Word of the Day – Upoznavati

Upoznavati (oo-poze-nav-at-ee)

Language: Serbo-Croat

Meaning: To meet, to get to know

While we have to drive pretty quickly, with only a month to cover 10,000 miles, however we will hopefully still have the chance to meet and get to know lots of people on our journey.  Hospitality in Turkey and Central Asia is almost like a religion.  Stop to ask directions and you might get invited to lunch (or at the very least, tea) or to stay or just to be shown around town.  If you’re friendly and smile and attempt to communicate with people, they tend to be pretty friendly and welcoming.  As we all know, David Sedaris’s favorite “get to know you” line is “What do your roosters say?”  In Serbo-croatian they say “ku-ku-ri-ku.” In Turkish they say “ü ürü üüüüüü”…that’s a lot of umlauts…

Saint Emilion – Mongol Rally Day 6

Today Camie picked me up with her friend Soriah a we went for a drive through the countryside near Libourne to the ancient village of Saint Emilion. Just outside the borders of Libourne lie miles and miles of vineyards producing some very famous (and some very expensive) wines.

We had a very nice lunch in the courtyard of the town. We had escargot and felt very French (although Soriah says snails are too ugly and she won’t eat them, and also that ducks are too cute and she won’t eat them either). We took a tour of a large monolithic church carved out of a limestone cave– it was impressive and unique.

It was a beautiful and relaxing Sunday. The girls laughed at me when I told them I love the clouds in France, but it’s true. They’re so puffy and magnificent– not at all like the clouds in Seattle. I’ve been admiring them every day.

Tomorrow Camie is coming again at 9 to go with me to the Prefecture. Fingers crossed!

Saturday in Libourne – Mongol Rally Day 5

Not much to report today. It looked in the morning as if I was going to be kicked out of the hotel, since I’ve just been renewing my room day-to-day and now the hotel is full for the holiday weekend. Tuesday is Bastille Day, the French national holiday. But then by the afternoon a room had opened up, so here I remain.

Those of you who read the Group’s twitter feed will know that I had a great sandwich for lunch. Yes, this is how much I’m grasping for a story today.

I also finished reading Steinbeck’s East of Eden, which was fantastic. I recommend it to anyone. Although finishing now means that I’m carrying this book around as dead weight. If any of my fellow Group members or other Rallyists want it, just let me know and it’s yours.

Day 4: Libourne

I woke up in Bordeaux this morning, had a very pleasant breakfast of croissant, kiwi, and espresso, and then hopped on the train back to Libourne. I went first to the garage to ensure everything was okay and that the part had arrived (it had). I also asked the guy there (I guess I should learn their names at some point) if he would be able to make us a skid plate to protect the oil pan. He said no, and didn’t seem sorry about it either.

Next I returned to my hotel from the first two nights here since I’d left one of my bags there. I asked if they knew anyone who could assist me at the prefecture office. This is the equivalent of the DMV. Eventually I was told to meet someone at the hotel at 2.

At 2 a very nice French girl named Camie showed up and we walked together over to the prefecture (actually the sous-prefecture, or sub-prefecture, since Libourne is a small town). Well, the prefecture is only open 9-12:30, so clearly closed now. Seeing as it is Friday we will have to wait until Monday to try again. While I had Camie with me I decided to stop in at an insurance agent’s to see about insuring the car. This woman was very concerned about me not having the right paperwork and just generally not doing things right, but didn’t really offer anything concrete except for the names of a couple documents that I needed: the contrat d’achat (bill of sale), and the certificat non gage (something saying nobody owes money on the car to anyone, there are no liens, etc.).

All I had and thought I needed was the title/registration document, called the carte grise (grey card). On this, Sandra (who we bought the car from) had scrawled a great big “VENDU LE 25/04/09″ and a signature. The insurance woman really shook her head at this.

Back at the hotel, Camie helped me call Sandra to see if we could get these extra documents. Boy was she not happy to be hearing from me again. She asserted firmly that she had, in fact, given me (actually Anand) all the documents. Not wanting to anger her further in case we need her help at some point, I asked Camie to apologize for me and we hung up. Off we go back to the garage to see if the documents are in the car.

Camie gave me a ride in her Renault Twingo, and my first impression is that we really made the wrong choice with the Skoda. The roof on this thing rolls back like a sardine can! The whole roof! It’s awesome!

Sure enough, the documents were in the glove compartment. Of course, the certificat non gage is only valid for a month from the date of issue, which is long past. Also the contrat d’achat has Anand’s signature on it rather than mine (although not his name written out anywhere). I’m hoping that this will all just be fine at the prefecture. Wish me luck come Monday!

Day 3: Bordeaux continued

Bordeaux Gare St Jean
So I got off the train in Bordeaux and wandered aimlessly. I had no map but I eventually stumbled to what I decided must be the main pedestrian street and shopping area in Bordeaux, which was called Rue Sainte Catherine. From there I found a place to stay for the night, wandered around looking at stuff, and then tried to go to a Meetup. Yes, as in Meetup.com. I didn’t think that people still did that either, but it certainly seems from looking at the Bordeaux Language and Culture Group‘s meetup page and facebook page that people do. I thought it would be the perfect place to find an English-speaking local to help me out with the car.

I was a little confused, though, since the meetup and facebook pages each list different addresses. It turned out that they were only about a block apart, so I went to the first one, found that there was absolutely no one in the restaurant, then went to the next one and couldn’t find the place at all. So that was that. I later got an email from the group administrator explaining that meetups are canceled during school holidays (meaning now).

I had been planning to have dinner at the meetup so with that out I headed back to Rue Ste. Catherine for a kebap. Met some friendly English guys and told them about the Rally. They don’t think we’re going to be able to fit 4 people and 4 people’s kit, as they call it, in to a Škoda.

All in all Bordeaux was a bit of a bust Rally-wise. It’s a busy city, especially compared to sleepy Libourne, and it’s very pretty, but I don’t feel like I got much out of it not having any information ahead of time. Will this be the story of the Rally?

Day 3: Bordeaux

I got up this morning in Libourne, completely forgot about my intention to have the shop weld skid plates, and took the train in to Bordeaux. The train was full and I ended up having to ask a frightening woman to move her bag. She had false eyelashes and some green and purple makeup that made her look like a peacock.

Uh actually, I’m really tired. I’ll pick this up tomorrow.

Word of the Day – Nasılsınız

Nasılsınız (Nah-sul-sun-uz)

Language: Turkish

Meaning: How are you doing?

The transcription of the pronounciation isn’t quite right there, but I’m not sure how to describe how to say “ı.”   Although it takes some practice and you might not believe me, nasılsınız will eventually roll off your tongue just like “how’s it going?” now does.  When someone asks you “Nasılsınız?” the easiest way to respond (as we do in America) is “Iyiyim” or “I am well” (iyi meaning good and, as we learned last time, the “m” on the end making the noun refer to the subject).  If you’re polite, you can say “Iyiyim, senden?” (I am well, and you?) and your conversational partner will likely say “Ben de iyiyim” (I am also well).  If you want to start complaining about life, the conversation gets a lot more complicated, and anyway, no one likes a whiner; just say you’re doing well and get on with the more interesting parts of the conversation!

Libourne Day 2

I woke up this morning at 10 after sleeping almost 15 hours, not including my 2am internet interlude. I checked on the car again just to make sure it was still dead. Based on the fact that the battery was clearly charged, but that the car would do absolutely nothing when you turned the ignition I had concluded that it was the starter motor.

I took off for the garage to get them to tow it. After a lengthy conversation with the mechanic about:

  • why I was there,
  • what was wrong with the car,
  • how I didn’t have insurance
  • how insurance is mandatory,
  • how I really didn’t have insurance anyway,
  • how I would have to pay for the towing if I didn’t have insurance (wait– insurance covers towing in France?),
  • how I don’t speak French very well,
  • how he doesn’t speak Spanish,
  • how I actually speak English, not Spanish,

we agreed that I would ride with his colleague in the tow truck over to the hotel to get the car. There the second mechanic agreed that it was the starter and together we got it push-started. I drove it back to the garage like that, being very careful not to stall. I’m hoping that saves us the 100+ euro towing charge.

I came back later in the afternoon after they looked it over and was told the part would have to be ordered and it would get here on Friday morning. I’m going to head back there tomorrow morning and see if they can do some of the other work I want done, like welding skid plates, while we’re waiting. All in all, I’m glad that we’re getting this out of the way now and not in the middle of Turkmenistan.

Tomorrow after the shop I’m off to Bordeaux to hang out and see if I can make any friends there to help me with my registration woes. If you know anyone there please let me know!


By the way, I’m posting mini-updates during the day on Twitter as CBPGroup. Follow us!

The Joys and Sorrows of Skoda

Yesterday I got in to Libourne with almost no trouble after flying to Paris, then taking trains to Bordeaux and then here. I walked out of the train station and wandered aimlessly until I found a gas station and got directions to the garage a short walk away.

At the garage they pulled the car up right away, I paid our 328 euro bill and left. I’d asked the guy for directions to the place where they do the inspection, called Controle Technique or CT, that you need for registration in France. I also noticed at this point that the garage and street are called Nhevoit, not Nehovite as I’ve been saying the whole time.

Now that I had the car I wanted to get a hold of Anand for some Libourne advice. I’d tried calling him a couple times from the train but it seemed that I had his number wrong in my phone so I wanted to find an internet cafe to double-check it. I drove the car a few blocks before I spotted one so I parked and went in. Sure enough I had a digit wrong in the number, but Anand didn’t pick up anyway when I called the right number.

Realizing that it was 4 in the afternoon and I was kind of groggy, I decided to leave the car parked where it was rather than try to do the CT immediately. I took off for a walk around the city to look for a place to stay. Libourne is actually a pretty charming city, which was not my first impression based on the walk from the train station to the garage. Eventually I stumbled to a long walking avenue of shops and then in to the town square, where there is a tourism office.

The nice girl at the tourism office pointed me to the cheapest hotel in Libourne and off I went. The hotel has parking, so after I checked in I went back to where I had parked the car to move it to the hotel’s parking lot.

So I start the car. This is actually the first time I have started the car– it was already running when I picked it up at the garage. The first thing I notice is a startling grinding noise that transitions in to a rattle. There is also an exclamation-point light on on the dashboard. Not good, but the car drives so I figure I might as well move it to the hotel since it’s not far.

At the hotel I park and turn the car off. For kicks I decide I’d start it again to see if it did the grinding noise. Click. Nothing. DAAAAAMMMMMNNNN YOOOOOOUUUUU SKOOOOODDDAAAAAA!!!!!