Tuesday, June 26, 2007

May Week Culture Shock

Last week was (for those who aren't in the know…) "May Week" in Cambridge, a week set aside after exams during which everyone spends their days lazing around in the gardens, punting in the sunshine, drinking pimms or champagne and eating strawberries at multiple garden parties, playing in under-rehearsed but very lively may week concerts, and, most importantly, going to May Balls. Given that this is rather a lot of fun, and, especially, that most of my friends had just finished their finals and so were celebrating the very end of their degrees and their last may week, I decided to return to Cambridge for a few days.
Of course, this also meant I could take half of my stuff (perhaps slightly more than half in reality) back home from France. So on Saturday morning I left the flat in Lyon, with an enormous suitcase weighing a good 30kg and my violin over my shoulder and caught the TGV to Lille. For the two hours from Lyon to Paris Charles de Gaulle I was sat next to a (French) soldier who was on his way to Iraq for three months, and who was looking forward (if somewhat apprehensively) to his 'retirement' in six months' time and wondering what life was going to be like for him back in the real world. He also told me about his weight allowance (35kg) that meant that after his gun (25kg) he could live from 10kg plus his hand luggage. That's a lot less than my 30 (ish) I was taking home!
After that the journey got slightly more boring. I had an hour and a half to waste in Lille Europe waiting for my eurostar, and then sat next to a german lady who was reading her newspaper (in german). Crossing London was hard work, though people were very helpful in giving me a hand getting my case back up the steps out of the underground. All went to plan and at 4pm I was back home just in time to have a brief breather before heading out to the week's first party, which was a bbq (under a makeshift gazebo) for Alastair's birthday. It felt bizarre to be back but lovely to see everyone, in particular Caroline who I hadn't seen for a whole 11 months!
Next morning, church, of course, followed by drinks at the Vicarage where I met Clare, a lovely girl who happens to have sung with Greg (the world is small), and to whom I was able to explain the mystery of the green and red shoes… In the afternoon, Cripps Court garden party, before collecting Mylene from the bus station and eating a quick dinner. We then ventured out again to the Selwyn May Week Concert: typically underrehearsed but sounding excellent for it!
The rest of the week flew by, as expected, in a haze of garden parties, fireworks, choir vegetarian feast, and so forth. On Tuesday evening I went to work at St John's may ball, in the rain, which proved great fun, the highlight undoubtedly being eating chocolate cake at a "birthday party" for Isobel and me in the middle of the night. Thursday came round remarkably soon and I left Mylène to find her friend Katie, and ran off to Stansted with hand luggage only, to arrive in Lyon just in time to go to one of my schools and attend their 'reporting back' evening on our trip to England: the children had clearly missed me so it was a nice welcome 'home'.
The funny thing was, it really did feel like returning home. May week, although endless fun and a great moment to see friends, was the most bizarre culture shock experience I'd had in a long time. I'm sure getting back in the "bubble" long-term will be less strange, but getting back into it, sort of, for a few days, was definitely an odd experience.

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