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.


bpmallare said...

Dear Dolly...

C’est la vie!


Jason said...

Dear Erica,

Como tally vooodoo?

Arivers dirty,


Schneids said...

Sign me up for that Declaration of Study Abroadness.
Here's to being (and to being fabulous!).