Friday, 23 November 2012

Quoi de neuf??

Oooh la laa it's been a while. The last two weeks have been quite fun, quite studious actually, (I know.. me? studious? Erasmus? what?? - oxymoron central) with books to read and dissertations to write and what not. A fair while was taken up by the whopper book review I had to do for history...which I finally got done! My result was pleasantly surprising too, so I'm delighted. I think the prof was even surprised, the way he said "bon travail" to me suggested that he wasn't aware that foreign people were capable of such a feat and that he was still very suspicious...

I didn't have too much time to bask in the glory that followed finishing it though, as another book-essay double team started embêtting me from then onwards. Having read for several days about how bleak French society can be and how the author used this and that experience to write such an epic book, the essay got done, albeit several hundred words over the word count. Such is life. If there was a leeway of plus or minus 70% I could be ok. Fingers unenthusiastically crossed.

The social life, while taking a little bit of a hit with my work etc, (a hit, I realised the other day, corresponds to a period of 3 days or more not spent out until all hours..) but it's still been very fun. We had a very spontaneous come-dine-with-me-esque week in residence, having a string of deliciously healthy meals tous ensemble, which for some of us i.e me, is a great way of keeping the auld nutrition going, which when left to my own devices...well, let's just say it's not quite as frequent.

Last weekend I went on my first hike in the Alps! A bit shameful really considering I'm here nearly 3 months...but still, it was amazingly fun. We went to Le Col Vert, which is kind of to the south-west of Gcchhuunooblh, and at a height of 1,700 and something metres, meaning about a 2 and a bit hour trek up, not too challenging for some of the pros in the group but just about enough for me for my first time since 4th year in school. And even at that, the Wicklow mountains don't reeeeaaally compare to the unbelievably magnificent French Alps. Much fun was had, and amaaazing views seen, which the photos don't even do justice. I could have happily spent hours up at the top, however time was against us with darkness fast approaching...but we all survived, despite a few close calls on a particularly steep bit where I nearly plummeted to my untimely death a few times. But I didn't so all is good.

On top of the world.. many breaths were taken

Aaaand a video, which should hopefully be more representative of the breathtaking-ness.

On the Saturday, I met up with some of the guys to play football, however we were all aware that a certain event was taking place in the city around the same time, one that we all secretly wanted to be after 45 minutes of unenthusiastic football, we packed up and trekked across the city to be there on time. The Gcchhuunoblhh's very own Gangnam Style flash mob.
Needless to say, it was excellent, as hundreds of people tried out their best Psy impersonations in the main public park, while being guided by the "experts" up on the bandstand. As some have been quick to point out, it wasn't a real "flash mob", due partly to the fact that it was organised at all, but it doesn't take away from the fact that it thoroughly made my day.
Here's a snippet, great craic altogether.

So the days passed in a flurry of French and long lectures. Another Jeune Ambassadeur thing was on Thursday, this time a business presentation by a large company proposing changes to Gcchhuunooblh, which was very interesting. It was a bit of a trek to get to though but after a walking tour of the entire west side of the city, myself and the random guy I met from Argentina eventually found it.

Very few other weird or wonderful stories to report, another soirée and another ice skating session await me this evening! Aaand I'm going away in the morning for the weekend to the middle of nowhere in the mountains, with the Erasmus "club", (well, one of the many that seem to be springing up and bombarding my facebook news feed) and should hopefully be filled with some serious fun, and snow, which tends to help a lot with the former.

Bon, je vais y aller, à bientôt mes amis !!

Monday, 5 November 2012

Une semaine de vacances..

Last Saturday morning marked a great day in my year abroad, and the start of a new season. SNOOOOOOOOOOW!! Yes, tons of it. Unfortunately I slept it in and therefore missed most of the falling-out-of-the-sky part, but there was still enough left for a relatively epic snowball fight, mainly thanks to the large amounts still lodged on the parked cars.. which were not all empty as I awkwardly realised, coming face to face with a small, angry Frenchman with loathing in his eyes.

Speaking of falling-out-of-the-sky and such things, the new James Bond movie was fantastic - the well portrayed battle scenes, along with Daniel Craig's teenage girl duck-face impression made for excellent viewing. We watched it in its original version, as we figured that hearing a French dubbing guy say "zero zero sept" wouldn't be quite as awesome.

The Friday morning was interesting, as I was invited by my Jeune Ambassadeur "coach" to a luncheon with the Commission of the Chamber of Commerce in Gcchhunnooblh. Turned out I was sitting in on a very important board meeting, which got highly awkward, and I prayed for the whole hour that the lunch I was nibbling at would swallow me instead. It didn't though, so I stuck with my plan of feigned interest and fascination as new projects were unveiled and general commercial banter was had. It was a good experience all in all though, and despite feeling about 40 years too young, I'm glad I went.

The next few days were fun, as shopping trips, collective dinners, cool pub evenings and general merriment filled my time. Most of my friends had planned trips to all sorts of weird and wonderful places during the holidays, and due partly to lack of preparation, I stayed mostly in Gcchhuunooblh for the week - except for Thursday!

Another milestone in my life was reached, as I visited Italy for the very first time! Myself and Will went to Turin (I prefer 'Torino', especially if accompanied by wild hand movements) by covoiturage, the French car-sharing website, with two young Environmental Science students and a random old Arabic dude, whose phone kept ringing really loudly (I must say though, Arabic is a hilarious language to listen to, and now I honestly think the Germans get a rough deal with the cursing/violence/threatening language stereotype - they're not alone).

Our journey through the Alps was unbelievable, snow everywhere, massive mountains, crazy steep was very fun.

Once we crossed the Italian border, the general driving of those around us steadily got worse, as it seems that random U turns at junctions and a complete disregard for traffic lights are perfectly OK! We were treated to a full-on gymnastics show at one particular set of lights, as it seems the simple days of cheeky window washers and newspaper sellers have gradually ended in Italy.
But, having found a McDonald's at the train station where we were dropped off, we knew we were safe.

I cracked out a bit of the auld Italiano here and there to keep us going, and despite my hesitance and bad accento, I was understood and not looked at too strangely! We visited the Palazzo Reale which was very cool, the piazza outside alone was very impressive, and very very Italian. We bought a massive and amazing gelato each, and while waiting at a tram stop, I'd imagine the locals didn't have too much trouble in their "spot the tourist" games, looking at us two proudly flaunting our gelatos in the month of November.

One thing I did noticed is how bad the customer service standards were in the train station. I asked where we could buy TGV tickets to get home, expecting at least some sympathy and a point in the right direction. What I got was a stare and a disinterested "dunno", on more than one occasion, which resulted in us having to just hop on the train with no ticket...which got interesting when the conductor came around. We had to fork out a horrific amount of money to buy one on the train itself, which left us reeling financially and thinking not only that a fine would have been a better choice, but that we definitely should have organised a hostel or something to stay a bit longer..

We made it home eventually, via Chambéry, although we could have easily ended up in Paris, as the lovely TGV decides not to tell you where the hell you are at any given moment, leaving your destination very much up to wherever the most amount of people seem to be getting off. Despite such issues, a very enjoyable day was had, and we learned the need for proper planning, which tends to be slightly less expensive than pure spontaneity.

The rest of the weekend was quite chilled out, apart from my workload which diminished incredibly slowly as I still try and trek through that history book...the mutinies in the First World War are very interesting, but there's only so much enthusiasm one can have when trying to force-read a 600 page book in a few days..

Back to college today and great to see everyone again. Well, except the lecturer of my Right-Wing Populist movements class...although I must say his beard is looking well.

PS: Another musical recommendation, this girl (Joe BeL), was playing at a bar we went to during the week, apparently she's from Grenoble too, she's pretty good!