impressions to and from the border

did a bit of journaling this time around, some excerpts of which i thought i should share now since i know i will neglect to blog about it later. might write on a few themes closer to heart when i get home as a separate post.

28/02/2010, 13h03, Paris

Am aboard the train leaving Paris and heading for Strasbourg. Am seated with a nice man and his precious two-and-a-half year-old Anaïs who never sits still. Our train is 40 minutes late now, not counting the hour-long delay switching from our cancelled train to this one, but the lost time has given us an opportunity to strike up a friendly acquaintance. He asks many questions about where I am from and how is it that I speak both French and English. Malaysia? Oh yes, he knows les tours de Petronas from that movie with Sean Connery.

Saw my French Hottie in the métro on Line 4. Light green T-shirt under a casual zip-up hoodie. He had on earphones and was reading a book called Tristesse Tropique. I saw his golden face in the split second I turned my gaze toward the door and immediately caught my breath. A small exchange of glances revealed that he, too, was trying to place me, but neither of us spoke up. It was no longer a question of who was in a suit or in a uniform, who was behind the desk or asking questions – the only thing separating us was the haughty Parisian ambivalence which everybody wears with such fashionable pride here and which we were both loathe to break. Face redder than I remembered – perhaps from the weather; tan hair a little longer – curling carelessly over the tips of his ears; but the same light moustache over the same sensitive lip, same brown lashes fringing the same deep, peerless eyes…

29/02/2010 or 01/03/2010, 00h35, Auenheim

In Helena’s German home now, deeply snug in a wonderful room, in a big, red bed, softer than anything I’ve had in more than a year.  Am most content. We had a lovely casual stroll through the night of Strasbourg city and a cuppa Alsatian beer at her favourite bar (bitter, lemon-tinted Picon for her, something frothy and malt-blonde for me).

We are a short journey away from Strasbourg: just over the Rhine, where, in the night, the streetlights gradually disappear and the dark road signs morph into German. I’m enjoying the larceny of skipping border controls without a passport, with somebody else’s carte 12-25 and student ID to boot. The mild mischief lends an air of defiant escapism to my little fun in straddling the Franco-German borders. Where we are, I can see both the Vosges and the Black Forest. The neighbours and the voices on the radio are German.

Spent some 10 hours getting from LH to here, thanks to the devastating weather up north. Well worth the journey. Will get to tour the Council of Europe tomorrow where Helena works, and wander around in the same elitist nest of the European Parliament and Court of Human Rights.

Sleepy now. Good night!

02/03/2010, 12h01, Kolbsheim

Am in Helena’s father’s home today. Spent the night here and will be heading out soon. Am presently nestled on the heavy, leather sofa in their living room – a gigantic, warm space in which the family must have spent many happy hours before children grew up and adults parted ways. We are 30 minutes away from Strasbourg this time, out on the rolling countryside where everybody’s backyard leads out onto expanses of land so vast the horizon only ends reluctantly at the sky.

I love how this home (truly home, this being where H and her sister grew up) is laced with antiques, like the doors. The family bought them from an old French monastery which was about to be torn down. They are wooden, solid and hardy, with large hinges and small oval knobs. The frames are thick and uneven, paneling around the doors in a way that makes me imagine cupboard gateways to Narnian getaways. Even the beams hunching over the front door and the spiral staircase are from the monastery, the bought wood lending its silent history to this beautiful country house.  The family also thought to rescue the large, ceramic squares of old floor to tile the ground. You can still see the roughness of workmanship around the edges of each orange block and the lines ingrained in the earthy texture, left by some tool pulled and pressed over the surface while it was soft and damp.

One particular tile has been chosen especially and placed near the entrance of the house. Three little catty paws must have scattered mischieviously across the fresh, square dampness of some French tiler’s hard work some history ago, because three little catty paw prints have been pressed in three different places across the orange ceramic.

We are leaving now to meet Helena at present day Strasbourg – continue later.

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1 comment
  1. Grace said:

    sigh. haughty parisian ambivalence sounds eerily similar to new york-ian tentativeness.

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