Thursday, June 26, 2008
728 days and counting...
If we end up moving, it'll be around here somewhere
We’re coming up on an important anniversary on View of the Marching Fishes: two years to the day* since our arrival in France.
It’s an important anniversary, because under the terms under which Amynah lured me here, two years was supposed to be the outer limit of our stay here. However, it seems that her post-doc is subject to the same rule of moving deadlines as the PhD defense that kept me from proposing for three years or thereabouts. So, Strasbourg looks like it might well be my home for the foreseeable future.
Anniversaries make for good occasions for taking stock. I'm more inclined than usual to do so now, first because we're planning our first visit home in August, and we're considering moving out of the apartment that has been our first and only home in France.**
I’m not sure what to make of our time here: we’ve made some good friends, though only a minority of them are actually French. I’ve managed to do some interesting writing, but not as much as I’d have liked. We’ve been visited by nearly everyone we would have liked to have visited though, given that we’re here for another year, I’m a little saddened that there are no more visitors confirmed to which I can look forward.
We’ve certainly managed to do a lot of Euro-travelling: we’ve visited almost every major country in Western Europe except for Ireland. We’ve managed a few Eastern European countries, though I still want to visit more. And, in about a month and a half, we’ll be going to Canada as visitors for the first time in our lives. I’m looking forward to trying out those Montreal bagels about which I’ve heard so many good things.
I think the most surprising thing that’s happened to me since coming here is how I somehow feel at home here. Even with my crappy French, Strasbourg and Alsace have seeped into my sense of self just as Nova Scotia and Montreal did: I’m proud of my latest hometown, in a way that I never thought I could be two years ago, after being told “to call back when I can speak French” when searching for a place to live. My bookshelf is groaning under the weight of books of local history, local legends, local bike routes… I know more about Alsatian history and have seen more of the surrounding countryside than some people that have lived here their whole lives. Still, I’m not going to start speaking Alsatian anytime soon.
I am known and greeted by my post lady, the staff in the post office, my bank, the bakery, the local wine cellar, our favourite café (where I can even now say “Comme d’habitude” for my breakfast order) and a couple of the local restaurants. Amynah is well known enough that she has a whole slew of small-talk she needs to get through at our local farmer’s market before even the smallest purchase. We didn't have that good a track record in our previous home cities. Part of that is that for reasons of ethnicity and language we tend to stand out in a town as small as Strasbourg, part of it that we’ve become part of the fabric of local life.
There’s some good reasons for this: we celebrated our first wedding anniversary here, invented our own Christmas traditions, fought the French bureaucracy together, shared our tiny apartment with each other’s families, were comrades in arms in the Great Mouse War of 2008… it’s been what self-help books once would have called “a growing experience.” And it’s made this place a major part of our lives, no matter how much longer we stay here.
* The day in fact was the 29th of June, but no one reads this on a Sunday, and besides, something interesting might happen over the weekend that might be blog-worthy.
** I've mixed emotions about this: on the one hand, I'm attached to the view. On the other hand, some goddamned construction worker's been jackhammering merrily away out there for the last three days. I am being driven mad.