And a long one, in fact.
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