10 March 2008

17 février

I really should be doing my homework right now. Then again, it’s not due until Tuesday. Of course, my internet isn’t working right now, so why I’m writing this I’m not exactly sure. So…..how’s it going? I’m fantastic.

Last week was our first official week of classes. It was good, I mean, nothing terrible happened. Jessica finally (by Friday) got all of her Seuil/Avancé classes figured out. She’s doing half my level classes and half the level up classes. Just to keep things spicy, you know? Mark got an email back from his advisor telling him (a week too late) to make sure he was in an actual university class. He is still dealing with that. Everyone else is pretty much settled, though.

I decided not to ask to move up into the Avancé niveau. I could have, easily, but something just kept on popping (haha the first time I typed “pooping”…sorry) into my head: Seuil is for perfectionism. My writing test is what got me into this level. Sure, I can understand pretty much any French that is spoken to me, especially in class (standing in line for the bathroom at a bar, not so much). So I’m going to stay here, work on my little perfectionism complex, and be the better for it at the end of the semester. Oi.

Right now I have a pile of papers on my bed, all the papers that I’ve gotten this week. More than half of them are notes and handout-type things, but about five or six of them are short little essays that I’m going back over and correcting. Actually, that’s not technically homework, really I should be writing new stuff. But apparently I’m not so hot when it comes to prepositions and a couple verbs ending in “-dre.” Apparently.

I’m reading the Life of Pi in French, I think I already said that in one of the last posts. I think I understand everything. Mark and Collin also bought books to read (The Hobbit and The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, respectively) and I discovered that I’m the lucky one: my book isn’t written in passé simple. The passé simple is a French past tense that is only used in literature. Something about making it easier for writers, or whatever. Haha…the thing about passé simple is that sometimes, the verbs don’t even resemble what you’re used to them resembling, so you’ll be reading, and you’re doing good, and maye even congratulating yourself for getting so far in the book, and all of a sudden your brain goes “HEY WAIT WHAT THE HECK WAS THAT?!???” And then you have to spend a couple seconds figuring out what that verb was.

So my book’s written in the normal past tenses and that makes me happy. Although, for my next book I think I’ll go for something a little more challenging. Yes, it is supposed to be leisure reading, but I still need to be doing more French. Yesterday I think I spoke maybe for an hour in French, tops. Not good. Bad me. Bad….me.

I decided that having Fridays off is really cool. Three-day weekends are the way to go, baby. Of course, there’s the whole running out of things to do…or not being able to go inside a building and be warm unless you buy a E3 drink. Not fun. Everything in Rennes closes down at 9pm. Everything but the bars. And some of the cafés, which then turn into bars and no, no they do not serve any more hot chocolate after that. Not fair.

I almost forgot to talk about Valentine’s Day. Ok. That’s it. Haha….yeah, actually, I forgot that it was Candy Day, until I was in class that afternoon and my teacher said something to the Chinese kid behind me. And then I was like, Oh yeah…I’m supposed to be eating chocolate and feeling sorry for myself today…So after class I went with Abby to the marché and we bought dark chocolate and ate it on a park bench in the sun. It was pretty amazing. Dark chocolate + Raspberries = Best Idea Ever. That, or my new favorite breakfast food, which is two pieces of toast, one with raspberry confiture, the other with nutella, sandwiched around a banana. Oh man. So good…

Friday night we got free drinks. That was pretty sweet. I ate dinner at a Chinese place in Rennes and then went with Collin and Mark to a wine bar…where suddenly we met up with about 15 other program people. I’ll just say that large groups of Americans should not travel as large groups of Americans. It gives me the shivers. In the states, ok, yeah, sure, be in big groups. But here, things operate on the mini scale. We were there a while, and then half of “us” left, and the other half walked down to a normal bar.

Right after we ordered I went down to the restroom, which was interesting. The French don’t care about a lot of things. So there’s this bathroom. It’s got a sink, a urinal, and a door leading into where the toilet is. People just stand in the bathroom, waiting in line. I’ve kinda gotten used to finding the bathroom in places and waiting in line for the pot while French dudes just come up and pee standing right next to me. Awk-ward! Rather, kinda funny, especially when no one else cares. While in line a girl standing next to me asked me a question. Not only was it really loud in there and I couldn’t hear her, she spoke really fast and with Argot (French slang). I asked her to repeat it, and when I still didn’t catch it she asked where I was from. I think I physically felt my shoulders slump.


“Oh, I’m going to study there!” Of course you are, I thought. You all do. But then we had a nice, short, franglais conversation while standing next to the guy who was peeing. When I got back upstairs, all my friends were grinning and telling me that I missed the best thing in the world. Apparently the bartender had come up to the table with our drinks, but when he took the first one off the tray, everything got unbalanced and he dropped about five bottles of cider onto Sophia’s lap. The plus was that we got free drinks. The minus is that now Sophia needs to get her coat drycleaned, and it’s probably gonna be hyper cher. She and Jessica, who’d been sitting right next to her, smelled just lovely the rest of the night.

At 00h30, Jessica and Sophia and I got on our bus to go home. The fun part of that was being with all the highschoolers. The drinking age in France is 16, so it’s always pretty interesting when we’re out late at night. It doesn’t matter if we’re in a bar, or leaving a movie, there are drunk teenagers everywhere. It’s like they’re following us. In the states there are still drunk teenagers, but they’re generally hiding behind buildings. Here they have a problem with 12 year-olds buying beer and stuff from the marché. 12.

There’s also this relatively new law in France that makes smoking in public places interdit (forbidden). So wasn’t it a nice surprise when we were on the bus, and not only did those kids pull out cigarettes, but some pot too. That was nice of them. I got home smelling like stuff I don’t smoke; I can’t wait for tomorrow if for the only reason that lundi is washing day.

Saturday Jessica and I met at the canal near our houses (it takes about 15 minutes for me to walk to her house) and walked for a little bit before we wandered back to her house, met up with Sophia, and did a little exploring of Saint Grégoire. We found the mall. And Target. Get this, it’s spelled “Géant,” pronounced [zjay ah]. You know how at home we all say that we got stuff from “Tar-get” and pretend to say it with the French accent? Yeah, it pretty much sounds like that. It was nice. What’s funny about the French malls is that you’ll be walking and window shopping, thinking to yourself, “Shoes, shoes, jackets, bookstore, boulangerie, tshirts, creperie, shoes, shoes, boulangerie…” They sell bread everywhere.

Oh, some definitions:

Boulangerie: bakery

Patisserie: bakery that sells sweet things

Creperie: makes crêpes, galettes

Epicerie: oh wow I can’t remember…something with spices….

Charchuterie: Butchery

Librairie: Bookstore

Bibliotheque: Library (yeah, that one’s confusing)

We bought a box of five pains au chocolat, went back to Jessica’s house, stuck them in the microonde, and started a cute French chick flick which I didn’t get to finish cause I had to go home for dinner. After dinner I went back to the centre ville (downtown Rennes) and met Collin and Mark and that’s how the Night of What Not to Do began.

I call it that because while nothing major went wrong, tiny things did. I laughed then, and I laugh now, but for future reference:

Samedi soir: no one does anything. Some bars even close early (10ish).

All the college kids are gone by this time. All the highschooler’s parents have grounded them for whatever happened the night before. There literally is almost NO ONE in the city on Saturday nights. It would have been fine had it been warm. We could have just sit outside and hung out. But non, it was freezing, and in order to sit inside somewhere we would have to buy something.

Collin and I were being bums and didn’t want to spend any money. I felt kinda dumb, actually; it was almost my fault that we were en ville without anything to do…Mark had said he was bored, I knew Collin’s family was gone for the weekend, so I just told them to meet me at République. How was I to know that Saturday night was the night that everyone was somewhere else? Well, that was leçon #1 anyway. Instead of just giving up all the way and heading home at about 10:30 (My bus had come in just after 9) we tried rather half-heartedly to find something else to do.

It didn’t work. We found nothing. At 11 we were standing in front of the kebab place (and I use the phrase “the” kebab place quite loosely, there are really hundreds of them) trying to decide for the seventh time what would be worth our while. Finally Collin says, “Ok, I’m gonna go home.” I pulled out my phone to check the time and started laughing. “What?”

“My last bus was four minutes ago. I have to be here another hour and a half.”

The guys looked at me, and seriously, I’ve never felt like a more horrid person before. You know, like that party pooper who, unlike all the other party poopers, actually does try to be fun, yet always seems to find themselves in situations where they can’t do anything right? Yeah, that was totally me. Haha…we ended up at Collin’s house for about half an hour, and I got home just before 1am, lucky me. At least that time there wasn’t any pot. Although I’ll have to hand it to Collin and Mark, they didn’t desert me, though if I had been them I totally would have been working that plan out in my mind.

This is why it kinda sucks to be in the suburbs. Of course, if anyone else wants to go running or be outside, they have to walk to a park, whereas I have a canal literally around the corner. And I don’t have to hike to the bus stop, like some people have to. And I do love my parents. But when I go out with friends and have a public transport-inforced curfew, I get kinda annoyed. What’s more is Jessica and Sophia found out the taxi ride from Rennes centre ville to my stop in St. Grégoire is E20. Split three ways that wouldn’t be too bad. Also my dad told me today that one of the last girls who lived with them would always walk home, no matter what time it was.

I’m not sure how I feel about doing that, but it is only 6km. Not too bad, and it’s all along a main road. I don’t know. I’ll probably call up a friend en ville before trying to hike it. As much as I love walking, I hate getting lost even more.

[…]Now it’s almost dinner time, instead of early afternoon…..not that it really matters to you what time it is, but that’s what it is. We’ll probably be eating in 45 minutes, but of course I’m already hungry. Virginie and Elisa are over tonight, and I think Pierre and Lola are coming too. Sweet. A night of not knowing what in the world anyone is talking about! Yay! Haha….actually it won’t be too bad. If I really need to know what’s going on Michel will notice and fill me in.

Today I went to an art exhibit with my père. It was at Les Champs Libre (The Free Fields…yeah I dunno). It’s a new building, and actually pretty. If you know anything about French architectural theory, you’ll maybe understand what I mean by “actually pretty.” The short version is that when you’re French, and when you’re building something, what counts is what is going to end up on the inside. No one cares that everything is made out of cement and no one can tell the houses apart. It’s built, tada!

But this building is only half cement, and has glass and decorative rock, and it’s pretty sweet. I’m actually not exactly sure what all is in it, but there’re at least a handful of museum showrooms and a library.

The exhibit that we saw was of Bernard Collet (I’m pretty sure I spelled that right). He’s an artist who has made hundreds of posters and publicités for music festivals, books, banks, you name it. They’re super creative, and I really liked his style. Cooky, is the way I’d describe it. He was just so incredibly imaginative. There was one piece, which wasn’t actually a poster, but it was a room made up to look like an artist’s studio. In the middle almost against the wall was a desk, on asleep on the desk was a giant bear. The thing with the bear is that it was actually a human mannequin dressed to look like a man who’d fallen asleep while working, but wearing brown gloves and with the head of a bear. The room had the sounds of snoring playing.

My favorite part of the sleeping bear was that there was a dream cloud suspended over his head. A projector was showing what he was dreaming about. Best dream ever: He was a ninja bear in the forest fighting a robot who really liked to dance. I smiled a lot watching that movie. There’s just something about robots and lasers…..

On the way home we almost went into the Musée des Beaux-Arts (normal art museum), but we didn’t have time. Michel promised that we would go soon. There’s an exhibit there of –get this – American western art. Haha. I still would like to see it, and Michel really wants to see it, so I look forward to next time.

And now I just wait for dinner to be ready. Well, technically I think we’re just waiting for Pierre and Lola to come. I’m pretty sure they’re driving in from Vannes, though, and I don’t know how long that takes. I was just having fun playing with my cousine Elisa. She likes to steal my shoes and try to lock my door. Actually, she did figure out how to lock the door to the sale à manger, haha. She’s adorable.

Another good thing about when Pierre gets here, besides being able to eat, is that my wifi stopped working, and I haven’t been able to get on for a couple days. I didn’t say anything at first, 1. I didn’t know how to start 2. It happens a lot in the states and I thought I’d be able to just wait it out 3. I didn’t have the faintest idea how to suggest fixing it.

But then when Virginie came she brought her computer and tried to get on and it didn’t work for her either, so yay, I didn’t have to do anything! Wow, what a loser I can be. Oh well. I’ll be assertive some other time. I just hope that he can get it to work again, or knows who to call to get it to work (he is the one who set it up in the first place) because I was supposed to be doing Lyon/vacances research this weekend and haven’t been able to.

Oh yeah, that’s the last thing. Does anyone else just love that we have two weeks of school and then a week-long break? Cause I know that I love it. I love the French and their mandatory vacances. Magnificent idea, that. So from the 25 février to 1 mars, I’ll be in Lyon…along with the rest of France, apparently. Going to Lyon over winter break is like going to Aspen right after getting two feet of snow. Everyone else wants to do it too.

But I’m still looking forward to it

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