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.


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