Saturday, December 19, 2009

Vive le Catalan

It's the first Saturday of Christmas break, 9 am here, and a fluffy snow falls. Small groups of skiers and snowboarders drift past on their way to the pistes. One trail comes straight down to the back of our apartment building and then slopes right to avoid colliding with it, and ending at a restaurant just to the right of the supermarket/our apartment building. When I walk down the stairwell, I can see the skilift out the window.
Today, apparently, hopefully, the first wave of Christmas tourists will arrive. The next two weeks will be pretty non-stop but I don't go downstairs to start my day at the store until 11h30, so I thought I'd take advantage of this moment to check-in; there probably won't be another moment like this for a little while.
So, so much to learn, see and do here, but here's a brief mishmash of what I've learned so far about this Catalan culture and Pyrenees life I've parachuted into...
Where I'm living was a part of Spain until 1659 when a royal marriage between prince whoever of France and princess whoever of Aragon (who said history was in the details?? sorry the precise factoids escape me) shifted the border and we became part of France. Regardless, this is Catalan, folks, and we've got the red and yellow striped flag, the funny accent, the cerdagne dance, and most important, the sausage, to prove it!
Catalan has existed a long time. ("long time"--a historical measure) The first written documentation of the existence of the Catalan people goes back to Clovis, who was ancient (466-511 A.D., thank you Google)
It's a region with a sense of mystery to me--the Cathars, the Black Madonna of Montserrat. And according to my colleague Claude (you will hear much more about him later, as he is a jewel), there are unexplained Celtic symbols found in the region and a history of magic. Much to explore.
Meanwhile, the forests apparently hide bears and wolves. Claude showed me photos of bear prints taken near his home. I'm currently reading a guide book of the local herbs and wildflowers of the region that I found in our little library. Apparently, the geographic isolation has favored the development of many species of flora and fauna unique to the region. I look forward to sun-soaked summer days of hiking.
The larger region as a whole, Languedoc-Rouissillon, also creates 50 percent of France's wine. And our little superette stocks many local wines from vinyards in the region.
Many, many different trails of discovery in the time the meantime, au travail (to work!)

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Time Warp

Ca y est!! I'm here and 11 days later, I am experiencing my first hour of internet at my new home. So I just took a peek here and want to say thank you to all for your good wishes and responses posted on the blog.
It's been a joyous, hectic, exhausting arrival.
As I type, Guillaume and I are camped out in our new apartment, surrounded by little piles as we unpack five years of our history together, suitcases from the U.S., and boxes that have laid sleeping in Paris and Normandy. We are listening to the news on the radio, and the wind, which is ramping up after two or three gorgeous days here. Gorgeous days are bad news during ski season. So, the prediction that we will receive the front that has swept through the U.S. is welcome.
Too tired and too long to give all the thousand details, surprises and discoveries of these first days, at least right now, but here is a little portrait of our adopted village...
Today, Guillaume and I had the opportunity to walk around a bit. La bibliotheque (the library) was open, so we stepped in. The library is probably about 10 x 15 and presided over by a madame who is a reservoir of information and best guesses, a true character. "Applying" for a library card consisted of letting her know that we were new in town and were year-rounders, and filling out a form that consists of name and address, no ID, no proof of address. She then gave us the petit tour of the library, her opinon on Barcelona (fabuleux), the region (magnifique), the village (if you don't mind the cold and making less money than in Paris, there's no reason to live anywhere else) and personal relationships in a small town (soyez prudent! be careful who you befriend, take your time) and other helpful hints. We chose three books on the region and she "checked out" the books--meaning she wrote down the titles in a little spiral notebook. As we turned to go, as an afterthought, Guillaume asked when the books were due. Her response, "Ah, we could say two or three weeks. And if I run into you and you have a problem because of your work , then you can let me know and I can open up for 10 minutes at other times... (The library is only open 8 hours total throughout the week)......

Guillaume has gone downstairs to do store closing. We live in a residence above the superette, so going to work consists of walking down a flight of stairs, exiting the lobby of the residence and entering the superette next door. If we are scheduled to work at the epicerie (which I pretty much never am), we have to walk 5 minutes "uptown"...Last night we were listening to the radio news, which was announcing a partial strike on the RER in Paris. Guillaume and I passed a silent raised eyebrow between us and then both burst out laughing. La vie est belle!
We have two huge windows in our apartment, which look east and most mornings, we are greeted by a sunrise like a lava flow.
Much more and fotos to come in the days, weeks ahead. Much love to all...