Once we arrived in Paris, we drove straight to the fifth arrondissement, just by Notre Dame and the Sorbonne, since the stores that we wanted to visit for the diving equipment and mosquito nets are there. We parked by the Panthéon and discovered a Russian restaurant down a small side street. There was a gorgeous Russian woman who waited on us and cooked our food in a little kitchen behind the bar. For a starter I had Russian ratatouille, which, as far as I can tell, differs from the French version only in that it is served cold, has carrots in it but no cubed bacon or herbs like thyme and oregano. Julien had smoked fish salad, which was made with herring, potatoes, peas, onion, and topped with flat parsley. Both dishes were yummy. Julien had pan-fried salmon and casha (boiled rye, I think; ah, NOT rye. Buckwheat). I had pelminki (spelling?) ravioli (*homemade,* stuffed with meat) served just with butter and a dollop of crème fraîche. For dessert, Julien had a “tarte aux crêpes” which was very good. It was like rolled crepes layered in a loaf pan and glazed with a very thin cream cheese-type filling, then sliced crossways. I had prunes stuff with walnuts, smothered in whipped cream and raspberry sauce. It was like home cooking: simple, filling, good.
After that we tried on diving vests. I’m an idiot. I know in French we say either “gilet” or “stab” for the vest, but I’m not sure what it is in English. Maybe stab. That’s what I get for passing my PADI thingamajiggy in French. *too lazy to Google* Anyhow, we got references and prices and bought the mosquito net for our bed.
Then off to buy the camera in a city west of Paris called Plaisir (Pleasure). And we did have a pleasant afternoon, despite the funny phone call from the camera owner earlier that morning. I’m the one who took the call since J was driving and Fabrice (the camera owner) says, “I have a question that is very important. Are you coming mostly to buy the phone or to talk about Mayotte? Because for me, you’re coming more about Mayotte.” (He and his family lived in Mayotte for a year and half.)
Miq: Um, no. We are coming mostly for the camera. *thinks, What? Why would we drive two hours to meet people we don’t know to talk about something that we could discuss on the phone or through email?*
Fabrice: Oh, because I was talking to some friends about the camera and they told me that I should keep it and not sell it.
M: Uh, well, we are coming for the camera and we are already in Paris. *thinks, Why didn’t you bother to tell us this yesterday, before we drove two hours to get here? Who offered you more money?*
F: Oh, okay. Well, I guess that’s all right then. It’s not a big deal. See you at 3:00.
Well, we arrived a little after 3:00 because we took too long with our errands in Paris and the traffic wasn’t too great. We were both thinking that the visit would be awkward and that Fabrice wouldn’t want to talk too much about Mayotte because he was a bit miffed that we were “making off” with his camera, but both he and his wife were very friendly and talkative, and we ended up staying two hours, chatting with them, looking at photos, and playing with their daughters.
They regretted not staying in Mayotte. They were ready to leave at the time (most people are after the honeymoon stage has worn off and they have “done their time”), but now they regret not staying (most people do, conveniently forgetting all the inconveniences, irritations, and downsides. I know I felt that way about Kenya and I was only there five weeks.) They confirmed things that we pretty much knew about the food, like fish is super cheap and beef is about the same price as it is here in the métropole. Agnes, Fabrice’s wife, told me a few things that I found a bit disturbing. The truly disturbing thing is that I shouldn’t walk around by myself after dark, and she obviously had a bad personal experience because she didn’t seem to want to go into details in front of her children. The second thing is that life on Mayotte was very close-knit and there are always social activities and nights out together, and hermitty Miq thought, Oh, God. Am I going to have to pretend that I’m not home all the time?
I’m such an ogre. I know that it will be a good thing to hang out with like-minded people, and I really, really enjoy spending evenings with friends, but I don’t want people knocking on my door or calling me up EVERYDAY. The thought of my surly first response just made me laugh.
They said that when we arrive, Mayotte will be dusty and dry and brown, but not to worry. Come November, the rains will start again and everything will green up nicely. In September, the whales pass through the lagoon and you can watch them breaching the water from the shore.
All in all, the information is much what we have found on the net, but it was just nice to look at pictures and hear anecdotes from people who loved the country but could still give an account of the happenings and aggravations that they encountered.
Thursday: Started the work week. Had zero customers. A Dutch friend came in to visit and introduce her brother and she mentioned wanting to invite us over to eat before we leave for Mayotte. As soon as she said "invite," I remembered that J and I had been invited out to eat that very night. J had made an appt for a physical for his work and so I had to close the gallery (have I mentioned that bosses are too tight to put a phone in the shop?) and go home to call him and remind him about it.
We had a lovely "International" evening, Rose Marie (our hostess) and J being the only Frenchies present. Then there was an Englishman and his Scottish wife and a Slovenian woman, and moi, the American.
Today: Again, zero customers. The day was looooong. I used my lunchbreak to pack boxes (mostly cds and books) because J left in the late afternoon to go spend a week or so with his family and he wanted to take a load with him (we are storing everything in his mother's attic). The bosses will not let me have time off, so I had to stay behind.
I guess that is all I have to report. Oh. I guess I could talk about writing.
In my last entry, I mentioned something about not making progress because of trying to tell the chapter from the wrong POV. I've now concluded that it is giving me so many problems because the material does not belong in the book. The stuff I wanted to show was not carrying its weight or adding anything new to the plot or characterization. Here's to hoping that this is truly what was bothering me and that I will now be able to move on with the monster.