I am enjoying the end of my stay in Aix. I went to a movie last night and wandered around the town after the sun had set and it was cooler and calmer. I find many things–advertisements, signs–funny: for example, the poster for “Inglorious Basterds” that quotes, in French, “you americains, can you speak anything besides English?”; and also the sign for a American style burger joint with a promotion for “Beef Crispy onions.” Other things I see in Aix lean more toward devastatingly beautiful, like the clothes in shop-windows and gorgeous people on the streets looking like manequins themselves. And recently I have woken very early and watched pre-dawn and seen the horizon bleed red and orange and seen the sun erupt and the sky lighten and later blaze blue; and in the evenings, a tired sun descends and everything grows darker and quieter. One morning earlier this week, I woke when it was fully dark out and climbed onto the second story balcony and from this vantage point saw a sliver-moon and a single star perched near to Mt. St. Victoire and moving up into the sky: by dawn, both had faded.
The youth hostel–l’auberge de jeunesse–is sort of a weird one. I now recognize everyone who works there, and when I eat breakfast in the morning I wonder if they find it strange that I am still there. My room has only one window, small and unuseful, so it is always hot and uncomfortable, and so I don’t spend much time there. The other hostelers are interesting. I met The Man From Chicago, who has been backpacking aroudn the world and has visited 127 countries; he regaled us with stories of hitchhiking across the Sahara Desert and his worst experience, in central Africa in the 1970s, when he was stranded between Sudan and the Rep. of Congo. I met a troupe of German bicyclists and a band traveling in an orange VW bus. I met a tribe of noisy boys whose chaperone was always yelling at them. I roomed with a snoring British woman who hated heat and French people, an Irish veterinary student trying to get to Barcelona, an Australian who had spent the past year teaching English in Prague, and a German girl looking for more permanent housing in Aix while she shadows a French lawyer. It has been a packed two weeks.
And the archives: I realized on my last day there that I had been saying confusing things to the staff when retrieving documents, something to the equivalent of “Yes I am completely finished with everything. And now I have to keep working.” (Oui, c’est terminé. Pardon-moi, j’ai un autre.) I am pretty sure one of the staff called me stupid. And the documents: I read European pamphlets “educating” non-English or non-French speaking peoples on how magnificent Paris and London are, and how the U.S. is “getting quite famous” (1930s). I read hilarious French reports about their interactions with the people of Madagascar, which were sort of funny but also awfully depressing. More than once, I left the archives really upset about the short-sightedness of individual and governmental action. I read directions to arrest various citizens for various crimes and then looked at the court cases, and I read memos and confidental papers. I am full of French vocabulary.