Les Alpes (4/5/2010)

This weekend was the icing on top of a very busy and eventful week. First, let me start by talking about Friday night. After dinner, I explored the city and took pictures from when the sun was setting until about 10:00 p.m. (22h). Though most of the shops were closed, the city was quite lively. Everywhere there were lights and French people celebrating to be done with another week of work. Most of the cafés and bars (obviously) were open to customers itching for a nighttime snack or espresso shot. (For more pictures, check out the “La Vie en Avignon” album.)

Saturday morning came very early, as I woke up at 6:00 a.m. to shower and get ready to meet the bus, which was leaving for the Alps at 7:00. When we were told to meet the bus, I was picturing a dinky school bus, and honestly, I was dreading driving four hours on windy mountain roads in a school bus. I was anticipating lots of motion sickness. However, thankfully the bus was a tour bus with comfy, reclining seats, and because there are only 20 of us, we each had our own seats. I only got about four hours of sleep the night before, so I was happy to take up an entire seat to nap.

The trip was unexpectedly smooth, and the scenery was phenomenal. My pictures certainly don’t give the landscape justice. About two hours into the trip, we stopped at a seemingly nice rest stop. However, we soon found out that no janitor had been in building for years. I wish I would’ve had my camera inside, because it truly looked like the abandoned museum at the end of Jurassic Park. Alex said he expected an enormous T-Rex to be lurking around the corner. The restrooms were taped off, but apparently people before us broke through the tape. Thankfully, there was running water to flush the toilets and rinse our hands. Let’s just say we all used sanitizer.

When we arrived in Briançon, we had about an hour to explore the shops inside the walled city, where I purchased the best chocolat chaud (hot chocolate) I’ve ever had. It was dark-chocolate flavored, and the thickness resembled fondue. After touring the city a bit, we were able to play in the Alps. We took the sky lift up the mountain, where it started to snow.

After two runs, I went inside and sipped hot chocolate until we left for our hotel. Our hotel was a little less luxurious than I imagined, but at least we received a hot meal, the place was clean, and I had my own bed with fresh sheets. When we walked into the Petit Phoque (Little Seal), we were required to remove our shoes and pick out slippers from three giant bins. There were three rooms for the 20 of us. The girls were split into two rooms, and in my room I had 11 girls. The room looked like an orphan scene from Annie. The walls were all concrete, and there was no heat. Luckily, I had about four layers of clothing and extra blankets piled on top of me.

The next morning (yesterday, Easter Sunday), we woke up to five inches of snow on the ground, which was absolutely gorgeous! Breakfast was served at 8:00 a.m., and we had little Easter chocolates waiting for us at each place setting. I had coffee for the first time since Ash Wednesday. And though it was a little too strong, I drank it anyway. I think over the last few weeks, I lost the acquired taste I had for it, which kind of makes me sad, but I’m sure I’ll pick up back up. After all, I am in Europe, where coffee is 100 times better than American coffee. About an hour after breakfast, we left to return to Avignon.

On the return voyage, we made a slight detour to the Château des Images, a museum in the Alpines. The museum is built into the mountain, or rather stone was cut strategically so that the walls are the mountain. It’s really hard to describe, I apologize. Nonetheless, a picture show, with the theme “Australia,” was projected on each wall.

After arriving in Avignon, Sammi and I desperately tried to find a church to attend Easter service. We searched for an hour, but most of the churches here were turned into museums or offices, which is extremely sad. We decided to listen to Paul Risler’s Easter service podcast from Central in Athens. Hooray for a taste of home! It was rough not being home for Easter and not being with my family, but thank God for the internet. I hope everyone had a joyous Easter!

Beaucoup beaucoup (4/2/2010)

I feel like I have so much to tell you that I can’t keep up at all. This week has gone by so quickly, and I’m sure it’s only going to go faster and faster. First, let me start by giving you an update about my classes and the university, then I’ll tell you about my eventful day yesterday.

For those of you who know me well, the first week of classes is always the hardest for me. I become extremely overwhelmed by “syllabus day,” and I wonder how on earth I’m going to get all that stuff done in 10 weeks. But, after my initial first few days of panic, I settle into a routine, and it’s smooth sailing until the end. As a supplement to my Bible reading, I’ve been reading “Lord, Change My Attitude.” The book has been an awesome wake-up call. And through praying and thinking positively, I’ve already noticed an attitude shift. Now, you say, “What does that have to do with my classes?” Well, it’s not that I’m not going to try my best at my work (I constantly try my hardest), but I’ve realized that I worry way too much about my school work. I shouldn’t be as worried because right now I’m moving at a good pace. I have a ton of work due next Tuesday and Wednesday, but I already finished one subject. I’m trying to do a few hours each day so I can really enjoy my weekends. And with the “little bit each day” system, I’m nowhere near as stressed as I used to be, and I’m having tons of fun with my spare time.

Sorry for the tangent; back to my class schedule. I’m taking five cours (classes): grammaire, la résistance française, histoire, culture et société, and ML 250. Grammar is the last in the 340 series. I completed 341 and 342 last year, but waited until now to take the last one, which probably wasn’t the best decision. The first few homework assignments caused me to panic a little because I had no clue what was going on, but then it all came back to me, thankfully! Along with the grammar leçons (lessons), we’re reading three plays by Marcel Pagnol, Marius, Fanny, and César. We’re already halfway through Marius, so I’ve been doing a ton of reading lately. 

    The resistance class is about the French resistance movement against the German occupation during WWII. The class is quite interesting, and I’m quite happy that I’m taking it. We already read one book, and I have 100 pages to read for next Wednesday.

The history class is focusing on the period between the end of the French Revolution until the start of WWI. I love history, so I’m enjoying the class, but I really have to pay attention because the professor speaks incredibly fast. It’s definitely good because it keeps me on my toes. We have a quiz on Tuesday on the chronology of the time period. I’m not sure what to expect, but he said it would be easy, so we’ll see.

I would talk about culture and society, but the last two days, that class was cancelled. So I have no updates on that yet. I apologize.

And finally, ML 250 is a continuation of the France preparation course I had last quarter (ML 249). For this class, we have to write in a journal five days per week, and each entry has to be at least one page. It’s definitely good practice for writing. At first I didn’t want to, but I’ve realized that it’s greatly helping my writing. Plus, I love the journal I have. I bought it at a little mom ‘n pop copy shop for neuf (nine) Euros. Hooray for supporting the little guy!

Now that I’ve given you a description of my classes, I’m moving on to my day yesterday. I was going to tell you about the university, but I decided to hold off until I don’t have this much to talk about.

So…

Since our morning class was cancelled yesterday, a group of us (Kim, Kierstin, Sammi, Liz and I) decided to go shopping. Honestly, I don’t understand how French people aren’t all broke. The clothes here are stylish and just plain awesome. We visited only two stores yesterday, Jennyfer and H&M, but I still spent lots of money.

I can’t even describe the rush you get from shopping in France. I’m such a girl. After two hours, I had two giant bags filled with vêtements (clothes). I bought seven chemises (shirts), two jupes (skirts, one of them is a pencil skirt that actually fits!), one adorable robe rouge (red dress), and a European-style veste (jacket), and all for 110 Euros. I’d say that’s goooood shopping. Although, now I won’t be buying much more clothing at all. I’m pushing my clothing budget, and it’s only the first week.

Yesterday, I also met my French correspondent, Florian. Sammi and I hung out with Florian and his friend Killian at a bowling alley. Now, you’re probably thinking that that’s kind of shady, especially a bowling alley, because most of the bowling allies in the U.S. are dirty, smokey, or just disgusting. But not this bowling alley. It was like a clean 50s diner, where college-age students go to hang out.

Florian drove us there, and we talked until Killian joined us about an hour later. They are both taking English classes at the university, and they were eager to practice their English. So, while they spoke in English, Sammi and I spoke in French. We taught them what awkward means, and they taught us beaucoup de nouveaux mots (lots of new words). We ordered drinks, and I got an Orangina (non-alcoholic, carbonated orange juice), Sammi got a Flagada (strawberry vodka, apricot juice and orange juice), and the guys got sirop de menthe, which is really green, non-alcoholic, mint-flavored syrup mixed with water. I tried it, and it’s quite délicieux.

After drinking and conversing, we all played billiards, which is basically the same as in America, except that there are no stripes and solids, just two different colors of billiard balls. Sammi and I played against the garçons français (French guys). Well, we won, and now they owe us drinks the next time we go out with them, which will probably be soon since they promised to introduce us to more of their friends. I think I can honestly say now that we have French friends, which makes me happy. (As soon as Sammi has finished editing the videos from last night, I’ll be posting a link on this page. But I’ll keep you posted.)

Tomorrow, we’re leaving for Briançon in the French Alps. I’ll have a lot to talk about when I get back, but until then, Joyeux Paques! Happy Easter! He has risen indeed.