05 September 2009

Let the Games Begin

Today was the first day of class. I think my teacher spoke in English twice, the rest of the time I had to try to figure out what she was talking about. Even when asking for clarification, she would respond in French. I guess that’s what ‘total immersion’ means. My instructor, grew up in Burkin@ Fas0 (which borders Niger to the southwest) with an American mother and French father. She is expecting her first child in December (it’s a boy).

My class is level 0 . . . none of us have had any French before. In my class are four other Americans, all heading to different parts of West Africa, a Korean woman heading to M0r0cc0, an Australia going to Burk!na Fas0 with SIM, and a Norwegian serving in Mal!. There is a student who has been here for a year already from Medford, NJ! She will be going to Ch@d when she is done here. There are many others from the UK and the States, a lady from Germany, and few New Zealanders as well. So we are a mini UN here at Les Cedres.

When I arrived last week, two friends met me in Paris and we flew to Italy for four days of rest before my classes started. We spent the first two days in the city of Lucca which is in Tuscany. Gorgeous! The other days were in Riomaggiore which is one of the five seaside villages that makes up what is known as Cinque Terre. We had a wonderful time, full of laughter, breathtaking views, and fantastic olives.

Since coming back to France it is finally hitting me that I am living in Europe. And I will be here for a year! And somehow in that time I will learn a new language . . . enough to get around town without saying “Sorry, I don’t speak French.” But in majority, I have found most people here to be very helpful. For example, yesterday when I went to buy notebooks and paper at a local store, the Texas Instruments vendor who was restocking the calculators willingly attempted to understand the French I was butchering. Turns out they don’t sell single hole-punches in France . . . and it really is quite an absurd request. Two or four; not one or three. Silly me. What was I thinking?? But I saw him again as I was leaving the store and he smiled and waved.

There are more stories of kind strangers willing to help, but some involve me catching a ride in the bus driver’s own car when I got on the wrong bus . . . going to the wrong city . . . on the last run of the night. And my mom (who reads this faithfully) would be upset with knowing that I took a ride from a stranger (but there were three of us . . . and his name is Philippe, so he’s really not a stranger any more), so I won’t tell that story.

Here are some photos from Italy. Enjoy. Au revoir.

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