Better late than never/mieux tard que jamais!

Voilà ethernet! Woohooooo!!

Here, admittedly out of sequence, is the entry I wrote when I got in:

Here I am in Berne. Although I would like to write a short book, this is going to have to be a short entry because I’m running on battery power, as I don’t have any adapters yet. The flight was relatively uneventful, except that we stayed for three hours on the tarmac at Dulles because there were storms over Washington. The plane was an enormous bus with wings.

Me voilà à Berne! Même si je voudrais écrire un livre, il va falloir que je fasse vite parce que ma batterie diminue, car je n’ai pas encore trouvé des adapteurs. Le vol était plutot normal, mais on a resté trois heures sur le piste à Washington grace aux orages. L’avion rassemblait plutot à un bus interurbain énorme, avec des ailes. 

I’m really enjoying Ryszard Kapucsinski’s book, The Shadow of the Sun, and I think here it would be appropriate, instead of telling everything in one plodding narrative, to diverge in and out of a series of anecdotes, the way he does.

J’aime bien le style de Ryszard Kapuscinski, correspondant polonais en Afrique dont je viens de finir la collection des dépêches “Shadow of the Sun.” Je pense que ce serait bon si, au lieu de raconter mes jours pas-à-pas comme le prof d’histoire que tout le monde haissait, j’inserais des anecdotes, un peu comme lui.  

On the movie monitor on these Lufthansa flights, when there is no movie playing, they show a remarkable map. Let’s say for example that at a given moment the plane is over Halifax, Nova Scotia, making its way out to the Atlantic. First the map will show a dot for Halifax and all the surrounding Nova Scotia towns. Then it will pan out to show all of the Maritimes– Charlottetown, Fredericton, Goose Bay. Then all of northeastern North America– Quebec City, Chicoutimi, Bangor. Then all of North America– Kingston, Toronto, Calgary, Wichita, Mexico City. Then a broad swath of the Americas- Caracas, Quito, Houston, Edmonton. Then the entire Atlantic world, so Sao Paulo, Dakar, Montreal, Munich, and Godthab, Greenland, all appear on the same map, and the red line of the plane’s path through the night shows us flying over them all. It gives me chills. The smallness of the world is amazing.

Sur l’écran des films sur tous ces vols Lufthansa, quand il y a aucun film qui joue, l’on voit à la place une carte extraordinaire. Disons, par example, qu’on vole au-delà de Halifax, Nouvelle-Écosse, en route vers l’Atlantique. La carte montre Halifax, et toutes les petites villes nouvelle-écossaises qui l’entourent. Puis le vue s’éloigne et on voit toutes les villes des Maritimes- Charlottetown, Fredericton, Goose Bay. Puis plus étendu– le nord-est de l’Amérique du Nord. On voit Québec, Chicoutimi, Bangor. Puis toute l’Amerique du Nord– Kingston, Toronto, Calgary, Wichita, Mexique. Puis une vue très étendue des Amériques– Caracas, Quito, New York, Edmonton, Houston. Enfin, le monde Atlantique entière, tel que Sao Paulo, Dakar, Munich, Montréal et Godthab, Groenland, apparaissent sur le même carte, et nous sommes au-delà de tout, faisant notre chemin dans le noir. Que le monde est petit. 

The delayed plane made dinner at 11 p.m. and sleep a near write-off, so when I did get into Munich I crashed on a bench in the general vicinity of my gate and narrowly avoided missing my flight. It wasn’t as close a near miss as it looked when I was sprinting toward the deserted gate, but it woke me up completely!

Le résultat du rétard était que le diner était servi à 23 h et le sommeil était quasiment impossible. Quand je suis rendue à Munich (après avoir attendu une heure, affamée, dans la salle d’arrivée pour que mon vol et son numéro de porte apparaissaient sur l’écran des  arrivées, seulement pour apprendre que la numéro de porte a été imprimé sur mon billet et j’aurais pu y aller quand je voulais) je suis vite tombée endormi sur une chaise pas loin de ma porte et j’ai presque fini par rater le vol!

Simon, my boss, who I had never actually met in person, found me at the airport. He was wearing a suit and he was very solicitous, telling me where to buy groceries and how to get everywhere on the tram. We went out for coffee and had an interesting experience with the bartender. The bartender spoke German and Turkish. Rhéal and I speak English, French and Russian, I speak some Slovenian, and Simon on top of that speaks Spanish. We were totally without a common language until I invoked some of the Dutch that I had learned in preparation for a trip to Holland four years ago We used that, pidgin German and quite a bit of gesticulating to get our points across. Simon , like a true francophone, just spoke French for the most part and hoped pan-European words like “café” and “Coca” would shine through the linguistic miasma. It did work, in the end.

Simon, mon chef, qui j’avais jamais rencontré face à face auparavant, était venu me ramasser à l’aéroport. Il était très obligeant et il m’a parlé d’où je pouvais acheter les trucs dont j’avais besoin. On s’est allé prendre un café, et c’était intéressant. Le barman n’a parlé que le turc et l’allemand, la langue de la majorité ici. Nous, Simon et moi, parle tous les deux anglais, français, russe, et un tout petit peu d’allemand. De plus,  je parle un peu slovène et Simon parle bien espagnol. Dans tout ça on était sans langue commune! Enfin j’ai tiré de ma mémoire un peu de néerlandais que j’avais appris il y a 4 ans à Rotterdam, et Simon a parlé un mélange d’allemand et du français et esperé pour le mieux. Heureusement, “café” et “coca” sont des mots plus ou moins universels. 

Simon is from New Brunswick originally and speaks a very interesting French. He’s fluent in it of course, because it’s his mother tongue, and generally he speaks with the thick, rich pronunciations of Paris– like everyone here. But his French has absorbed the most noticeable distinction of Swiss French- he says “septante” and “octante” instead of “soixante-dix” and “quatre-vingts” for the numbers 70 and 80. Despite  this, and the fact that the broad Quebec vowels I picked up in Saguenay (“lô” and “fah-air” for “là” and “faire”) aren’t there in Simon’s speech, I can still definitely detect a Canadian. How? One can always tell by the way the words “six”, “huit” et “dix”  (6, 8, 10) are pronounced. In Parisian French and in every other non-Canadian dialect I’ve ever heard, the vowel is long, like the “ee” sound in “seat.” However, no matter how subtle his or her regional accent may otherwise be, a Canadian will always make that vowel short, like the i in “sit.”  Simon is a short-vowel counter.

After Simon dropped me off in downtown Berne (other than the glass-and-concrete train station, it’s a medeival cobblestone city) I exchanged my money for colourful Swiss francs and did a bit of shopping.  Paprika potato chips are popular here, like in the Netherlands, as are some things that look disgusting to me, like hardboiled eggs jellied in aspic and salmon sandwiches on wheat bread (Don’t they know that salmon sandwiches are only supposed to be made with BAGELS?!) Prices for meat and packaged food are quite a bit more expensive here than in Canada, dairy products and bread are about the same, but energy drinks and soda are much cheaper. Huh.

Simon m’a déchargé au centre-ville de Berne. C’est une ville de moyen age si l’on ignore la gare, qui est fait en verre et en beton. J’ai échangé mon argent à la gare, qui est comme l’univers ici. Les billets de banc suisses sont aussi colorés et vifs que les robes d’une reine africaine. J’ai pris mes billets et je me suis allée faire de l’épicerie. Les chips au paprika sont populaires ici, tout comme le salade russe, le salade betteraves-et-pommes, et quelques choses qui me semblent dégeus, comme des oeufs cuits présérvés en aspic et les sandwiches au saumon sur pain de ble.  Qui ne sait pas que les sandwiches au saumon doivent etre faits avec des BAGELS?!) Le viande et la nourriture préparé coutent beaucoup plus cher ici qu’au Canada, les produits laitiers et du pain sont a peu pres le meme, peut-etre un peu moins, mais les Red Bull sont beaucoup, beaucoup moins cher! Huh. 

My croissant had a salty coating like a soft pretzel; it was delicious.

With dinner secured, it was time to get lost in the city.

Mon croissant était salé, et intéressament délicieux. C’était le temps pour moi de me perdre en ville.

If there’s anything I’ve learned over the course of the three trips abroad before this one, it’s that getting lost needs to be embraced. The reason is simple. If you’re all tensed up panicking about reaching some concrete but elusive destination, how will you enjoy and absorb what’s around you?  Panicking over getting lost is the biggest waste of time. I just wandered the cobbled streets, bought a croissant and a weird fizzy drink, checked out the geranium market, listened to a rock bagpiper whose tones echoed throughout the whole city, watched guys play chess in a city park with pieces two feet high, and snapped pictures of the mountain view until the night air got too cold and I wound my way back to my neighbourhood, Monbijou (“my jewel”), and my big room in a graffiti-covered apartment building nestled between a cozy-looking café and an African épicerie.

I put all my food in the kitchen, met one of my roommates, who seemed nice but just wanted to go to sleep, and got together some ersatz bedding– what I thought were a mattress and a blanket were really just two huge pillows, but I made a sort of mattress with them anyway, placing them end to end on the bedframe and using my coat for a blanket and a jacket stuffed into a canvas bag as a pillow. It’ll have to do for a couple of nights. Ah, the joys of moving.

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About msmarguerite

Young Quebec City-based freelance journalist. once and future nomad. I blog about life, about travel, about things I notice and every so often about work. I enjoy language learning, singing, swing dancing, skating and...other stuff, sometimes. My heart is somewhere in East Africa, Haiti or Eastern Europe. English, français, русский, malo slovensko, un poco de espanol, um pouco de português ndiga ikirundi, mwen ap aprann kreyòl...
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