Sunday, 14 July 2013

Nearing the end (Part 2)

So this has taken me longer to write than planned ! Life since getting home has been a helter skelter mix of sleeping, depression eating, re-establishing old acquaintances, selling bed linen and giving tours of my lovely home city of Dublin. But let me take you through the last week or so in the place which played host to the best year of my life...

The 11th of May was the date I had set back weeks before for my 21st birthday barbecue, as being a Saturday night after all exams were finished, the stress levels for most of us would be considerably lower. You would think that May would provide some glorious sunshine, somewhat required for outdoor evening entertainment, however I soon realised that Gcchhuunooblhh had decided not to adhere to the weather rules this year, and the days leading up to it provided us with some torrential rain and left us all feeling a bit bedraggled. So with much apprehension, I woke up on the Saturday, to be met by a gloomy, overcast, cloud-filled sky that looked like it could go either way... With a heavy yet hopeful heart I set about making the necessary preparations for what I hoped would at least be a dry evening ("dry" of course here referring to the weather and not to people's state of happiness and consumption levels later in the night). The barbecue that I rented from the Résidence association was nice and big, and despite a leg of it nearly falling off, it worked very well. The sun came out at the last minute much to our relief, and our collective prayers were answered as it stayed nice and warm all night. Many thanks have to be once again given to my wonderfully generous friends, who came to help with the preparation and the serving of food, which was also so generously provided by everyone present. In the hours that followed, the picnic tables outside Résidence Ouest gradually filled up and many hours of fantastic fun and merriment ensued. 

It is without doubt the best birthday party I've ever had and it's thanks to everyone that came along and made it so special. The amazing gifts and baking exploits were extremely unexpected, incredibly thoughtful, and very much appreciated. Before this descends into an Oscar-like speech with a long list of people I want to thank, I'll move on. Unfortunately there were some uninvited troublemakers that made an appearance at the tables at about 3.30am, which dampened spirits somewhat near the end, and we discovered how unhelpful and indifferent French emergency services could be. As one of my friends pointed out, we had no idea that 911 had a busy tone. Bienvenue en France quoi...

Despite a few scary experiences for some of my friends, everyone got home safely, having what I hope will go down as a very good night. The following day I woke up, slightly dazed, to discover that the left-over barbecue supplies had been transferred to my room, and as you can imagine, it made for an excellent breakfast ! A few of us spent the afternoon in town chilling in the sunshine which was a perfect way to relax and catch up on the previous night's interesting incidents. The next few days were quite chilled out, and despite having two dossiers still to write, my productivity levels managed to remain at zero, possibly even minus one. A few tearful goodbyes had to be said, however many of them temporary as people would either be coming back or else they wouldn't be living too far away for a visit later in the year, once the necessary funds are collected. 
The first semi-final of the Eurovision song contest was celebrated on Tuesday night, and especially so after Ireland managed to qualify for the final ! Many games were played, keeping an eye on the wonderful and hilarious spectacle that this contest brings to our screens every year, however it was only a taster of what would become widespread havoc at Saturday's final.

Thursday night was the wonderful celebration of my good friend Krista's birthday, celebrated earlier than the date itself as she figured that nobody would be around in July to celebrate her actual 21st. An excellent idea, as Erasmus birthdays, judging by the previous examples throughout the year, tend to be amazing fun. We started off in the kitchen of her building, before continuing the party in the notorious Vieux Manoir, home to many a good night throughout the year. An all-round great night was had, and one of her best birthdays too by all accounts, so a great week in that respect !

Saturday played host to one of the most unforgettable Eurovisions in living memory. Having watched Thursday's semi-final on playback on Friday, so as not to miss an iota of Eurovision madness, we all had our favourites leading up to the big night. There was the male soprano vampire guy from Romania, the incredibly attractive Ukrainian and Norwegian singers, the extremely happy and high-on-life Maltese entry, our very own topless bodhrán players and of course the alcohol-loving Greeks. 
For those unfamiliar with the wonders of this annual showcase of European craziness, here are two of the favourites previously mentioned: 

With rules such as drinking, cheering and clinking glasses every time there were either pyrotechnics, key changes, ridiculous outfits, ridiculous lyrics, bad jokes by presenters, good jokes by presenters, cringy moments, the classic "thank you europe!", neighbouring countries voting for each other, attractive people, not-so-attractive people, crazy dancing and high notes, (to name but a few criteria) as you can imagine, it was an interesting night. It became even more interesting as the paramedics were called for my friend Silas, who had an unfortunate fall, leading to a broken/dislocated shoulder which looked incredibly painful.. the night somehow continued, and culminated in a facepaint fight before exhaustion took over and ended things at roughly 4am. A memorable Eurovision indeed. 

The next day was spent mostly pretending to work on my essays, as well as the beginnings of what would become a last minute dash to pack a year's worth of life into two inadequately sized suitcases. My oldest brother Christopher arrived in the fair city of Gcchhuunooblhh the following day, and despite having very little French, beyond the words "boissons", "poissons" (pronounced "boy-sonns" and "poy-sonns" respectively) and the essential "Je ne parle pas français", he managed to get all the way and navigate both the Swiss and French rail systems without much difficulty. Low key gatherings were the order of the day, and the weather permitted a lovely picnic in the Jardin de Ville which had become a popular spot for us sun-seeking and expense-evading students.

A trip to the Bastille followed the following day, and a brief tour of Gcchhuunooblhh's main attractions, which are quite few really if you take away the mountains, followed by the best send off any of us could have asked for. Four of us were leaving the following day, and as such we decided to commemorate the occasion in La Bobine, a fantastic outdoor spot, ideal for casual chat and long goodbyes. A great crowd turned out to see us off and many a photo were taken, which I honestly will treasure for a long long time, but not as much as the people who made the year the crazy, unbelievably amazing bundle of fun and happiness it was. 

So it was with a heavy heart that we returned to the room for the last time and packed everything faster than ever thought possible before the taxi came to take us to the gare. I was so stressed by the end that I almost forgot to hand in my key to the Résidence, which may have been awkward if I discovered it was still in my possession upon my arrival in Dublin, considering that I had already lost their two other copies. After having a carriage to ourselves, we proceeded to spread ourselves out and doze off , before arriving in Geneva and finally boarding the plane home. While I missed everyone at home, I can say it was the first time in my life that I wasn't looking forward to a flight.

I like to think Gcchhuunooblhh had a positive effect on me, apart from my lengthened list of bodily injuries (I may add that my thigh was still in bad shape, thus leading to some painful and awkward airport bag-carrying), and the people I met during my time there are some of the best people I've ever met and have been lucky enough to count as friends. The French improved a fair bit too, but if you ask me about fluency, I still can't answer, as I have no idea yet what that really means. Perhaps, who knows. On verra. 

What next, you ask ?

Me considering my future, quite pensively

Well, a summer earning some long overdue money is my first priority, as is finishing my degree next year, and after that.. well, we'll see. All I know is that I have a lot of travelling to do, and a lot of people to see, which hopefully will begin very soon. I like to think that my first blogging experience went well, I certainly enjoyed updating it with my various adventures and misadventures throughout the year. If you can get anything from reading this, it should be that Gcchhuunooblhh is amazing and everyone should go there, my home from home. I'd like to add that it's actually spelt G-r-e-n-o-b-l-e, just for any Google searches that may go wrong with too many strange letter repetitions. 

I'll finish this blog soon with a brief summary of my experience of France and dealing with the French, which hopefully will be insightful for any of you planning to visit or revisit this beautiful and great country. 

Merci à tous !
Merci Gcchuunooblhh !
à bientôt !

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