I left the US Sunday afternoon and flew to la France. My flights weren't bad, but the guy next to me snored. Even when he was awake he kept sniffing and making snorting noises. I really just wanted to hand him a kleenex and be like "Go blow your nose!" Geez. Oh and the woman sitting in front of me leaned her seat back almost the whole way without even so much as looking behind to see if the person behind her (now folded up like a cheap beach chair) still had enough room. I think that should be illegal. I mean, HELLO? We're all cramped enough as it is, do you really think leaning your seat back another couple inches is going to help you? People can be so inconsiderate.
Well, anyway, I got to Paris and managed to get my luggage (whew! no lost luggage) over to the taxi line. A taxi is a bit luxurious for me, a poor student, but really there was just no way around it. I just have too much stuff. The taxi driver was super nice too. He chatted with me in french, and I was so proud of myself for being able to have a decent conversation in french. That's just a good way to start the day. And then I got to the hotel, which was very nice for only being 2 stars. I've heard horrible things about 2 star hotels in Europe, but this place was great. Small, and tucked away in a courtyard off the main road, clean and very nice. The receptionist even helped me get my luggage into my room, which was luckily on the first floor. The decor was a little interesting: a faux fur blanket on the bed and modern pink plastic chairs. Well whatever floats your boat I guess.
Then it was off to orientation! The orientation was just ok. There were a lot of speakers and different lectures, not all of which were pertinent to me, but on the other hand it was great to meet the other Fulbrighters. Everyone was so welcoming, and they were all very sympathetic about my very recent arrival. All day people kept coming up to me and asking me if I was alright or if I was too tired. It was sort of funny really. The reception was cool. It was held in this beautiful building, and the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the US Ambassador to France were there. It was awesome. The only downside was that the food went really fast. We visited a French art school as well, which was...interesting. They showed us some pictures of their recent work, some of which was cool, some of which I just didn't get. I like to think I'm fairly imaginative, but I just can't imagine what on earth some that was. Oh well. This is why I need more art.
Getting to Caen was really pretty simple. I took another taxi to the train station, and then managed to get on the train with a little help from some young guys who were also getting on my train. Then when I got off the train Christine was there to meet me and thank god. I don't know how I would have gotten my suitcases up and down the various stairs of the train station otherwise. My apartment is so nice. The building has an elevator, laundry facilities, and the linens get changed every two weeks. My little apartment is fantastic, and fully furnished. I'm not just talking bed, desk, chair, bureau. It has lamps, pots, pans, utensils, plates, all imaginable kitchen basics. Sigh. So wonderful. The pillow is a bit flat, so I may end up buying my own but for now it's fine. I had a little moment with my stove where I was like, why doesn't it work? But then the guy downstairs at the desk informed me that you have to turn on the timer too. He gave me this look like, wow this girl doesn't even know how to turn on a stove...but hey I got it going. Mmm pasta. Oh and I totally thought I would just have a pull out couch for a bed, but it's really more of a futon and those are way more comfy.
Lab has been great. Everyone has been really nice. There are a couple new grad students in the lab who just got here a couple days before me so I'm not the only newbie. They all seem impressed that I can speak french too. I don't know if everyone thought I didn't speak french or my french is just better than they thought it would be or what, but they all seem pretty happy with it. I can understand people mostly, but I have a hard time listening in group settings. Part of the problem I have to admit is just a lack of listening on my part. Listening takes a lot of effort so unless they're talking to me, I tend to zone out. Lunch is really the only hard part of the day because everyone's talking at once and they're all speaking really fast. Other than that though it's really going pretty well. I haven't had any safety training or anything yet so I'm not doing any research really. I have a stack of papers to read (in English, the international language of science) but that's about it.
Today I wandered about downtown for a bit, before it started raining too hard. They have a 2 euro store, sort of like the Dollar Store, where everything, absolutely everything, is two euros. I got a packet of sponges for washing dishes and this neat measuring cup that has pictures of different food groups and their names in french. I also popped in a charming little bookstore and bought an Agatha Christie book in french. La Plume Empoisonnee, or the poisoned quill, although it's english title is The Moving Finger. No better way to spend a rainy day than with a murder mystery and kinderbars.
|The desk (notice the lack of space between desk and bed)|
|My kitchenette. Look a microwave!|
|My bathroom, actually larger than one I had at USC.|