Sunday, November 23, 2008

Fin de semestre

Whew...sorry guys. It's been quite a while. En lieu d'une explication trop longue, let me just say...fin de semestre. Visa application process. Mon dieu!

I have to say, applying for a visa might be the most anal thing I have ever done, and I thought I was pretty anal. Apparently I could never beat a bureaucracy. The paperwork, the forms, the fees, the online applications. I think I've managed to corral everything into one manila envelope, but I'll be checking the list every few hours just to satisfy myself. I would hate to make the drive to the French consulate in Atlanta and find that I'd forgotten something. And that is, folks, what I have to do. I myself could not believe it when I first heard it. I thought there must be some mistake. I have to do what?! But no, they were correct, and I have dutifully made my appointment. On the 9th of December I will be making my way to prove to the French government that I will not be a burden to them. That I will go to school, live with a reputable family, etc.

Don't let my sarcasm fool you. I am very, very excited. I recently emailed my host mother, and she emailed me back! Very cool. I've managed to register for some really rough-sounding courses at the university (which my professor seems to think I will be able to handle "no problem" alongside actual French students). I get to read Camus's La Peste for one course, which is exciting, and I take some comfort in having read the English translation already. Maybe I'll try to get a jump on reading it before the semester starts.

I've been out of the country before, but it was only for about 17 days, and I travelled with a bunch of other people. This will just be me, by myself, alone. I'm thrilled and scared to death (mostly about the in-transit part--airports seem to me to be incredibly disorienting places, and I am not at all confident that I will be able to navigate one). I'm anxious to form my own opinion of France and French people, who, I am convinced, I will love. They cannot, after all, be so drastically different from people I know already.

The farm is really slowing down. We're milking once a day now, and that really takes the pressure off in terms of pasteurizing to keep up with the milk flow. Yesterday I had a marvelous day in the cheese kitchen pasteurizing some chevre, tubbing some more chevre, and fooling around will a lot of cute, molded bloomy cheeses. When the molded cheeses (think crottins, pyramids, buches, etc.) are dry enough, you take them out of the molds and salt them or ash/salt them. I find this kind of fun even though you end up with cheesemaker's lung by the end of it. You will get the ash up your nose, and you will be sneezing in shades of black for a few days.

I always think of London when that happens. I only spent two days there, and by the end of it my eyes watered and I was fairly certain that in spite of my distaste for cigarettes I would get lung cancer if I stayed there much longer. I remember they were in the process of cleaning the St. Paul Cathedral (an absolutely incredible building), and the uncleaned portion next to the cleaned portion was like one of those opposites flash cards you have when you're a child--light and dark.

Anyhow, my point about the fabulous day in the cheese kitchen was that this is how I know I have found my metier. The fact that I can, after over a year, still walk into that place and actually have fun while I work for 8 hours. Maybe a year isn't a very long time, but for me it is. To be really happy with one's job after a year of back-breaking (please allow me to indulge in a little hyperbole :) labor is something to consider. I, in any case, think it a good sign. Still gettin' down with the cheeses.

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