Wednesday, January 20, 2010

France: January 7, 2002

This morning I woke up to my travel alarm clock ( works) at 7 a.m., turned it off and went back to sleep until about 9:30. Then, I took a shower. Afterwards, I ate breakfast downstairs (in the reception/restaurant area). The people here have been very helpful towards me...none of that stereotypical French rudeness I always heard of at home...maybe it's because I try to use my French first...I don't know. Or, maybe, just maybe, the stereotype is wrong. :) After asking the hotel concierge how to call the phone number for Therese Courtois, the International Director for l'Universite de Picardie Jules Verne, I spoke with Therese about what time she would meet me at my hotel. We agreed upon 11 or 11:30. Well, I received a phone call from the hotel concierge telling me that she was here. I gathered my things and when I shut the door it didn't work! I tried different ways to shut it, but it didn't work! So, I took my suitcases and bags downstairs and told the concierge that the door to my room wouldn't close. And, I felt dumb for not being able to shut my door. Oh, one thing I didn't mention in my last entry was that I went for a little walk in Amiens...yes, by myself. But, I'm alright, obviously cause I'm writing this now, right? I ran into (or actually was walking near) a young Frenchman. I knew he knew I was from out of town. Eventually he asked me what time it was and I told him in broken French...and giggled like a little schoolgirl. It's not like he was overly handsome or anything but it was the whole setting that made me laugh. He asked me for my age and name (reverse the order). I asked for his name; it was Adrien. He is 20-years-old. I knew I shouldn't have been so trusting of him because of my warnings from my French Guidebooks, but I asked him where the McDonalds was. Yes, I gave in...I ate at the most American restaurant in Amiens! Oh well, I was hungry and not many other places were open on a Sunday night. It was like all my French-speaking skills disappeared when I stood in front of that McDonald's counter. The poor cashier, realizing I really could not speak French or at least not that well, had to pull out and brush off her little knowledge of English. I ordered a Big Mac meal which was called a "Best Of" meal. There were these guys there who sat across from me and a couple behind me. They made me feel uncomfortable, but I didn't acknowledge them, although I think the guys sitting behind me were calling me fat because I hard the word "gros". They knew I am an American because I mentioned it to the cashier while they were ordering as well. God was watching over me, though, because nothing happened. I did think at first that I was being followed back to the hotel by one guy but eventually he crossed over to the other sidewalk on the other side of the road/street.

Back to today...Therese, at my first impression, seems very, very nice. She seems like a mother-type. She was very patient with my poor spoken French. I could understand most of what she said if not the first time around then at least the second! :) Anyway, the first thing we did was drop off my baggage and bags at my temporary apartment. I have a rather large room. There is one other student...a med student living in the apartment right now, but I haven't seen her all day. However, she did get a call from a friend, Juliette. I had to take her name and number for her. Honestly, I'm not even sure of my apartment-mate's name...I didn't understand who Juliette asked for when she called and was too embarrassed to ask her for it, again. Anyway, I'm here for the month of January only. There was miscommunication between l'Universite de Picardie Jules Verne and ISEP (the program I am here in France through). Anyway, ISEP told me I had to be here at the beginning of January - the 7th specifically, for orientation. But, according to the University, this semester doesn't begin until the beginning of February! Also, ISEP was wrong about my ending date as well. They said I would be finished (to be confirmed) on April 21st. That's not true. The semester ends at the end of May. I think they are placing me in a dorm room at the beginning of February. I hope not because Therese told me that they're very small. The apartment I'm in right now is nice and large. It has a kitchen, toilet, bathroom, shower, dining area and living room with a television. As I've already mentioned, there is a phone. I originally thought that I couldn't use the pre-paid phone cards Janice got me. But, I was told by a fellow American student that I can use my AT&T card but I needed their access code first. She (Jacqueline) gave it to me. However, I have yet for it to work on the phone here at the apartment. But, that's alright at least I got to e-mail everyone today from Therese's office. I was so very happy to use e-mail, again. I swear I was having withdrawal! Before e-mailing everyone from Therese's office and after dropping off my things at the apartment I had free time. Therese told me she would pick me back up at 2:45 p.m. That gave me a good couple of hours. So, I made my bed...Thank God they provided bedding (sheets, covers, pillow...the whole bit)! I hung up some clothes in my closet. Then, I made some lunch. I am very glad I took Tiffani's advice to take some kind of food because I did not feel like going shopping or to a restaurant for lunch. To tell you the truth I felt too inadequate to go shopping. Too inadequate with my French-speaking skills. I mean I knew I could do it...but I didn't feel like going through the hassle. I also made myself some tea. There isn't much food in the fridge...some yogurt...some cheese...I'm not going to eat someone else's stuff, although I did use one packet of sucre (sugar) for my tea. :) Once I was settled with my Ramen noodles and tea, I watched French T.V....everything is in French. I feel like I'm in a dream...I still can't believe I'm here. But, I know I body testifies to it; my shoulders hurt from carrying my bags and luggage (Missy lent me her luggage but she said the pull handles are no good becuase the suitcases tip over anyway). I'm still tired from jet lag. And, I'm really homesick. I don't think I've ever been this homesick, not even as a freshman in college! I just want to be around my friends and family, again. I realize it's a natural feeling. I also realize it's a familiarity thing. I just want to talk to someone who really knows me. It's going to be hard to make some French friends or at least that's how it feels. However, I did meet a French girl (don't know her name, yet...but I'll see her tomorrow) who loves the States and speaking English. She seems very nice; she's from Amiens. She's been to North & South Carolina, Michigan and Los Angeles, California! Perhaps we'll become friends. Who knows? When Therese picked me up at 2:45, we had small talk along the way. She asked me what state I'm from. I told h er Pennsylvania (duh! hehehe). She told me what we'd be doing when we got the campus. Frances celebrates "Le Gagne du Roi," a type of religious celebration honoring Jesus and when the Magi visited him as a baby. They eat things (pastry) called "la galette des rois". "La Galette" contains "une fere" (sp?) in the middle for the lucky king (roi). I got to take part in the celebration. "La Galette" is a delicious flaky pastry. We had small glasses of champagne with a piece. I also got a crown (couronne) which tells the story (l'histoire) of the celebration. The celebration was for the faculty (staff) and administration of the university. The President of the university kicked off the celebration with a short speech. I understood some of it...talking about the tradition of the celebration. But, he talked very quickly. I've been assured by Therese that my French will catch up. I sure hope so! I met everyone in the International Office. I don't mean to be guy crazy but there was this very good-looking man in that office named Olivier. :) He had long, black (well, shoulder-length) hair and a beard. He was about medium build. I don't know whether he was taken or married or anything but he was certainly charming from first impression. I hope I can see him more (although I'll most certainly have butterflies in my stomach when I do!). I met a professor who is from Tulsa, Oklahoma. I've been invited to join her and her 4 Tulsa exchange students to visit Paris around January 17th or 18th!! Yay!! Apparently there are three other ISEP students coming to l'Universite de Picardie Jules Verne. Jacqueline (the American) gave me her address & phone number to stay in contact with her. She asked me if I think the other ISEP students will have problems like I did with my dates of arrival and departure. I said I didn't know. Therese told me there is a two-day type of celebration on Thursday & Friday at the Megacite and that I should go with Valery (one of the other women from the International Office). Tomorrow I'm meeting a professor (Monsieur Secard??) to begin setting up courses. Jacqueline said I'm lucky if they set up my classes for me because they really didn't help her much. We'll see. I'm taking Bus #6 directly to campus alone. Therese kept joking about that. I have to be there by 12:45 p.m. I might go earlier than that to check my e-mail. When Therese was dropping me off at my apartment tonight she said she was buying bread. She invited me along. She recommended me to buy something for breakfast in the morning. I bought an eclair (chocolate of course) and a bottled water. I don't know if coming abroad has made me dumber but I almost tried to take something out of the case. The cashier immediately stopped me from touching anything. Therese explained to her that I'm American. C'est la vie! You live, you learn. Ha! I didn't have anything for dinner besides that galette & champagne. Now, I'm hungry and it's 10 p.m.! I'ts 4 p.m. at home right now. That's really weird for me to think about. I wonder if they're (my family, friends) wondering what I'm doing over here in France because I'm sure curious what they're up to. Of course, it's probably the usual. But, my experiences over here are not the usual. I can't wait to share them with them!

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