So, I finally found a bike. I went to Rouen and met up with this other assistant from Minneapolis, Rachel. We went to their pawn shop there, called Cash Occas', which means 'cash and carry' and I found an old blue Motobecane with yellow striped tires for 39 euros. Not bad. The seat sucked, and the pedals needed to be replaced, but other than that it was in great condition. I happen to have brought a seat with me, and I could buy some platform pedals for cheap. So I bought it.
Really, this post is about the past week or so. It's been busy, which is more than I can say for other weeks here. I went to Rouen on Monday, Tuesday, and Saturday of last week. Monday was for my last training day, and after I went out for drinks with some of the other assistants. Here's what I wrote in my journal for that day:
"I think it’s all been a product of being cooped up in Le Havre with Geri and Anne and Meg and Jon. All of my friends are swell people, just a bit too pessimistic for me. I spent the evening in the company of Jon and Geri, well enough, but with some other assistants who were just so positive about their experiences here, and about everything. They didn’t moan about every little thing like the cold or the bad kids or what have you. They had fun doing whatever and enjoyed themselves. And I am going back to Rouen to see them tomorrow and fix their bikes (yay!).
And of course there’s a girl involved. Named Rachel. From Minneapolis who loves bikes and her city (I love both…). We talked about bikes and Minneapolis and the Seward Café and the Midwest, etc. And of course the girl has a “boyfriend”. Though in a very loose sense, as she admitted herself. Maybe I have a chance, but I’m just so excited to have some new, cool friends to ride bikes with. This has been a great day that started out pretty lousy. We went to the train station, butt early as always, and the trains were late. Well, “indefinitely retarded” to be exact. Why? Because someone had thrown themselves in front of a train between Le Havre and Rouen. So we bought our tickets, hung out a bit with Tina and Dania and Arthur and all of the other assistants. We got on our train that was supposed to leave at 7:56 at 8:02. And waited. And waited. Jon watched me play solitaire, Arthur slept, and Dania took off to get something and never showed back up on that train. Geri moaned about, well, everything. And we waited. And waited. Finally, the train left the station about 9:45. So we got to the training day in Rouen just late enough to miss the morning session and have a nice little chat with Olivier about good ideas we’d had while teaching...
...So we had the rest of the training, and that was all boring and pretty much useless. Then I got to go out drinking with the rest of the assistants, which is where I met these new people and got to hang out with Josh, who is really, really, really cool and we talked about books and literature, something I’ve been moaning about not being able to talk about.
And tomorrow is another day. In France. Where I will get up and translate an article in French into English with a bunch of cool French kids and hopefully find a bike to carry me around with Rachel, her boyfriend, and Karolina. It should be the most fun I’ve had in awhile. This is all coming together, and all it took was a day outside of the monotony that I have created for myself. Last week was a slump. Today I feel vital and alive and busy and crazy smart."
As it turned out, I didn't get to meet up with the others in Rouen on Tuesday, but rather on Saturday. I fixed their bikes up with all of the tools I brought, and we went for a little ride. They made me Indian food for dinner, and some hummus by mashing it up with a fork. Rachel taught me a new way to cut up garlic, where you just let the knife kind of smash it into a mush. It's sweet.
Friday night was Anne's birthday, so we went to a crêperie and had some genuine French crêpes and cider. I had one with tomatoes and mushrooms in it, despite the fact that the batter had milk and eggs. It was yummy. After Saturday in Rouen I came back here and went to a party at Jon's, where I drank a lot and we ended up playing Max Payne until 4 o'clock in the morning.
Yesterday I cleaned my apartment and did laundry. At 4 I had about eight people over to my tiny room, where we squeezed in and had mulled wine (vin chaud) made by Mirja, the German assistant. Geri, Samah, Mirja and I exchanged gifts (we each picked names out of a hat and bought for one other person). I got a sweet scarf from Samah that's really warm, and I made Mirja a picture frame thing to put her photos in for a collage. It was easy because I dumpstered a picture frame and stapled a rainbow-striped material (also dumpstered) on the mat for her to put her pictures on. She liked it. I used the same material to painstakingly hand sew a pillowcase for Anne's birthday. So all of the gifts I've given as of yet were hand-made and free. Yippy! After the wine we went over to Anne's for our traditional Sunday vegan dinner, and had our largest gathering yet of eight people. It just keeps getting bigger...
Well, today. I rode out to the bike superstore and bought a whole bunch of parts for my bike. I wish we had a small shop here, but alas, there is only Go Sport! in the mall, which sucks like Gart Bros., and Decathlon, a huge biking/swimming/running/hiking/everything warehouse that doesn't suck as bad. I had to get a new bolt for my seat post because the other was busted, and the guy seemed put upon to search for it in this one little toolbox tray. They didn't have walls of tools or Buster the cat or Matt Maxwell like Skunk River Cycles, but I guess I got what I needed. Makes me miss Ames...
So, I'm almost finished retuning my bicycle. New seatpost, pedals, brake levers, bar tape (yellow=hot) and everything. I'm going to hack off the handlebars and turn them upside down into bullhorns, but I need to find either a hacksaw or a pipe cutter. I'm hoping either will be very cheap at the hardware store, or I can track down the janitor Febrese and see if he'll help me.
The last week has been phenomenal, in other words. I feel like I've got ahold of the language and the people and I have lots of really cool friends all over the place. We'll see what the Christmas break brings, eh? Pictures to come next week if I'm not lazy.