Arrived at my next wwoofing site. It’s situated in the midst of the Pyrenees, on a clear day I can see them stretch out into the distance, endless mountains and hills. The house appears to be a converted barn, large drafty rooms, floors that are bare board and a dearth of windows. While, the appearance leaves something to be desired, the placement is incredibly scenic. Farms curving around hills, forests girdling the tops of mountains like green living diadems, houses that are built from the stones that make up the same hills that they rest on, there is so much character to everything here. Maybe it’s partly due to the extended period of people reshaping of the environment.
What I found more interesting was the process of arrival to the Pyrenees. I left Nantes in a covoiture going to Toulouse. It was a large ford camping car and seemed to sway and rattle like an alcoholic plagued by tuberculosis. But I made a friend, Elouan, a Breton and Francais. We talked a lot about the gradual absorption of small farmer’s in France; right now it’s somewhere around 7% of the population are farmers, while in the 1940s it was close to 41%. While this trend is nowhere as steep as America’s, it shows no slowing. Large farmers here receive subsidies and small farmers do not. Additionally, the proportion of subsidies increase with the quantity of food produced, thus making industrial production an actual policy of the French state. In some villages there are days of ‘the white road’; times when milk producers simply pull the stoppers out of the holding tanks to drain of the excess milk and the roads run white looking like some misbegotten old testament plague. We also discussed the mistreatment and misrepresentation of Islam in French culture and the misperceptions that the media engenders about the world. We also discussed the American political system and talked about our strengths and weaknesses.
I also found out that Elouan works with both horses and autistic children. In fact, he was on his way to work with a special school for such kids when I met him in the car. We figured out that we needed to take the same route to get to our respective destinations. I had planned to take a train, but the day before the SNCF, the national train organization decided to go on strike. Convenient. Thus, any hope, any possibility that I could arrive at my current wwoofing site by train was consumed by the specter or ‘greater justice for French train workers’. So Elouan introduce me to ‘autostop’; hitchhiking. This is actually relatively common in France. And legal. The only problem was that by the time we arrived in Toulouse it was already evening. And by the time we arrived at the road towards our respective destination in was 6pm and night had come.
We tried and tried for nearly 2 hrs, walking to different sites, but we lacked a marker and had to make our sign in pen, which you can imagine was only effective for people containing some kind of raptor DNA. Yet, again I was impressed with the kindness of strangers. 3 different people stopped by to see if we needed lodging for the night, including an obviously wealthy gentleman in a Lincoln. I just can imagine the same thing happening in a city of over 1 million people in the states.
Finally, we gave up and stayed with Elouan friend and her roommates by one of the college’s. It was really fun and we talked about politics and traveling and I played some guitar and taught a French girl how to play part of blackbird by the Beatles. The girls were really nice and gave us a pasta dinner with a sauce of local mushrooms and, of course, wine. They even invited me to come back and visit since I was only a 40 minute train away. While talking to one of the girls I was surprised at how much she knew about US history. Actually, in general it is surprising how much people in France know about certain aspects of US history and current politics. Equally of course, there are many things, seemingly obvious, that they don’t know. It probably has something to do with the superpower status of the US, but also the generally more international attitude found in Europeans.
Anyways, Elouan and I managed to find a train today, merci Dieu, and woke up at 5am this morning to head out. I did promise him that I would during one of my days off visit and help him present some sketches to the kids. Also the people he’s working with have worked in Togo. So we’ll see how much time I get off and how it’ll work out. Also, I will not have much internet so future blog posts may be few and far between.
PRINCE TOFIO POTON J… on The History of the Adja sara cate on Voyaging to Toulouse Ethan Maier on Daoulas mom and dad on Vacation Togo-Togo Russell Maier on Saucy actions