17 September 2008

Thursday is apparently a party night

J and KA and I went wandering tonight.

We all had the FLE course (which was boring!) and then a bunch of us int'l students went for dinner before J n KA and I went to the Citadel park. There is this SWEET tree with a huge branch that droops down like a swing.. we climbed on it, and admiring the cops, and then we headed to the Grand Place. And this trio of drunk guys stopped and kept hitting on us and trying to pick us up while we were sitting at the fountain; And J kept talking to them!!!!

So eventually we headed home. I've never seen so many people out and about and drinkin on a thursday. Even so, and despite the drunk guys, it was fun, and not scary. And tiring. This weekend is supposed to be fun, so I'm eager for that!

We got a ton of fun pics, that I'm sure will be on facebook at some point.

OMG! The first week of classes, can you say


So I was quite convinced that this may be the worst semester ever, after going to the two classes I had last week. thankfully, I feel a lot better now.

I had a bunch of classes already this week. I understand ALL of them better than I did the lit and writing class I took last week. Which is great. It makes me feel SO much better. Even more impressive, it seems that I won't have too many papers this semester. It seems that most professors just use the midterm and final for grades. (I suppose this could backfire, but for now, i'm happy to have less work to do)

One of my classes is an Islamic Civilisation class, that I think is going to be really cool. Plus I'm having my notes from Judiasm and Islam sent over from home, as I think they'll be a big help. And the french history class sounds cool, as it is 16-18th century, which I think is an interesting period of time. Then there's old french... which is terrifying. Yet fascinating. I think I may stay in it for now, and drop it RIGHT before the final, so I can learn stuff, but not have what will surely be a crappy grade on my transcript. Also, I have 2 more sociological classes, which is absolutely wonderful, as I'm excited to see a different (non NU, non american) approach to such issues. This is me being REALLY excited. (yes, i know, i'm a nerd. But name calling isn't very nice. lol)

The professors seem to be very aware of international students here. This is good and bad. On the one hand, I've had several professors tell me there is a special exam for Int'l students (a 'lite' version), and they seem very eager to help, etc etc. But on the other hand, I've had a couple that seem to think I'm a complete moron just because I'm an international student. If they allow my actions to change their minds, it won't bother me, but for at least one of them, I'm fairly certain it will be more difficult than that. And I can't stand being smiled at condescendingly and essentially patted on the head and shooed out of the room. -grumble-

But i'm not upset, not yet anyways. I'm too excited for that! Now that I feel fairly certain I'm not going to fail, I am really hyper excited for this semester. The professors aren't NEARLY as mean as all of the study abroad people (at both universities) tried to convince me. They're approchable, so long as you don't argue, etc. (i am going to miss dropping in to bother professors for no academic reason though!) The classes aren't nearly as big as I thought they would be, and out of 10 prof's I've met so far, I could understand nearly everything that 6 of them said, a great majority of 2 or 3 and at least 65% of the rest. So I'm not as entirely behind as I feared.

So I think more people should come here. It isn't a terrifying perfect students only program, like I feared it would be. In fact there are a few students here who have taken all of 2 or 3 years of french. Plus there are classes in english, spanish, and a few others.

Now I just need to find a french person to bother. Almost every international student I've met is way more comfortable in english than french (and that counts asians, russians, dutch, germans etc) so.. that's more or less the official int'l student language. My current plan is to choose an afternoon to just sit at a cafe for like, ever, and pick someone at random who looks approchable. Well, other than making friends with french students that is.

And poor Stu!! He still hasn't gotten his money/bank card, etc. Hopefully tomorrow. I have a feeling he's going to self destruct if he doesn't.

And I've discovered that phone cards are extremely obnoxious. I've tried 3 brands, one of them doesn't know how to count minutes and blatently steals them, another only works 50% of the time, and the last isn't bad. Which wouldn't be a problem, except that the last time I needed one I tried about a dozen tabac's before I found one. I may order one off the net... I think it would make my life simpler.

I'm STILL going to the computer room to get internet, and the connection seems to break with more frequency now. yay........ If it gets much worse I'm going to have a lot of trouble getting my thesis started, and doing the extra work I'm sure i'll need to do to keep up in some of my classes... :/

i'll post again soon!

ps.. omg, I'm in FRANCE (i have this random thought at least 3 times a week.)

Yay for the Weekend

I know, it isn't the weekend anymore. But that's what I'm gunna write about, so there!

My weekend was rather blag, but with some fun high points. Everyone was being studious, seeing as we had our first 'week' of classes. Lots of just chillin'. Jen and I took Stu to see the pantheon cathedral, and the spooky alleyway. It was fun. And then we sat in the garden behind my residence, and Stu tried to climb the lil tiny trees there (it didn't quite work! lol).

I love Lille! It's so much fun to wander. Sunday I did just that, taking pictures until my camera consumed all the batteries I had with me. (my camera is a battery pig) I am eager to get some more so that I can take more pics. It is amazing how... small this city seems. It's (i think) the fourth largest city in France, and I was worried about coming to it (as I am total country girl, and feel quite uncomfortable in cities) but it feels more like a big town to me. I tried to get a sound clip of St. Catherine's bells ring, but I need to try again as I missed half of it.

Sunday night Jen and I were bouncing off the walls.. we got yelled at for being too loud, and she was doing shots of my chocolate ice cream sauce. i love it! It's a great relief to have an ever growing circle of friends/acquaintances already. If I can make this many friends, already, anyone can!

What else?

I called home again. Got to talk to W (just about my best friend). I had to wait FOREVER though, as he is 8 hours behind, instead of 6 like home. Well worth it though, and I have his address now sos I can mail him stuff.
Talked to my mom forever, she rocks.
Not much contact with J though. He was at some truck thing. It's ok though. I'm glad he's having fun.

And that was my weekend. Next weekend, I hope, will be more exciting.

14 September 2008

First Week of Classes

Monday was without anything exciting. Still going to the comp room for internet. One interesting thought... is there and should there be a universal language? Guillemette new about the street youths! She is going to get me an article... -yay-

Tuesday... missed half of class because I didn't feel well, and then walked to the meeting to sign up for courses. Can you say Chaos?? They put up a schedule from each department on the wall, and then turned loose about 100 students to try and find the times for the classes they wanted, and make a schedule. It took a long time, and was absolute insanity. Plus, we had to pick courses which only had half the title up there (like "french history" what KIND of history???). So many classes conflicted that I ended up choosing a lit class at random just to fill the space, because I didn't have any more classes on my list. Complete insanity. The french need to learn about this cool thing called the internet :D
In the evening Jen and I met some other international students on our way back, and they were from about a zillion different countries. We ended up showing a girl from Jen's school around Lille. We took her to CarreFour, and helped her figure out what the stuff she was buying was, and then we swung by the Grand Place to show her where all the other necessities and cool sights were. And I got the eiffel tower earrings I wanted for my sister. Now only 1 to go... And I got a cheap pan, so now i can cook! Hurray!

Wednesday was my last class for the summer course, at long last! I'm going to miss the talking, and Guillemette, but I'll be glad to move onto some new material. Next to no one was there. Lunch at the Rue again. A guy asked me something, and it was loud and he talked fast. When i asked for him to 'repetez moins vite' he just switched to english. Grr! Orientation turned out to be a great time to catch up my journaling, lol. And kendall and I managed to lose the tour. They were going up to the computer room, and we thought they'd be right back, but they apparently left a different way... oops!
Wednesday evening was the welcome dinner at the residence. Jen and I got bored quickly, so she dragged me off to find this tiny, creepy alley she had discovered on her first day in Lille. We couldn't find it for the longest time, and decided it must be a magical harry potter-esque alley. We did find this cool Roman/Greek esque cathedral though. It looked more like a greek pantheon than a church, the carvings on the front even looked like greek gods. It was HUGE, and had another of these random, red brick clock towers that are near a bunch of the churches. Behind the church, we found a fenced in area with giant army trucks in it. (it can't be fun driving those down the tiny lille roads!) We wanted to go play with them. There were lots of old, pretty buildings in that direction. The coolest one had to have been the headquarters of the French Bank. I'll try to get some pictures of it. And a pizza place where you can get all the toppings you want for 10euro.
We finally found the alley on the way back. And it was tiny! Just enough for me and jen to stand side by side. And dark, and creepy. Jen kept coming up with these strange thoughts, like a butcher could be standing in that doorway, with a big knife! I was SO tempted to grab her and scream, just to see what she'd do. I restrained myself though. Gold star for me! lol.

Thursday was... depressing. I had my first class at 8am. Which meant I was up at 6. Yuck. The class was... scary. It was the randomly chosen class. The prof was really nice, but it's a 300 level comparative lit class (i didn't notice the 300 part when Bray told me to take it). And it's on theatre, which I only understand in Dr. Borgstrom's classes. lol. I understood about 70percent of what he said. He went over all of this stuff about spanish theatre... I was well and truly overwhelmed. I don't think this will be one of the classes I keep.
The placement exam for the FLE class was quite easy though. I wish we got to see the results though, because i just wanna know what i did wrong! I am trying not to be nervous about the results, as I will be happy with either the middle or higher level class. Guillemette teaches the middle class, and she rocks. But I would like to be in a lvel high enough that i learn something new.
Something I learned Thursday... apparently PC's set off the library alarms here. Sorting that out was interesting. Trying to talk to people here has quite lowered my faith in my french speaking abilities. Also, apparently pop machines need exercise too. This one had the moving shelf do-hicky that makes sure the pop doesnt get shook up, and it ran it up and down randomly every so often. good stuff.
I got to talk to my momma! i haven't done that in, like, forever.
While my french speaking has been depressing, my social skills aren't failing me. I have met so many cool people here. From all over the place, and all kinds of cool experiences. There's always something to do or people to see. It really is a great experience. Hell, it would be fun even if i came to take english classes and just experience lille.
J and I got to talk for a decent amount of time, which was really nice as we talk for all of 5 or 10 minutes most days. I lvoe webcams :) Especially as i get more used to talking to a computer in a room full of other people. lol I just wish you could get hugs over the internet! :)
Also interesting- class rooms are ALWAYS locked. Every prof locks the door when they leave, so you can't get in until your prof arrives.

that's it! All the back entries are done. I'm gunna take a break, and then I'll get friday, sat and today done.


13 September 2008

La Braderie

From my journal:

Sun 07 Sept 13:53
Yesterday was fun and interesting. The weather was rather crappy. It couldn't seem to make up its mind. To be cold... or not to be cold? I got up at a decent hour to get my phone fixed at Euralille, but it apparently magically fixed itself, cuz it worked fine. Don't i look stupid? The braderie was already in full swing. There were stands everywhere. And in all prices, from dirt cheap to ridiculously expensive.

Weds 10 Sept 8:48
I bought lots of books on the way back from Euralille, all in french of course (i am a total book worm). And one dude had, what i'm quite certain, was a book by the Marquis de Sade. I found the french version of the big white all-about-horses book, for 3euros. After that I wandered for, oh, about forever. There was tons of jewelry (i got some belly rings from a guy who refused to speak to me in french) and clothes and on nearly every street there was some one selling scarves. And the awesomest knives ever. All decorative and stuff (both the retro medieval style, and some with cool sheaths with a picture on it) I wanted one so bad, and to get one for Ward (one of my (if not the) best friends). I asked this guy about a gorgeous, medium sized carved horse, and he wanted SEVENTY euros for it. I was ready to move on. Way too much for my budget. But he was convinced I needed to try to barter. So I told him the highest I would go was 15, in hopes he'd just turn me down (i need to learn to say NO). No such luck. We barted down to 25 and before I could make up my mind whether I wanted it, I had the horse in a bag, and he was taking my money.
By this time I was worried about getting to the meeting with Lalie (one of the french students) in time, but it was SO packed getting to my dorm. For a while there was literally NO movement. I was worried that someone would bump into me and break the horse. Even Rue d'Angleterre was busy- I ended up going a block out of my way to get there on time. But, luckily, I didn't get there late. It was a bit difficult getting situated in the group, what with all the new people. But I eventually ended up with Stu and Katryn, and frome time to time, Jen. I asked the french students about the dog-kids, they didn't even know what I was talking about. Grr. We stopped at Mme Bray's church's bake sale, and took pics and then headed to the train station in order to see the free concert. Rue Bethune was so packed- we lost the group over and over. We stopped for lunch/dinner (I hada ham and gruyere feluche, it was really good) and when we started again, Akiko Seinna and Jen got left behind.
There were these funky invisble whistles that were so piercing, and a shoe store that had boots with the arch open- like a cross between boots and dress shoes. It was interesting. At the gar, there were native Americans dancing and playing instruments. It was really cool, and about the last thing I would've expected to see in Europe. I wonder how authentic they are, and what brings them all the way to Europe. Do they live here? What generation are they?
So, we found the c oncert, and everyone wanted to stay near the stage, but OMG it was so loud. So we ended up sitting on the grass off to the side. Stu was very eager to begin the partying part of the Braderia, so we went to CarreFour. Only, when we got there, all the liquor was blocked off by huge pallets. And there were guards standing and watching us, like "i know what you're thinking. Don't even try it." There was a whole group of people standing there, like "what now?" So we went back with out Stu's liquor.
Stu bought a scarf at the braderie and was trying to put it on his head cuz he was cold. So I put it on him like a hijab. Let's just say Stu is really cute in muslim drag. (no offense meant to those who are, after all, I only know how to wrap one b/c I've worn one before).
And I found out that Jen lives in my dorm, so I officially know someone who lives here. She's from alberta, in a french speaking university, which is sweet! It got so cold at the concert that us girls were 'huddling' for warmth, and then dancing a bit. lol.
The last singer was quite interesting. He hit every note on the scale at least once in every song, and used cymbals in the first song rather than a guitar or something. And in every song he did this strange high pitched wail/moan thing. It was a wee bit disturbing. But he had a few really good songs, during which groups of people would bounce and run up to the stage and dance and stuff, it was cool.
During the concert there were random people/employees? with giant balloons strapped to their backs, and they LIT UP! It was awesome. Jen got a pic. They dropped these giant balloons filled with confetti from a bridge onto the crowd at the stage, and when they popped, they made a huge cloud of confetti. During the concert, the host chose a few girls (of course, girls, and attractic ones, not guys etc) to go back stage, and the security guards literally dragged them over the fence. And lots of people had these red balloon-sticks that they banged together.
We left the concert early to go to the bar (and to avoid the crowds) We made a chain so we wouldn't lose anyone. lol. Jen and I skipped and danced all the way back. And we saw a bunch of guys playing leap frog down the street! I wanted to join them, but they got yelled at by someone and stopped :(. There was lots of noise and lights and garbage and music everywhere. It was completely awesome.
We ended up at this jamaican-esque bar with fun tropical fruit filled drinks. Jen and I left 'early' (as in before everyone else, but it was already well into the AM's) I checked out Jen's room, which looks out on a back garden I didn't even know existed. And her room is strange- there are actually 2 rooms, with a doorway in the middle of the dividing room. But they're both tiny, just barely wider than the doors. One had the bed and sink, the other had the desk and storage space.
And I found out the international office has free dorm stuff!!! I could've had pots and pans and.. omg. Why didn't they mention this when I visited them! But at least I can go and get a comforter.

Weds 10Sept 15:31
I got up late, it was so good.
Jen and I went to the corner and found some scarves. I bought one for one of my sisters, and one for me. We went back down Rue de la Liberté and I found a cool bag for 3 euro. The guys there were all excited when they found out I was american and Jen's canadian. The first thing they wanted to know is if I'm voting for Obama or McCain. They were very excited. lol. They changed their selling pitch to include how awesome they were cuz they had an american and canadian and ch'ti. We saw lots of fun clothes, and knives. We managed to find the Porte de Paris. It was very pretty. Euralille was closed. I'm going to go back and get some eiffel tower earrings for another sister. The native americans were still there. Jen bought some cool coins at the Vieux Bourse (they havel ots of used books and stuff all the time).
I spent the evening in the computer room, as the internet continued to not work in my room. It's rather obnoxious, especially when you're the 4th+ person in and end up on the floor. Ah well.

11 September 2008

The First Week

Note: I enrolled in a summer intensive french course, in hopes to improve my writing, and other abilities, and get up to par for a real french unversity. Classes started Tues 25th (26?)

From my journal:

02/09 Tues 22:47

Wow! It's been forever since I wrote in here.
Last Tuesday was the 'assessment' exam. Total waste. It lasted a few hours, and then I visited the International Relations Office. 5thus far, they are friendly but not of much use.) I got a tour from their intern. I may need a refresher course though. I seem to forget all the details of visual tours and such. The school restaurant looked like it could be promising though. Lots of choices. I think Clet maybe better though.
Wednesday was the first day of class. It was OK. We did some general get-to-know you stuff, and it wasn't TOO bad. I had lunch with Katy and Kathleen. The restaraunt owners spoke english, which was probably a good thing when it came to ordering. The food wasn't too bad and K&K seemed nice. Another international student joined us just because he heard us speaking english- apparently he hasn't had the opportunity to here, and misses it. We went to Mme Bray's afterwards to sign up for Student ID cards. (note: Mme Bray is the go to for international students when it comes to classes, grades, and well everything academic.) But I had no picture with me, and apparently be are REQUIRED to have a cell phone. So I must go back later.
(Monday I walked to school to get an approximate 'commute' time. I stopped at Sacré Coeur on the way back. OMG! Way better than Notre Dame de Tr. It's more... real, authentic, less touristy. And the stained glass is way better, the images are bigger so you can actually see them. It's very old, and not fully restored. I like it. Oh, and it has this remembrance to the soldiers (of WW2 i think) alcove, with this great statue of Mary and Jesus, and the best sections of stained glass. I liked it alot. Once again, i NEED pictures!)
Wednesday afternoon we got dragged on a tour of Lille. It was long, boring, and after a week of wandering on my own, it didn't teach me anything new. ugh.
I met Sally, from Harvard, on wednesday as well. She's pretty cool. She speaks erm... I forget the proper term for 'iranian' and is studying literature. Good stuff. Too bad she isnt staying for the semester.
Thursday was the first 'real' day of class. It was... awful! We started the passe compose. So much for learning something new. It was uber boring. I went to Mme Bray's to finish my SI card stuff after lunch, and to Mme Aviez's for the french SSN after that (apparently semester students have to have one too... on the plus side, i may get some money towards my room and board.)
Oh! And wednesday evening! I was flipping out because I didn't want to buy a cell phone, that's just not in the budget. I made a shopping list, took my remaining cash, and headed to the train station. I finally found somewhere to eat, across from Lille-Flandres (the train station). Sat down, got this great tortellini with a cream sauce and smoked ham. And I was -trying- to take my time and savor it. Reading a book. And then all hell broke loose.
This guy goes flying across the square infront of the train station, with a zillion cops chasing him, with police dogs. There's a tussle by the train station (with more cops) and a cop car flies up with the rear passenger door hanging open. They have some guy on the ground... and then the tear gass wafts across the road and onto the terrace of the restaurant. OMG. It burned the eyes, the throat, the nose... sinuses that I didn't even know I had. Tears, runny nose.... Needless to say, I finished my dinner inside; Not that I had much appettite left after that.
After dinner I finally made it to CarreFour. The lady there told me I couldn't get a phone there (then? idk) so I went to SNF. I waited in line forever. During this time, a nice seeming man tried to talk to me, but we had sever language issues, as his french was accented, my comprehension and speaking werent the best, and his english was not so good. There was a woman there who was immensely interested when she found out I'm american, and we talked for a while. Of course none of them let me use french. No one seems to, if they can, they switch to english. Grr. But I got my phone!
Friday I filled out more paperwork, and tried to find out about getting a bank account; thus I went to class late. This was very good, since we were STILL working on the passé composé. During the break I ate with Earl and Alana. Again nice people. Chicken nuggets, not so nice. I feel bad for the two japanese girls in class, they don't seem to understand a lot of what's going on, and once we get out of class, it seems like everyone switches to english, and i'm not certain they understand any of that. After class I went out for a drink with Kendall and Stuart. Which was pretty cool. Stuart is the shit. He's fun and flamboyant and a total non-conformist, liberal.
I'm rather proud of myself for being so social with strangers. I usually find it hard to establish new friendships, but I'm really enjoying myself here, and while its difficult to hangout with people who came from the same school, I am meeting lots of new, exciting people.
Saturday I hung out with a couple of people from class. OMG boring. They were very much gamers (not to insult gamers, i like to play from time to time) and thats all they talked about the WHOLE day, and personally, I know nothing about any of the games they were talking about. It was like listening to a pair of brain surgeons... or .... auto mechanics. We saw Star Wars the cartoon, in french, and it was pretty good. Going to the movies made me a bit homesick though, the only time i ever go is with J. We went to the zoo after, and got some ice cream. And then... Le Furet du Nord!!!
I love this book store. It has 7 (?) floors (albeit, small ones, as this is old Lille) full of fun books, and stationary and fiction and dictionaries... lets just say i got lost. I bought a TON of books. It made my day much brighter. Carried 'em all home without a bag... my arms were tired.
Sunday was good. I went to the marché at La Place de La Concert, which is literally 30 seconds from my residence. It was, i think, better than wazemmes. Smaller, more french, quaint. The apples were soooooooooo good. I ate them all in a couple days. And 'Monsieur Fromage' (as Jen and i have named him) was really nice. He, of course, switched to english as soon as I spoke all of 2 words. (this may be because I used the wrong vocab. oops. retourner dun equal return.) He had me try all the cheeses, and actually spoke english quite well. It was nice to be able to communicate with out so much difficulty (plus, somehow, i don't think i have all the necessary vocab to discuss the traits of fancy french cheese). Holy expensive cheese though! Damn. But I got a lot of tasty food, just a few feet from my residence. Good stuff. I went to the movies (Hancock and Un Mari de Trop) which I didn't understand much of, although I followed the story line without a problem. Read some of Offrande Brulée, which thankfully I understood just about all of. And I lost the internet for the whole night. wth.
Oh, and at some point, I went to les toilettes and 'accidentally' shut the door too hard (as in, it shut completely! crazy...) and I couldn't get out for, like, ever. I was in there beating on the door and yelling until the door finally bounced open under all of that beating. (note: I was quite uneasy using that particular bathroom after that, until I noticed recently that the door WAS fixed after I told the guardian, and it cant get stuck. yay!)
Monday. More class, more boredom. I had lunch with Stu, K and Rachel. We went to the AEU restaurant (school resto, aka the Rue) and omg, it was worse than high school food. Not much more (quantity wise) either. Stu and I got the 'dinde' which the server told us was chicken (so turkey/chicken?? wth?) It was definitely less than appetizing. Very good fries though. Stu and I sat at the window and people watched.
After class, I tried to do laundry. I didn't know I needed 'jetons' to do laundry (they probably should've told me that when they showed me the laundry room...) And then the machine wouldn't go, nor would the door open (despite the RA's best efforts to make it go. So all of my shirts were locked in the washer over night. The next am, the concierge hip checked the door, and it went. So I spent the AM doing laundry rather than going to class. (yay!) My sweaters aren't drying too well either. I basically was a couch potato most of the day. (note: my sweaters, which are 'lay flat to dry' took 5 days to finally dry... not gunna wash them all at once again!)
Reading aloud is good. Definitely helps pronounciation. I like it.
And I've lost the internet, again. Did i mention this place sucks REALLY BAD sometimes?

Fri 05 Sept 8:11
Wednesday was ok. Class was boring (like always). Lunch was good though. We (stu, k and i) went to "Les pates" (pasta) at the Rue. SO good. The ham sauce was good. Heck, even the fish sauce was good. So, I've decided I should go there, and only there, from now on. And Stu is the shit. I can't wait till he moves from his homestay (way outta town) to the residences so we can go out to a club or something. Dancing is good.
Thursday was better. Guillemette is finally back. I like her way better. Still no new grammar though. We went back to the first Rue resto for lunch- rachel was there. It was awful, again. I am NOT going there again. dang it. Rachel managed to meet some spanish international students in the line, and we sat with them. It was great fun.
After class, I went with Stu and K. They showed me the supermarché and we 'went for a beer' (they do this once a day, or so) I had a fruity schweppes that I swear, tasted like a Mike's. And poor Stu discovered that he had lost his wallet. We hope/think he may have left it in one of the Univ professor's offices. If it isn't there... well it'll take a LONG time to get a new bank card from home.
(note: I got what I though was a bill the same day, and it was asking for AUGUST's rent, which I already paid. I had a mine drama queen moment, but it turns out it's just a random confirming you paid letter. Two weeks after I paid... But all the other stories tend to put my minor issues in perspective)

Fri 05 Sept 23:09
Today was good. Class wwas OK, I like Guillemette. But enough is enough of the verb tenses review. I would really like to spend more time talking. I need to ask the int'l office about a conversation partner. Guillemette told me I didn't need to worry about the Advanced French for International Student's placement exam. (i really don't want to go over the passe compose AGAIN). Pretty much told me i'll be in the top class. She also all but told me my spoken french sucks. Which I knew already. I can think, write and read french without any issues. My oral comprehension of academic french is just fine, although ever day french is a bit (hah, a bit) harder. but when I speak.. it's like my lips confuse my brain, and i screw up tense and lose my vocab and say 'euh' a lot. grrr.
After class, Stu and I ran around looking for his wallet. There was no sign of it. Poor Stu. So then we tried to get all the stuff together for him to open a bank acct, so he could transfer money from his home bank acct to this one. but he just didn't have all the paperwork. So he's just screwed till next week. I loaned him some money to get him through.
I met some international students today. It was cool. One of them lives in my residence, actually. Stu literally chased 2 of them down to see if they wanted to do lunch. 4 blocks later... So we went for drinks (stu's resto wasn't serving food anymore. grr) and went to the Grand Place, the Furet du Nord (which is still amazing) and got food. Crepes with ham, egg, cheese for me. Not my favorite food, but it was pretty good. I should try them with something sweet, I think I'll like them better. We stopped by my residence (cuz it is all of 5 minutes from the Grand Place. Which is AMAZINGly cool.) and hung out in the TV room for a while. The couches there are SO comfy. Stu taught us a bunch of fun stuff in sign language. And it rained. and rained. and rained. I walked Stu and K and Broc back past the Catho to see their rooms. Kat's was sweet cuz it had the cutest little balcony. Broc's was way up on the top floor of the international residence. He swears he hasn't met another itnernational student there yet. His room is rather musty, and apparently it drives his allergies completely nuts. Poor broc. It has a kick ass wardrobe though, which is so big it must have been put together in the room, cuz there is NO way it fit through the door. We listened to some cool french music till Stu had to go home. Kat and I walked him to the metro and found an Aldi's!! Yay! We're going to go back and explore. I wonder if they carry the same stuff everywhere, cuz I would love some american popcorn, and ramen noodles would be so easy to cook here.
We saw the cutest puppy ever! He was dragging this stick bigger than he was while he was out on his walk. I luved him. It's driving me nuts that I can't think of that breed though, I know I know it.
Broc says the homeless dog-kids down south tend to choose to be that way. It's easy to live in the warm climate, pick some fruit, keep the dogs for company. I really want to find some articles on this stuff, I think it would be a great thesis topic.
Rachel missed class today. She managed to get locked IN her house. She couldn't figure out how to unlcok the door. LMFAO
My phone is broken. It won't let me load my minutes, or call any one, or receive calls. Grah. So i'ma go to Euralille tm, maybe the people at the SFR can make it go. I hope my french can get me through that convo!
Oh! and the internet is gone for real now. I have to go to room 102 to get it back. We'll see how that goes...
The braderie is tomorrow!!! yay!! (note: the braderie is from the french verb brader- to sell at a very low price. They close down most of the streets and it's this HUGE flea market with street performers and cool food.)
Kat's arrival story is a hundred times worse than anything that happened to me here. Her wallet disappeared, and it had all her ID's and several grand in euros... This nice lady helped her, and took her to the police to report it. The hotel even offered to put her up for free. Luckily, it was turned in 4+ hours later, and the only thing missing was 45 euros.
It rained. and my umbrella is NOT big enough for two people.

The first weekend

From my journal:
22/08 Fri 13:26
I walked yesterday, and walked, and walked. It was fun. I got to call J for more than 2 minutes. Poor guy, I interrupted his lunch break.
I came back here to discover that the 'sheets' i found (after much work intensive searching) were actually the skin of a quilt. Damn. I have to go back to CarreFour (a walmart-esque store) anyways, but WTH. (btw, it took FOREVER to figure out where to buy sheets. I thought EuraLille was part of the trainstation, not a mall. oops)
Then I got sick. (i'll spare you the details) Not good. I finally got to bed and slept till 12:30. I still haven't had a restful, straight through night's sleep.
I finally rediscovered the guardian (i have since learned her name is Mme Masse) and now have a general idea of where to find her. Yay.
I definitely think Lille is astounding (and not as big as i feared). There are so many little roads, and big houses. All of it is so old and magnificent. Now if I could just find a good restaurant to try. (note: i'm rather timid, and a picky eater, so I was quite uncertain about my about going to a restaurant, alone, and in french, and finding something to eat).

22/08 Fri 22:24
At long last, the internet! I happened to hear voices after my shower this am.. er.. afternoon. (wow, there ARE other people in this place!) T'was Mme Masse showing another student around. So now I know where to find her, and I got the password for the internet this evening.
But no J till very late. I miss him!
I feel shitty as all hell though. My sleep pattern is all screwed up, and I was sick all of last night. I have yet to eat a real meal. I hate going out for food alone. And I went shopping, and bought the french version of frosted flakes... it tastes nothing like frosted flakes. Sigh. Tomorrow, I must try a café or something, and eat some real food. Hell, McD's would be better than junk food I've been eating...

23/08 Sat 11:26
I woke up at a decent hour today! Hurray! And I now know that other people live here- at meast two guys and two chicks. This is great, just knowing I'm not alone in this place, but I now feel a bit self conscious running around in my towel at shower time. Darn it, but i'm never satisfied. But then, who wants to meet their dorm mates for the first time, dressed in a towel and sporting awful bedhead?
I got to talk to J last night, it was wonderful. Now if we could just get our stupid cam & voice chat to work so I can hear and see him when we talk, instead of just typing.
Today I'm going to walk to school and the park and the Citadel. I'm also going to eat real food- before I die of malnutrition.

23/08 Sat 13:15
Le pain au chocolat... c'est absolutement magnifique! Je l'adore!
It sure is cold in Lille, no wonder people run around in heavy coats in august. Gotta be prepared for the random weather changes if you walk everywhere (which i love! walking everywhere that is, not the strange weather patterns)
I got up today, took a shower, braving meeting the new guys in a towel, and went to the patisserie, for said pain. I took it to the park to eat, but had to head home much too soon- not enough layers on.
I REALLY need to take pics! Everything is so gorgeous!

24/08 Sun 22:39
So I convinced mysemf to eat a real dinner last night. I wandered for a while, and even though I wasn't feeling too hot, I finally stopped at this place off La Grand Place. Poulet-Frites. It came with this awesome cream sauce (white gravy?). It was a quarter chicken, roasted. So good! And the salad was good too, with a dressing I can't describe, as I've never had one like it before. I kept the cool, heavy, retro coke bottle. I believe the waiter found that just a bit strange.
This morning I was up at 9! Yay me! I walked down to the Sunday market at Wazemmes. It was awesome, packed with cool stuff, like clothes, shoes, plants, a billion poulet roti stands, fruits and veggies. Good stuff. I bought a chicken and potatoes. I should be able to eat that for a couple days.
On the way to the market, I passed La Place de la Republique. It was amazing. Without a doubt the most beautiful place I've seen thus far. I love the museum des Beaux Arts, and the awesome fountain, and the writing for the Declaration on the ground. T'was awesome.
So then I went to the zoo. They had some coom animals. Lots of monkeys. No lions though. But the rhinos were cuddling, it was so cute. (btw, it was free! how cool is that)
The Citadel is so cool. I love it. It reminds me of Fort Niagara, only a bit modernized and still in use. I wish I could see inside. It'd be interesting to look into its history. (the walk around the outside of the citadel was awesome too!)
Then I visited Notre Dame de Treille. I was looking for this cool tower I see all the time, and got turned around, and ended up there. That church is astounding. The detail is amazing. And I must look into the symbomism of the right tympan. The bishops are standing on people, instead of pedastals... weird. And all the alcoves (?) were interesting. Lots of cool stuff and history there. I must go back for more pics.
I think J may have to drag me back to the States by my hair, I love this place so much! I could totally see myself living here. It's the perfect combination of big city amenities and small town charm. (note: Lille is a big city, the 4th largest in france, but the narrow streets, and proximity of all my needs, makes it feel so small)
I can't wait to share all this with J. We are definitely coming here to visit in December. I wanna show him EVERYTHING!!

A brief description of my residence:

Franciscaines de Lille is a grand old building, I am not sure but I think it was a monastery or something back in the day. The front door is huge and heavy, and just past the entry hall is a courtyard that the building encircles. One whole side of the building is a church, and the others (i think) are all dorm rooms. There are 3 floors, with a breakfast room downstairs, 2 showers per floor, and 1 or 2 bathrooms. It's very old and squaky, with lights that are on timers, which leaves you walking in the dark a lot. The rooms either look in on the couryard, or out on the street, etc. Mine looks in on the courtyard. There are lots of pigeons, and there are even gargoyles! It's an interesting building.

The First Day

From my journal, 21/08 1:31

So I finally made it, but the woman in charge was less than helpful. She showed me my room, the other public rooms and then I had to ask about Wi-Fi and even how to get back into the building! I forgot to get suggestions about dinner, shopping, etc. Plus, I've forgotten most of what she told me (only 2hrs sleep!) and she never told me how to find her (so I can't ask my questions!) I am so frustrated right now.

I got a shower. Yes!!! Pure bliss (after the hot water arrived, for a while i thought I was going to have to suffer through cold showers all semester). I went for a long walk, which really helped me get excited to be here, and called my love. I almost cried, it's hard to talk to him and think of him, knowing I won't see him for 4 months.
I found a Tabac (telecartes!) (tabacs are little tabacco stores that carry a few convenience items, sometimes beer or cofee, and the all important phonecards for mobiles and payphones) and a marché (food!) The sandwich was less than exciting, so I had cheese and crackers for dinner. I came back and unpacked. I love a clean, organised room.
By 6 (er... 18) I could no longer keep my eyes open. So here I am, at 1 something, possessing almost enough -courage- to walk to the payphone to call home.

03 September 2008

Traveling to Lille

This was definitely less than fun.

My flight went well, other than leaving an hour or two late. They played movies the whole time, which was nice, but I only got all of 2 hours of sleep. I like flying though, I love watching the clouds and water n cities and what not out the window.

We arrived at CDG (charles de gaulle airport) at 3am NY time, 9 am paris time. Customs wasn't bad at all. It was a short wait, and they didn't even ask if i had anything to declare. (I had been worried about the medications I was bringing in, and if i had enough documentation). I managed to forget my coat on the plane, but they figured that out before I even got through customs, so that crisis was swiftly avoided.

The signs out side CDG terminals are rather confusing. The down arrow apparently means go straight, and myself and a huge group of other passengers clustered in front of a sign (thinking the arrow meant, wait here!) before someone came a long and told us to keep going. So I went right out the main doors, and walked, and walked, and walked. It ended at a building where some kind of public transportation was housed. I wandered aimlessly until a nice man pointed me in the right direction (ironically, it was the same employee that told us to keep going. lol). I had to exit that building, go down a set of escalators (THAT takes skill when you're pulling a couple bags) and take a short tram ride to the main train station. 4 escalator rides later, i found the ticket counter. (by this point, i was an EXPERT at pushing one bag a head, lining it up on a stair, stepping on, and pulling the other bag onto the stair behind me.)

Buying tickets for the TGV wasn't fun. I had been told more than once to buy a special loyalty/student card to get discounts on TGV tickets, but the lady at the counter had NO idea what I was talking about, and then I was quite concerned about figuring out the compostage of the ticket. Turns out they're readily apparent, as you enter the quai, they're right there, bright yellow, in the middle of the walkway. It just stamps a date and time on your ticket. I finally learned to just watch what everyone else does, and copy them.

By this point, I finally realized a rather difficult part of traveling alone. If you need to use the restroom, WHERE do you put your bags? I decided I could wait, so I still haven't figured out the answer to that question.

This probably doesn't sound as bad as it felt at the time. But i found it horribly stressful, plus i was exhausted, and I was completely unfamiliar with public transportation, so I was just utterly overwhelmed. I slept all the way to Lille.

Now, we finally get to the fun part of the journey. Getting a taxi was easy stuff, and while dragging my bags up 3 flights of stairs could have been better, signing the paperwork for the dorm was relatively pain free, compared to getting to my room. Unencumbered, and after a good nights sleep, it takes me about 20 minutes to half an hour to get from my room to school. I have no idea how long it took me that first time, but I was quite certain I would die by the time I got there. The directions didn't have the right name for the road i needed, the sidewalks were all cobblestone, which meant my bags did not roll worth anything, and did I mention the lack of sleep?

By the time I finally found the place, I was completely exhausted, worn out, stressed, scared, and quite certain if things didnt get better SOON i should just turn around and fly home. Things started to get better soon (i'm still here after all) but finding out how to get things done in the dorm wasn't very fun, I was so tired I missed half of what the guardian at the residence told me, and she only told me about half of what I needed to know...

So, my point here is not to whine but to say that, getting to the residence, is surely the trial by fire for the study abroad student. Looking back, it doesn't seem THAT bad, but it was certainly not a fun day! Thankfully, those that follow are much better.


Getting Ready to, and Leaving

I packed at least a dozen times. After the fiasco with campus france (they send the confirmation letter to your campus france inbox! who'd've thought?) and all the other minor prep tasks, I was ready to go. I revised the packing list every other day through out June and August, planned the obligatory going away party, and even got my visa on the first try (do this early! knowing i didn't have time for a second trip was SO stressful).

I packed relatively lightly, so that I could bring home lots more stuff. (all of my clothes fit into the smaller of my suitcases, a, i think, 25") Google semester packing lists, or 6 month trip packing list, etc for examples.

Personally, I brought:
4 pr pants
1 pr shorts, 1 pr junky jeans
lots of socks and unmentionables
2 layerable long sleeve shirts, 3 sweaters, 3 tank tops and i think 4 regular tops. this way I can mix and match and add on lots of layers.
1 set pajamas (try to pick something multi purpose here-like sweats you can also wear for exercise, etc)
Leggings to allow for layering when it gets cold (we'll see if i need them)
1 pr sneakers, 1 pr flip flops (mainly for shower use), and a pair of comfortable dress shoes/boots
1 '4in1' coat. It's 2 separate layers, and its water proof, so no other coats needed
1 pr gloves, hat
A towel (duh) a blanket, pillow (i plan to leave these behind when i come home)
All of my meds, hygiene products, etc
2 throw away books to read on the plane and leave behind, a pocket fr-eng dictionnary
A copy, or 2, of every paper required for my visa, relevant receipts, and several photos, a copy of my passport, etc.
My laptop, head phones and a converter (make sure yours has a hole for the ground prong)
Passport, ISIC id card, bank cards, extra funds, health insurance card(s), contact numbers for the school, residence, home, bern, etc.
Camera (very important!) and lots of AA's (i got a cheap, AA powered camera specifically for this trip)
Umbrella!! This is ESSENTIAL if you're coming to Lille.
Some pens, pencils and a notebook (general school supply stuff)
Pictures from home!

Things I wish i had brought:

Dishes (in the residence, there's a kitchen, but no cooking supplies, or dishes)
Sheets (i took them out to save weight, but it would've been much cheaper to bring them from home)

Things I specifically did not bring:

A dictionnary- i bought a REAL french dictionary here in france.
A hair dryer, or electronics in general- hair dryers are BAD in france. i have not heard a happy use of an american hair dryer here- so i recommend buying one here if you must have one. Plus, if you don't bring electronics (except AA powered ones) you don't have to buy a transformer

And I think that's it. Something I didn't know when I was packing: if you live in a residence, you'll probably walking to it, with your luggage, so keep that in mind.

So far, the hardest part, must have been leaving. By the time we drove to the airport, I was nearly ready to just turn around and go home. But once settled in, it all gets easier from there.

PS... my residence is having internet issues, so i may be slow getting back entries up, but once i do, i will be posting more regularly.

02 September 2008


How can I set up a blog and NOT have a first post? So, here it is! My first post. Not very interesting yet you say? Don't worry, they'll get there. I promise to put up some stories soon.

I've been contemplating what I should put up here. And I've decided I will try to share everything (well not EVERY thing). I love Lille so far, and I want you all to want to come here by the time you've read all my posts. So I'll try not to be a detached, this is the important facts, kind of writer.