One month in

1 Oct

Apologies for the lack of blogging in the last few days, I’ve been busy acclimatising myself to French life (more about that later). The end of last week brought about my first (and last) 3rd year Italian translation class. Upon turning up I found it was just myself, Charli, and 3 French girls. The dropout rate year to year in university here is astonishing. From what I hear the very first class in first year is full to the brim with 2 people to every seat, which slowly trickles down as the weeks and years pass until (for Italian at least) there are a meagre few left.

Straight off the bat it was pretty apparent I was going to be out of my depth translating from French into Italian with others who have been studying Italian for about 6 years, but thankfully the teacher was very understanding. She even complimented my ‘rhythm’ of spoken French, saying she assumed I was Spanish (are they automatically better than us at French?). I’d rather people think I was French, but hey, Spain is geographically closer to Bordeaux, so I’ll take it. At the end of the class I decided I would switch to the 2nd year group, which would probably still be difficult, but not quite so intense. I steeled myself for more admin fun, getting through the international office’s queue in a relatively speedy half hour, sorting out both my timetable and buying a sports pass in one efficient rendezvous.

In the afternoon I had a bit of a freak-out in the Japanese lecture when the teacher started picking people out to read bits of texts IN JAPANESE. I know this should be expected, but it’s (supposedly) a beginner’s class and I don’t even know all of both alphabets yet! After a quick word with M. Sastre, Chynna and I found out that everyone clearly learns a lot from the oral classes, which we are not enrolled on. He’s going to try and pull a few strings and get us into them anyway.

Panic over, I headed up to the Connemara briefly for Arthur’s Day, then at 7 finally got to experience my first pole class in French! Having not revised my vocab du corps beforehand, I was very thankful for the teacher demonstrating everything, plus most of the names of moves have been stolen from English and frenchified a little (eg. the move ‘fireman’ becomes ‘fi-ah-mon’, bit confusing at first). I also met a girl there called Louise (it’s clearly fate) who studies English at Bordeaux 3, and we are now planning on meeting up for coffee to practice eachother’s languages. All-in-all, it was a pretty productive day!

Friday’s are my day off so I did pretty much nothing until the evening when a few of us had drinks at Abbie’s (€1.60 wine this time), where we got to meet her flatmate Bruno and his dog Ruby. For any of you who read my post from several weeks ago when I was still househunting, the name Bruno may ring a bell as the owner of the flat I stupidly turned down a visit to, but at least it means Abbie found somewhere to live!

While in town earlier in the day I received the shocking news from Emily that Kévin, my quiet, unassuming flatmate, had done a bit of a runner and had dropped out of uni and moved out entirely. Without saying a word to any of us apart from the landlord. There’s a definite emptiness about the flat now that Jean Marc has yet to fill with someone new. We’re all in mourning.

On Saturday I actually had to do some uni work (shock horror) but thankfully this was interrupted by going out for a curry with a few English friends. It turns out the word for Tikka Masala is the same in French, and it tastes just as good over here. What wasn’t so great was the mystery poppadom sauce served alongside the dal and lime chilli. It tasted like someone had put bananas in a fruity sauce, which would be great on ice cream but doesn’t really work with curry.

Being tourists while trying to find the curry house

The weird jam sauce

We went for a few drinks after, where we discussed the benefits of pepper spray being legal here, and how we would go about acquiring some. Purely for self-defence purposes of course. The next day we went for a Sunday roast at the Connemara followed by watching the hurling final, which Kilkenny won. I’m not going to comment on this as I’m not sure who I was supposed to be supporting.

Anyway, back to the ‘acclimatisation’ I was talking about earlier. I’ve compiled a little list of signs that I’m slowly becoming French, which is a bit worrying:

  1. UHT doesn’t seem that bad any more. Yeh I only put it on cereal or make hot chocolate with it, but you can’t really tell the difference. Plus it’s pretty handy knowing you can keep one in the cupboard for 6 weeks just in case.
  2. Trams. Knowing that the doors only open for 10 seconds. Knowing that it will definitely be packed if you try and get on at Victoire or Montaigne-Montesquieu. Knowing that it’s unlikely the ticket inspector will get you (today was the first time I’ve seen them at all), but if you don’t have a ticket it’s a €50 fine.
  3. Being fine with having to buy baguette every other day because it goes stale so quickly. I LOVE baguette. I would happily never go back to sliced bread.

But then to balance it out, there’s the things I will never get used to:

  1. Vehicles going the wrong way. I will almost certainly get run over at some point in the next 3 months. Especially since pedestrian crossings don’t seem to give pedestrians the right of way here, so you generally just have to push your way out into traffic and hope that someone stops. What’s worse is that the trams also go on the right, so when I’m crossing the tramlines (they’re not electric so people just walk across them/cycle on them with reckless abandon), I have to do an embarrassing ‘Brit abroad’ quadruple check to make sure I’m not going to get squashed. There are also these intimidating posters dotted around, just in case you’re not scared enough of the trams as it is. I’ve been warned that there are many tram/car collisions in the winter when the roads get icy. Looking forward to it. 
  2. The way they tell time here. In England, even though it may say 17:00, we still say 5pm. Here, they actually say ‘seventeen hours’. I’ve had a few awkward encounters with people on the street asking what time it is, to which I look at my watch, see it’s 6pm, try and work out the French equivalent (18 heures), but then end up mixing the two together and saying ’16 heures‘, before realising my mistake and trying to say it correctly again, by which point the passer-by is long gone as they have grown tired of my foreign antics.

Sight of the day

A man dressed as what I assume is the pink panther, dancing to Call Me Maybe on his balcony above Rue Ste Catherine.

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One Response to “One month in”

  1. Chris Bainbridge October 2, 2012 at 08:50 #

    Not sure whether you have the same, but people here (especially Americans and Germans) get confused when you say ‘half 6’ – they think it means 5:30 instead of 6:30. !?!?

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