Qu’est-ce que le Fuck?

Sat Jul 20, 2013

This morning, I found myself running down the middle of an empty highway in rural France at 5 AM. A litany of WTF’s rang through my head.

The sun rose, gently, turning attention to row upon row of freshly-cut crops stretching exorbitantly toward the horizon. Beyond softly rolling hills in the distance, there was the faint quilted pattern of a tiny village, cows and baguettes and all. Except for the thin ribbon of a two-lane highway, it was vague what century this place haunted.

I remember hypothesizing here a month ago, in the car-loathing aftermath of backseating several thousand miles around the US, that I was finally done with travelling for a while. I had just arrived back in San Francisco, unpacked my backpack, fixed my bike, and started interning at the EFF.

A week later, realizing that I could work remotely and that there were better places for human existence than 2 blocks from Market Avenue, I bought a plane ticket for Europe. I had hatched some sort of hazy half-plan to ditch the life I had constructed in SF and backpack around a continent that I had never visited, full of languages I couldn’t speak, until my visa ran out in 3 months’ time. I would carry as little as possible, find like-minded hacker-type people to stay with, and spend most of my time writing code for the EFF, undeterred by distractions like understanding what other people were saying to me. Plus, since I wasn’t paying San Francisco cost-of-living prices and sold my Burning Man ticket, I would probably save money overall. Nothing could go wrong.

After sleeping through the entirety of the flight from SF to Paris while cradling a Kindle that I had intended to use, I unloaded myself into a subway at CDG, got off in the 6-euro-couscous-vendor district, and promptly reached the apartment of a Paris-dwelling ex-housemate who I barely saw the entire time. My impression of Paris from 2 days of aimless wandering is of a city whose historical and cultural significance is completely blighted by the lack of any usable WiFi except at McDonalds. I did not like Paris or find it fit for habitation, needless to say.

Fortunately I was rescued by a group of old friends, who invited me to stay and work with them in (1) a former convent turned into (2) an artist co-op / workspace owned by (3) a man with a pet peacock in (4) a tiny rural town in northern France. Several times a day, I will remember each of these four things in turn and suddenly feel like I’m dreaming.

This is my room:

PA-F (St. Erme, France)

PA-F (St. Erme, France)

And this is the view:

PA-F (St. Erme, France)

PA-F (St. Erme, France)

The night I arrived, we grilled meat and vegetables in the garden, with wine and baguettes aplenty.

PA-F (St. Erme, France)

PA-F (St. Erme, France)

The peacock made a cameo.

PA-F (St. Erme, France)

I took a wander around the convent and basked in its eccentricities.

PA-F (St. Erme, France)

PA-F (St. Erme, France)

PA-F (St. Erme, France)

PA-F (St. Erme, France)

PA-F (St. Erme, France)

PA-F (St. Erme, France)

I started settling into a routine after a couple days. It goes something like:

5 AM: Wake up

5:30 AM: Go for a run as the sun rises.

6:30 AM: Breakfast, shower, etc.

7 AM: Start work.

3 PM: Go to bed.

7 PM: Wake up, eat lots of baguette, start work again.

10 PM: Cook and eat dinner with friends.

11 PM: Try to work, mostly end up emailing/IRCing with people in the US who are now awake.

2 AM: Go to bed #2.

This is almost ideal, except that the only grocery store in town is 40 minutes away by foot and closed whenever I’m awake and not work-binging.

I like it here a lot. It’s quiet. There aren’t many people to talk to, since my friends are busy hacking away on a P2P video-sharing project all the time. I get to read a lot. Javascript has become fun – oh wait, maybe I have Stockholm Syndrome.



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