…Nor time unmake what poets know.
- Ralph Waldo Emerson
Sad truth, since there are many things I consciously don’t take pictures of in the hopes of eventually letting these memory pictures fall like so many withered leaves, but sometimes that just makes my mind rebel and hold on to things even more. Minds are dumb.
Anyway! Landscape pics are boring except when I post ‘em.
A buncha Alps
The single neverending mountain road
Taken seated, watching the ski chairs climbing up those lines
I wish I had taken more pictures of the people I was with because a considerable hunk of my host mom’s family were along for the trip and they were all incredibly nice and generous, but I failed to do so because:
- Too shy to weasel my way into their tight-knitness. I feel like my childhood shyness which I mostly manage to overcome now in English-speaking situations returns in full force when I am thrown into a bunch of French-speaking strangers — with only 4 full days I didn’t really feel comfortable enough to be whippin’ out my camera, especially since noone else was.
- I spent the bulk of my time bruising myself in a variety of ways — sledding, sliding down on my ass, snowboarding — so I thought I would spare myself the added stress of making sure my camera didn’t get totally smashed on one of my falls. Also a subconscious attempt to avoid embarrassing footage of me.
Despite the epic fail with regards to people-filled pictures, I can vividly enough remember:
Elizabeth, one of my host mom’s nieces and our driver back and forth from Paris to St. Nicholas. She was a bit intimidating because she’s one of those no-nonsense kind of women; there was more than a little scorn in her eyes when she saw me dressed to go to the mountains in my grey Calvin Klein coat (warmest coat I brought here but nowhere near enough) and silly city-girl leather boots that wouldn’t survive 5 steps on glacial mountain road surfaces. Which is not to say she wasn’t perfectly polite and nice to me, coz she was, but I felt permanently sheepish in her presence.
Pierre and Dejan, brothers and 2 of host mom’s grandchildren. Don’t think Dejan took very kindly to me coz on the first day, Pierre asked me jokingly, “Il est moche, oui?” And I said “Oui!” thinking moche meant cute (it sounds like mochi, which I love, so I think that’s how the word association went in my head). Apparently it means the exact opposite. Dejan was henceforth stupendously silent in my presence, but could also have been because he is a 15 year old boy and we therefore had maybe 10% in common. That 10% in common is our mutual love of chocolate. Even then we diverge coz he prefers Toblerone to Kinder Bueno. Why do people like Toblerone so much?
Oh and Pierre was very cute and nice and ungrudgingly gave up a couple of days keeping me company on the baby slopes and teaching me to snowboard, which was a lot of fun even though it was accompanied by a lot of pain. I can now go straight and occasionally come to a safe stop. Pierre said with another day I could have probably done the medium slope, yay me. He was probably the closest I came to making a friend on the trip, we bonded over chocolate mousse and I guess the buds of human empathy nourished by my his all-access pass to my flailing vulnerability when sledding down tree-peppered slopes and my heavy reliance on him to prevent me from fatally wounding myself and, more importantly, other people (mostly half my height) on the baby ski slope. He was also kind of cute. Wee crush. Teeny. Minute. He was just very touchingly responsible, like sliding down the slopes first so that he could catch anyone (ok so it was 99% me) who couldn’t brake in time to stop hirself from flying onto the mountain road/into a boulder, apportioning our picnic lunches (he spent 15 mins thinking seriously about how best to split 3 Toblerones between 4 people — such attention to fairness!), and picking up the little kids who tumbled on the baby slope and got trapped between their skis. He was like an older brother to the World
Sophie, another of my host mom’s nieces, and her 3 sons, Adrien, Paul and Clement. Paul has Down’s Syndrome so I think it is testament to my improving French abilities that I could mostly understand what he was saying. He told me I was beautiful and had a tattered stuffed monkey named Rafiki who was so frayed that he lost one of his arms to an accident by Adrien.
Sylvie, Sophie’s partner of 3 years. I didn’t find this out until I got back and my host mom told me over dinner, so the entire time I was there I just assumed Sylvie was another niece who happened to look completely different from her sisters. Actually my gaydar twitched a lot but I just told it to shut up cos my host mom is v Catholic and it just seemed too implausible. But so interesting! PACS in action.
Sabine, Sylvie’s flame red-haired mom who was v friendly and had this massive puppy named Stella whom she couldn’t control at all.
Sylvie’s cousin and her 3 kids. Haha sorry for the lack of names, but I barely spent any time with them at all and I didn’t find out until I got back to Paris how they were related to my host mom’s family so finding a place for them in my head is kinda like sticking a square into a circle.
Part of the reason why I never got fully comfy there was because there were 2 very clear groups: female adults over the age of 45, and male adolescents aged 14-17, neither of which I fall neatly into. I mean, I was mainly with the boys all day cos they’re the ones who went up to the ski slopes and so we would always sled down to the village to rent our equipment and then take the ski lifts up together, but once back from the slopes they’d go ensconce themselves in the attic room of the bigger chalet where the presence of Wii acts, as always in our day and age, as the hub of social activity. Since I don’t really do video games and they’re so close in age and temperament that I didn’t like imposing myself on their easy fraternality I would kinda awkwardly make conversation with Elizabeth and my host mom, or read Rushdie by myself on the terrace. I felt a bit disrespectful crashing the other chalet, too, which was where all the action happened, since as a guest I felt obliged to stay where I’d been put. Only the last couple of afternoons I conquered my paralyzing shyness enough to just go chill in the attic and it was so nice in a lazy, loungey way entertaining Paul and watching the other boys kill each other’s virtual incarnations and throwing gros mots around willy-nilly. Kicking myself now for being too reserved to start hanging out with them from the start, since they were totally chill with me being there so I was just being paranoid for naught. Meh.
Very glam in my ski combinaison and snowboarding boots
Hmm. This post isn’t nearly as filled with EXCITEMENT as I would like it to be, but it’s hard to transmit through a blog my daily doses of arenaline from zooming uncontrollably down vertical faces of the mountain and talking frantically to myself in my head while taking the tire-face up the ski slopes because when I let my mind drift I always fall. It’s hard to convey the odd mishmash of emotional somethings I felt when I was on the ski lift with Pierre and he said, “Nous sommes dans le brouillard” and I couldn’t shake the weirdness of the idea that I was one with the fog, or how fulfilling it is to come back after a day of whizzing and tumbling, peel off your soggy socks and have a blistering hot shower and then some chocolate biscuits and milk, or the satisfying combination of achy tiredness and warm belly full of food-ness that sent me to sleep every night. Is truly power of the Alps that I, once completely convinced that I’m born and bred a city girl, now look out disgruntledly on Paris and the Seine from my window and yearn for snow-capped peaks and soul-deep silence.