It's been a while, but I've been trying to get my bearings and didn't make time for writing. The city of Baton Rouge stretches out in all directions, seemingly unconcerned about space, trees, time or money. On the outside, it looks like a business town: signs everywhere, large hotels, a few casinos, restaurants and shopping malls. It is also home to Louisiana State University, and the LSU colours of gold and purple seem to be everywhere, from people's t-shirts, to large advertising signs to LSU-themed cupcakes and purple-gold tortilla chips. People here are incredibly proud of their college football team, and on football day the whole city seems to unite in a warm, friendly and celebratory way to cheer on "the Tigers" - it is a feeling quite unlike the one that exists before our football (or soccer) matches, which are neither warm nor friendly. Baton Rouge is not that big of a city, and while I still wouldn't be able to tell you how to get from point A to point B, I find myself recognising places, neighbourhoods and street names; my favourite, Edinburgh and Glasgow streets! Mark has to drive me around everywhere, and everything we need is spread out in a great big circle around the city, and it truly seems like everytime we leave Port Allen and hit Baton Rouge we drive around in one big circle before heading home. I don't mind driving around though because we always get to cross the Mississippi bridge and wave hello to the flattest barges in the whole world!
I know I have to explore Baton Rouge and see beyond its plastic wrapping, as with everything around here. I feel like I have been too quick to judge it as an ugly city - I mean my standards are set unfairly high as I lived in one of the most stunning cities in Europe for four years. Baton Rouge needs a different approach. I feel like I need to see it neighbourhood for neighbourhood and house for house rather than a city as a whole. Some neighbourhoods have massive oak trees whose dark branches stretch out thickly before bending down to the ground, others have beautiful front porches with rocking chairs and dreamy facades; some have fresh green lawns and no sidewalks, others have big, airy houses and neat sidewalks; some have houses with sunny conservatories, others have small, wooden houses with crooked house numbers nailed on the front and drooping basketball hoops on the side. Some neighborhoods are gated, while others stand gaping, entered from the main street by crossing the railroad tracks, tires thumping twice as the car climbs up and then down the steel rails.
It's not just the city - a lot of things here are new to me. The people are different. So different, that I sometimes feel invisible among them, as if they cannot see what they don't understand. That's not true of course, because I can see them even though I can't possibly imagine what their daily lives are like and how they differ from mine. Even the simple everyday things are interesting, like the high school kids stepping out of their yellow school bus in the latest crazy outfits and haircuts, from afros to mohawks to fake nails to white sneakers, things we were never allowed to wear in school, in attitudes we would never get away with. Or the black barber shop next to our house, which is always packed and open even late at night and whose surprisingly young barbers go about working in ways mysterious to me, and talking about things even more mysterious. Or how there are specific shops with tinted dark windows that sell take-away daiquiris in closed plastic containers for less than 7 dollars, provided you don't pop the cap before you go home (or in the car "long as a cop don't see you"). Or even how people speak English but somehow not English at all, which makes me feel like a bit of a weirdo as I try not to look too confused all the time. But seriously, I get all embarrassed and apologetic trying to communicate for fear I may not understand people or they may not understand me cause they said "i dun did" instead of "I've done" and I said "waTer" instead of "water".
But it's all so new and fascinating, and the mornings here are warm, humid and smell of toast. I thought the last part was cause our neighbours were making toast but then Mark said the smell comes from a factory that is close to our house. I'd rather think of it as a toast-making factory, which opens up a whole world of delicious possibilities for the rest of the strange and unidentified factories on our nearby river banks!
There are many more things I could write about but perhaps I should take them one by one instead of squashing them all in one post. Y'all have a good 'un!