Monday, October 09, 2006

Hey all,
I'm not certain how often I will be using this site - the whole blog thing seems to be a pretty good way to divert myself from doing more productive writing. On the other hand, it's not exactly like I'm doing a huge amount of more productive writing, ergo, here I am.
Not, however, with anything to say. I guess the first thing to do would be introduce myself, if by chance anyone should cruise by this thing accidentally. In order to increase the chances of that happening, here's one for the Google search bots: Tom Cruise Naked! Angelina Jolie Naked! Naked Nudie Nudes!
All right, on to me. First off, I'm niether naked, nude, nor some freaky naked nude Angelina/Tom hybrid. I'm a Canadian writer of some (i.e. vanishingly little) repute. I live in Strasbourg now, thanks to the brilliance of my wife, now a postdoctoral fellow at the Institute of Genetics and Molecular and Cellular Biology.
So what will this blog (Ye Gods! I shudder to write the word!) be about? Well, I don't know yet. Accounts of being an ex-pat in France, in part. Possibly comments on current news and events, though lord knows that's a market that must be near saturation by now.
I suspect that I will also be using it as a way to share my cleverer emails with a wider audience. I suspect that I'll end up reposting material I've already tried out on smaller audiences, rather than my current practice of tailoring the same message for a dozen different people like some kind of Interet-based telemarketer.
Anyway, here's my first such one of these: it was based on a email I sent to my friend Julie, who is currently doing the whole teaching English in Japan thing and adjusting to the whole ex-pat thing herself. Her take on it, being original, is worth reading much more so than my "me-too" response. Hers is here: (ya gotta scroll down to Thursday Oct 5 and the section entitled "Country" - Julie is at least as verbose as I. Although, after to scroll down scroll back up to read about her karaoke adventures).

My dittohead response, edited:
Moving to a foreign place is interesting - after the initial thrill wears off, it becomes "home" very quickly. I didn't bother seeing a bunch of things I should have in Montreal when I lived there - Musée de Art Contemporain, several history museums, a dozen churches I always wanted to see and never did, various parks in the West Island, 90 percent of the east island, La Ronde, all of the various little Ste-Whoever-de-les-Laurentides. It was just home - I'd have plenty of chances to see things.

And when I came here, everything was new (or rather, really freakin' old) and fascinating. The buildings are beautiful, the history oozing up from the streets and dripping from the walls requires a full time city cleaning crew to keep it in check. In many ways, it continues to surprise - I recently learned the hospital has its own wine cellar, dating from the Middle Ages when people would pay for their leechings with in-kind goods. They have a reisling from 1472, and an on-staff sommelier. Vive la France!

Yet, at the same time, no matter how different Strasbourg is from Canada, now it's just home. I no longer get (too) lost in the tangle of streets, the various gargoyles and goblins carved into the architecture no longer entrance, I don't feel compelled to take pictures of every slate-roofed-half-timbered-flowerbox-bedecked building I pass. And though in many ways, it's like home, it's worse, because I have no friends of my own with whom I can go for a last-minute beer (though there are people from Amynah's lab that have adopted us, sadly my French is not yet up to par, or anywhere close to it. Plus, they don't drink beer).

On the other hand, the banks of the Ill are not crowded with beret-wearing painters capturing the setting sun, and the cafés are pretty much empty of poets. France, while indisputably French, is not a 24-hour postcard. So what do I have? Novelty - occasionally. Homesickness - pretty much daily. An experience I'll never forget - yeah, of course. But these ain't days of wine and roses - often they're days of Internet and groceries, same as they would be in Montreal, only without the nearby friends and family.

On the other hand (to repeat a segue), this weekend I biked through farmers' fields to visit an 800 year old tower reputed to be used by devils and sorcerers, and hiked in the Vosges, stopping in at a chapel dedicated to St Leon that sits on top of a giant rock atop a mountain overlooking the valley below. I can, and have, walked to Germany and can probably bike to Switzerland in half a day. When we are invited out for dinner (which we are frequently) the food is confite de canard, the inevitable four different wines (one for the appetizer, one for the main course, one for the cheese plate and one for dessert, plus a digestif, often schnapps) uniformly excellent, the cheeses decadent and plentiful, the company delightful.

So, it's good, and it's bad. Sometimes I'm miserable and bitter and alone (freelancing is not a very social activity) and other times I'm content and completely at home.

As a first post, that's a bit of a downer and I didn't mean it to be. I actually am, for the most part, enjoying myself. I'm also really looking forward to company (which will soon be supplied in the person of my friend Jon, for whom I am planning a full-on ex-Stras-aganza (ha!) so he will tell people and encourage them to visit as well.


TWebb said...

Here - start racking up the comments. Remember it's your duty to make a post about "unanticipated flame wars" when we all start arguing vs. wine?
Anyway...perhaps you could alter the settings to allow anonymous comments? I had to create a blogger account to post this. Brrr....

julie said...

Gah - no one is supposed to ever know about the whole karaoke fiasco. My reputation drains!

Beer vs. wine:
Japan has some decent beers and apparently some strange liquor laws that allow things that aren't technically beer to be advertised as beer (I don't pretend to understand that, either). Currently I am sipping something called "Green Label", which may or may not be real beer. Who knows? But it's good.

Japan is not, alas, a big wine producer. I actually had my first sip of wine in over two months last night - a bottle brought to us by some visiting Australians. No idea what Japanese wine is like but I will let you know once I try some. And double-alas, also not renowned for cheese - I bought a tiny chunk of smoked gouda the other day and it was heaven because it actually tasted like cheese, rather than the usual plasticky substitute I have resigned myself to here.

Vive la France! Nihon gambarimasu!