Thursday, 24 January 2013

2013, back in Gcchuunooblhh !

Well well, what a month. So Christmas chez moi was amazing, got to see friends and family again, speak English without feeling in any way guilty aaaand very importantly, pile another 23kg worth of stuff in my bag to bring back. The  latter did include some Christmas pudding, a fruitcake, Irish tea and chicken soup, which I have to say was much appreciated. I had just settled into family life again, which I had missed a lot I realised, before the calendar decides to go speedy gonzales and bring me suddenly to the 4th of Jan, home-from-home time.

This day will forever remain etched in my mémoire as the day I realised that travelling light is the best way forward in life. So there I was, 5.30 in the morning, wearing 3 jackets, with an overloaded suitcase and a very much illegal amount of hand luggage (which included a computer monitor - long story, involves copious amounts of sunflower oil and a poorly placed laptop..) trying to struggle through to departures.. After having to open up and empty some things out of my suitcase, reorganise my entire hand luggage at security and acquiring a massive scar-like welt in my shoulder, I made it to the plane, and subsequently to Geneva approximately 2 hours later. Just as I collected my baggage, the handle decides to come completely off in my hand, leaving me with no other choice but to engage in a very strange half-ducked-down-leaning-backwards-in-pain forward motion for the next few hours as I tried desperately to find my way home.

So I found the bus to Chambéry, then took the train down to Gcchhuunooblhh, which welcomed me with open arms / vaguely arm-shaped mountains... 
I'd like to point out that all this stress came at a time roughly 3 days before the start of my exams, which I had done absolutely nada for, and as such, the next few days were interesting.
I've never crammed so much in my life, but the exams turned out ok for the most part ! Despite the French, the lack of preparation and a confusing exam timetable I think I may just have passed everything...results won't be for ages though apparenty, it is France we're talking about here I suppose, far more forms, passports and birth certs will need to be provided before that happens.

Several post-exam fêtes have been the order of the day since then, because as we all know, the Erasmus student must be rewarded for his 3 days of solid work per semester. Classes also started back, and my current favourite has got to be Outdoor Multi-Activities, where despite early mornings on Tuesdays, we get to go snowboarding, cross country skiing and rock climbing as part of our average college timetable. I'd imagine the European Studies department back home will be more than delighted that I decided to fill up my academic credits by perfecting my snowboarding techniques in one of the most beautiful sporting locations imaginable.

The word "perfecting" there was purely hypothetical, as I soon discovered after 5 minutes that my snowboarding ability corresponds to what the French would so aptly describe as "nul". (Pronounced "nooohl", generally with a sour and condescending facial expression, often with emphasis on the oooh if something is extremely bad. In my case, there was emphasis everywhere.) 
After week 2 on Tuesday I like to think I'm improving, although my aching bones and incredibly sore backside might beg to differ. Skiing is next on my list, so fingers crossed the hospital won't be getting any visits anytime soon. 

The Jeunes Ambassadeurs programme soon got up and running again, with a trip to Lyon for a conference with the head of the organisation, where we all wished each other a happy new year and generally had a nice time. The food was excellent too which, let's be honest, always helps. 
The week previous to that I received some interesting post, in a pristine, formal white envelope with no markings...I opened, very curious and found this:

Essentially an invite to a speech he was giving in Gcchhuunooblhh to young people, apparently it's an annual thing. I discovered later that I had been chosen as one of 10 Ambassadeurs to you can imagine I was deliirah !!

The next week or so passed in a flurry of snow, parties and classes, and unfortunately a few goodbyes had to be said to some great friends...however the goodbyes are only temporary, as I will hopefully see some of them très bientôt.

The day arrived, and having been treated to a very nice lunch by my coach, during which we discussed our Jeune Ambassadeur project (we're thinking of ways to promote both Ireland and the Gcchuunooblhh region, I'll keep you updated), I made my way out to the Maison de la Culture all suited up and generally feeling great. I sort of got caught up in a big anti-government protest outside at first but I managed to disentagle myself and re-iterate my complete neutrality on whatever issue they were screaming about. Myself and one other Ambassadrice were among the first batch into the auditorium, and as such managed to get front row seats !

Then, after a long while chatting and watching everyone pile in, the show started. 15 young people were up on stage, reading out their wishes to the President about this that and the other, most of which I agreed with, although further demands for housing aid seemed a bit steep to me with all the millions the government are already giving away in CAF for no particular reason other than to be unnecessarily sound.

I would also like to point out that I was pretty much the only young person out of several hundred there in a suit...the guys on stage were all in jeans and t-shirts, with one dude even in an Adidas seriously??! Being young does not mean being rebellious for the sake of it and wearing what you like, when you like, as people seem to think.. just suit up !! Same goes for interviews etc. back home...bit of effort doesn't go amiss. I won't rant on and on, but the President of France like..oh well, at least I personally felt awesome.
It did come in handy though, as I'm pretty sure the bodyguards thought I was one of them when he was being escorted out through the crowds, so I ended up right beside him at one point. And yes, I got a handshake. Never washing that hand again. He's also not the tallest of men, must be something about French Presidents I think...I was also roped into taking photos for my friends with him so alas, I didn't get one myself. 

Here's a few little snippets of what he had to say to us all:

The last month, despite the exam/airport stress has been very enjoyable and I hope I haven't forgotten anything important.. I'm off on another IntEGre weekend on Saturday which judging by the last one should be incredibly fun, and should take my mind off those exposés coming up !

à bientôt mes amis !

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