Tag Archives: guadeloupe

The kitsch is killing me:the mystery of the feral apostrophies

23 Apr

Kitsch: noun

[mass noun] art, objects, or design considered to be in poor taste because of excessive garishness or sentimentality, but sometimes appreciated in an ironic or knowing way.

And yet you must understand, guys, that ‘in an ironic or knowing way’ is something that doesn’t happen in Guadeloupean culture. True story. Irony is lost on people here. So I’m convinced that the kitsch I see is meant to be serious, which kills me. Which brings me to the kitschiest thing of all in Guadeloupe aside from everything you can find in the souvenir shop at the mall where no tourist ever goes. The kitschiest thing of all is the wild apostrophies. They’re everywhere. Crushed on the roadside, in your laundry pile, in the rice bag in the pantry. What are they doing running amuck like that? Apostrophies have a place. They have many places. Places they belong. In Guadeloupe they end up all willy-nilly in places they most certainly, but usually for reasons I can’t exactly precisely explain, do NOT belong. Like right by my house. There’s a rental car place. It’s pretty cool it’s like one of those little garden sheds someone made into their office – so creative and low cost right? So they have their sign which reads, “Lagoon’s Car”. Because the lagoon owns a car. Right? An inanimate godamn object owns the car. No. No it does not. Let’s think about how that could have worked out better if that crazy feral apostrophe wasn’t hanging around waiting for dinner at the car rental shed. ‘Lagoon Car’ Not especially meaningful. But still, more meaningful than Lagoon’s Car. ‘Cars that are parked by the lagoon and wait for you to rent them’. Shit! I just though of something. What if the person who put up the shed – what if his or her name is Lagoon? Dammit. I hadn’t thought of that. Investigation still open on this particular savage apostrophe.

Pirate tells me it’s to make it sound cool that the wild apostropies jump in all crazy and unplanned. Oh. Ok. So creating grammar that is so incorrect that it doesn’t even exist is cool? EYEROLL. Another example is at the very mall with the tourist store where tourists never go: A new hotdog stand. It’s called ‘Manhattan’store’.  Whyyyyyyyyy??? Oh wild apostrophies, you’ve done it again. You’ve really outdone yourself this time. I can’t even explain this one well enough. There should be a space, another s? No, that can’t be it, because why would you want to imply that the store belonging to Manhattan was …belonging to Manhattan .. .in such a weird and incorrect way? It’s not even directly translated from French even if it were split up like that – that would be ‘The store of Manhattan’ or ‘The store belonging to Manhattan’. Argh! Apostrophies be damned! They put me in the same state as when someone says something so nonsensical that in explaining it you sound even worse. …………

 

A strange phase…

2 Sep

So I’m all adjusted now, no more need to write this silly blog. Just kidding. The narcissist in me likes to hear myself write. Thing is, I’m feeling a bit different now here in Guadeloupe. Since I tied Pirate to a very uncomfortable chair and made him sign a marriage contract married Pirate in a lovely city hall ceremony where a kind man called us by the wrong family name numerous times throughout the ceremony, things have taken a turn for me…

Here’s what’s happening:

1. I’ll have my spousal visa in two weeks time, normalement. Kudos to the French consulate in Boston, MA for being more up to date on the French laws than the officials in Guadeloupe, otherwise I might still be in my plastic chair in the crowded, not air-conditioned sous-prefecture with my little paper ticket waiting….

2. I’ll be able to work again. Yeah, I’m going to regret it but I’ll go ahead and say it – not working is totally overrated. I will go ahead and be all judgy and say that ‘those women’ who say (and yes this is a direct quote from someone I will never identify) “All I want is for someone to take care of me, I just want to have my baby and stay at home” – those women- they are freaking nutso crazy. But that’s just me. Ask me again when I’m working and whining about it and ‘those women’ have it all.

3. I’ve made it over some sort of mountain in terms of culture shock and management.  There are still a few good things that get my panties all in a bunch but you know, for the most part, I’ve become accustomed to a number of things that I really didn’t get/care for in the beginning. It’s a long list, and a good idea for a post now that I think about it…But let’s just say I can kill mutant cockroaches all by myself now (of course I leave them under the shoe with which they were killed for Pirate to throw away..) and scolos have been known to crawl across my foot, not sting me, and I just let them walk away. meme pas peur.

4. The locals accept me as a local. AHHAAHHAHAAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH …..not exactly. That’s an entirely different post.

5. I use less stuff. It’s true. Just…less. Less water in the shower, less a/c, less clothes dryer(read:sun),less ice. I’ve definitely learned that we don’t really need all the stuff we have to live and be happy. Thanks for that valuable lesson Guadeloupe, sincerely one of the best I’ve learned.

So here’s a bunch of random shots from life in Gwada up until now…just because.

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Everyone loves a good greasy bokit in Guadeloupe

19 Aug

Everyone loves a good greasy bokit in Guadeloupe

Best Bokit truck art, Pointe a Pitre

Weather. Everyone’s talking about it.

3 Aug

If you come from New England, you talk about weather. Because that’s what we do. Today in Guadeloupe everyone is talking about the weather and by looking at this image I just took from this site, you’ll understand why!

windy city..er island.

Smile first. A pretty decent policy.

30 Jul

Pirate and I watched a documentary on Thailand the other day. What really stuck in my head after that was when the narrator was on this incredible train, smiling at people. He rode the night train to Bangcock – a “little fifteen hours of train” and as he boarded and searched for his seat he spoke about all the smiles. Smiles everywhere. From everyone. Other passengers, the conductor, old, young, and the women cooking and serving food in the dining car. The guy was filming as he was talking, walking down the aisle of the train car. An old lady smiled at him. He asked if he could sit with her, and asked her directly about the people in Thailand smiling. It was something like this:

“Why do the Thai people smile like that, what’s happening?”

“It’s a characteristic of Thai people…we talk and we have fun.  It’s our way of being..and firstly, why should we pout?”

“May I sit next to you?”

“Yes, go ahead.”

“So I like this philosophy. We smile first, and we talk after, is that it?”

Yes.”

(it’s in French, and I think I’m pretty accurate in my translation, but here’s the link, you can start watching for this particular portion at 17:46).

http://www.pluzz.fr/des-trains-pas-comme-les-autres-f5-2012-07-26-21h30.html

Pretty nice, right? I thought so. The documentary is called ‘Des Trains pas Comme les Autres’ and is focused on different or original trains for travel. Five out of five ti-punch.

Sadly, what I thought at that moment was how sad it is that in Guadeloupe the smile policy seems to be exactly the opposite. Here I have the impression that people put up a big wall, and it’s really hard to break through that. This is one of the reasons I find the culture kind of difficult here. Most folks, and certainly in any service setting I find this to be true, simply don’t smile at me. I don’t know if they smile at other people. I know that they don’t smile at me. Am I smiling at them? I don’t know. Honestly, probably I just look confused.  Sometimes I smile or try to make small talk but I find I don’t get much in return. So mostly, I smile if I’m smiled at, and I hate that it’s like that. I’d like to feel inspired to smile much more often when I’m out running errands or talking to people in the stores…  Many times however I’ve been blessed to stumble upon really nice friendly people. They stand out big time. It makes my DAY. Cheesy as it sounds, it’s cheesy-true – a smile from someone who doesn’t really need to smile at you is just uplifting. And, I might note, free and easy to do.
I’ve been observing people and their (lack of)smiles for a few days now, with this idea of ‘smile now, we’ll see later’ in my mind, and I’m sorry to report that people are just not frickin’ smiling. Next step will have to be to smile at people – REALLY make sure I’m smiling at them, and see if that helps.  There’s probably a lot more to this. I’m sure someone could berate me for being thoughtless and inconsiderate and how could I not realize that xyz and I should just smile if I want to and not expect it or care if I don’t get it in return. Sure. So, here’s the question: what will I do now? This seemingly small idea that smiling makes a huge difference I believe I believe to be true. Do I continue to smile only when smiled at? Do I try to smile first and see if it makes any difference in my day to day exchanges? I think I’ll try. I can’t force a faux smile. I’m going to try to think of something funny or nice that makes me smile each time an use that as my secret weapon in cases of no-smile-inspiration. We’ll see how it goes.

Say Cheese!

 

Two MONTHS…and a housewife.

22 Jul

Wow two months have gone by since my last post. That means that for two months I’ve been saying, “tomorrow I’ll write”.  Clearly, not a great approach. So here’s the excuse: I married the Pirate, we moved into a home we built, and we’ve been pretty much busy with happy yet exhausting stuff like that for a few months now. I’m typing this looking out at a huge muddy pit we call our garden. The birds are eating the grass seeds. The dog is tracking mud into the house constantly, laughing in my face as she tears by me at 100km/hour, paws packed with mud and poop, from mud-pit-yard to deck through living room to deck and back  to replenish her mud and poop supply in the mud-pit-yard. Grrrrrrrr

So now I’m officialement a housewife. Yep. That’s me. I’m in a house. Most of the time. And, I’m a wife.  We’ve planted some things in an attempt to produce some morsels of food for ourselves – banana trees, coconut trees, avocado tree, and on a smaller scale, tomatoes, basil, zucchini, lime tree. I’d love to eat from the garden but I’m fairly certain we won’t see anything from the fruit trees because we might not be here that long. It seems Mamman, les Monstres’s mom, is feeling like moving back to mainland France in a year or so. In a nutshell we’ll follow them. Pirate isn’t too keen on being a vacation dad. I get it, and I’m down with that.

So I guess I’ll have to take advantage of this rough around the edges place until I can’t any more!  Suddenly a teeny tiny bit of the bitterness I feel here slides away. Bitter? Yeah. Notice I have a category named ‘Bitter is better’. I’m not going to lie, it’s been a beautiful difficult learning experience here in Gwada. It’s not really an easy place to adapt to, at least that’s what I’ve found. It’s not so much the language, but the culture. I find it…..tough. Closed.  Many people I’ve spoken with have decided what it’s like in the states and have zero desire to go there. And their decision seems to be based on what they learn of the states in the news, movies, and from their friends. They’re afraid of racism. Fair enough. But is racism really limited to the states? And what does that have to do with me? Well, I come from there. So I’m included in this idea of something they really don’t care for. It doesn’t really matter, I mean, I’m ok if everyone doesn’t become my friend, or I can’t convince them that the states has a lot to offer. Still….
I have been blessed to have met really nice people here. I’ve learned that when I find a kind shop owner that I should stick with that shop. Closes my world perhaps even more but hey, the negative experiences I’ve had with certain people, I just don’t need to repeat them. It ruins my day. I’ve realized that I can accept a culture as it is but I don’t have to like it. And I don’t always like it. I’ve learned to tell the difference between a difference in culture where (from the other person’s view) it’s not rude, , and when there really is rudeness. That helps a lot.

I must admit, the quality of daily life is nice. The sea all year, the sun, the plants, the calm pace. But I miss more culture. I miss changing art exhibits. I miss a nice movie theater. I miss nightlife. I miss feeling like the people around me are interested in things outside of their personal bubble. So, while sticking to my self promise to take advantage of the limited time I’ll have here, I’m also happily looking forward to the future.

gazing out on the mudpit

Sure, make like you didn’t do anything.

Long term cultural differences and anticipating the assumed obvious

17 May

After three years (what the hell when did that happen?!) in Guadeloupe, I’ve become accustomed to many things I was definitely struggling with in the beginning.  There are some mannerisms woven into the culture here that I’ll just never get used to. When I was little, there was this ‘joke’ we all thought was sooo funny. Why? We were kids, so of course we thought it was funny because it was annoying.  It goes like this:

I ask you, “Do you know what time it is?”

You answer, “Yes.”

I am obliged to say, “Can you tell me what time it is?”

You answer, “Yes.”

I have to think a little and then ask you, “Will you tell me what time it is please?”

Then you tell me.

That feeling of exasperation in anticipation of what you think is the obvious is something I can’t shake here, in terms of certain interactions. I go to the bank because my ATM card is expired. I say that I have not received my new one in the mail. (As everyone assured me I would, and that mon dieu there must be a problem and il faut le regler tout de suite.)

The nice young lady says, “Oh? When did it expire?”

I am thinking: Does that matter? It’s expired. Shit. Maybe I did that thing where I read the dates backwards because the French write them day first, or is it month first. Shit. Maybe I’m wrong.

I say,”Fin Avril 2012″.

She takes my card. She reads it. She keeps an absolutely blank expression. Stone. She says, “It’s here, your card.”

I say, “Does it normally get mailed to the home address?”

She answers, “No, no it’s here. Your card is here.”

Me: “Oui, that’s very good, mais normalement is it sent to my house, or do I just know to come get it here next time?”

Her: “Oui, Oui, it’s here.”

Sigh.

I take my card and thank her, and ask how I activate it, because I know she won’t tell me. That’s something I would expect elsewhere, but not here. If you want to know, you need to ask. Especially when you think you shouldn’t have to ask, you’d better frickin’ ask.

“You need to use it in a distributeur and enter your code or it won’t work. Don’t try and go use it in a store if you haven’t done that because it won’t work.”

I go right outside the bank to the distributeur, which is, of course, broken. I go back inside. Does she have a list of distributeurs that I could look at since this one is broken, and was also broken one week ago when I came by and nobody including myself noticed that my card was expired and that was why it had been denied in a number of stores making my day very difficult?

“Uh…there’s one in Le Moule (far) and in Grand Camp (so much traffic, such a small place, dense, confusing) and uh…”

Will the distributeur here be fixed soon?

“….ouehhhhh…..bien sure…….j’imagine…..”

Sigh. I forgot to ask if she couldn’t just activate it using her handy computer. That’s the thing. It’s probably entirely possible. Even easy to do. But if I don’t ask, I’ll never, ever know.

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