Le repos

Today I did nearly nothing, which was exceedingly pleasant. I had a brief run-in with the micro-onde (quite literally, microwave) this morning in attempting to defrost a baguette (freezing them works really well for keeping them fresh, as it turns out) - it kept making noise after it was done reheating, so I kept pressing buttons trying to stop the noise, which probably made it worse. Eventually I left it alone and it stopped after about 15 seconds. But still, weird.

After that I devoted myself to being slothful in a foreign language (mostly): I watched "Chariots de feu" ("Chariots of Fire"), which is an amazing movie, though I cheated and watched it in English with French subtitles because I absolutely can't stand dubbing (the translations were interesting, though). The last time I saw it was in early middle school, and I have since become familiar with Gilbert & Sullivan, the Allegri Miserere, and the hymn "Jerusalem," giving me an overall much greater appreciation for the soundtrack. I wish choir were still a popular thing for young boys to partake in. They have such amazing voices. 

I then started in earnest on La gloire de mon père by Marcel Pagnol, which I only yesterday discovered was a book before it was a movie, and so promptly searched out and bought it, along with the sequel Le château de ma mère. Reading in French is slow going and not the relaxing experience it is in English, but I made it nearly to page 100 in a sitting, which is a lot better than I usually do on books for French class. I can see why they decided these books would make good movies - they're very visually descriptive, and the narrative voice of the little boy is hilarious (it makes me happy that I can understand humor and puns in a foreign language).

This evening I went shopping briefly with Brenda and Christelle at a papetrie (stationery store) to look for school supplies, which are fun in any language. Though I really, really miss my Mead student day planner - I've had the same one every year for many years running, and it's the perfect size, layout and lack of clutter. I'm kicking myself for not bringing one with me. I found one by Clairefontaine (which appears to be the most popular stationery brand over here, and isn't nearly as expensive as in the states) that works, but still...it's not the same. Here ends the lecture on French school supplies.

Tomorrow we have individual meetings with M. Paoli to choose classes. I know I want to take History of Religion in France and a translation course. I suppose I'll fill the rest of my schedule with literature classes. I asked Christelle to look at the bus schedule and confirm that the buses I want to take tomorrow really do exist, which she did, so hopefully tomorrow I will conquer the bus and not vice versa. We shall see.


Le caprice

Most of today was spent at the mercy of the weather and the bus system, neither of which do I have any particular fondness for at the moment. I tried to take a bus that, as it turns out, only runs on Wednesday - something to do with the school system. My bus schedule is gaining asterisks and arrows and circles at an amazing rate. Hopefully I will full comprehend it soon - of course, by that point I may have discovered that there are never any buses to Mignaloux. So anyway, I spent four hours more than planned in centre ville, in a pretty ridiculous rainstorm for the first hour or so. Without my rain jacket, of course, because it was nice this morning (and is currently practically cloudless). I think it's time to invest in an umbrella, à la française. Because raincoats just aren't chic. 

It wasn't all bad, having extra time - I retraced my steps from a few parts of the tours and spent some leisurely time in Notre Dame la Grande and Ste. Radegonde. I adore old churches, in case I hadn't mentioned that before. It also reminded me that I forgot to mention, in my earlier post, that when we were in Ste. Radegonde during the tour, there was a baptism going on - priest, flowers, infant in white, the whole deal - and they were playing Rufus Wainwright's rendition of "Hallelujah." During a solemn Catholic sacrament. It was a little...disorienting.

Anyway, in reverse chronological order:

This morning I met Lauren in town, and we visited le jardin des plantes (literally, the garden of plants - descriptive, if not poetic), which is quite lovely, and the Église St. Hilaire, which is more than lovely. It's more romanesque, whereas a lot of churches we've visited have been gothic. Also, it had a weathervane on top of the spire. Complete with rooster. I'm sure that's of great doctrinal importance. We were going to go see more touristy things, but were prevented by a deluge, which we (mostly) waited out chez Lauren. Then sandwiches from one of the boulangeries with which Poitiers abounds, and onward to aforementioned misadventures with the bus.

Yesterday, Elizabeth and I climbed the very long (217 ± 1 steps) staircase up the cliff that surrounds Poitiers for some pretty amazing views of the city. It was sunny all day for the first time since we arrived, and the rooftops and church spires of the old city make for some excellent panoramas. There's a large statue of the Madonna and child looking out over the city from the top of the cliff, blessing it, and we wanted to climb the spiral stair to the top of the statue, but alas - locked. Still, yesterday was pretty excellent.

Jumping back to the present, Christelle, the daughter of my host mother, arrived back from the U.S. today. I haven't had a chance to talk to her much yet, but she seems nice. I'm looking forward to having someone my age in the house. I think a few friends are coming for dinner tonight, which means I absolutely won't be able to follow the conversation, but it's still fun to watch and (try to) listen.

Still in the future: finding a Nalgene or Sig or some equivalent, which seems to not exist at all here. It's quite a shock, coming from Vermont where they're practically mandatory. Also, I really need a haircut, but I'm worried that I won't be able to communicate what I want to the stylist and something disastrous will happen. Language barriers and scissors do not mix. Although I've generally seen a lot of good short haircuts here, so hopefully it won't be too much of a problem...when I work up the nerve.



I'm very thankful today is Sunday: nothing on the schedule that requires doing battle with the bus system. I went to church with my host mother this morning. It was...different. It's called the Église chrétienne (Christian Church), and is exactly what I expected from the name: not actually in a church, praise and worship music, about as non-liturgical as it gets. Lots of spontaneous praying and hand waving. The pastor is American and speaks French worse than I do. All he did was give a sermon; he didn't even serve or particularly bless the communion; you go up and take it "as the spirit moves you," I guess you could say. Me, I like the ceremony and tradition of liturgical churches. But living in Mignaloux, with no buses on Sunday, I'm not sure what other options I have. We'll see.

Mignaloux does have its plus side, being small and cute. Today there was a big market thing, basically an all-town garage sale (it reminded me strongly of the Kolache Festival, sans kolaches, and with sausage in a baguette rather than on a stick). I saw lots of interesting stuff, including an amazing number of matched sets of beer glasses, piles and piles of the little china figurines that come out of King Cake, Readers Digest condensed classics in French, and tons of vinyls, which Bruno collects (he came home with Johnny Cash and Sting, among others). It was pretty fun. However, it greatly disturbed me that they planned on selling the rabbits at the petting zoo for eating. That's just wrong.

To backtrack a bit, we tried to register at the Scolarité des Sciences on Friday and had all sorts of trouble with our American health insurance not being accepted. The nicest of the ladies told Lauren and me to go to our class anyway and we'd get it worked out later, so we did...and we're not going back. I came to that conclusion more quickly, having understood less of the computer science related material than her, but it's not what either of us was looking for. So I'm ditching math for the semester, which leaves this week pretty much free.

We did two walking tours of the downtown area, one Friday afternoon and another Saturday morning, with M. Fabrice Vigier, a history professor at the university. We saw a lot of churches, including some that have been repurposed. It was all quite interesting, and also damp - it's rained every day so far, and the forecast predicts rain for the foreseeable future. Charming. Tomorrow I'm planning to go into town in the afternoon, when there's at least a chance at sun and I am nearly certain the buses are running to/from Mignaloux, to explore inside a few of the churches at my leisure. I love old churches, and devoutly wish people still habitually built in stone. Though it's awful to see the graffiti and ugly paint and electric lights and other indignities people inflict on beautiful old churches. Progress is all well and good, but it should stay away from certain arenas.

I finally bought a cell phone, which is pretty cute and weighs almost nothing, being as basic as it gets (which is exactly my cup of tea). I had to go with the cards to add minutes, because you can't sign up for a month plan without a French bank account - a credit card doesn't cut it. Minutes are kind of ridiculously expensive, as previously noted, but all received calls are free and work even if you don't have any credit to make calls, and emergency numbers are free as well, so it's good for being reachable and in case of emergency.

In general, I'm getting a bit more settled in, though everything is inordinately tiring, including talking to people. I can understand French if one person is speaking in a relatively quite environment, but start adding people to the conversation and I completely lose it. Hopefully that will get better quickly.