One time when I was in Thailand I tried this out--writing a random list of things that I noticed from my 'American' discursive self. I was thinking that while I was still very much a stranger, and before I got used to even the things you get used to in a few weeks' stay, I should write things down as they come to me. So...voilà. Here we go. I've got my little notebook and hopefully over the next 2 weeks before I head back to the U.S. I'll have 100 little things about France that I've noticed...feel free to comment...
1. Water. You have to pay 2euro for a little bottle at a cafe when all I want to do is drink glass upon glass upon glass (noted when I was standing sweating in the metro & related to #5.
2. Coffee. Am I missing something here? Almost everything I've had so far is all pre-measured espresso in colored instant packages (depending on flavor or strength, I've heard), loaded into espresso machines. I think I've become too used to the kick-ass fusion power of Peet's regular blend.
3. Boobs. Yep. That's right.
4. Being late. I usually am though I've been trying to make up for this, leave earlier. It always takes longer than I expect to get somewhere. And I can't figure out what I should say to the people who are there when I show up late. Pragmatics as a whole is something that's beyond me--I just need more time to observe, participate. But in the meantime I guess I should just be on time.
5. No AC. Anywhere, it seems. I don't object to this necessarily, but it's a change. Especially thinking of my experience of being 'abroad' in Japan, in department stores, on buses and trains....remember the "weak air conditioning cars" and "strong air conditioning cars" on trains?
6. Africa has never felt so close. Of course this sounds like a trivial comment in a list like this one. It deserves its own essay, or blog entry at least. I just got a sense as I moved around and talked to people today that I really don't have a sense of what the "Africa" in "African American means when I'm living in America. Being here where other facets of life and peoples from many places come to the fore might help to learn...
7. Driverless metros. OK, a trivial comment after the last one. But I'm not trying to impose an order on this list. Actually I'm just writing things down in a little notebook I carry around with me as I go around (will I get to 100? Will it matter?) and i think I wrote this one on the metro. So anyway, OK, the metro is underground and it's not going to hit anyone anyway but somehow it strikes me as odd that there's no driver in a metro, the green line in Lyon in this case. I mean, you can just sit in the front car of the train with a big plexiglass window in front of you and watch the track roll under your feet. It's an eerie feeling. Makes me think about the BART operators, I think they're called (not "drivers" for sure), and how their only job is to poke their heads out of the window and make sure it's safe to close the doors. Is this ia function that can't be entrusted to motion detectors and sensors in the U.S.? Some legal requirement or cultural practice that the BART directors and broader U.S. society have agreed on? Airport shuttles don't have drivers...why should BART?
8. Street signs. This one I'm writing several hours later as I'm lost on the way home from Nicolas' house after dinner up in a part of the city I'm not familiar with. Which is basically the whole city. And as I strain to make out the street signs on the corners of buildings I'm struck again by this point: the street signs aren't visible before you get to the intersection. Because they're on buildings near the corner and they face the street that they name, you either have to already be on the street to read the name, or you have to be in or passing the intersection to see the name of the cross-street. So how are you supposed to know where to turn?
Well that's it for now. #9 coming soon...