I have officially completed my first week in France! Well technically, now it is over a week since I am finally getting to my blog entry. So far it has been great; definitely a little bit of an adjustment, but nothing that won’t become easier as time passes.
On Tuesday, we had a tasting tour of the French markets in Aix. Every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday vendors come to the Cours Mirabeau (the main street of the city) and sell everything from sweaters, gloves, and boots to honey, olives, spices, and cheese. It is amazing how they set up everything each of these days and wait for people to buy their products. It seems like so much effort on their part, but it is so worth it on the buyers’ side! During this “tour” with the group, we tried many different products before bringing them all back to the center for lunch. My absolute favorite was the apricot-lavender jam; it had such an unbelievably sweet and fragrant taste. However, the brie and tapenade were close runners up. 🙂
Classes started Wednesday. I am taking Advanced Conversational French, Texts and Contexts from the Revolution to the Present, La Provence, and “Politique de santé et organisation du système de santé en France et en Europe” (Health policy and systems of health in France and Europe). None of my classes start before 10:30am and I have Fridays off, so it is safe to say I am very happy with how my schedule turned out! Classes are good so far, though it’s weird that they’re all in French. Speaking the language here is definitely harder than I expected, but I think I’ll be able to improve quickly if I keep trying. When I start to feel like an idiot, I remember that I would never laugh at someone who is attempting to speak English — so they’re probably not laughing at me either!
I am also doing an internship (“un stage” en français)/volunteering at the local children’s hospital two days a week too, so that will round out my class schedule nicely. If you think children are cute, children who speak another language are even cuter. They just seem so smart (even though I get frustrated because they have 10000x better accent than me and they are so tiny). I’m so excited to be surrounded by them and see what a hospital environment in France and Europe is like versus our system in the U.S.
I have been running a little bit to try and get to know the city a little better. There is a running course about 3/4 mile away from our apartment, so my roommate Clee and I have been going when we can. Since the days (literally everyday) are filled with quiches, croissants, and crêpes, we need to stay active! We try and run together when we do because it is a foreign city, and obviously it is a little more dangerous because we are females. That is so frustrating to me, but I know it is unfortunately what I have to deal with. It is fun to have a running buddy, though, and we get along really well. She is a little more outspoken and carefree than I am, but we balance each other out really nicely. Our mutual friend Holly is still back at Vandy, and we’ve been Skyping with her together a lot!
Monday night through Thursday night, we have dinner at a local woman’s house. It is a good opportunity to speak French in a relaxed setting, and eat authentic French food! It is always three courses: an appetizer, a main course (or a few options), and a dessert. Thank goodness we have some sort of “meal plan” 🙂 I don’t know if I could survive solely on my own! However, we were feeling ready to christen our kitchen and didn’t want to go out this past Friday. So, we made our first home-cooked meal in our apartment: chicken parmesan and roasted broccoli. It was a huge success, and I was super proud of us! It was fun to go get the different ingredients from different stores — especially the cheese. It definitely tasted different than it does at home. Wine here is also so cheap, it is crazy. One bottle of rosé that I bought at home for $20 is 6.5 euros here — insanity! It is just the region where we are living! I can’t wait for it to become warmer and to do a wine tour or something.
All of the students on the trip live with a French student (so 2-4 American students, primarily from Vanderbilt, and then a French student). My roommate’s name is Marine; she is so sweet and helpful, and studies political science at one of the local university in Aix. I try to speak only French with her, though sometimes it is difficult because she speaks so quickly! The conversation takes much longer to progress each time than I wish it would, as I search for the words I want to say. This is especially frustrating in a situation with a friend because sometimes you feel you have so much to catch up on. Some other students have a roommate named Constance, who had a few friends over this past Friday night. Unfortunately it ended up being mostly segregated between French and American students when we were all hanging out in a large group; I think one of my goals is to try and become a unified group, though as with anything, this takes time. Anyway, I gave Constance a hug this weekend as I was leaving. She looked absolutely shocked, and said it was her first hug — ever. First hug ever?! That came as such a surprise because I hug everyone. It is just a part of my personality and disposition. I know it is just her culture, but so funny to me. They gently kiss and yet don’t hug — that seems to be in the wrong order!
Six of us travelled to a local town called Arles on Saturday morning, and spent the day exploring another place. It was one of the Provinçal capitols of Ancient Rome, and has so much history including a huge amphitheater, Roman baths, and underground passageways below their City Hall. It was also the town of inspiration for a lot of Van Gogh paintings, including the Café Terrace at Night. It was a really fun day, and a good practice for bigger trips later in the semester!
Yesterday was a day of catching up and doing homework; we slept in late, then went to a café to work for awhile. I wrote my first French paper on my first impressions of France for my conversation class. Excited for the week ahead!
Bises [and hugs 😉 ]