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Tuesday, July 19, 2011

SDFs in Perpignan

Combat boots stomps toward me.  People begin to look up and stare.  Whispers drift in the air as the street people walk by the table of people seating outside a restaurant. One thing I have observed with the homeless people here in Perpignan is that many of them dress in a punk style.
People who dress punk in the United States tend to have tattoos and piercing. Punks tend to have piercing everywhere-- their mouth, nose, eyebrows, and bridge, which is the area between one’s eyes. They have their ears gaged to a size that says they don’t care what society thinks is appropriate.
Punk’s attire consists of combat boots laced as high and tight as can be. The pants of a punk tend to be cut in random spots or a neon color plaid that screams, “Look at me.” Shirts tend to look dirty, as if they have not been washed for days. And then there is the body odor that often goes along with the look.
Punks tend to be influenced by ‘70s punk style like The Sex Pistols and The Clash People take pride in the fact that they call themselves punks in the United States.
I like to think at times that I dress and feel like a punk. By piercing my nose and upper lip, gaging my ears and displaying my tattoos so everyone can see. I don’t give in to the norms of society. But in Perpignan I feel people stare at me, thinking I belong in the SDF crowd. SDF is a French term that stands for sans domicile fixe, which in English translates to without a fixed home.  
Every city around the world has street people. Some cause a bigger problem then others. But one thing about the SDF crowd in Perpignan is that they travel in packs. They all seem know each other and greet one another with a smile. Their bags unfold across the sidewalks in one big pile. The dogs of the group stretch out across the walkway to rest. When passing these crowds, one has to walk around them, making an arc that outlines the space that belongs to them.  

Thursday, July 14, 2011

My first International Music Festival!!!!!

Since the first day in Perpignan, I knew about a music festival happening on July 12th. A few people in my school group were talking about going no matter what. They are Canadians and are a huge fan of Arcade Fire. Side note, most of the members in Arcade Fire are Canadians expect for the lead singer which is American. I like Arcade Fire and a few other bands on the lineup but I wasn't certain if I was going to go. Just a few days before the concert I was talking with me roommate about this festival. And then a thought came over me. "When will I be able to get another chance to go to a music festival in France?" So the day before the concert I bought a ticket and was planning on taking a train out there but I had no idea how I was going to get back. Just to let my mom know that I was not alone. My roommate came with me.

Looking back on this experience I can only laugh at the fact that everything worked out for us without planning everything out.

The first thing that worked out was buying our train tickets. The kiosk that had English options was not taking our credit cards so we had to use one that was only in French. Lets just say both of us were in the beginner's French class. Lucky my roommate figured out how to buy our tickets however it didn't look like a ticket. So she was worried that it wasn't a ticket and then was worried that we were not on the right train. For some reason I just felt that it will all work out.

Those were the right tickets and we were heading in the right direction. We got to our stop and now it was time to figure out where the festival was and how we were going to get there. Once again luck was on our side because we ran into someone who spoke English and French and was heading to the festival as well.

Once at the festival we got front row because we were there that early.

During the festival I just relaxed and listened to the great music. I met some new friends and danced the festival away. I wasn't even concerned with trying to get back.

Fortunately for us we ran into the Canadians I mentioned earlier and got a ride home.

The festival was amazing. I have never been to a festival with a view that this one had. The rain held out until the last band came on and then it poured. But it was worth every minute and I would do it again in a heart beat.

Till next time,

Friday, July 1, 2011

Look Left, Look Right, Look Left Again

In the classic children film Santa Claus is Coming to Town, Kris Kringle teaches Winter Warlock how to walk with a song stating, “if you put one foot in front of another…” In Perpignan I find myself singing the same song in my head. However it is not all gum drops and sugar plums while walking in a city, especially a foreign one.

When I think of what I have experienced in my short stay in Perpignan so far, walking comes to my mind. I walk everywhere in Perpignan. I’m not complaining. I actually enjoy it. I think walking around an area is the best way to get to know it. However, when I compare walking in Perpignan to walking in the United States, I can see differences. One small thing is where the street signs are placed. In the U.S., the street signs tend to be place on an intersection of two streets to tell someone when to turn or where they are. However, I have observed that the street signs are placed on the buildings, which can be very confusing especially to someone not from the area. Also, the crosswalk at a streetlight is another thing I still need to get use to. Back in the States I can time out to the T when I can start walking across (using the crosswalk signs, not j-walking). While I wait to cross, I mostly look at the streetlights to tell me when to cross not the crosswalk sign. I wait eagerly for the yellow light to turn red and then I’m off. Here in Perpignan the location of the signs makes it difficult for me to count down the “it’s alright to cross.” I want to add one last observation. No matter what crosswalk you want to cross, cars don’t halt for a pedestrian. When I learned how to drive, stopping for a pedestrian was the golden rule. Here I would get frustrated at the cars for not stopping. I need to remember that the golden rule here for driving differs from the States.
My walking will continue around this beautiful city. More stories and observations awaits.