Friday, September 30, 2011

that time i almost got arrested in france...

living in a high school kind of stinks. it's definitely interesting. my room is so small. i have a bed, a desk, a dresser, and a sink in my room and share the shower and bathroom with the other people on the hall. the bed is SO uncomfortable. there are about 300 of the 1000 students that go to school here that live here. the first night they pulled the fire alarm 5 times. my sink leaks and even though i've told a few people about it, no one seems to fix it. the shower is the most awful thing i've ever experienced. it basically just sprays water in every direction except for down. it floods the whole shower room every time someone uses it. there is one computer lab in the school. NO WIFI. kill me. i thought the lab would be easily accessible. wrong. it's only open one hour a day..from 5:30-6:30. we've kind of been a bit persistant about using it so the man at the front desk opened it for us after we ate dinner tonight..but it's closed all weekend. so we found out mcdonalds has free wifi. dear mcdonalds..i hated you in america but love you in france. the food in the cafeteria here is really cheap--2 euros for lunch and dinner and 90 cents for breakfast. the meals are HUGE. i really need to be careful how much i eat or i'm going to gain 75 pounds by the time i leave.

i went into perenchies today which is the town where my other school is. it was supposed to be really easy to get to. take the train and it's a 5 minute ride. well, i got to the train station in armentieres earlier than i needed to get there (i'm never early for anything) and so i went ahead and took an earlier train that left at 10:00. except the train i took was nonstop to lille and didn't stop in perenchies. so i got to the main trainstation in lille at 10:15 and the next train to perenchies was at 12:15. my meeting in perenchies was at 11:00. panicking. i had to take the metro then take a bus the rest of the way. i got my metro ticket, and the booths to stamp your ticket in this station were different than the ones i was used to using in paris, and i guess i didn't put it in far enough, so it didn't stamp. i didn't really have time to ask around to make sure i was doing it right so i figured i'd just go ahead and get on the metro. um. huge mistake. these people got on about halfway through my ride that are similar to police to check everyones tickets. they of course don't speak any english (it seems no one here does) and they made me get off the metro and thankfully he just walked me over to the thing to stamp my ticket to make sure that i really had bought it that day and let me get back on. i was petrified. i really thought i was going to get in trouble with them. wah arrested in france, just my luck. i got off the metro and onto the bus and somehow was only 5 minutes late to my meeting. i met with the english teachers and observed a class. the kids are really cute. they asked me tons of questions, but mainly just want to know how old i am. everyone here is practically obsessed with new york. they all just assume that i've been there. the kids figured out how old i was by asking how old i was when 9/11 happened. tricky little monsters.

i had lunch with the teachers in perenchies. i'm glad that my time is split up evenly, i like it in perenchies a lot. for now i'll be spending 6 hours a day there on tuesdays there. one of  the english teachers there and she dropped me off at the train station when we were finished today (at 1:30) and asked if i wanted her to wait with me. i said no because i figured that the trains were frequent, or at least every 30 minutes or so. boy was i wrong (again). the next train to armentieres wasn't until 3:55. so i went to the supermarket and bought some cereal and nutella for this weekend. i just stayed close to be sure i wouldn't miss another train. when i got back i did mysore ashtanga in my room for the first time. i haven't been able to practice since i got here, so it was nice to be on my mat again. one of the administrators at my school in armentieres said that he and his wife run on the weekends and he invited me to go with them. although noone speaks english here, everyone is really welcoming and wants to be sure i'm getting settled okay.

since i'll be teaching tuesdays in perenchies for 6 hours, i may see if i can do 3 hours on wednesdays and thursdays in armentieres and then i'd have off mondays and fridays which will make travel a bit easier. i am going to start looking into places i want to visit and rail passes, etc.

tomorrow i'm going into lille with the other assistants to walk around and have lunch and dinner since the high school shuts down on weekends and we have to fend for ourselves for meals.

maybe one day i'll post my pictures.

that's all for now. i didn't get was a good day.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

crêpes for dinner

paris. ummmmm. paris. don't really know where to start, so i guess i'll start where i left off. at the airport in charlotte.

we finally left at around 8:30pm and flew across the pond to charles de gaulle airport in paris. i got to watch some great movies with their on demand. something borrowed (a book i loved) and water for elephants (a book i loved more). they were both cute..not as good as the books, but when are they ever? we were supposed to sleep as much as we could on the plane, but my seat wouldn't recline as much as i wanted to, it was cold, and my pillow sucked. i probably slept an hour the whole flight. when we got to paris it was 10:30 in the morning. we had to stay up allllll day (again). we got our bags and started to try to navigate our way around the airport. france is a silly country and the airport doesn't have free wifi. we couldn't pull up the address to our hostel and of course neither me or my sister thought to write it down. we found the RER B to take us to gare du nord, and from gare du nord we were supposed to take the 2 line to sacre coeur...or so we thought. we both thought our hostel was really close to there, but we were so so wrong. after dragging our suitcases and carry on bags through the streets and train stations of paris for almost 3 hours we finally decided to just take a taxi. we got to our hostel a little bit after 1:30 and skyped with our parents (it was 7:30am in charlotte). the 6 hour time difference has been something in and of itself to adjust to.

oh, i forgot to mention! our french stunk. we had such a hard time communicating..looking back i'm going to blame it on exhaustion.

we took a nap (even though we weren't supposed to) and then got up and walked around near the hostel. we're staying at st. christophers inn right along a canal that leads to the seine. it's a great place, highly highly recommend staying here if you're ever in paris (or any other city where they might have a location). we got our first french meal..a baguette with chèvre, tomatoes, and was most delicious. we walked along the canal, sat along the river, then came back to the hostel and had a few beers. we met some wonderfully friendly scottish people and hung out with them for the rest of the night.

we got up on friday and decided to conquer the louvre and the eiffel tower. we got lost on our way to the metro station..the first of many many times getting lost. we finally found the stalingrad station, bought a bunch of metro tickets and got on the 2 to head to the louvre. we took some pictures of the pyramids then decided to just walk to the tower and we would go to the louvre later. the walk from the louvre to the tower was not short. it was long. very long. but it was beautiful and we only started complaining when we got hungry. solution: un patisserie et boulangerie for another baguette sandwich. we ordered then walked the rest of the way and ate on a bench at the bottom of the tower. the lines to take the elevators up the tower are so long, so we decided to take the stairs. 669 stairs (equivalent to 43 stories). holy tired. but SO worth it. the view was breathtaking. we walked back down and got an ice cream (une glace) and ate it on the lawns looking towards the tower. we took a nap and sat for a while, then got up and walked along the seine to find dinner. we ate at a café. it was good, but we decided not to do that again. we found our way to the metro and headed home.

every day we've had has been long and tiring but we managed to space everything out nicely so we haven't felt rushed. yesterday morning we woke up, showered and got ready and came down to the café/bar attached to the hostel, watched a bit of rugby and had lunch. my first croque monsieur this trip and it was so yummy. so yummy i may have that for lunch again tomorrow since my mouth is watering now just thinking of it. we went and ran errands. we got french cell phones, went to gare du nord to buy my train ticket for tomorrow, then to saint lazarre station to buy cari's and to be sure we knew where to go as to not miss our trains. from saint lazarre we went to sacre coeur, montmatre, and le moulin rouge. sacre coeur and montmatre are not as high as the eiffel tower, but it's breathtaking to look over the city from higher up. we did lots and lots of walking and climbing more stairs. on our way home from the moulin rouge we stopped at a pizza place just down the street from our hostel and had a homemade pizza. ham, mushrooms, and cheese. i don't remember ever having a more yummy pizza..well, maybe when i was in italy after high school..but this one is a very very close second.

this morning we decided to get a bit of an earlier start so we could see everything except the musée d'orsay (which we'll do tomorrow before we leave). we had breakfast at the hostel and were out the door by 10:30. first stop was the louvre (for real this time). we got our tickets and walked all around the museum. i don't even know where to start with how many amazing things we saw. the statues are so lovely and i cannot believe how the artists were able to make them so detailed. we of course saw the mona lisa, venus de milo, winged victory, and the sphynx, but there was so much more and it was all incredible. after a few hours in the louvre we went to find the arc de triomphe. we got lost. again. really really lost this time. well, not THAT lost, we just walked the wrong direction..for at least 2 miles. we found our way to ave champs elysées and made it to the arc. it was huge. and beautiful. and huge. then we took the metro to notre dame, which was also huge and beautiful. we caught a little bit of mass while we were there, i am not catholic, but the hymns were lovely. when we left we found a crêperie right outside of the cathedral and had crêpes with nutella and banana for dinner. we're allowed to do these things because we walk so much during the day it cancels it out. after our dinner we took the metro back home and here i sit in the café at the hostel.

i packed my suitcase for tomorrow, had a chocolat chaud, and am getting ready to head up to bed. we're going to the musée d'orsay tomorrow morning before we have to leave. my train leaves gare du nord at 16h 58 and i'll arrive in lille at 18h. the principal of my school is coming to pick me up from the train station and i'll stay with him and his wife tomorrow.

more to come from lille in a few days once i get settled in my dorm/flat/studio/wherever it is i'll be living.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

it's time

so what better time to make a post than waiting for my flight to board. are we delayed? of course we are! they're making the announcements in french and english. my sisters response to this: "at least i know what they're saying." i psyched myself out so much that i had myself convinced i couldn't speak any french and i was going to be walking around aimlessly, unable to communicate with anyone when i got to france. SURPRISE! i still can speak and understand french! what a relief.

so, my younger sister and i are flying out of charlotte today. it's pouring down rain in charlotte. wonderful day to fly. sike. i thought today was going to be so long, but surprise again! it flew by. i ran a few last minute errands, said goodbye to a dear friend, and then packed and repacked my bag. magically it was under the weight limit of 50lbs. i don't know how i managed to do that, but i did. i do have two pretty large carry-on bags, but, i am so amazed at myself.

saying goodbye to my dogs and my family was just about the hardest thing i've ever had to do. thank god i don't have a boyfriend that i would have had to leave behind too. riley (my sweet sweet puppy) was upset with me all day long. she had me sobbing before i even left my house. then came lots of water works at the security check at the airport. it's no shock that my family and i are very close. when i was in college i came home almost every single month. this will be the longest i've ever been away from home. it's going to be hard. i am so relieved that i have my sister with me.

the flight is about 9 hours long (assuming we ever leave the airport) and the time difference is 6 hours ahead. it will be about 8:30am when we get to charles de gaulle. perfect timing to get my first pain au chocolat and espresso.

a bientot!