It was good to wake up on the ship again and have breakfast with my friends. All the familiar faces returning home, hugs and smiles make departing from the country yet another adventure, and once we’re all back there comes a time for storytelling.
The morning in Le Havre (Sept 16) was rough – the wind was blowing mercilessly, and the rain, pouring at certain moments of time, could suddenly turn into a heavy wall of water coming upon you like a revenge of the ancient gods. We all hid in the terminal, trying to get some warmth and wifi, but the last wasn’t working. Having decided that it’s useless to wait, we ordered a cab (8 euros for 4 people – not bad at all) and went to the city center.
Le Havre is pretty small, but our pier’s farther away than any others, and it’s quite a loop you make trying to get there. The city itself was mostly destroyed during WWII, and only a few historic buildings remained. Despite that, the city has its spirit, and it’s a nice one.
Rachel and Kathy were super excited about the chocolate shop that, as they heard, offered best hot chocolate in the world (I bet plenty of cafes claim this title). But the cafe was closed, as was everything, literally, everything around. It was Monday. We walked, and after 12 pm some stores and restaurants opened their doors, but not the chocolate place. So we ate somewhere, made our way to the supermarket (delicious, freshly baked French baguette, French crispy chocolate, a box of macaroons and a liter of super-fresh, super-yummy local apple juice). And then moved towards the city’s art museum – they call Le Havre a birthplace of impressionism – where I was very much surprised to see the early realistic works of Dufy, especially compared to his further ones (look at the picture below to see what I mean). And the entrance was free for everyone under 26, which was very nice indeed.
Kathy was eager to get mussels, and on we went up the coast, in search for some beach restaurants. At last we landed at one. The host turned out to be from Laos, and his family lived in Dallas. But he didn’t speak English. At all. And that was the moment when everyone looked at me, expecting something. They thought that if I could say “bonjour” and “merci” with perfect French accent, I spoke French. The truth is, I haven’t used a word in French for 4 years. And then these expecting eyes on me…
Well guess what. I managed to order us food, explain where each of us came from, tell him about Semester at Sea and our route and what we are, and when the ship was leaving Le Havre.
And – it happened, the thing I was so afraid of: processing 4 languages in a week, my brain got totally confused and while I was translating for the guys, without even noticing, I started speaking Russian. Only their confused faces told me that something was wrong, and we laughed a lot about it.
The Laos guy was super sad when we were leaving, gave us hugs and said he would watch our ship depart. How come have I understood everything he said? No freaking idea! But like with German, something just clicked in my mind. That was the best part of the day and I was in lifted spirits till its end.
We took a looong walk back to the ship, and even managed to get some wifi in the terminal (wee-fee, as the French say it). It was time to say “au revoir” to the beautiful country with beautiful language and incredible food.
The next day we were locked on the ship again, although the ship stayed in Le Havre for one more day. But the day was gloomy and windy and rainy, and I was really tired and glad to be back.
It was Sept 17, my mom’s birthday, and I was stressed almost to tears because I knew they’re filming in a village in the Moscow Area with no internet and poor cell connection. I wrapped myself in all the warm clothes I had, used my woolen scarf (thanks Antwerp, the life-savior) to cover my ears, and went outside on deck 5 with my cellphone to try to get wifi from the terminal. I got some, and I had the phone number, but Skype kept disconnecting. I heard my mom’s voice twice, but she didn’t hear me. I tried to send her a message through Skype, and one of the three seemed to get through. So many kids here are really homesick, but I grew up in a film family and I’m used to long distances. But at that moment I was really sad.
I crept back to my cabin, jumping up and down to warm up a bit, and rushed to the dining room to get hot tea. I was frozen from nose to toes. But so far my immunity coped unbelievably well (go on mate, do the good job).
Now it’s sunny outside, and I’m enjoying the warmth from the deck chair on deck 7. The water all around turned from Le Havre’s grayish green to turquoise. The wind is still chilly, but the sun compensates for it when it’s out.
Ireland – the day after tomorrow. Have my first field lab in Dublin. Still no couchsurfing booked for Galway. I suck at planning. Okay folks. That was a long one. And it’s getting cold up here. Enjoy your day!