Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Classes, Buses, and Mountains, oh my!

Sorry all for the major gap in posting for the past 2 weeks, I've been quite busy.

At the Martin de Candre soap shop
So, on february 7th we started classes! On that morning, I showed up to the université really early to find out what language (or langue) level that I had been placed in. Unfortunately, they only had one station with the list on it so all 400+ new CIDEF students were crowded around the same bulletin board, trying to find out what they were supposed to do next. Eventually, we all headed into the amphithéatre for the opening remarks given by the director of our program. From there, we then went to our respective classrooms for our first hour of language. Overall, the first day of classes was stressful and long.

For the entire first week of classes we were allowed to attend all the different option classes, which are all the classes that we could possibly take besides language. I had decided at the beginning of the week that I was just going to pick the classes that I thought sounded interesting and stick with them so that I could avoid confusion later. However, since the rest of the students in my level did not decide to do this, my class sizes fluctuated a lot the first week of class. Overall, I am really enjoying my classes and I feel like I'm learning a lot.

Frontevaud Abbey
Last saturday, my host mom invited me to go with her and my host dad to a friend's anniversary party and on an adventure before hand. On the adventure for the day, our group (consisting of me, my host mom, host dad, and their friend) drove through the Loire valley, which is epically beautiful, to the Martin de Candre soap shop within a chateau where we all bought delicious smelling soaps. After the soap shop, it was on to the Frontevaud abbey which is known for its multi chimney kitchen.

After our adventures, my host parents and I were off to another one of their friends' house for a anniversary party. Everyone was extremely kind and welcoming to me, even though I sometimes had trouble communicating with them. It was really intimidating for me to try and enter into conversations with a bunch of people who I had never met before, in a language that I am not entirely comfortable with. But, all in all, it was a fun evening filled with good food, laughter, and conversation.

This past saturday, I went on my school sponsored excursion to Mont St. Michel and St. Malo. For those who don't know, Mont St. Michel is an island, with a large hill, with an abbey on top, that was built over 400 years ago.  St. Malo on the other hand, is a town that is known for having fully intact ramparts, the wall around the city. The citizens of St. Malo continually patched holes that were made within the ramparts during both the first and second world wars, resulting in the only set in France that is still complete.

The ramparts of St. Malo
To depart on the excursion, I arose at the ungodly hour of 6am in order to be at the school by 7am. At 7:15 our group of 160 students boarded the buses to begin our 2 hour journey to St. Malo. Fortunately, the day before I had met two great girls named Bridget and Cassie who also were going on the excursion and invited me to join their group so I wasn't by myself.

When we got to St. Malo, we were given 2 hours to explore the town and eat lunch. After walking along the ramparts, our group decided to explore a little and find a place to eat. We finally decided upon a place that was close to where we needed to meet our buses, after we had explored the city. For lunch I had a HUGE bowl of mussels (moules, en français), cidre (a hard apple cider), and a delicious crêpe covered in butter and sugar.

Mont St. Michel
After lunch, we boarded the bus and rode along for another hour before reaching our final destination, Mont St. Michel. When we arrived, we were instructed by our director that we would begin hiking up the mountain immediately and then touring the abbey on our own. So, we power walked up the hundreds of stairs and steep incline of Mont St. Michel to get to the top and look out over Bretagne (the region of france that we were in). It was so beautiful up there! By the time we made it up to the top, the sun had peeked out from behind the clouds, painting everything with wonderful sunlight. After taking tons of pictures outside, we explored the church and many chapels of the abbey before making our way back down the mountain.

View from the top of Mont St. Michel
On sunday, my host mom asked me if I would like to go with her and my host dad to an arab market in another part of Angers. I figured, why not? So, the three of us took the bus for ten minutes to the market. It was the most lively market that I have ever been in! The stand keepers were yelling out prices to their customers as well as greeting their friends in the other stands. It was much louder than the market that I had been to before, and was full of foods and spices that I had never seen in person.  It was a thoroughly educational experience.

I can't believe that I've only been here for three weeks! I have learned so much and experienced so many things that it feels like I have been here for so much longer. At the same time, I know that there is still so much for me to learn and I can't wait to continue my journey!

À bientôt!

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