Despite being constantly overwhelmed with everything, it’s been moving at an unbelievably slow rate, as I thought today might as well be into the 2nd month. Yet, they told me this feeling of time stretching only means it’s warming up to pass by my eyes before I know it. The usual dabbles of adaptation and cultural shocks are my first weeks in France, as are the daily jolt of enthusiasm and those every-so-often nightly daze of nostalgia. It’s a hodgepodge of sentiments that has pat time on the back and yet all the same, pulled it back by the neck.
Yes, my first french days are accented by wrinkled eyebrows, as my hands shuffle the poor battered map. I must admit that I have no sense of direction, but I would expect myself, after 3 weeks, to know 3 or 4 blocks like they were the lines in the palm of my hand. But, no, getting lost has been a daily routine. The small, winding roads, as picturesque as they are, hold no logic, whatsoever to me. And so, I set off day to day, wandering to corners of Nantes, where the possibility of being astray rests inevitable, but my eyes have no limit, and they do nothing to soothe my lost condition. Then, my limited french vocab get me home as I meet the most interesting french people, who go out of their way to help me find mine, and who rebuke any preconceptions I’ve heard about french people being cold and distant. An unknown woman ran back to her home once to get a map for me and even offered me tea….as did a shopkeeper who told me I can always come back to her for more random questions. Of course, there are very so often sketchy and strangely nice people like the man, who claimed his wife was also Vietnamese, and insisted that I talk to her in order to find the right street.
Finding classes has been a bit frustrating, as the university system here is nothing like that of the pre-set, organized, computerized American one. There are no syllabus, no information, no schedule known until a few days before the start of classes…and even then, professors find the liberty to change everything a week well into the semester. This does nothing to ameliorate the scattered, pen-marked, 3-yr-old sketch that is my schedule and it does even less to comfort my punctual advisor who insists on detailed descriptions of each course for valid credits. So far, nevertheless, the courses which I have chosen are wonderful…but I leave 1 or 2 weeks to know for certain.
I have not had time to socially do much, yet hanging out with some of my recently-made friends here has been highly entertaining. Last weekend, we found it only just to the end of orientation, to go find a ‘discotheque’. We thought it prudent to go around 10 and come back at 12, only to find out the nightlife in Nantes is not even warmed up at 12. And so, a group of clearly confused looking kids found refuge in a bar, and lived up the stereotypes of American students being loud as we spoke lousy french while playing rounds of drinking games, with strawberry juice (for me, at least). The discotheque then finally opened at 12h30 with amazingly wonderful music, a mix of randomness, that kept us dancing for the next 3 hours…It was “super-chouette” (Awesome)! We left at 3h30 in the morning, tired, sleepy, and yet still dancing our way home through the cobbled stone streets of Nantes.
This weekend was spent with IES in Mont St. Michel, an abbaye built on an island in the Bretagne region, and St. Malo, a seaside, fort city in the same region. I had seen pictures before but the real thing was just so overwhelmingly beautiful. St.Malo stays in my mind, as the sound of its seashore still rests echoing…despite our teeth clicking to the rhythm of the frigid wind, I and a couple of others, still found our barefooted selves running into the water and across the smooth sand of St.Malo….
The day was unforgettable, fun, and yet long and tiring…much so that the sight of Nantes held comfort to our eyes on our way back. Nantes is beautiful, and so it be only 3 weeks that I am here, it already has attached itself to my identity, perhaps because I know no where else in this land, but also because, I feel at eased when I am here. My mind meanders so often to family, to C. and to my friends back home that at times, I question my being here…nevertheless, the city and the people here assure me of my presence, and remind me everyday the reason to which I am in France.
I share with you my moments in Mont St.Michel and St.Malo. Sweet dreams. Miss you lots 🙂