Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Touring Tours :)

This past weekend all of the new “IES-ers” were shipped off to Tours, France (that’s a city… not a verb!). We spent three days visiting les chateaux of the Loire Valley (that’s castles! Amboise, Chenenceau, Bloise, and Chambord). It was an exciting, albeit exhausting weekend. I learned a lot about French history and architecture and religion and culture – and I took lots of great pictures!! And it was a great opportunity to get to know the rest of the abroad students… I already feel as though I have some close friends in this strange city :) Everyone comes from all different universities from all over the U.S. and from all walks of life. But it’s been interesting to watch how the group has already began to “clique-ify”. And as much as I’d like to be above it, I know that’s wishful thinking. Although, I can say I’ve made an effort to sit with new people as much as possible and to learn everyone’s name… I think I know about 75% of the names now!

The first night in Tours we all just crashed – eager to catch up on sleep and fight our jet lag. But the second night, we ventured out into the city. Tours, although not a large city, has a cute downtown area. We found a little bar and staked out a table. I had a couple very interesting conversations with the bartender and some other people at the bar… all in French, of course! It’s still very exciting to me that I can actually converse (although often with much confusion and repetition!) in French and I’m SO glad that most people either don’t know English or choose not to switch to English. When we finally left the bar we attempted to find our way back to the hotel… which turned out to be much more difficult than we expected! We hadn’t planned ahead very well… we had no cellphones, no maps, not even the address of the hotel. Oops!! There was a moment when I honestly thought we might never find our way back. And we were accosted by drunk French men several times (les filles! les filles!! les filles!!!). Haha… oh French men. SO SKETCHY! Anyways, after about an hour of wandering the city we finally found the road with our hotel. As soon as we saw it we literally screamed with joy. And hugged each other in the middle of the road. Although I was exhausted from the walking, it was an experience I’ll never forget and it certainly helped me make friends fast!

The third night one girl and I ventured downtown in search of internet… which turned into quite an adventure. We asked several people: Ou est-ce qu’on peut trouver le wifi? We were sent in different directions and finally we found a bar with a sign that said internet – 1 euro per hour. But, inside it was just a crowded bar with loud music – not very conducive to setting up our laptops!! Then, just as we were about to continue on with our search, one of the bartenders opened the door and asked us if we wanted to come in. We told him we were searching for internet… he then proceeded to ask if we were with a different abroad group because apparently they offer free internet to abroad students from that group… and we explained that we were abroad students, but not from that group… he seemed to think for a minute and then told us to come in… so, after a little hesitation we followed him in… and across the bar… and then behind the bar… where he unlocked a door… and then ascended a very sketchy staircase… and opened another door… (ok, obviously at this point we were completely freaked out and starting to wonder if this wasn’t a really REALLY bad idea)… but then, he opened the door, and there was a computer lab! And a really nice computer lab at that! There were four computers, a couch, bright lights, plenty of outlets, and even a sign about video surveillance. SO weird! But, we were content to have found a place with internet, so we happily set up our laptops and spent almost 2 hours there! Nobody bothered us… we were the only people there (everyone else had other plans for a Saturday night ;) ). It was seriously the most sketchy and ridiculous thing ever… right above a bar… Ruth and I… alone in this room with our laptops. SO weird! When we finished (around midnight) we descended the sketchy staircase, banged on the door as loud as we could (to be heard above the LOUD bar music, which was of course American as in all the French bars, restaurants, airports, and hotels!) and when they let us out we exited the way we came – around the bar, across the room, and out the door! The guy said we could use the internet for free, but we figured we should pay him for being so generous to us. And that was it! We walked home (this time with our map and cellphones) and found our hotel without a problem.

Sunday morning we had 2 hours of placement exams and then we headed back to Nantes. I slept the entire ride home and then my host mom picked me up at the IES center. I returned home to a delicious meal – salad and steak – served really rare… and by that I mean moo-ing rare!! But SO good :) And baguettes too, of course. Always baguettes! After dinner I watched Funny Face (with Audrey Hepburn and Fred Astaire – but dubbed in French!) with my host sister. It’s weird to me how much American pop culture is in France – it’s everywhere!! Music, movies, tv shows – they have it all!

Sunday night, when I climbed into bed, it finally hit me: I’m in France. And for 4 months. I know I AM glad to be here. But adjusting to a new way of living is difficult and takes time. My life here will be much more solitary than ever before. Which is a good thing, I know. I’m looking forward to time to think and reflect and read. I’m looking forward to learning about this city and this culture and this language. I’m looking forward to getting out of my American box and seeing the world from a different perspective.

4 comments:

bpmallare said...

Dear Dolly...

So, yeah... when did you become such an incredibly great writer!?

I'm not kidding (you know that for sure)! Realy REALLY good stuff!

Thanks for sharing your adventures with us. Please keep up the good work. I think you might have the makings of a good book here! For sure you could parlay a paper or two out of it over the course of your education!

You're blessing and entertaining a whole lot of friends and family.

We all love you, but I loved you first ...
...Daddy

Jason said...

Er,

Technically Dad and I have known you for the same amount of time, so I'm not sure what this "I loved you first" business is!

Anywho...nice article. I especially enjoyed that one time you wrote that one thing in that one paragraph...well done.

Don't forget to keep your eyes out for a bidet, I hear they're 2007's toilet of 2006. It's a confusing point, but once you become more France-tic you'll understand.

Welp, keep your pinky finger up on lattes, and tucked on perrier.

Luboo
JP

Aunt Mo said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Aunt Mo said...

Erica,

I can't believe how much you sound like your Dad, my brother. The apple doesn't fall far from the tree, does it?! You are such a prolific writer. I think you may have a future in it!

Thanks for keeping us updated on your adventures.
Love,
Aunt Mo