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Thursday, 27 September 2012

Nearly a month..

I haven't even been here 4 weeks yet. It feels like I've been here about 4 years. Absolutely loving life, college is stepping up a gear, that thing people call "work" looks like it'll come knocking someday soon, despite my best efforts.

Last Sunday was the All Ireland Final, a day where no matter how much of a bandwagon jumper you are or no matter where you are in the world, it is truly unique. French people get headaches just thinking that there can be a sport that is a mixture of...yes, rugby, football and handball (and/or boxing, depending on the counties involved),with what seems to be very few rules. The rules thing was also a huge issue for the Germans. Even the English people got a bit disillusioned after 10 minutes and went and sat at the empty side of the bar where the Premier League was on.
But, as in thousands of bars around the globe, about 20 true Irishmen and women turned out, (shouting mostly for Mayo, which admittedly did get a little awkward...) to cheer on the pure uniqueness that is Gaelic Football on All-Ireland day. Donegal were deserved winners on the day, although I got the feeling the minority of mainland Europeans present had no idea until the cup was lifted who had actually won and why.

Another recent new experience is my very first visit to IKEA here in Gcchhunoblhh. There is one in Dublin, for a few years now, but I've never made it out, much to my regret now... What can I say, it is incomprehensibly big, and incredibly amazing. There was something about the mattress section which made me feel like I was about 8 again. Oh and the swingy chairs. Lots of those too. I did end up making a few purchases, after all the frolicking was done, (which included an extensive sword fight/Harry Potter duel using long pieces of foam with a fellow young adult, also trying to assert his own position in an adult society). A clothes horse, a much needed toilet seat, a juicer and a chopping board were among my strangely varied purchases, and soon afterwards, my IKEA adventure came to a gradual  and tearful end.

I nearly forgot my amazingly epic trip to Lyon on Saturday! We tried a site called covoiturage.fr, essentially car-sharing, and while I'd usually be a bit reluctant, I decided to go for it in typical YOLO fashion. So, the three of us got a lift to Lyon from a quirky judo instructor that happened to be an avid fan of Rammstein. I also am now an avid fan of Rammstein, after a good hour's journey from 7-8am, hearing nothing but incredible rock tunage. The Maison du Judo, where she dropped us off became our unintentional focal point, and having lost our way and ended up there about 3 times, we eventually found somewhere to eat and from where to plan our day. We visited a military prison (as you do), a lovely park, (with a free zoo!), a lovely hilltop town with lovely views, where we found an amazing chocolate shop and unbelievably cold water, and finally the centre-ville itself which is charming in it's own way. We also missed our train coming back, in typical Erasmus adventure fashion. I found Lyon to be a lovely place, although it's hard to beat the scenery in Grenoble, so if there was one criticism I had to make about Lyon it would be the mountains thing, or lack thereof. Had a thoroughly enjoyable, random and funny day, with plenty of interesting photos which shall be available soooon!

Another week of classes at Sciences-Po has ended, and to my delight I have Fridays completely free this term! Plenty to fill it with however, last bits of bureaucracy and upcoming presentations will make sure I don't have things too easy. I'm getting to know so many people still, and it's great to constantly see familiar faces around college, means there's always someone up for a chat!

I feel my leaba calling me, à bientot! :)

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Baaaah ouiii!!

Getting the hang of things here, have a new freshly painted 12 metres squared, ('room' would be pushing it) finally used the much needed laundry facility, and I've started college!

My amazing first two weeks of pure holiday were quickly forgotten during an intensely horrific 3 hour lecture in International Relations at 8am. Yes. 8AM! I've discovered, the hard way, that the French are mad for their long lectures, early mornings and even late evenings, I had one class that went until 8pm!
It's also in French, which doesn't exactly help matters, although my comprehension is quite good now, and note-taking in French has become a lot more second nature to me which is another positive.
Socially, a few early-ish nights were needed over the last while, however it's still going strong, the majority of the group now being from Sciences-Po, (with plenty of other additions) and the multitude of bars and cafés in Gcchhuunoblhh is quite something.

Plenty of bureaucracy still to get finished, although my bank account and general registration seem to be all sorted. I thought I was relatively organised, until at 7.55am on the morning before the first lecture, I realised that no, I did not have anything to write on...another strange thing about the French, they don't tend to have normal lined paper at all, just this weird graphy stuff that I remember from the good aul days in Junior Cert maths. They do however, write more than ogives and histograms on them I've noticed, and though it may be a small difference, I'll file it in as another aspect of their wonderfully bizarre national culture.

The college is really nice and small, with only a few hundred students, due to the private and probably élitist nature of it. The fact that I'm surrounded by the super smart 10% of French students that passed the big exam to get in to Sciences Po still daunts me a little, although it was pointed out to me that I too did a difficult exam i.e the Leaving Cert, and that makes me feel a little better.

I got my first glimpses of snow on the Alps last week, an absolute sight to behold, and further pictures shall come in the next few weeks I'm sure! I'm off to my first Italian class of the year, a presto! :)

Friday, 7 September 2012

Settling in..

I learned a very important travel lesson this week...bring your phone charger.
On Wednesday I ended up buying two mobile phones in an hour - pretty impressive even by modern levels of communication. Originally bought an Alcatel phone (no, I hadn't heard of them before either) for about 25 quid to tie me over as a French phone, and then went on the hunt for a Nokia charger for the Irish one. Long story short, turned out cheaper to buy a new Nokia phone to get a charger than a charger on its own...so hey, 3 phones, why not?

Had another enjoyable soirée on Wednesday, meeting some more people and getting to know the night scene in Gccchhhunoblh a little bit better. On Thursday, after doing a big shop in a Casino that I eventually found ( for things like pots, pans, bins and soap etc, surprisingly forgettable up until now), I went on an evening wander of the city. After only 5 days or so I can safely say that I love the place. Something about it just really works! The scenery is breathtaking, the town itself has a really nice atmosphere, and the transport system of trams and bikes is amazingly efficient. I had heard that Gcchhunoblh was similar to Dublin, and I have to agree, but I've realised that it's what Dublin COULD be like if someone cool and forward-thinking designed it. Simple things like tram-lines on the grass...why not?? They'd probably think of some excuse back home and someone would probably complain for environmental reasons or something, but it works so well and the grass is fine!
Tram lines on the grass...why not?
The tram goes right through the university campus too, making it super easy to get places, and Sciences-Po is just two stops down from my Résidence so technically walkable if I was feeling energetic..

Finally organised my things in my room and used our shared kitchen for the first time...two of the hob rings out of six actually work so it's a bit dire, but I managed to cook up some pasta even if it did take me quite a while..
The painter guy came around this morning and said that they'd start re-doing the room on Tuesday so happy days! My chewing gum covered walls will hopefully be transformed into something slightly more aesthetically pleasing. Fingers crossed. Here are some pictures of the place, including some of the journey from Geneva...they don't really do it justice though!
À bientot! :)
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Wednesday, 5 September 2012

First impressions..

Sooo I arrived safe and sound on Monday afternoon! After a nerve wracking and back breaking trek through the airport with my ridiculously illegal amounts of "hand-luggage", I made it on the plane, where admittedly I did take up rather more than my fair share of overhead bin space...However, oblivious to my disgruntled co-passengers, I made it to Geneva in one piece, got through a very strict customs - I guess they are Swiss after all, don't seem to trust anyone - grabbed a bite to eat and found the train ! They gave me my change in Swiss Francs too which was a first, they do look kinda cool, my first novelty souvenir!

Mistakenly got into First Class on the train to the City Centre, but luckily no scary Swiss people seemed to notice.. then I got my connection to Gcchhhunoblh. The journey was every bit as lovely as I'd imagined, no snow yet obviously but the views were unbelievable! (Pictures to come very shortly).
Got a taxi to the CROUS office at my Résidence, and then underwent several hours of queuing and French bureaucracy before finally being shown my room. I was less than impressed. I've since got onto them and hopefully the painter should be coming soon to freshen the place up a bit, fingers crossed! Found a McDonalds, which let's be honest, is always a good thing in a new place, and I've been benefiting unashamedly from their free WiFi for the last few days!

The town itself is lovely, with trams bringing everyone back and forth, with a lot of cyclists around too. The lack of cars really surprised me, but it's great because it means that people are milling about the streets, very relaxed, without the threat of traffic or fast motorists, it's really nice! The massively humongous looming mountains in the background can be quite scary in the evenings, but unbelievably spectacular during the day, can't wait until it starts to snow!! I went on a historic tour of the city organised by the welcome group last night, followed by an excellent soirée in one of the local haunts the "Montechristo".

The French is coming along nicely, frustrating at times when trying to express myself but the comprehension is good and I'm definitely getting by all right! It'll be a different story once lectures start I can imagine! Despite the French immersion so far, when I heard English voices at the tour it was impossible not to gravitate immediately towards them, giving me some slight relief from the constant bombardment of French language and culture for an evening, which, as I keep telling myself, I really needed!

Another tour on tonight, and I also need to find a supermarket as well as a cheap French phone - plenty to be getting on with!
I'll put up some pictures soon, à bientot! :)