Saturday, 25 May 2013

Nearing the end.. part 1

This past month, the last of my incredible year in Gcchhuunooblhh, has been one of the best. I hadn't really prepared myself for the end of Erasmus, but I have to say, everything fell into place perfectly to give me a fantastic send off.  I've decided to make this a two-part post, due to how many unreal things have happened in the last month, I'll definitely reach the word limit on this otherwise...

After the wonderfully high class and ceremonious Sciences Po gala at the top of the Bastille (which admittedly had lost every single element of class and ceremony by 4am), exam season was upon us, but not before a bit of travelling down to the south of France. Due to limited time and already stretched budgets, myself and two friends decided to embark on a two day whistlestop tour of both Avignon and Marseille.

Thanks to some lovely weather and some relatively inexpensive train fares, we spent a day and night in Avignon, a quaint little town, known for the Pont d'Avignon (as in the song) and as the home to the Papacy for about a hundred years in the 14th century. Both were incredibly impressive, and with the sunshine, the river, and the sense of history, it made for some really nice views and excellent photo opportunities. We were also very proud of ourselves during our picnic by the river, drinking some Côtes du Rhône...on the Côte du Rhône. Yes, yes, we are very easily amused this year it seems. 

Côtes du Rhône...on the Côte du Rhône

"What IS this?? A Palace for ants?!!"
Myself and Will reliving the Titanic on the Pont d'Avignon

Inside the impressive Palais des Papes

An entire theatre to myself..

We stayed in a rather discrete little hostel in the centre which was also very impressive, with a very nice reception dude and really friendly roommates, and after discovering that night-life in Avignon is not exactly bouncing, we ended up hanging out and playing cards with the roomies all night, before waving goodbye the following morning as we all went our separate ways in the world.

Next stop was the seaside metropolis of Marseille, about an hour and a half further south. Once we got out of the train, it hit home that wearing jeans was a baaad idea, as the heat suddenly began to drain our energy and rapidly overactivate the sweat glands. We wandered around quite lost for a while, but with the help of a lovely French man we eventually came to the Vieux Port, an amazing harbour with some spectacular views. Ice cream was next on the agenda, followed swiftly by the cathedral, another few aesthetically pleasing buildings and finally...the beeeeaaach ! Having taken the metro, we proceeded to walk down the length of one of the longest roads I've ever seen, which would give the auld Champs Elysées a run for its money, as well as the cours Jean Jaurès in Gcchhuunooblhh, which is a fair trek and a half as well. It was worth it though, as we arrived at the lovely stonily sandy south coast of France were we happily spent the next few hours in the beautiful sunshine, me trying desperately to tan my pasty white Irish skin, to no avail. 

Unfortunately the train back to Gcchhuunooblhh was waiting for us in the evening and after several hours of me losing badly at cards, we arrived back in our mountainous home. The next few days were spent revising, well rather what I like to call revising, involving copious amounts of Facebook and hilarious comedy videos courtesy of Youtube. Exam week arrived nonetheless, and my exam entitled Systèmes Politiques de l'Europe Meridionale, soon nicknamed by us as Meridional systems, and later Mary O'Donnell systems, went surprisingly well, thanks to the day and a half of intensive cramming of the revolutions in Greece, Spain, Italy, Portugal and Turkey. So many coups d'Etat, would they just get democracy already - what I was thinking for the entire 24 hours previous to the exam in question. It did expose us to some excellent names though, mostly on the Turkish side, however we also had a laugh over the Italian Communist guy Antonio Gramsci (gramshee). And by the end of the 2 hour ordeal we were all feeling a bit gramsci, but the end of the week was approaching so all was good. 

Despite not having registered for an exam on the Friday, I decided on a whim at 1am to do the exam entitled "New Ireland", dealing with Irish history and culture. I figured I was in a better position than most to get a good result, and considering the exam was in English, there was no excuse. Given that all obstacles relating to difficulty were done away with, it would have been quite embarrassing for me to do badly. Fingers crossed the prof doesn't dock marks for my very explicit Irishness, with phrases such as "up North" used in my essay on Northern Ireland and my above average knowledge of the Home Rule crisis for someone studying in France. 

Exam week ended on that note, and despite having two dossiers to finish, the relative freedom went straight to my head, and the soirées continued with enthusiasm and vigour. I had left my job at the bar a week or two previously due to exam commitments, and despite enjoying a lot of my time there, poor scheduling, some bad internal communication and not-so-peachy relations with one or two colleagues meant that I wasn't rushing back once the exams were done. 

A Sciences Po barbecue near the résidence was followed by a massive outdoor Erasmus party on the Friday evening and another weekend of fun and merriment ensued. The following week brought the last Sciences Po evening of the year, held in the notorious SONO venue, essentially a converted warehouse in the middle of nowhere with what can only be described as a very lenient free drinks limitation policy. 

The last excursion with ISI took place on Thursday, with a trip to the magnifique Lac du Bourget, about an hour or so from Gcchhuunooblhh. We had a picnic and then went on a cruise across the lake, where we visited an old monastic settlement, steeped in history and very impressive architecture. Luckily the weather held up too, making for some magnificent views and a generally excellent day with friends. 

My ability to walk for the next week was severely hindered by a quite frankly hilarious accident, adding to my growing list of injuries sustained while on Erasmus. That night, once the skies had decided to open up providing more rain than ever thought possible for the month of May, several of my friends were leaving Gcchhuunooblhh for good and as such, goodbyes had to be said. Furthermore, due to their exquisite planning, all had to be seen in the one night, providing me with an evening of marathon-esque party hopping. 

The incident in question occurred between gathering number 2 and 3. 
For the next several sentences, I invite you to imagine the story in a slow motion, epic, movie-like manner. 

A tram appeared at the stop roughly 100 metres from where we were standing. As we were already quite late, we decided to run for it. After a good 20 metres, I was up to full speed sprinting, undoubtedly on course for catching the tram in question. As you can imagine, I had eyes only for the tram, and with my forward looking, blurred, rainy vision, focussed solely on the dry, warm interior of the tram, confident in my speed and feeling like Usain Bolt's successor, I failed to notice the approaching bollard... 
At the last second, I swerved to the right, thus preserving my future children from an untimely non-existence, but subjecting my right thigh to the worst pain imaginable. I was spun around by the force and planted face-down in the rainy cobblestones, my right leg on fire with the pain. I didn't have too much time to feel sorry for myself however, as some youths standing at a nearby kebab shop didn't wait long to humiliate me with their raucous side-splitting laughter. In fairness, it was pretty darn funny and I would have done the exact same if I had seen me run straight into the poorly placed bollard. Plus, let's be honest, it's a great story, even if I couldn't walk properly for about a week. 

This photo is taken from the exact spot where the bollard defeated me
A bollard similar to those in the bottom left.
Very hard, and as I discovered the hard way, immovable.

In any case, I hobbled to my goodbye gatherings and said some tearful farewells, before limping back to résidence with a swelling the size of a baby seal and a considerably shrunken ego. 

The following day we all gathered for the distribution of the yearbooks, a project organised by Krista, for which we were all extremely grateful, with pictures and "most likely to"s entertaining us greatly, as well as the obligatory comments and/or abuse that we set about writing about each other at the back. 

The following day I had my 21st birthday party, which shall be delved into in further detail in the next post, for fear of overshooting the word count and attention spans of the readers. It set in motion the last 10 days of my Erasmus experience, which were just fantastic. 

à bientôt !

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