I am back in the U.S. for a while, spending my time between family and friends. And being ever thankful that I have these wonderful people in my life. Coming soon are posts about the surprisingly small amount of strange things I’ve found here in the land of the free, the Lyon trip post I’ve promised for about a month now, and maybe an excerpt from the Diary of C.M. Pine. That is, if I can find that thing…
Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, and to those of you who don’t celebrate either of those things, peace and love be with you.
Last night I got lost in a part of Aix I had never been to before while walking a girl home (dark and late are not female-friendly conditions). Okay, technically it was after, but “peu import” doesn’t matter. ANYWAY. It was okay for a bit, I was my normal, calm self. Until it kept continued getting closer and closer to 3am. And I had to pee so bad. Quickly turned into a nightmare.
I literally had no idea where I was and no idea of how to find my way back. I would walk down a street I thought “maybe this is it,” then run back when it became apparent that wasn’t it.
And I saw NO ONE. Not a single person. It was dark, I was lost, alone and in the dark.
I kept my head, though (although I was a tad bit freaked, cold and tired) and managed to stumble onto the way back (almost literally. I was going down an unfamiliar road that suddenly slipped into a familiar one. Thank God. Literally.)
But it reminded me of an experience I had this past spring for a wilderness survival class. Our teachers made us walk back to our tents in the dark without flashlights, knowing we would likely get lost. In fact, that was the point. To understand that and to become more aware of your surroundings. But I have to say. Being in the woods lost with a group of people around. Is a lot less scary than being completely alone. Well-light though the streets of Aix may be.
But you know what? I learned too that the only thing there is to do is keep trying. Keep trying until you get it right. ‘Cause what else are you going to do?
So last night I stayed up to watch the elections until like 6:30 this morning. And then I went to bed and woke up at noon for a group project. As you can probably guess I was late. You know, that whole lack of sleep and hungover thing doesn’t help. Anyway, to make a long story short. I was like an hour late. I felt so bad!
Except everyone else was just about as late. hahaha Welcome to France.
MORE IMPORTANTLY, I had my first true wine-tasting/shop experience! And BOY was that strange. In France when you taste wine, you first smell it. Then swirl it around a bit and examine the color very, very carefully. And then you take a sip and taste…And then you are free to spit it out into this nifty little spittoon for wine! Haha seriously though! It’s true! I watched two very posh and wine-educated women do it! The one woman “drank” the whole glass. I was just like…aren’t you supposed to drink this?
Haha it was interesting. Welcome to France I guess.
1) Pancake party. Best idea ever. Get some good ol’ American food in here and share it with some friends. I didn’t have maple syrup, so I just made this apple-cinnamon-honey concoction that was absolutely delicious. It was really great to get a little bit of a taste of home and chat with friends. I also discovered the wonder of Candy Corn pancakes. They’re AMAZING.
2) Watched television. So much. I started watching Baccano! which is a show I was introduced to back at my home university by one of my friends that I never really got to finish. It’s fantastic. Just really awesome. I mean, who doesn’t want to watch a show with gangsters, immortals and homicidal maniacs?
3) Researched things that I want to do. As in, places I want to travel. There are a lot. I never realized how many things there are to do in France. I should have, but I didn’t. For being only about the size of Texas, France has almost everything. It’s like the New Zealand of Europe. I also learned recently that they are the only agriculturally self-sufficient country in Europe. So basically this little place is a frickin beast. ANYWAY, I have decided to go hang-gliding with some friends. I’m so excited! I really hope that all works out well. I think it will. There are quite a few hang-gliding companies in France.
I’ll be posting my list of places to go soon. It’s long. I’m really glad I decided on a year here. It makes the exploration and travel a lot easier. Although it also costs more….tradeoffs.
I want to knit a blanket (one of the girls on the program said she would teach me -I should mention that there are only four guys in our program, so “one of the girls” denotes one of quite a few people haha) BUT, I don’t know how much yarn to buy, where I should get it, or how much it’s going to cost.
Any of you people know what I should do? And is it worth it, or should I just go buy a blanket for the winter and stick to carving?
Yesterday I had one of the most enriching experiences of my life. Perhaps not for any particular reason, but it really was. Three people from my program and I decided to hike Mt. Sainte Victoire.
The bus ticket there was only 1 euro, which is probably one of the best deals I’ve seen here in Aix.
We got to the mountain at about noon and set off. The first thing we came to was a small pine forest and a map, which we proceeded to try and decipher. It was not easy.
However, we did manage to do it and we started off on our merry (and somewhat doubtful) way. It wasn’t long before we came across another group of people hiking the mountain. It turns out they were Americans. And, get this ’cause this is the most insane coincidence ever, not only were they Americans, but they were a group of friends having a 20 year reunion FOR OUR PROGRAM. Haha literally, they did the same study abroad program that we did. It was INSANE. So we chilled with them for a bit (and by “chilled” I mean hiked up a mountain). They helped us get up a rock face that I thought was actually pretty fun to climb, but one of the girls from my group really doesn’t like that kind of stuff, so we had to give her lots of moral support. BUT we all made it up just fine. And once we were all up, the french guy who was with the older people group said, “It’s alright. That’s the most technical part of the whole climb.” Haha. If only he knew.
Shortly after that, our group decided to stop in this cave-like thing to chill for a bit, get some food, get some water and rest. So we told the other group we would meet up with them back at the top. It was a real nice little break. We had peanuts. I didn’t expect them to have good peanuts in France considering the fact that THEY DON’T HAVE PEANUT BUTTER.
Anyway, we set out again soon after this. And this is where it gets interesting because the path became this:
SO, we took a wrong turn. Innocent enough, except this is a MOUNTAIN. Haha, so we ended up having to climb down a cliff-type thing that was almost at a 90 degree angle. This is what it looked like:
And from afar:
The girl in our group who didn’t do so well with all this clambering did a fantastic job. The other guy in our group had to go ahead of her and walk/carry her all the way down till we regained the path, but really everyone did a fantastic job. Honestly, I probably did the worst of the three of us because the climb was fairly easy for me, so I was kind of lackadaisical which didn’t help the others out at all. BUT, it all worked out fine.
Then we went finally got on top of the mountain and the hiking got a lot easier. We stopped to rest, drink some water and eat a little bit of chocolate on a precipice that overlooked everything. It was the most impressive sight I’ve seen in a long while. Just incredible.
And then, after hours of climbing and hiking, we finally made it to the priory at the top of the mountain! It was awesome. We sat on a ledge overlooking everything (REALLY freaky btw) and ate lunch. I had to run away because the bees were not my friendly honey bee friends. No, they were hornets of some kind. Yigh. But once we finished eating they left.
At the priory we were also faced with an interesting decision. There was a well there, but it said “Eau Non Potable” which means “water not potable/drinkable.” BUT we had no more water left and hours left to go. And I was already dehydrated. SO, we just said eff it and filled up. And off we were again! This time, however, we chose to descend along the backbone that gently slid down into the rest of the countryside. We were headed for a dam we could see in the distance.
We hiked and hiked and hiked. It was crazy. I could never believe how far we had to go, nor how far we had come. It was just incredible. I hung back, as I tend to, to help the girl in our group who was really pushing her limits being out there with us. Good conversation there. It was nice to start making friends well enough to really open up my thoughts.
Anyway, we finally came to another pine forest which was just stunningly beautiful.
It opened out into some countryside. We met this strange woman and asked her if we were headed in the right direction (we were, thank God) and she asked us if we could spare some money so she could buy gas ’cause she lost (or was stolen) her ten euros. We were like “this is sketch” but we gave her a little anyway. None of us had very much left and we still didn’t really know how we were getting back (because we were miles from the bus stop we came from originally), but we got her something. I mean, if she really did need it, I’m super glad we got it to her, but if not, you know, we’re only out a euro or two each.
The lake was beautiful. We all want to go back so we can swim in it.
This is when we realized we REALLY didn’t know how to get back. And when we really started looking. We could find no bus schedules or stops (although we did find where you can land a parachute? French priorities. I’ll never understand.) We called some people back in Aix to see if they could help (not really), and we got a phone number for a cab service. HOWEVER, one of the girls in our group talked to some German women who were willing to take us back to Aix! So we piled in (literally) and headed out. The women had actually just had all their luggage stolen out of the car, but they were super nice. We offered to give them money for gas, but they flat refused. It was a true blessing.
We finished the night by chilling. Making pasta and eating ice cream. It was rather wonderful, to be honest.
And one of the most amazing things about it was the amount of wild rosemary growing on that mountain. I mean, it was just straight-up EVERYWHERE.
But the one really important thing I learned from that trip was to push your boundaries. To not be complacent. It was a really important lesson for me. I think I’m ready to do a lot more than I was before, and that’s really something special.
I’m tired. Haha. It is a strange feeling. I mean, my body isn’t that tired, but we’ve just been doing so much. Overcoming jetlag, getting a French phone, bank account, apartment searching and lease signing, cleaning the apartment and the hotel room, and last night we all went out to the French bars. And that whole list only includes the events themselves. I must walk dozens of miles every day just to get from the place I am to the place I need to be and then back and then back again and then somewhere else.
So now I’m sitting with a glass of wine and a bit of chocolate. That is one nice thing. I can go out and just buy wine. Relax. Be classy. That’s pretty cool. And the wine’s cheap too. Being from the place it’s produced and having a LOT less taxes on it than in the US.
Anyway, update. Today we cleaned the apartment. Man was that an experience. There’s no way this thing has been cleaned since the last students moved out several months ago.
And some of it longer. Like the fan above the “stove.” Nightmares. Night. Mares.
Other than that, I had to buy food to last me until Monday because pretty much everything closes on Sunday here in France. Which, thinking about it, is kindof nice. Just a good time to sit and take a deep breath. Do a few things slowly that maybe we don’t think about. Like make dinner. Or read. Or find somewhere nice to sit. It would be nice with friends or family.
On a less calm note, we went to a bar called “the wohoo.” Yeah. That’s what it’s called. It’s very geared towards foreigners (especially americans right now). There’s even a flag from my home school there! It’s pretty awesome. Anyway, it was fun. The party thing isn’t my scene really, so it took some time to get into it, but it was fun certainly.
Who knows what tomorrow will hold. I’m going to “les gorge de Verdun.” Apparently there is swimming there. We’ll just have to see.