I have never eaten a lot of rice or been particularly adept at making it (not like SOME people I know;). But the rice packages in French and the metric system (so logical and simple to understand, but so hard for me to grasp in actual quantities: what is 100g? A handful? two handfuls?) give me a further, significant handicap. I am ricelexic, unable to produce soft, fluffy rice that goes so well with curries and stirfries. This evening, for example, I was trying a new brand of basmati rice. As I read it, one needed 125g of rice with 1.5L of water. It was after several minutes of head-scratching that it occured to me that this was a great deal of water in a very large pot for a very little quantity of rice. In a panic, I grabbed the package and hastily tried to reread it--no, it definitely said 1.5. Were they crazy? How was all that water supposed to be absorbed in only 11 minutes?! Oh.
Oh, I see. Oh, it was 1.5 volumes of water for every one volume of rice. Oh dear. I quickly poured some of the boiling water into a measuring cup and drained the rice, then poured the correct quantity of water back in. It turned out to be my best rice-making attempt thus far, but I long for the day when I will effortlessly be able to produce my dream-rice. Perhaps I should look into buying a rice maker...
I have only seven more weeks of teaching, and two weeks of vacation before the end of my assistantship. With that in mind, I will make a tribute list of things I wish I had known before arriving:
1) I wish I had brought less STUFF. I am dreading the trip back with 3 luggage pieces. It was total folly to think I could toss three 60lb. bags through one of those super-narrow train doors one after the other and haul them through three different stations (none of which had escalators/elevators). I think I will be donating clothing and books to the local salvation-army type place!
2) In spite of the surplus of STUFF, I do wish I had brought more office supplies with me!! Buying basics like scissors, whiteout and pens has been a surprisingly huge expense, since nearly all office supplies are imported here, and yet it's generally been very necessary for my work.
3) How difficult it is to find English language books. I might have brought more books and fewer pairs of shoes.
4) Speaking of shoes, why did I bring three pairs of heels? I wish I'd known a bit more what to expect in terms of Vesoul and the, er, lack of social life. I have worn heels twice since I have been here.
5) Wish I had brought travel-sized toiletries. They don't seem to have them here. As a result I have bought toothpaste and deodorant in three countries now because I couldn't take my full-sized ones on airplanes.
Hmm. This list is depressing me. I think instead I will list things I am looking forward to doing while I am still here.
1) The market is marvelous, as always. Today one of my favorite vegetable vendors and I shared a moment over a particularly lovely lettuce. I am not kidding. She remarked, "Oh, but this one's beautiful!" in a very satisfied way, and we both stood there admiring it. I have become, without a doubt, a dedicated food-lover. I don't claim to be able to have special knowledge or skills, but my Lord. I love good food: good cheese, good bread, good wine, and of course, good chocolate. I have cooked more while I've been here than I have in the last 4 or 5 years probably, and even though I've had relatively few cooking implements, my roomies and I have managed to produce some pretty tasty things.
2) My birthday is next Monday and as Lupita's new boyfriend and I share the same birthday and I know virtually no one here, he has very kindly offered to share his party with me. The date has changed twice so far, but I think it will be one of the upcoming Saturdays. I have no idea what to expect, but if there is cake, especially chocolate cake, I shall be content. (Do they do candles here? I wonder...)
3) Our Easter vacation is coming up at the start of April and Pam and I are looking at making a trip to Spain and perhaps Portugal or Italy. We have already bought some cheap tickets to see Cirque du Soleil's Saltimbanca in Valencia, so we had better figure out a way to get there!! I am very happy to be traveling with someone who speaks Spanish. I'm sure in the bigger cities lots of people would be able to speak English, but memories of the withering looks we got in Budapest when asking for things in English is still fresh in my mind...
Here is a picture of me on a recently sunny day with the statue of the First Lawyer of Vesoul. I love this statue. It's not at all distinguished and I can't really imagine the historical First Lawyer would have been very pleased, but it makes me grin every time I see it. Well, that's all the news from Lake Woebegone!