Monday, October 25, 2010

Mulhouse: arrival & setting up house (sept 1 to now!) Jonathan Regier & JKD road trip!

One might say that moving is a long, arduous process. One friend told me that on some list of "traumatic things" that we do willingly in life, moving ranked in the top three as a life stressor, alongside breaking up or losing someone. So, losing Paris is what this has been. But also gaining a lot of room to breathe & a perspective on other options here in France outside Paris living. When I received the letter informing me that I had been hired here at Uha (Université de Haute Alsace) it is true that I was of two minds--ecstatic because I wanted the job and it would be in "real" topics--lit and civ--subjects I can really get into and love working on with French students. But of course part of me felt the immediate sting of leaving. I had been living in Paris since 1999, and had also lived there in the mid-1990's. My only forays into living out of Paris while in France were some time spent in Lyon and the 3 months at the residency in La Napoule--where I knew I was only temporarily away from the city, and where the sea lapped up practically against the door (who doesn't love that?!?) So, I thought, Mulhouse. My one visit at that point had been for the audition, where I stayed in a clean, efficient hotel B&B. One of those slot-you-into the space generic places that are cheap & excellent for overnights if on business. It was off of the Porte Jeune shopping mall place (a kind of red eyesore) and underneath the Tour de l'Europe (another eyesore--with evidence about halfway up of a fire in an apartment and yet the apartments around that burnt-out window remain occupied--as in these 3 pictures). My vision was rather drab of the town.

So, I got online and started looking a bit into here--and found a lot of things that made me excited to simply discover another place. There were lovely parts of the town, & many more things to do than it had appeared on my one quick visit (in the rain & for the interview). And so, thrilled about the job, & sure that it would do me good to force myself out of the habits I lived in in Paris, I decided to get a place in Mulhouse and give it a go.

This is where "the pleasures of Mulhouse" really do begin. Because space is scarce in Paris and plentiful in Alsace. There is a lot of greenery in the center of town and when I came to look at places, I found that there were lots of spacious ones near cafés, grocery stores, bars and centers to see movies or go out with friends. In other words, Mulhouse would be a little adventure, though certainly one that is much sleepier than the urban racous riots of Paris. A little less craze... not necessarily bad.

New outlook, despairingly pricy moving costs for movers and I decided "ROAD TRIP". And with the great great help of all my friends: Anne K, Jérôme M, Sylvie and Carole B, Carole P, Patricia, George V, and MORE! I got everything into the rental van from Rent à car and Jonathan Regier & I headed off into the night with out map, mappy itinery and all giggles. We left around 10pm, so the traffic around Paris was quasi-inexistent. We drove & talked & watched our signs. Around 2h30 in the morning, debating whether to rest someplace or keep going for the all-nighter experience, we stopped for treats at a truck stop only to learn--between the truckers playing video games, lounging on massage chairs, or playing games where you shoot things with a plastic gun--that we had missed a turn awhile back and were now in Macon. (photo: me holding up map saying "what!?!?!!! An HOUR south of our route at 2:30am!!!") OOPS! So, more giggles & we decided it was a sign that we should STOP. JR had never had the "pleasure" of seeing an F1--so, since there was one at the next autoroute turnaround (which we had to take to get back on the route going in the opposite direction of where we were!), we stopped in there. A voice through a loudspeaker let our van through the protection gates (always a reassuring feature of F1 and Etap motels when one is trekking around with one's life in a car!) and then autochecked in without seeing a soul anywhere. Dead tired, we tucked ourselves into our very very green and little twin beds--after a few more photos while laughing in our overexhausted state (wise to have stopped!). In the morning (pictured here below) we forced ourselves up early &--unshowered, as that would take too long, though after the physical work of moving the night before & our drive we were getting kinda ripe or at least looking worse for the wear--we caffinated & breakfasted (note that the first pic is pre-coffee, second is after a few cups!) at the F1 countertop then headed back round north of our Macon detour. It was lovely, in fact, to drive in the early morning and to see the countryside as we approached Mulhouse. As we drove into town we had lots of laughs as we spotted the first commerces--and their very Germanic / Alsacian names: as here Le Schweitzer! There are also many lovely, colorful buildings (mine is red, but here are some of the neighboring ones: baby blue and reds, and one of JR in front of a yellow building). It is quite easter-egg cheery, and I am certain that mid-winter, with the grey and snow, it will in fact be so much more cheerful here than in Paris. (Thus I encourage all of you there in Paris to come here for a visit!!!) Everything got tossed into the apartment, boxes all over, so we were ready for a shower. But, alas, the hot water had not yet heated up! We were not ready to be ice cubes so we returned the unharmed van (pics of joy here!) in Dornach (a suburb--but about 25 minutes walk max back to the center of town) and then strolled around in the bright day.Back in the center of town, we continued our explorations through the pedestrian area of Mulhouse, enjoying beers in the sun at the Place de la Réunion, where we visited the inside of the Temple, and then had yet more beers (the driving was over, after all!!!). Over the days following, we also checked out the great Libanais resto on the corner by me (here we are below in photos seated on the little terrasse which is pretty much in the street) and a few other spots. We spotted some of the nearby wall art (car because this is the city with the massive automobile museum--yet to be visited) and halted briefly before some random shops and along curved streets (pictures here below). We also admired the old Synagogue, which I look out on from my windows. (Here is picture of the front of Synagogue, followed by one where my building can be seen on the left and the back of the synagogue is partially visible at the right): My tram stops at Porte Haute which is by a fittingly poet-related bar called Le Bateau Ivre! But moving is a long, slow investment process, where my role is that of the leaking bucket--new insurance, hookup fees, deconnect fees, etc etc. The long, slow road to being able to buy any furniture! Thus the lovely temp "sofa" was the sleeping bag and featherbed that JR had had as a bed.: Come Oct 1st & "payday", Stephanie, Cynthia & I had a trip to Freiburg's Ikea. It was my first ever experience in Ikea. Giant, blue & yellow box that, once inside, felt like it would never end! We picked up a few things & I got furniture ordered for delivery--shelves and couches! Then I waited for another week & a half before the delivery came. It was supposed to include putting together of the big, red couch but the 2 German deliverymen said "No" & then we argued & it was all me being irrational at the explicable / predictable inability to communicate across 3 languages (German, French & English--my version of the last two, & their version of German & English). They kept saying "Not putting togeher. Sign here, & we go". I tried to explain I had gotten the delivery with a "putting the couch together" agreement, but they would not budge. I pleaded saying in my own broken English "Me, just one person" as if that said everything about the entire helplessness of my situation. But they threatened to take it all away again so I signed and sighed and then there I was. And Freiburg's Ikea helpline? Not accessible to me, a non-German speaker. So, suddenly I found I had "furniture" and yet I did not.

I had gigantic cardboard boxes filled with promises of furniture that only someone who had other someones to help them put them together could make emerge out of the cardboard into a lifeform representing couch, shelves, couch. Despair. At this point, a month and a half into the moving process, I just thought "I give up".

But then I put out a distress call to the lecturers who I have been spending time with and was SAVED! Within less than a half hour (now, if that is not a change from Paris!) Tom and then Lauren came by to help. Or rather, I think it was more that I helped Tom--while Lauren built a CD rack all by her lonesome (I have the pride to say I also managed that yesterday--these smallish tasks for those of you who are endowed with the gift of building, well, we who are not endowed with such gifts cherish our little ability to construct the pre-fab shelving! I must say, it is an accomplishment, if only a small one!) Within a few hours, there were the red and white couches and a blue CD rack all working!!! And then, off to Le Mans & then Paris I went for a conference then reading event. So, the other shelves remained stacked in the middle of my room. Until this weekend when Carole B was here on vacation and I put her to work (so kind of me, eh? No, really, she volunteered). Again, in little over an hour we got the 4 larger bookcases up, and then last night after she had headed back to Paris I finished the 2 other CD racks and a smaller bookshelf. Here, you can see the process as it has emerged. The "home" in the making. My own experience of what gets made fun of in that old "Choose Life" speech at the start of Trainspotting. Yep, DIY moments of my middle aged self. Ah well, in some ways I guess I am a conformer. But hey, it is going to make it easier for me to find the books, and now I have great couches to lounge and write on. So, for anyone wanting to see my home: here are a few pics.

1 comment:

Traveler's Journey in Babel said...

Wow--it's yooge! I can't wait to visit. Congratulations.