Tuesday, 12 February 2008

just about hanging in there...

Sorry it's been so long all y'all. L'internet, il ne marche pas! My access been a bit sporadic, so hopefully I can remember all that's happened in the last week.

Everything's going pretty well. I've been on an unrelated emotional rollercoaster for the last few days (yes, yet another - surely I've had my quota for the year? I must be in for some seriously good karma is all I can say), which has marred things quite a bit, but hopefully I'm slowly clawing my way back up to square 1 now. That aside, I think I quite like it here. The weather's fair (just like Adelaide actually) and the food's good. It's a very pretty city and for all the crazy one way streets, it seems very livable. I think it's big enough to be interesting, but small enough not to be too anonymous and overwhelming. The one thing I don't like is all the dog 'crottes' on the road - they don't have to pick them up here, and it's pretty gross. You really have to watch where you walk. I really have no sense of direction, and am still walking around with map firmly in hand. The only thing that's really sunk in is the route from the house to the bus, which involves all of about two turns.

My french is improving...I think, although it's possibly just that I'm getting less bothered about just spitting out whatever happens to make it from my brain to my tongue, regardless of whether it will bruise the ears of the poor frog I'm 'talking' to. I've been moved down a class (I told you I was bad), which I think has actually been a good thing. I wanted to stay in the top class, because I wanted to be challenged, but I think in the end it was SO much of a challenge that everything was sailing straight over my head, and I wasn't learning anything for all the effort just spent on trying to figure out what was going on. The new class is much better, and we've been learning about indefinite pronouns. I'm not very good at it I'm afraid, and I'm looking forward to the day that I can understand enough of what's going on around me to learn grammar by feeling the rhythm of the language, rather than learning rules and piecing it all together like Lego (without opposable thumbs).

I can't remember at all what happened Thursday I'm afraid - I had classes in the morning and the afternoon so probably not a lot else. I'm pretty sure I had my first pain au chocolat then, which was so delicious. It almost tasted like it had custard inside, but I think it was just the lovely lovely pastry. I possibly went into a big big bookshop, bought a copy of Tintin and the 7 Crystal Balls in an attempt to learn French, and accidentally bought the Spanish version instead. Oops! Returning it was a giant saga, because I found the book I actually wanted, waited in line at the counter for ages (and it turns out queueing is an Anglo thing anyway, so it was more a case of me being pushed in front of for ages) only to be told that I had to go somewhere else first. I waited for ages at the help counter (same scenario) to find out that I had to go back to the section where I bought the book (kids section) and then get the return ok-ed by the salesperson there, and THEN go back to the sales counter and actually exchange the book. I now have 10 eurocents credit to my name and an hour less of my life.

Friday during the day I'm similarly vague on, but Friday night I went with les Anglaises to a concert organised by the Alliance here. The first band ('Fada') were great, obviously trained jazz musicians playing a kind of fusion with very clever political rapping over the top (not that I could understand any of it). I'd be interested to see them again at a time when it won't go straight over my head. The second band (the 'Spoke Orkestra') were truly awful, a cross between rap and metal and I could've lived without seeing them! Still, it was good to get out at night, to do something different and something I probably would've been to lazy to do at home, and I found that catching the tram home late, and walking back to my house is actually pretty safe, and relatively unscary, especially considering it's not something I would ever do at home. That's lucky because otherwise i just wouldn't be able to go out at night!

Saturday morning I got up and played with the kids a bit. We played 'oui et non' and 'petite et grande' which got a bit confusing when it morphed into 'oui or yes' and 'petite or little'. The little boy says 'yes' in the most perfect Australian accent though, it's hilarious! He's started wishing me 'adios' now too, which is a bit bizarre and unexpected. I think he thinks that because I don't understand most of what he says, I'm a bit simple. We've also been practicing writing together, and (because I can't explain anything to him) I'm happy to say I've improved a lot at cursive...backwards.

I tried to eat my vegemite for breakfast too, which was a bit of a failure. They do actually have (what looks like) normal bread here. It's called 'American' bread and it looks totally normal so I chucked some in the toaster and away we went. Once I put the vegemite on though, I realised it tasted all wrong. The bread, despite looking normal, actually is extremely sweet and tastes more like McDonald's buns, or almost like a croissant. In that context, the vegemite was just no good. Perhaps when I have my own place, I'll have to bake my own bread for breakfast, or maybe have teeny slices of baguette (which you really do see people carrying around here). They do actually have bread with almost every meal here, but they don't have bread and butter plates - you just put it on the table.

I went for a run on Saturday morning in a huge park nearby, which was just beautiful with a big lake in the middle and an old mansion on the grounds. I ran on the path, because it seemed to be the done thing, but when my knees starte to hurt I asked the security guard if I could run on the oval. He looked bemused but said yes, and later I realised why. Obviously running on ovals is not the done thing, so the ground was very very soft and uneven. Oh and there were geese everywhere. I think the danger to my ankles running on such bad ground was probably as high as to my knees from running on asphalt, but the view is not so good!

After the run, I went into the city. On the way to the busstop, I passed the local supermarket, which seems like a bit of a Coles equivalent - huge and cheap and nothing special. It's got a huge carpark out the front, and on that day there was a huge outdoor food market! I didn't go close, but it looked great! I wonder how they got the supermarket to consider that good for business...maybe it's a French thing. It spilled out onto the street, and the last stall next to my bus stop was a huge stall selling nothing but many different kinds of oysters. They must've been super fresh too, because they didn't smell at all. Quelle bizzare!

When I got in the city, I went to sit outside the French school and scab their wifi from the street. I must've looked like a complete crazy person sitting on the footpath talking to my computer! While checking my email, I discovered that my cousin Nick was coming to town that afternoon! He's been travelling all around Europe (see his blog in the sidebar - he may well have some pretty photos of Bordeaux up soon too) and due to hotels and planes being booked out, he came to stay for the weekend. I went to pick him up from the train station, and since I was a little early I stopped at the cafe across the road to have a cafe. (Ordering 'a coffee' here means you get an expresso, which I'm growing to like because they're significantly cheaper than any other drink you can get). The waiter asked me where I was from, and when I told him, he said I was 'tres cooool' and gave me devil fingers!

Once I found Nick, and we did a quick tour of the city, and we ate some more canel├ęs and I tried a proper French macaroon. I wasn't really that excited about them, because I've never liked macaroons at home, but these are completely different! They're much smaller to begin with, and come in all sorts of pretty pastel colours and flavours (we tried vanilla, chocolate & raspberry, and salted caramel). It's basically two biscuits with some kind of soft filling, but the biscuits are light and lovely, kind of a cross between a meringe, a biscuit and a cake, and the flavourings are delicate and a bit gourmet. Yum yum yum. They're pretty cheap though (in an absolute sense anyway), so I think I'll be going back for more. We had dinner at an English pub and I headed home for the night.

Sunday we caught a train to Arcachon for the day, which is a seaside town, on the advice of my host family. Nearby there is a big dune, which is a 'site of national importance' and apparently the view is outstanding. Unfortunately though, the bus to the dune doesn't run on Sundays, and the taxis are on strike (it is France, after all). So we just kicked around the town which was quite pleasant. I think it would be a really fun outing in Summer, but after all, a beach is a beach, and although nice, didn't quite compare to the beaches at home. The Atlantic is a different colour though. We had icecream and I headed back home, where we had McDonalds for dinner ('McDo's') and it really is the same the world over.

Yesterday I went to school and I had a bit of a messy day really. I wanted to start job hunting, but the internet broke, the printer ran out of ink, I got back too late and the school I wanted to drop in to was further away than I thought. Everything takes so much longer here, because my French slows everything down immeasurable. Perhaps tomorrow I will make it. In the evening, Nick and I went for dinner, and we had Moroccan. We both had the same tagine, and it was very nice, if a bit sweet after a while. It was great to see Nick, and it seems like he's really had fun travelling around. I was feeling a bit bad that I convinced him to come down here, since I didn't end up showing him much, but he said he thinks it's the nicest city he's visited so far, apart from Stockholm. That's a relief, and I'm glad I randomly ended somewhere good!

Today I went to class in the morning, had a salad for lunch and then spent the arvo finally in front of a working computer. That has really been all there is to it! Funny how quickly one gets into a routine... I'm receiving emails on my phone now which is good, but unfortunately I can't send them, and as I've mentioned, internet is sporadic at the moment. Be assured that your emails are getting through to me, and if it takes me a little time to reply, it's just circumstance I'm afraid! Still no photos until I have more reliable internet, because they take so long to load, sorry. I must say, being even a little cut off from the internet makes me feel quite cut off from home - I guess I've gotten to rely on it for lots of things - so hopefully the situation will improve soon.

This week week is looking pretty static, but on Saturday I'm going on a wine tour, and who knows what will turn up between now and then!


Elsie said...

Yay - news from Emily! I loved your photos on Facebook. Sounds like the food is pretty good too. I think we need photos of the macaroons and the caneles.

alt.ayu said...

hey there~~ nice to read about your first (?) week in France~~ Have you tried putting a croissant in the toaster? I know you have to squish it a little but I loved doing that hehe. Oh boy I miss calling McDonalds 'MacDo'! Actually... I just miss France LOL A+! Oh and Happy Valentine's Day!

m∃ said...

Oooh, croissants in the toaster. Good idea! Actually I haven't even tried a real French croissant yet...how remiss of me!