The introduction lectures had begun, the French speaking had been kicked up a notch and I had been forced to actually switch my brain on…Didn’t go too badly if I recall it correctly, or rather, it could have been a lot worse.
First of all there was the inevitable shock to my system of having to be up at 8am, ready by 8.30am to make our trek on the Metro line to be sat in a lecture hall on our university campus by 9am. Ok, managed that (surprising to those of you reading this who know me well, I know). The second task of the days this week was concentrating on speaking and listening to French during these lectures, I mean, they were only 2 hours long and I only had one per day but I was a bit caught off guard at how mentally tiring it is to continuously make your brain think in another language that you are by no means fluent in. At all. Having said that, I did manage it to a supposedly comprehensive standard at least I mean, the lecturer did seem to understand whatever I said to her or asked her rather than looking at me like I was speaking almost as good ‘French’ as Joey from Friends… So ultimately I call that a success. For those of you who don’t know what I’m on about please click on the link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kujMmdwGPoo it’s worth it for a giggle trust me!
But, enough about the boring stuff; onto the more interesting events! Such as meeting a fair few Erasmus course mates from so many different countries! I now have Dutch friends, French friends, German friends, Spanish friends and who knows how many more…anyone in my friend zone has nothing to fear…it’s a supremely multicultural place. In all seriousness though this is what it’s about really, I can forget the academic pressures for the moment (not hard to do when my year here doesn’t count towards my degree), and consider that I’m in a different country, surrounded by so many different people and things to do and see! I have the opportunity here to gain life experiences that I can treasure forever, as soppy as that sounds!
Going back to the student norm though, first stop for the Erasmus lot was social getting to know one another drinks on the Monday night of our introduction week and I must say, although the drinks are slightly pricier than what I’m used to, and there’s no cider! The atmosphere and location of the bars and pubs is spot on; for example, who can argue with a view of ‘La Garonne’ 10 feet from where you’re sat enjoying a cocktail.
The cocktail scene wasn’t a part of my drinking life for long however as I was introduced to a speciality here known as a ‘demi-pêche’ (lager and peach syrup) considering I am not the greatest fan of lager, it isn’t actually that bad! And for this introduction I have to thank my Cardiff Uni friends. This reminds me, I actually have another thank you to make to one of them. Mr Gethin Bennett provided the title for this particular blog and I shall explain its origin in short:
- Night of pre-drinks at the Cardiff Flat.
- Ring of Fire was underway in no time at all.
- All was going well until I pulled out a Joker card from the circle.
- A Joker apparently means you are a troll.
Basically, I spent the next round of the game sat under a rather small table in the middle of the room, forbidden to speak unless I wished to ask for my drink: ‘Troll want my drink’. I was finally freed when a sock was thrown at me which in turn lead to my confusion as to whether I was indeed a troll or a house elf due to the cries of ‘Dobby’s Free!’ that followed the sock throwing. But thanks Geth for that hilaaarrriooouusss nickname which of course has stuck hasn’t it… So now you all know.
Now, for those of you who know me, I am an avid hockey player. But hockey is not popular by any standards in France, and although I had done some research I wasn’t holding up hope for playing much whilst here. Until another of the Cardiff lot came to my rescue; Annabel mentioned in a short conversation that she couldn’t attend a rugby match with the rest of us due to the fact she was going along to a hockey training session, which then consequently resulted in me abandoning watching the rugby too of course. So off we went to find this team…a metro trip, a walk and a bridge later, there they were…a group of people with hockey sticks! Never in my life have I felt so happy at that sight, normality was right there in front of my face. True the pitch we train on is not specifically for hockey but the sport is essentially the same so I’m not complaining at all. I went to bed that night with a due sense of fulfilment (along with the aches and pains of a first session back after a lazy summer plus the seemingly never ending mental exhaustion of yet more French language). Let me tell you something though, no matter how small the interest is in this sport, they take it seriously… the moral of the story being: pretty as the park may be where you’re undertaking them, fitness sessions are designed to kill you.
However I am happy to have the one sport under my belt. I was planning on joining a university club too, most likely handball and to get involved with this I was looking forward to the ‘Portes Ouvertes’ which I had understood would be some kind of fresher’s fair, like Serendipity in Bangor and so with that in mind I was prepared for loads of stalls, loud music and a lot of bustling people…the actuality of what I got was anti climatic to say the least; 2 tables, 3 old men and a leaflet. I was not impressed. Hockey will have to do for now.
All of this exercise evidently sparked a domino effect; that is the conclusion I have come to. I shall explain; I refer a lot to taking the metro everywhere as we live so far out from the centre of town, but there is in fact a bike service in Toulouse, ‘VélôToulouse’ is brilliant, you rent a bike for 1,20€ a day and off you go on your own little adventure. So with my new found energy bug and George, Rebecca and Natalia’s sense of adventure we decided to bike into the centre of town before we joined the Erasmus group for a tour of Capitole and surrounding areas. This could have gone better given that we lost Natalia in a matter of minutes as we stopped to wait for Rebecca who was getting used to riding a bike for the first time in donkey’s years and Natalia proceeded to cycle off despite us yelling after her that we’d stopped. We waited by the Canal du Midi where we’d agreed to start our route into town and after 10 minutes we gave up waiting and began our journey. Taking only half an hour and being rather picturesque, this is now a favourite cycle route for me when I fancy a change from the metro.
Another long post I know but I am almost caught up I swear!
À la prochaine.