Euskal Herria (Basque Country)
It has taken me a week to actually find the time and mental capacity to sit down and write this post about last weekend. This week all the international students at the university started French classes, which are everyday for 4 hours split into morning and afternoon blocks. My head has been a little full and jumbled to say the least, but I am loving every minute of it. French is such a beautiful language and I have 4 wonderful professors here. Plus I have my Intercultural Communication class (English) and an all levels gymnastics class (French). I am so excited for the gymnastics class- students can pick from a list of sports ranging from rock climbing or skiing to yoga or basketball. The list was huge and it filled up quick- I was so happy to make it into the gymnastics course. It meets once a week and after our first meeting my body has been so sore! ;) :) I will try to get pictures next week.
Last week I visited a local goat and sheep cheese/milk farm up in the foothills. It was interesting to learn about the cheese making process and the animals themselves. Everyone who wasn't vegan or had allergies was able to sample the cheese, while the rest of us ate a whole lot of fresh, local bread. I definitely overdid it with bread that day to say the least. ;)
Last weekend some friends and did a coastal trip of three cities (Bayonne, France - San Sebastian, Spain - Saint Jean de Luz, France) in French and Spanish Basque country also known as "Euskal Herria" in Euskera (Basque language). In 48 hours we packed in a whirlwind of experiences and had a great time. :)
San Sebastian, Spain was gorgeous and filled to the brim with people and a fun, lively atmosphere. My friend Madi, a journalism student I met here from California, and I wandered in and out of little Pinxos (tapas/small plates of food) bars and got lost exploring and people watching. We had a great time, and the rain that followed us all weekend only came in spurts, so we had time to enjoy walking around instead of getting poured on. We walked back to our hotel on the long stretch of atlantic beach and listened to the waves and took in the salt air. I haven't been to the ocean in years, and I'd forgotten how it really captivates you- it has an energy all its own that is incredibly humbling, similar to the feeling I get when I look up at the Rockies in Colorado or Cotopaxi in Quito.
Alright, I need to go get ready for my afternoon class. I know I'm forgetting things, but I will try and remember them for the next post. À bientôt!
Bonjour all! Between internet issues, new experiences, and classes I just haven't found the time to sit down and write this, but I am finally getting down to business. :) ;)
There is so much to tell, I am just loving university in Pau--two of my favorite things: learning/college classes and being immersed in another language.
Last Sunday I went rock climbing on the Via Ferrata with some friends and also explored more of the French countryside. While at my friend's grandparent's house in the countryside, we had amazing meals, went star gazing, and had hilarious conversations where I misconstrued my French into something other than what I was trying to say. The result was both embarrassing and very funny. I also went to the local market in Vienne and fell in love with the amount of fresh produce, meat, fish, and cheese that was available.
I left Vienne on Monday via train and arrived in Pau later that night. I have a sweet little studio with my own bathroom, kitchenette, and furnishings. I'm about a 1min walk from the university campus and about 4mins from the building where most of my classes are. I also signed up for a beginners "acrobaties" (acrobatics/gymnastics) class which is part of the university sports program. I'm so excited and somewhat terrified for it to start. ;) Sports and French classes start at the end of next week, which is when all "foreign students" begin at this university. Until then I have one intensive Intercultural Communication class that meets for two hours every day for two weeks, and then goes down to 3 hours a week once the French classes start through the university.
A few of my observations so far from Pau and Vienne:
-Air conditioning is not a thing- but you also don't really need it.
-Vending machines are fancy- they can give you hot tea in a little plastic cup with a spoon. :)
-As in S.A., lined notebooks are rare, instead most people use graph-paper notebooks.
-A lot of people like to smoke, though smoking is no longer allowed inside most buildings.
-I saw a ton of solar panels and wind turbines set up throughout the countryside of France- so cool!
-WW1 and WW2 memorials exist in most towns and remind visitors of history and how important it is to remember what happened and be sobered by it. On one country road I saw a sign talking about the tragedy of a mountain town and how it had been burned by the Nazis. The landscapes and villages have so much history written into them; if these hills could talk they would give us a deep understanding of human tragedy, triumph, and change.
-Food and meals are a lengthy and social affair. No phones or multitasking to be seen. I've not noticed one Pau university student eating on-the-go; they take their time to sit down and enjoy their food.
-The meals I've experienced so far here follow a pattern, which includes an appetizer, a main dish, cheese, and a dessert. Dessert is usually followed by a small coffee or liquor as well. The University of Pau meals are great: you get a main dish, dessert/fruit, bread, water, and an appetizer/veggie for 3.25 euros. Plus most of the food is fresh and they post all allergens for each day outside the door. I wish UIowa would do the same.
Okay, that is a jumbled mess of my experiences so far, but I hope it gives you a better picture of where I'll be living for the next few months. I love this place and this language and can't wait to explore more. I'm headed off to Pau's local market this morning and I'l be sure to post those pictures later.
À bientôt! :)
Bienvenue en France
Je suis en France! I can't believe I'm here- I arrived on Wed after a long flight and several layovers. I'm staying with friends in Vienne (right outside of Lyon) for a few days before I head south for Pau, where I will be living/studying for the next several months. Vienne is a sweet historic town with narrow, winding streets and several Roman ruins throughout the downtown area. Everywhere you turn there are beige buildings with red/brown roofs and beautiful architecture.
I also realize now why the grid system for roads was implemented- it was for directionally challenged people like myself who can get lost just looking at street signs (ironic, I know). But getting lost in this adorable little town was fun. I found a bunch of outdoor cafés and bakeries along with more road side shops than you can count. Everything here has history and local historians and archeologists claim that this area has been inhabited continuously by people since the middle of the neolithic era. I visited some of the Roman ruins, along with a local museum, and was fascinated by the fact that so much of this town's history has survived after all these years. I also found that one of France's oldest vineyards is here, with some history books claiming that it's almost 2,000 years old! I love all this history and archeological information- it's just so cool! :)
While I am adjusting to the time change (7 hours ahead of CST) I have been reading a lot about French culture and language, hoping to improve my French speaking skills which need a lot of work. Thankfully I am able to understand/read/write enough to survive, plus my Spanish has come in handy more than once. This is definitely going to be a fascinating semester. ;) :)
An aspiring polyglot and globetrotter, an avid reader, and a lover of good food. :)