Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The Dark Side of the CERS

4 weeks’s a long and a short time altogether. And I was longing for this retreat as much as I was dreading it. Longing for being taken care of and sweating, dreading for managing to fit in and make friends.
I’m used to say that I’m naturally shy and that I’ve been fighting against this tendency for years… but sometimes I wonder if I’m not just a solitary person – not to say antisocial!


“I play football/rugby/volley ball/handball… And you play (…) ROLLER DER-WHAT?!”  I was asked this question dozens of times. This triggered a general curiosity through word of mouth. And it led me to meeting two other outcasts: Kio and Camille, Kayak Polo players (two what?). However it took me some time to talk to them. Remember, I’m antisocial…
It was so obvious that, as soon as my 3rd day, I was nicknamed Lizbeth Salander after Millenium’s heroin. “You’ve got that something…” Although I found the comparison quite flattering, I realized that I was probably scary with my black looks and my derby shirts slaving away on the muscle building equipment.


This is when I decided to socialize a bit… after one week. This is when I started to smoke, drink coffees and pester the bartenders to get extra chocolate nuts (Lynda you’re evil) although I had been trying to remain sober during my stay and reduce caffeine.

Now, did you know that it is scientifically proved –Antoine’s theory– that your body takes more pleasure in eating chocolate than kissing a girl? My theory is that it depends on the chocolate and the girl. Anyway after several days in the CERS you start eating chocolate even if you’re not especially used to. I conclude that there must be some link somewhere between the two…
By the way, do you know why stars shine? Check out on Wikipedia yourself, it’s a too long story!


The CERS closes its doors every evening at 10:30, and 00:00 on Saturdays for party time (woohoo). It didn’t prevent us to go out for drinks at the bar of the hotel next door (exciting!) and we even went to a French reggae gig at the Quicksilver shop one “night”. It may sound lame but we did spend real good times.
The CERS proposed various activities during the evenings and weekends: poker, werewolf, game forecasts, writing workshop, etc. – I don’t recommend that one. I didn’t test it personally but some sacrificed themselves to rate it.

There were games for free use and we had a go at tarot (I hadn’t played for years!) There was also this wooden game half way between air hockey and table football, with 2 wooden players that you move thanks to magnets and a puck that you’ve got to put in the goals. Memorable and indescribable fits of laughter! Shameful.
There was a prehistoric guitar in the CERS and we spent great evenings trying to tune it, doing DIY capos, and, to be honest, simply trying to play it!
One particular evening we were close to getting three yellow cards in a row because 1) you’re not allowed to play music inside if there is no coordinator around 2) you’re not allowed to play music outside because “sound is going up and disturbing people in their rooms” 3) you’re not allowed to stick your nose against the bay window and have a look to check that you actually did forget your crutch outside after 10PM, because in doing so you “cross the laser which sets off the alarm”!
…and yet, the guys playing football video games were bellowing out far louder than us and nobody ordered them to shut their mouths.


Weekends start on Saturdays at midday. You’ve got several options: taking part in the organized activities, like the writing workshop (haha), finding other occupations, going shopping at the factory outlets nearby, having a ride to Spain if you’ve got a car and you’re valid enough to drive…

My top priority was to work on my translations and linguistic puzzles. I couldn’t work at any other time because my body monopolized all my energy and I had the IQ of an oyster by the end of day. We’d meet for work groups with Laure on her veterinary stuff and Lynda on her acupuncture books (with naked people in it!)

I imposed to myself relaxation time slots too. The first weekend’s was a failure: I went for a walk at midday but everything was closed and my leg was still too weak to support me. Sucked. The second weekend wasn’t much exciting and to crown it all, Whitney died. It was the opportunity for me to watch The Bodyguard for the first time. On the third weekend we went for a little shopping with Lynda, Geneviève and Laure at the factory outlets near Capbreton. I found almost nothing because I’m too small. Life’s hard. I had been there for a small hour one evening the week before with Jeanne and Marie-Hélène but without much success already.

I kept the best part for the end: Each weekend you could subscribe to the balneotherapy recovery. Sauna, Hammam and Jacuzzi for sure, but also waterbed with massage jets and rain of warm drops on your whole body while lying on your stomach. Awesome. I forgot the cold baths on purpose not to spoil the idealistic description.


I dedicate this part to Julien the rugbyman.
Julien, if ever you read these lines one day…
Usually when you’re flirtingly approached, you get comments on your hair, your eyes… or your tits for the more daring. Now, have you ever been hit on by somebody complimenting you on the prominence of your trapeziums, the weight you can lift with your butts – “You should be called Iron Butts”, the size of your thighs – “Wow, yours are even bigger than mine!”, on the contour of your abs – “Man, she’s so strong that they look like a chocolate bar, you should see her at the swimming pool”? I have. Let’s note that these comments were not said by the same person. Sportspersons are strange.


Being locked in a closed space for weeks, even days, is enough to drive you crazy. And you sympathize with all those reality show victims who throw fits in front of millions of viewers. You experiment all the most extreme emotions and change in the blink of an eye. You laugh or cry for nothing. You go back into teenagehood (this is the cool part where you can have fun with the most stupid things and comments). 

One minute you may ask yourself what you’re doing here and the following minute you may wish that you never leave this bubble. Somehow you can’t wait to hear “Welcome back to the Real World” and yet you wish you could just postpone your jump back into life. Because it may be a hard time, but it is a salutary break for a new start. And being in the same boat with injured sibling is reassuring. When I went out, I found it quite depressing to go from [being one of the most able in a bubble of crippled] to [being one of the less able in a world of valid persons].  They say that “In the kingdom of the blind, the one-eyed man is king”. What a shock when he visits the kingdom of the two-eyed…


"So, what’s your sport again? You’re a surfer? And your name is… Justine Dupont?"
Reminded me of that time when I asked the singer of Morcheeba if she was into music. I wanted the earth to open under my feet and make me disappear.

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