Tag Archives: Language

>Happiness Quotient in Guadeloupe

8 Aug

Months back, I received a message from someone who was reading my blog (!) and was also in the process of moving to Guadeloupe. Who knew anyone was reading this besides you? Furthermore, who knew anyone was choosing to move to Guadeloupe if they weren’t being taken by a Pirate? At that time, we began exchanging emails and one half of Couple Moving To Gwada asked me a fantastic question:
What would you say is the happiness quotient of the people of Guadeloupe?

Here were my choices:


Now as I said this was months ago, and I thought about this for weeks. I wanted to give a fair answer, so I could not write about this on a day when the internet needed resetting three times and there was no wind at all and it was a million degrees and I had mosquito bites in places I couldn’t believe they could get to. Not a good idea. I also didn’t want to write while I was having my best moment here, after a fantastic day full of friends, because although that’s positive, it’s still not like that all the time. (It is more and more, but it’s still quite lonely.) I wrote a bit. I saved the draft. Now I go back and look and it’s interesting to see what I thought. Here it is, two months old view of the happiness quotient of the people in Guadeloupe:

“…happy, not miserable, and stand-offish, not welcoming. It’s a blanket statement. I know…But at the moment it’s my experience. I want to be clear though. To say that I find a culture not welcoming is not the same thing as saying I don’t like it, or that I find the entire culture to be not nice. This is not the case at all.
The thing with living Someplace Else is that to a certain extent I think we expect that being from Someplace Else will aid us in making friends. Yeah, I’ve pretty much realized that this is princessy of me, because frankly, who cares? Does it make me a better or cool person because I’m from Someplace Else? No. BUT, It’s a talking point, the similarity in that we’re both here, but the interesting differences in our paths to get here. Right? As I’m finding, not so much. Or at least, not enough to break down the wall I find in the culture here. That is why I arrived at not welcoming.”

So there it is. I wrote it. Each person I met didn’t throw a parade for me to say “Congratulations American suburbanite for coming to reside on our island. Have a coconut!” Apparently this was disappointing a few months ago. Well, even a little time can change things I guess. I don’t really think people are unwelcoming anymore. Why? I guess I realized that I don’t organize a parade for every person I meet who is from somewhere else. Sure, I may be more interested in their story than the next guy, but that’s my style. I’ve always been nosy. It’s a gift until it ruins your own surprise party. This is a good example of growth in the first few years of living Someplace Else. Never get too set in your head about something because it – your view of things – may very well change.


>When it doesn’t translate…

27 Jul

..Or does it?

>FIFA world cup as seen by the Girl in Guadeloupe

14 Jun

I may have heckled Oakland A’s fans when they played the Red Sox at Oakland. I may not so silently have wished that USA would win the gold medal over and over again during some Olympic games. I also bought two Red Sox baseball caps for les Monstres. (which got them quite a lot of criticism from grown men in Disneyland – dude, the kid is 5 and he speaks French so back up, no really) ..and I MAY …may.. have been a cheerleader in high school…for hockey. Go ahead. Re-read that. It’s there. I said it. It’s best to save the horrid details for an entirely different blog post. As it is, with that small line I suspect I shall be the recipient of The Pirate’s famous smirk later on, followed by clever set-ups into which I will walk blindly, so that he can get some good punch lines in at my expense. So be it. This, my friends is what you do for love.

Despite all of this, I am not a sports fan. I don’t follow any team. I don’t idolise any player. I never had posters of athletes in my bedroom as a teenager. Just Michael Jackson’s thriller poster. You know the one, yellow around the edges, he’s all dressed in a white suit. I see now that a tribute to Joan Jett would have been far more explainable in years to come. Sigh.

Here I am – in soccer – sorry FOOTBALL – country. French football country. As the local paper accurately pointed out: what will have Guadeloupeans in front of the television more so than all possible road bike races combined? You got it: The FIFA world cup!
I have noticed many signs around town offering ‘Football sur le grand ecran’…Soccer on the big screen! This is really something for Guadeloupe, which is not at all set up in the American sportsway, tv’s in every corner of every establishment under all circumstances at all times hell or high water whatever you do don’t begin a conversation that needs to be longer than this commercial….
So it’s big, is what I’m saying. People are excited. Groups are gathering. Bets are being placed. Big bets, a friend has twenty grand on Argentina over France. Beers and rhum are being consumed. Women who don’t watch are getting some free time from their pirates. Oops! Did I say that? I did. Sure, sometimes I take advantage and leave The Pirate to roar ‘Aaarrrrrr’ all day with his mates, but sometimes I’m happy to join in. Why not? It’s social. It’s fun, and it’s a good mental challenge this year with the location for the World Cup being in South Africa. What I’m talking about is the vuvuzela, an African instrument which, when multiplied by thousands of people using them at once, sounds like a never silent angry beehive. I find it a serious mental challenge not to hear this and a challenge to focus on the game instead.
I enjoy the connection I find during this time due to the world cup. When I go on facebook there are comments and friendly eggings-on. Lucky for me I’m connected to a few big time followers so I can follow their status updates and be in the know. Great way to seem like you’re into it, you know what I mean? I’m not fake. I’m simply trying to participate in a conversation with my limited knowledge.

As it heats up I admit to wondering how the US team is doing. Perhaps deep down I have a need to heckle. I need a team to cheer on so that I can really participate, instead of hearing the proverbial record come to a scratching halt when I start over-reacting to something I thought was live but was an instant replay. Sigh. I’m not sure how into it I’ll get, because to be honest, what is more interesting to me than the match itself is how people respond to and support the teams. It might be a good way to get to know people, once you see who they’re cheering for, maybe there is an interesting story as to why. Soon we’ll be in San Francisco for vacation and I look forward to walking through North Beach, past the bar where all the crazy Italians watch football and drink expresso when the time comes, arms flailing, cigarettes smoking, fists pounding the tables in bad times and hugs and cheek kisses in good… Ahh…nostalgia. See? Even for a non sports fan it’s memorable. Sports are like music – everyone can enjoy even if not everyone can play.

>Tweetage Wasteland : Say Hello to My Little Friend

9 Jun

>A re-blog of another blog. Because it’s relevant. Although my French is (according to some friends) much better than it was a few months ago, I still don’t really pick up on conversations going on around me if I’m not trying to participate. What I’m saying is, I don’t overhear things. I tune it out. It’s too much work. Do I tune it out conversations going on around me at the mall back home? Probably. That being said, I could overhear with greater ease something being said in English.
Since I’m not snooping on my neighbors conversations, I choose to spend my waiting time – have I mentioned that there is A LOT of that here – looking at stuff on my iphone. In the doctors office, at the post office, the bank, the supermarket, the school parking lot, in traffic, walking in the mall, at the restaurant. With the Pirate. Sad but true folks. Much like the writer in my re-blog, I have used the excuse that my iphone keeps me in touch. With who? With my family and friends back home. It provides an opportunity to communicate with ease, to understand jokes, to make snarky comments on peoples facebook posts. Ahhh, the simple things in life.
But what of real conversation? I miss it. I know as I post and read completely gratuitous things that I’m not truly participating in a conversation. I know that with every hour spent looking at a screen I am keeping myself from practicing French, and from meeting people where I am RIGHT NOW.
And you know what? I can’t stop. I don’t want to stop. I’m not ready. Perhaps I have not hit my rock bottom and I’m happy dwelling in my semi-reality; iphone in hand, laptop within reach, English language jokes a plenty to keep me laughing. Ahhh. Yes. No celebrity rehab for internet over-users here. Not yet. Hey….what’s that? Is that a new app? Where ya goin’?

Tweetage Wasteland : Say Hello to My Little Friend

>Why do the French call it that?! Confusion with candy and movies

5 Jun


I credit my love for candy to my father. He always had -and still does – a healthy stash of candy somewhere in the house. Since I know my mom reads these things, I won’t disclose said location, although I wish I could because it’s super funny. He’s like Stan Smith with that candy: top governmental secret that nobody cares about except my mom. When I lived on the west coast, my father would use this crazy thing called the post office to mail me a roll of Necco Wafers just to let me know he loved me. Cute huh? What’s even cuter is how here in Guadeloupe they have ‘post offices’ yet I’ve unveiled the fact that such locations are only fronts for people who need a place to hang out and say things like, “this line is closed”, or “that’s not possible”. Hey, everybody needs a place to be.

All men candies are not all created equal. I’m still not sure if that quote is grammatically correct but whatever. Let’s say that it is, and let’s agree that it’s true. All candies are not the same the world over either, even if we do share some of the same name treats. There are however some universal truths about candy:
1. Off the shelf chocolate bars such as KitKat are better in Europe. Why? The chocolate. It’s different. It. Just. Is.
2. Treats from your childhood were awesome. Really they were. But they’re kind of like old high school friendships – when you try them again years later, more often than not it’s a case of some things are better left in the past. Those dried up little pellets sold in cheap sandwich bags that you looked forward to so much as a kid? Skip ’em. Trust me. They suck now, and your friends won’t invite you to fancy parties anymore if you tout them as excellent.
3. If the same candy that exists in Boston, USA exists in Guadeloupe, FWI, it surely does not have the same name. As they do with movies, the French love to give things that already exist with perfectly good names new names.

Cotton candy would be a good example. it looks like cotton. In French, this is even almost exactly the same word: coton. And it’s candy. So we call it cotton candy. Easy.
It’s called Barbe a Papa here. Yeah, like the cartoon Barba Papa, except the literal translation is papa’s beard. Now, normally I will admit to getting hysterically agitated over the changing of movie names because they don’t make any sense at all. But this renaming of a treat I happen to like…Barba Papa. It works. Nice one, France!

>French women don’t get fat? Not sure.

23 May

Random thought:
French women do get fat. That is, they can. And if I’m to make blanket statements similar to the title of the famous book French Women Don’t Get Fat, from my perspective here in Guadeloupe:

French women do get fat. They smoke. All of them. They eat McDonalds sometimes. They DO shave under their arms.

More blanket statements:
I see that French women here don’t seem to get hung up on a non Kate Moss-like body. They rock that bikini at any age, often sans top, actively moving around the beach. They go to anti-cellulite massage, and make bread at home in a bread machine. They drink wine and beer. They bring the entire kitchen to the beach, table, chairs, pot right off the stove with real food in it. Okay so that last bit is typically Creole family style, but we’re talking French Creole, et voila.

What stands out to me here is a lack of over-doing anything. Working, for example? Never too much. Eating? Enough to satiate, maybe some snacks with the apero, perhaps a dessert at dinner. No Doritos bags being carried around. No Big Gulps. No extra large triple shot half caf one third skim two thirds whole chocolate sprinkled on top chocka mocha hava nagila lattes. McDonalds, yes, but I tell you, I swear the Big Mac is smaller here.

Now that I’ve adjusted to expresso insead of iced lattes, I have to say, I’m enjoying (most of the time) my gastronomical journey in the land of good yet not so plenty.

Interesting article on French women and fat on subversify.com. Like it!
Playmobil Wine Bar – get yours today !

>Living in Guadeloupe, amazing things can happen even when it seems unlikely

19 May

>The other day I watched an incredibly beautiful sunset over Guadeloupe, the island of slow moving everything. At times, something gives me pause and I feel my solar plexus relax and I take a deep breath and think that I really can get past the differences between here and home that test my patience and my morale. Like what? A few things:

The Pirate. He is extraordinarily patient. He makes me laugh my ass off, which helps tremendously. Laughter really is one of the best medicines.
Les Monstres. I’m attached.
The friends I have managed to make here.
Exercise, when I get to it.
New comments from strangers who are reading my blog. So cool! I know, dork alert but bear with me…

I have received a small handful of comments on my blog about living in Guadeloupe. The people leaving the comments are living here now and like me, they are from someplace else. They are learning French also, or at least speak English, although I can’t speak to the level of French for all of them. The common denominator amongst us is the perception that living in Guadeloupe certainly presents some challenges.

Just the other day I was thinking that on some level I had lost the battle here in Guadeloupe. I was feeling that I had tried to befriend her, tried to work with her, and ultimately could not figure out how to exist with this strong, slow moving beast. I was feeling unequipped. Then I received the comment from Jack, a reader on the island who wrote almost exactly what I was thinking. Wow. Really? Someone who feels the same as me and doesn’t just shrug their shoulders in quiet acceptance of things? Intriguing.
Suddenly, I did not feel so alone in my seemingly typically American stress-outs about Guadeloupe. Suddenly, I’m feeling that perhaps together those of us who are baffled by some of the culture here can come together and find some inspiration, recall the great points of Guadeloupe in order to stay positive and create a more successful experience. We could exchange learned information in order to save time and energy. We could drink Budweiser and eat steak and clean our rifles….not exactly…but you get the idea.
So in combination with my attempt to look for inspiration rather than despair, I think I’ll offer up a meeting with the folks who have contacted me specifically about life in Guadeloupe. No, like an actual in person meeting – old school – I know, CRAZY but it could be cool. It could be awful, who knows. All I know is I’m legitimately trying to focus on the good. I’m trying to remain calm, to find the zen spot more often than not. I believe that I can find the balance point. I believe that I can adjust. Some. I still stand by my beliefs in some spots though: I still believe it should not, in 2010, take three months to transfer internet service from one freaking house to another. Not. Budging. On. That.

…see? leaving on a positive note already! Good, right?!

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