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.

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