Jours Trois, Quatre, et Cinq. 3/9/10, 4/9/10, et 5/9/10.
Friday morning, I met up with Monika and we walked to campus together. I needed to meet the international relations people and say I was here and okay and everything. I received a nice little bag (it’s red) and it was full of maps and information packets about Lille, Villeneuve D’ascq, Nord-Pas-de-Calais, Université Lille III, just…everything. Very handy. I read through a lot of it last night. Turns out that Lille has the largest youth population in France.
(Bonjour, mes amies!)
We met up with Rosalind, Christine, and Sarah and had another lunch on campus, and then came back before going to the Centre Commercial V2 (again) to go shopping and get our phones. The actual process of getting a sim card and minutes worked out pretty okay for me since we had unlocked my phone internationally before I came, but the three other American girls ended up buying a cheap French phone along with the other two. They really like their phones, so no big deal. :) Having the phone allowed me to set up internet, and I spent the rest of the evening talking to people from home, people not from home, my parents, whatever. I feel like an addict. Ahaha. I finally summoned the courage to go down to our little kitchen and cook myself an egg for dinner. As I was starting, I had to ask a girl for help figuring out which knob controlled which burner. She explained, introduced herself as Assim from Kazakhstan, and then said she lived across the hall if I needed anything. I cut off a little sliver of butter, put it in my pan, and waited for it to start melting. I waited a long time. Probably 10 minutes. Then I touched the burner, it didn’t seem very warm, so I tried the other burner. I waited another 10 minutes. I moved things around, changed the level of heat on the dial, everything. I looked up and saw a button near the stove. I thought to myself, “Hey, maybe I need to press that to turn it on!” and then I thought to myself, “Maybe not, I bet it could be an alarm or something…”. I didn’t press it. After another 5+ minutes, I ventured over to the door I assumed to be Assim’s and knocked; Assim didn’t answer however, another girl did. Assim peeked around the corner and said her friend would help me, which she did. Turns out, I really did need to press that button. After that though, the burners heated quickly, I made myself a scrambled egg, and was successful (at least a little) at cooking for myself for the first time.
Yesterday was the Braderie, the biggest flea market in Europe. Several of us went on the metro to get to the center of Lille, and just…wow. The buildings are beautiful and tall and narrow. The streets are still cobblestone in lots of places. Downside? Everything was so, so, so, so, so cramped. A couple million tourists? Yes. Overwhelming. We had to walk terribly slowly, which was alright while we were browsing, but frustrating when we just wanted to leave and get back to the metro (to me, at least). We stopped at a small café for lunch, and Rosalind and I had our first croque monsieurs (basically a delicious grilled ham and cheese sandwich). We spent hours walking around random streets and looking at the vendors’ items. We all bought a few things. I found myself a lovely green and black scarf, a bag, and some yummy candy (please see video). I think the strangest part of Le Braderie was the number of Native Americans. It really threw me for a loop, but probably 50% of the vendors were selling ponchos and bags and hats in a style I would consider Native American of both North and South America. And, as we were navigating our way out, we passed a huge street performance on flutes by people in full headdresses and things. It seemed very bizarre to me, but maybe the French really find the culture exotic and interesting? I haven’t a clue, really.
(Bonjour, millions of people and la Braderie!)
Monika left us at metro, and Rosalind, Sarah, Christine and I went to Hippopotamus (most excellently named restaurant ever? I think so.) for dinner. I had this delicious “tartare des tomates avec le thon” (tuna on a chopped up bed of tomatoes) and we all split our first crème brûlée (a vanilla custard with caramelized sugar on top) and a plate of 5 chocolate desserts.
Last night was the first time I really felt… alone and strange. Maybe it’s because my room is so small, and seems so cold at night. Maybe it’s because it’s finally sinking in that I’m halfway across the world. I stayed up late to talk to people and try and cheer up, and slept until almost 1pm.. I would’ve stayed in bed longer, but decided that with the start of things tomorrow, I might as well get up and be awake so I can sleep tonight. On the menu for dinner this fine evening in Lille? An egg and a piece of bread with some of that yummy jam spread on it. :)
Tomorrow begins our week of intensive French classes. Our placement tests have (presumably) been graded and we’ve been sorted into varying levels of competency. We’ll be working in small classes, I assume, with other international students from 9am until 1pm every day this week, followed by informational sessions, tours, etc. Tomorrow, the ISEP students have a meeting with the coordinator here at Lille, and we’ll hopefully be getting a lot more information about the steps for immigration, national health insurance, opening our bank accounts, and picking our classes. I’m already anxious and nervous about the exams, but we’ll see how it goes. I’m trying to remain calm.
Please enjoy the photos I’ve stolen from my friends and placed into the written update, and this super awesome video I made of my room: