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Caen.Strike.01

Face à face tendu entre étudiants et forces de l’ordre devant l’université de Caen
Desfoux, Jean-Yves, L’Ouest France, 06/05/2009

Des centaines de manifestants d’un côté et les forces de l’ordre de l’autre se font face devant l’université de Caen, au campus 1. Après avoir placé des amas de détritus sur la chaussée, les étudiants ont été chassés par les forces de l’ordre, qui ont tiré des grenades lacrymogènes pour les faire reculer. Les services de la voirie dégagent en ce moment la rue, sous protection policière.

And so the violence begins and continues. I seem to be completly unaware of this, seeing that I live in the quiet district, but the police have been involved for the last month, and this week it’s gotten violent. I don’t blame them either, the students that want to go back to classes haven’t had classes since November, and they are all being held off by hooligans that want to sleep in and can’t even bother to make it to the strike marches! Shameful, the caennais!

German War Cemetery in La CambeGerman War Cemetery in La Cambe

As planned, but delayed due to normal Caennais weather (rain rain rain), our Couchsurfing activites for the weekend continued with the planned tour of the American D-Day Beaches (Omaha etc.). I went to the market early, as I didn’t have to host or pick up the German, Canadian, or American Caitlin as planned, got my food for the day and met at Patrice’s house up near the port. We chit chatted for awhile and I got to know Laura, Kevin’s friend, a little better (as she’s a bit shy). We then set off in our four, officially marked Couchsurfing cars, to La Cambe which is the German War Cemetery. After walking through the lovely gardens, we went off to Pointe du Hoc, where the rangers attacked at Omaha Beach. The place was like covered with craters and crazy to imagine how much bombing went on. In the photo you can see Kevin, Laura, Sarah, Gaëtan, Tim, and our guide Patrice.

American War CemeteryAmerican War Cemetery

After the cliffs we descended into Omaha beach and the American War Memorials and Cemeteries which are located in Vierville-sur-Mer, and Colleville-sur-Mer, respectively . All I can say is that it’s typically American, and very glorified. There are statues, and marble al around, and despite it’s massive size, it’s still a little bit over the top. However, I recognise that it’s an important part of history, and that many Americans died for freedom. Just I don’t think they need half naked statues around a cemetery depicting that! I was most impressed with the Jewish graves that were listed, and with a pretty Star of David, and thus were found intersperced through the normal crosses. I’ve also never seen so many people there, and this isn’t even in high season, so I’m told!

American War CemeteryLongues-sur-Mer

As we were leaving, we had to say our goodbyes to Kevin and Laura who were leaving for Toulouse on train and had to go back to Caen really quick, so with tears in my eyes, I said goodbye. After all, we had spent the beter part of 5 days together hanging out and making funny jokes about this or that! And so they were off, and we went on to our next destination Longues-sur-Mer which is where the Germans had some outposts and some ruins of the fighting. As we were exploring, we noticed the fog that was approaching and on the water the visibility was nearly 0, especially weird because the sun was out. That meant we had to skip our final destination, which was Arromanches-sur-Mer, because the fog made it impossible even to drive through the countryside.

And so we returned back to chez Patrice, and we had an apéro and some of us stayed for dinner. I took Stacey and Tim back to my flat and got them settled. They were incredibly polite and fun, and even Tim and I have an inside joke about how I can’t fly west, and I know that he’s never going to live it down! He’s got such a good sense of humour, and since Stacey is from a farm in Australia she has tons of stories about kangaroos and such! We both conceeded that we could never live in each other’s country because by our standards they are both deathtraps in different ways!

I took them on a tour of the churches, and gave them history lessons (ha!) about Normand and France vs. England. I’m surprised I knew so much, and then I dropped them off at the train station for their ongoing journey. Perhaps I shall stop in to see Tim in Jönköping, if I get a chance!

Since I’m totally hip and on the inside group of the Couchsurfers in Caen, I participate in all of the amazing adventures. On Thursday, we had planned a night out which would include having to dress up with something that starts with the letter “G.” Since I was spending the better part of the week exercising I got pretty lazy and when I finally opened up a dictionary to find something to wear I stumbled across the greatest idea in the history of ideas.

The night in general just gave us all an excuse to dress up like idiots, and since it was the holidays there was hardly anyone around to make fun of us. We were about two weeks late of the Carnival so people that did pass us made little comments. I elected to not go full out, and to be more witty than anything, in far of further assaults. So I chose the French word greviste which translates to a person who is on strike. What a perfect idea, living in France, right? I thought so. But what made it even better, was the fact that I was a person on strike against strikes. The irony was so good that everyone at the party thought it was great; and thus I’m a star.

If you’re wonder what’s up with the picture I’ll explain. I’m no the left, for the Mouvement Anti Grève “parce que j’en ai marre!” and because “Chez moi, on n’en a jamais!” Photographed to my left is Nico, a good friend of mine from Toulouse who dressed up as a geek, he did it far too well methinks!

This was the prélude to the weekend, as we had planned to do an official CouchSurfing D-Day Beaches tour with all of our guests. I didn’t realise until I got there of the gravity of the travellers, as there were about 20 all together, and a lot of them had nowhere to go. And so I enlisted my assistance as always, since nobody had contacted me at that point (how sad!). I agreed to take a German and a Canadian, none of whom ever showed up because they are flaky (espeically after caling me at 02h30) and then I agreed to take two lovely Australians for Sunday night before they left on Monday since Nico couldn’t have them as per work.

Here I also met some Americans that are assistants in Perpignan, Kevin, and in Lorraine, Sarah and Caitlin. We hit it off great and were chit-chatting the whole weekend. They are so lovely and I’ve really never clicked so well with travellers. I appear just to host the duds. I reckon I’ll go south to visit Kevin before I leave as the South-West is what eludes me.

Evening was a success, and I went home to rest, finally…

So what is it like to go and celebrate the night after Malena Ernman wins Melodifestivalen 2009? Not so great apparently. Awkward ambuscade party, with loads of drama, and when I decided not to join friends from a drink at a dodgy bar I returned home on bike. Upon arriving at L’Hôtel de Ville, I was about to grab a bike when a man pulled up asking for directions to Bayeux. I misinterpreted as it being in the opposited direction for rue de Bayeux, but he was looking for the town. And so I told him that I think you have to go this way and turn right towards the highway. He progressed to ask me how old I was, what I was doing, why I was going home as it was so early, if he could join me, where I lived, and if I wanted a ride. I quickly said no, wished him good luck to find Bayeux and grabbed my bike.

Few minutes later after passing Anciennes Boucheries, and État Major, there were a group of younger people there that I didn’t see or pay any attention to. I got to Place Villiers, deposed my bike and heard some footesteps behind me. A tall, arab guy came and tried to take my bike and asked why I had locked it. I told him that that’s what you do. He asked me to give him the bike, I avoided answering and asked him why he needed one. He kept going on and on in a drunken rampage about how he’s sick of it, and to fucking give him the bike. I said I can’t cause I don’t have the code.

He grabbed me, threw me over the bike-stand, and started to kick and punch me. As a pacifist, clearly I didn’t put up much of a fight. Once I realised that there were two other guys there, one of which had a camera in my face taking photos and a video of me getting beaten up, I started to panic. I told him that okay if he let me go I’d put the code in the bike machine. He kept kicking at me, and he’s so tall that when he kicked me as I was standing he hit my head (which gave me the gash). Once I felt blood on my face I felt it was time to just give in and give him the bike. I went over to the machine, even though he was trying to stop me, and lifted me up. I saw the third friend behind the panneau trying to hide, but I saw him, started to panic again, and then finally told the guy that I was putting in my code. I was about to do it, and then I bolted casue I saw him turn around. He chased me for a few meters.

I encountered another person that seemed to be in a different group of people. I screamed at him and asked him for help as the guy was attacking me. He grabbed me, kicked me, and I kept on running yelling profanities in the Swedish Language. I managed to get around the corner, panicked because I thought that if he followed me then he’d know where I live. I made it to the parking lot in front of my house, got through the gate and ran to my door.

I paniced, banged on Johannes’ door asking for help. We tried to find the number for the National Police, which I called and after 30 rings they picked up. I told them that I was attacked, where, and what they looked like. They, as always, thought I was a woman. And then progressed to ask my appearance, as there was another few attacks in the area and they wanted to know if it was the same one. I asked them what I could do, as I’m afraid to leave and I probably have to go to the hospital. They told me that they could do nothing until they had a certificate from a doctor to say that I was injured. I was livid.

DSC00011

So I called my friends who were out getting drunk, and nobody had reception except for Mattieu (who’s number I luckally found on Facebook), and then asked them to come help me to the hospital cause I couldn’t leave alone. Johannes took some photos of me, as shown above, and then I finally arrived at the hospital. The woman there was so rude that I was a foreigner, that even at 3am, Audrey had to tell the woman to be more polite and that it wasn’t fair, especially considering the circumstances. I’m getting the hospital bill in a little while.

I got some stiches, and was sent home. Unfortunately didn’t die sleeping that night, but wow. Even when I went to go play tennis with Guilhem this afternoon I was paranoid walking down the street. I have to find an alternate way to get home now. 🙁

The resulting end of this ordeal left me with sitches, a very stinging elbow, a weak and bruised wrist, bruises on both arms, ribs, legs, stomach, and feet. Extreme fatigue and paranoia also.