Thursday, 29 September 2011

I found love in the nick of time

I Can't Make You Love Me/Nick of Time - Bon Iver (Bonnie Raitt cover)

Lay down with me;
Tell me no lies.
Just hold me close;
Don't patronize.
Don't patronize me.

Cuz I can't make you love me
If you don't.
You can't make your heart feel
Something it won't.
Here in the dark
In these final hours,
I will lay down my heart
And I'll feel the power;
But you won't.
No, you won't.
'Cuz I can't make you love me
If you don't

I like to sit on my bed, listen to this song and sob for all 6:51 minutes of this song and then get back to my life.

Sunday, 25 September 2011

I Had the Blues But I Shook Them Loose

Introducing you to what my hair does naturally, lots of people ask me what I do to it and how I style it.  The answer is that I do nothing to it I'm afraid.

Hello everyone! Sorry for my two week absence.  I've had two weeks of lectures since the last time I wrote here and so suddenly my life has gone from not very busy to mildly busy.  As an ERASMUS student from Cardiff I only have to do an minimum of 12 ECTS and a maximum of 18.  ECTS are the French equivalent of the UK system of credits.  Most modules here are 6 credits so I don't actually have to do that many modules.  Some of my friends from Birmingham have to do 30 so they are a lot busier than me.  I'm doing a translation module (English into French on Tuesdays and French into English on Thursdays), then I'm doing 'histoire littéraire et culuture littéraire générale' for which I have to read Madame Bovary and then my other module is Littérature comparées for which I have to read Proust (GROAN) and Virginia Woolf's To The Lighthouse.  Our lecturers have said to us ERASMUS lot that we can read the texts in English so long as we buy a copy in French as well so we can use them for the classes.  I am going to try and read them all in French but it's just very time consuming and to understand the plot and have some idea of what is going on I'll plough through the English translations.  It's been good to start lectures even if I don't understand much of them.  My biggest mistake so far has been signing up to do a course on middle aged texts as well as from the 16th and 17th century but alas that module is compulsory with my 'histoire littéraire et culuture littéraire générale' module.  The lecturer is a machine, she ploughs through 2 hours without taking a break and even drinking any water.  The Middle Ages tend to leave me cold anyway so it's double torture.  When she was talking about Tristan and Isolde all I could think about was the James Franco film which lead onto a lot of day dreaming and not much listening.  The lectures here are between and hour and a half to two hours long, my brain can't function that long with that much French.  I can manage about 45 minutes and after that my brain just shuts down all I can understand are the verbs in whatever the lecturer is saying.  I've not met many French people so for the moment I just don't notice any improvement in my French at all.  Most people have said to me that sometimes I speak French with an English accent.  Maybe I should apply for British citizenship after all?

Life here in general has been very lovely.  It's 'cooled down', meaning it's less scorching hot than it was at the end of August but we're still at 27 degrees most days, I have a cracking tan no joke.  I've been able to wear jeans during the day at least once and a long sleeved top maybe a handful of times.  I still haven't had the chance to wear my huge 90's grandad knit cardigan that I bought at the flea market and I assume it'll be about a month until that happens anyway.  I've only really had two unpleasant moments here so far.  My first unpleasant experience of Montpellier was on Friday after my friend's birthday night out when I was walking to her house with one of our guys mates at about half 3 in the morning (asking for trouble really), and we walked past three Arabic looking boys who started shouting at us and included some choice sentences like 'You're white!' and to our guy friend 'we'll fuck you're wife!'  Not that our mate has a wife or anything, so they clearly have the gift of foresight or something.  Thank god our friend was with us because he's quite a tall and a well built guy, felt a bit safer with him. If it had been just us two girls walking past those three boys they would have probably followed us home and hassled us some more.  I don't feel 100% comfortable here at night, it just seems unnecessary to heckle us girls like that just because of how we look and where we come from.  If someone hassled their sister they way they do us, they would beat that person up.  The hypocrisy is what annoys me the most

My second bad experience was yesterday.  It was Montpellier HSC playing Paris St Germain football team.  I do enjoy watching football at times but what I hate the most is how some of the football fans just become one big mob when they all come together.  Despite the fact that the match wasn't starting until the evening town was full of police in full riot gear with vans and apparently one of those trucks that they could put trouble causers on and drive them off.  I'd gone to the big shopping centre at the end of the tramline to do a food shop with friends and once we reached the centre of town by the train station the tram had to stop because there were loads of Paris St. Germain football fans causing trouble.  The riot police and vans were there as well and there was another tram before ours that couldn't get passed because they were all blocking the tram lines.  So the doors opened and we all had to get out (I was schlepping three big carrier bags of food), and just as we stepped out all scared of the crowd there was a big bang and we could see smoke coming from the big mob of football fans.  We were all so scared, even one of the boys who was with us wasn't feeling too great about the situation.  We literally had no idea what to do, we live quite a bit out of town so walking wasn't really an option with our bags and town was full of football fans.  Thankfully the tram driver opened the tram doors again and we ran on again and then the police cleared the mess up quite quickly actually.  I despise big mobs like that who insist on ruining everyone's day when we all just want to go about as normal and not be frightened by shaven haired lairy football fans.

Shirt (€2) and sunglasses (€1)

It being Sunday today I went to the flea market again.  The options of things to do on Sunday are limited to going to Church or the flea market.  I chose the latter.  Went with a friend who struggles to shop in Primark so she didn't enjoy it as much, plus we didn't feel very safe again today because just as we arrived they announced over the PA that there was a group of pick pockets around.  Wonderful.  On the upside though today's purchases of this super cute peter pan collar shirt and Ray Ban-esque glasses came to €3.  Fantastic.  The lady I bought the shirt from was telling me how she'd seen on the news that those types of collars were very trendy at the moment and that I would be 'vraiment à la mode' (very fashionable) when I wear it.  The only downside of this shirt is the shoulder pads in it but those are easy to take out.

The other good news of this week is that it's confirmed that my boyfriend has 2 weeks off in November so he's coming over to see me for at least 10 days once he finds out what the dates are.  He was joking around saying that we should go to Disney Land Paris, he should know by now that I take these kinds of suggestions very seriously because I LOVE everything Disney.  Alas after looking into it a bit more it turns out it's actually quite an expensive bit of fun.  Tickets come in at £51 for an adult for one day and staying in a 'one key' hotel for 2 nights is about £300.  Bit of a rip off really.  So instead I'm looking into taking the train to Paris whilst the boyfriend flies into Paris from Heathrow or Birmingham so we can meet there, stay in a hostel for one or two nights and explore the city with maybe a trip to the top of the Eiffel Tower despite my fear of heights.  It all works out cheaper than Disney Land.  The hostel prices are very reasonable, found one in Montmatre for £36 for a double room.  If anyone has any Paris tips please share them with me, I'm already so excited at just the thought of going there again.  It really is one of the most beautiful places in all the world.

Sunday, 11 September 2011

The Grand Optimist

Flea market purchases: cardigan (€2), vintage watch (€2), Dr Martens (€3) and old wedding photo (€1)

I always wish I had the patience to root through all the charity shops that we have in Cardiff but I'm no good at that, but today I had the chance to go the the flea market in Mosson with two of the girls.  Had a really good time seeing what people were trying to sell.  You can literally find everything out there, from car batteries to old books and maps.  I had some luck today, this cardigan is actually huge on me to the point of ridiculous so I may have to wash it super hot and shove it in the dryer before I can wear it.  Not that it's even remotely cold enough to even think about wearing this.  I can't imagine it ever getting cold in the south of France but apparently it does happen.  

The photo is probably a strange buy, but at one of the old book stalls there were boxes upon boxes of old photographs and postcards as well as letters.  It made me so sad seeing all these personal photos just lying around in boxes as well as private letters.  I may go back next Sunday and pick some up, it feels as if they'd at least be safe with me rather than just being stored in boxes.   I was going to buy a whole pack of photos but the man was a little off and wanted €5 for 4 photos so I just took my favorite one.  I love how happy she looks and her dress is beautiful.  I wonder who she is and who she married, and if she was happy.

The winning purchase of today.  All for €3.  These aren't strictly Dr Martens, I think they're called 'Fresh Air', but you can't really tell the difference.  I've always loved Dr. Martens but I don't think they suit me very well, being 4ft11 and a little chubby and all, but I figured for €3 you can't really go wrong and if I hate them so much I can always just put them on eBay.  These will probably be really good for city trips this autumn, I'm always the one moaning how much my feet hurt after a day of walking but I don't think this will be the case with these.  Need to actually book some trips now...

Friday, 9 September 2011

Things I have learnt in France this week:

  1. there is absolutely no sense of urgency in this country.
  2. getting a visa for Peru is probably easier than trying to enroll at a French university
  3. In regards to university, not even the French know what's going on
  4. doing all your paperwork for the bank does not necessarily mean that they have sent off the application for your bank card
  5. French men (or the majority of them), think they are God's gift to women
  6. the French love paperwork
  7. everything and anything needs a passport photo of you
  8. everyone sticks religiously to their lunch break, and even if you've been queueing for ages you get turned away the minute it's lunch.

So I have had a very interesting week.  I tried to enroll on Tuesday, the first part was easy.  Handing over my forms from Cardiff and applying for my student card was easy.  Alas I do not own a student card yet because it takes about a week to actually make them.  So at the moment I am student cardless.  Not easy when I want to apply for a culture pass (discounts at the theatre, opera, cinema etc).  Then on Tuesday we attempted to enroll in our courses.  Turns out all the subjects we had written on our learning agreements and that we assumed we were going to be studying, didn't actually exist and that they were last years modules because the university website never gets updated.  The international office says it has nothing to do with enrollment, as does the ERASMUS office so essentially we were left up to our own devices.  It depends on who you ask, one person says sign up online, the other to do to the lessons, and the other person says to go to the home school and sign up with the secretary.  I was trying to enroll from 1:45 until about 4:30 in the afternoon.  It involves a lot of standing around in queues (which the French don't do very well), to then be told 'actually no, you don't sign up here'.

Through some miracle (and hanging around with the right people), I've managed to sign up to two very interesting literature modules (one studying Madam Bovary, and the other focusing on literature from the 1920's specifically Marcel Proust and Virginia Woolf).  I've also signed up for a translation class two times a week.  Tuesday made me just want to cry because even the French students aren't so sure how everything works, so how are we meant to know? We did have a meeting about 'how' to enroll but that was on Wednesday and uni started yesterday.  I can deal with a different type of organization, I obviously didn't expect it to be like Cardiff where everything is online and easy to understand, but this is just very frustrating because how are we meant to know what to do? The French employ the 'if you don't ask we won't tell you' mentality.  The time tables aren't even online or are all the old ones.  It's just very chaotic, and apparently this university is one of the worst administrative wise in the country.

Also at this point in time I do not own a bank card and won't be getting one until at least the 18th.  Went in on Tuesday (after showing up at the bank on monday before realizing it was shut), to 'pick up my card' and it turns out it hadn't been ordered yet.  So still waiting on that.

After Tuesday I'm just trying to laugh about it, there's nothing you can do other than that.  The lack or urgency in this country is something to get used to and I'm just trying to be a little bit more relaxed about it, but you can see my frustrations when it's time for classes to start and yet no one has any idea how to sign up for them?

As for the French men, well they all largely think that they are so funny and a blessing to us women.  Naturally they hear/can see we're British (I know I don't count but I get included in the grand scheme of things), and I was at the tram stop with a friend chatting and some French lads were saying in French 'ah you're english, how do you say what is your name in english? how do you say do you want to come back to mine in english?'.  Basically they think they're hilarious and think the joke is on us when really it's the other way round.  I'm in no danger from the 'french charm' I can tell you that.

The upside of this week was our trip to the beach, so lovely to finally swim in the sea again and nap on the beach.  I've missed that.  The only thing I keep forgetting is that the French aren't quite as reserved as Germans or British people.  Lots of ladies topless.  Not sure if I'll get to that stage.

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Une Année Dans La Merde

Place de la Comédie

So apologies for my lack of updates, these past two weeks have been beyond crazy.  I had language lessons 9 till 12 every day and on every second day we also had class from 2 to 4:45. Needless to say I've been Frenched out.  Then adding to this was the sudden surge of my social life.  I've been meeting so many interesting people and have genuinely had very little time for myself which makes a nice change.  Everyone I have met so far is so interesting and friendly.  For most people this year abroad is a chance to do something they've never done before, almost like a fresh start.  So there is a lot of positivity and everyone is very relaxed and laid back.  It was great having the language classes actually because it was an easy way to meet new people and it reassured me that I actually do know enough French to get by for now.

view from my friend's studio

But yes, from having an non existent social life over summer it's totally the opposite here.  I've been out every night with the exception of 2.  It's a totally different night life here, most nights we've been visiting our friends in their new apartments and bringing along bottles of wine, or just chilling outside the bars in the evening.  Like I said everything is so relaxed and a totally different pace to the UK.  I really feel like I'm on holiday.  The wine here is ridiculously cheap and relatively good, makes for nice drinking in this heat.  My weather app on my dashboard is showing little suns and 27 across the board, so difficult to want to do anything except lie on the beach (which we are going to explore tomorrow hopefully).

First taste of seafood in about 4 years.  Pas mal, pas mal.

So despite it being a while since I posted and a lot has happened, it's not really much to blog about.  The bottom line is that so far I'm having a really great time and meeting some fantastic people.  It's going to be a great year, and if you ever get the chance to travel and visit another country: go for it.  It's such a once in a life time opportunity.

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