A Travellerspoint blog

Stateside.

sunny 10 °C

The last month was filled with so much happiness. So much stuff going on, regardless that I was mildly stressed and exhausted from those papers I mentioned in the last post.

Time flew by so quickly. And yet I do feel that I lived it all to the fullest extent possible. Even though there were so many things in Lille that I didn't have time to check out, even though there were so many cities, countries, people to visit. I wouldn't change anything. I wouldn't do anything differently.

This trip was perhaps the greatest thing I have done so far for myself. I have seen things that I have never seen before, spoke incredibly amounts of French, met people who taught me so much -made me think in a different way, tasted food so savory, drank beer so delicious, lived in a way that I've always wanted to live.

I don't think I can express all that I want to, that I need to. But I fear losing all that I've learned. I fear my inability to live in the same way I did in Lille.

Here are a few pictures, a few moments of what my last week was in France. Snapshots.

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Wazemmes

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Church of Wazemmes

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Vieulle Bourse

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Vieulle Bourse

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Bell Tower

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Hospice

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Artist at work

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Church

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Packing

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Church

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Cafe

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Cafe

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City Center

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Statue

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Zoo

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Posted by ReenaB 19:31 Archived in USA Comments (2)

Winter

What happened to it?

sunny 3 °C

Awhile back, in the beginning of December, I started writing a Thanksgiving post, listing the things I was thankful for.

I never finished it, not because I am ungrateful but more because the weeks in December were filled with multiple quizzes/tests and 4 research papers, typed, single spaced 3-4 pages... in French. 3 of those papers all due within a week. Stressful? Let's just say I didn't do much but write and... well, go to a few parties.

I spent a Christmas in Germany. I now have a desire to learn German. A lot of other things occured as well. Overall, a lot of reflection to be done.

Currently spending a Slovak New Year's. Very different experiences indeed.

The next 2 weeks are going to be epic. Turning 20, a change of a year, as well as a return to America. Another 2 weeks and a return to Hendrix. Can I say I am prepared? I'm afraid I can't. I don't know what this next month is going to bring. But these last 1.5 weeks are already hitting me hard in the face. I can sense things that I couldn't sense before as I begin to realise that pretty soon I'm going to be back the way I was in the place that I was. And I don't think I'm quite ready for that.

Posted by ReenaB 09:50 Tagged preparation Comments (0)

My French.

I think it's getting worse.

overcast 9 °C

Yeah, that's right. I think it might be getting worse. Here I was, on this steady upward incline to fluency and this entire month has just been... kind of flat. My accent seems to be getting worse, and the fluidity of my words isn't as it was at one point. I'm also probably just over exaggerating that, but I really do feel that recently, I've been tripping over my words, often having to rely on liquid courage to get over the little hump of hesitation.

I remember when I was in France the first time around. I was always so hesitant to speak. I doubted myself, doubted my abilities, thought too much about the language and its connection to the other languages I spoke, tried to find ways to make it easier by analyzing, scrutinizing every tiny individual word and grammar rule... Only to realize that I was missing the big picture by not actually looking at the big picture. Hmm... that sounds awfully complicated. Well, that's me.

But this time around in France, that hurdle has been overcome. Mostly. I don't scrutinize, I don't look at ever detail and instead, concentrate on the big picture of the French language: getting my point across, making sense, having a conversation. Making mistakes, it's going to happen. So why spend time worrying about it? I make a mistake, I get corrected, I remember the correction for future reference. I move on. I think every aspect of my life should be led like that and not spent thinking too much about past mistakes, past regrets, tiny details that don't matter.

I have been a bit rusty on the French recently. Maybe since the past few days I've been actually studying for the first time since I've been here. I've got 3 research papers coming up all relating to linguistics, child development and psychology (good thing this actually interests me but researching and writing in French... ew), an exam on roughly 60 dates of the Ancient Regime along with a paper on the topic, and teaching myself the entire work of the Old Testament. That one was interesting, as I only realized Friday evening that this class I've been taking called Recits Fondanteurs is actually a class on the Old Testament and not the New Testament. And that Moses in French is actually Moïse. Yeah... Though being in France has also made me realize how much I love teaching myself a class. Doesn't matter if I don't understand something because it's in French or because I'm in the States and the professors are still incompetent, there is such an immense satisfaction in teaching yourself the material. You are your own best teacher because only you know how best you learn. Right? Well I think so anyways...

I've decided that in this last 5 weeks I have in Lille (I have 7 left, but 2 of those are going to be spent in Germany and Slovakia), I really want to go and just check shit out. So I've made myself a little list:

1) Go check out Vieux Lille with all its shops, architecture, it's little church, go to a cafe, a nice restaurant, the market.
2) Rent a bike again. I love renting bikes.
3) Check out the Vieille Bourse and get a really cool trinket/book/used postcard.
4) Go to the Citadelle. Still haven't done that.
5) Eat at Meert. Charles de Gaulle loved that place as a kid.
6) Make Crepes.
7) Sit in a cafe all day and write in my journal. All day. Or at least all afternoon.
8) Go to a bar and get the largest drink possible. Oh, that's a bad one...
9) Cook Indian food for someone again.
10) Go to the Opera.
11) I'm sure there's still one more museum I want to go to.
12) Take the metro to each opposite end, even the one that goes right near Belgium. And then walk to Belgium. And do that stupid "Hey look I'm in two countries at the same time!" thing.

I think that's about it. Oh, and take lots of pictures. And just chill. And enjoy France. Take it all in. I don't fancy doing the extended goodbye thing. At least not until the last week I'm here. Trying not to think about all that. I've still got a while to go before I head home. Though, it doesn't make me feel any better that I just bought my TGV ticket back to the airport.

Posted by ReenaB 05:13 Tagged living_abroad Comments (0)

I've Learned How To Cook

Now I just need to find a man...

rain 9 °C

Last week was filled with more craziness. That seems to be the norm these days as things start to get a bit more hectic, time is running out and classes are starting to have real work to do (what..?). Since last Wednesday was actually an official holiday celebrating the end of WWII in France, we had no class (woot woot) and of course, Tuesday night was automatically deemed a party night by all the Erasmus kids.

So what do we do? Run over to a party hosted by this blond German kid with the theme, "Bad Taste." Yeah. I of course had to awkwardly voice my opinions about how having a theme party such as "Bad Taste" is a rather stupidly American thing to do... Just take a minute to reflect on the parties we have at Hendrix... White Trash Bash, Ghetto Night, EuroTrash, Tour de Franzia, I could keep going. Nonetheless the night was rather good, filled with ugly painted mustaches, tacky clothing, poor French grammar and dancing in a room perhaps too small for the sheer number of people that were present. Oddly enough, a lot of English music was played (apparently that's normal here in Europe...) where most of the anglophones were screaming their heads off, me included, but followed closely behind by the Germans and Italians.

Wednesday was rather strange, it being a holiday and all, with mass hoards of people going over to Euralille (this huge shopping complex downtown) to go look at shops since no one had anything better to do. For the first time, I saw security guards at the entrance, stopping random groups of thugs, hoodlums and just rather crude looking French guys in general. Let me rephrase that potentially offensive sentence: France, and other European countries I'm sure, seems to have a large number of young adult males who wear really ugly track bottoms usually representing Manchester United or some other English Premier League team, shouting things like wesh wesh whallah, fashioning really horrible greasy gelled hair and, not to mention, harassing young women.

To the point of the story, I met up with David to do our grocery shopping run for what was going to be an epic dinner to be cooked on Thursday for our Tandem partners. Honestly, I was kind of freaking out because I was about to make stuff that I had never made but once before, that too for myself. We indulged ourselves into buying way-to-expensive naan as well as convincing David that because I don't have a freezer nor an oven, it was necessary to buy a raspberry pie and vanilla ice cream to top. Best purchase ever? Quite possibly.

After doing our grocery run, my Aussie neighbours and I did another quick grocery run (a lot of things in France seem to revolve around food. Maybe that's why I'm getting fat) to go buy ingredients to make moules frites!!! This dish is pretty popular here in the north and in Belgium, but especially during the Braderie (this giant flea market in the first week of September that I probably failed to mention in this blog but basically, it's incredible) which was the last time I had it. So we decided to tell the restos to go screw themselves and their expensive prices and make our own. Bought a kilo of moules for 2 euros (that's a steal!), cleaned them up and let Amy work her magic.

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Annie and Amy, cleaning up moules.

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Amy chefin' it up.

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Moules, curry style in a Moules bowl.

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Destroyed.

The next day was the epic one: cooking Indian food for someone other than myself. And other than my parents. Without my mother's help. The ultimate cooking test. Being in France has forced me to learn how to cook. I'll buy a couple of ingredients. And use them up until they're all gone, using all the same ingredients, but just changing the way I cook them or prepare them. I guess it means I have to be much more creative with what I do, seeing as I can't be buggered to eat the same stuff over and over again. So not only have I learned how to sort of cook, I've realized a certain joy in cooking. Which was only fueled by Thursday.

David and I did the last bit of running around trying to find minced lamb for the main dish, only to find out that not only did the butcher not have a meat grinder (seriously?!!? What kind of butcher are you?!?!?!) but that Soraya, David's tandem partner, is a vegetarian. Well then. Did not receive that bit of information...

Some stressing out and some quick thinking later, I turned to aubergines (eggplant). Couldn't get a hold of my mother for the recipe so instead turned to the good ol' internet to find something that seemed remotely similar. Found out later that Soraya and Perrine aren't huge fans of aubergines and of course, how could I forget that Perrine only likes to eat pasta and cookies, so instead told them that they would keep quiet and eat what I made. Got to cooking, with David being an awesome co-chef and about 2.5 hours later, with the giggling French girls waiting patiently, we were done.

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The display.

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David and the girls.

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Patrick came by later for leftovers. He really enjoyed it too.

Friday I met up again with Perrine for our Tandem meeting as we checked out La Piscine, this former indoor swimming pool which is now a museum. It was cool to go there with her since she studied art history for 2 years before her Bac. I think I ended up learning a lot more about her and her artistic ideas, or at least a lot more than I thought I would. We even sat and analyzed a painting for 30 minutes together, forcing ourselves to speak in the other's language, using words and phrases that we had never felt comfortable using before.

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La Piscine.

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What a cutie.

What was Saturday filled with? I don't think I can explain. I wish I had pictures, but honestly, time didn't warrant it. Want to know why? Sara, this Italian girl, and I ended up going grocery shopping (haha, yeah, again) for about 2 hours, followed by roughly 4+ hours of hanging out in her tiny kitchen with only 2 gas plates and a light that hardly worked, cooking Indian food for roughly 23 people, Frenchies and Erasmusies alike.

Stressful? Yes.
Tiring? Yes.
Delicious? So I was told.
One of the coolest things I've ever done, sharing my North Indian food culture with French, Italian, German, Australian, Spanish, Belgian and Dutch students? Oh you had better fucking believe it.

Of course, I could not have been able to do it without Sara being incredibly awesome with her Tandoori Chicken along with supplying everything, plus with the help of that adorable German Anna-Sophie, who stuck by me in the kitchen for about half that time.

While I was in the kitchen, I had no clue how many people were there. Everyone would come into the kitchen as I went through pan after pan, throwing spices everywhere, getting someone to taste it to see if it was missing something, being asked by many if I needed help and finally getting out of there by 10pm, and handed a cold refreshing beverage. Followed by many more beverages as I had been sweating away in the kitchen.

Final verdict? Not sure, but I think people coming up to me saying that they'd heard it was a great success... that's probably a good sign. So now, all I can do is think about cooking Indian food. Anyone want some?

Posted by ReenaB 11:03 Tagged food Comments (0)

T'as envie de faire quelquechose?

Avec toi? Jamais.

rain 12 °C

Perhaps another unnecessary entry into the blog, but it is what it is.

Last week was quite badass, going up to Amsterdam and checking out the city. It's been so long since I've been to the Netherlands... 13 years, in fact. I took a bus up there, which was quite the experience in and of itself. Getting on board I realized that I had about 3.2 seconds to get off and save myself from the miserably journey that I knew lay ahead. Ok, in all honesty, it wasn't that bad, but the sheer mixing of people took me as quite as a surprise. I just assumed that I would be on a bus filled with random French people, ready to embark on a trip to Amsterdam. I didn't realize that it was a mass of people of random nationalities going anywhere from London to Paris to Brussels all the way up to its final destination of Amsterdam.

Along the way I was accompanied by 2 rather incredibly annoying children who refused to keep their mouths shut and stop themselves from singing hideous Cher songs. And I love children. I was greeted by the scent of piss for a good duration of the journey. As well as forced to make rather uninteresting conversation with some Sri Lankan woman who was about my mother's age and certainly not as charming. What can I say, I am unable to tell someone to piss off and leave me alone.

Of course, the journey was not nearly as bad as I make it out to be, even though at times I did feel that I was some type of illegal immigrant secretly being shipped off to a brothel in Romania, but this was all made significantly better once I saw my one and only roomie. The week consisted of us just wandering around Amsterdam as she showed me all the little things that she likes most about the place. We went to this public beach, some really cool bars, the Red Light District, pretty neighbourhoods, Den Haag, the Van Gogh Museum. I rented a bicycle; what can I say, I'm addicted to the velo.

Tara and I visited some shops along the way. Amsterdam has quite a nice selection.
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Had a lot of picnicks and bought a lot of cheese.
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When to this really cool gig in a place that resembled a lot like someone's living room, with 7 Euro haircuts being given in the back.
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A visit to a beach at night.
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And a trip to Scheveninghan, the beach I used to go to as a kid growing up in The Hague.
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Surprisingly, I don't remember much about Holland at all. I remember vaguely the trams. I remember my school a bit, my old apartment, those stupid pink cakes that I used to eat every single day when I came home from school. Hell, I bought several packets while I was there.
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We did take a little afternoon trip out the The Hague, but sadly enough we weren't able to make it out to my old school and apartment. I was gutted. Really. I don't know what the desire was and still is to go see the old place. I have this image in my head of what the place looks like, feels like. I want to go back and see how correct my mental image is, and if it's different, is it different because my memory is off or is it because things have really changed in 13 years? I want to relive something of my childhood that I know made a significant impact on who I am today. I'm curious what my penpal is up to.

Enough mushy bullshit. Basically, I had a good time.

This week has been pretty chill as well. Strangely enough I've gone into Lille multiple times this week, perhaps realized how much I need to profite while I'm here. Just in this past week several people have talked to me about leaving and how sad it's going to be and how weird it will be for me to not be here. Ok, when I say several I just mean handful, but still. All I can keep thinking is Shut up! I'm not leaving yet, I still have 2 months left and just let me enjoy them!!!!! But it's true. I have 2 months left. That's nothing. That's hardly anything. So I just go and check shit out. Monday I went out to Rue Solferino, this road that has tons and tons of bars. There were probably about 20 of us, all trying to smush around one table, a huge mixture of people that would ordinarily never mix together. Thursday involved more bar visiting as this time a much smaller group went out to this place called the Tudor Inn, where there are no chairs and tables but just comfy sofas and rather odd pictures of children working on one wall and half naked women on the other, further joined by a waiter stating, Moi, je suis la carte, when asked if we could potentially see the menu. Of course, we ended up all ordering just about the same thing, the majority of our drinks coming in the shape of this weird contraption of a glass resembling an hourglass in a hourglass holder, complete with a certain little trick required to drink it properly without spilling everywhere.

Tonight was rather cool as well. I remember a long time ago, Rachel explaining that there was this really cool place in Lille where you could pay about 4 Euros and see really badass films for the entire month and sit on couches. Yeah, it's a room full of couches and you just sit and watch some great artsy film, which I quite enjoy. Well, tonight, we finally found this place. And it was awesome. Rachel, if you're reading, I jumped for joy when I realized where I was. Beers were hella cheap since we hit happy hour and David and Patrick were nice enough to treat me to drinks. We sat in these great sofas, watching really cool short little films and clips of bands, some famous like Animal Collective and Sigur Ros and some I've never heard of like Zombie and Zombie.

Life is rather great. I seem to say that a lot, along with a lot of other shit I seem to keep repeating in this blog. But perhaps coming here has made me realize how much I appreciate all that. I do have a language update coming up soon, and seeing as Saturdays is usually my devoir days, I'll be sure to blog again tomorrow.

Posted by ReenaB 16:07 Tagged living_abroad Comments (1)

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