Monday, March 14, 2011


And it DID all end up working out ok and then some. Audrey picked me up from the cathedral just like she said she would (which I took a cab to get to since the language was different, I wasn't sure how many cathedrals there were etc. The cab driver totally ripped me off - 9 euros for a 6 minute cab ride? Wha? - but thus is traveling I guess). And Audrey walked me back to her apartment, where i met Muhammed. I am now in my own personal cozy room in the lovely apartment of Muhammed and Audrey – fascinating and beautiful people. Muhammed is from Northern Algeria, where they have their own indigenous culture and language (Kabilian). He speaks Arabic, Kabilian, and French. Audrey is from the Basque region of France. Basque, despite being considered part of Spain/France, also has it's own indiginous culture and language. The Language is called Euskala, and is completely different from any other language in Europe. It's origins of where exactly it came from is still unknown. Audrey is technically Polish (her parents moved to Bayonne from Poland), but she attended a Euskala school when she was young, speaks the language, fluently, and considers herself to have the soul of a Basque. Of course, she also speaks French, English, Spanish, a bit of German, and a bit of Portuguese, but to her Euskala is different. She explained to me that to have, to speak Euskala is to be Basque. Gaining respect, revitalizing basque culture, and even gaining independence from the French/Spanish governments is something Audrey is very passionate about. In addition to promoting the Basque culture and cause, she is a champion of all underdog cultures and causes. She has traveled a lot in the last ten years, primarily a lot throughout Latin America, America, and Canada, visiting, studying, and giving presentations on the indigenous cultures of the world. She's even been to Hawaii to study the Hawaiian indigenous culture. She does a lot of work in film making as well. Currently she has just finished a short documentary on the not so straightforward process of getting papers for wannabe French Citizens (like her Algerian Husband, who will hopefully be receiving French papers within the next few months).

The rest of my first day in Bayonne was spent bike riding to the beach closest to Bayonne and cooking delicious food all in a triage of languages. Audrey and I will switch off between Spanish and English (I can pretty much understand it all too!!) and Muhammed and she would speak French. I love French. I love the way it sounds. My new goal is to learn the basics in this language (and maybe Italian eventually too). Not to be fluent, but to be able to say basics like, where is this? I am cold. I want this. How do you say _____ in French? I've already learned a teensy bit from Muhammed when it was just him and me (because Audrey was at a Basque independence meeting while we went on a bike ride). Knowing Spanish certainly helps. French grammar is more difficult than Spanish, but the sentence structures are very similar. Language is so fascinating.

Later that night, I cooked them beer can chicken (where you stick a can of beer into the cavity of the chicken, and then put the entire thing into the oven. They hadn't seen anything like it before. Muhammed was a bit confused. I'm afraid it turned out not as delicious and moist as i'd been hoping, but it certainly wasn't bad. I blame the ovens of Europe, which are different than American ovens and hard to get the temperature right. I went to bed feeling quite pleased with life and these opportunities that keep popping up!

The next day, Sunday, we went for hike on one of the many mountains in the Basque countryside. We drove through fields after fields of Basque countryside with red and white houses to get to the hike. It reminded me a bit of the Maui upcountry side which I love so much. I could tell Audrey had the same feeling of pride and connection with the Basque countryside that I do for my Maui countryside. The hike was beautiful, with a lot of uphill, a lot of green, and a lot of fresh air. I think I needed it after all that Madrid city stale air I've been breathing for so long. Along the hike, we ran into some wild miniature basque horses called “pechukas,” and I would often hear the bells of a local flock of long haired sheep running along the mountainside. It was all quite cute and enjoyable.

I ended up staying with Audrey and Muhammed for one extra night, Monday night. I spent the day of Monday in Biarritz, a beach town close by. Biarritz is rather glam, and caters mostly to it's beach relaxing tourists. It's very different from the cobbled, old streets of Bayonne. I mainly spent the day walking along the coastline, and spent about an hour lying on the sand with my shoes off, enjoying the surprisingly good weather, still cold, but only needing a light jacket or so. It's the first time I've gotten to lie on a beach since I left Maui. I've missed that.

Both Audrey and Muhammed were such lovely people, sharing their time, their food, their cultures with me – often in a triage of languages. They went above and beyond as couch surfing hosts. I really appreciate the time I got to spend with them, and the peak I got into their lives. I did my best to be an excellent house guest and to share what I could of my cultures and experiences in return. I hope I succeeded.

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