J’ai passé un bon week-end (4/12/10)

Well, my friends, it has been another busy few days. This weekend, I decided to stay in Avignon, which was a very smart idea on my part. Because I stayed here, I was able to explore the city like I’ve been wanting to do. I think the best way to tell you is by separating into days. I know it’s a lot, but please stick with me. Here goes…

Jeudi / Thursday

I had five hours of class, and by the end, my head was about to explode. It’s hard enough concentration for that long in a class in English, but this was obviously in French. In these classes, there is no much thing as “zoning out,” not even for a few seconds. If you miss one thing, you get completely lost. It’s also a bit difficult when the professors speak quickly, because when you’re brain is translating the first they say, they’ve already moved on to the next topic. Needless to say, I have to stay on my toes. All the time.

I had my Culture and Société class and my Histoire class on Thursday. My CS professor is bit eccentric, but she knows what she’s talking about. The class is interesting because it’s basically French sociologie (sociology). We learned about the origin of different French salutations, specifically the bises, when the French greet each other with kisses on each cheek. Well, they’re almost kisses; you don’t actually kiss, but you do make the kissing noise. As it turns out, the number of kisses is different depending on where you live in France. The number ranges from two to four. For example, people in Avignon bises three times, while Parisians bises twice. The bises is the equivalent to the American hug.

For history class, our professor took us on a tour of the city. He explained the architecture and the history of particular buildings and churches. Though we walked for two hours, it was much more enjoyable than sitting in the classroom. And the best part, I can actually understand my professor. His accent took me some time to get used to.

Vendredi / Friday

First, let me start by saying that I love not having class on Fridays. After eight full hours of sleep, I awoke to the brilliant sunshine. I started my day with quiet time then homework, and I wrote one of my papers sitting on the terrace in the sun. Instead of cooping myself up in the house all day, I decided to venture on my own Avignon tour, which included me visiting little shops such as Shakespeare, the English used-bookstore down the street. The shop owner is an adorable old fellow. I believe he is from Poland, but his primary language is English. Anyway, I couldn’t have imagined a better shop owner; he fits the store quite well. He is thin and hunches a bit. He speaks slowly and with gentleness. His hair is snow-white, and he wears tiny glasses that rest on the end of his nose. I’m planning to return soon, drink some tea and read a good book. That sounds wonderful to me.

I continued on my way, and I ran into Sammi and Kierstin. Earlier, I had passed a discount shoe shop with a sign in the window saying, “Troisième Gratuit,” meaning buy two, get one free! Sadly, I didn’t find any shoes that I was “head over heels for.” Gasp! I used a cliché. Anyway, the rest of my afternoon was spent shopping for petits cadeaux (little gifts). Shopping for these gifts gave me an opportunity to visit the various candy and chocolate shops of Avignon. It was difficult not to buy anything for myself.

While shopping, we made plans for the evening — have a pique-nique (picnic) at the Palais des Papes. We (Sammi, Kierstin and I) all returned to our respective maisons (houses) for dinner and then met at the Palais at 22h (10:00 p.m.).

Samedi / Saturday

Saturday was a busy day for me as well. I woke up early to go to a cooking demonstration at Les Halles, which is the Avignon equivalent to Pittsburgh’s Strip District. It is a giant marketplace with fresh produce, meat, bread and sweets.

The demonstration consisted of a French chef walking us through the process of salmon tartare, which is raw salmon mixed with cucumbers, tomatoes and onions, and a dollop of avocado cream on top. I was nervous to taste it because the salmon was raw, but I faced my fear of raw meat, and it was delicious. We also received tiny samples of white wine with it. After tasting the wine, I gave mine to Alex.

After the demonstration, we had two hours to kill before the dégustation du vin (wine-tasting). So, Kierstin, Alex and I bought little French pastries for lunch. I bought pain au chocolat amande (chocolate in the center of a croissant-like pastry crust, topped with powered sugar and slivered almonds). We enjoyed the pastries in the Place L’Horloge, a little square near the Palais.

Now, as you have probably already seen in other posts, I don’t like alcohol and I don’t drink; however, I decided to attend the wine-tasting for three reasons. It was free. I’m in France. And, it’s at the most famous place in Avignon, the seat of the old papacy. I figured, why not? This is part of “taking it all in.”

At the tasting, which was only for my group from OU, we tried five different types of wine and also learned how to properly taste wine. First, the wine is poured. Make sure you hold the wine glass at the top of the handle, but underneath the actual glass. Second, swirl the wine around in the glass. Smell it. Examine the color. Then take a tiny sip. Once you sip it, you are supposed to make a swooshing motion with your mouth so the wine spread around in your mouth. Then, drink the wine, or spit it out in special buckets they provide. You aren’t supposed to drink all of the wine you receive.

After the wine-tasting, Sammi and I went shopping with Christelle. Later we met Florian for ice cream. At the last minute, Christelle and Florian invited us to the beach with them Sunday.

   

 

 

 

 

Dimanche / Sunday

We left for the beach around 11:30 a.m., and the trip took about one hour and a half. They took us the scenic route, full of mountains, meadows and rustic houses with orange shingles. After arriving at La Grande Motte, like the French version of Myrtle Beach, we immediately went to eat some seafood at their favorite restaurant, L’Oasis, where I tried my first mussel and my first slice raw beef. Loved the mussel, didn’t like the beef. After a leisurely lunch in the sun, Florian, Christelle and I played sand volleyball, while Sam sunbathed. The sun was hot, but the wind was cool. The Mediterranean is blue and sparkling, and is just beautiful. On the beach, we met two of Christelle’s friends, Nicholas and Christophe.

Although the weekend was incredibly packed, it couldn’t have been much better.

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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.