Monday, November 12, 2007


Right, so they blocked blogspot in this one room that I used to use for my blog writing, and now I must do it in the Teacher's Lounge, which is fine except there are lots of distractions. I may not update as often as I have been, but the updates I do write will be longer.

One of the many flaming hoops we must jump through as foreigners and students is a medical visit in Rennes to ensure that we don't have tuberculosis or are pregnant. This happened last Thursday, and it turned out to be an "adventure". First, my roommate failed to wake up on time because his alarm clock didn't go off, so we barely (by 3 minutes!) missed the train to Rennes from Morlaix. Once on the train, it stopped somewhere in the middle of a field and they announced that there would be a delay because of traffic around Rennes. It was 30 minutes at first. Then 45. Then an hour. Finally, it moved, only to stop again maybe 15 minutes later, for another 30-minute delay because of an obstruction on the tracks. This put us in Rennes at around 12:30pm, instead of 11:00am, which was just enough time to get to our appointment.

The visit itself was fine. I got my chest X-rayed, and the nurse that took my height and weight and tested my vision thought to lecture me for 10 minutes about the importance of teaching safe sex to my students. I agreed that it was important, and that sexual education isn't as good as it could be in a country so sexually liberated as France, but am doubtful as to the place of this subject in my curriculum as an English assistant. "Ok, today we will be talking about syphilis. Does anyone know what that word is in French?" Yeah, right.

I met some Canadian guy who was doing his PhD in Electrical Engineering, focusing on WiFi technology. We talked about the possibility of using infrared and visible light in lieu of the current radio frequencies for this application (mostly because I read an article about that in Scientific American). It was fun.

Then we walked around Rennes a bit, and since I'd already spent a few days there I showed the other two assistants there with me some of the cool things to see. Our train was supposed to leave at 5:45, but alas, upon entering the station we discovered that all of our trains were "Retard indeterminée", which means that their retardedness was as yet to be determined. They were all going to be late.

Why? Well, here's something you need to know about France if you are going to be spending more than, say, a week here: they strike a lot. And protest. And burn things. Like, A LOT. As it happens, the students of the university in Rennes were sitting on the tracks and blocking the trains for a reason that I still have yet to discover. I think it is in solidarity with the fishermen in France, who are on strike and protesting the cost of oil. Or something. To be honest, there's always strikes here in solidarity and for almost any reason, and I get confused as to which people are striking for what reason. Anyway, the cops just sat and watched the students be crazy and sit on the tracks, etc., while we waited in the station for 2.5 hours for them to finally leave an our train to finally be posted on the board.

At that point I was tired of my two comrades, and wanted to sit somewhere else on the train. So, I picked a seat next to the cutest girl I could find and she struck up a conversation with me. She's a hairstylist in a town by Morlaix, and had actually been a student at my school when she was in lycée. We talked a lot about the difference between America and France, mostly in terms of fashion. I explained to her about the cultural significance (no becoming defunct) of the barber in the United States, as per Wendell Berry's Jayber Crow . It was a nice way to spend a two-hour train ride. The adventure ended and we got home a few hours later than we were supposed to (10:30pm, instead of 7:30).

No comments: