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Putain, c'est pas possible!

I'm already half way done?

rain 15 °C

Classes were officially declared last week Thursday. Rather strange seeing as it's now the end of Fall Break which means... I am officially half way done.

I am horrified.

Finally, I feel settled in. Finally I feel as if Lille and le Nord in general, is my home. It feels good to stroll on over to the hypermarket, to take the walk to school, ride the metro into town, go to the Marché de Wazemmes on a Sunday morning, eat pain au chocolats... actually, just eating French food in general...

I would say I lead a relatively simple life in Lille. I don't do much -I go to class, I buy groceries, I wander around, go to a bar, cook a meal, look at pretty buildings. I do nothing and yet my days are filled up. I come home at night and wonder how on earth I managed to spend the entire day doing nothing particularly special or important and how could my day have passed by so quickly. I go to campus and spend an hour or two sitting around having lunch or a delicious hot chocolate with whipped cream on top. I meet up with people randomly without any real sought out plan, life just spontaneous.

What makes France, and perhaps Europe in general, is that life really is just simple. At least compared to America. There's this feeling that yeah, perhaps you do have the time to take things as they come, to enjoy the pleasures, and not feel rushed to do everything all at once. It's this feeling of satisfaction, that although you may not do much, what you do is still efficient and still important. Unlike America where you can work for hours and hours and still be totally inefficient.

I feel less stressed here. I feel less anxiety, fewer doubts. It's a good feeling.

I also just came back from Amsterdam. Chillin' with the ex-roomie. Like I said, I have a lot to catch up on. But this week I'll do my best. Minus the fact that I STILL have to sort out my health insurance, by my ticket from Bratislava (!!!), do more homework, get ready for final exams and email Hendrix my list of courses. And check out like... 5 different activities going on in Lille this week. Ok, not really, but I've suddenly realized that Lille has so much to offer and I'd be an idiot to not go out and see what all there is out there!

Good night.

Posted by ReenaB 14:16 Tagged living_abroad Comments (1)

Never Could I Ever Imagine

How amazing biking could be.

semi-overcast 16 °C

I should be sleeping. I'm exhausted, tired, slightly irritated with myself for not having solid enough notes and not updating them promptly like I should be. Whoops. Some how, not really having proper exams and not having grades that transfer over into my gpa makes me... not really care. I still go to class, and I enjoy pretty much all the classes and do the little hw that I have. I just... don't study as much as I should. Like, organizing my notes and such. I'll get on that this weekend. Seeing as this weekend is the start of Fall Break and I have nothing planned except for... a trip to Amsterdam to see Tara! Rather excited.

But to the gist of this entire entry... to which I will add more later on this weekend...

Awhile ago, I had decided that I wanted to bike parts of the Loire Valley and see all those rinky dink castles that my 10th grade French teacher Ms Bailey (Colleen, remember?) made us watch a video on and take notes on how each castle was different and then take a quiz on it. Needless to say, I didn't retain any of that, but now, now I know.

The whole ordeal of getting bikes was a hassle, going from one place to another, being told that the bike rental place was closed, didn't exist, needed a security cheque deposit of 200 Euros... Ashley, this other American girl, and I decided that regardless of the obstacles and shit, we were going. And we did. Last minute Ashley was able to get her French friend to write out a cheque for us and rented out the bikes less than 24 hours before we had to leave. Had our train tickets reserved, for both bike and person, food provisions bought from Auchan V2, and our tiny carry-ons were used to store 4 days worth of energy snacks and all our gear, including Luna bars, jam, utensils, socks, shirts, hoodie, my favourite hat that I wear playing frisbee when it's too cold, tins of curry flavoured tuna, toiletries. And cameras. Strapped it all on the back of our bikes along with water bottles and helmets which we failed to wear, and we were off.

4 days of biking.
3 nights of CouchSurfing.
Roughly 180 km (that's 112 miles, if you didn't know).
Multiple cities biked through, vineyards, countryside, the Loire River.
Went inside Chenonceaux and Chambord.
Met some interesting people.
Hit some mental walls.
Have never felt so liberated, exhausted, passionate, frustrated, all at the same time.

Words cannot express how amazing this was. I'll try my best to explain in the next post. But if you're terribly interested, you may just have to come ask me in person.

Posted by ReenaB 15:31 Tagged bicycle Comments (0)

Lille 3

I will pop a cap in your ass.

rain 11 °C

It irritates the shit out of me that 4 weeks into this whole study abroad thing and Lille 3 still has failed to process my monthly stipend into the bank account that they opened up for us. I have yet to pay my rent for the month of October. That's a fail.

Honestly, last week had been sub-par. After the rush and excitement of the first month or so, staying busy with all the nit picky things I had to take care of (I still have nit picky things to take care of... like trying to save 50 Euros a month on my rent... shit...), trying to sort out my classes, trying to basically sort out everything, things are starting to slow down. And even though I haven't completely sorted out everything, I still feel rather odd. Quite frankly, I don't know where that paragraph is going so I'm just going to drop it.

It's starting to get rather cold here. Rather unexpectedly. Being brown and growing up in the South, I've come to realize that how necessary the sun is for me (Rose, I'm turning into you...). No joke, Saturday I stayed in, partly because I had a lot of things to take care of and homework to do but also because the outside world just looked miserable and gloomy. I've been freezing in my own room, usually wearing sweatpants and a hoodie of some kind, just hoping that one of these days the radiators will be turned on and I can finally pump heat into my room. They say that in this region of France, it's not often very sunny, but that's ok since the people here have the sun in their hearts. Well isn't that just dandy. Let's hope I can scrounge up some sun in my heart as well... (actually, I do find that saying rather sweet).

It drives me crazy that the weather just so abruptly turned horrible. October reared it's ugly head and that was that. No gradual sinking progression into the cold. Just instantaneous. The last weekend of September was spectacular, not just because of what I did, but also because of the weather. Along with hanging out at Perrine's, Sabrina and I went and explored a part of Lille, mainly the Citadel area and the free zoo. Yes, Lille has a free zoo. It's not much and we covered it in about an hour or so but we did see some funny looking animals (some I swear I've never seen before) as well as some of my Indian buddies, mainly in the form of peacocks.

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Sabrina's failed attempt to get near a duck on the loose.

The weekend before that one (yeah, I know, try to keep up), was the Journées du Patrimoine. Basically, it was a weekend dedicated to events and museums being completely free, in Lille and elsewhere in France! Well, some of them required a reservation, but regardless I was able to go to the Musée de Beaux Arts, some strange half-ass museum on music and the Palace Rameau although it contained some weird form of modern art, was actually quite interesting. Andrea, a girl from Uruguay who lives in Triolo, took this picture on my camera. I'm not quite sure why I like it so much, but whatever:

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Yesterday involved a little excursion out to Arras. I'm not sure how I ended up going; I was invited by this adorable German girl, Anna-Sophie, that I only met about a week ago, and decided to tag along. It was definitely nice to go out and see a different part of the region, something that isn't Lille and isn't as big or as confusing. Arras was small and although there wasn't terribly much to see, it was quite pleasant to walk around and see the influence on the art and architecture (there I go again on art and architecture...). I went with 2 German girls, 3 Dutch girls and an Italian. Quite the blend of cultures and languages.

If there's one thing I've noticed, it's that every one of the exchange students knows English. Every single freaking one of them. And it drives me up the wall. Maybe it's best that they know so that when there's something that an Anglophone doesn't know how to say, it can be said in English. But still. It drives me crazy. Actually, it just makes me jealous. Although I do know Hindi and Punjabi, I'm still jealous. I have yet to meet an Indian person here. I'm craving to just so that for once, I would be able to speak to someone without anyone knowing what the hell I'm saying. I've noticed that coming from an English speaking country can sometimes automatically mean you're going to be lumped up with all the others... and that your French is most likely shit. It just kind of makes me wish I were German or something. Or at least wish that I still retained my Dutch.

So... now that I'm done with my mini "rant" on being American/British/whatever, let me continue with Arras. It was nice to walk around, even taking a tour into Les Boves, these very dark celler type things and underground passageways where many people hid during WWI.

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Arrras has the definite feel of being damaged during the wars. We went past this Cathedral that definitely retained some scars.

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We went up to the top of the Hotel de Ville where it was positively freezing! I said to Teresa, one of the other German girls, while taking a picture that, she was indeed quite warm. These pictures are the result:

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I still haven't caught up with everything. Still haven't described my language escapades. Still haven't talked about much of anything. I seem to end every post like this, but whatever. It's the truth. But keep reading! Leave me love!

Posted by ReenaB 04:42 Tagged living_abroad Comments (3)

It's Been A Weekend

And a long one, in fact.

overcast 15 °C

Note to self, if an American professor is trying to teach a class in French... in France...that's not a French language course... RUN. Just, don't even consider it; just run as hard and as fast as you can in the opposite direction.

That's what I did Thursday. Two of the classes I'm taking are called Theme and Version. They're translation courses that apparently are supposed to be great for my French. Only time will tell if that's true... The first course, Version, involves translating short pieces of literature from English to French. It's supposed to be not too hard for the Francophones and almost impossibly hard for the Anglophones. Thus, I am actually not required to take the exam --that's how hard it is. The other class involves translating from French to English. Yep, definitely much easier. Still tough, but easier. The first class I went to had a professor from New York state who had never heard of Huntsville, AL, claimed that she had "been around," and had the most hideous accent I have heard in quite some time. No joke. I think I can comfortable claim that I have a better accent than this woman. She doesn't even try.

So I ended up dropping that class like a hot potato and instead shimmied on over to the same class taught at a different time with a different professor. HUGE difference. This woman was crazy, but good crazy. Vibrant crazy. Entertaining crazy.

Friday was wonderfully fun. I continued to take my Friday 8:30 to 1pm classes, but thankfully, I had Sabrina (one of those German girls that is essentially fluent in French) to keep me company as we talked through the prof's lecture about things ranging from Barack Obama all the way to why the hell my skin isn't as dark as a typical Indian person's.

The day continued as I met up with Perrine, her friend Soraya and her Tandem partner David, this cool British kid resembling a mixture of Daniel Radcliffe and Robert Pattinson (I know, right?). What followed was chillin' in a bar, enjoying the Centre Ville while French and English continued to be flung around everywhere.

If there is one thing I've realized about myself, it's that I have never been fully comfortable with myself when I eat at a bar, cafe or restaurant in Europe. Although my most comfortable and comforting experiences with them have been in Lille, it still makes me nervous. I hate talking to the waiter, I hate ordering and I hate paying. It just doesn't seem to work out well for me. This experience was alright, but still. Being uncomfortable --oh yeah.

What followed was a walk towards a store which sells British goodies and a few American ones as well, like Ben and Jerry's! Not that I care too much for it, but for future reference I know. I found out that Perrine adores peanut butter, something that completely caught me off guard. I had no idea that she had tried peanut butter; you always hear about how it's an American thing that you can only really easily and cheaply get there and not so much anywhere else. So that was a shocker.

Perrine invited me over to her family's house all the way out in Roubaix. That is far away. Actually, it's not that far away when you look at a map, but if you were to take the metro from where I live in Villeneuve D'Ascq, you'd have to take the 15 minute ride on the yellow line to the city center of Lille, then change to the red line to go out all the way to Roubaix which would take another 15 minutes or so, take a bus for another 5 minutes and then walk for about another 10 and voila! Bienvenue chez Perrine!

It was lovely to be in a house. A real house, and not a dorm. Not some weird maze of a building, no tiny bathroom, communal kitchens, freaking irritating security guards/secretaries, etc. Not that I mind terribly living in Triolo. It's not a bad little reshall, and surprisingly, has a lot to it unlike a lot of reshalls, here in France or in the States. But sometimes, there's just something nice about being in a house... in a neighbourhood, a house with it's own kitchen, it's own little tv, couch, pictures of family and friends. Her house reminded me so much of the house my family had in England. I think that's one of the things I like most about this area. It has this strange charm to it, with all the buildings and houses. This kind of Flemish identity that I can sometimes sense and remind me of England. That nice brick, that overcast gray weather. Not that England retains any kind of Flemish identity, but you know...

Perrine's niece and nephew are so incredibly adorable, it's ridiculous. And I found it rather endearing that a 6 year old and an 11 year old could be patient enough with my French to ask me questions. Perrine's nephew (I have no idea how to spell his name so until I do, he will be known as Perrine's nephew) asked me the most interesting questions, like what countries I'd visited and which cities I had been to, where Huntsville was, what I was studying, and not just what I was studying but more specifically, what areas of psychology and physics I was studying. I was so taken aback by the specificity of this question that I almost thought I had misheard him and no longer knew what French words were coming out of his mouth. I don't think anyone has ever asked me that question. Let alone an 11 year old.

I got to meet some of Perrine's friends from her dance class. What I've noticed in this region of France, in Nord Pas-de-Calais, is that a lot of people faire les bises (you know, that air kissing cheek thing that's actually not pretentious) the first time they meet someone. When I was in Grenoble, that almost never happened. Yeah, they do the bises, but not necessarily when they meet someone for the first time. But here, it's different. With all of the girls at the dance studio that I was introduced to, I did the whole bises thing. And I find it rather sweet; it's a pleasant way to greet someone. Affectionate, but in no way overbearingly so.

While talking, they asked me where I was from. I find it rather weird to I say I'm from Huntsville, AL. I think that's why I often say I live in Huntsville, instead of saying I'm from there. I don't really live there, I just kind of visit when I'm not at Hendrix. I think I've spent a grand total of 12 weeks in that house in the past 2 years. I know nothing of the city, don't know what there is to do and still struggle to find my way around. Anyways, almost everytime I speak to someone about where I'm from, I receive this weird mixture of awe, shock and mild disgust.

Conversations tend to go along the lines of, "Whoa, you're from America? That's so far away... You fly all this way to come here? Wait, which country do you like more, America or France? You know, it's a dream of mine to go to the States... but I hear Americans are kind of...[fill in the blank with your choice of adjective]."

Ok, not all of them are like that. A lot of them are more positive. I find it interesting how many people from Europe, Frenchies and exchange students alike, seem to tell me how it is a reve for them to come to the states. When I heard one of Perrine's friend's say that, I turned to Perrine for an explanation. I thought I had misheard or didn't understand the French. Turned out I didn't mishear. I did understand. It really is a dream for a lot of people to come. I asked why; there is nothing but Barack Obama and Disney World. The response? Why not?

While talking to Sabrina, we came across the subject of American politics and government. Not that I know a whole lot about it, but probably enough to stumble through a conversation. I know enough, ok? But the discussion, along with many other similar ones I've had with other students, has made realize that most Americans (minus you polysci kids) don't really know anything about the politics, culture or current affairs of other countries. However, plenty of foreigners seem to know lots about America. Whether it be about television, music, politics, current affairs, terrorists; they seem to know. I've been asked all these questions about America pertaining to education, health, government, transportation, racism, religion. The rest of the world has this image of America, but America, in my opinion and experience, doesn't seem to have much of a view on the rest of the world in return. The problem with America is that it's so big and so wrapped up in its own bubble that it can hardly take care of itself and it's own politics, let alone even consider another country's. I think I always knew this. I always noticed this. But it hasn't hit me until now. And of course, this is just my opinion. And you're not set to agree.

A lot of other things happened this weekend. But I'm tired, this post is long and I want to sleep. But I have a few pictures to put up of some random wanderings from Saturday so that will come soon

Posted by ReenaB 17:34 Tagged living_abroad Comments (1)

I Take It Back.

Choosing courses in France really did end up being harder than it looked.

16 °C

I had been warned by many kind souls (Rachel, I thank you tremendously) that choosing courses in France was going to be quite the test. Sure enough, we have someone here that works with ISEP and ISEP students so in fact, you would think that everything would be quite the breeze. And, for the first week of classes, it was. And then the tumultous second week came and that was that.

Many interesting things occurred on the first few days of this week, one of which was receiving (along with other exchange students) a letter handwritten and signed by the "Directrice" of my Residence Hall. Of course, roughly 80% of the nonsense written was completely inaccurate, but nonetheless, the news was far from superior and if you are interested in the funfilled story, be sure to drop me a message and I will divulge.

However, Monday was also immensely spectacular because I went to a meeting for Tandem, a course in which Anglophone exchange students are paired up with Francophone students majoring (or the French way of saying, "specializing") in English. What followed was me going after the so called "gateaux" (cake) that was promised in an email, when really all they had was a bit of orange juice, biscuits (and I mean cookies) and these weird honey waffle cookie things which are just all too glorious to not eat. Paperwork followed along with a random selection to pair us up with our Francophone partner. Needless to say, I was terribly excited and nervous all at once. Mainly because this course is, in a sense, about chemistry. If you and your partner hit it off, that's great; you're going to have a formidable time. If not, well... There goes a waste of a class.

Thankfully, I get paired up with this incredibly sweet and adorable girl named Perrine. First of all, that name is rather hard for me to pronounce, if only because it has that double r sound that just gets me everytime. For those of you who know nothing about French, the r sound is quite difficult to make. It's pretty gutteral/back of the throat and I have to admit, my throat's been irritated lately from trying to imitate it. Anyways, this girl is so incredibly full of life that all I can do is giggle when I'm with her. I know that sounds stupid. Shut up, don't judge.

In all honesty though, I am very fortunate to have such a cool Tandem partner, someone who is genuinely interested, not only in practicing her English, but to help me with my French, introduce me to the young adult's way of French life and to share apart of her life with me. And vice versa for her. I've already met up with her 3 times since then, have met many of her friends (and her, mine), and plan to be introduced to her family, who of course, does not speak a lick of English. Some highlights of our mixing of cultures include:

Saying poutous poutous instead of bisous bisous (only you French speakers would get this but really it means "kisses" and is used in letters, message, texts, in person, as an action, etc.).

Fawning over Jonathan Rhys Meyers together.

Realizing Perrine is a fan of Bollywood films and Hindi music.

Explaining the real meaning of the song "If You Seek Amy" by Britney Spears (trust me, that caused quite the excitement amongst her and her friends upon realizing that one). That was the best thing so far...

She already knows the words "baller" and "ballin."

Comforting her with the fact that I too hate MacBeth.

And explaining the phrase "Shut down," as in, "Oh dude, she just got shut down..."

I've also been promised: to be taken to the most famous club in this region, which is actually situated in Belgium; a typical French boyfriend; and a game of Monopoly, French style. How much of this will actually happen, I'm not sure, but I'll be sure to keep you updated.

I have recently bought a French cellphone. Vraiment utile.

So, about those classes. Tuesday involved me running around endlessly, trying to figure what the fuck course I'm supposed to be taking in history to qualify as my Learning Domain back home as well as realizing that I had missed 2 class meetings of 1/3 of my Lit course (also needed for my Learning Domain) as well as wondering how the I was going to fit everything in cohesively. Plus, I recently realized that I may be taking 36 ECTS, which is 6 too many. Of course, I can do that, but seriously, I'm here to discover France as well. 9 of those ECTS come from my courses on Friday. I take courses. On Friday. From 8:30. All the way to 1pm. Am I an idiot? I think so. But these classes are just so fascinating to me. The first one is language acquisition in babies and children. The second one is psycholinguistics and the third is child development. All of things are mildly important since I kind of want to go down this path when I get to grad school. So I feel as if it would be shameful for me to not at least check out the courses. Yet again, I'll let you know what I end up doing.

But today, I somehow miraculously figured things out. Not sure how, but thanks to Emily, an American girl I met on the first day and we've ended up hangin' out, I ended up going with her and another Australian girl to a course on the French Revolution. It was fantastic. It lasted 10 minutes. Ok though, in all seriousness, what makes it great is the material and also, the professor. I have yet to meet a professor who was this pleased to see 3 non-Erasmus exchange students (there is a difference, in case you didn't know) taking his course in French. So needless to say, I plan to take this course, especially since it pretty much resolves the problems I was having.

For those of you who don't know, choosing classes here is totally different. You don't meet individually with an advisor the year before and plan out your next year together. No. Instead, you wait until the week before (or in some cases, the week of) classes start and go to the department where you want to take classes. Most French kids just have one department to run to and just view the timetables of their courses. Actually, they don't really pick their courses, since they don't have our kind of flexibility. They're pretty much set in stone, with a few electives here and there. It's the exchange students/weirdos who decided to take classes in multiple departments (like me, I take them in the Lettres Moderne, Histoire, Angellier and DEFI departments) and have to go from department to department trying to make the schedule work. Like I mentioned earlier, I was warned of this so I ran to each department earlier than usual so I had more time to figure things out. Still mildly screwed myself over, but the hump is (pretty much) over, touch wood, and I will probably explain my rather weird schedule in another post.

I am taking a fencing course. Too bad the professor didn't show up to the first week's course. I also randomly decided to go to a Tango class, just to audit. Ended up meeting 3 rather cool French people, one who happens to be friends with Perrine! What are the odds (this uni is 18,000 people or so; not Hendrix sized at all)!

That, and much more. I'm still in the process of updating. Next post will probably contain my language experiences thus far. Stay tuned -post will be much more frequent. I think.

Posted by ReenaB 20:26 Tagged living_abroad Comments (2)

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