Being chased by pigs and killing time in Bastia

On Saturday I went to a chestnut festival with two of the American assistants. To reach the chestnut festival I had to get up at 4:40am and cycle for twenty minutes down the hill to where the bus stop is. Then I had to take a three hour bus journey and after that an hour and a half train and then another bus. When I told my mentor at the school I was going to the festival she said, “Pour quoi tu fais ça Robert? Ce n’est pas grande chose.”

It did not deter me though and just before midday we arrived at the chestnut fair. At the chestnut fair there were lots of expensive and vaguely chestnut themed Corsican products, such as: chestnut liquor, chestnut shaving cream and chestnut cheese. There were also lots of old women dressed in elaborate furs and old men chatting. I bought a Christmas themed Corsican beer, which tasted a lot like Leffe, and some really strong smelling cheese.

Chestnut jewellery? 

In the afternoon we tried to go for what the guide book described as a ‘family hike’ to the nearby waterfalls. It would take around 20 minutes the guide book said. Sixty minutes later and still no waterfalls in sight, we were forced to turn back and retreat from a group of oncoming angry mother pigs and their children. We had already faced off two separate pairs of angry guard dogs, which had leapt into the road from the grass verge and growled at us. In the pigs we met our match.

Later me and the Californian assistant took the last train to Bastia. At the station, the Canadian assistant met us. He took us for a quick evening tour of the town. After, we went back to his 500 euros a month studio attic. It had smelly mould all over the ceiling which means he can never close the windows.  The Californian assistant cooked me over boiled pasta with fried vegetables from food in his cupboards and I sprinkled my strong cheese over the top.


Later, we went out to a bar to see the Mexican assistant’s friend play in a band. The Mexican assistant didn’t come. The bar’s beer collection consisted of Foster’s Lager and Guinness, which it sold at some elevated price like 6.50 euros for a pint. Whilst waiting for our drinks, a French guy started speaking to me. I couldn’t understand most of what he said due to the music and other people so I spent around ten minutes shouting “Quoi”, “Pardon” and “Je ne comprends pas” at him, until he started asking me if John Keats and William Blake were alive. When I told him they were dead, he looked shocked and asked me why. Then I said “C’est bizarre, je ne sais pas” and tried to escape with my half pint of Guinness, which ominously lacked a head.

We stood awkwardly watching the Mexican’s friend perform ‘She’s Thunderstorm’ by the Artic Monkeys for a few minutes then decided to head outside. Outside the Californian assistant asked the Canadian assistant if he spoke any other languages and he said yes “some Mandarin, Turkish and Queccelilo”. The Californian assistant asked if the latter was a dialect of Mexican and he said it was. Then he laughed and said it wasn’t and had just made it up.

After a few minutes a girl approached us and said she “couldn’t help noticing” that we were speaking English and asked what we were doing in Corsica. She had just come back from doing a masters at Edinburgh university. We spoke to her for ages and then she introduced us to a guy who was responsible for English and international affairs at the University of Corté, who happened to be in the bar. We spoke to him for even longer.

Seconds later a lady appeared at the door and stared us out

Later we went to a club were there was a live band performing 70s rock, including ‘Blitzkrieg Bop’ by the Ramones and a man in his sixties on his own going for it at the front. At the other side of the club, men were taking it in turns to whack an arcade punch bag. The guy from the University of Corté was also there, drinking beer in the corner. I had been up for nearly 24 hours and no one was particularly drunk so we left shortly after.

The next day me and the Canadian assistant went to the morning market, where I bought a cake that I had tried the day before at the chestnut fair and hated. I ate half of it and felt really sick as I watched a pig turn round and round on a spit roast. Later on, the three of us had coffee and shared a pizza at the old port and I had to swap seats with the Canadian assistant because he said I was “slowly turning red” in the sun. The three other Anglophone assistants who I stayed with last time in Bastia joined us for a bit and then the Californian assistant had to leave to get the last train back to Ajaccio. Me and the Canadian assistant said bye to the others and walked back up to his apartment.


We took a walk to a nearby beach and it weirdly turned out that we both knew separate  guys who had worked for the same international clothing brand in two different countries who had both been arrested and sent to jail for the same crime. By the time we got to the beach, the sun was beginning to set and we climbed one of those big rope climbing frames which are shaped a bit like a pyramid. Then we walked along the train tracks towards the nearby railway station for the short train ride back to the centre of Bastia.

In the evening, he cooked egg fried rice with risotto rice, which we shared, and I ate more of the extremely strong cheese. Then we watched a French film and the latter half of Black Swan which was on French TV and is a lot worse than I remember it. I went to sleep shortly after and woke up early to catch the bus back. The door to his apartment building was locked so I had to go back up to ask for the key. He came downstairs and unlocked it for me and we said bye.

On the bus back I felt tired and unimpressed at the thought of the four work days ahead of me. I also thought it would be nicer, easier and better if I was in Bastia or Ajaccio. I ate a sandwich and fell asleep and then awoke. Walking back to my apartment from the bus stop, I realised how quiet it was and writing this now, how I can see the stars here. These are both nice things. Nice things that only exist here.

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