Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Today, I finally went to see the doctor. I’ve been sick for a week now… and actually, my trip to the doctor’s office today was probably the most pleasant experience I’ve had since last weekend…

I arrived 5 minutes before my 5pm appointment. He (the doctor, that is) met me at the door, shook my hand, introduced himself, and showed me to the waiting room. I sat there, alone, for no more than 5 minutes (aka, until exactly 5:00) when he returned and showed me to his office. He was wearing a suit and tie. His office was clean if not sparse. He had a computer on his desk. We sat down and, in a mixture of French and English, we talked about my symptoms and their progression. He then showed me into an adjoining room where there was an exam table, sink, and not much else. He washed his hands and then proceeded with a typical examination – he did the whole thing himself, checked everything, even took my blood pressure. His diagnosis – you’re sick, but nothing serious. He prescribed me 3 different medicines, thoroughly explaining each one of them to me, washed his hands, and then we returned to his office again. He printed out two copies of my prescription, which was nice, because for once I could actually read the names of the drugs and how often I was to take them! We proceeded to have a lovely conversation about my host family and my time in France and what I would do when I went back home and about where I live and what my favorite US city is and where he’s visited in the US and he even asked me if I had a favorite building in NYC… his is the Trump Tower. He explained to me how a doctor’s visit works in France… you pay at the time of your visit (“21 million euros” he said, and then laughed and said, no, it’s really only 21… which is only about $28) Later, when I’m back in the states, I give my receipt to the insurance company to be reimbursed. If I were a French citizen, I would get 20 euros reimbursed from the government. And that’s it… he doesn’t get paid anything more!! I told him that he should come to the US and be a doctor there because they get a co-payment from each patient, plus more from the insurance companies. He laughed and said he should, and that then he could buy himself the Trump Towers. So, I paid him and he walked me to the door, re-emphasizing that I should call him with any questions or if I wasn’t better in 7 days, and then he sent me on my way. I then walked about 5 minutes to a pharmacy. I waited in line for a minute or two, and then showed my prescription to the pharmacist. While she entered my information into the computer, we chatted about my time in France, how my studies were going, and if I was finding it difficult or not. She then retrieved my medicine and printed my receipt (again, to be reimbursed by insurance later). I paid 13 euros (~$17) for ibuprofen, an antibiotic, and nosespray. And with that, I walked out the door. I glanced at my watch as I headed for home: 5:35pm.

France: 1 ; US: 0.

So, anyways, this week has been one of sniffles and sleeping. Today was the first day in 8 that I made it through without taking a nap! I think I must’ve caught something last weekend…

Friday night we went to a birthday party for one of the IES students. A bunch of us met downtown to head over together… and I, being me, decided that I would delegate myself as navigator for the evening. Hah. After waiting for a tram for 20 minutes, we went one stop, only to realize that we were headed in the wrong direction. We then got off the tram and waited another 10 minutes for the tram heading in the right direction. When we got off the tram, I made sure to check the times for the tram for the rest of the night so that we wouldn’t miss the last one. I even repeated the times to about three other people in order to ensure that nobody would forget. The party was fun, but uneventful. When the time came, I rounded up the girls so that we could walk back to the tram stop in time for the last tram. It was raining outside, and I was the only one with an umbrella (thank you, Cornell… I will never leave home without again), so we ran most of the way. We got there with 5 minutes to spare, but the sign clearly said: Fin de service. As in… no more trams. How could it be!? I double-checked! We all remembered the time!! As I re-played the events from earlier, the light bulb went on: I had looked at the poster as I exited the tram… the poster for the tram that continued out of town, and not the poster for the tram returning downtown. The girls were gracious, although it was obviously my fault. I called a taxi and we stood, huddled under a tram awning, using my umbrella to block the wind, and waited. And waited. And waited. And waited. I called back four times… each time to be told (I think… it was in French!) that I needed to wait longer. After over 40 minutes we could stand the cold no longer. I still am not quite sure why we didn’t just give up and go back to the party… I think we were all just exhausted and were holding out hope for a taxi to bring us home. But, no taxi came. So, one of the girls called a French friend who was at the party and begged him to come pick us up. He agreed (although, how could you resist 4 American girls begging you to take them for a ride in your car and offering to pay you handsomely for your services!) and dropped each of us of at our front doors. Needless to say, I was incredibly grateful… and incredibly soaked.

Saturday morning I woke up at 6am to head to Mont-St-Michel and St. Malo for the day with IES. It was a fabulous trip… I posted some of the pictures to the right. Mont-St-Michel was breathtaking… from afar and from within. And St. Malo was like an Ocean City mixed with a little Annapolis and with lots of European charm

However, just as we were walking along the ramparts of St. Malo, a tempest blew in. Using an umbrella was futile, and so, for the second time in 24 hours, I was completely soaked. The storm left almost as quickly as it came, and the sun came out again. It was still fun to walk through the town, squishy shoes and all. There’s a boardwalk-type area, with lots of games and rides… a couple of us girls bought some deep-friend dough sticks covered in powdered sugar and dipped in nutella. Incredible.

So, I arrived home, around 9pm, changed out of my damp clothes, and got into bed. But it was too late… Whatever sickness had found me had already dug in its heels. And so, after a week of sleeping and coughing and sneezing and sniffling and aching, here I sit, armed with my prescription drugs, ready to send this bug packing. I think I’ve had enough naps for one semester :)

Thursday, February 08, 2007

No-Class Thursdays

I love Thursday’s the best because, even though I have one class on Friday, Thursday feels like the beginning of the weekend. Right now it’s Wednesday night and I’m planning on staying up as late as I feel like and not setting an alarm for tomorrow. It’s going to be lovely :) Tomorrow I might go for a run, read a newspaper, watch a movie, eat a chocolate-filled croissant, people-watch, shop, think, be. What I’m not doing is having another Thursday like the last…

It was a fine morning, afternoon, evening really. I did some work and working out and had dinner at a creperie with some friends. It wasn’t until Thursday night that things got a little crazy… it started at Donatien’s apartment. Donatien is a French engineering student who I met last week at conversation club (I can’t remember if I explained conversation club before or not… it’s run by my abroad program and it’s for French students trying to learn English and American students trying to learn French). So anyways, I went to Donatien’s place with some other girls around 10pm on Thursday night. It was a small get-together – less than 10 of us – and we sat around just listening to music and chatting. It was nice actually… both to meet new people and to speak French with real French people :) At about 11:30 we left Donation’s and caught a tram downtown where we walked across the bridge to a club called Quai Ouest (pronounced: Kay West). This is like the mother-of-all dance clubs in Nantes. And apparently it’s also the place to be on Thursday nights... or so I’ve been told! The line to get in was out the door, and once you made it to the door you had to fork over 10 euros (~$13.50). I don’t know how students can afford that every week! Once we were inside, we checked our coats and purses and headed for the dance floor. The music selection in France never ceases to amaze me… from techno, to French rap, to Justin Timberlake, to 80’s music re-mixes. You never know what you’ll hear next! After about 3 hours of dancing – including dancing on several platforms around the dance floor (and being very careful not to fall off or bump someone else off!) – we got ready to leave. The club was still roaring at 3:30am, but one can only handle so much loudmusic-sketchyboys-spilleddrinks-smoky-sweaty-sticky-ness! We headed back towards downtown, back over the bridge, and wound up at a bar called VIP. I have no idea if it’s difficult to get into “VIP”, especially on a Thursday night at 3:30am, but one of the French guys we were with knew the owner so we had no problems. The bar was fun and almost sophisticated – a much older crowd than at Quai Ouest (but of course, when I say older, I mean 25!) You wouldn’t believe it until you see it, but the bars are actually still fairly crowded at that hour… and everyone is drinking and dancing and chatting, seemingly oblivious to the fact that Friday is rapidly approaching! I however, at this point, could think of nothing else. I finally made it home and I distinctly remember standing outside my apartment, searching for my keys, and looking at my phone scream: 5:30 AM. Holy moly. I slept for less than two hours before I woke up and dragged myself to class. 8:15am grammar class on Friday mornings. Whose idea was that!? I was basically a vegetable all of Friday… although, in my defense, I did find enough energy to run (and be elected) as president of our abroad program. But other than that, I barely functioned. I finally made it back home around 4:30 in the afternoon and fell into my bed (and asleep) within seconds. I slept until dinner, woke up just to eat, and promptly returned to my coma. Saturday wasn’t much better… I slept in, went on a walk, stopped by a cafe, and went to bed early. And by the time Sunday rolled around, I started to realize how much my work had piled up! I spent the majority of the next four days at my desk and in the library (which is only open until 7pm… oh if only the French could see the Cornellians asleep at 2am in the stacks, they’d realize what they’re missing!). It really hasn’t been until just now that I’ve been able to sit down and take a deep breath and realize that I’m staring at another Thursday! But like I said before, there’s no way I can handle another one like the last…

On Monday night I watched a debate with Nicolas Sarkozy,the leading French presidential candidate. Actually, it really wasn’t a debate – it was more of him answering questions that the audience (of only 100) posed him. He had no idea of what the questions would be beforehand and he had no notes in front of him. He spoke freely and confidently – not once did he seem flustered, even when the audience challenged him and, at times, even interrupted him. I was shocked at the audacity of those posing questions… they held nothing back and weren’t afraid to call Sarkozy out when he didn’t answer what they had asked. When I asked my host-mom about this, she told me it was a function of the French way – liberty, equality, and fraternity. I don’t know about these French, but I’d never dare talk to someone like that, let alone a politician who might be the president in a few months!! The French never cease to amaze me. Most of the topics of the “debate” were predictable – unemployment, homosexual marriage, social security, discrimination, the economy, relations with the US, etc. One topic that I thought was interesting – whether or not the work week should be lengthened from 35 to 40 hours and whether or not businesses should be allowed to be open on Sundays. Sarkozy’s response? If people want to work, then let them work. It’s their right to decide.

Monday was also my host-brother, Jean’s 16th birthday. Birthdays here (or at least this one!) aren’t nearly as exciting as at home. There was an apple crisp, with candles, and a rendition of “joyeux anniversaire” but no hoopla and no gifts. I gave Jean 2 cds I had burned for him… he gave me a huge hug and a kiss on the cheek. I think he likes me :)

Other things of late…

-The shower drama continues. I still feel the need to ask every time: “Can I please take my shower now, madame?” I just can’t bring myself to go into her room without permission! She says the tub will be fixed by February 13th… but I have my doubts.

-The cash I got at the airport has now run out. Tomorrow I will make my first trip to the atm. I have sworn off all shopping, despite the continuing “soldes” (did I mention that I bought another pair of shoes last week!?)

-My host family has taken to teasing me about being on a diet. I think this evolved somehow from me refusing to take second helpings of food one too many times. But I always eat everything, and often do take seconds, so I have no idea how they could think I’m on a diet!! But then again, I’m not sure the French know what dieting is… and since they think that all Americans are obese, I look all the more skinny to them.

-Today I bought a pen (yes, that’s ONE pen) for 2.90 euros. I then went to the pharmacy and bought a box of advil for 1.85 euros. There is something ridiculously wrong about that.

-My friend, Ruth, and I have taken to café hopping. We’re in the process of trying out all the cafés that are in the surrounding blocks of our abroad center in order to find the very best one :)

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about my goals for this semester and what I want to get out of this experience. There’s so much pressure in studying abroad, both from others and from myself – the expectation to have fun, to speak, to learn, to travel, to grow, to change, to discover, to mature, to explore, to have “the best semester ever”. Sometimes the stress of these pressures is debilitating. And so, I’ve decided that, for me, I’m going to let this semester be what it is, whatever it is.

I’m going to let it be challenging at times and lazy at others.

I’m going to let it be new friends as much as lonesome and homesick.

I’m going to let it be up and down, high and low, good and bad.

I’m going to let it be everything I imagined and nothing I expected.

I’m just going to let it be.