Monday, January 17, 2011
le premier week-end.
and voilà, i am here. i ended up taking a taxi from the train station on saturday, seeing as i didn’t really want to lug my suitcases on and off the bus. turns out that was a good choice, because i had an excellent conversation with the taxi driver – about how surprised he was that i am american (sweet?), how americans are seen in a better light now that bush is out (sweet!), and how there are several soccer teams here that i can go watch should i so desire (sweet.). plus, he brought me right to the door of the dorm offices, which i would not have found on my own. he waited for a few minutes while i checked that it was the right place, got my bags out of the trunk, and sent a ‘bon courage!’ my way as he left.
getting from that point to my dorm was certainly an interesting experience. i cannot describe the feeling of relief when i saw my name on the ‘expected arrivals’ list. the nice woman behind the desk gave me a little bag of information, along with a set of sheets and my keys, and then walked me to my building two doors down. my new home is on the top floor of the building (of course) – which is the fourth floor, but they call it the third floor here because the “first” floor is actually the ground floor. logical, if you think about it. stairs aren’t a problem for me, so i’m happy with it – the view is better. :) dragging my bags up the stairs was DEFINITELY the hardest part of the day, though! hah.
my initial reaction when i walked into the room was “oh yay, my favourite colour!!” – and that’s not sarcastic, half the room is this wonderful robin’s egg blue/turquoise and the other half is a white textured wallpaper. my second reaction was “good thing i don’t have a roommate, this room is MINISCULE.” the floor space is about three feet wide, twelve feet long. lining one wall are the cabinets/desk and lining the other wall is my “closet” (an open cabinet with a clothing bar), my bathroom, and my bed. the bathroom is a TRIP – about one square meter, with a tiny sink, toilet, and shower stall all squished in. really, it’s just a shower with a sink and toilet inside. :) the whole joke about being able to sit on the toilet, shower, and brush your teeth in a european bathroom is true – trust me.
once the initial shock of arrival wore off a little bit, i had two goals – find internet and get food. since i arrived on a saturday, i would not get meet with the ‘secrétariat’ to settle my arrival (get my student card, set up internet, etc) until monday, which meant no internet access in my room. plus, pretty much everything is closed on sunday, so i needed a way to nourish myself until the university restaurants opened on monday. on the way out, i met two girls in my building, who gave me some advice on what not to buy (cooking stuff – they had it.). i figured the library would close before the supermarket, so i headed there first.. only to find out that i couldn’t use the internet without my student card. great. i told the librarian why i needed it (“to tell my parents i am alive”) and she immediately let me use the other staff computer behind the desk, because she was a mom and she understood. i knew i loved librarians for a reason. it did take me six minutes to type out a three sentence email, however, because the french keyboard is different than an american one. but regardless, i had made contact, so that goal was checked off my list. i then headed to the ‘superU’, a market right down the street from my dorm. honestly, if it weren’t for the giant tree in the roundabout outside my window, i would be able to see it. i loaded up on some essentials (toilet paper and nutella, of course) plus a few other things (hangers!) and walked back. it turns out that my dorm is in an awesome location – only a two or three minute walk from the market AND the library. winnnnn. this is a blessing, because the campus here is MUCH bigger than belmont!
i had to wait a few minutes to get back into the building (no student card, no access), but it was nice out so i didn’t mind. someone came and opened the door, so i got back up to my room and started to unpack. it took me about an hour, but my room looks really great. i only needed two drawers and the closet space for my clothes, and the drawers aren’t nearly full. the decorations i brought ended up being perfect – they make this little space really seem like it is mine. i was super tired (and pretty bored, honestly) by 8pm, so i decided to go to bed early. in retrospect, that may have been a bad choice. i woke up pretty much every hour until 1am, which was frustrating. i had a little snack and tried to go back to sleep, and by 2am, i was out. and boy, was i out. i woke up at 10am when my alarm went off, and immediately turned it off. so i got up at 1pm. hopefully that RIDICULOUS amount of sleep will take care of any jet lag i may have gotten.
even though the weather turned cranky, sunday was wonderful. when i woke up, it was mid-50’s and sunny – a great way to start my french life. except by the time i left my dorm, it had gotten pretty overcast. but no rain, so that’s a win. my friend djamel, who studied at belmont last year and worked the language lab, came to campus to show me around. on his way here from the train station, and as can only happen in a small world like ours, a few girls had overheard him talking to me on the phone about the train schedules being different on sundays, and asked him how to get back to campus. as it turns out, they were from chattanooga. weird, huh? he gave me ‘un pétit tour’ of the school – the gym, the class buildings, the library – where we met newton from kentucky. he decided to join us in our venture to the city, and asked if his friends could come. naturally, those friends were the girls from chattanooga – claire and hope. a group of southerners was not exactly what i expected on my first day in france, but they were so great and we spoke french most of the time.
our two main stops were the chateau and the cathedral. the chateau d’angers started out as a lookout post, built in the 9th century. it was built into a true fortress in the 13th century. we went to see the tapestry first, which is 100 meters long and 4.5 meters high – you can’t imagine the magnitude and detail of this tapestry. it was breathtaking. the tapestry depicts the apocalypse according to saint john – but the political context of the time leads historians to believe that it is really describing the ravages of the hundred year’s war between france and england. after gawking at that for a while, we climbed to the top of the tower for a superb view of the city – i really felt like i’d arrived in france. it was great. the cathedral was also breathtakingly beautiful. while there, a sweet old french lady stood and talked to us for about ten minutes about the history of the cathedral, the town, and how the french are revolutionaries at heart and are going to hell because france is no longer religious. she was great. newton, claire, and hope headed back to campus around 6, and djamel and i went to find dinner. we ate these huge sandwiches that were so good – except the restaurant was so-so in his opinion. after we finished, we went to a little cuban-themed café for drinks – i had hot chocolate – ‘un chocolat’. he had ‘un chocolat viennois’. turns out, the difference is that ‘chocolate viennois’ has a GIGANTIC pile of whipped cream on it. needless to say, i’m going ‘viennois’ next time. ;) after the café, we went back to the apartment where he is staying the night, right down the street from my dorm. he watched ‘i am legend’, while i used the computer (the internet was a luxury.). i tried to watch the movie too, which was fun, because it was dubbed and the actor who voiced will smith was amusing.
i can’t lie, saturday was rough. the traveling wore on me after a while, and i was feeling pretty isolated. but spending the day with a friend on sunday made me feel so much more comfortable here – djamel is truly a blessing! he’s already helped me with like.. one thousand french words. haha soon i will be fluent.. soon. i’m starting my ‘words i learned today’ list tonight! maybe i’ll post it when i come home. :)
anyway, today is my first business day in france, so i’m going to get down to it and figure out my school stuff! here goes nothing.. :)
-jillPS- i decided to do a new post with just pictures in the coming days.. it's easier than integrating them into the text. :)