Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Adoption and Emergency Services

I have now started two separate blog posts since the 20th, on two separate occasions, and been unable (for one reason or another) to finish and post either of them. Lame! The reason for this is that I’ve been legitimately doing responsible things. You know; eating, doing homework, sleeping, verb revision, working out, going to class… sounds boring, eh? Not boring, actually, but notably less exciting to blog about. Instead, I have ridiculous news for you.
Catherine has invited me to make macaroons and cookies in her kitchen.
I’m going to type that out one more time, just in case anyone didn’t catch it.
I am going to bake with Catherine in her kitchen.

For reference, this is what the Mediterranean Sea normally looks like.
I’m aware that I typed in my little bio box on the side that I was totally wrangling for a chance to learn a thing or two from Catherine (Who wouldn’t? The woman is an instructor at a French culinary school.) but I didn’t actually think that would happen! In fact, it should be noted that now that I’m faced with entering Catherine’s kitchen to do more than pilfer a spoon, or deposit dishes in the dishwasher, I’m not actually sure this is a good idea.
Oh… the irony…
She’s very keen on the whole idea, which is one of the primary reasons I’m convinced I may have just been adopted. At the very least, I promise to keep you up-to-date on that new development.
In other news, I was clearly not a casualty of the sea this past weekend. On Sunday morning, I was invited to go with Michel and Catherine to their favourite stretch of sand bordering the Mediterranean Sea. Accordingly, I packed up my little backpack of beach things and off we went. It was humid and warm, but the wind was easily 30km/h and the normally flat, tranquil water had regular waves rolling in. Basically, it looked like the Atlantic looks normally, and for the Med the water was unusually rough.  As a result, I did a lot of walking-up-and-down-the-beach-with-the-surf-rushing-over-my-toes, and sitting-in-the-sand-reading, and taking-pictures-of-the-gorgeous-waves.
Please note that none of this involves swimming.

This is what the Mediterranean Sea looked like from Thursday of last week until Monday.
Catherine went in just up to her waist and was knocked over by the waves. Unsurprisingly, she decided the water was too rough for swimming and got out. Michel was thrilled with the waves though, and happily stayed inside the area protected by the breakwater to bodysurf.

That's me, standing on a spit of sand that you can normally see at high tide. Sunday, the water was in the process of retreating to a low tide, and the water definitely soaked the bottom half of my dress. It was an interesting walk haha!
As you can see from the pictures, it’s not like the sea was trying to trick anyone. It’s not like it was calm one moment, and then frothing and white the next. That being said, a middle-aged couple nearby still thought it was a good idea to put on scuba masks and swim out past the breakwater. I don’t know what they were doing, exactly, but I know they weren’t wearing flippers, and that they weren’t exactly strong swimmers.
There are two buoys at the beach, a red one (closer to shore) and a yellow one (well away from the shore). I kind of assumed that the couple was going to swim out to the red one and back, that maybe they had set a fitness goal for themselves, or they thought it was normal for the water to be that agitated. Maybe they thought there would be fish to see out that far? Either way, Catherine and I watched from the shore, with the rest of the beach, as the two swimmers went out past the red buoy, and then on towards the yellow one. We commented to each other that the whole thing looked like a bad idea. What is starting to horrify me as I sit and write is that I watched, for an hour, as these two swam out into the water and vanished into the waves on the horizon.
Monday morning, reports started coming in on the news stations here. Three dead, five more missing. Seven dead, three more missing. Nine dead, six more missing. There still isn’t a final count on how many people drowned last weekend, because there are several in hospital under close supervision. 
How are you supposed to respond when you’re abroad to a situation like that?

Report from le Populaire
Guys, I’m still not entirely sure. In Canada, I’d have used my smartphone to figure out how to contact the Coast Guard and report it. There were certainly enough SNSM* helicopters flying overhead that morning to say it would have been reasonable to do the same in France. In Canada though, I’m pretty comfortable in feeling that I have the right to report something like that. That I’m able to judge when it’s a good idea to report something verses not report it. I’m also comfortable dealing with the fallout of messing up a report, or in knowing my surroundings well enough to accurately describe where I am to someone on the other end of a phone.

Canadian Search and Rescue (SAR) Coast Guard vessel. Check it out... it's bilingual!
That being said, I don’t have a smartphone in France. I’m also not a totally fluid speaker, and I’ve discovered on more than one occasion that a reaction involving emergency services is often seen as an overreaction. (Case example 1: drunken brawls in the streets and plazas with broken bottles apparently don’t merit calling the police. Basically ever. The only one I observed where the police were called involved a knife, and four people beating each other with chairs from a nearby restaurant.)
Further, France (and Europe in general) don’t use 9-11 as their emergency call number. They use an assortment of different numbers depending on the service you want. Which I didn't have memorized at the time. (I would have ended up calling SAMU, which wasn't what was needed...) The organization of the emergency services system is different too. Most are actually associated with the military, and I’m starting to think that it’s the fire department in France that handles everything the Coast Guard normally does in Canada. The result of the weekend is that I now know the three main emergency numbers used in France, but that I’m still very hesitant to use them.
… ah… I’m not entirely sure where the number 16 went, but I’m sure it’ll come back soon. It’s probably doing something important.

SAMU (the equivalent of calling an ambulance) – 15
Police – 17
Pompiers – 18

*SNSM - La Société Nationale des Sauveteurs en Mer, who are under the fire department, which is under the military. Website link below.

No comments:

Post a Comment