, it's not so clear now, in an Alliance française, a French Institute or a public library.
Canada's Francophone cultures are varied and I look forward to discovering them all. There are the Quebecois of course, but also all the other francophones. In British Columbia, I found Pauline Johnson Tekahionwake's books at a Christmas market in Vancouver.`
It's also through television series and popular culture. It's such a common format that we forget it's the gateway to a culture. I watched ‘Can you hear me?’, which takes place in Quebec and helps me work on my ear. Yes, I’m French but the accent and even the vocabulary differ sometimes. I also saw 'La Bolduc’ and heard the Gaspesian accent for the first time.
I also recently read a book by Canadian authors Michel Tremblay and Matthieu Simard. As usual, I manage to choose books that are relevant to current events; for example, "Une fille pas trop poussiéreuse" is about the end of the world. Michel Tremblay was a little less sombre. I started "Poisson d'or" by J.M.-Le Clézio, an author I like a lot.
I was looking for dance classes in Vancouver and I don't really know where to turn. I feel closer to belly dance and samba. I came across a haka (New Zealand Maori warrior dance) and it still has the same effect on me, the same effect as when I first saw and heard it: it gives me chills of awe. The unity that exists in this dance, whether at a funeral or a wedding, is powerful. It always moves me to tears.
The percussion, especially the low vibes, accompanied by voices, resonates strongly with me, like a cosmic call. Many things, if not everything, can be summed up in vibrations. The vibrations of the taut skins hypnotise me.
I was re-watching the film ‘The Perfume, Story of a Murderer’ (2006 adaptation) and it brought me back to my podcast project on intangibility. I'm on my first episode about courage and I need courage to continue this project. It's not always easy to motivate yourself on a project like this alone.
The death of Anne Rice
Anne Rice, author of a revival of the fantasy genre and especially of the vampire figure with her Vampire Chronicles and other cycles of the same genre, is no more and I am terribly sorry about that. I discovered his work as a teenager, when I had to do a book report in high school for my English class. I had ordered the book in its original version and slept with my bilingual dictionary to understand the idioms and American slang. I kept at it and chose ‘The Body Thief’. It was very hard work but so interesting. I would go to sleep like that, with the Anne Rice book and the bilingual dictionary open and the headphones on, with the first Muse album, 'Showbiz'. It's a beautiful memory.
The winter solstice
Of course, there were the festive season, Christmas and the New Year. But what really made me happy was the winter solstice: to think that the light is going to come back, that we are at the beginning of the cycle towards longer days, that is a real gift! No pun intended, I see the light at the end of the road.
This good news mitigates the fact that a countdown has begun for me. My work permit, and therefore my work permit to stay in Canada, will expire in about ten months. It is imperative that I find a job to maintain my status and be able to stay in the same country as my partner. The pressure is gradually coming back. I try not to give in to it and to keep a cool head.
‘Yes, but we all go through the same thing, you know.’ Although this sentence starts with a good intention, I find it hard to hear it over and over again. Few have found other words more empathetic. Supporting someone during a difficult time, even if you haven't experienced it yourself, with a few comforting words has become a rare thing.
After the Montreal airport episode, I can't risk leaving the country and so any thought of seeing my family and friends scattered around the world is as far away as the horizon. I have few friends _but fortunately, good ones_ here, having arrived a few months before the pandemic and having my whole being riveted on finding a job in Francophone Mobility, a step I had clearly underestimated, well sold by its promoters and so unattractive to employers.
But then, long-distance relationships are always complicated. I miss my family and friends. I thought I was well-trained in this area, having kept up letter-writing relationships for years. But all of a sudden, everyone has decided to close in on their circle, not even bothering to reply to a message, even a virtual one. Being always too busy, too overwhelmed. And yet, helping out, helping with removals, psychological support, being present at difficult times (dangerous or emotionally very trying), nothing is enough to keep in touch. I'm old-fashioned: a word is a word, a promise is a promise, and gratitude is a time-suck for me. I belong to another world and I often doubt my place here.
Fortunately, the picture is not so black and I am still in touch from time to time with friends from years ago. I shouldn't be so disappointed, I hear the phrase echoing... ‘We are born alone and we die alone.’ But in between, shouldn't we enjoy a little human connection?
Banning plastic is a global struggle
Anecdotally enough: almost every country I've lived in has adopted a ban on the use of plastic bags while I was there. For example, in the Seychelles in 2017, in Malaysia in 2019 and now in Canada. I don't understand why a country like Canada has waited so long to make such a decision.
The plastic bag ban came into effect on 1 January in Vancouver.
The pandemic of selfishness
The subject I'm about to address may offend some people. But I find it hard to contain my sadness and disappointment, hard to see that it is necessary to wait for the situation to reach some people in the ramparts of their intimacy before they decide to reconsider their self-centred positions. We have to wait to see, not the friend of a friend, but directly his friend, disappear under the tubes of the respirators to become aware of the situation. This pandemic divides and creeps into relationships, but I'm too suffocated by the surrounding morass to remain silent.
I wish I were wrong when I feel that this situation is becoming a battle of individual freedom versus the common good. But where is the decency, the humanity? When you think of the countries that do not have the labs to produce the vaccines, the structures to absorb the patients, the staff to deal with the tsunami of patients, the patients who cannot pay the hospital fees? Without looking beyond one's own country, whether 'developed' or 'emerging', hospital staff were elevated to heroes in the early months of the pandemic and it only took a few more months for everything to blow over. The Capitol was trampled a year ago in the name of individual freedom. Is democracy its own enemy, discredited, used as a shield of conscience for the benefit of one?
In the name of the freedom to dispose of one's body, can one put the weakest in danger? I know I've already mentioned this information, but it never stops working on me: a family of French tourists reintroduced measles to Costa Rica in 2019. The case did not make many waves but I find it appallingly cynical. The family had decided not to vaccinate themselves or their children and now an entire country is at the mercy of a disease that had been eradicated. But what kind of world do we live in? How can we believe that caregivers were sitting on their hands before the pandemic?
In Quebec, caregivers with Covid are being called back to work. Not only have they been on the front lines for two years, perhaps not having had any holidays, not having much rest, seeing their family life degraded, but now, because of the increasing number of cases and lack of personnel, they have to continue working. I don't think we can decide, because yes, in developed countries we decide, by our choices, the fate of these people. I don't know any of these people, I don't have any family or friends working directly in the hospital and I don't think we need to be in that situation to put ourselves in their shoes.
Recently, a bus that had been fitted out to vaccinate the population in Réunion was vandalised. The shame has no limits. It reminds me of the ambulances and firemen who were attacked and had refrigerators thrown at them from the roofs of buildings when they went to certain suburbs. How can public services that help the population be attacked? How can you do that?
I found this beautiful Arab proverb in Le Clézio's ‘Poisson d’or': ‘Health is a crown on the head of the healthy, which only the sick see.’
The last few days have been so intense that it deserved an article.
I must admit that it is a pleasure to be back on stage. I have no professional or even regular experience of the stage. The stage is a powerful metaphor: it embodies life itself. Every day we live a role and there, we live a scene within the big scene. It is also Plato's cave: but are we the shadows or the actors whose shadows are projected?
I was intrigued by the form of forum theatre (apparently more common here) and I am very proud to be part of such a project for its social and psychological dimension. Forum theatre is a theatrical form that aims to make society better by highlighting oppressor-oppressed relationships. Individually, seeing these realistic scenes, one can become aware of one's position but above all, have the opportunity to find a way out, to confront one's oppressor and to finally get out of the fear, from this ball in the stomach, from this uncontrollable paralysis. Everyone is empowered to stop these toxic behaviours, to change the way everyone looks at them: oppressor, oppressed and (passive) witness. We have probably all been in this situation one day.
"Les Éloquentes" showed six short scenes about sexism, aggressions (and micro-aggressions) and racism. After a first act, actors played again the scene in order to give the opportunity to the audience of coming on stage and offering another proposition. Different members of the audience could come on stage. This role play was done in a safe and respectful manner by the stage manager.
I am also happy to have met the other actors, pro and amateur: Sonia Assier, Maxime Barbier from La Boussole, Ingrid Broussillon from Les Griottes Polyglottes, Lucie Couhailler, Marion Gailet, Gabriel Jalbert, David Prière and Slim Rouissi, the excellent playmaker, Emmanuelle Bertrand, the extraordinary stage manager, Nathalie Lopez-Gutierrez (also an actress) and the impressive Maryse Beaujean Weppenaar from Réseau Femmes and all the organisers of this project. I really felt like I was part of a group with values, really thinking about the relevance of attitudes, gestures, the reception of the audience.
The actors, both women and men, put themselves in the position of vulnerability and dominance (not easy either because it is not their nature, but they are courageous to accept to put themselves in these characters to denounce these behaviours).
Both performances were very emotional. Getting into my character was both easy and difficult. Easy because I had already gone to the police and encountered their indifference and condescension. Difficult because I don't wear the veil and I'm not Muslim. I was very stressed to embody this character as well as possible, especially as during the second performance, the impressive Nour Elnayeh came to see me. It's her story and I wanted to interpret it as accurately as possible.
The audience was extraordinary. They played the game and people came on stage to fight back, to confront the oppressors. I find this very courageous and so strong: this gesture is a step forward for oneself but the social dimension resonates even more strongly. These different proposals for outcomes, formulations and arguments plant seeds of courage and reflection for everyone. Both performances were sold out.
Ironically, we went to a bar after the first performance and a man approached our table (of nearly ten people, after all!) to approach one of the people who had participated in writing the project. This tall, bald, pot-bellied man insisted and our whole team joined in. I was ready to jump down his throat. But as our dear playwright reminds us at the beginning of the performance, violence is not the answer. But it's incredible that we had practical work after the workshops!
I was discussing with Nathalie Lopez-Gutierrez, the fact that I had already had a superb collaboration with another Natalie (Vella), an Australian I met in Paris. The funny thing is that I met another Natalie, of a different origin than in the country where we live, who is also a film director. And Nathalie Lopez-Gutierrez explains to me that she too has collaborated with another Nathalie. The world of Nathalie is smaller than one might think...
The boomerang feeling
When you wait, it's better. People say that about many things. It's not wrong in the end...
Conducting a workshop in general is terribly enriching, both for the participants and for the person conducting it. But here, a writing workshop, especially a theatrical one, for La Boussole is a real joy. It's very touching to hear others talk about their experiences, their values. Of course, I always do this in the context of journalism, but here I guide and help build.
I also attended Louis-Jean Cormier's concert as part of the Coup de Coeur Francophone. It was so good to finally witness live art again that I cried. Well, I also totally fell in love with Louis-Jean Cormier's music, his deep lyrics and his stellar music. It felt like a show meant for a larger venue and more dancing, as Louis-Jean Cormier himself said. We were all well spaced out because of Covid but it was a great chance to finally see a show in person.
I was talking to several people, artists and aspiring artists, about this feeling of creative congestion. The pandemic and especially its collateral damage has led to a withdrawal into oneself, into one's space; it may have been beneficial for introspection but also stifling. I think we had the impression of going in circles like a lion in a cage. What really made me pick up the pen creatively, what made me pick up my guitar and try to sing, what made me pick up my pencil and sketch, was the encounter in the real world with other people. That has always been my driving force. Sartre said, "Hell is other people", but I can't bring myself to do that.
I have often been called an idealist, but this label is not pejorative for me. What would the world be without ideals? What would the world be like without idealists, those madmen who build human cathedrals? Grabbing me by the collar and forcing me to engage in human projects (which I have always loved) was my salvation from the doldrums of my apathy and I highly recommend it.
I think we need to physically go _as much as possible with the Covid_ to places that are conducive to quality exchanges with other humans.
The pandemic and lockdown has put us in bubbles, small settings, and the return to unity, to community, is pushing some of us into beautiful projects. We are like drops, gradually forming a river of individuals, left alone, flowing down slopes and valleys to find ourselves in the ocean of humanity. Let us hope that we can form positive waves. At least, I would like to think so.
I am finally meeting in person some of the people I interviewed for The Source. I had the chance to have coffee with Daniel Viragh and was extremely touched that he offered me a version of his book of poems, 'The Ballad of the Free' available on Amazon. He is an impressive man, speaking so many languages. This is his first publication in French. I was very touched by all the poems but my favourites are "Juge-moi pas" and "Tout comme je suis, comme tu es".
Poetry comes back into my life in different forms, sometimes quite extravagant. I remember one day in the metro in Paris where a poet was declaiming. I looked at him and smiled. He saw it and said hello to me, thanking me in that small crowded metro train. I didn't know where to put myself because I was just trying to blend in, in the walls if possible at that time.
Another time, I was in Reunion Island. I was showing some English friends around Reunion Island and we were on the beach at l'Ermitage after a windy helicopter flight. An elderly man was swimming with another person. When he got out of the water and dried off, he came up to us and offered us a copy of his poems.
A sunny day in autumn
Vancouver's autumn sunshine is exceptional because it is rare, and usually you have to rush outside to get your vitamin D fix. Anything is an excuse to go out; non-urgent errands, a squirrel to follow, checking a hopelessly empty mailbox: find anything to open that door and throw yourself out into the street. Everything is so calm after the storm and so beautiful. With no wind, this day has tasted like spring. The peaks lightly dusted with snow announce the festivity of winter.
But despite the rare rays of sunshine, November is THE month of rain in Vancouver. However, some people haven't seen this in at least 15 to 20 years. Alas, more flood victims and more flooding of this atmospheric river are predicted. The lulls are short-lived and the water has not yet had time to recede before the heavy rainfall starts again.
It must be said that when it rains in the region at this time of year, it is a deluge. At first I thought it was a bit of a stretch to see some people carrying umbrellas AND hoods. Until the rain soaked my umbrella to the point that it rained under my umbrella! I have since adopted this very Vancouver outfit.
Between climate change consequences from the Pacific, anti-vaxx indecency and exciting francophone projects, the seasons in Vancouver are never the same. Enjoy the fall episode!
Floods in British Columbia
After a heat dome and scorching temperatures over 40 degrees celsius, the province is now experiencing extreme floods pushing authorities to declare BC under state of emergency. An ‘atmospheric river’ devastated roads, swallowed houses and lead farmers to rescue calves in their arms, braving strong currents. Although the name of the weather phenomenon that caused this deluge may sound like the name of a cocktail ("Pineapple Express"), this Hawaiian humid current shows that climate change is happening now.
The images are shocking, the testimonies chilling. Many people found themselves trapped in or on top of their cars, when these had not been swept away by the waters or the mudslides. Footages of landslides are impressive: the earth is no longer held by the roots of the trees that burned this summer. Not to mention the drying up of a lake about a hundred years ago, the Sumas lake; many farms and especially livestock were developed on these lands but nature is now taking over.
Today, only one death has been reported in a mudslide, but the medium- and long-term situation is dramatic for families without a roof over their heads, in regions where temperatures are already negative. Fortunately, amidst all the chaos, there is also more comforting news: neighbours and even strangers are taking in survivors, offering them shelter, food and support.
The thirst-quenching Source
In a few weeks, I'll be celebrating writing for the French section of La Source, Vancouver's flagship newspaper for diversity and bilingualism. I write articles and manage the media's social networks on a volunteer basis.
Two years have allowed me to meet artists, Francophones or not, remarkable actors of the community, in the service of diversity. I arrived only a few months before the pandemic and the newspaper has allowed me to stay afloat. Many, if not all, of them inspired me.
I was very touched to receive a message recently from an artist I had interviewed saying she thought the article was beautiful and that it gave her "wings". I almost didn't finish my journalism studies; I had been frightened by the power of this and I didn't want to offend anyone because we are human and therefore subject to imperfection. Fortunately, a teacher changed my perspective and explained to me the benefits we could bring to society as journalists, the good initiatives we should highlight. I am still very grateful to him for catching me up at that point.
As with teaching, I always try to be vigilant about the consequences for people. That's why I decided to go back to school, to train properly so that I could teach properly. I didn't think there was enough goodwill.
I also believe in continuous learning. We learn from everyone, until the end of our lives. It sounds a bit like a Lapalice truth, but how many times have we heard people reluctant to train or re-train? To doubt or judge the trainer? I remember once, in Madagascar, being reframed on my badminton playing by a child of about 7 years old. He was a real pro and I was really happy that he showed me the correct posture. But I know that humility is an obsolete value nowadays and too bad for those who don't appreciate it.
Vancouver's Francophone community
I finally took the time to meet the various actors of the Francophone community in Vancouver. Between the pressure to obtain a work permit and the beginning of the pandemic, I didn't really have the opportunity to meet many people, including Francophone institutions.
The Fédération des francophones de la Colombie-Britannique and La Boussole are key institutions in Vancouver and I was very happy to meet some of their members. Making contact with Francophones abroad can be a double-edged sword. During my various migration experiences (Australia, Madagascar, Seychelles and Malaysia), I have had the opportunity to see certain profiles and attitudes come back, both good and far from my values.
I remember a French man in one of the countries I explored, very egotistical and ethno-centric, so lonely that he wanted to befriend complete strangers. He was very successful, drove nice cars but was neglected by his children and suffered terribly. He disappeared when he saw that my partner and I did not share this love of money and that we lived happily and simply.
However, I think he was very happy to be able to express his feelings in his mother tongue. I have always been intrigued by the loss of the mother tongue. It does exist. Apparently, it's as if the mother tongue has retreated into the brain and it takes a lot of effort to find the words. Mistakes can happen, but they fade away once you get back into a language immersion.
The forum theatre experience with the project "Les Éloquentes" is very interesting. This method developed by Augusto Boal aims to make injustices visible to everyone, victims, oppressors, apathetic witnesses. It is a real collective and social construction. We all discuss the different outcomes.
It is an intense work because we go deep inside ourselves. We can question our previous actions and inactions, the ways in which we have reacted or not reacted to an aggression. During the rehearsals, we play our sketches but also the potential interventions of the audience. I must admit that it was an intense experience for me because I had the impression that I was suddenly given a power that was too great for me, the power to respond, to stop lowering my head and eyes, to say what I really think. But it's also terribly liberating to be able to act as you would have liked to in the given situation.
The performances are coming up and I'm looking forward to seeing the audience take this power and think about how to deal with these situations.
Fall and the seasons
A trip to Sooke on Vancouver Island gave me the opportunity to see a lot of autumn colours, not just the foliage of the trees. The skies and the sea under the sudden changes of the weather are magical. Autumn is the most exotic season when you come from a warm country in my opinion. I know that winter and snow will be evoked but the nuances are mainly limited to the sky whereas in autumn, the whole environment changes. The bare trees and the loss of daylight are spectacular when you come from the tropics.
I took advantage of my visit to Victoria, the largest city on the island, to visit the Issamba Centre. It is the only African cultural centre in the province and I was very happy to see all the flags on the wall and to recognise the Mauritian and Seychellois flags. We have an unofficial Reunion flag but it is mostly a nod to the Reunion community. I am African. I am also French, Caucasian, Indian and probably a thousand other things. I remember this thing about quarters and split identity, 10% of this or that, for me it's blurry and I feel all of that at the same time: French, Reunionese, African, Indian, genetic, cultural, now Asian via my research on the roots of my roots and my companion.
I tasted one of the best chowders (typical seafood soup, made with cream or tomato depending on the region) in Victoria but at the cost of a persistent smell of frying on my clothes, as if the oil drops were suspended in the air!
Anti-vaxxers at Remembrance Day
I had already been shocked by the reactions of people who refuse the vaccine, claiming freedom of choice at every turn, when nurses committed suicide because they thought they had unwittingly passed the virus on to patients. This information is unbearable when put side by side. On this weekend of remembrance, anti-vaxers disrupted a ceremony in Kelowna. Is this really the time? I feel sorry for those poor veterans who fought for that same freedom, to have it trampled underfoot in order to dispense with wearing a mask or refusing a vaccine, which is so difficult to obtain and/or expensive in less fortunate countries.
Writing, Ariadne's thread... or Nathalie's
I am happy to be part of the Francophone projects: the theatre-forum and now the writing workshops at La Boussole. This organization, which helps the Francophone community, has a very beautiful project involving pen pals, very touching, epistolary exchanges, something so intimate. It's a strange twist of fate because I have always written and sent letters and I still do. Many people probably think it's old-fashioned, that we read this carefully handwritten fold in one go in a world of rampant consumerism. But who cares, I always take the time to tell my story and to confide in this way that I feel is so intimate. Although I love sound, my first love is paper.
Writing by hand to someone you love is a special process today: you take the time to think about the words you say, you try to be legible, in short, you take time for the other person. But I know that this is not to everyone's taste, that it takes time, and I am already quite happy to have little electronic messages!
I started to write this post in March 2021.
Heat dome and other disasters
Extreme heat in Canada, in Vancouver, in Lytton, made international headlines and my friends, scattered around the globe, were asking me if I was surviving. I lived in Adelaide, Australia in 2013 and it was the hottest place on Earth at that time. I was not expecting to be on the hottest spot on Earth again in Canada!
I was lucky to stay in my basement. Being half-buried is a plus: temperature is quite stable, a bit like a wine cave. The outside blasting light was instantly burning everything but it was tempered thanks to windows looking like horizontal loopholes.
What happened in Lytton was devastating. The small town was not only experiencing over 50°C but was also burnt to the ground by wildfires. The number of sudden deaths linked to the extreme heat is constantly growing, close to 700 according to the latest news. Victims are mostly elders. It is truly shocking for me. How could you lived, like anyone else, worked, had children, contributed to the build of society and just die alone because of heat? In Paris, in 2004, I was so shocked that I worked during Summer as carer for elders. It was an intense job, you need to have a strong mind but I do not regret at all the experience. Unfortunately, I have less time now but I would like to bring my contribution later.
The other current disaster in British Columbia is the finding of Indigenous children graves. This is a real trauma for the community and for all Canadians. Many churches are covered by words painted in orange (the commemorative colour of these findings) and/or in red but some of them are also burnt. Experts fear that it could lit another fire in the US.
The swimming pool
I’m not able to see a thing at the pool. It didn’t stop me doing competitions as a kid. But I couldn’t cope with the pressure. I cannot see underwater due to my very bad farsightedness. But I’m sliding in the water, the only place when I feel good.
One day, I swam later, around 8.15am. I was able to see a ray of sun in the water in my line and it was so beautiful.
I’m going twice on average. I would like to push to three times a week but my schedule doesn’t allow me to do so for now. Then, I forced a bit things and I keep swimming between 6.30am and 7am.
Everybody is quite impressed by my swimming time slot. I changed it so it would not affect my work. Then, it became a habit. There is a great quietness in the morning. The privilege to see the first rays of sun, to hear birds waking up.
When you regularly go at the same time, you meet some regulars, before becoming yourself a regular (probably). I consider these people like ‘my secret friends’. We never talk but we give way in the line and in a way, we look after each other. At least, this is what is coming to my mind. A silent community, united by the love of water.
Cherry bloom trees and the Spring light
From my perspective, light appeared at once. I felt the change in March: I had the feeling that the sun rose at once and that everybody went out suddenly.
Living in a basement and working in rooms without windows, I’m not used to light and even to the sun. First, it even gave me a headache and I applied sunscreen!
On the other hand, I walked in parks and it was glorious! I was fascinated by the 60 different types of mosses in the Japanese garden Nitobe at the University of British Columbia. It is a very calm place, quite close to what I’ve seen in Tokyo. All these mosses were like hundreds of tiny worlds.
This interest for mosses is not a complete accident: they grow in harsh condition and on tiny spaces, surviving in capturing microscopic elements, almost intangible. Would I turn into moss myself?! The Reunion Island motto is: ‘I will flourish wherever I will be planted/carried’.
I finally fell for it: I bought books. I prefer to go to the library but the opening hours are not matching mine, two weeks are two short and I’m lazy to extend the date. Then, there was a shocking event in the local community recently: a 20s woman was stabbed by a lunatic in front of her child next to a library in North Vancouver. I was going to the one downtown but this is incredible, in front of a library!
Then, I’m reading Balzac’s ‘Le ventre de Paris’.
I also got books from the Alliance française de Vancouver which was selling off old books for Spring.
I’ve got something special with my readings... I read René Barjavel’s ‘Le grand secret’ and it was fitting so much the pandemic situation.
I also read the gloomy Franck Bouysse’s ‘Né d’aucune femme’. Fortunately, no similarities with my own life but the author is coming from Corrèze, a French region that I like much because I visited it for years and I have many good memories there.
I’m currently finishing David Foenkinos’s ‘La tête de l’emploi’.
I’m going again to the public library downtown and I’m delighted to see again books ‘in person’.
I’m thinking back of my childhood in public libraries, a love instilled by my mother.
We went to the planetarium and I was very surprised to see an extensive documentary about the eye and its structure (sponsored by Zeiss so obviously about the eye). I was quite uncomfortable to see the different eye sections, bringing back to the many explications of my retinopathy. There was a special echo for me of a proverb I heard before but which was more vibrant now: ‘The retina is also called the mirror of the soul’. What was then my soul? Looking back now, it is making sense: it was a bit tearing, collapsing. The treatment was traumatic but life-salving. At that time of my life, I took years to re-build myself after traumatic events. It is crazy what our bodies are telling about us!
After few hours, letting this documentary settling in in my mind, this story about photons traveling across the universe made me reflect. Initially, this documentary called ‘Seeing!’ (quite a propos) follows the creation and path of a photon from one side to another in the universe, until it gets into the brain of a young girl on Earth. First, this documentary is offering a very active role to photons, something that I’ve never considered. Everything is emitting and receiving : people, stones, feelings? Secondly, I liked the humility highlighted in the story, telling that they travelled, these galactic fragments, up to us and it should awake our gratitude. I also thought of trillions (probably way more but my scientific vocabulary is limited) of light and information exchanges done everywhere and at anytime. It is making me think of the symbol of the infinite. Something else that came to my mind was the iris: when the soul is leaving the body, the light at the end of tunnel depicted by so many could ‘simply’ be what is beyond the iris? The iris being the tunnel...
My professional break has more benefits than expected! First, I looked after myself in facing my biggest fears.
Writing is clearly my Mount Everest. I’ve never imagined doing it officially. Of course, I’m writing this blog but it is not the same. I’ve started a writing workshop with the Alliance de la francophonie des femmes canadiennes in September and it is amazing! I felt a lot of support from the organizers and sharing with the other participants. These workshops brought me a lot and I’m now in the writing phase, before handing the final document in December.
I’m starting again writing this blog, left on hold because I was too busy but it is as if a gear has been set in motion. I was contacted to lead a writing workshop myself! Life is funny...
I’m also writing a mini-series of podcasts about intangibility but the project is still young. I’m thinking of something bilingual, maybe with a learning touch as I love to share my love for the French language.
I did laser surgery to get rid of my farsightedness. My recovery period was intense. I have documented the biggest step of my life. I’m currently writing about it. I don’t exactly know what will come out of it but I would like to share this experience with others. It is clearly a work about gratitude, a value which became the spine of my life, especially professional life.
I’m quite interested by the Canadian National Institute for the Blind. I have contacted again the French association Valentin Haüy, previously contacted in 2016. They were looking for ‘voice donors’. I heard an ad on the radio. I wanted to volunteer but my many travels were not offering the best conditions for recording audio books. Now that I’m finally more stable, I’m currently recording a test for them.
I’m part of projects such as ‘Les Éloquentes’, a project of theatre-forum with the local association Réseau-Femmes. I’m discovering the principles of Augusto Boal’s Invisible theatre and Theatre of the Oppressed with filmmaker Nathalie Lopez-Gutierrez.
I’m still writing for The Source and it will soon be two years that I’ve started this great adventure with the Vancouver newspaper.
A student recently reminded me that I started this blog 10 years ago. 10 years that I’m trying to write regularly... or not.
2021 is starting and I’m looking back. Where was I in my life 20 years ago? I was taking my little suitcase to leave home at 17 and land in Paris on my 18’s birthday. It was just few days before 9/11, before the flood of panic. I felt the looks changing, people being either worried or scared by me and some even insulting me. I knew racism before but it came closer. I also learnt again to live in a mild climate, observing my body reacting to the different seasons. Then, I lived many incredible, funny, tough and more than anything, learning experiences and adventures.
What was happening 10 years later? I was taking _again_ my little suitcase to move to the other side of the planet (only compared to Paris), in Australia. Once again, it was thrilling. I was very lucky to work in very different sectors and to meet a lot of interesting people. I’m luckily still in touch with some of them. I met my student zero, just like they is a patient zero, the one thanks to whom I started the exciting adventure of teaching.
I remember meeting his father. He sold me a video camera and asked me if I was teaching French. Of course, I thought it was just to make conversation or, at best, to secure his sale. It was not. I taught my first French class to this young gentleman, from a Vietnamese origin, in Australia. I discovered the contagious passion of teaching. My first thought was to provide strong grammar basics but I wanted to give him more, more elements on the French culture.
This student zero helped me to initiate a thinking process, leading to actions. How efficiently pass on? I acted 5 years later. I started my training for the DAEFLE diploma. Then, thinking that I needed more training, I started a FLE (Français Langue Étrangère) Master. Funnily, I started my first training without any job or experience in this area. Then, by chance, this training was perfectly fitting a job opportunity, a cooperation program.
Then I started my Master at the same time than another experience in a language center. A remote learning Master started in Malaysia and finished in Canada.
20 years ago, ‘Amelie from Montmartre’ was released. I fell in love with it and I did not know that I soon had to choose between a preparatory class for literature studies and the Sorbonne University, only mainland French university accepting me. I was also sitting for my A-Level this year. The very first edition of the exam at the same time than the mainland (meaning that some exams were starting in the early evening) and the very last year of a format with all the exams together (now, it is more spreader out).
I never thought, 20 years ago, that I would live today in Vancouver, Canada, the furthest point on the planet, from my home Reunion island. I never really projected myself in the future: I tended to live the present and I’m trying to remain into it.
The first day of the year was radiant and sunny in Vancouver and I hope it is a sign. I hope it will a radiant decade, if not, at least a year! A clear blue sky is showing up after all these humid grey skies. But I probably have found a solution: a light lamp! It is quite funny, thinking back about it as I did a radio report about it for a local radio in Mons, Belgium in 2007. It sounds true that we usually find answers to our own issues. But even if this thought seems egocentric, it is far from it.
I always wish to bring to others but I learnt a good lesson: without energy, peace and joy with yourself, you might pass on negativity. I tried to be very careful about it when I was teaching. I do remember a teacher about holidays and recharging: ‘It is crucial. If you have no rest, you pass on bad things such as frustration and impatience.’
On the first day of 2020, sitting on a bench in a park, I was observing these line-shaped trees, maybe coniferous trees, gently swaying in the wind. The concept of tree communication came back to me and I remember starting reading Peter Wohllenben’s ‘The Hidden Life of Trees’. The foliage of trees were being cut down in order to interlock and some branches, slightly bended, were like hands inviting you to dance. A dancing couple of trees.
Art is everywhere, even in words: nATuRal for example. I like the French word ‘partage’(meaning sharing) when you do find these letters.
Seeing what you want to see
We do see what we want to see. I miss Australia sometimes and I do see it, here, in Canada. I was even able to see Reunion island in New-Zealand. If you are focused enough, I think you can see what you want to see. As a teenager and even young adult, I was incredibly pessimistic. Going through tough events, my perspective changed and that is why gratitude became my pillar. We forget too easily that we are able to change ourselves.
2020 will sound...
I mentioned in my last post my will to volunteer, to collaborate on a project for the community, my love for public service. I wanted to volunteer for a French NGO (Valentin Haüys), providing audio books to visually impaired people in the past. Today, I'm thinking of going to read books to elderly people in hospices.
I love sounds and voices. There is so much in a voice. Warm voices, rocky voices, heavy-experienced voices, funny voices, original voices.
I have started writing podcasts but I have a technical issue with my recorder.
... like Art?
I am naturally going towards painting from the moment I arrived. I painted in good company: with a friend, Tanya and a good glass of wine (only one). It was a nice winter scene but with warm colours. We were listening to Bob Ross’s explanations. He has such a nice and gentle voice. I was thinking that it is such a 80’s signature. Today, the majority of online tutorials are so shouty and the editing is so fast paced, always wanting to go faster and faster, faster towards the end. I am not nostalgic. We have to live with our era but for nothing on Earth I would fit this one. I am embracing this difference, even if I suffer sometimes.
I also learnt knitting with Emily, a Canadian friend who was crucial in my good arrival in Vancouver.
Meeting, salt of life
I was very lucky to meet Idliko Kovacs. I interviewed her for the bilingual newspaper The Source: you can read the article here. This woman is amazing.
I felt so reinvigorated! I love this job for this reason: meeting people. For me, meetings and discussions are always enriching. They can also be challenging but I like to talk with people having very different views as it can be quite boring in a way to agree on everything and to be satisfied of it. I don’t like conflicts but a proper point of view defended in respect for each other. I am keeping an eye on the next public debates at the Vancouver Public Library…
Poverty in Vancouver
In Verbatim in The Source, I am mentioning the gap between rich and poor people in Vancouver but I think it is far from what I have seen in Antananarivo, Madagascar.
But it is still shocking that it is so significant in such a rich city. Hard drugs are a real plague. I have not heard yet about junkie attacks but I am not really going out at night anyway… During the day, some people beg downtown, others remain discreet or simply walk on the streets or on the bus.
Talking about bus, I was very surprised by a scene in a bus. A young man with sunglasses and headphones on was almost yelling at the bus driver, telling him he had no change but obviously, his outfit and accessories were clearly saying that he could afford a bus ticket. Then, his nose up, he went at the back of the bus. I was shocked as it had been weeks or even more that bus drivers’ strikes were on the news because of working conditions but also low salaries. How can someone lacks of respect towards public services? How do we reach such a situation?
I don’t want to stigmatize Canada, the situation is not better than in France: firemen, public hospital staff and other public services are attacked. But in general, I don’t understand how irrespectfull humans can be…
The value of things
I was thinking about the value that we are giving to things. Humans love what is rare and go without any scruples digging in the Earth’s guts for ripping off stones that took millions of years to be formed, for taking lives, those of mining slaves, which had been shaped by so much love, abnegation and work. But what about this rare moment of peace that we can have for ourselves, moment of laughing because of a play on words, moment of love at first sight?
Unfortunately, we realize how precious things are when they are lost, especially in such a capitalist and materialist world like ours. However, they are still reachable, right now…
My mood is sometimes a bit down and I think it is due to the lack of light. I have lived in a seasonal country for years now. I discovered that Vancouver is actually at the same latitude of Paris. But for some reason, I feel there is less light… I am living in a basement, half underground and this is probably why.
Once more, here I am as the international errand, and I have to face administrative process and times. I am using the word errand, referring to my experience in Australia. Find the right information took me some time. It is not the first immigration website I am looking at but they have some slight differences. But after information sessions, sharing with other French-speaking migrants, I think I have found different options. I have initiated the process for the Education Credential Assessment (only one diploma as it is expensive). My school sent the required documents and now, it needs to be checked. Expected time: 20 weeks maximum! If I am lucky, it should be quicker.
And then, I will be able to submit an application for the Express Entry and it should take 3 to 4 months… Patience is a virtue!
It is not that cold in Vancouver. We do not have negative temperatures and meters of snow like inland Canada. But I am activating old habits about clothing learnt in Paris. I think I was suffering less of the same temperatures in Australia and New-Zealand but cold was probably dryer… About clothing, I would like to share a tip that a kind person taught me because I know I have some readers from warm overseas areas not used to this kind of weather. I fell, like others, in the trap of the ‘onion’. Yes, you have to layer clothes but not any kind of clothing and the proper way. The most important ever is the first layer. Once, a lady (that I really do appreciate) told me: ‘Wear silk if you can.’ Of course, silk is quite expensive but no need to be totally wrapped in it. Today, we can find affordable thermals, which could work as well. Then, on top of this, you can dress ‘normally’.
I want to highlight the topic of temperature after interesting observations. I was already intrigued by Australians about to wear thongs during the Austral winter but Canadians created a category by themselves and compel admiration. I saw people in shorts, tank tops, t-shirts and even a half-naked man (but this one probably drank too much of anti-freeze because even Canadians looked surprised). Not even red marks, usual sign of the cold bite on their skin…
I am trying to keep good food and lifestyle habits. Zero waste preacher, I am getting information about recycling practices in Vancouver but it is not always easy to know which plastic item is going where in Vancouver. But I am hopeful as they made a game out of this. I went to the Farmers Market, something that I was usually doing in Adelaide. And I am searching for different alternatives to the big industry. I am also looking for organic but as usual, it is more expensive. So I went on Main Street, one of the hipster places (in France, we would say bobo). I went in a store selling bulk. Of course, I was delighted because I thought I had few, almost no alternatives to the supermarket, full of single-use containers (that I am trying to re-use as many times as I can). However, the charm disappeared when facing a bland and almost nosy attitude of the staff. I had the feeling to enter a very confidential store without knowing its codes and that I almost needed to be co-opted to have the right to walk into this store. I am trying not to have hard feelings and I will go back to them but if I do feel the same shiver going down my spine, I will not hesitate to switch for another store… According to me, this attitude is a disgrace and it should be about sharing and respect, respect of the environment but also people. But it is true that it is possible to be environmentalists and racists or Nazis…
I am trying to do sport but it is difficult to go back to the ‘cold’ chlorine-perfumed swimming pool after having the ocean, to fear a little run when bronchitis is waiting for me everywhere after having all equipments, the freedom to run outdoor (in a nice temperature) and to finally give up and run indoor. However, I should not be that blunt. I am walking. Well, it is a urban environment, it is around a golf course but squirrels are as surprised than me and make this rare journey nicer. Once again, I must be patient and wait the sun and the warmth to come back in order to _finally_ hike.
I always tried to give my time for causes and convictions. I have a list of actions that I would like to do as a volunteer. But sometimes, I find myself caught in thousands of projects because of my overflowing ideas (and honestly adventures and meetings: life is not a straight line). However, I was thinking back of my experiences as a volunteer in Seychelles, Australia, France…
I am waiting to get a work permit and I feel very fortunate so I decided to be a volunteer for two institutions during this time, after my arrival. I was volunteer for the Chambre de Commerce Francophone de Vancouver (French-speaking Vancouver Chamber of Commerce); I just gave a hand to set some food, serving a bit and meeting some hospitable members. I must admit I have not met anyone really aggressive for now.
I also had been volunteering for OpenTable, a meal for people in need. I was a great experience, I always wanted to try it. I do remember the friend of a friend, working for a good company in Paris, talking about his experience at the French soupe populaire (meal served to people in need in France) for years and I found it so inspirational… Serving this brilliant beef curry, I was questioning myself about my motivations and my answer was that I am feeling truly loved and that I would like to share this feeling with those who are less fortunate in doing something very down-to-earth, cooking. I participated to three editions for now: two regular and a special one for Christmas. It was really beautiful for Christmas: there was music, great food and lots of love. OpenTable is about sharing food but also support.
I was challenging the viability of volunteering for the society back in Australia because it seems overused to me. Here too, it seems to be the ultimate way to get in, even if you could be left aside after years of loyal service. It sounds to be as difficult for the volunteer as for the body having volunteers to be able to commit for a long time.
Anyway, in the end, everything is about the intention.
It reminds me of all the strikes (and finally progress) about internships in France. I had never been paid for any of them (except once, few cents by a rock magazine). Some played with the laws, refusing to take me longer as they would have to pay me… In the end, I should have been paid but whatever.
The first semester of my second year of Masters is over and it was not that easy. The workload was big and the coordination and intensity of online meetings with my classmates in Reunion island, Serbia and Japan turned me into a zombie for few weeks (but it looked like months). Sometimes, I was not even leaving the house for few days.
But I have absolutely no regrets as I travelled via the intellect, discovered treasures and had fulfilling personal and professional exchanges with my classmates. I was delighted to read about intercomprehension and francophonie, something that I do see for real, here in Canada. I was a bit disappointed by some grades but I am very demanding toward myself… But I passed my semester, which is great news.
I had a great pleasure to work on intercompréhension with a classmate sharing the same point of view than me about integrating disabilities in the global curriculum. Intercompréhension is an approach promoting the exposure of many foreign languages at the same time in order to understand the general structure of a language. In a nutshell, understanding the concept of a language thanks to a wide selection of them. This topic was fascinating by itself. But we had to analyze it with the help of another lesson plan. I more or less randomly picked one about comparing languages and Braille. We also had a glance at another one about sign language.
When my mood was down recently, I went to the Alliance française library for a good dive and I got a book that my mom was reading at that time, David Foenkinos’s Le Mystère Henri Pick. I love graphic novels so I got one called ‘La différence invisible’ (The Invisible Difference). I was intrigued by this title. It was about Asperger syndrome, not very known in France yet. I also got one for my Masters about francophonie.
I also went to the Vancouver Public Library downtown and I literally fell in love with it. The building is huge and very nice. They even have a audio and video recording studio and editing computers. I got few books: Margaret Atwood’s The Heart Goes Last. I want to explore the Canadian literature so I picked a big name. I heard about her via the Handmaid's Tale but I have not seen it yet as I hate the media buzz around it.
I love words so much. I love to play Scrabble (in French). I browsed Facebook, looking for partners for a game in February…
I will also be back as a journalist and I love this idea! I will write for the bilingual newspaper The Source. You will be able to read my first articles from January 2020!
A new start. The setting is not new for me. I’m starting a lot in my life. Hopefully, it will be the right one this time. I hope to live at least two years at the same time. I must admit that I do fear an administrative refusal (from the Australian experience). But I’m trying to stay positive. I know the process, the budget to allocate to this but the new component is time here in Canada. For the recognition of my education, the official website is stating 20 weeks.
New start, new culture. I am discovering the North American culture. I am feeling like I am going back to an Anglo-Saxon system with its pros and cons, like in anywhere and only from my point of view. Canada is full of promises, regarding employment and quality of life. Job offers are quite interesting. In my field, there is a lot of jobs in…Québec. In Vancouver, during my last three weeks here, I had four interviews, all successful but only for part-time jobs or as a contractor. But I must confess that all potential employers were very nice and helpful, trying to give me tips. I have been told about Canadian people; they are lovely and very helpful. So I have a list of employers to call back…once I will have my situation sorted out.
Of course, regulations are not the same and my biggest fear is the quality of food, a recurrent topic on forums, Facebook posts and pages and other Youtube videos from expats. I took the decision, a long time ago, after many investigations as a journalist working for a nutrition and health website, after my studies in hospitality and after being in touch with people in the field of permaculture and other environmental-friendly practices, to live and consume differently.
Looking for a job is a slow process, as always when you are deciding to settle abroad. My biggest challenge is to try to take some distance with my previous experience with immigration and my refusal of visa in Australia.
The ‘Canadian outdoor experience’ (a tiny bit of it, the wilderness will be for later)
Nature is beautiful and accessible in Vancouver. Mountains, with their shy snowy-peaks, are part of the Vancouverites panorama. I was having a walk in a park next to a beach recently and I could see squirrels but also geese and rabbits enjoying their freedom. Another evening, I met a raccoon.
Vancouver had been renamed ‘Raincouver’ by its inhabitants after its abundant and impressive pluviometry. However, until now, I had been very lucky and I had sunny continuous days with spectacular fall colors, as we do imagine them when talking about Canada. It is a bit cold for me but I had been very lucky and not sick for now (which sounds amazing considering the temperatures!). It is only around 10 degrees. Vancouver has the influence of the ocean so it is never really cold.
The city of Vancouver is looking a bit like Melbourne, its Australian relative, on some points. Apparently, the two cities are oftenly compared. But I think they are matching only their climates and topographies. Their vibes are different; Melbourne is more on the cultural side as Vancouver is more family-friendly. I am sometimes feeling nostalgic about Australia and New-Zealand… However, I had found this good old charm of ‘op’ shops’, here called ‘thrift shops’. The same good old smell of untouched wardrobe, the same kindness of staff, the same incredible clothes (or other items)… In France, this practice is still a bit taboo. I did not really lived in France for a while but from what I can see, this new tendency to ‘recycle’ clothing is more online, as if we were ashamed to go in a proper shop (in France, there are mostly owned by a charity called Emmaüs) , as it is seen as ‘being poor’ and in France, it is still a taboo to be poor… Different cultures…
I am trying to keep good habits and to do sport regularly. However, I tried to run one morning but my lungs disagreed with this practice. Icy-cold air in them was like a jab for all impulsive desire to do some outdoor footing. I never hiked yet, the weather being too cold and the ice and snow starting to appear, making the trails dangerous. However, I have heard about hiking groups and around me, I have people interested in hiking (for sure, I will never go on my own, I don’t want to be a snack for bears).
First Canadian celebration
I celebrated Thanksgiving within a lovely family and community. At first, I was a bit reluctant to celebrate an event, I thought, being the celebration of a genocide (in France, it is sometimes considered as such) , similar to Australia Day (link) in Australia. But I decided to leave aside any preconceived idea. We all have some. It was the opportunity to think further about preconception and mental conditioning: education, society. In France, unfortunately, North America is depicted as the bad example. On the contrary, I met very open-minded and respectful people. I discovered a celebration based on gratefulness, a value very close to my heart. Everybody (out of almost 30 people!) had to mention someone or something they were grateful about. I thought it was all about sharing and communion.
Masters a day, Masters…forever
As I am settling, I am also studying at the same time. Once again, I really appreciate the chance I have to study and I am very grateful to the opportunity I have to study at this level for this price, as I know the local fees for studies. I am a bit sad that these studies are only two years…
This year, I am daring to offer my application to be the student representative and member of the comity for improvement of the program. I am taking a new direction in being more involved for the community in general. As teenager, I was very shy and the idea of putting myself forward in order to speak for others gave me the impression that is was only about ego but with time, experiences and thoughts, it seems that it is the right time to apply in real life more than ever my values and convictions in being the spoke person. I also want to try out more group activities like curling for example. This true blue Canadian activity involves a team, bowls, boules, shuffleboard and ice… Interesting!
I think I would be eligible to a program helping me to fit the Canadian Education system at one of the local Universities and I do understand it would be helpful but it would cost about 55000$ for one year, not really fitting my budget for now…
Cowardice and narrow-minded vision
Recently, someone (man or woman), posted an ‘interesting’ comment about my last post in Malaysia. I have found it ‘interesting’ in a way as this person sounds potentially frustrated, jealous or having a quite boring life to have enough time to write such a comment on a blog that is not read by a lot of people. Coward would be the middle name of this person, using a pathetic pseudonym. Oh well, enough emphasis on someone who probably does not know what ‘emphasis’ means… Oh, and before closing the case, I am finding quite sad to think that we do ‘possess’ (‘have’, avoir in French) human beings (and it is already touchy for animals for me); ‘to have children’. To conceive children is a very personal choice.
My last post in Malaysia was announcing a new project. Unfortunately, it had been suspended for now, as I was busy with many things. But it is still going on in my mind and should come to life at one point. Stay tuned!
Kuala Lumpur offers a great quality of life. However, I know that it is affordable at the expense of someone…
I was oftenly mentioning transportation in other countries that I visited. In KL, I took the metro only once. It was very efficient and I really enjoyed the reusable coin.
In KL, I am mostly using Grab, the equivalent of Uber in Europe. After Seychelles and Madagascar, this way of transportation clearly appeared like luxury to me. Especially that, when I just arrived, for some reasons, I only had luxury cars…All this luxury is sometimes quite uncomfortable. But it is the opportunity to meet all kind of people in a way.
I’m sometimes meeting very funny drivers. Once, I met a muslim rock music fan. This mix sounds quite interesting from a Western point of view. I also met drivers talking about their private life. One was telling me about his recent divorce and how he is caring for his daughter. I also met a flirty driver but it is really rare to meet this kind of situation here. He was quite bold but his style was still elegant, far from the Parisian heavy pick up. I also met erudite drivers. I talked about linguistics with one and the difference between local mandarin and China’s mandarin. And I was lucky to have some female drivers. There are only few but their number is growing.
These conversations are usually starting with the traditional question of my origin, which sounds very exotic and mysterious for some because I can fit as local from I have been told. To explain the location of Reunion island is taking at least few minutes. I know some are saying, yes, I know but their look can hardly lie and I spot sometimes an ocean of confusion.
I’m living in an urban area but I sometimes do hear birds. I can hear them early morning or at the end of the day. I’m fascinated by their songs, quite elaborated. I have started to be more attentive to bird songs in Australia. They are very loud over there. It is my first indicator of location when I am waking up. I think I also have heard a monkey recently at the end of the day. I saw them going through some rubbish bins one day and even getting things that an employee was throwing at them (probably fruits). Sometimes, I’m asking myself if I will not become a woman from the forest… Nature is calling me and my destiny is maybe in mountains, in the jungle. I love nature because I feel united. We are making one.
A new year, a new cycle and going back to writing. The beginning and the end, life and death, are one. We cannot consider one without the other. It is also time for thinking back and planning.
I have been living in Malaysia for 6 months. After Seychelles, it is quite a big gap _again_. My first impressions of Malaysia are amazing vertical habitats, a multicultural society clearly showing a link to the Indian ocean ones, a tech leader.
For 6 months, I had the opportunity to meet, as usual, great people. I often hear around me about the sadness and flatness of relationships and the shallow discussions. I confess that I probably came across these situations but nothing is left from it. I am trying, consciously or unconsciously, to have soul to soul relationships. I could be blamed for opening up to anybody and in any manner but I would answer back that it would be very sad to do otherwise and to cut from opportunities to discover unexpected joys. Some friends can fear for me as I could be abused. But I strongly believe in karma. I did not go through the toughest life experiences but I went through some in changing my perspective, my look on events, facts. Of course, I cannot pretend that it is easy. My therapist told me that we were equal when facing deep emotional pain. I am not a super hero but the only lesson I have learnt from my peregrinations is that changing an angle can change everything but also soothe a lot. Also, I think I was very lucky when meeting people.
Malaysian culture is bringing me back to my own, the Indian Ocean culture. We all are cultural patchworks, coconuts carried by the waves, pushed away by winds. And I find it beautiful, a variation on the same theme. It is quite universal; in graphic design, in all arts, and about many themes. The same message seen with a different eye, sung from a different voice but in the end, the same message, like polyphonic. A reinvention.
I want to come back to writing this year. I never really took good resolutions but strangely, this year, I want to set objectives. Writing is my first. Of course, continuing my studies (Masters in Teaching French as a Foreign Language, Designing curriculums) is decisive for my future, even if I undertook it more for ethical reasons (teach efficiently and professionally). But once I am doing something, it is like priesthood for me.
Moreover, I love studying, I love learning and not only academic learning. I am fascinated by our ability, to all of us, to get information, that this information work with time, sometimes with more or less time, and that it is transforming us. However, I can conceive that some people could have some learning difficulties. Everything is about finding the trigger for learning, our own way of learning.
Speaking alternately two languages all the time is tiring, as I was mentioning previously when writing about Seychelles. This time, I do speak more English than French and I was almost scared to ‘lose my French’ at once but it will not happen for many reasons: I do have a very close and good friend here with whom I do speak everyday in French, I do French with my parents and my friends and I am reading in French (when I do have some spare time). And of course, writing my blog and other things is helping to keep my French. And I purchased a travel edition of Scrabble in French!
In coming to Malaysia, I wanted to listen to my intuition, to allow myself to go towards something more secret, mysterious but also ‘for my own good’. For me, life and especially obstacles _than we do consider as such_ are only a matter of perspective. So I let some wind blow my sail, without putting myself at stake of course, and it confirmed my opinion about this attitude: it is the right one. The intention is major. I am writing about compassion. It is a notion and value, as humbleness, very close to my heart. Gratefulness also guided this experience based on intuition.
It is funny because when I am talking about life and describing my vision and attitude towards it to people, I feel like a naïve crazy explorer. And everything in this expression is antinomic. A friend told me: ‘But you have no money, it looks complicated for you, your life is not stable but you have a fucking life!’ And I thought it was beautiful.
Love, filial love, friendly love, scares us. We want to put it in a box, so small. It is a bit like a cow afraid of electrified wire: it is stupid. Don’t get me wrong: I am not saying a cow stupid. It is a beautiful animal, glorified by Romans for its magnificent eyes, more than does, important to say. We have to tell each other than we do love each other. But no, we do prefer to stick to boxes. Proper colours together, proper size together and don’t even think to mix match! It reminds me of the great ‘Chagrin d’école’’s Daniel Pennac (French author that I absolutely recommend!). Love should never be revealed: the cow cannot be wild, you know…
After a long silence, I’m pleased to write again. As always, I am very glad and touched that my readers are worried not to read me regularly enough. I must admit that I was very busy at the end of this school year because of exams (therefore marking), potential moving of the Primary French room and few other tasks. I also felt a bit down because of waiting my results for the DAEFLE but in the end, I…passed the exam!!! Holidays helped me to relieve a bit this anxiety but coming back is like air in Seychelles: hot, humid, suffocating.
Holidays - summer holidays (or austral winter holidays, depending the perspective)
I really enjoyed my long summer holidays. It was sooo good. It is the bright side of teaching, I must say. I think these holidays are more than needed if we do not want teachers to be exhausted and therefore, inefficient.
It has been only a month that we are back and I can see that everybody looks exhausted. I will go back to Reunion Island for a tiny week to see my family. I am really forward to it.
In Europe, we have been to Cadaquès, Catalonia (Spain). Our three days in Salvador Dali’s hometown were nice. We were with my partner’s family and succeeded in reuniting brother and sisters from a very long time. I experienced Tramontana, a strong northern wind (from the Pyrénées Mountains). It reminded me Wellington’s. I swam in 15 degrees water and saw some Mediterranean fishes.
Then we drove back to France and spent a week in Corrèze (centre of France). I really love this region. Landscapes and influences are very diverse.
Then, we took the train to go to la Baule in Brittany. The weather was beautiful and crêpes delicious as usual. I must admit that I prefer Guérande for its atmosphere but we had the chance to discover the charming medieval castle of Blain (with medieval dressed staff please!) and to follow the river channel going from Nantes to Brest.
Our last week in Paris was very quiet. We enjoyed this rest. Apart few catching-ups with family and friends, we walked the streets between les Invalides and the Latin Quarter.
I took the opportunity to see an ophthalmologist in France at the Quinze-Vingt, the national ophthalmology centre. And good news: I am all clear! It is a big relief as I was worried. Few reasons for that: my last check-up was done three years ago but I am meant to be checked every year, I saw some lights (I was probably just tired but we never know and the doctor insisted again in rushing into emergencies in case of suspicion) and poor lifestyle (lack of sleeping and food not fat enough because, yes, you need fat for your brain and your eyes).
The gain of different perspectives
I was very happy to find France less harsh than I thought. I was a bit worried about racism enhanced by recent attacks but no. Summer lightness? Mixed cultures and relationships now more accepted? I do not really know but people sounded a bit more relaxed. I must admit that there was a lot of foreign tourists everywhere we went.
On the other, discussing with some people, we feel a gap growing. The diversity of our experiences is disturbing for some who would like to see us ‘more stable’. But we do not stop to claim to be happy because together and free. It is sometimes way easier to discuss with Anglo-Saxons for whom a professional diversity is considered as fulfilling and gives a wider skills set to a job seeker. It is sometimes very hard to listen to very negative, anxiety-filled criticisms (as they are sterile ant so French). I am not even mentioning those who give us a suspicious look when we say that we are working in Seychelles as they only consider this country as a holiday destination and so, associated only with laziness, which is showing a lack of respect, a narrow mind and anchored clichés).
The freedom of thinking, of facing the reality (the whole processing of a product for instance) and of questioning (of its own way of living, of its ideas, of its certitudes), is very violent for those who prefer to hide into a bubble of comfort and diverse illusions.
I miss a lot people who truly understand me. They are taking me as I am, without judging. I can have a real discussion with them and confront different points of view without being rough toward each other and more than anything, they are supporting me in every circumstance.
I was very happy to meet again my family and friends. In the end, we did not spend a lot of time with each of them, few days and even sometimes only few hours. But these moments were so precious. I felt ‘dipped into love’ in staying with them. I also took the opportunity to do some skypes (as the Internet connexion in Seychelles is quite slow) but on the other hand, it let me sad not to see them in person.
The weather is supposed to be windy and fresh now but we are already suffering from a very humid heat and dark clouds are threatening us every day. It is again a bad news for my shoes! Again, I feel trapped into the wheel of time. I feel like it is Monday and suddenly Friday without having the time to wink. It is not a good feeling. The saddest is that I am going to bed early (8.30pm!!), I am eating properly and I even do sport now but I am feeling stunned by exhaustion from dawn to dusk.
My brother left me Charles Bukowski’s 'Ham on rye’. It was interesting, sometimes raw but interesting. would like to read something else from him.
I’m back to Victor Hugo with ‘Ninety three’. Those times, I have been so tired that my reading pace is very slow. But now, I have more time to dedicate to reading as we have a surprise in Seychelles.
Plague in Seychelles
The first ‘case’ of plague in Seychelles was recorded about a month ago. A basketball trainer died of plague back from a trip to Madagascar, where his team went to play for a match. All the team had been placed in quarantine.
The second ‘case’ (I’m keeping brackets as there are imported cases, non-local) was recorded few days ago. A man, coming back from Madagascar, was meant to stay home as he had suspicious symptoms. Unfortunately, this man went to a party on last Friday evening in a restaurant in Victoria, the Chilli Bar. This restaurant usually held parties and that night, it held three at the same time. One was ours, the International School Seychelles Teachers’ party. The other parties were meant to end before ours as the premises are not very big and sound systems very efficient. Guests from the other party had to go through ours to access the toilets so we’ve seen few of them.
Tuesday evening, I received a message from a friend and I thought that it was a joke. The school will be closed for 6 days from Wednesday to prevent the plague. I had to go the next morning at 9am at a medical centre in town to receive a treatment. Other colleagues confirmed it. I did not sleep well that night as I did not know if I will be given pills or injection and knowing as well as ridiculously sensitive I can be sometimes (allergy to an anti-malaria treatment and incredible reaction to a common vitamin tablet).
Plague is a big thing. It was not ‘just’ about food poisoning, even if it could be lethal as well in some cases. We are talking about pulmonary plague, the one which decimate in 24 to 72 hours. Therefore, it is awakening a powerful medieval imaginary, full of mountains of corpses in the streets, improvised stakes and polyphonic groans. So we become a bit paranoid, being attentive to any cough. Any swallow become then suspicious.
Wednesday morning, I was shocked to see colleagues with paper masks. Everybody was between fear and humour to take some distance with the situation. I was even more shocked when medical staff was in medical overalls, handing things from a distance to avoid any contact. But it is something that I completely understand. It is just a big mirror, sending back our image of potential plague victims.
Until now, I do not have any symptoms. Everybody present at the party that night, including myself, were worried about our closest partners and family not receiving the same treatment as we had. We did not have detail about incubation and contagion as well. The doctor who received me was abrupt and also insulted me because I was asking a simple question. Then I did not want to ask him any other question. I know doctors see a lot of hard things (even if they never faced a plague epidemic in Seychelles for sure) but I think there is a way of staying professional and correct when people _potential sick people_ are asking questions. Anyway…
From this moment, other schools closed down for few days, just in case. The sick man is in hospital. I do not know if he is recovering or if it is getting worse but we do know that his wife and child are also developing the plague.
I have to stay home for more three days, trying to avoid a maximum to go out and of course, any crowded place. I have an antibiotic treatment.
Wednesday, I went by bus in town. Colleagues living in my area kindly drove me back home but I was a bit worried about taking the bus again next week. Well, we will see…
However, I received a call and a visit from the medical centre today for a follow up. They came to my house and check my temperature. They said they would do it for the next 6 days. The government put in place a follow up: I received a text message about the launching of hotline to get information about the plague.
Individual responsibility and individualism
This situation is asking a lot of questions. Did this man acted in a responsible manner? Did he think about the risk he was taking for his family and friends, and even to his whole country in case of a real epidemic? And if we are not following instructions given, are we individually conscious about the risk for the others? Nothing is stopping us to close our door and to go for a walk. Who is checking if we do not have any friends or family visiting? What do we need to raise individual consciousness?
Perversion of political systems lies here. As in Madagascar and other post-socialist and post-communist lands, individualism is spreading and hitting as a disease. For too long under the heavy weight of collectivism, the individual is losing his temper and do not care about risks, mutual assistance and other collaborative concepts. Too frustrated and teased by the illusion of shiny capitalism, humans are burning their wings and their souls in the fire of consumerism and selfishness.
On the contrary, we saw in Australia, land of ultra-capitalism, impressive community guardians. But do we need to go to the extremes to find peers? For now, unfortunately, I cannot argue with this hypothesis.
Today, individual responsibility sounds to be an idea too rarely understood and applied by locals and expats. Fortunately for me, I’m hanging out with conscious ones. But others can sometimes make me feel very sad.
Back to school
After a solid rest, I am back to school from two weeks. I’m happy to meet again my students. I took some distance about my mission. I am assisting French teachers and my missions is not to be a teacher following FLE (Français Langue Etrangère – French as a Foreign Language). I am currently studying these methods but I need to adapt them. I need to stay flexible and not to feel failure when it is taking time to see methods applied.
I’m also going back to studying and revisions. I missed my DAEFLE (Diplôme d’Aptitude à l’Enseignement du Français Langue Etrangère – Diploma of Teaching French as a Foreign Language) exam in December 2016 but I am back to fight back and now, I’m feeling more confident. I rebuilt this confidence during the holidays. It was probably too ambitious to try the exam after what happened in Madagascar.
Strenght of teachers
I admire teachers and their work. They give a lot of attention to students.
I see the other side of the mirror today. I always felt miles away of this world, even if my mother was a Early Childhood teacher. My only position was the pupil one.
Talking about perception, it is true that it is fascinating. The day I have been a customer at the restaurant I have been waitressing for a long time in Adelaide, Australia, i twas a real delight. I was sad to read that they closed down. Of course, I always wanted to satisfy, guessing desires but it is something else to change of position and to actually live it.
I am very happy to see my students of the Secondary French club. I meet again the same serious and attentive students. It is a real motivation for me as I know that they are waiting for me as I am waiting for them.
When I discuss with them, I have the impression to open the door onto a new universe and new possibilities.
We do not have a television and I must admit that I do not miss it. It is sometimes surprising for people when we are talking. They usually ask me if I am not feeling about being cut out from the world.
I did not have any in Adelaide for two years and I did not miss it either. I prefer reading, writing, playing music and having more time to do things such as crossed words or a Scrabble. ‘Antique’ activities.
We got a French enigma board game at a night market.
After the last episode (see the previous post), I thought it would be good to know the right thing to do when someone is drowning. I have learnt first aid during my studies in Australia but nothing like the proper way to grab someone unsconscious in the water without choking her or him.
So I contacted the local swimming club and someone is ready to teach me the right thing to do. There is no official certification in Seychelles (anyway, I could probably not do it because of my poor sight) but it is not my interest. It would be only to know how to rescue someone in case of.
In kreol seselwa, they are using the expression ‘soleil carême’ (Lenth sun) to define this burning sun and hellish heat of April. 46 degrees in Australia were a different torture. The high rate of humidity in here is worse for me and it is very difficult to move without sweating.
Unfortunately, I had to give up on ‘Poulet Bicyclette et Cie’. Too harsh for me for now. I will read it later but now, I do not want to read this collection of very rough short stories. I got Victor Hugo’s 'The man who laughs’ (probably not sweeter but at least, a bit diluted).
We uploaded few podcasts and in our selection, a radio program called ‘Temporium’. They are not journalists but it is well done. They are maybe students or even History teachers. They did a series about Victor Hugo and the passion of the presenter made me more curious about his books.
After Victor Hugo’s ‘The man who laughs’, I wanted someting lighter. I took a random book, Katarina Mazetti’s 'The guy from the grave next door’ (poor translation). I was a bit afraid of a cheesy romantism but in the end, it was not that bad. Even if the very last pages left me a bit puzzled… I will reveal the end but I would like to have your opinion about it.
After the end of ‘The guy from the grave next door’, my curiosity was teased and I have found by luck the next episode ‘The family grave’. It was funny as in the end, I did like it. It just took me time to admit it. It was good but it is reinforcing some of my ideas…
I totally ate and enjoyed Daniel Pennac’s ‘School sorrow’ for its vision about school, students, teaching. I also read Philippe Labro’s ‘Falling seven times, stand up eight’. First, i twas too pretentious for me and then, I revised my judgement.
I dived into Patrick Modiano’s ‘Rue des Boutiques Obscures’. My little brother left me French magazines, Fluide Glacial (adult comics) and Echo des Savanes (acidicmagazine). They made my day. We should receive a fantastic mazagine called La Revue Dessinée at the Alliance française, I cannot wait. This magazine is designed as a comics but it is actually reports done by journalists.
A two days escape at La Digue was like a glimpse of paradise. Until the very last moment, Mahé buses rose up stress. It is useless to wake up earlier as buses came only at 7am this day. Unfortunately, we had to be at the boarding gate at 7am. But, fortunately, we had half an hour before really leaving the port.
This weekend was a true meeting with nature. A small boat took us near Coco Island and Félicité Island. We did some snorkelling and admired the beautiful marine fauna. It was amazing! Experienced divers will probably laugh at me but for me, it really was heaven. We have met five almost friendly turtles, all kind of fishes, a ray, two small sharks (“pointes noires”). From the boat, we saw six dolphins gently swimming. The instructor went a bit further without us and came back with octopus. I was fascinated by the color of suckers: almost fluorescent.
This immersion into this world is deeply fascinating and one more time, I find it good as it places human being to a more humble place, at least the one he should sometimes take. Facing the first shark, I must admit adrenaline made my blood running fast once. It was not panic but we could say rush. The second time, it was not fear. Let’s say I was more observing. It was more scared of me then I was from it. We were on shallow waters with lots of currents and it was surely not comfortable. The day after, I kept this feeling of harmony and fascination. It was so beautiful! I did not want to touch fish. It was the very last thing I wanted to do. Simply witnessing these movements of school of fish, like a veil blown by the wind, this school of other fish grazing coral, similar to butterflies sipping nectar on flowers, light glowing on their scales like the opening and closing of wings.
This beauty and peace surrounded me for a while but _unfortunately_, I’m still following my reflexions about human impact on nature. How would you hurt these creatures? I’m not telling about never fishing and eating fish and octopus ever but about organising gloomy industrial fishing, scraping the bottom of the sea, sea and barrier reef pollution. What does it worth to us to think about sharing this magnificent underwater life with our future generations?
Another escape to Saint-Anne Marine Park was quite relaxing. It was a very different experience as we were on a very big catamaran with 50 other fellows. I’m not that bothered by the number (except that some of them took ages to do simple things and were wondering and lost themselves where you cannot lose yourself) but I was more about attitudes. As residents, we benefit good deals and tourists coming in here are mostly quite wealthy. Some attitudes of those people make absolutely no sense for me.
We had a buffet on board for lunch. I did not understand a man sitting on the next table emptying his plate with ‘waste’ (which did not look at all like rubbish to me) and who went back to the buffet to get...exactly the same thing! At this table, they got an extra plate to put their ‘rubbish’ into it. It was forming a little hill. I had to turn back to calm myself and watch beautiful islands...
To mention more positive things than me throwing people over board, we saw a peaceful ray and follow it, not too close to let it breathes. We also saw fishes than we did not see anywhere else.
The Treasure Hunt and the Francophonie
Students from Secondary, part of the “Club de français”, participated to the Treasure Hunt organised by the Alliance française des Seychelles for the Francophonie celebration and the Week of the French Language. We prepared a bit this event in looking for vocabulary about treasure hunt and orientation. I’ve checked French History of the Seychelles and tried to identify French places in Victoria. It is a fantastic History. ‘Pirates of the Carribean’ is a bit pale compared to it.
It is a bit of shame that local History has not a bigger place in the curriculum...
This hunt had been real fun, even if I probably have lost few litres of water running in the hellish heat of the afternoon. Our team, ‘Scorpions’, solved enigmas leading us to the National Library to see the stone attesting of the French possession, to the Pierre Poivre’s bust, to the Bel-Air cemetery where were buried many pirates amongst first French settlers (and a giant!) and to the Ecole française. I wanted to film the students to get good memories but they were running like mad and I was more focused on any potential dangers (crossing roads, keeping the group together...) and not losing my things. Anyway, I did lose my bus pass...
In the end, everybody was happy to participate and was wondering when would be the next one. It was the first time the Alliance was organising something like this and in my opinion, it was a real success. Of course, few were critical (but they are French!) but in general, everybody enjoyed it.
For celebrating the Francophonie, we also did a visit to the Alliance française’s library with ISS students. I’ve seen extremes with one class with misbehaviour and the second one with exemplarity. It is always so enjoyable to teach students who want to learn. I imagine this is the dream of all teachers.
My parents visited me during my holidays and we went together on La Digue and Praslin with the catamaran (see previous post).
After going through turquoise waters of the Saint-Anne Marine Park (among Saint-Anne, Moyenne, Longue and Cerf islands), we went to Praslin. The sea was calm and the pace quiet. It was beautiful to see islands from far. I felt in love with Silhouette’s shape. Something mysterious is calling me onto this island. I’m fascinated by it probably because I know there is a wonderful nature trail crossing primary forest over there...
We anchored in Saint-Anne Bay in Praslin. The night was quiet.
We visited the World Heritage’s Vallée de Mai. We were a bit like Lilliputians walking on a forest. François went back to Mahé for work and we kept on sailing, following Praslin’s shores up to Anse Lazio. We went close to Curieuse Island which looked beautiful, with turquoise waters. We went through our first rain there. My father told me about ‘la risée’. This wind wrinkles the surface of the sea and announces rainy weather, which could be tricky as irregular winds change things for a sailing boat.
We anchored around 4pm in Anse Lazio. My father and I wanted to swim a bit from the boat to the beach. We were about 200 meters from the shore. I had my palms on and my father had my brother’s which are bodyboard ones, shorter than standard ones. There were not a lot of fish. I just saw a turtle when we went back. We were swimming at the same pace but I saw my father swimming on his back. At one point, he asked me to go and get a floater. We were not that far from the boat. I rushed to the boat and asked my mother to throw it at me so I could give it to him. I must admit I was really worried that he collapsed. He felt weak and took several minutes to go back up onto the boat. He told me I ‘saved his life’ but I only gave me a floater.
Saying this, we are now equal. I had to recall him because he forgot but he saved me once. I was 13 or 14 when he grabbed me as I was slipping into the icy water of a mountain pond in Reunion Island. Algae made the stone really slippery and I could not talk because of the thermal shock. We were doing a nature trail and it was really hot.
We were lucky because there were a shark attack in 2013 in Anse Lazio...
The night there was agitated. We had lots of wind and rain. I went on the deck around 11pm and I could see worried silhouettes on other boats. It was so beautiful to see, these ebony waves. Small waves were shaking the boat like thousands of tiny hands.
The next morning, we saw mora rays turning around the boat. My father and the captain were thinking there was maybe a shark around, as they usually stick to them. But then, we saw them stuck onto the hull: we were the shark!
The day after, we went to La Digue, going north of Curieuse. We anchored facing Grand Anse. The night was calm, only punctuated by lightening and light storm.
The next morning, we went on the land. We took the dingy. We could see waves from the boat on the beach but we took our chance and went. Everything was ok, we pulled the dingy high enough for not being carried by the sea. The sea was calm.
We walked from Grand Anse to la Passe and came back by taxi. It was around 4pm. It was quite hot. I had a little swim in these crystal-clear waters. There were few waves but nothing too bad. However, they had a weird movement I saw before in Reunion Island. They were breaking towards the beach but formed a second wave going towards the sea.
Then, it was time to get the dingy back to the sea. We knew we had to wait the good time and push the harder we could. But my mother is not a mountain of muscles and would be closer to a underfed hobbit and mine is not far from it (except the height). My father and the captain had more strength but the waves were powerful. In a spectacular failure, the dingy took water, without returning but a young French guy, witnessing our difficulties, came to give a hand in order to cross the line of waves. When I’m thinking back about this guy, so discreet, not asking anything, just helping out, I’m really grateful to him, to this endangered species of humble and helpful people. My father was alone with the only row on the dingy and was going away from waves in order to avoid going back on the shore. Waves caught me and took me down as I was pushing the dingy. This day, I had my glasses on. I just gave their expensive price few minutes ago (as I’m not covered because of my eyesight is not bad enough, even if I cannot further than 50 cms). I was really afraid of losing them: things would have been really bad for me otherwise. Fortunately, I was quick enough to grab them on time.
I wanted to join my father with the second row as the engine was drown but my mother and the captain thought it was too dangerous to do so. I was really worried that my father felt bad. I could see him rowing and that it was an effort (as walking, pushing the dingy from and into the water). I was worried because of the day before.
So he rowed up to the catamaran for about 200 meters. Once again, I thought I should swim to him. The sea was calm and the water still clear. Then the light started to fade and did not want to take risks (as sharks attack at sunset and waves could go bigger). We had no way of communication with him. People on the beach were watching us and some, according to the captain, were even taking photos and filming.
My father took back the dingy and wanted to come back and collect us. We all agreed that it was a bad idea and that crossing waves was dangerous. We tried to shout but he could not hear us as he was too far. At one point, against my mother and the captain’s will, I swam to him. I couldn’t let him rowing alone. My mother and the captain were afraid of swimming.
Glasses on, I swam. Not too fast, as I know stress can significantly strength, but quicker enough as I did not know about his health condition. I came up onto the dingy and rowed to go back to the catamaran, a bit against my father’s will. Once on board, we tried to contact another catamaran staying in the next bay, Petite Anse. We put the talkie onto the emergency frequency, 16. We sent a message in French and English. Nothing at all.
I asked my father which signs we are supposed to do in case of emergency, things to know. He showed me signs to do. I did them towards the other boat. Nothing at all.
I finally took my mobile phone, which is really water-resistant. I called the taxi driver. I still had his number on a tiny bit of paper, which, fortunately, did not join fish during the waves crossing. I explained the situation in French first. Then, he passed me someone else so I explained again the situation in English. Then I passed the phone to my father which explained the situation in Mauritian creol...in vain.
Looking back at the situation, I’m feeling lucky to know at least three languages. I would have been much harder if I was speaking only Russian for example...
Of course, I tried to discourage my father to go back on the dingy and go again towards the beach...in vain. I kept on waving my hands at the cata staying in Petite Anse. I even thought they saw me at one point as a dingy came to them. No answer. At this moment, I think I’m really lucky not to have something really dramatic such as a heart attack or someone victim of a shark attack on board. Non-assistance to people in danger will not be use in front of a tribunal then...
A fishing boat with tourists finally appeared. He is answering to my signs (finally!!) and come closer to me. I’m explaining to them the situation. They went to see my father and dragged him to the catamaran as my mother and the captain disappeared from the shore...
We did not really know what to do.
In the end, a small fishing boat came straight at us and on board there was... my mother and the captain! The captain offered them money to go back on the catamaran. Fishermen told us not to stay there as it could be dangerous. We stayed in Petite Anse for the night.
After this episode, a contact from the French embassy told that Grand Anse was the most dangerous place in La Digue because of waves...
Despite all this agitation, I’m really happy to be on holidays and the sweet rest. I finally know the joy of sleeping in and beach escapades. I had the chance to see rays jumping out of the water and doing big splashes. According to scientists, they are doing so to attract females but it is only hypothesis...
The future of Teaching French in Seychelles
I had the chance to go to a meeting about Teaching French in Seychelles at the University of Seychelles. An extract from a Courteline’s theatre play by students reactivated my nostalgia of acting. I’m missing this thrill.
Teaching French is a challenge in Seychelles. The language is not the youth favourite one. Some of them even fear it. Young and older Seychellois are afraid of doing mistakes when speaking. Teachers know they need help in training. Maybe it was at a time associated to more rigid Church teaching...Moreover, the country went totally English with the Commonwealth...
However, kreol Seselwa is clearly French-based, as it’s syntax shows. Few English words here and there.
I came across an interesting discover when chatting with a Mauritian living here. He told me that colours are not the same in Seselwa. My surprise was complete when he asked a Seychellois working closer to come and talk about this difference.
First, he showed her grey bench and asked her which colour it was. She said: ‘Cend’, which I could guess what the kreol version of the French ‘cendres’ (ashes). Then, she said ‘gris’ (grey in French) when he showed a brown leather bag (I was quite confused at this point) and then ‘rouz’ (rouge in French so red) when he pointed at my skin, as for any mixed complexion. But the more intriguing is that when Seychellois speak English, colours are going back to ‘normal’ (in the end, it is just a point of view, right?).
I have to check that my Kreol-speaking students are not confused with colours!
I read Åke Edwardson’s ‘Shadow and Sun’. I was quite dark so I asked my favourite librarian a recommendation. So I read Franz Bartelt’s ‘Le fémur de Rimbaud’.
I read a very interesting series of comics about cathares called ‘Le Dernier Cathare’ (The Last Cathare). Realling interesting.
I went to the National Library and I was surprised to find a really and expensive French selection. I’ve borrowed Florent Couao-Zotti’s ‘Poulet-bicyclette et Cie’. They have heaps of French-speaking African authors. It reminds me a poster seen at the Alliance française about the Young French-speaking Writer or something like this. If lots of countries had one figure participants, Bénin had about 44!
The National Library premises were just renovated and it is really nice. And the membership is free!
My contract with the Département de la Réunion was just renewed and I’m really happy about it! I will have the chance to enjoy Seychelles for one more year!
We spend a quiet life here in Seychelles. I’m still enjoying tropical weather and I’m lucky to have a job. It will soon be the Week of the French Language and the Francophonie celebration. The Alliance française des Seychelles is organising a Treasure Hunt and I’m really happy to participate with my students from the club de français (secondary). They are very excited and me too!! The Alliance is also organising activities on the 20th March, day of the Francophonie celebration. I hope to see some of my students overthere...
I’m still caught in a fast pace at school. Managing both primary and secondary at the same time is not easy. I feel like I cannot really concentrate on a specific one. I feel like I don’t have enough time and distance to face everything. Primary can be exhausting sometimes. It is not that all secondary classes are quiet but I prefer to deal with them. I admire my colleagues, which deserve a big clap.
With tiredness and the feeling of time flying, eternal questions about my choice and uncommon life come back like mosquitoes. I know I should not fall into this easy trap. I had the chance to meet people who gave me the strength to go beyond these pressures of the occidental society.These people are occidental themselves but their point of view about life is so original. I’ve not seen them for a long time and the explanation of my weakening probably lies in it. But still, I’m from this world and it is difficult to completely cut the mooring ropes. And I have to do with people thinking this way...
I feel like psychological exhaustion alters my perception and doubt is slowly eating me. Did I make the right choice? Why I fail (what is success)? What do I like in the end?
The impact of the attack in Madagascar was maybe underestimated, Australia and New-Zealand mourning not digested... But I feel a little better reading the website Retourenfrance.fr, especially about expats (and other categories of migrants) coming back in France, their professional life and identity.
Something is weird to me in the morning on my way to school. I see big and small trucks full of workers standing like cattle in open-skies skips. I’m not sure someone would care about these people in case of incident.
A Seychelloise told me that it was a common practice to sit at the back of a truck in Seychelles but only few people, usually from the family or friends. But in mornings, they are usually Indians, standing straight and could be up to 20 in small trucks.
The sea call
My father came to visit me. He is co-skipper on a sailing boat which crossed the Indian ocean. They left from Thailand and came to the Seychelles via Sri Lanka, where they quickly stopped. I went on board and I must admit that it is waking up my taste for adventure! My father was in the merchant navy for few years and he wanted to go back sailing.
This life on a boat looks quite tempting. Of course, you have to buy the boat, to pay for the maintenance, organise subsistence but it should be incredible to see land from the sea, to see sea birds and more than anything, to see glowing plankton at night. My father told me about it and it looks as magical as glowing worms in Tasmania...
I understand his will of facing natural elements. It should be great to feel like one with the sea. In a tempest or when the weather is good and that the boat is sliding on a smooth sea, we only are a tiny shell, a drop of this very same ocean...
The Malagasy bond
I sometimes have some news from Madagascar but a recent one was really filling me with joy. I was supervising trainees when I was working for the Centre de Presse Malagasy in Antananarivo. One of them wrote to me about very good news: he passed her exams, has a Master with Honours and the jury congratulations! I am so happy for her!! She is a hard worker, devoted person, which deserves this success! Future Malagasy businesswoman, I wish her the best for her future!
She thanked me for my advices and support but I did not do anything. I’m just sharing her joy!
But it is very sad to hear bad news such as the country was hit by a cyclone (Enowa) and did a lot of damages. Unfortunately, it is like this in the Indian Ocean. Every cyclone is finishing its route in Madagascar...
My reading pace went a bit down those days. Formats changed. I came back a bit to my little sin, comics. I read few albums of a collection about World War One, ‘1914-1918’ and a good comics about French sorcery, ‘Charmes fous’.
I alsoread Antoine Abel’s ‘Une tortue se rappelle...’ (Memories of a turtle), an avant-garde ecological tale written in 1975! I’m just starting Fred Vargas’s ‘Dans les bois éternels’.
Fish, fish, fish
We went South and visited Anse Intendance (very windy, lots of currents, quite dangerous). We did snorkelling in Anse Royale in late afternoon. Usually, we snorkel between 10am and 2pm. I think we did not see the same fishes at that time. I saw sea horses. They are not so easy to spot as they look like seaweed when swimming.
My partner was lucky to see a ray.
I was on the beach watching our things, more preoccupied about jet skis coming very close to swimmers.
We had again more rain. It is tough on shoes. One of my pairs just torn out. Glues disappear with heat and humidity finish leather sandals.
In the bus, when you’re standing, sitting people get your bags in an absolute silence. First, of course, our fears of being stolen make us widen eyes. But bags given back, always in silence, teach you to trust. This strange exchange is made without words but also without look.
Buses accept standing passengers and you could stay like this for a while. You had to quickly grab something quickly to hold firmly (the driver let you few seconds before starting brutally); I almost felt my shoulder going out in a curve recently...!
Students’ joy is a great delight. In the end, can we really be happy alone? Happiness is in sharing.
On the other hand, I’ve been really disappointed by some students behaviour when showing videos about why learning French. I should not but I took it personally. It is not my patriotism which was hurt (maybe...) but it was just a shame to see that some Seychellois denigrate a part of themselves. They are not aware that they are more French than they think. Their History and genes are French.
I’ve finished Rudyard Kipling’s ‘The Light that Failed’ and it was a good surprise. Even if I’m not really into war descriptions, this novel offered way more than just adventure. I took this book, almost by chance at the Alliance française’s library. I enjoyed reading ‘The Jungle Book’ in its original version (in English) recently. I thought that another Kipling would not be that risky to read. I was not expecting to come across one of the theme that follows me for a moment now and which feeds one of my biggest fear.
I did not believe into destiny when I was younger. I refused the idea that ‘things were written’. But recurrent coincidences happening changed my point of view. Without thinking that your path is already done and that you cannot escape it, I realise that I’ve seen Lars Von Trier’s ‘Dancer in the Dark’ and ‘The Lobster’, in which the theme of blindness is developed. Just like some of my favourite songs, The Smashing Pumpkins’s ‘Porcelina of the Vast Oceans’.
With ‘The Light that Failed’ (a war press correspondent-painter suddenly turning blind), I fear to find clues towards a fate.
I’ve not seen an optometrist for a while and the risk is still there. I fear so much this eternal night. From something like 10 years, this Damocles sword is threatening to fall. My retinas, full of holes and repaired, could give up one day. Panic first shook me. Then I tried to take some distance with it, to see the bright side of the situation. It turns the septic/melancholic girl I was into someone who loves life and who wants to enjoy it. I still want to enjoy it but I know that I could lose and it scares me.
‘Bettý’ was quite surprising and in line with the reputation of Scandinavians and Icelanders.
There is a strange fashion in Seychelles : perfuming. The association of Indian Ocean and perfume leads me to Mayotte, also known as ‘The Perfume Island’ for its great variety of aromatic flowers and plants. I had the chance to confirm it when I was hiking in nature over there and being enchanted by sweet and delicate flora fragrances.
In here, I loved vegetal scents on the way to Anse Major, along a nature trail. It brought us on a tropical forest and then to coastal path among giant curvy granite blocks and falls.
However, the closer we get from the humans, the more aggressive it can be. My nose has been attacked few times. These words are chosen as there is nothing else I can compare this terrible smell of old perfume of which only stays the alcohol meant to fix it. These attacks happened in the bus in the morning and sometimes even on the street when I was unfortunate enough to cross this heavy halo. I thought you did not need to be a specialist to know that perfume can go off with heat and that in here, you cannot really escape it _except living with air conditioning, which is the case of some people but I blame them when they have to go out on the street_. I fear the worst as I’ve been told few times that heat will be serious from March. I was disgusted enough by the contact of the sweaty moist of the skin contact of the person sitting next to me in the bus...
On the contrary and unfortunately, these perfume addicts do not know about hormone disruptors presence and that daily aspersion could give men a proper breast and stimulate hair growing for female on the torso...I discovered this information a while ago, when I was working for a health and nutrition website, Santé la Vie. It was a great chance to work for this media freed from pressures. Unfortunately, economic censorship and auto-censorship is common, big drug companies threaten and/or buy media but we were free and able to lead investigations as we wanted.
Still about buses, I like to observe people and more than anything, witness civics on this environment. I knew Parisian wilderness, Australian order, Malagasy politeness and now, I’m facing Seychelles non-civics. You may find my words tough and could blame me for such a easy and quick judgment from someone who just arrived few weeks ago (a month and half now). But, twice, I’ve given my seat to elders and no one was ready to do so. This idea of these persons not having consideration is very difficult to picture for me. But I need to balance my speech as someone surprised me in pushing herself a bit to offer me a bit of room on the bench seat. In buses, you have bench seats for 2 and ones for 3. Usually, people sit when they want and never move after, except to get down. You do not squeeze for the new comers to have some room and sit. They have to stand or to try to find a way through, sometimes meeting sitting people’s knees.
The adjective fixed means something in here.
Absence of civics is intriguing; polystyrene take-away boxes are thrown just next to bins and plastic waste happily thrown by teenagers in buses in the end of the afternoon. So, thought _or more absence of thinking_ of these absurd people is not comprehensive for me. Who would defecate next to toilets?
My partner and I are oftenly picking up waste on the beach (industrial cakes wrapping and other plastic waste that turtles might choke with), keeping them until the next bin. To see such waste in pristine nature is such a disgrace. How can people do that?
This revolt boiling in me is not for me; it is for future generations which will not be able to see what I see and to do what I’m doing today. The very first and most important step of this process of awareness stands in behaviour and individual responsibility.
But as for everything, you have one thing and its contrary. The Kindness, consciousness, environmental practices of my colleague are giving me hope. This woman from Praslin is a great woman. We are sharing this will of creating the minimum waste and offering many lives to objects. Her ingenuity is surprising; she created chemises with cereals boxes that could be easily displayed in trendy shops. And her generosity is lavishing me on soursops, mangoes and other sweets.
Our snorkelling adventures led us to see incredible fishes. We saw the whole spectre of the rainbow, including fluorescent and deep colours. We swam into a giant aquarium, few meters away from the shore, in Port Launay. It was a breathtaking beauty. Calm and balance filled in my being. These creatures were moving without any fear, some of them were even curious about us. I was thinking back of Le Clézio’s ‘Chercheur d’or’, when he describes Saint-Branbon island, a place where creatures were not fearing men and came to them. A terrible description of men killing turtles which coming to them...
How can we end this beauty? Who are we to do so? Without scourging ourselvers or hoping mankind’s ending, can we hope for a balance and a minimum of respect?
I recently watched a wide audience movie, a comedy. This 2016 movie was summarizing the spirit of the times with regular teasings, nasty friends (almost bad) and more than anything, putting down any form of respect. It had an interesting message about the use and abuse of ethics in marketing but that was it. No depth. Sure, mainstream is not meant to deliver intellectual debate. But without falling into the ‘it was better before’, comedies were more clever and bringing more interesting messages, even in the 80’s. How did we fall into this? This decadence, this baseness, this poverty?
...and vegetal beauty
Even if civics is not common into it, I must admit that the Seychelles public transport network is efficient and affordable. For only 5 rupees (standard fare), you can go from North to South and go onto stunning roads. Victoria-Port Launay via Sans-souci is just amazing. We left the heavy coastal heat to go up into the freshness of tropical forest. I love to dive into this luxuriant nature so quickly in here. These tropical undergrowth are like a freshness oasis. This winding road is the beginning of many nature trails on my to-do list. The surrounds of the Morne Blanc are beautiful and this green horizon makes me think of Indiana Jones’s adventures.
As usually, my head is working like a machine to fight fatality. Of course, I’m limited: time, capacities, everything. But Esperance flame is there. And my mission about education is shining like a star. I will not change the world. I’m only trying to plant seeds. I’m trying to transmit what I can: quotes, authors ‘names, songs titles, movies, comics...To draw a ‘treasure map’ for these students thirsty of learning, discovering and pushing their own boundaries.
I ate Katherine Pancol’s ‘Les yeux jaunes des crocodiles’. I read all the other episodes of this series and I was the first one last. It is not the first time I’m reading a cycle the wrong way. My first was Anne Rice’s Vampire cycle. I started with the Tale of the Body Thief (and in English please!). I love so much this author.
I took Rudyard Kipling’s ‘The Light that Failed’ and Arnaldur Indridason’s ’Bettý’.
From the ‘Jardin du Roy’, I preferred ‘Le Garçon Boucher’.
Playing piano was as good as swimming _finally!_. First impressed by the high volume of this study piano, I then let my hands running onto the keyboard. It is funny to play piano in such itinerant manner. Pianos are like people. First, we meet. I’m playing to know how it is going. Sometimes they are a bit old and even sick (just like in my post about Prospect Road piano in Adelaide, Australia). And then, we start to engage a conversation: I’m playing more and it is saying me more things. And then, we discuss and harmony is giving me goose pump. I love differences I’ve found in every single one of them. It is like a character trait. For detuned ones, it is giving them an old-fashion charm that could even led us to go to a specific style, tack piano. I’m always sad to leave them...like people who I had a good chat with. As they all inspired me a different way. It is funny. They have like a secret melody, only revealed to players who dare to touch them, these study pianos left aside.
Buses in here remind me of Harry Potter’s, rushing with madness. We can still see them but they are driving so fast.
Choir Festival – Seychelles voices
I volunteered for the Choir Festival, organised by our school, the International Seychelles School. I was in charge of opening and closing the curtain, a great responsibility. I had the chance to watch the show for backstage. I was delighted by the National Choir of Seychelles. Members of the choir told me they recently went to Reunion Island and that Reunionese came in here.
Trip to Baie Lazare
It was really paradise on Earth. Transparent water, thin sand, everything was there. Weekends are the occasion to go to the beach and enjoy the Beauty of Seychelles. We feel like on holidays for two days. These escapes offer an incredible quality of life. My only regret is not to be able to explore the island by bicycle. It is way too dangerous to ride a bicycle in here because of the traffic and narrow roads.
I’ve finished Le Clézio’s ‘Le chercheur d’or’ and I really enjoyed it. It was a beautiful book. The turtle’s massacre was really difficult to read. The worst is that it is still happening in some places.
I’m now diving into Britain author Philippe Le Gall’s ‘Le Jardin du Roy’. The first novel is a bit...weird.
Sweetness of living
I don’t think there are small pleasures here but only pleasures. I love to taste the vieille (local fish) fish flesh, such a delicate flesh...At the market, I find similar vegetables and fruits to Reunion Island: chouchous, brèdes (leaves like spinach), taro and other bananas. Prices are decent and allow living normally. I was thinking back about my Parisian miserable life, about the fact that I will not be able to go ever backwards and accept to live in a 10m2 flat, counting my money to buy pasta with tomato paste.
We cannot say life is easy in Seychelles. Like everywhere, we have to work for living and Seychelles’s economy is dependant from the global economy but if you live without great expectations, life is sweet.
The taste of everyday life
Days are going quickly. They are full but I feel like time is flying (supersonic speed). Or I’m enjoying too much this experience and good times are quickly spent. Because, it is true, I love everything. I love morning’s quietness, landscape going so fast in the bus, horizon made of bread tree giant and serrated leaves, interest of students which are intrigued by the sentence I wrote on the board and that I did not explained (on purpose, to test their curiosity), the music of the kreol Seselwa (which I mainly understand, even if I still cannot get all of it). Everyday life has such a lovely taste for me...
A lot of nationalities are represented on the islands. The whole world is close. It reminds me of a very nice couple welcoming us in Auckland via AirBnB. I remember that they told us they couldn’t travel for now so they had the whole world at their place. I think I would love to follow this path when I will stop travelling.
Yes, I confess, I love hiding details for curious students, letting information like stones on the wisest ones. I always loved secrets, enigmas and surprises. So I really enjoyed myself in bringing partners to unknown destinations, hiding messages into unexpected places. I’m trying to give back what life is generally offering me: good surprises. Of course, I had bad moments but I’m grateful for my fate in general. I’m not to blame: I’m in good health (touching wood), I’m doing things that I like or I’m finding some interest for, I’m not wanted by gangs and I don’t have astronomic debts.
But most important, the little bit of way achieved did not turned me bitter or blasé. On the contrary, I keep my astonishment ability intact. I even fall in love again and again, especially of French language. I always loved it but teaching it, transmitting it is drawing me a new perspective.
Mahé is like a green bower, luxuriant nature. I had the chance to go for a visit at the Jardin de l’Ambassadeur, Kot Man-Ya and it was amazing. This former Ambassador of Seychelles (France and United States of America) is living his passion for few years now.
I’ve been told about this slower pace in Seychelles. I would not say slow. Slow comparing to? What for this occidental frenetic race? Where is it going? Of course, there are areas which need to be fast-paced like health for instance. But except those areas, why running towards devouring consumerism? Yes, life is easy in here, with sun, fertile ground and regular rain. But even under other skies, why did we break this obvious bond with nature?
I was at a friend’s at Beau Belle. I like this place. Weather is easily changing, going to sunny to rain and then rain to sunny in 10 minutes. I like this place because it is like a giant invisible hand caressing tree leaves like we caress children’s hair. It a soft movement and leaves are gently swinging, like in slow motion. This movement is fascinating. Just like the dark bit of forest hanging on a big hill across. Trees are giant because of the absence of cyclones in the area.
Nature is beautiful in here that I would like to paint it…
Love of work
I am still enjoying my work. I feel that I have so much to develop, starting with myself. I quickly jumped into my position and I didn’t have much time to prepare the curriculum. I’m taking the year in the middle of the year, during the second term. At least I could start at the beginning of the term! I’m a bit stressed about timing as I feel that I won’t have enough time to build projects. But no room for fatalism! I’m always working in collaboration with teachers and we will have two clubs de français; one for primary and the other for secondary. For primary, we will work on French sounds (phonetics but also songs and vocabulary, on pupils’ request). For secondary, we will try to work around drama.
It could sometimes be like sport to have 12 classes with very different levels but it is just a matter of time. But as a first true teaching experience, it is really something!
Time is flying, both at school (it is very frustrating sometimes, we would like to spend more time with some students to go further) and outside. A day is spent so quickly. I didn’t even have the time to go for a swim at the Roche Caïman swimming pool, next to the school. I’m walking everyday but I would really love to have a good physical activity.
I’ve landed into a postcard. The island is beautiful, people very nice. The only ‘weak’ point is the weather. It is the rainy season and I’m feeling like in a jungle. Fog is sticking to the mountains and rain curtains sometimes stretch. The temperature is hot and we feel as if there was no point in taking showers.
Pleasure and respect
It is a great chance for me and in general to teach in an international school. I was dreaming of speaking English again and my dream came true as we teach French in English (no play on words or tricks there). It is a certain approach, which, in the end, is completely fitting my experiences. I love to use my different skills at the same time. Speaking two languages quickly and in at the same time requires a lot of concentration. I’m really impressed by these teachers who speak three languages (English, French and Seychellois creol) but moreover, who are working with very different levels (from total beginner to bilingual student).
Seychellois creol looks first quite similar to Mauritian creol and very different to Reunionnese creol. I had the chance to be exposed to Mauritian creol because of my father and to have been immerged into Reunionnese creol. But the greatest part is that I have been able to practice English. Reunionnese creol is based mostly on French and Malagasy words whereas Mauritian and Seychellois creols are ‘turning into French’ and ‘into creol’ English words. I can more or less guess what we are talking about but no guarantee here as pronunciation can leave some dark areas in my understanding of the subject.
Teaching, very first human investment
Teaching is a great new adventure to me. In France, I must admit that it looks very heavy to me as a former student and as potential teacher. But these specific contexts of teaching (Teaching French in another language) fascinate and attract me a lot.
It is a shame for French education. It was previously of a great quality, very rich. But unfortunately, today, many things are undone and it is very sad as we were given great tools to face life, even if we couldn’t understand the objective of some exercises and even, subjects.
My different trips (Australia, Madagascar and now Seychelles) lead me to think more in depth about education of the spine of a society. Some people, reading those lines, will think that it is of course, so obvious but it took me time to understand this urgent need to invest in priority in education and to involve myself. Education seems like human agriculture to me. We plant seeds, hoping the crops will be good. Of course, we have to work around unexpected events but we try.
Formula 1 bus
I’m taking every day the bus to go to the bus terminal, downtown. Then, I’m walking. I love walking, especially in the morning. The light in the morning is magical, making everything beautiful. It is turning everything into a masterpiece.
You have to firmly grab your seat or anything as bus drivers are probably Fast and Furious fans...
I’ve kept my good habits and I borrowed books from the Alliance française des Seychelles. I got local author Antoine Abel’s ‘Coco sec’. I also took J.M.G. Le Clézio’s ‘Le chercheur d’or’. I love this author. He’s got a unique way of talking about Mauritius. When he is mentioning the island, it looks like a dreamy land. And I also took a French comic, Etienne Davodeau’s ‘Lulu Femme Nue’, published by Futuropolis (I love what they are doing).
So close, so far
I’m living in Anse Etoile, a poetical name. It is a very quiet place with a very green horizon. Strange but true, something is reminding me French Antillas here. I did a short trip to Guadeloupe a while ago and I’ve found something Caribbean in places and people.
I'm few days away from the departure and I cannot wait!
I succeeded in getting strenght back these last weeks, standing back from the Malagasy incident and appreciating my chance of still being part of the Coopération.
I was considering my professional life these days and smiling thinking about what Anglo-saxons and French think about it. In the end, I have whole life experiences, that's it. When I'm leaving, I'm embracing the experience. I think I like to 'put my hands in a country's guts'. I had the opportunity to write a guide for French expats in Australia and it lead me to this vision. Unfortunately, the editor did not publish my work as he thought it was not in line with what they wanted (but the whole book was written!). But this work helped me asking myself pertinent questions about the foreign country I'm living in, my home countries (as binational) and standing back about life in general.
A new aventure will start and I cannot wait for it to start!
The return is in half-heart tone. It was really expected and feared. I’ve left friends, including my flatmates (and it is a bit weird suddenly not to see people you have lived with every day).
Until the very last moment, the half-heart tone was there. On the door step, as we were sad to leave one of our flatmate, two kids were begging. We did not give anything, refusing to support this system, and one of the kids gave us the finger as our taxi was driving away. Until arriving to the airport, I feared that our taxi driver drove us in a weird path to rob us.
It is true that you have the before and after Madagascar. It is changing you in better and in worst. It is just changing you. Violence is everywhere, worming yourself in like the city dust and squeaking under your teeth.
You are really pleased to be back home. Antananarivo made me think of a giant carnivorous plant, Dionaea, which trapped humans into its spiky petals.
The arrival at Reunion Island was like a dream. It was unreal. Everything was so clean, open, the air fresh. I could see the horizon, the sea and sounds were so dulcet.
Violences: always, again, everywhere
I’ve left different forms of violence, including sly violence. The Summit of Francophonie, money bulldozer, is putting unbearable and contemptuous and pressures on local people. I cannot imagine what the Malagasy lower and middle class is thinking when they see brand new buses, laws and road works flourish as all these efforts for common were not done before.
I’m fighting with this guilt of leaving but I can be replaced.
It is ‘funny’ as another form of violence is hitting me: violence of going back to a rich country system where awareness is very light. So cowardice of a country where everything is still preserved compared to a place like Antananarivo...
Wart of cowardice is even more visible on the face of our society. Nobody cares about politics, everybody is way more concerned about its own little life, its upcoming Christmas shopping, and how I will compose my table decoration, and what will be my new car, and will my next smartphone be red or tiger-like...
I will be able to pass my DAEFLE (Teaching French as Foreign Language diploma) exam. I was not sure that it was possible as with all these events, I’ve missed the official date to admissions for the final exam. I’m a bit tired but too motivated to let this chance go!
Interns still thank me for what I’ve taught to them and I’m deeply touched. I’ve very proud to say that and it is not to satisfy my ego but pure joy. If I can support people to develop their self-confidence, it is such a great step! I took myself so long to be self-confident. I remember teachers and people who pushed me to be who I am and where I am today and I’m feeling very grateful.
It is the greatest success of our trips: witness people who became our friends succeed and if we contributed a little bit to it, it is even better.
I’m starting to relax and find back my marks. We were under pressure the first times as we still had Malagasy habits and Antananarivo daily life marking. It was good to see family and friends. We have not seen everybody yet; we are taking our time as we are exhausted.
That’s it, we took a final decision. We are going back ‘home’ (Reunion Island).
After three weeks of thousand ways of thinking and rethinking the situation, trying to convince ourselves that everything will be alright, awful nightmares where my partner is dying, we took the ‘least terrible’ option.
Going out from home here more than twice is looking like climbing Mount Everest because of physical exhaustion and fear of taking this path downstairs.
We are torn between leaving our missions and friends here and the relief of going back ‘home’. I’m putting home into brackets as my partner has roots in France and I have other roots somewhere between Australia and New Zealand.
I’m affected by this situation: the ‘least terrible’ one.
We are not going out much, staying into our shell. Of course, we both are feeling guilty of leaving our missions and plans unachieved. But the only idea of going out alone, without each other, is terrifying us.
We both expect to visit a psychologist to be able to go over fear of crowded places and young people groups. We hope that it won’t follow us too much.
Pleasure of sharing
Preparing our departure, we spent a good weekend with Malagasy friends. It really soothed our hearts. Even if I’m very sad to leave my friends, I must admit that it was a moment full of joy and sharing (they taught me again more things about Malagasy culture). In my opinion, memories are what is left at the end and my friends are offering me such a great gift in spending time with me, from the humble walk to the evening at home, anywhere, in all conditions, just spending time with me.
Of course, sadness is filling my heart and I will cry like a fountain at the airport because I won’t see them in a nearer future but the joy of knowing them and the chance I had to spend this little bit of time with them is bigger and I prefer to keep this flavour in my mouth.
From different sources around me (volunteers and others), it is apparently not so easy to create bonds with Malagasy people. Some are isolated because of racism; others are living in an enchanted world of vazahas. So I’m feeling even luckier to have my Malagasy friends.
They pleased me in playing traditional Malagasy music and singing together. It was beautiful and powerful! I could feel a strong familial and cultural bond in these delicate harmonies. They translated songs for us. They were very sad, reflecting a tough life.
Exams coming soon
Final DAEFLE (Teaching French as a Foreign Language) exam is coming very soon. The 7th of December is in few weeks now and I cannot concentrate on its preparation. I really hope I will able to rest and focus on it in Reunion Island.
Sunday was a day of remembrance. A year ago, Lola, 17, died on Paris attacks at the Bataclan. The death of my friend’s daughter deeply affected me. I keep on thinking and dreaming of her. She was so beautiful and we had so much to share. My visit on her grave is still something out of reality for me. I don’t want to believe in this nightmare.
Thank you for reading me, I can see my number of readers increasing. Thank you for comments, emails and other private messages. I’m touched by your support and it is helping me out in these tricky moments.
Should I stay or should I go now?
Whatever would be the final decision, it will be hard. Staying or leaving, that is the question. I went back to work quickly to meet colleagues and finish the edition of a radio program. It is very sad to imagine that I would leave all this and the feeling of desertion heavy to carry but we will see a bit further that there is a list of criteria to consider.
After days and days of thinking over the situation, considering consequences of choices and picking a decision, we took a break. We _finally_ succeeded in going further than Ambohimanga (see previous episode). We went to Mantasoa, two and half hours away from Antananarivo. The place is famous for its quietness and fresh air. We were not disappointed as the place was very peaceful, far from roaring cars and the city endless noise. Peaceful lake waters were only disturbed by jumping fishes, getting insects. Wind was caressing water lilies. It was almost the perfect postcard, except for the bush fires fog letting only a solar disk appearing. Even there, the air was not so fresh...
Halas, this potential break was ruined by a tough return to the capital city. Bush fires were important and it was impressive to see the sky whitened and the sun hidden for most of the trip. Quietness was smashed by a very long wait (we changed three times of taxi-brousse and four hours of wait!), promiscuity again (packed into the vehicle), dangerous driving on tracks with craters-sized holes and again, this weird look on me.
Am I too tall, too vazaha, too karana? A little girl stood for while, staring at my partner when we were waiting the taxi-brousse and it was obviously curiosity towards my vazaha partner. But I don’t get intentions of looks on me in Antananarivo. I read sometimes contempt. A Sunday morning, I read it on a man cleaning his car as I was taking a taxi. About the rest of the time, I don’t want to believe it, to dive into paranoia but I’m ending to think that it is something close to it. My partner is notiving more these looks on me than myself. Well, from the aggression, we are of course more careful of our environment. But the looks were there before the event.
Another detail lets me think that there is a real discrimination. When we took the taxi-brousse to go back home, we were amongst the first arrived and we could pick our seats. We wanted the front row seats (to finally have a bit of room!) and we were told that there were reserved. Then, we saw that there were not at all...
A smashed car on the road during the way in appeared again on our minds and finally, it was not so bad to seat on the back rows (maybe...).
I still trust those that I consider like friends but something is really broken with Madagascar. In the street, we are foreigners and we feel it. Of course, we are foreigners but Malagasy people have a word to tag foreigners who are accepted and respected: vahiny. We are not just in the street but vazaha (or karana) walking on the street in Tana.
I’ve already been attacked in Paris. It took me years to go back to some places and I’m still scared of some. But I must admit that I trust more French authorities.
In Antananarivo, you are asked a ‘coffee’. You have then to give few thousand of ariary (or threat to call the Consulat but this strategy is not always a good one according to some advices).
The question was not obvious as I wanted to be strong as a mountain and to face the situation. But just like water, it worked the stone and dug the stone: am I able to adapt to life abroad? The question is adding to my ocean of interrogations.
I trust in myself but fatigue and psychological weakness let some room for doubt.
We cannot and do not want to live like expats. This privileged and wanted status never seduced us as it is too far from local daily life but also as it is not part of our contract.
Leaving with few finances, leaving a precarious situation and depression, we had to go over arrival difficulties and savour _for me_ achievement and concrete outcomes. But daily life is starting to be really too hard.
We are trying to stand back and to use ‘cold’ tools to see more clearly the situation. We are doing pros and cons spreadsheets with list of criteria (ability to find a job, pollution, safety, social networking...).
Back to reality
Mantasoa was a short relieving break but the return to reality and Antananarivo daily violence was brutal, as excepted.
Violence, especially violence of misery, is everywhere. It is kicking you on the face at any time, when you are having a drink in a bar and when you just look outside and see a whole family fighting for subsistence. Pollution and misery are permanent, visual, sound and ethical.
I can hear people telling me to ‘protect’ myself, not to let empathy getting me and to go on places where you cannot see misery but what hypocrisy! No, I’m not a saint, a martyr or something similar to it. No, I will not change the world. I know it but living with it, like this, is a huge challenge.
Fortunately, we were invited by colleagues, now friends. These Malagasy learnt us to play the fanorona (traditional Malagasy game), some Malagasy words (malai which means great), bit about Malagasy History and a bit more about socio-cultural context. Racism is very developed. Rivalry between merinas and people from the Coast is tough and some people put fire to historic buildings into this fight!
The Francophonie Summit is not far now and we can clearly feel it. The city is transforming and the government is taking measures. School will be closed during the Summit and some gossip are saying that days off will be extended to everybody (as during the solar eclipse). Some say that it is for getting less traffic jam for international guests.
Benefits for the population are still a big question tag. French is the official language but for most, the level is not very good and sometimes forgot (on purpose or not). It is used when there is no translation or if you want to be more precise.
The after shock
We asked to be sent back to Reunion Island and then sent to another safer country.
This is the first time that I’m thinking of leaving such a great job. Everything was perfect: I was doing a radio program with a team with strong bonds, I was achieving interesting projects and I was meeting people. Even if I have recently started my mission, I consider some colleagues like friends now and we had so many projects, visits, things to do aside the job. It would be a real sacrifice for me to leave but staying is accepting risks. I cannot completely concentrate on my job right now.
We fear to be watched and that another aggression happens again.
I’ve learnt to be careful about signs. In Australia, in a week, things were not good at work, I had my application for a permanent residency visa refused, my partner had a car accident and his grand-mother died. Sometimes, we had to accept that a path might not be the good one for you and maybe change.
We are deeply convinced about the principles of Coopération régionale. We still support that it is a great opportunity for Reunionnese people and countries hosting the program. We simply had bad luck.
We hesitate. We would love to stay, face the situation and fulfil the contract. Maybe it is not such a good idea to escape to another place. Maybe changing few parameters would allow us to stay until the end of the mission and not leaving our hosting structures and missions like that.
Of course, we still are scared when we cross the path of young people, in crowded places (markets, streets) and most of all, the path where we were attacked (next door, few meters away from our place, which is a problem).
Our employer, the Département de la Réunion, is closely following up on our situation and I must admit that we feel that they are supportive and listening to us.
We feel that from the local authorities’ point of view, it is not a serious situation, even if not common at this place (read more about on the previous post). In France, I already faced impassibility of authorities and what is sure is that no one is moving as long as you are not coming with a knife between your shoulders. And it is something that I can understand as the mountain of papers created by these ‘little’ events is a big one for these officers who see murders and other horrors.
But we are living abroad and it is never easy to feel vulnerable far from your marks.
We went to Ambohimanga and it was a good moment. Located about 20 kms north away from Antananarivo, the village of Ambohimanga fulfilled our dream of fresh air and nature.
The Rova (palace), doors and city walls, archaeological site, are UNESCO ranked World Heritage. We really enjoyed being away from pollution and promiscuity.
It is still difficult for us to go out as we are physically (we sleep about 10 to 12 hours up and are still tired during the day) and psychologically exhausted. We feel that going out is a super hero mission.
‘All inclusive’ circuits do not exist in Madagascar. Travel agencies only offer car with driver rentals so for now, we do not plan a weekend in Tamatave or Mahajunga (on the coast, by the sea). Anyway, it would take hours to go there so there is not point for a weekend.
My partner did lose weight from the aggression. We are trying to rest and find again our balance.
We put our missions on hold for think about a decision about the situation.
Rain washed all trees and plants so we discover nature downtown. It is appearing again after hiding behind a thick layer of dust.
Back to work
I’m back to work and I must admit I love my job. I have the chance to create and manage projects, do radio programs, meet people and I feel like it would be very difficult and even more impossible in Reunion Island and France. I hope I’m wrong but I had no signs going towards an opportunity. Maybe I’m too difficult…
Yes, my health is at risk. Yes, daily life can be tough. But for once I have a fulfilling job, in line with my values and that I love to do…
Antananarivo is preparing to host international events. The Francophonie Summit will be held in less than a month now. We can see the city preparing to this.
White lines appeared on major roads downtown. It is sad to have to wait international events and leaders to discuss while eating petits fours for infrastructures to be improved. But at the same time, it is a benefit for the whole population.
Meeting with Emmanuel Genvrin
We had the great chance to meet Emmanuel Genvrin, author living in La Réunion for a long time. This prolific author, friend of late André Pangrani (founder of the magazine Kanyar), talked about cultural life and policies in La Réunion. I was really happy to meet him again (we met before in La Réunion) and to discuss with him. I was in Antananarivo to promote his last book Rock Sakay about the failure of “Reunionnese” colonisation project of Madagascar, led by France. Unfortunately, I’ve not read it yet, as this birthday gift is in La Réunion and apparently, we cannot rely on Malagasy Post to receive mail and as we have no letter box.
I always had a complicated relationship with Reunionnese culture. I love it, I desire it but I feel like it is only teasing me. It sounds like I will never ‘own’ it, like I will never be part of it. Maybe I have difficulties to integrate the island, even if I was born and I lived there.
I read in a Michèle Rakotoson’s book the word acculturé (without culture) and it is maybe the closest word to describe how I feel.
I have no time to read those days as I’m too tired and I’ve not borrowed anything for a moment at the Alliance Française or at the Institut Français de Madagascar.
However, we’ve seen ‘The Lobster’ at the Institut Français de Madagascar during their free movie sessions, a crazy movie about love and society.
We live around Anosy, government neighbourhood, close to Lake Anosy. It’s got a good reputation.
We hosted a friend, part of the Coopération régionale at home for two nights as she spent few days in Antananarivo. Friday night, we went with her for her to get a taxi, few hundreds of meters from home, next door. It was around 8pm and 8.30pm when a group of 6 to 8 people threat us with a gun and knives. We had no idea and did not really care if it was a real gun or not. We were more afraid about knives (real ones). They asked for money and wealth, searching all our bodies. They know some tourists keep money inside their underwear and we both have been touched by several people. My partner asked to have his papers back and they gave them back.
We followed instructions from the colonel met when we arrived, in charge of French people in the Indian Ocean: no resistance and give all you’ve got. Our aggressors must have been disappointed as we had only our phones and few money. By chance, we were not beaten. When they were searching, I feared for my crotch but more for my partner who had knives pointed at him. Without communicating, we thought the same: they won’t use the gun as it will be too loud (and vazahas and karanas murders would be too annoying) but a wound caused by a knife (maybe dirty or that could led us to the hospital) would be a big problem.
Policemen and gendarmes (it was difficult to identify where to go, even for a Malagasy) who took our claim were surprised to know that this kind of aggression took place at this place and at this hour.
Even if it is not usual, risk of aggression sounds common and Malagasy people are also victims themselves. In the end, I’m more worried about no duty of rescue. Few people told me it is very common.
Of course, from this moment, without being paranoid, we do not see our environment the same way. Because an aggression close to home let us think that they might have watch our activity.
Everybody has an ‘explanation’, a ‘justification’ of this event: extreme poverty, despair…
I’m looking for answers. Before the aggression, I’ve noticed quite well schemes and frustration the population undertook. Of course, I understand exasperation about money and Malagasy women. This weekend, I saw a tourist putting a note in a low-cut dress of a traditional dancer in a restaurant during a show and I was asking to myself how it would be seen if he was doing the same with a traditional French dancer in the East of France for example…
We can say that last week was not quiet!
Fresh air of Antananarivo
I had short breath during last week. On Thursday of the week before, I already had difficulties to breathe and had to sit down few moments.
On Monday in the afternoon, I felt bad in general with a nasty belly ache.
On Tuesday and Wednesday, I really dragged my body to work and I lost my voice, which a bit inconvenient when you’re doing radio programs. On Thursday, I stopped and stayed home. Coughing was so intense that my ribs started to ache.
I have no heavy respiratory problems. A terrible severe bronchitis stuck me to bed for almost three weeks in Melbourne. I was not to this point this time but from this time, I fear an infection from the very first signs.
Between pollution due to heavy traffic and fire bushes from around creating a greenhouse cover on the city, air is not really fresh in Antananarivo. From Wednesday and before rains, the morning fog was so thick that we could clearly see the solar circle.
We experienced our first rain, appetizer of the monsoon (rainy season). It rained on Friday afternoon but nothing important. On the opposite, Saturday was a sneak peak of what we will experience in the next few months.
The sky was dark and it was even darker than during the eclipse. By chance, ‘thanks’ to my bronchitis, we stayed home. The weather was very heavy and hot. My partner was working in Itaosy and came back on time to be safe. From our window, we saw a tornado, then downpour and then hail.
The terrace became a swimming pool and the path in front of the building, full of rapids with current. Water was rising quickly and we enjoyed being at the second floor. Except some leaks around windows and doors, we cannot say that we had damages.
On the other hand, the path, the unofficial soccer field and the car parking on the East side were immerged. Water rose at the top of the wheels level. The soccer field was still a swamp on Monday morning. On the West side, the flower market and the road in front of the hospital were also immerged.
The current was so strong at one point that I thought an animal or a kid could drown in.
If we felt this time was like a quick drought, Antananarivo people looked used to it. Our flatmates were outside when the rain fell and came back soaked. The temperature from the inside and the outside of the flat was a least of 10 degrees.
After the tempest
My Malagasy readers might think I’m dramatizing this little shower. We’ve got this kind of weather in Reunion Island but it is usually during cyclones. The day after, we saw abandoned shoes (as everybody was walking bare feet to join its destination), waste and mud carried.
I’m desperate to find rain boots. It looks like a mission. A taxi driver stared at us with big eyes when we asked where we could find some.
I’ve been warned about falling rocks. They occur on hills ‘slopes but also one of the tunnel I’m taking every day to go to work. They said people died in it…
Last week was full and spent quickly once again. Like in a carrousel, everything is going very fast and I cannot clearly see details. I’m trying to stay focused but tiredness is getting me.
I still have no time to do sport.
I think I had a kind of blackout on Sunday. I was sick, in bed with a kind of bronchitis and some gastric problems. I really feared it was a heavy bronchitis eating my ability to breathe properly. I still feel something in my lungs but it looks like ravinstara (local herbal medicine) is working out.
I’m recording more and more radio programs, the pace is fast and we have work to do with an objective of 52 editions!
Emportée par la foule
On Wednesday, I saw a police raid in Mahamasina, where I’m catching my taxi-be in the morning. A small van drove slowly and walking policemen got any goods left by those who were not quick enough. So people were running quickly away with big bags of stuffs.
On Thursday morning, someone also vomited his or her breakfast on me. I’ve seen it was breakfast as nothing was digested at all. It was disgusting but I’m not even sure this person is still alive now… We witness these kind of things on the streets. Silhouettes lying on the streets similar to empty shells. We saw a young girl lying behind a bus stop in Ampefiloha and my partner was very shocked, just like other Malagasy, to see a mother and her newborn lying on a roundabout…It is even more shocking to not intervene because of our status of vazahas. For safety reasons, we have been told not to stop and help out someone in a bad situation.
It is difficult to go against our instinct…
On Thursday, it is market day in Mahamasina. It is the day I fear the most as it is full of people, customers and vendors installing their ephemeral shops. If cholera is declared, I will be in first line and I will have to be more careful than I already am…
There is less taxis-be now because of regulations and it is starting to be like Ampefiloha, at the beginning of my taxi-be adventure.
We saw a conference about Eco-systemic services payments at the Institut Français de Madagascar. It was interesting but I’m really not convinced by the system. Behind these big words, you have to understand ‘fine if you do not respect nature’.
Big companies have armies of lawyers and lawmen able to find thousands of ways to avoid taxes and fines like this one. They could finance good conscience but they already have their own foundations for that.
I was disappointed that no local and simple solution was offered. Where is this world going?
Employment crisis of young Malagasy…
I’ve seen another conference about employment crisis affecting young Malagasy people at the local antenna of United Nations. Figures are just tremendous: half of the youth is unemployed and they work in the informal sector for 95% of them.
400 000 young graduated are getting into the employment market and most of them have to accept under qualified jobs. I was complaining in France (as a good French) but in here, this is another dimension.
To my biggest surprise, the word leadership was mentioned next to civic rights.
I have few time left for reading but I’ve been able to read Guy Delisle’s ’Shenzen’ comic. I really like this author. I’ve already read few of these albums. I love his humour and his observation of the world.
Madajazzcar – Guillaume Perret
We had the chance to watch a concert from Madajazzcar, the international jazz festival in Madagascar. It is one of the longest in the world with 14 days in a row!
We were lucky to see PHB Tana Quintet and Guillaume Perret. PHB Tana Quintet is a local traditional jazz band, with a musician playing an ‘ewi’ (with lots of play on words in French with ‘eh oui !’) which gave a specific colour to the music. These guys were really good !
Guillaume Perret invited us in another world with a light and sound show. This saxophonist alone on stage (with brilliant sound technician and light artist) mixed electro and jazz music. He made me think of Ibrahim Maalouf on some aspects. Those two gave another dimension to brass.
I really loved Guillaume Perret’s fantasy world, especially on one of his piece. Well, there was a bit too much basses but difficult to escape electro today…
We also listened to other musicians from the Malagasy jazz scene at the beautiful Antsahamanitra’s théâtre de verdure and damn, they were good!
I was chatting with people from the Coopération about the behaviour of some expats and it just confirmed what I was guessing.
Some of them party hard and are extremely happy and a bit proud to talk about people cleaning the day after. Who forgot about the mess left after a party? Who can decently let someone else, someone who did not enjoy the party, put their hands into vomit, filth, sticky surfaces with the smell of cold cigarette? We agreed with people from the Coopération about the joy to be able to clean our own filth.
I have the great opportunity to discuss with Malagasy students and I love it so much! I feel like having my finger on the youth pulse.
Most of them would like to move things forward and they feel like the lack of motivation of the youth is a big problem. They spotted weak points: mentality and habits.
I see young people really involved in associations. But I also feel like some associations are just occidental copy/paste of wealthy countries trying to blame (well, protect as well) about pollution for instance. But it sounds a bit like a joke when you understand that some countries are the origin of some problems (climate change) and behaviours (occidental way of life).
We talked about organization models with a student. I was thinking that we should not stay under influence and build our own. Be inspired without being dominated.
Beauty is in details
I saw Beauty in a taxi-be. It was really hot this afternoon. As usual, everybody was packed into this tiny vehicle. This pocket version of a bus is full; some passengers are sitting on places where you usually put only feet. I sat myself at this place.
A young girl, probably a student, sat there, next to street children, probably brother and sister. They were sleepy. It was probably nap time for them. But which nap, which rest when you have so many things to do at this young age?
The two kids drew smiles on passengers’ faces, people facing them. Hot temperature and the traffic jam’s thrumming lulled the slumping kids.
The young girl finally held them back with her arm, avoiding them to fall forward. She stayed in this position until she left the taxi-be, for about 30 minutes. The two kids were dribbling on her arm and she was imperturbable. I felt blown away by the beauty of this gesture, full of pure love, completely selfless, full of kindness, protection, genuine love towards unknown children.
Who is really able of this gesture? Who would honestly not think that this dribble is disgusting on my arm, that these kids are dirty? I’m feeling ashamed, terribly ashamed to confess that I’m not sure that I would have been able to do it.
This terrible shame gnawed at me for several days and questioned me on compassion. What is our limit of compassion? She did not change the world, led a revolution or discovered a cure that would save all mankind. She was just beautiful, without tricks or self-interest. She was deeply human.
We had the chance to watch contemporary dance shows during the international contemporary dance festival in Madagascar, I’Trôtra festival. I really loved local dance companies, especially Master Jah Company. They had a strong message about waste. Their intention was clear and praiseworthy.
For me, intention is more important than technique.
I remember my uncle, brilliant bossa nova guitarist, discussing with me about it. He loved my simple melodies whereas he was a virtuoso and playing complex arpeggios (that I could not play, mostly because of shameful laziness, I must confess).
I love raw emotion. Of course, I enjoy technique but I love ‘true imperfection’.
These shows were a big breath of fresh air in this daily routine of vigilance and pollution. I’m trying to remember the last contemporary dance show I’ve seen, in vain...
I was founding it hermetic, like others, until I met choreographers during reporting. I was lucky to meet Jean-Claude Gallotta in Reunion Island. His late beginning and brilliant dancer career impressed me. And he even told at the end of the interview a great: ’Will you dance?’
My internships in cultural departments in newsrooms gave me access to culture. In Reunion Island, I’ve never been to the biggest theatre (Théâtre de Champ-Fleuri) before covering shows. It was too expensive, too snob as well. I tried to bring everybody who could not afford it with me into the dark room to enjoy beauty and wealth of culture via articles and radio reports. Cultural politics may have changed today and culture may be more affordable. I really hope so...I’m too far from the island and its daily routine now.
In here, from the few I feel, culture sounds possible to access to everybody. I was happy to see that the opening show of the festival was happening downtown, in Analakely, with a South-African crazy awesome dance group (Taxido Arts Production Company). It was a free event.
I was discussing with a local journalist about cultural journalism and its problematics in Madagascar and she told me it was pretty much the same than in Reunion Island.
I still hear karana on my way on the streets. Even my partner noticed that people had a strange look on me. As I’m looking like a karana, it is strange to see me walking on streets as they apparently only move into big cars with smoked windows.
One day at lunch, a Korean man asked me if I was Indian.
It is funny in a way as in Reunion Island, a Reunionnese guy told me I was not looking like Reunionnese. And when I told him I was born in Le Port in Reunion Island, he was even more surprised.
I’m proud I was born over there. This town has a bad reputation (dangerous) but I only have good memories in Le Port. Engines’ purring of the electric plant, hot chocolate coming from a coffee machine (my childhood Graal), my uncle and aunt, my father back from fishing and the old 4L (old French car) that my brother and I loved so much, dried savannah and pebbles.
We spent few years in Nantes, France and lived in the capital city, Saint-Denis when we came back in Reunion Island but I’m from Le Port and I’m proud to say it.
We moved our last things from Itaosy. My partner is definitively following me and now living in the city centre with me. It is a relief as it is complicated to live on two places.
I was happy to see again Itaosy for a day and nature. It is good to go _a bit_ away from pollution, to have nature as horizon (not green as nature is arid in here!). It is good to blow my nose and not having these horrible dark spots. But our missions lead us to be downtown… C’est la vie!
We had not time yet to leave the city but we should have an opportunity, maybe in two weeks. We cannot wait!
Readings (and film)
I’ve finished Milan Kundera’s ‘Life is elsewhere’. I’ve found a comic from my hero, Riad Sattouf. I love him. I ate his ‘L’arabe du futur’ 1 & 2 (The Arab of the future). I would like to call him my idol but we cannot idolize humans as we have too many faults. But, God, what a pencil line! What humour!
I also discovered a great concept of comics and journalistic investigation with the French magazine ‘La revue dessinée’. In the same line, I’ve read ‘XXI’. I’ve heard about it before but never read it. It was good. The last issue had a great article about new adventurers Roland Jourdain and Corentin de Chatelperron (and his stories about hens on a boat).
I saw a great Spanish movie ‘Blancanieves’ during the Spanish Film Festival of Antananarivo (first edition!). It a recent silent movie in black and white (of course, similar to the French ‘The Artist’). This Snow White remake is beautiful, very aesthetic, with a wonderful photography. All women of this movie are stunning. Snow White’s grandmother is so charming…
Living in Tana
Even if I’m still vigilant (safety, health), everyday life is starting to be more relax. I’m feeling more flexible on my knees, like in boxing. I’m starting to have few habits, to know a bit more about procedures (how to give my neighbour the right change if she or he has a big note, all this into a religious silence when the radio is not belching French 70’s hits) and do okay kely kely (a bit) in Malagasy.
We cannot say I’m trapped in a routine yet. One morning, during the trip, our taxi-be stopped on the side of the road as smoke was coming from under the driver’s seat. Everybody quickly went out of the taxi-be!
The few I’m starting to understand and learn from Malagasy language from lessons and from students at the Radio Université Ambohitsaina appears beautiful and poetic. For instance, the brown water served with the meal in some greasy spoons is called ‘silver water’. The language is full of pictures. Felaka is usually an envelope with some money as defrayal for journalists. But I’ve been told it is also meaning to slap. A student told me journalists were ‘slapped’ with money, ‘blinded’.
I’m really lucky to be amongst these people.
This last week was really heavy and fast-paced. It went really quickly. I feel like I had no control on time and no time for myself. No sport, no post on my blog…
I’ve introduced interns to the Centre de Presse Malagasy, recorded interviews and texts for future radio programs ‘Médias Dévoilés’ and did thousands of other things. My four days of work looked like two weeks.
But I still have efforts to do. I am shamefacedly bumping into Malagasy names (they are so long!). I had to do it several times and fortunately, the sound technician is very patient.
I’m physically exhausted but mentally, very happy!
We visited the Volunteering Day stands at the Alliance Française of Antananarivo. It was interesting to see the different initiatives.
We stopped at the ‘Relais’ stand and had the chance to discuss a bit with one of the manager of the Malagasy network. This association is directly linked to Emmaüs, the most famous charity association in France. I’ve found this initiative very sane as it is self-funded and demanding its independence from international investors. It is rehabilitating people by work in factories, five star hotels and other activities. I read about other similar projects in Mexico with chef Gaston and in France with Thierry Marx in ‘La revue dessinée’.
Questions about humanitarian actions and development are right into your face in Madagascar. It is a daily matter when you live in here.
Sunday in Antananarivo
Sunday is my favourite day in Antananarivo. Everything is calm, soothed. I like to walk in empty streets and enjoy serenity. Everybody is at the mess. I really would like the other days to be like this one. But maybe it would lose its flavour?
Sometimes, I’m thinking again of Australia. I cannot do anything about it, it is part of my life. I have to talk about it when I’m introducing myself, when people are asking where I am coming from.
I was mentioning it to the instrument maker and musician Zamba last times (link). He was curious about the country. I did not think at any times about aborigines’ treatment and genocide.
My father asked me recently if I would take my chance again in Australia. I replied a quick no. My answer was very quick as the wound is still fresh and immigration policies still blinkered. Even if I ‘swallowed’ the news and its consequences almost well and quickly on the spot, I’m full of bitterness about this experience. It is a mourning, the mourning of my life in Australia.
I had to leave and refuse so many opportunities. And what is really breaking my heart is that I had to say goodbye/farewell to family and friends. I don’t know how I survived it.
Thoughts on Antananarivo and others
I read in different documents and articles that Antananarivo was teared about its status. It is wavering between urban and countryside. As rural migration is intense towards the capital city, motivated by the hope of getting a job, it is an explanation of this hesitation.
So some practices and habits are not adapted to this new environment. But how can we blame these people with life-time habits for some and especially if they don’t know how to do differently?
More generally, about all humans, from the Indian Ocean and elsewhere, how to break a habit? How come some people accept to change their habits?
About hygiene (I’m back on this one as in here, it is a question of life or death) and respect of the other, which element will change a habit which spread germs? Will an awareness campaign really make a difference? To tell someone that his practices have consequences, put words, pictures under his nose, will it makes him conscious of washing his hands, avoiding touching raw (and even cooked) food with bare hands (even washed), using a spoon to taste a dish and then putting it back into the dish? But this is a bit restrictive as for example, someone will be careful not to contaminate the whole family and will understand by himself not to lick a knife which will be used in a common dish. This person will understand that this is dangerous and that it is reducing conservation of the dish, germs spreading quickly.
Again, I’m sure that respect of the other is a key factor of ‘development’ (this word is stale now). Maybe this person was feeling concerned about his family. I will probably called idealist but I believe in feeling concerned by all things and people.
What have been the key factor for change for myself? I would say education and shock (especially while being journalist). But maybe this is not only one answer and maybe the way is very long…
Internship, of new professional life
We are recruiting interns at the Centre de Presse Malagasy. Some were shy but one of them was really scared! It made me think of when I was looking for an internship in journalism in Paris. God, it was Hell! I was going to offices and I was always told people were unavailable because of reunions, but I saw few passing behind the reception desk. Who would take the risk of recruiting a young ‘Maghreb/Pakistani/Unknown origin-like’ girl from an almost unknown journalism school, who had no network? I also remember how I was shacking during my first times for my internship at RFO (now Réunion Première, Reunionnese State Radio/TV). I have to say that some ‘journalists’ were not really tender with me… I will always remember what a freelancer working for RFO told me on my first day: ’Don’t even think that your work will be broadcasted!’ Bad luck for him, all I did was broadcasted, even in national, during my internship. Even during my other internships I must say… This is a call to all interns: be confident, don’t be impressed by embittered staff and more than anything, if someone is taking time to explain you things, giving you tricks, take it!
I will never forget when one day, someone told me: ‘But, you really are doing what you!’ At this time, I did not get the significance of this sentence. Fitting your principles is not common and even worse for its application.
I won’t forget as well a discussion with a friend in Australia. He regretted that the fact of having kids and daily life destroyed his 70’s principles about revolution, solidarity, ecology. You are conscious but ‘trapped’ into life.
Again, I’m asking to myself where does determination of some comes from. In a society in which nothing is serious anymore, everything can be done later, in which overgrown teenagers (and kidults) are armies and in which technology is supposed to save mankind anyway, what is happening in the minds of these people defending and living their values? Why don’t they use excuses, missing time, tiredness, laziness, fatalism, like others? Why don’t they share general indolence?
Why drunkenness of sleight of hand is not reaching me? I deeply hate apathy. And if it spreading to a whole country, it is looking like Hell to me.
Back to school
I’m seriously back to revisions for my DAEFLE exam. I’m visiting lots of forums and maybe will get a chance to watch classrooms at the Alliance Française of Antananarivo. I’ve picked the Teaching Adults option; I really like adult learning. We are not learning the same way at different ages. And not getting it the same way and during the same period.
I keep taking Malagasy lessons with a teacher with my flatmates. I like her way of teaching, quite close to what I learn with French as a Second Language.
I saw Marcel Camus’s ‘Orfeu Negro’, a DVD borrowed at the Institut Français de Madagascar. I wanted to watch it for a while.
Even if I was born in Reunion Island, 100% from the Indian Ocean with a Reunionnese mother and Mauritian father, I was raised in bossa nova music. My father always loved, played and made me listen this music from my childhood. My uncle was a fantastic bossa nova guitarist. He was not a carioca either but just loved this music. His dream was to go to Brazil, meet and play guitar with people over there. Halas, he couldn’t achieve his dream. He died from cancer.
But this love of guitar, lascivious and melancholic, was passed onto me. As French was my native tongue, bossa nova was my native music. Unfortunately, I was not immersed into creol language and maloya (traditional Reunionnese music) and the explanation deserves an entire post, a theme that I will develop later.
I really loved ‘Orfeu Negro’, its fragile beauty. I was moved to be brought back to a universe that I know and doesn’t know at all.
Malagasy gender relationship
It looks like Malagasy men appreciate me as they honour me by their ‘Hi Sweetie’ and ‘Hello Beauty’. First, I was left in peace because I was wearing cold weather clothes.
It is nice and funny for now, these calls. Nothing like street harassment in Paris. However, I noticed that sometimes men humour could be tendentious and even dubious. Jokes about rape are not scares according to some sources and my own experience.
Michèle Rakotoson’s ‘Juillet au pays’ looks very promising, almost the best book about Madagascar I’ve read so far. I like its accuracy and depiction of the Malagasy society.
We’ve got an extensive library at the Centre de Presse Malagasy. I’ve scanned Toavina Ralambomahay’s ‘Madagascar dans une crise interminable’ about Madagascar political crisis from 2002. I’ve also had into my hands a collective university book led by Bernard Idelson ‘Journalismes dans l’océan indien Espaces publics en questions’. It gave me the thirst of reading more about the African point of view on Malagasy press.
I’ve recorded the first edition of ‘Médias Dévoilés’, the radio program about media education. It will be broadcasted on Radio Université Ambohitsaina (107 FM) on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.
I’m so happy to write for radio and say my texts again! Radio writing is specific and really changed me. I was writing very long sentences before, very literary and this writing is synthetic, denser, desultory but more poetic. I was afraid of ‘losing’ my literary writing in writing so well for radio. But in the end, it is like muscles: you just stimulate different ones and it doesn’t mean that some are lost. In my opinion, this different way of writing also changed my way of being: more into action from this time.
I make my colleague Keshia laugh when I way my texts out loud. ‘It sounds like I turned on the radio’ she said.
I love so much this mysterious media. When I had to pick my major in third and last year, I chose radio because I was scared about it: so exposing, so secret and so dangerous for the shy girl I was then. And I picked well as radio writing and radio itself are very lyrical.
Just like music and dance, it is an ephemeral art which echoes maybe antic oratory and timeless theatre. Admittedly, we record and re-broadcast but our meeting with listeners could only be by chance. The risk of missed meeting is high. Who did not heard about a news, discovered a charming voice, an incredible track by chance, on its car or kitchen, in turning on the radio?
Badminton sessions of this week (Wednesday night and Sunday lunch) were different and completing each other. The most redoubtable ones are clearly kids. They really are future champions! The youngest ones give you a proper lesson about how to hold your racket and correctly move… Shuttlecocks flew in the air, whistling and smashes made our ears vibrating. They are genuine artists, working with power and delicacy. It is funny to notice similar moves to fencing. I practiced it more than 10 years ago but I’m keeping such a good memory of this superb sport.
Responsible trade and handcraft promotion
I asked a skirt to be made by a tailor. In France or other rich country, I would have not thought of having my clothes handmade, thinking it was just out of my budget. Even if I would have preferred to contribute to the subsistence of a dressmaker rather than enriching big brands making children work in inhuman conditions on the other side of the planet.
In here, I succeed in joining the business with pleasure in making a skirt sewed. I’ve met Luciana and her brand Afro & Stylée for an interview (article-test for a free newspaper, No Comment). When I saw her work (and my restricted wardrobe _ remember, I’ve been told not to bring a lot of clothes and my misadventures at the market _read again about it_), I thought it was an opportunity to try. I can afford it and it is great!
Yes, it could appear quite pointless, this little paragraph about buying a skirt. But the approach behind is more profound. What would happen if we were all trying to buy responsibly? To say to yourself that rather than buying in big supermarkets with fake lights, we could support the education of a child, health of a family or stop rural exodus? It sounds so easy to go towards the ‘known’, the shiny. But thinking about the raw material deducted to its source, its production, transport and trade, we can have another look on our shopping bag. I’m not even talking about social, economic and environmental impact of a product. I’ve heard about efforts done on labelling products into big supermarkets in Europe, giving more information about origin and impacts of a product.
But why not helping people closer to us?
I also ordered shoes from a real shoemaker. I saw the profile of a young Malagasy entrepreneur launching his brand of shoes made in Madagascar vita Malagasy (‘Made in Madagascar’). The brand is Liberty Shoes. I was curious and proud to support it.
It really worth the wandering in Antanindrano. The shop was not easy to find but it was really amazing. It is a tiny shop with mostly men high-standing shoes, few women models, all in leather or suede. You can almost customize everything: material, colour, and model. I was amazed to see and hear artisans working just behind a curtain in the shop. You are in the heart of savoir-faire, of authentic. Human relationship is so much different. You talk to artisans. You are not falling into commercial claws of experimented vendors with sharp arguments.
Just like clothing, I had a very posh conception of tailoring but in here, I think it is an honourable way of supporting people.
And then, there is a wait of a product which will your own, unique.
‘Indian like’ drinking, economical and uniting
We cannot say the weather is already hot but temperatures are rising midday. Soon, we will need to be more careful about mosquitoes and other health risks.
An Indian friend taught me how to drink straight from the bottle. He was right to show me this safe technic because it is avoiding to share germs in thinking about others who will enjoy freshness. Basically, you just put the bottle higher, pour the water into your mouth and not press your lips onto the bottle.
It is not easy at first: in general, you spill everything, especially in a car. But it is so much hygienic and community-oriented to share one bottle instead of buying several ones.
I sometimes hear some people speaking Reunionnese creol and Mauritian creol on the streets. I must admit I love it.
These ones are not always appreciated. Like everywhere, you’ve got good ones and bad ones. Michèle Rakotoson mention History and immigration and communities in Antananarivo…
Civism is not dead
A studies fair brought giant waves of new students last week. Taxis-be were saturated but it was nothing like I knew before (lien). This time, on the two ways, everybody was politely queueing, no one tried to cut the queue. Civism is not dead!
We were able to see a partial solar eclipse in Madagascar. There was a lot of information about it. Apparently, the last one surprised and scared a part of the population which did not know about it. The day before, my colleague and I got an official press release about having the day off from 10am and until the end of the phenomenon. This decision was quite controversial in here, for some people, compared to the monsoon period when normal schedule is applied. On the morning of the eclipse, I went on a pharmacy down home and there was a long queue. Information about danger of burning eyes and blindness was heard apparently. The weather was a bit cloudy and even lightly rainy but even if it was a bit forecasted, we were able to see this meeting of the Sun and the Moon. Traditionally, it was forbidden to watch the eclipse as it was like an astral copulation.
It was beautiful and I must admit I was like a little girl!
I found this moment so weird. The eclipse was not total but enough to notice something was different. It was like putting a giant filter in front of the Sun. I was expecting to hear dogs barking and other animals going crazy, I was spying birds, cats and others but nothing happened.
Except shadows projected and sunlight rays with weird angles, there was no extraordinary phenomenon as my imagination was expecting.
I quickly ate JoharyRavaloson’s ‘Géotropiques’ and even if I was not a big fan of Reunionnese surfing milieu in the first place, I really enjoyed the heart of the book. I really recommend it!
Alain Mabanckou’s ‘Mémoires d’un porc-épic’ was quite funny.
I took MichèleRakotoson’s ‘Juillet au pays’ and Patricia Reznikof’s ‘Mon teckel à roulettes est un philosophe’ (I picked it because of its title _My rolling teckel is a philosopher_).
I’ve witnessed a strange scene coming back from work next to the Lake Anosy. Next to the roundabout, there was a movement around few people. It could have been a fight or something else. A sirens screaming EmmoSécurity car went tumbling down and got one or two persons into. Idle onlookers quickly gathered around the scene. I did not stopped at all, turning my head some times to watch a bit but I docilely follow the Ambassade de France’s safety instructions: shunning gatherings.
Few minutes later, the car was passing next to me to go to the hospital.
We moved the Centre de Presse Malagasy premises onto the University of Antananarivo. It was a long and tiring day with three trips with a truck. We had movers and extras to help out but we contributed as well.
It is funny to come back to Uni. I’ve left it a while ago and the atmosphere is quite nice to re-discover it. Campus is very nice, wide and on a hill. There are fashion victims and I feel ugly next to these young beautiful girls.
Taxi-be, the return
I’m getting again the taxi-be to go onto the campus, up on the Ambohitsaina hill.
But I’m happily surprised to get it now on an intermediate station. Taxis-be have terminuses but also kinds of relay stations in the middle of the line or so where almost empty vehicles are getting new passengers. So with a huge relief, I have not to run and try to put the beanpole I am into the pocket version of the taxi-be. There are still tiny but I have the great luxury to almost choose my seat!
And at last but not least, the University is the terminus of two lines so again, I can get a decent seat.
Taxi-be is a complex system that you need to know. It is a bit like the market: everything is stimulating at the same time. You speak another language, convert prices from francs malgaches to ariary and try to remember where you put which note and how much you’ve got on you.
Paying your trip into the taxi-be sounds like a complete mystical experience to non-Malagasy speaking newbies. A single trip costs 400 ariary. But I recently discovered that you could pay only 300 ariary if you’re doing a short trip (two or three stops from I’ve understood).
You’re not paying just when you entered into the taxi-be. The receiver is saying a lot of things that I don’t understand but deduct (or invent in my head): ‘Thank you to pay, please’, ‘Do you have some change?’, ‘Who I have some change to give back on 5000 ariary?’ I watched a lot in order to understand what is happening. I understood that onto a taxi-be which is filling in, people are paying from front to back rows. Getting the change back looks also like a secret society procedure the first time. Sometimes, your neighbour is giving you his notes if she or he sees that you’ve got a big note so you can pay for both.
There is still confidence as notes are going from one passenger’s hand to another up on shoulders and heads without anyone trying to keep a note for herself or himself.
Knowing is responsibility
Even if individualism is sneaking into this traditionally community focused society, I think we can still say that public-spiritedness exists. Even if some people are not careful, staying in the middle of narrow paths, expectorating almost on you, few people are paying attention to their environment and human beings crossing it.
We still respect the other, when it is possible. I’m saying when it is possible because between growing capitalism and postcolonial youth issues feeling a bit lost, we could lose good habits.
And this is probably the key factor, the main problem: habits. Taking time, standing back and analysing its own habits and especially their impact onto the environment (close, human and Nature) is not obvious and common.
And yet, it is terrible to think about how things could be if everyone would take this time and try to change their habits: less hygiene (for oneself and others, like these people wearing a mask when they have a flu in order to prevent contamination for others), economic, safety and other issues.
Only thinking about food safety as it is the last studies I did (cookery): how many cooking utensils are licked or double-dipped, hands not washed, plates and cutlery not enough washed and phlegm not stopped in their crazy race? So many risks that could be avoided…
Yes, I’m having lunches in greasy spoons and I know there are a lot (almost only maybe?) of bad practices. But I would like to think that with a bit of training, dramas could be avoided (because you can get serious health issues in here).
I know too well what kind of label people would stick on: ‘utopian’, ‘dreamer’. But I truly think that caring about the other can change things and as the proverb says: ‘Great oaks from little acorns grow‘. So, even if maternity is not an urgent need for me, I’m trying to act and live for the future of children, a minima for them to know the world as we knew it and at best, in a better condition. It is going through environment, the less damaged as possible but also ideas.
At least, it is one of my aspiration.
I’m sometimes revolted by those who had the chance to have a good education, being able to understand consequences of their actions (or carelessness), keeping shamelessly their habits, their comfort, cramped into their laziness. This is contempt to the other in my opinion.
Meeting with Zamba, instrument maker and valiha player
François bought a valiha, a kind of traditional Malagasy kind of cylindrical lyre, with beautiful crystal-clear tunes. I must confess: I always dreamt of playing harp. I found this instrument so majestic, mimicking water movements and fluidity. But valiha is something. This medium size instrument is easy to carry which is good for the traveller I am.
But it was way more than just a purchase of valiha as we took the time to discuss with its maker, Zamba. Instrument maker, musician, we met a man who decided to change his life. Working in wood exploitation, he stood back from his activity and decided to stop ‘killing his country’ to play music, to stop exporting rare Malagasy woods in order to shape instruments and minds.Zamba is renowned in Madagascar by its peers, by foreigners who learn to play valiha, in Reunion Island and elsewhere. He had been interviewed by France O (French TV overseas territories focused) the day before we met.
We had the chance to discuss with him and to start our apprenticeship in valiha playing with him. We talked about this wandering Malagasy youth, like others (his Japanese students were reporting the same situation), into cultural standardization, only believing in American culture. He sadly confided that some young Malagasy did not even know what a valiha is.
We are just doing scales for now and hoping to learn traditional pieces.
We heard a trio of street children playing traditional music going out of the InstitutFrançais de Madagascar and it was so beautiful. We could not stay long as static vazahas are as discreet as shiny signs into the night but the few we heard was stunning.
We asked Zamba where to listen to traditional Malagasy music in Antananarivo and he replied that this music was left aside for fusion and others.
The Institut Français de Madagascar
We went to the InstitutFrançais de Madagascar and it is a big place. The library has a large selection and completes the Alliance Françaised’Antananarivo. I was so happy to read the last Fluide Glacial (a French satirical comic magazine), me reader of comics and lover of sharp, acidic humour like Charlie Hebdo.
The Alliance Française of Antananarivo French Song Contest (second episode)
We saw a tiny bit of the semi-finals of the contest. As during previous selections, we heard incredible voices (soul-like, lot of puff ones) and discovered a Malagasy Johnny Hallyday (a French deep-voice rocker/crooner like singer). You couldn’t tell if you were closing your eyes!
I’ve also met the Director who thought I was a competitor. Even if I was tempted at one point (my music for curious people), I thought to myself that if by any miracle I was winning the contest, it would not be fair at all as the first price is a week in Paris.
Tension is still there
The current situation looks quieter…at first sight.
Street vendors keep protesting. Journalists are still trying to stop the ‘Code de la communication’.
A French volunteer’s couple murder made the breaking news this week. They were killed on the North-East side of the country, in Sainte-Marie Island. Foreigners’ murders and kidnapping are making the headlines but Malagasy people are also crime victims. But it is pretty much the same in French and even Australian news. Crimes, crimes and crimes…
We got a guitar with our flatmates. A beautiful Valencia (Spanish) with a really good sound for its cheap price. It is our ‘co-guitar’. We were craving for a guitar, Noémie and I. Things were made quite quickly and for good as these little musical moments are very relaxing. We are sharing in these moments.
Noémie is playing different kind of French and Spanish (or South American) songs. She is doing them her way and it is beautiful!
Meeting or discussions eulogy
My experiences of shared accommodation always had been very pleasant. I shared a house in Belgium and another one in Adelaide for a month and it always had been a pleasure to share a place but moreover time with others.
This time, the sharing is more than just real estate matters. We are sharing affinities but more than anything, values. I’m feeling like in family. I have the great chance to have rich and enriching discussions about living together and positive management.
I realised that during my trips, different experiences and exercises for the ‘Coopération régionale’’s training, I put discussion on the centre of my interests. A great discussion is equivalent to a shopping session for me (as some place shopping as the most orgasmic activity). It is reviving, participating to your evolution and creating a spatiotemporal fault. It is a precious moment.
I’m reminding with pleasure all people from different horizon I have met until now: an Australian in Paris, a Belgian and an Indian in Reunion Island, French people in France, Reunionnese in Reunion Island, Australian in Australia and French in Australia and so many other people from different origin in different countries. I was very lucky to meet these great people.
I was already very excited about being part of a radio program at the University of Antananarivo but the last meeting with the Board of the Centre de Presse Malagasy could show me even more opportunities.
We mentioned the project of building a bridge between the University of Antananarivo and the University of La Réunion. It is a big project but so challenging! I’m so excited!
BAOBad, badminton with social dimension
We tried badminton with BAOBad club. It was really great! The team is very nice and the session was fantastic.
Johary, president of the club, is a very joyful and pleasant person. The club has a strong social dimension. The president explained that our monthly fees as foreigner were covering costs for gear for Malagasy children who could not afford to do sport. Moreover, members of the club are bringing back home these kids after the session. It is quite family orientated. The club is also involved in social and humanitarian projects.
So we tried the swimming pool with Noémie. Until the very end, we were brave. The weather was good this day and we hoped so much that the sunlight would have warmed up the water.
This 50 meters swimming pool, we were talking so much about it, dreaming so much about it.
We went into the water which was icy cold. Still brave, we did few lengths. Noémie more than me as my ears were really aching after the third or fourth length. I feared to get otitis or a nasty cold. Noémie finally gave up when she could not feel her limbs anymore.
Going out of this bath where we could have met ice cubes and penguins, we were dizzy.
But we did it.
Humanitarian work in Madagascar: fall and rise
Madagascar is, unfortunately, land of humanitarian work. Like in Africa (and part of Africa too), all international humanitarian brands are in here and everyone is trying to get the best media exposure for this or this other one action. All donation, all action must be shown. So we can guess origin of donation (sometimes diverted and sold) on clothes worn in the street: France, America, Australia, and Switzerland…
Humanitarian underwear are not very pretty: misappropriation and others. I would talk much about it.
But in discussing with my colleague Keshia and other Malagasy people, I realise the benefit of social programs (I prefer social rather than humanitarian). Madagascar, like Mauritius and others, is independent and should not suffer from new forms of colonisation or domination. Unfortunately, the country has not a strong economy like Mauritius but in my humble opinion, it should resist to humanitarian siren calls. There are many Malagasy people who want to invest themselves in their country, in their education, in their autonomy and these initiatives, these volunteers and these humble workers must be supported. Of course, money is helping but Malagasy people need other forms of support.
In my opinion, in Madagascar, empowerment, a notion discovered in Australia during my studies, should be applied. From what I’ve heard, self-confidence is not common amongst Malagasy people and I see postcolonial schemes drawing back again and again…
We went to the Alliance française and I took Johary Ravaloson’s ‘Géotropiques’ and Alain Mabanckou’s ‘Mémoires d’un porc-épic’.
I chose ‘Géotropiques’ because I read a Johary Ravaloson’s short story in ‘Chroniques de Madagascar’. It is a bit weird as I took this book without reading the résumé and it is about Reunion Island, surfers in Reunion Island and shark attacks. And this weekend, a shark attack happened in Reunion Island.
But this book is about many interesting things that I won’t reveal here and will let you savour. It is confirming my idea that Indian Ocean’s islands echo and are echoes, answer back to each other and I said before, we are all cousins in this ocean. We can be very different but movements, stories and History is bonding us.
This visit to the Alliance française was, I must admit, a real breath of fresh air. Everyday life is not easy. Bordering on tough situations every day, distress, misery, is not easy. We have a privileged status but feelings of helplessness, frustration and injustice corrode.
The vision of street children drinking water from the gutter in the morning on the way to work stay. The unbearable cannot be the routine. I’m trying to convert it into fuel to achieve.
My partner will join us downtown at the end of September. It is difficult to be apart when we decided to go together into the adventure. He will take the taxi-be in the morning and lucky him because few people are going to Itaosy in the morning and coming back in town at the end of the day.
It is the period of ‘turning over dead people’, the famadihana. This Malagasy tradition is about getting the corpse out, transporting it around the village and then, re-burying it. I don’t know if it is linked to what I saw around the corner: a giant 4 wheel drive with a big tag ‘Super Corbillard’. (Super Hearse)
Anyway, I saw a minibus with a coffin downtown.
Tension is building up
Journalists signed a declaration this week about fighting back against the law called ‘Code de la Communication’. The Centre de Presse Malagasy held the press conference.
Street vendors also protested about the prohibition of their installations downtown. All places, usually packed, now let pavements appear.
All the population seems fed up by the current situation.
Local press warned about street riots on the 19th August and finally, the leader of the movement was arrested at home...
I was complaining about my second taxi-be but I saw worse. When I’m coming home at the end of the day, south of Lake Anosy, every time, I see a long queue of people waiting for the taxi-be (about 400 meters). I saw people pushing to get into this tiny car door (similar to my second taxi-be). In my case, in the morning, maybe people were still a bit asleep but at the end of the day, everybody is more energetic.
The murder of a young French couple is on the breaking news but even if the news is very sad, I don't think it is linked to their origin.
Pollution: episode 1564
I tried a mask. Someone offered me a mask to protect against pollution but the experience failed. I’m sweating when I’m walking and I need more air (basic principle of breathing). The mask is made of a friable substance so it is breaking up on my skin, do not let enough air coming in, so I’m choking a bit and have some vertigo.
So I’m walking mask less, offering my lungs to all gazes.
But a new data will change this routine. The Centre de Presse Malagasy lease will expire at the end of the month and we will be moved. Two places had been shortlisted: the Institut d’Etudes Politiques (IEP), downtown, 40 minutes away from my downtown home and the University of Antananarivo, on a hill, far enough that I have to take the taxi-be. So taxi-be again if the second option is selected.
Antananarivo (or Malagasy) dogs nightlife
All canids of the capital city agree to express themselves at night. In Itaosy or downtown, barking and other forms of expression happen around 10pm and it sounds like a political debate.
They probably should talk about fantastic things to bark so long and so intensively…
Well, I’m a bit tough. Some of them live in difficult conditions: on about a meter square of a balcony. And their owners probably do not walk them.
We spit and blow your nose between fingers left, right and centre. It is winter time and expectoration is common. The ease of spitting is a bit scary in the first place but as it is said ‘Better out than in’.
About blowing your nose between fingers, if you compare the price of a handkerchief pack to the average income.
I’m not feeling anxious anymore about feeling a splutter on my skin, getting germs and I trust 200% my immune system.
Shame on the system
Trading on expired products is disgusting. I read in newspapers an article about expired toothpaste sold in shops in here. In Australia, we shopped in Rite Price (a shop selling expired products) but there were few fresh food and more than anything, information about the concept and products was accessible to consumers.
In here, it is just revolting and degrading.
We are rarely going out but we went out with my flatmates. Atmosphere is so much different. During the day, it is noisy and the visual landscape is aggressive and dense. At night, it is looking almost ‘empty’ from all of this. At Antananarivo, at night, everything is dark. It is chiaroscuro universe.
So when we are going into places where public lights are spaced by kilometres, waste fires looks like golden hair licking the darkness. Girls are leaning on the wall, in line, so discreet, not looking at all to be part of this sad trade of flesh.
Night riding, so new to my senses used to everyday challenges. A world where the taxi which brought us back home looked like a drunken boat on this hilly path, closer to a track, similar to the whole town.
Failure of countryside escape
We wanted to go on the countryside on the touristy Ambohimanga, away from the polluted capital city. But instead, we experienced another kind of visit.
We wanted to take a first taxi-be next to Andravoahangy market but after taking different drivers’ opinions, we moved to a different bus stop and crossed the market. It was an urban version of Itaosy market: still meat, guts and other offal dangling down but more ‘fresh’ and dried fish this time. You still had to go through narrow alleys with a pavement as regular as moon craters.
Alliance Française of Antananarivo’s National French Song Contest
I have been member of the jury for the Alliance Française of Antananarivo’s National French Song Contest selections and it was a great experience. It was the fifth edition of the contest and I had the pleasure to listen to local talents.
It was funny and a bit scary to be a member of the jury. Candidates stress was sometimes intense and we tried to be kind and relax them. I’m proud to have been part of these selections.
Semi-finals will be on the 3rd September and Regional Finals on the 10th.
Most of Malagasy people are good singers and they all love singing. My dad told me that they were probably the best musicians in the Indian Ocean.
It reminds me a taxi-be full of people probably coming back from the mess on a Sunday. Everybody was singing and it was a vocal grace. One more time, I heard a Pacific islands echo in these Malagasy songs.
Sport, traveller’s best friend
We will soon try a swimming pool with Noémie, my flatmate. Weather is still fresh and the swimming pool is not heated but we want so much swimming that we will try anyway. I’m walking everyday (twice 45 minutes) but I feel like my body wants more.
Noémie is playing futsal but I must admit that I prefer badminton or dancing. I saw a gym place downtown but I would prefer to do sport which is bringing me more than just physical effort.
I also think sport is important for balance for travellers or expats, especially during the first times. Mood is changing, weather conditions and lifestyles are different and sport can help to regulate all of these.
Back to radio
A great opportunity could open to me in the next few weeks. The Centre de Presse Malagasy could get a partnership with the University of Antananarivo. My participation as radio presenter for a program about media education is included in this partnership. The program would be broadcasted on the University radio (Radio Universitaire Ambohitsaina 107FM). It is so exciting and I cannot wait to start!
In Itaosy, we are living with a part of our waste. There is no real waste collection system and especially no treatment centre so we cannot decently buy and waste without thinking of the lifecycle of waste. We saw waste everywhere on the ground, especially plastics and we cannot add up to this. So we are trying to reduce our waste to minimum.Of course, we were already trying to do it before but in here, this is another level when you’re going out from home and face your own waste.
There are landfills around but we visited them and it is pushing even more to be careful about it. It is just desolation. All kind of waste is burnt, sometimes in order to find something valuable in it.
Downtown, this is another story. At least, in semi-rural areas, you can compost and give some waste to pig owners. But downtown, everything is mixed up. A Chroniques de Madagascar’s short story is explaining quite well the situation with the trade and subsistence around waste. An environmental and social issue…
My new urban life
I’m now sharing an accommodation with a French couple next to Anosy Lake. I’m really luck as they are adorable and we share many things like swimming, playing guitar and other ecological considerations. They are helping me out to be so far from my partner.
I have a big room with view on a giant terrace. It is opened on a beautiful view of the town’s hills. It is nice to see further. I must say that it is a luxury downtown.
My first night was good except that I’ve heard traffic starting around 4am. I can now walk to go to work. I’m taking 45 minutes and it is not bothering me. On the contrary, I love walking as it is helping me out to think and clear my mind. These ideas are opposite but it is making sense. First, I’m clearing my mind when I’m walking. It is a kind of meditation. Then, I let my mind wandering and ideas are starting to come around.
My excitement will probably be less intense during monsoon…
I tried two itineraries. The first one is following my second taxi-be trip, going through two obscure and heavily polluted tunnels. The second one is going through narrow, dirty and steep stairs, squeezed between houses. While I was taking the stairs for the first time, I met two policemen who told me not to go through them as I could meet thugs. I thought they would ask me something else but finally, nothing else. This second itinerary is not even shorter so no morning sport (but the first itinerary is already a bit of sport and I’m feeling I have less breath those days) and back to pollution.
Living again in a big city is reactivating my Parisian reflexes: closed face, rigid walkingand tough attitude. I’m saying Parisian but it is not so specific to Paris as I reconciled with the town from my last stop over there.
But it is over there that I’ve built my armour.
So it made me think about my experience and expectations in here. Of course, I knew coming to Antananarivo that it would be far from my engagements built along all my travel experiences. Being closer to nature, respect nature and mankind, be part of a fair trade, make my humble contribution to development, all of this sounds a bit far for the moment. For safety reasons, I have to be again the one I was before.
Please, let me teach
My Teaching French as a Foreign Language studies are not the priority for now and it is making me a bit sad. I really would like to get some experience in teaching.
I believe in education as a way to get a better future. It could be French as it could be anything else useful. I can understand that French could be difficult to teach in a former colony, myself coming from two former colonies. I can consider the need to take some distance with History. However, I think it is such a beautiful language and I deeply respect those who were able to use it in keeping their own touch. Aimé Césaire and Frantz Fanon are those ones. I especially like Frantz Fanon for his book ‘Peau noire, masques blancs’ (Black skin, white masks). A radio chief editor led me this book and I felt my mind enriched and evolved from its reading.
I’m currently reading Jack Kerouac’s short stories ‘Good Blonde and others’ and David Foenkinos’s ‘Les souvenirs’. I really loved David Foenkinos’ ‘Je vais mieux’. I’m now living closer from the Alliance française and I will be able to borrow more books frequently.
I just ate Grangé’s ‘Les Rivières pourpres’. I picked it at the Alliance during a kind of borrowing game there…
Fortunately, I have my Kindle in Itaosy as Kerouac stayed downtown and I’ve finished ‘Les souvenirs’ (they were tasty!). Here is one of this schizophrenic way of living: logistics.
Pollution, pollution and…pollution!
The Centre de Presse Malagasy are upstairs of a disinfestation company. One day, during lunchtime, a very strange smell and _probably_ substances filled the air. I didn’t know if I should keep my breath or not.
Every morning, we sweep the floor at work before starting as dust is coming through everywhere…
Every day I’m working now, I’m going through two tunnels-guts (see previous post) and every morning, I can see dark spots when I’m sneezing.
I had a kind of bronchitis this week. I was scared that it would be a decent bronchitis as it would have kept me in bed for weeks. I don’t know if it is because of the weather or pollution. Time will tell me.
I was recently looking at a Tana map and I discovered _with fear_ a place called ‘death corridor’.
I always have a USB stick in my bag. On this stick, I’ve found a document which brought me back in Australia.
For our permanent visa application, we both had to write our own version of how we met, François and I for the immigration services as we were not married: the ‘love story’. It was exposing our private life but we did it for get the visa.
I read again François’s story and I felt like opening a tin box full of memories, like in the movie ‘Amelie from Montmartre’. But it did not brought only good memories, like in the movie. I remembered how we were threw out like old socks from the country, that I was cut out from my Australian family and friends, that my brand new professional opportunities were destroyed, that our private life had been exposed and that we gave I-don’t-know how many documents to immigration services…
Anyway, it always brought back good times we had over there, our simple life, rides by the sea, if I was not working. That’s life.
Reunionnese people seen by Malagasy people
I had the chance to follow a conference about economy at the Centre de Presse Malagasy this week. The lecturer was introducing 50’s authors about African countries economy.
He mentioned topics which were concerning both islands, Reunion and Madagascar. But as other Malagasy people, he was putting a distance between the two islands. Of course, Reunion is French and Madagascar independent but Reunion is an overseas French territory. It was a colony and colonial schemes built the current island. Moreover, we blame Reunionnese indolence because of assistance is a bit similar (just a little bit) from Malagasy behavior with donors. Talents escaping, difficulties for local graduated to find a job on their own country and diasposa, all these points are common to both islands. When people mention ‘allocations braguette’ (horrible allusion to public allowances only based on how many children you’ve got but people think it is only happening in Reunion and it is completely false), it is making me mad as it is not what I am and all that I’ve escaped. Good and bad is everywhere.
People think Reunionnese people are disdainful towards Malagasy people and unfortunately, I’ve seen it. But can you say every Reunionnese is acting this way? And unfortunately, I’ve seen it the other way, Malagasy being disdainful towards Reunionnese people. And it is a shame as both islands have the same roots, as Reunionnese people are Malagasy (first people in Reunion were from Madagascar) and we are all cousins in the Indian Ocean.
I was listening to ‘Echos d’ici, échos d’ailleurs’, a RFI radio program, about economics. An author was talking about African economics and mention ‘peopling country’ instead of ‘emergent country’. This man introduced himself as a ‘demo-economist’, referring to demographics.
He was a bit tough as guest, had some ideas that I was not sharing at all but he had very interesting concepts about development, about what it is today, about what it should be and consequences on economics and daily life.
I agreed with him about mobility as development key factor, the contrary of what is currently happening. I also shared his thoughts about thinking global, rather than being country-focused.
I reminded the audience that ‘rich’ occidental countries were built on slavery and ‘corvée’ and we are now asking emergent countries to develop in line with strict and specific (with occidental criteria) human and environmental policies.
Moringue next to rice fields
Moringue is a kind of martial art, a bit similar to capoeira. You usually find it in the Indian Ocean, especially in Madagascar and Reunion Island.
This weekend, as François was on the ground for work on the further part of Itaosy, we were a moringue training session with the village’s youngsters. It was great.
It is not easy for farmers ‘sons, themselves working on fields, to get entertainment and learning outside from daily tasks. It was beautiful to see, boys and girls, doing these ancient moves, inviting to fight, their white teeth on these candid laughs of companionship.
It made me think of kalaripayattu training session with my friend Raveendran in Reunion Island. This ancient Indian martial art is difficult but François and I (especially I) kept on doing it. Flexibility and muscles came back.
If I have time, I would like to do a bit of moringue in here…
Jumping into the taxi-be
I almost fell twice taking the taxi-be. I’m doing some sport in coming for work. In the morning and now the afternoon, people are pushing to get into taxis-be. Everybody is pushing. I don’t dare to do it but after 20 minutes or so waiting, I have to join the trend. At least 6 or 7 taxis-be were impossible to get into because they were not even stopping because they were full or you had to be small and quick (I was almost refused!). Twice, I grabbed the joint of the door and I was about to fall because it disjointed. Passengers held their breath, fearing I would fall but finally, I was alright.
I even have bruises because of taxi-besque acrobatics.
The absolute necessity of escaping into the green
During the weekend, we walked to the extreme East of Antananarivo, further Itaosy. It was so good to properly breathe. This walk was also a poetic discovery of rural Antananarivo. After dusty streets, we walked into rice fields and went next to a place called the peninsula. During monsoon, it is a proper island, almost cut from the rest of the world.
It is actually austral winter and the weather is very dry. Rice fields are cracked ground that people are using to make bricks. This ground looks like clay with peat under. We crossed the path of zebus on paths which looked like giant dinosaur spin bone into these rice fields. We finally arrived to a branch of river where the water was ocker. We were facing few vegetable and fruit cultures and a little house. We sat there, next to the water and I’ve found back my beloved nature. Water and Wind were singing a harmonious and sweet song, the gentle Sun was caressing. I felt and saw my horizon wide. I could finally see houses, hills and different coloured houses forming a patchwork far away.
The weather is getting a bit warmer and I love it. It is even hot if you’re staying into the sun! However, some people still cough, maybe because of pollution.
Walking into a street market at Itaosy, I feared to walk on a hen, a fish or a duck, not to see a hole and put my foot into brackish water or even feel zebu offal caressing my face. You always have to be careful of thousand of things in here, in urban areas. Pickpockets and other minor crimes are quite usual here. You always have to dispatch money everywhere on your outfits and have enough cash (as almost everything is paid in cash) but at the same time, not too much. The problem is that sometimes, I can forget how much I’ve got on my thousand caches. Anyway, the habit will come...
Promiscuity is a daily matter for me. My thighs could be inserted in someone’s else in taxis-be, I can smell the receiver’s breathe or feel ribs of my neighbour going up and down as he was breathing.
Our only link with the rest of the world at home is radio. It is my favourite media. I miss doing some radio...Recently, I stayed one hour listening to a program about a blind traveller on RFI (Radio France International). I was very interested by the theme for personal reasons. I was fascinated by his life and I was drinking his words. I would like to take some ambient sounds but it is a bit touchy as I had to be very discreet if I don’t want to attract thieves or other curious people. I really miss listening and doing music. Still no speakers because of no time...
Sailing between extremes is not an easy task. Extreme poverty, extreme wealth. Everyday outfit can be a challenge. How to come at work with a corporate outfit and not been stared at into taxis-be? I’m thinking of leaving corporate clothes at work and getting into taxis-be with casual clothes. Especially from the day I felt something almost tearing my pants into a taxi-be...
Apparently, it is quite common in Canada to change when you arrive at work. Thinking back, I was already doing it in Adelaide when I was riding my bicycle and then going into cookery courses with my chef uniform.
I’ve heard about André Pangrani’s death this week. I was and I am still very sad about this news. I only had an exchange of emails with the founder of a Reunionnese comic magazine, Le Cri du Margouillat and founder of the excellent Reunionnese literature magazine Kanyar (which means bad boy in Reunionnese creol). When I was living in Australia, I was looking for a Reunionnese magazine and I’ve found Kanyar. I had one delivered in Australia and I was so proud to have it into my hands. I was so happy and proud to financially support this magazine. I even dared to ask if I could send a script to be published in Kanyar and he gently answered me that, yes, it was possible to join the team. I wanted to write for Kanyar. I wanted to be part of the team, discussing with him and all of them. I never dared to write. It looks like hiking Mount Everest and to be too noble activity for me. But finally, once my sorrow will be gone, I should-must write. Maybe André Pangrani would have told me to do it.
Dry clothes only
There are more and more military on streets during the day. All street vendors from the Ikopa’s bridge disappeared during the ‘Jeux de l’océan Indien’ (Indian ocean sport games) for a week. It sounds a bit like Rio de Janeiro...
The upcoming ‘Sommet de la Francophonie’(Francophonie Summit) is also bringing stories. A francophonie village is actually being built in the nearest suburbs but construction works are delayed and managers are thinking of hosting the event under tents! (local newspaper Midi Madagasiraka)
A new life starting
I finally will live half the week downtown. I will share a flat with a French couple. We are a bit sad, François and I, but we will see how things will go. I might have to get a taxi-be but I’m thinking of walking, if pollution is not too heavy. But the good news is that I will be able to work more hours per day and then, to come back earlier at Itaosy.
It is actually the circumcision period.
I knew it thanks to the fanfares’s sound coming from far away. From the window, I’ve seen a crowd lead by a man carrying a sugar cane and a bottle of rum.
Sometimes, you have pictures printed in retinas, like light in the shadow. You can find many little street shops before the Ikopa’s bridge. You can find big rice and other cereals’ bags, vegetables, eggs but also big meat basins.
This vision was first very crude to my privileged eyes by its abundance: lots and lots of meat basins, big meat bits stacked in basins. They were not covered, sometimes almost on the ground. And this big cleaver falling on this tough nerve.
But, after the visual destabilisation, I thought that it was a very occidental hypocrite because you could see the same things in France, Australia or other rich country. It is just that they are not as accessible as in here. Of course, hygiene is not the same but the point is that you are disturbed by the visual. There are also things to say about the smell of crude but I fear to lose readers if I keep on describing it.
However, some associations in France and other countries are trying to show people how animals are killed and sometimes, it was such a scandal that it is breaking news. People are starting to know.
Meat basins but also offal. In the end, it was kind of bearable for me to see this as I had to cut half a lamb and cook offal for my cookery course in Australia. I’ve never been against offal. I’m just a bit reluctant to kidneys’ smell but that’s it.
I’m going through two tunnels on my morning trip. I walked through one on our arrival. It was feared by other people from the Cooperation because of its poor safety, pollution and misery. I looked like a gut to me.
Tananarive could be like an organic entity: with constrictions and digestions of traffic, spits of various fluids and population’s blood pressure.
We went on La Digue’s craft market, north of the city. It was beautiful but like all touristy places, I don’t like pressure for buying. And it was not too bad: sellers were nice and polite. My worst experience was in Yucatan, Mexico, where people could be almost aggressive for you to buy something.
We only wanted to have a look. My eye was caught by a lovely wooden domino box. Having no TV and a limited access to radio, we would like to get society games. We were used to play Scrabble and we are thinking of asking to make a wooden (or other material) one in here as Malagasy people are really good sculptors. And music instrument makers. And embroidery...
I can speak a little bit Malagasy. Now, I can say ‘I’m stopping here’ in the bus (‘Misy miala’). Unfortunately, I can only guess what is happening around me. This week, a receiver tried to keep the change in the bus. He was laughing, talking a lot but before getting down, I asked him to give me my change. He apologized and gave me back my due.
My colleague from the Centre de Presse Malagasy told me to be careful about receivers keeping the change or pretending not to have enough. She told me I would speak Malagasy by the end of my contract, in April 2017. Honestly, it would be such an achievement if I could do it!
I had the great chance to share a bit with Malagasy students about the country, Malagasy youth and their aspirations. I’ve been stuck by their strength: they want to create and they are volunteering. Volunteering in Madagascar is not an easy choice when some people have many jobs to survive.
Atmosphere at work
I had a very cheerful welcome at the Centre de Presse Malagasy. Board members of the association, all journalists, are taking time to meet me and I’m very touched by it. I know the job, with limited availability and other restrictions.
We have great things to do and even, training people. I’m really excited!
Back to urban
I will have to live downtown. I tried to think about different options: bicycle, scooter, car with driver...But finally, it is too dangerous or not profitable so the only option to live downtown.
Pollution is still there: my handkerchief has black spots. Like Paris. I’m comparing these capital cities but I cannot as people are nicer and smiling more in here.
I did some shopping, hoping to find some clothes. I’ve been told not to bring a lot of clothes as I could find good deals. And it was true: prices are very low but the issue is my height! Especially my legs...Clothes are mainly Chinese so sizes are very small and it is ok for Malagasy people as they are the same size.
I’m not fitting in here.
It is still difficult for me to fit in taxis be with my large hips. I even had some words from a lady in a taxi be. This well-dressed, sulky woman said something in Malagasy, probably not nice considering her expression. It was probably something about my size.
I hope I will fit the country.
It is difficult to fit somewhere, to fit your own country when you’re back from another one, to fit abroad... But sometimes,
it could be easier to fit abroad.
I’ve finally started working at the Centre de Presse Malagasy. I’m feeling so much alive again, useful after a long wait!
I will be in charge of development and animation: an exciting mission! The Centre organises workshops, press conferences and training and I’m so glad to be part of it.
I’m sharing the same values than the Centre’s manager: skills, being and heading to excellence. I’m humble in my mission and I know I will learn a lot from this experience.
Beauty is everywhere for who knows how to see as this magical moment can tell. One morning, our bus was rumbling as usual on the cobblestoned road. The crowd was eating the thin tin of the vehicle. From far, anarchy was ruling the scene. Absurdity was its sister as street market sellers were offering their clothes, bags or other items. It sounded as if even colours decided to be part of the chaos on this morning.
But you had not to miss these few intense seconds: a line of women carrying big baskets full of mandarins on their heads suddenly moved like this hypnotic movement of grass in the wind, this incredible moment where flora perfectly mimics water. I’ve shared this beautiful moment with François, a simple and beautiful moment. On this packed morning bus.
I’ve not mentioned this topic yet. Though, it is grabbing you when you’re going out of the airport.
Madagascar is one of the poorest countries of the world.
Rugs, poor health of some people (a man walked with his foot backwards) and in utter destitution of others confirm this fact.
It is hard to see it but I always kept a distance with it. I’m not stronger than others but I don’t think money is the best answer. I’ve never lived in opulence or been a frantic consumer. But I’ve changed my habits to try to embrace sobriety when I lived in Australia. I’ve always been upset by waste and what I’ve seen in Australia was really shameful. Don’t even try thinking of put these two next to each other! But it is in the abundant country with lots of resources and cheap way of life that I’ve opted for a simpler way of life. It doesn’t mean that I couldn’t enjoy some times: sobriety is not rigors in my opinion. But it is the simple and obvious respect of what is around: nature puts efforts in growing our food, providing our energy, everything on which we depend, us Humans.
Last time, in 2006, misery was already there, everywhere. Children were asking you as you are a foreigner so by consequence, rich. However, children were not bothering me much as my wardrobe was not really appealing (I prepared it). Today, I’m walking next to François, a vahaza (pronounce ‘vaza’) so beggars insist more. On the other hand, I’ve been told that I’m looking like a karana (pronounce ‘karan’) so people keeps a distance. Karana is an Indian based community in Madagascar and some of them are quite powerful and rich. They are feared by the population.
Don’t judge a book on its cover
It is funny how people could be intrigued by my country of origin... When I was living in Nantes, France, on my 10’s, school mates were doing belly dancing when I was coming as they thought I was from North Africa. In Paris, people thought for sure that I was from the Maghreb area. When I had my very first job in an employment agency in Villejuif (suburbs of Paris), people were talking to me in Arabic. I’ve also been insulted as after September 11, everything changed.
However, some people found more exotic origins for me like India, Brazil, Polynesia, Italy or Spain.
Getting my marks
I’m starting to get my marks after two weeks. Now, I know where to get the bus, which one to get and getting in as it is moving. We are now installed in our little flat.
When can you talk about habits? Do you have to wait days, weeks, years?
I’m starting to get used to our feathery friend, knocking at the window every morning around 6.30am.
However, if there is one thing I cannot get used to, it is the city density. Dense city.
For now, I still need a lot of energy to face the bright sun (right into my weak eyes), watch where I put my foot, the traffic, my pockets, to miss this great or funny moment because I was watching where I was putting my foot and other things.
I’ve been told ‘you live more [intensely] in Madagascar’. I agree, everything is more intense: vegetables’ taste, pollution and people’s will.
I’m coming back to buses. I must say that this is a great inspiration for me and I spent almost 3 hours of my day in these buses, also called ‘taxi be’. About air pollution, I’ve witnessed an incredible situation: inside a ‘taxi be’, where we had less space than sardines in their canned tin, a blue smoke was filling the air. I’ve seen it in a sun beam and for sure, it was nothing like wood fire or night club fake smoke.
Getting into a ‘taxi be’ is also sharing intimate moments with other passengers. I was ‘sitting’ next to a mother breastfeeding and the little feet of her baby were tapping of pleasure on my tight.
I’m a bit resigned about air pollution as it is even coming into buildings (office and home)... The only thing I’m trying to do is using an isotonic spray for limiting effects.
I’ve noticed two types of ‘taxi be’: ‘big’ ones which are probably doing woop woop surburbs and rural areas and ‘small’ ones which are urban. I’m lucky to get the big one for most of my trip. But I still have to sit on a bottom cheek for almost an hour. For the small one, that’s another story.
These buses are mini-mini-buses: there are tiny and quite low. When I’m getting in (as it is still moving), I feel like clothes that you put on a washing machine, except I’ve got bones...
Reading and media
I’ve finished ‘Chroniques de Madagascar’ and ‘Imerina’. ‘Chroniques’ were nice and various and I really enjoyed Lila Hanitra Ratsifandriahamanana’s ‘Le kéré’. It was so beautifully written! ‘Imerina’ was about Jean-Joseph Rabearivelo, a great Malagasy writer.
We have not found yet a radio so we are listening to news flashes on François’s mobile phone. We are trying to understand Malagasy news but too tough for now as we know only few words for now. We are listening to Radio France International (RFI) and BBC Africa.
It took us a bit of time to get internet as everything is taking time in here, especially from the moment I’ve started working.
ROI (Return of Intention)
I feel like it was a smart move to start writing again. I’m writing because I love sharing: a point of view, an experience…and I feel like my target is reached when I’m receiving private messages encouraging me about writing these blog posts and the experience of living in Madagascar. So a huge thank you for all your public and private messages!
I feel like you are next to me when I’m walking on this Itaosy’s packed street or face to this Malagasy meal which I cannot remember and even less pronounce the name of, and even, at night, when I’m falling asleep under this mosquito net looking like a canopy.
I should officially be introduced to the Centre de presse Malagasy (Malagasy Press Centre) next week. My terrible flu is finally gone. It tired me so much! I’m starting to cope with the weather and altitude. I’ve been less exposed to air pollution this week but we will see how things will go later on.
The meaning of cooperation
Some people from the Cooperation had to abort their mission and it is quite sad for them as they had not even seen their location, sometimes on the other side of the ‘island’ (Madagascar is an island as Australia is). People of this program are unemployed and living on minimum social welfare. We all have almost no savings, really few bucks on our bank accounts and for some of us, feeling vulnerable. However, we all have a great motivation, which can be for some of us, personal objectives.
On the other hand, some look like they are really blossoming and it is beautiful to witness.
Cooperation has a strong meaning for some people. It is working in a sustainable way and giving meaning to their lives. We are helping each other in what could appear as difficulties. In my opinion, this is cooperation.
This is also co-developing. We are offering our workforce and trying to be part of the plan in respecting Malagasy people who are gently accepting us here.
François, my partner, is really enjoying his mission. As Technical Director of Malagasy association Miaro (run by and for Malagasy people), he is currently assessing the situation and exploring surrounding areas to be able to build an action plan. His working areas are water and waste management and farming practices. He will put in place information sessions about these topics in the village. In the field, concrete action: everything he loves!
However, concrete issues are influencing my choices.
I’m living in Itaosy, few kilometres from the city centre (about 7 kms) and my two missions will be downtown. It could easily take 2 hours every day to go working, except if I can manage to go on low peak hours. I have no problem waking up early. In Paris, I was doing press reviews and woke up around 4am. In Adelaide, Australia, I had big days: waking up at 5am, riding my bicycle, starting cookery studies at 7ish, finishing around 4pm, starting working at the restaurant around 7pm and finishing at 10 or 11pm.
Itaosy-City Centre is the worst and slowest way all around Antananarivo. Otherwise, I will have to pay for two leases and share an accommodation. Some people gave me this advice...
Time in traffic jam is not really bothering me, especially if I’ve got a good book. I was used to spend the same amount of time when I was living in Parisian suburbs. On the other hand, I can hardly catch up with pollution.
There is some electricity cut sometimes. The other night, we were in the dark for two hours. People told us beforehand and we had candles all over the flat.
We visited the IMRA (Malagasy Applied Research Institute), quite close from our accommodation. We went along rice field where duck were grazing and playing. I really enjoyed being in more spacious place, seeing a further horizon. I already felt sad about that in Paris: hardly being able to see more than one meter forward. There were always a wall, concrete, people. The difference in here is that you have road hazards, waste, chicken and potential umbrellas (I’m quite tall, especially for Malagasy people) in addition to the following points.
It was good to escape the ‘busyness’ of the main road.
We visited the Albert Rakoto Ratsimamanga museum, few rooms in a house, in the middle of a gorgeous garden. It was a very informative tour about a great figure of Malagasy History. This man had international recognition for his scientific works. He had his A level at 16, became doctor at 22, discovered vitamin C and composed over 40 drugs! He studied then monitored students at the prestigious Ecole de Medecine in Paris, fought during the Second World War and was an honorary member of UNESCO. A great inspiration for Malagasy youth!
The garden was nice even if plants were a bit dried because of winter.
We were in the city centre for shopping after a compulsory meeting for work. When we wanted to catch a bus to go back home, we saw a crowd and heard some noise. When we saw military officers and few people running, we quickly went opposite the crowd. However, we had no other choice than passing in front of the train station. We saw a line of military officers. We did not stay long, trying to get a bus as quick as possible.
This evening, on TV, this situation was mentioned. I was already following up this story about the ‘code of communication’ (for French-speakers, look at online Malagasy press) when I was still in Reunion island. Journalists were protesting and authorities intervened with gazes. Fortunately, it was not too serious. At least for now...
I went to the Alliance Française of Antananarivo where I was happy to find Malagasy books written in French. Before coming to Madagascar, I read a collection of Malagasy short stories written in French and published by Courrier International (brilliant French International news magazine). I think the collection is called ‘Les miniatures’ and it is about Indian Ocean authors. A friend offered me to read the Mauritian collection and I really enjoyed it!
I took ‘Chroniques de Madagascar’, a collection of Malagasy short stories selected by Dominique Ranaivoson, Daniel Defoe’s ‘Madagascar or Robert Drury’s Journal’, Eric Nonn’s ‘Imerina’ and Sylvia Hanitra Andriamampianina’s ‘Miangaly or the island in sorrow’. I’m just starting ‘Chroniques de Madagascar’.
In Reunion Island, I went to the Regional Library of La Réunion and read Denis Vierge’s ‘Vazahabe’, an interesting comic book. I also found books about Malagasy literature. It looks so rich and I cannot wait to read and know more about it!
This visit to the Alliance Française made me think back of Adelaide time, when we were going to libraries over there. We lived in the north of the city. First, in North Adelaide, the library was small but there was a piano. Then, in Prospect, the library was full of treasures, incredible books and films from all over the world but also very local documentaries. We were walking most of the time to go there and we had the great chance to see aborigenes’ films (by and about), local History and flora. Sometimes, we were also going to the City Library. It was just moved few times before and it was brand new, on top of a building, with many different languages documents. It is true that at this time, Adelaide was gathering a lot of different cultures. The very first time we visited it, I was so happy to see a big section of French-speaking books that I almost cried!
It is interesting to see your own reactions about culture (especially your own) when you’re travelling. In Reunion Island, I was not really going to the local library as it was very difficult for me to move and the selection was not really interesting and big.
Anyway, I’m happy to see that this Alliance Française has a lot of documents and that it is well frequented by Malagasy people.
The music of language
I went to the Alliance Française by bus. It was to the first time I took it by myself. Usually, we were going, François, my partner, Prisca, his Malagasy-speaking colleague and I all together and Prisca really helped us out to understand what was going on.
This time, I was completely immerged into the language and I must admit that I had absolutely no clue of what was happening around me. But far to be uncomfortable, it was an interesting experience. I tried to identify ‘known’ or ‘learnt’ words and not able to recognize anything, I’ve let myself diving into a conversation, radio, noises of the road, merchants on the side of the road…I was part of this everything without understanding anything and I was just feeling it.
When I ‘sat down’ (on a wooden bit on the ‘central lane’), a woman talked to me in Malagasy. I supposed that she said something like ‘Are you ok? Do you have enough space?’ or ‘Not too squished?’ and the only thing I could answered back was something ‘I’m ok’ in French.
When you learn a new language, people sounds like they talking very quick and cutting words. But I’m confident. I will keep learning and trying to get it. For now, I’m working on my Assimil language method and asking Prisca and Malagasy people working in the residence to help me out for the pronunciation.
Language is music. I recognize Maori and Portuguese influences, as I don’t get all meanings for now. About Maori, it is quite logical because of South Asia migration towards Madagascar. Melanesian roots are coming from Pacific islands, so New Zealand.
I remember the Auckland museum visit, where we saw a dance and music show; melodies and songs were so sweet and harmonious! Malagasy language is part of the ancient languages, Austronesian languages (Pacific, Papua New Guinea, Australia).
About Portuguese, it is an obvious colonial input. There are also many others influences (African languages such as Bantou for example).
The flight was good, without any major problem, delay, luggage loss or whatsoever. I’m so happy to go again on adventures. After a little hour and half of flight, I arrived in Antananarivo (Tana) midday. I saw again Tana, its red ground and its hills from the air.
We were first installed in a backpacker downtown, La Kaze des Volontaires. The owner was lovely but we were a bit packed in rooms. The first evening, I was lucky to eat a ‘mijoté de zébu’ (mijoté is a kind of ragout and zebu is linked to beef) and to drink a THB (Three Horses Beer, local beer). I was happy to meet again my Cooperation mates. Then I really needed energy to face administrative procedures because Tana is dense, polluted and anarchic.
When we arrived, we had to apply to the fokontany, a moral local authority linked to the suburb and certify a copy of our passport by the city council before getting our permanent visa. People told me it could take a bit of time but honestly, it is nothing for me compared to the CAF (French Social Service) in Reunion island where you have to come at least at 7pm. Otherwise, you could have about 20 people already waiting for the opening at 7.30pm.
You could have more steps in Tana but they are efficient (at least, for the moment!).
Then we had to get Malagasy ID photos for the permanent visa application. They are larger than usual, taking the top part of the shoulders.
We had safety and health briefings from French institutions. Clearly, I’m more concerned about health than safety. Safety advices are pretty similar than the travelling ones: respecting local people and their way of doing things, not going out at night and not going where we told not to. On the other hand, the doctor gave us a list of diseases we could be exposed where we are currently living, a bit outside from the city, in Itaosy. Malaria _which by the way is not concerning us_ is a joke next to plague, rabies (both deadly if not treated quickly) and bilharziose. However, in my case, pollution and dust are more problematic.
I already experienced Malagasy taxis when I came in 2006 and I knew about car conditions. And it was pretty similar to the last time: quite folkloric! Tana taxis are usually old and would never pass controls. In 2006, my taxi (a French Deux Chevaux) stopped in the middle of the ride for a quite refuel: the driver went out of the car and grabbed a plastic bottle in the car door and we beat the road again, as if nothing happened! This time, I had more time to detail different kind of taxis and their specificities: air system (in Reunion island and probably in Africa and South America, old buses were called ‘car courant d’air’ which means open air buses), concrete bits and pieces… The safety belt, when existing, is most of the time impossible to pull. Lights, when existing, are weak. But I’ve never felt it was my last ride as taxi drivers have a solid self-confidence and/or resignation.
I also took the bus. It is quite folkloric and I really enjoyed the experience. Buses have a small cardboard indicating their destination in the front windshield. At the back of the bus, a ‘receveur’ (someone collecting money to pay the ride) is running behind the bus when slowing down for collecting new passengers. Then, you have to quickly get in as the bus could be still going forward. Have a seat wherever you can. As Malagasy people are thin and small, I’m not designed to fit in their seat. My knees were touching the front seat. It could also be dangerous to get out of the bus as it is still moving! Passengers are packed into buses but at least, the atmosphere is much better than Parisian metros.
Other road users are zebu carts. They appear stunning to me as zebus are proud cattle with shiny hair and hooves tapping on cobblestones. We are living a Tana suburb called Itaosy where the first Madagascar tarred road. Tana is making me think of Paris by its density, pollution (except Tana is coming first) and its spreading.
I really enjoy my first times in Tana even if I’m exhausted. We had a lot to do but it is more that time has a different value in here. Going to one place to another can take hours for few kilometers. Traffic is insane and you take the same time driving, busing or walking. Roads are a shocking condition but the main problem is that you only have one road. Someone told us that the city was built for a maximum of 500 000 people. Today, 3 millions are living in Tana.
Then exhaustion is part of the expatriation. First times are tough: administration, language, new marks (space, cultural, weather with cold, bright sun and height).
Physically, it is very tiring: walking a lot (Tana and its suburbs are hilly), carrying a lot (installation, big shopping), cold so the body is burning more (and we have no heating), being careful of not bringing back bugs (so procedures before going inside the house and same about veggies). I’m probably also tired because of a flu recently caught. I got light asthma linked to efforts and can get bronchitis but I should ok. I will get a mask as soon as possible. We walked 30 minutes to go shopping and breathing was a bit difficult. Excitation of the arrival gone, two nights in the backpacker and a continuous vigilance are tiring me.
Anyway, I will find the pace.
We are living in Itaosy, a semi-rural area. We had a look around. There is a main cobblestone road, a pretty church, a quarry almost done, tombstones along the road, children sledging in a basin on a rocky slop, songe (a kind of potato) fields with 50cm holes and other vegetables, tiny shops along the road where you can get veggies, eggs, meat… You can see mountains faraway. The sky is clear from 8pm.
I cannot wait starting working. I should meet my employers this week to know more about my missions and hours. I need to know exactly when I will work as I had to be back home before 5pm for safety reasons.
I have really basic notions of Malagasy language but I cannot wait to be able to speak properly and discover more of this fascinating culture. For now, I don’t get a word of what street market sellers are saying to me when I’m buying my kilo of sweet potatoes. But I love these first times in a foreign country. New language, new currency, new marks, new culture… I’m pretty sure it is helping out the brain to build these new connections for slowing down the ageing process!
Then, I’m really lucky to be a residency where Malagasy is the main language and the opportunity to get fresh milk (still warm!) every morning. Moreover, this residency is applying an environmental policy (waste reduction, good water management, solar energy) which is fitting with my personal values.
The other great luck is to be close from Charlotte Rabesahala, Malagasy anthropologist. We had the opportunity to discuss a bit and I know it is a great privilege.
I'm only few hours from Madagascar, my missions and my new life.
I'm prepared about facing difficulties. I remember when I was in Antananarivo in 2006; the crowd was there, even at 10pm. A lot of taxi drivers were waiting, pushing and calling for passengers. I also remember beggars down the hotel. But the most vivid memory was red soil: children playing soccer onto this red soil, running and so happy.
I only stayed for few days. Misery, diseases and injustices were right onto your face but I humblely wanted to feel the heartbeat of Antananarivo. Of course, few days are nothing to pretend knowing a city and even more a country. But I felt that the city and I had a secret story together: invisible, in the air of the city.
See you tomorrow Antananarivo, after 10 years!
I'm in the middle of packing for my departure to Madagascar.
I've the great priviledge to go to Madagascar under the Regional Cooperation, a specific French program promoting co-development in the world. I'm part of the program in the Indian Ocean. I'm very proud of reinforcing the bond between French-speaking communities and promoting French republic values. This mission is a big deal for me because of this timely opportunity.
I had an opportunity in here, Reunion island but it was not fitting my expectations.
I'm sailing towards new personal and professionnal adventures. Teaching is a big challenge for me because of responsabilities and I really hope that I will reach my objectives.
All papers are done, as vaccines and all items ticked in the list. I'm taking some time to go on mountains here. Today, I was in Plaine-des-Palmistes and I visited the Domaine des Tourelles. Late nineteen century, this place was a posh holiday retreat for rich families from the coast. They were coming during summer time.
I was blown away by Laurent Pantaléon's videos; his way of filming is so beautiful.
I cannot wait to go to Madagascar!
I’ve been interviewed by a French website, ‘Aux cinq coins du monde’ (www.aux-cinq-coins-du-monde.com). The exercice was quite interesting and funny, especially for the journalist I am. It reminded me about the one I’ve done for a Reunionnese website, ‘Réunionnais du Monde’ (Reunionnese around the World).
But the most impressive was with 3Z Radio (Mauritian community radio) in Melbourne in 2011. Being journalist and being interviewed are two very distinct experiences. I realised how inconvenient and stressful it could be to seat on this position. And I even sang this day, live on the radio. But it was so much fun.
My interview with ‘Aux cinq coins du monde’: http://www.aux-cinq-coins-du-monde.com/2014/01/interview-nathalie-australie/
I’m starting to write again and it is such a pleasure! I could not properly do it for few months because of an overbooked planning. But it is a great joy to go back to this first love.
Actually, more than a first love, it is part of me. I owe a lot to a primary school teacher who asked us to write a journal. I have no idea of her name but her face and her gentleness are still alive in my memory. But I will never forget this humble little notebook with a blue plastic cover.
Amongst my thousand of projects, I’m writing about Tasmania. I deeply love this island. It is a bit similar to Reunion island, my native island, for its wilderness. But Reunion island have way more inhabitants than Tasmania. I enjoyed so much this priviledged contact with nature. The first night spent near a pristine beach with the sound of the wind in the canopy and this feeling of greatness of Nature was very romantic to me. I hate cold but having fresh showers in campings over there was not a big deal.
In a nutshell, I felt great and in osmosis with nature. Even if I’m not living in the bush today, I enjoy my new place. Few birds nestled in a tree near the window of my kitchen and their song is a beautiful music!
A bad news is darkening my sky.
My partner, François, is currently studying Environmental Monitoring at the TAFE Urrbrae, South of Adelaide.
Back to Reunion island in 2012, when we were applying for these studies, he first had been told the Environmental Monitoring course was not opened to International students. Fine, he finally applied for a Management course, even if it was really what he wanted to do but at least, he would learn something different and useful.
When the Environmental Monitoring course opened to International students, he applied and started it in July 2013. He was really happy to finally follow his first preferred path. The course was really interesting and he couldn’t wait to learn more.
Rumors had been confirmed with a letter from the TAFE. They will stop the course. He should be able to finish it up to the Diploma level. That is what the letter said. Lecturers told him that only one lecturer will teach all courses next year for finishing the course. How a single lecturer will manage to teach and mark all assigments ? What will be the quality of the education for this course ? I’m not talking about skills but only time.
Will Francois get a low-quality education and moreover, how employers would consider it ?
The worst-case scenario is Francois not to be able to stay in Australia. How will he and I manage it, manage to pay the rent of our new 1 year lease and the use of our car and more than anything, to be far from him ? Should I stop as well all I’m doing, studies and fantastic work opportunities ?
Because this sword of Damocles is always pointing my head for the moment. It is tickling my hair scalp, today more than ever. Will I be able to get a visa for a permanent residency after my studies ? Hospitality jobs had been removed from the skilled occupational list (SOL). I’m trying to get information about starting my own business but it is a long quest. I’m feeling like a Knight of the Round Table with my quest of the Holy Graal. Except that for the moment, I have no table, not even square, and not even a fridge. I enjoy a monastic minimalism.
It would be heart-breaking to leave Australia. My fate is not really on my hands for the moment. I must stick to my usual epicurean way of life, abandonned from a too long-time now.
I’m back from a week of video footage for a documentary in Brisbane. It was an amazing experience.
This French 52 minutes documentary follows Australian rescuers. For months, I’ve experienced the Australian administrative system, not so far from the French one.
I was Location Manager. So I went through procedures to get agreements, contacted all interviewees, organised meetings and fulfilled all Location Manager tasks.
I also translated interviews. It was a good moment as it extended the experience.
I had the chance to meet amazing people over there.
I cannot wait to work more with this French company!
And surprise, I just received an enquiry for writing a guide about Australia!
I’ve finished my courses and now, I’ve started my work placement. I need to complete 600 hours. It is a lot. And it is a bit a shame when there are so much differences between International and National students.
National students need to complete 160 hours after their Certificate III. But at the end, if they want to go up to the Advanced Diploma, they will need to complete as well 600 hours. But what about employers who will hire an ‘less qualified’ International student ? Because it is compulsory for International students to complete these hours before enrolling for Certificate IV and then for the Advanced Diploma.
Anyway, I’m very happy that I had such a good lecturer. Ivan Livera is a professional and passionate teacher. His will of sharing, of pushing people to improve is very precious. After all basics and techniques, he taught us about the truth about cooking : feelings. I knew it but from a professional point of view, it confirmed it.
I’m doing my work placement at the amazing SAH Modern Mediterranean Restaurant (www.sahmediterranean.com.au) with great chefs Alex Fry and Andy Lean. I’m very lucky to work with them as they want to share their knowledge and they are very creative. I think it’s good to know to properly cook but being creative is another job and not everybody is able to do it.
For example, they will launch the second edition of their Beergustation this 28th July. I mean they will cook with beers from microbreweries : awesome !! From my Frenchie point of view, only Belgians were doing their ‘Lapin à la Bière’ but Alex and Andy had done a whole menu with beer-based courses ! I can’t wait to be the guinea pig!
I was lucky to be invited to the Michael Haneke’s ‘Amour’ premiere last night. I cried a lot for different reasons.
This movie reminded me a lot of things I’ve lived. I reminded me Paris, my experience of home care for aged people there, distress of some of them and my uncle’s disease and death.
They were evoking the memory and the fact that emotion could be the only thing which lasts. I was asking to myself if bad memories could turned sweet with time. But I don’t think so.
I’ve started my cookery courses and even had my first tests. Practical was alright and theory not far from perfect with 99% of success !
I’ve cut myself on three fingers during the first week but now, I’m alright, no more blue bandages on my fingers !
I thought I had some basic skills in cookery and as a French, I knew a bit about it and the courses confirmed it to me.
I really appreciate this apprenticeship because it is more than teaching and knowledge : it is about sharing and love on the plate. I also really appreciate French culture to its proper value. I already felt this feeling in 2011 in Melbourne while I was humblely teaching French.
This Queen song is floating in my mind from my arrival at Adelaide and from the moment I’ve realised how popular was the bicycle here. I need to say that I just came for the Santos Down Under Tour which is a major biking event like the Tour de France (in France).
So I experienced Adelaide by bike and it’s not so flat as they said! Or I’m really off from sport which could honestly be true.
I’m a bit sad because a really good bike is waiting for me in Paris in a cave but bringing it back to Australia is too expensive. So I brought a new one, deciding the fate of the good one later.
Local bikers aren’t jokes. One evening, we were having drinks outside and a pro just exploded his bike. It sounded like a crushed plastic bottle.
An interesting cultural difference : what we call a U-lock in France is called in here a D-lock. And it makes more sense as you think about it locked.
Things are heading quite good. After finding a very nice appartment in North Adelaide, I’m now preparing for a trial on a restaurant on saturday as waitress. I really hope to get the job as I love to advice customers about food, wine and their histories.
I’ve also met the Alliance française director and it looks very interesting. They will hold the French Film Festival in March and propose many events. I purchased some books there for a very cheap price.
Today was the first orientation day. I’ve experienced a good service from TAFE SA and I suppose it’s the Australian way of doing things. They have a very clever way of saying things : friendly, comprehensive but at the same time, you don’t have to cross the line because they won’t miss you.
I was first worried about studying again, being a ‘mature student’ (I’ve seen this expression on an ad for an accommodation and realised I was now in this category) but seeing other international students relieved me on this quite French feeling (I don’t know enought about other countries to compare).
I cannot say Adelaide is a promised land (wink to its large number of churches) but it sounds a bit like that to me.
It was such a pleasure to be welcomed by Sana, an afghan student living in Australia for more than 10 years through MYSA (Multi-cultural Youth South Australia). They are really doing a good job. I’ve met few days after Sumati and we had a nice chat about life in Adelaide. She was ready to help us in everything. What is good in here is also not to be judget about our choice of studying again at our age like the French society could do.
We were a bit stressed about accommodation, inspecting properties in the CBD and Prospect. And finally, today, we had the good news : we will sign for a lease in North Adelaide!
Then, the next step will be the job. But I’m not so worried as it’s easier to find something in hospitality and I’ve a previous experience in Melbourne.
It was good to reconnect with Australia. I’ve switched my French credit card, driving licence , etc. for my Australian ones. There’s a bit of schizophrenia on it but I’m alright with this double life.
I’ve seen my campus and a map of butchery, patisserie and winery worshops and I can’t wait to start!
Adelaide is a really nice city. I really enjoyed Melbourne but at first sight, Adelaide is more my kind of city : not too big, 30 minutes to walk all around the city and quick nature access.
Of course, my family and friends are more in Melbourne but at the end, it’s only one-hour flight from Adelaide.
The trip was long coming from Reunion island : 24 hours travelling with a 5 hours stop in Perth! But it worths it!
The first day was an intense one. We managed many things (administrative process, phone, discovering, bank reactivations…) with a 41 degrees outside temperature. I felt like living in an oven…
The main worry for the moment is the accommodation. With only few nights left on a youth hostel and the courses starting soon, I can feel some pressure. But Australia is a country built with optimism and I’ll follow this new path.
Again, I’m leaving. It’s always mixed-feelings moment.
I had good times with friends on the beach at l’Ermitage even if it was very hot and sunny. François, my boyfriend, had been sunburnt. We enjoyed snorkelling a bit and then we had a pique-nique. A lot of families enjoyed as well this saturday on the beach.
I felt a bit strange this afternoon, going to see my uncle’s grave in Le Port. I was born this high-temperatures town. I lived my childhood near the thermal power station. ‘The beginning is the end, the end is the beginning.’
Finally, I succeeded in closing my bag. I’ll stay at least 2 years in Australia. I cleared all I could. I will miss my friends. A new life is waiting for me and it will start with finding an accommodation!
I need several lifes. I was thinking about it last evening during the amazing Ibrahim Maalouf concert.
I was abandonned to music and thoughts. From this internal journey, I questionned myself about my artistic projects; why did I have not done anything about my artistic projects ? Why am I interested only in gripping and non-profitable projects (music, writing, video, cookery _even if this last category is the most profitable of all_) ?
If I wanted to flatter myself, I would say I’m living through passion. Finally, yes, without pretention, it’s true : passion is my engine. I need to vibrate, to make vibrating, emotion.
Those times, I’ve been very busy, I needed money.
Well, it was not so bad to come back to my hospitality activities. It reminds me my ‘fresh and young age’ of Parisian receptionnist. I had started a song about it…
And it made me so younger than compassionate looks of some customers with the comment ‘Do you need to pay your studies ?’ were oftenly followed of a ‘Oh but you should be 25 or so.’ A compliment which is always a pleasure..
However, people were mostly very nice compared to Parisians. I only had 2 or 3 closed faces without a ‘hi’.
It’s always so-so for my blood circulation to stand for so long time but the contact with customers is always a pleasure to me. When I remind my first employment as a receptionnist for the National Employment Agency at 18 in the Paris suburbs…
In fact, the only unpleasant thing was a strange voyeurism from people I knew and who were spying me. They were passing by 6 or 7 times, looking from the corner of their eye, without saying ‘hi’, with a kind of disdain for my professionnal activity. But sirs, I must admit that I really don’t care about you. I don’t have any problem of being a sellor in a supermarket.
It always have been there : my holidays destination when I was young. But now, I can see clearly : I am Mauritian. My ID card from Dodos’ s country confirmed this affiliation.
My father is Mauritian. My childhood memories are from the paradise itself; thin white sand beaches, seaweed necklaces, good times with cousins, ice cream vans and its kitsch musics I could hear as a child from kilometers away, my grand-mother and its divine hot chocolate drinks, very tasty and sweet Mauritian accent… I know I had the great chance to have known it and to still live it.
Sure, sometimes, I was frowning when from one side, I was too much Mauritian and from the other, too much Reunionnese. Mauritius island is supposed to be the “sister island” of Reunion island and vice versa. But I already had critics from both sides. Anyway… I’m happy to be from both sides. I’m refreshing these roots as I’m there, before leaving. But I’m thinking about coming back as often as possible in the Indian ocean because I need mountains, bouchons (a typical Reunionnese snack, chinese-like) and secret from Reunion island as I need charming countryside, dense cultur and natural havens in Mauritius. I love my two islands.
From my very last journey in Mauritius, I really appreciated to hear Mauritian creol spoken. Farer than Reunionnese creol because I’m less exposed to it, I understand it less but it’s as chaming as the Reunionnese one. Creols languages are like a parallel reality to me. I’ve been raised in a French-speaking environment and creol languages are like fantasy worlds. They are like black chocolates you’re savouring in the shadow with a proper red wine.
I finally had my French driving licence ! What a relief ! After almost ten year of endless lessons and missed exams because of my incredible mobility, I finally got it !
Well, I already had my Australian driving licence (automatic) and it helped me to be confident for the French one. I wasn’t sure when I’ve finished the test. I didn’t do any terrible mistake but I just didn’t know what to think about it, I didn’t have any clues about the result. My driving instructor was very vague : “It wasn’t amazing but it wasn’t a disaster.”
Anyway, I got it !
The day had a nice start : compliments from sellers on the market and a tonic aquagym session.
But the rest of the day had been less tasty.
First disappointment : an unreachable position of attachée de presse because I’m not broke enough. This position is only for people who have got allowances from 12 months. And I’m a member of the National Employment Agency only for about a month. It’s a shame because my profile was fitting to the position. The real shame is that I couldn’t even directly contact this company because the agency kept their details.
Second disenchantment : a position of production assistant. Well, they had been honest on the phone and my initial studies were in journalism. They are keeping my resume if they need someone for their communication.
Well, I’ve finished my try with the local media and now, I’m waiting them to contact me to know if they want to keep me. Whatever it could happen, I’ve been happy to be a journalist again for two days and to prove to myself that I was able to do this job. But also that I had to keep writing.
I lived in words. Humblely because I was not reporting. But even this usurpation was a true pleasure. Like a carnal reunion.
However, I had a terrible dream about a HUGE spider under my foot the night before (but it supposed to be a good sign!) and I’ve seen a dead kitten corpse today. But it was a beautiful morning and I could see my beloved mountains. Mornings in Reunion island are unique.
First day, the foot in the stirrup. I mean, my pen !
It was such a pleasure to write articles today ! Except I started with writing about sports and I’ve never been very good at it. But they were happy with it and it gave me some energy. I wrote 4 or 5 articles.
I felt good especially because the editorial room was bubbly. The heartbeat of a town, a country, is there, in an editorial room. I was not completely lost as I already knew some fellow workers.
I’ll know on Wednesday if they keep me. Fingers crossed!
It was a very good day. So good that I had to talk about it.
It was a true saturday like I haven’t had for a long time. Because a saturday doesn’t have the same taste than the other days of the week, you’ll agree with me. There is a bit of party-theme in this last day of the week. You start to rest, you can afford to have some good time because you know you’ll have another day to rest. I’m not talking about saturday night, only about saturday the day which smells like holidays. Saturday night is glittering but it doesn’t have the splendor and the youth of saturday the day.
We were, my parents and I, at friends near the Brûlé, on the upper part of Saint-Denis (capital city). We ate a good rooster “à la créole”, drank some good wine and talked about latest news like “riots” (some young people recently protested about unemployment and increase of prices on the island). Then we lost ourselves in their garden amongst granadillas, custard marrows (also know as chayotes) and other endemic trees.
Slightly tipsy, I closed my eyes on the way back home, anticipating a potential blindness (I’m keeping on laser surgery to fix my pecky retinas). I let myself to all my other senses : wind on my cheeks and on my hair, smells of fresh greenery and movements of the brusque driving of my father. To the right, to the left, careful, a car on the side of the road. And a last shiver listening to an electric guitar of Supertramp.
I’m opening again my eyelids and vacoas (local tree) shadows are black lace cut by the sunset.
Wow!! I’m breathing again!
Today, I’ve met the chief editor of a local media, Antenne Réunion. I’m starting on monday for a try on the web edition! I’m so happy!!!!!! Finally some light at the end of the tunnel! I must admit I’m a bit afraid because I haven’t written for a long time on a pro context. But it should be fine, I’m so motivated!
I just had to pass my driving licence (I’ve got a date on mid-april) and I could come back to radio!
I have enough energy to write even fictions! I’m more creative when I’m busy.
Unemployment is a bad period for whoever.
You’re feeling upset by everything : people who have a job but who are bad at it or who don’t have proper qualifications, waste, being locked, dependance.
The daily life is full of up and down : where is my mistake ? Not enough experiences, qualifications ? Will I be able to cope in a new job ? I’ve been told many good things about networking but how many hands in return ? Then, you’re fighting back. Everything will be ok, I’ll go on. And then, you sink again : you watch your finances cent by cent and pasta with tuna is a Christmas meal (when I was in Paris).
You’re going back to your parents (already a chance!) and you’re a child again because of financial dependance (because the national employment agency told you :”Nothing possible for you. Try another institution.”).
You try to think lower. But the space and time change and you’re back 10 years before; you had to get your driving licence again. In fact, you already got it but it’s not compatible with local cars. This Australian driving licence is only for automatic cars and they are mainly manual ones. Again, you feel financially dependant.
Finally, this day wasn’t so dark even with a negative answer from the Tourism Authority of Reunion island.
I’ve started this day with a bitter taste of dependance, going to the doctor and seeing my mother paying for me.
Then, I’ve seen a friend, Raveendran. We met when he was part of a Taliipot show, ‘KOR, Maison du Vent’ (House of the Wind) in 2005. I was a trainee in Radio Première (former RFO). I was naively trying to improve communication around the local culture and around cultural news in general.
From there, my friend has a beautiful daughter. He is a master of a martial art not really known, kalarippayattu. English colons were so afraid of this ancestor of kung-fu that they decided to kill almost all members. He is also expert in ayurveda, the indian medecine.
He is indirectly participating for my well-being; I’ve proposed him to build him a website and to help him on his communication. Some intellectual stimulation!
I was waiting for my turn at the doctor today and I’ve witnessed a dramatic and usual scene. A little boy hit _I’m not exagerating, he was hiting hard and many times_ his grand-mother in charge of watching him while his mother was with the doctor. The only reaction of this old lady was to laugh under his beats.
I was really choked by this scene, even if I already knew about this local violence and my mother, teacher in a kindergarden, told me about other similar cases of violence between children.
About the context, Reunion island knew a rapid technologic growth in a short period but mentalities didn’t evolve as quickly.
My mother lived in a tin house without running water neither power, was from a 10 children family and didn’t know only good times. But she fought in her life to succeed in. From informations I can get, I’ve understood that it was quite usual to have a ‘strong’ and ‘strict’ education in Reunionnese families. But in only two generations, the mollycoddled thrones. Violence is now everywhere because a mollycoddled not satisfied _and his patience is not_ uses very easily violence.
Anyway, I could face these two fires, mollycoddleds and violent parents, very soon as I’m interested in offering english lessons next door!
Today, we went to the hairdresser. She told us she was looking for someone from November and she’s found noone. She had planned a whole day for four interviews; noone came! I was very surprised by this news. She doesn’t have a bad reputation but some people are just very lazy in here. I fought _and still is fighting_ against this idea that Reunionnese people are considered like leeches from the main land.
Marine Le Pen (far right) arrived this morning in the island. Even if some strikers were there to welcome her at the airport, I’m pretty sure she’s seducing more and more people in here. In the main land, her motto (her father’s) ‘France to French people’ is gathering people from all social background because of the financial crisis. They had to find a reason and it’s easy to make foreign people guilty of it.
But in Reunion island, such a motto ‘Reunion island to Reunionnese people’ could have more sense in a way. Even if reasons are different, her success could really increase. Reunion island doesn’t offer a lot of opportunities to graduate local people; most of the time, they are challenged by people coming from the main land _not really equally, not even with the same skills_ and worst, some job offers don’t even appear to them, they are stuck in other networks. So graduate Reunionnese people had to stay out of the island or leave it for a better future _when they can do it_.
So in my opinion, some of these upset graduate Reunionnese people could cease to the siren song of Marine Le Pen. They could think ‘Yes, I will vote for Marine Le Pen ! She’s right; I want a good job in my island.’ And this is the tragedy of the political story in Reunion island. Neither the left wing, the right wing (which in a way had not deceived yet voters but still linked to Sarkozy, doesn’t appear like the best choice) and communists are favoured by local people.
Going back to Reunion island had been difficult. I’ve left in the middle of the night from the East suburb of Melbourne to approach an airport lost in the dark, next to Geelong. There was not even a light on the highway ! We went through a strong rain next to the city.
My family had been clever and had done the good choice pretending leaving because of the 5 minutes authorized parking; it was so hard that it was better to shorten this painfull goodbye.
The flight had been a bit tiring even if it was as long as a Reunion-Paris. But it was more because of a man drinking many whisky-cocas next to me.
But my first day had been good; we had lunch on l’Ermitage beach and I had a good swim on the salted water. I cooked a cari prawns for the dinner and it was quite nice!
The second day had been more sport but as nice. We walked on Dos d’Ane, not far from home. It was first easy, with a stunning panorama, not suitable if you’re suffering from vertigo! From the Cap noir, you can enjoy the Mafate cirque (a cirque is an old volcano which had collapsed and it looks like a rocky valley). But the second part is the more difficult as you had to climb ladders and to be like a goat! And then, you walk on a crest with on one side, the Mafate cirque and on the other side, the quiet plateau of Dos d’Ane.
The next day was complete with sea and moutain. We enjoyed first the botanical walk on the Mare-Longue forest and had been enchanted by endemic woods; “Joli Coeur”(‘pretty heart’), ‘Rempart wood’ and others ferns.
We had an excellent ‘Vacoas cabbage with smoked ham’ for lunch next to the Cap Méchant, a volcanic rocky peninsula on the sea of the wild South. And a bath on l’Ermitage beach at the end of the day!
I went to visit my ‘Mère Courage’, my aunt. This french expression means a very brave woman. I admire her to be so brave and I love her a lot. I’ve also seen my uncle, a really good guitarist, tired by his lung cancer. We played a bit of music and he asked me to write lyrics for him.
I appreciate my return to my land and I’m still thinking of my family and friends in Australia and New-Zealand.
To have a look at some photos of Dos d’Ane, here is the link :
To have a look at some photos of Mare-Longue and Cap Méchant, here is the link :
2012 looks to be a good year.
I’ve let all my worries in 2011 to be a fighter. Few minutes before 2012, we were playing cards and I had 3 jokers in my hand : no choice, 2012 will be a lucky year.
I had really good times with my family in Moss Vale, New South Wales. We’ve even seen Canberra before going back in Melbourne by 40 degrees.
Everything could change this year as I could have an real opportunity in Reunion island!
I’m back to ‘town’.
I really felt very strange at Melbourne airport and on the way back to home in Melbourne. You’ll know more about my trip in Tasmania as I’m preparing a detailed post about it.
Just coming back to this feeling, I’m still feeling weird.
I felt in love with Tasmania, even if the temperatures were fresh. In fact, it was not cold (except in Cradle Mountain) but the wind, coming straight from the South Pole, was. But the nature was so beautiful, divine, enchantress that I, lizard-born, heat-lover, I had no problem with temperatures. I felt in love with Tasmania quietness and wilderness. Sure, winter time should be tough. I felt peaceful in Tasmania. My mobile phone was not working, not a chance to find an internet cafe; I needed it. Maybe I need it.
Coming out from the airport was an overwhelming people-urban-pollution wave on me. I felt strange to see all this movement. I felt a little bit lost for few days. And I did not even go back to the CBD yet… I was good among the nature, I felt child of it.
Thanks to this experience, I’m going on my personal work about what I want in my life. I want to be close to nature. I even had a look at professional choices in this way.
I’ve been very touched by a friend trying to convince me to come back to France, to Paris, to study there. I really enjoy this attention. But I’ve suffered too much in this acidic atmosphere. I have no place, no weapons, nothing in this world. I was lucky to meet my friends but I’m feeling hopeless at a professional life in Paris, almost even in France. I kept on applying for job and when they answer me, it’s to say ‘Oh, bad luck, we’ve found someone better than you’, ‘Oh bad luck, you’re not here right now _I mean in Reunion island_ so no hope.’
Working with nature appeals more rewarding to me at the end.
I’ve booked flights to go to Wellington, New-Zealand. I’m thinking about finding a job and getting a permanent visa over there.
I miss radio work.
I loved so much to work on sound, to write for radio, to create atmospheres. Video and writing are quite different for me. It is not the same writing as well. Pictures are talking by themselves and we are using less words, it is a lighter structure. I’m really enjoying writing as it is a source of pleasure and ‘space’ but I also like to use my voice. It is something quite intimate. Just like writing.
I love radio because it is a challenge and a stage. Word and intonation, music and literary structure. Sure, I could keep feeding my audioblog. But it’s not the same… Sound is different on the web. It was as well my fear at the end of my studies (as I was specialized in radio) : which future for radio ? I mean radio we’ve known until now : a specific format and a momentariness. And just talking about format, I would have known radio stories with sound effects and everything ! I think my mother had known this period. Reunion island had been late for a long time about media and cultur but had known a big jump those last 10 years (or something like that). These radio stories were this time a true jewel of radio and an excellent performances for actors !
I was fearing digitalism of media could offer a canned sound and that radio journalists could never again feel this shiver of being on air. As I’m not working on radio for a while, I don’t know if this fear turned real or not.
Arte radio seems to do more or less nice things but they consider themselves as a impregnable fortress, repulsing requests as flea-ridden villains. And then, my fear about listening rate was right : it’s quite poor. Lost in the internet galaxy, sound only attracts few sound lovers and cannot reach new curious listeners.
I hope my applications will be successful, the last one targeting a far-far country…
Yesterday evening, while I was going to the avant-premiere of ‘Die Knef’ (which I recommend to all Melbournians!), I’ve seen a former ‘classmate’ (from the journalism school) in the train.
I took time to put a name and a context on this face. She waved her hand and the time for my neurones to connect, I already had missed the time laps for an answer.
This girl had been the major of your promotion. I got well with her at the beginning. Then, things changed. We didn’t have the same age, even if it is not a real criteria for me.
I was wondering if she was here on holidays (‘God, she had money…) or studying (‘God, she had A LOT of money!). I felt she was not here on a Working Holiday Visa.
Then, I said to myself ‘Really, Nathalie, stop this stupid jealousy ! Think about those who have less chances than you…’ Yes and I tried to think that in my situation, others should have managed the same. We don’t have the same chances and that’s it.
All of this made me feel like a warrior facing adversity. Ok, but let’s go down a little bit : an everyday warrior. In Paris, this could have had a negative connotation while here, it is filled with hope.
And with all spiders I’m meeting here every evening…
Sounds like the french expression : ‘Evening spider, hope.’
Yesterday evening, I went for dinner at a friend’s house in Prahan. I had again the chance to enjoy some fun from the station staff when I was taking the train.
These guys are really funny in fact! Under their stamped ‘Metro’ fluos jackets, I’m pretty sure there is a bit of a humorist secret dream. It’s the third time that I enjoy a kind of show which relax passengers’s zygomatics and create a friendly atmosphere on platforms and coaches.
Those players to the gallery are oftenly around Richmond station. The first time, just before entering the station, the driver told us a story about his grand-father (which I had not completely understood as I’m French plus a strong Aussie accent). It was nice and looks exchanged between surprised passengers are really more kind than Parisian ones, cattle-like or acerb (I cannot compared it to Reunion island as the public transport network is chokingly under-developped).
The second time, our train was leaving Richmond station. ‘Hi dear passengers. It looks like we took the wrong way.’ What ?! ‘We can still catch the right way at the next intersection but I had to get a green light. Fingers crossed!’ WHAT ?! ‘It worked, we are now on the right way. Thank you!’ Huh…Ok. Those guys love action!
And the last time was yesterday. The train was late (always the same place) and the staff member in charge of annonces tried to calm down users who could have been upset (not such a deal in the ‘No worries’ country). He was enjoying doing last seconds countdown.
So I spent the evening with this friend met in a specific context. Life is such a strange thing sometimes. I’v learnt what serendipity means in Australia. And I had many examples in here!
I’ve met Helen during a conflictual collaboration. I’ve been exploited, felt insulted and I had the impression I had lost my time but I’ve found a friend. It made me think about all people I estimate in Melbourne (during my one-hour train travel). My family and my friends from all sides.
Talking with Helen about thousand things, we talked about our relationships with big cities and compared them to human relationships. If you don’t get well on from the beginning, you have many chances to keep going with it. I think I’m not a big city person. Even if I cannot compare my relationship with Melbourne to the one with Paris. I’m a stranger but I’m less upset by the cold urban atmosphere. Colonial relationship excepted, it’s really better as well!
We should always thank people who are really horrible with you.
Yes, finally, it helps to go forward.
I’ve received an interview request those days about Internet in Australia from a French blogger (with a lot of certifications in his signature). I was quite surprised as I’m not working in the field but I thought it could be as well a report. I replied I was not qualified for it, talking about all technical datas but I proposed my simple point of view as a common user. This man replied me that he thought I was ‘internet-minded’ and sorry, no thank you. I first felt upset as if I was not ‘internet-minded’, I had no point of using web tools such as social networks, CMS, etc. But it was good for me at the end.
This story and my last negative answers about journalism pushed me to focus on the essential. Do I want to stay in this world and suffer from others’s egos, fights for power and superficial struggles ? The answer is no. No, I don’t want to breathe only when few deciders want me to. No, I don’t want to go back in a country where the president is saying to the population to make efforts, to pay more taxes as he is reducing at the same time taxes for rich people. I’ve recently heard that France had more than 2.5 millionnaires in its territory.
Then I thought : ‘What do I want? What do I love when I’m working?’
I love a lot of things but two main points emerged.
First, I love human adventure. I really enjoyed it as a journalist as I could have several adventures in the same day, feeling as close as a friend sometimes ! It could be joy, sadness, anger. I also enjoyed it through my little experience in social work : helping and sharing. Words, actions or just presence.
And then, I love language. French and English. And Spanish but I’ll come back to this one later as I’m quite busy for the moment. Yes, I love French language. I’m writing diaries from primary school. Writing is for me putting life in words through a magical process, light a fire in the cold darkness of a blank page. I was used to hate grammar for a long long time. Why finding order in this flux ? I thought it was trying to capture life in words, killing it and then, dissecting it. When I was studying grammar in la Sorbonne, it reminded me these paintings of lessons of anatomy. All these doctors around a dead (or half-dead!) body who lived (like them) talking about the process of digestion or whatever. Sure, it was very helpful but I’m so sentimental.
But then, teaching French and especially French grammar gave me another perspective. As my new relationship with maths and my everyday use of English. I’m considering it more like a structure and a way of thinking.
It is really a pity that education is going in such a bad way in France. That’s why I’m really thinking about teaching French abroad. France faces very hard social and economic issues and it’s losing its quality of education. Even with a good policy, it will take time to change programs and to rebuild a good relationship between teachers and students.
I was so lucky to have a good education through my parents, my teachers and all the people I’ve met. And I would like to bring the same to others.
And the good news is I’m thinking about a shorter version of the master, as I think I won’t stay long in Reunion island (linked to France so to its bad economy). It’s a 10 months course and it’s a first step for teaching French abroad. I’ll do the master but later I think.
Today, it was the Melbourne Cup. Almost everything stopped working, everybody put on formal clothes and fascinators flowered by this _so-called_ spring day.
It was funny to see some people so well-dressed with an ‘Esky’ (ice box in Australia) or other random items. I’m not judging as I suffered from the French social pressure, especially in Paris. You couldn’t go out without being well-dressed, make-up on, etc. People could think French women are classy but the truth is they had to ! No, I’m joking, they should be.
I’m more ‘easy going’. That’s one point which attracted me in Australia. But at the same time, I’m realizing through this experience, that I was not so ‘easy going’.
I’ve been raised in the French way of life. Even if I’m claiming my roots and an innate anglo-saxon way of being, I’ve faced this print on me. I need to plan more or less, to have a mid-term view. I cannot live with a too short-term vision.
Or maybe I’m getting old.
Anyway, I’m still enjoying the teaching experience with a second student. She is Year 9. Unfortunately, as I’m going to Tasmania, I won’t see her for a long time so I’ll try to give her essential keys and methods for the future.
I can’t say I’m bored these days.
I’m still working on my small creations (jewels, fascinators) and good news : today, I went to the shop The Pixie Collective (http://www.thepixiecollective.com) and I’ve signed a contract for selling my creations at the shop ! I’m thinking about bringing my stock next week. A lovely shop full of treasures!
A real good friend, Jessielea Skillicorn (founder of the brand Pweky), told me about it. We had also discussed of a show on the 4th November at the club Abode; something comedy/fashion. She would like me to sing a song. I’m thinking about ‘Hot’. It will be good to be on stage again.
I’m still promoting ‘Die Knef’, even if I have some internet troubles.
I have a new student in French, just before leaving for Tasmania. I think I really enjoy teaching. During my last lesson, I’ve started talking about litterature and it was such a pleasure ! I miss litterature. I’m even thinking about studying some litterature (even without a diploma at the end). But I’m also very lucky to live with an extraordinary educationalist. My father’s cousin, which nicely welcomed me, had been a maths teacher in Oxford, England and here, in Australia. I wrote maths methods. Patient and an innate gift to captivate students, I know how to do and I’m drinking his words.
And new adventure : I’ll do a wedding headdress for a friend!
Today was a happy wet day. I had a phone call as sweet as a smoothy hot chocolate in this humid and fresh ‘spring’ day. You had to know that the Melbourne’s weather, for those who don’t know about it, is very capricious. We can have a winter weather in summer and vice versa. Yeah, true, winter is not as bad as in Europe ! But this humidity is just crazy, going through clothes !
My days are quiet. I’m preparing jewellery that I will sell to shops and on markets to earn some money, still teaching french, still in touch with ABC Radio and working with a friend for the communication of a show about Hildegard Knef, a scandalous german actress. ‘Die Knef’ will be played from 1st to 4th December at the Butterfly Club. For more details, visit the official website : www.dieknef.com. A very interesting story about the condition of german artists (especially german women performers) in Hollywood. The subject is very interesting but as the job : I’m ‘circulating’ on german websites. Yes, I’m saying ‘circulating’ because I’ve only done a year of German at the highschool as third language and I would have continued it because I love this language ! I’ll probably come back to it one day, amongst my thousand projects. So I’m sailing german, austrian and german-speaking communities websites in Victoria. Fortunately for me, ‘Kontact’ is neither far from french or english !
I’m also happy to see my creativity coming back a bit. I’m having fantasies about threatening and charming nature thanks to the preparation of the trip in Tasmania. What I’ve read inspired me about a short piano variation (soon online).
I’m really feeling better. Quite strange as well.
I’m not yet a tourist but my status of ‘resident’ will soon expire. The good point is that in few weeks, I will really enjoy Australia and its nature (what I was also coming for). I’m already thinking about my budget for trips around Cairns and Tasmania.
I’m also preparing now my return in Reunion island : updating my website and resume. It is now more clear to me that I’ve done more than I thought. Going abroad is by itself already an experience but I’m really appreciating all my efforts now. I hope employers will also appreciate in Reunion island.
I must admit that I like this position : not yet back in a potential routine. I’m feeling free and good, confident with my last success (driving licence).
I’ve taken some big decisions.
I’ve resigned of the french bakery. I was very upset about some management decisions. I was a hard decision to make but finally, I’m really feeling better.
I will go back to Reunion island at the end of January. I’m not ready to put $25 000 on studies. I would prefer to put it on a business. My plan is to go back, study to be a french teacher and then, to come back in Australia. I’ll try to find a job in communication, tourism or teaching.
The good news is that, after 10 years of bad times, I finally have passed the driving licence test ! I’m still not believing that I’ve done it ! I’ve started in Reunion island, changed thousand times of driving schools because I was moving every year for 10 years and I had no time to be focus on it. But here, in Australia, I’ve passed the test!!!
Bitterness was squeezing me those days but I’m feeling better thanks to customers. Two ladies came back to thank me about advice I gave to her. I felt very pleased!
I’m still wondering about my future, about courses I could follow and I’m thinking about going back at Reunion island for a break but also to benefit of the french education system (I confess). Courses are really less expensive!
Then, I hesitate between staying in Reunion island, going back to Australia or going somewhere else like Argentina.
I’m really feeling better with some intellectual stimulation. It was so obvious that I was needed it!
Going to Monash and following the short course pointed me the right direction : studies. I’m still wondering about which way to choose because event management fits me as well. I know that education will be more static. I love to go out, to try to do things I’ve never done before and I was enjoying it when I was a radio reporter.
Friends advised me to keep doing radio reports for myself but it’s too hard. Especially because I have so few feedback about it. I think I need to work with others as well but I’ve not found yet my work partners here.
The second part of the course was quite interesting.
The teacher highlighted the ‘event project review’ and I was smiling about that. I never had one in all my experiences. I would have been but it never happened. It is a pity for people who want to go on future projects. But again, it was a relief because I was thinking about it by myself.
I was listening to Radiohead’s ‘Airbag’ yesterday in the train. I was instantly transported at 17 and with my best friend. This period of my life reached a mythic status.
I was forgetting those times about music as a timeless refuge. Especially with classical music. I had some gooseflesh listening to the incredible version of ‘Samson and Delilah’ by Klaus Nomi. His voice is so unique and he was such a character.
It reminded me how I miss to shiver and sob after a wonderful opera at the Opéra Bastille. Even those awful consumers, leaving quickly the room to catch their taxi and who want to find back their ordinary routine as soon as possible, enable to savor the instant and all overwhelming feelings, I miss them.
Yes, I should think positive. Yesterday, at work, I’ve served and talked a little bit with a customer and maybe, by this contact, I could have a job for someone else.
I would have appreciated that my help for some people at my journalism school could have been as interesting for me. I cannot say that I regret but usually, people completely forget about it. But I’m not in calculated relationships…
What an interesting day today !
I’m following a short course in Monash University, the ‘Event Management’ one. It is a bit of relief because the teacher mentionned a lot of things I was doing by myself, without any training. I liked when he mentionned the fact that it was important to ‘honour the team’. I’m wondering why I cannot find enough energy to apply to communication jobs or to be involved in artistic projects and I’m so good at having a selective memory. To refuse to see what is really annoying.
But sometimes, it’s too obvious.
Twice, I’ve worked as volunteer, done a good job in communication (according to professionals) and at the end, I’ve been told that ‘we’ll pay a professionnal now’ and even mentionning me his or her salary.
How am I supposed to feel after this ? And twice with few times between ?
Coming back to the short course. At the same time, it was quite awkward to face prozelytizing. And you can’t try to think I don’t know about it, about seducing, about some words like ‘Uniting church’, ‘spirituality’ and ‘life coach’.
He mentionned another ‘funny’ thing. He said that in the next five years, it will only be about communities. I was thinking I don’t belong any community now and I like it, not to have any label on me.
Anyway, it was also interesting because I’ve learnt few things. And I jumped in the Education building to have more information about the Master of Education. I need first to pass the IELTS, the english test… But I really felt better today, less brainless.
I had a drink with friends and the disable young girl she is looking after. It was really great ! It showed me something else, more close to what I am, my convictions, far from everyday stupid fears, ordinary moanings from rich and healthy people.
I think I am inclined to compassion. Forget about the religious bit. Think pure.
I love helping. I love making life of the others better if I can.
Going out, be friends, just dancing, music. She showed me simple things.
Sounds like teaching : sharing. And furthermore with teaching, transmitting.
I believe in the other (sometimes, unfortunately). I believe in its happiness.
Incredible to see some things…
Is Melbourne a good choice as my artistic choices ? 3 experiences, really interesting but at the end, I’m coming to the same conclusion.
I’ve seen ‘Yes Man’ last night and it made me smile. First, Jim Carrey is one of my favourite actor. But then, this thing of always saying yes referred a little bit to my own life. What a sucker ! Even his friends had noticed it and tried to benefit of it.
In a nutshell, my life. Except that I’m mine, I had to be careful ; I need to check if my work is not ‘stolen’. How to steal a work ? You’re not putting any name on it anymore or you change it and it had a new creator. But revenge is sweet.
I had some news from the radio world. It’s quite interesting to notice that a former journalist of RFI (Radio France International), working now at SBS, will work as well for Radio Première in the Pacific area from Melbourne. I’ve sent an expression of interest few months ago and the chief editor told me that he already had two correspondants in Sydney and Brisbane (even if it’s quite far from the other cities and with such different news!) and that he didn’t needed anyone.
Yeah, I know! I can already hear snakes from the back : ‘Yeah, but you know what this job is like, blah blah blah…’. Yes, but it doesn’t help me at all. Worst, I’m feeling worst : am I already had been any value?
Not nice to express pity as well…I’m fearing talking about my situation. And a friend recently told me : ‘But you had to talk about it!’ about a previous situation as glorious as today. But I know that everybody has its own life, that it’s kind of normal and its own preoccupations. That’s life!
J’avais besoin de ce second souffle. Ce n’est pas toujours facile de faire face à ce sentiment de repartir de zéro.
Mais il n’y a pas vraiment le choix.
Je vais réessayer les études, le permis de conduire et la vie artistique. En un sens, c’est être jeune une seconde fois. Exactement dix ans après mon expérience parisienne. Mais plus forte qu’à Paris.
Je me sens en paix ces jours-ci. J’avais besoin de me changer les idées et de bouger un peu. Se connaître est pour sûr le chemin vers le bonheur, comme disaient les Grecs. Mais le problème est d’oublier qui vous êtes. Non, je ne rigole pas ! Je peux complètement oublier ce dont j’ai besoin, ce que j’aime. Pas longtemps mais parfois, ça peut me prendre vraiment beaucoup de temps de voir ce qui est évident pour moi.
J’avais quelques doutes sur mon long séjour sur Melbourne. Le coût de la vie est cher et il fait froid (oui, oui, pour le moment mais c’est teeeeeelllemment long pour moi).
Enfin, si je deviens prof de français comme je le prévois, je pourrais profiter des vacances scolaires, voyager à travers l’Asie et sortir mes élèves pour aller voir des expos et des films.
I needed this second breathe. It’s not always easy to face this feeling of starting again from scratch.
But there is no choice.
I’ll try again studies, driving licence and artistic events. But in a way, it’s like being young again. Exactly 10 years after my Parisian experience. But stronger than in Paris.
I’m feeling in a way in peace those days. I needed to change my mind and to move a little bit. Knowing yourself is for sure a path to happiness, as the Greeks said. But the problem is to forget who you are. I’m not joking, mate ! I could completely forget what I need, what I love. Not for long but sometimes, I could take ages to see what is obvious for me.
I had few doubts about staying in Melbourne for a time. It’s an expensive city and it’s cold (yeah, yeah, for the moment but for me, it’s sooo long).
Anyway, if I’m a french teacher as I’m planning, I could enjoy holidays, travel all around Asia and bring my students to events, movies, etc.
Yesterday evening (early evening, this bronchitis is still killing me), I had an interesting conversation about my way of thinking.
I was explaining to my relative how I can go quite forward when I’m thinking and especially how people around me could understand it.
Because of my investigation about courses and preparing my studies, I’m looking in very different fields such as locksmithing, international relations, teaching, journalism (but not so convinced about this one, I know so much how it’s working and opportunities in this area) and cinema (technical part of it).
Usually, my friends are divided in two categories : the ones who are very enthousiastic about it and the ones who are afraid, worried or just not keen on it.
I must admit I had less friend on the first category but how delightful it is to talk about it with them! I’m thinking especially of a friend, Fanny.
We were used to spend afternoons, talking about innovative concepts, building incredible plans, thinking about details, the way of doing it, etc. We were free! Even powerful in a way! Full of life and motivation! Because we had this urgency (terrible market of journalism in Paris) and thanks to this way of thinking, it was a very rich brainstorming and I’m grateful for life for letting her me know that I was not alone to be like this and that it’s even a quality. Sure, we were a team and this way of thinking needs to be part of a team. Alone, you could lost yourself, exactly what is happening to me. Hmf, I should say, could happen to me.
The second category had a completely different point of view on this way of thinking. For them, I’m just scattered. I don’t know what I want in my life (which is in a way maybe true but who really know about it? What about unpredictable events?) and I need to focus. I cannot succeed in something because I’m losing my energy in too many different areas.
When I was young, my parents kept saying I should apply to be public servant. For me, it was like a direct way to death. ‘Dead because she was bored’, I was thinking about this kind of epitaph. Of course, I’ve understood later, when I knew more about their past, why they wanted me not to suffer of financial problems. But it was quite hard for me to kill the few dreams I had.
But sure, in a way, there is a piece of truth. Just a piece as nowadays, the notion of secure job is disappearing. When I was in journalism, it was a closed world because I hadn’t the proper network. But it sounds so much in all other jobs at the end. It’s difficult for me to think different in Australia because of the restrictions of my temporary visa. And I’m going back in France or Reunion island, what kind of job could I pretend to apply?
‘Dreaming’ of simple way of thinking…
My birthday should had not been a great thing. I was sick as a dog, couldn’t breathe properly, with a little bit of fever, struggling for moving.
I’ve learnt the hard way about Melbourne and its tricky weather. You had to have in your bag a scarf, sunglasses and an umbrella. Always ! It’s a question of surviving.
Because of antibiotics, alcohol was forbidden.
And my birthday reminds me of getting old, which is always difficult for women, with all these bullshits of being less attractive, etc. Now, I just don’t care about it. No, my main concern this year was about my future. I’ve spent all a night thinking about what is the good choice.
This year is special because it’s been now 10 years I’ve left Reunion island. I was thinking about Paris and my beginnings. But maybe it will change now and I won’t be annoyed anymore by this ghost.
Anyway, it was a good birthday because I had a lot of love coming from everywhere. Messages from people I love. And it was the best present I could have had.
You had to think about every option when you had to make a decision.
To come back home is one of these options. But the meaning of ‘home’ evolved and changed a lot for me.
For a long time, it was Reunion island, my place of birth, my childhood and my youth. My weather, my landscape and my creative world.
Then, living more in Paris than in Reunion island, it languished a little bit. I was sharing less everyday life events, I didn’t take this train over there anymore.
But could I say I was ‘home’ in Paris?
Then Australia. I’m here ‘home’ with my family but my Reunionese and Parisian ‘homes’ are still alive. Because in Paris, I had (have) refuges : places and people. In Reunion island, places but it’s going beyond it. It’s more a question of waves.
Yeah, sure, I should say ‘home’ is in my heart, in my head and whatever.
In fact, when I’m really thinking about it, what is ‘home’ for me is to cook and to eat. Especially to cook for my friends! What a stomach on legs!
I’m feeling quite anxious about this huge decision of studies. It could change a lot of things.
I’m interested in mainly three options : international relations, education (french teacher for secondary) or a mix of arts, IT and communications.
The program of the International Relations studies is just amazing for the ‘journalist’ I am (have been, I’m quite lost today). It opens career opportunities in international organizations and structures.
I had a good experience in teaching French to a student. But will it be the same in a classroom with a some students bored by it? This one loves so much France, the cultur and the language. And he’s a hard-worker. So I don’t know about it. But at the same time, this job is on the list of job needed in Australia.
And the last mix is because I’ve started with journalism and maybe it could be good not to loose this basis.
I know I’m lucky because of this choice and this financial help from my parents. But I’m so afraid not to do the right choice.
I’ve failed in la Sorbonne and I’ve succeeded in journalism, I’ve worked well according to some professionals but at the end, I’m nowhere. And putting again a lot of energy and hope is such a big risk. I won’t have the energy to face another disaster.
I need to choose ; visa and financial safety, something I’m interested in…
Take a decision is such a big thing.
I know that it’s too late but if I had 16, I wouldn’t had been the same choices. Really not. I would have studied locksmithing I think.
A friend recently told me that he had done a BTS (kind of apprenticeship) and he could pretend to have allowances after his studies. Maybe it’s possible for apprentices. Anyway, I would have worked earlier, maybe created my own business and have no problems to move to Australia as a skilled migrant.
I need intellectual food but I should have kept this as a hobby.
Anyway, choices had been made.
It’s quite funny to hear about people and distance.
I’ve left my parents, home, boyfriend (and first love) and island when I was 17. I technically arrived at 18 in Paris. I’ve lived 10 years there and now, I’m in Melbourne, Australia.
I miss a lot my friends. Sure. A LOT! I miss my island, the sea, the food, mountains and falls.
It’s quite funny to notice the behaviour of some French people abroad as well. Usually, in France (in the main country), coming from Reunion island makes a big difference. You’re coming from the other side of the world and you’ve got a french nationality but some people could doubt of Reunionese people having cars or TV.
In Australia, you become a true blood french. Sometimes, as in the main country, some french people think it’s quite clever to talk to me with an accent from the French Antillas. Except that it’s not the same part of the world and the same cultur.
Try to talk to a French coming from the South of France about the Maroilles (delicious and stinking cheese coming from the North of France) or mussels and fries (typical meal from the North of France), you won’t be disappointed!
From these 10 years out of my home, I know so much about birthdays, Christmas, having a distance love, being sick alone, etc.
One day, in Paris, a classmate came to me, crying. ‘It’s so hard, I’ve not seen my family from one week!’ And her family was living in the suburbs of Paris. I couldn’t be nasty underlining the fact that I had to take a plane to see my family, 10 000 kilometers away.
But in a way, it was easier for me because I was not so close to my parents. Now, in Australia, I’m living with relatives and for me, they mean home.
And if I’m going back to France or somewhere else, I think I’ll really miss home.
After those last days of stress about studies, visa and life, I had good news.
The father of my student have a friend working for the Immigration services and maybe could answer few of my questions. And his daughter is going to Monash University and will be more helpful than the staff member of Monash I had on phone. I wanted to go there but he didn’t want to tell me where is the International Student Centre.
My student and his family are Vietnamese. When I met them first, they were already very friendly and really wanted to help me as they knew as hard it could be in Australia and as helpful some people have been with them when they arrived in the country. I’m very very grateful toward them.
I’ve noticed it’s not always easy for all Asian migrants in Australia. Some Australian could be quite racist and you could find the same schemes as everywhere; those people want to take our jobs, etc. A little bit like all North-African and African migrants in France. But the situation and especially the History are very different.
I was a little bit worried about teaching but maybe things will be different here. In France, I cannot forget about how hard it could be for teachers and how tough students can be. With policemen, I know that it’s one of the highest rate of depression at work. And in France, you had to go first in suburbs or insecure zones. I really think it’s different in Australia.
I’ve got also this relief because I’m really feeling so good with my family. All day along, I was thinking about thousand things, my past and my old conflicts. But a dinner with them and it was gone.
Sometimes, jobs sound to be all my life. I went through not a lot of them but enough for the carcass I’m.
My best experience was the first one. I was 18, just coming from Reunion island. I’ve stopped going to the uni because of some personal problems and I had to find a job. Fortunately, social services in Paris found me this job in the suburbs. It was for a national employment agency (ex-ANPE, now Pôle Emploi) in Villejuif. I was greeting people.
Because of my mixed features, people could think I was from North-Africa, South-America, India, etc. They could interpret it as they wanted. It was not always easy; some people could be very aggressive, so anxious and waiting for some money. At this time, the ANPE was not in charge of paying allowances. But some people didn’t know and didn’t want to know about it.
We had a free phone at this place. One day, people had an argue about it. A man just headbutted a woman. She was bleeding and I ran to find a man. A woman stopped me and said ‘But you should do something!’. Funny woman…
Another day, a homeless man was ready to kiss my feet because the agency gave him a new life.
I finally left the job. Not because of people but because of colleagues. It was so hard to work on a permanent tension. It was filling the air.
The second more interesting job was helping elderly people at home. I was cleaning their places, doing their shopping, sometimes just talking with them. I was exhausted at the end. Because of cleaning and emotions.
I have not really knew my grand-parents, on both sides.
One woman was very nasty. A real ‘Tatie Danielle’. For those who have not seen this movie, just run and watch it. I was cleaning her flat and she was trying to make it really hard, always complaining, doing some sabotages… I really felt like her ugly domestic. For me, her face was showing all her anger. But at the end, she was crying to see me leaving. She told me ‘ I really hope to find someone as nice as you.’ I was very surprised by it.
My real heartbreak, my emotional earthquake, was a man. Pierre. He couldn’t move a lot, couldn’t speak clearly. I was preparing his lunch everyday. Chocolate was forbidden for him but he really wanted to get some. I failed, it was so hard not to doing him this favour. And everyday, he was hiding some chocolate in my bag. I couldn’t accept because it was an order of the agency. Because you could be in trouble after that, some old people thinking you had robbed them (and unfortunately, it happened in some cases).
I was quite intrigued by this man. All the walls of his flat were covered with posters, postcards and every kind of pictures from all over the world. What kind of life this man had have ? Who was he? Once, I dared to ask him about his past life. He was translator-interprete. He had a stroke and lost almost all his memories. I felt so sad for this man who must have lived so incredible things!
I’ll always remember the last time I went to his place. I was crying, washing his dishes. I was attached to him, feeling so sad and angry to see him alone. And when I closed this door for the last time, I thought I could me the last person to see him alive.
Another old woman stayed in my mind. The agency gave us kind of ID cards of your customers; recommendations, special needs, etc. This one was something like ‘bad mood’. And she was ! I had to go through her 7 floors with shopping by walk because her lift was broken and she was complaining so much.
I’ve seen her two times. The second time, she was completely different. She was quiet, almost nice and talked a lot about her life, how she came in Paris so young, her expectations as a young woman. The day before, she died.
Then I had other experiences.
I’ve been working as hostess of reception for a big event agency in Paris. It was quite strict and the simple and sometimes masculine girl I was (is) arrived in a very different world. I had to wear high-heels shoes (which were destroying my back and my feet), make-up and a uniform and to tye my hair.
Going in the metro dressed like this was quite annoying. To break the too woman-like thing, I was wearing flat shoes.
Some men were so confident about how easy it was to seduce an hostess of reception. But dear men, the truth is you’re so smug. Neither your wavy eyebrows, male looks or gold rings impressed us. They (men and women) also thought we were brainless. And they didn’t know that we were mostly students in architecture, business or whatever. And even made of plastic or other non-organic material. Once, in winter, they made me standing outside at the Louvre in a freezing draft. I think I just had a scarf.
I’ve started a song about this job…