September 27, 2003

Hello from Reims...
If you're wondering, it's pronounced like RANCE, but the A is long and very nasal.
Anyway, I spent the last two days in Chalons. It's a relatively nice town, but the hostel wasn't too great. You know those guys who go around to your table trying to sell you roses? Well one of them lived in the hostel. Needless to say I'm glad to be out of there.
Reims is a really nice city. It's where the kings of France were crowned, and the cathedral is really amazing. I like it a lot better than Notre Dame in Paris.
I'm heading to Lille on the 29th, where I'll spend two nights in the hostel before moving into my new place on the 1st. It still seems like a holiday, especially since I've been travelling around. It'll be weird finally settling in somewhere though, and living in France for a year.

September 24, 2003

Faire de l'auto-stop...
Yup, I hitch-hiked today (and I'm safe mom and dad). Since I'm in Verdun, I decided to check out some of the war memorials. I didn't realise how far away they were. After walking for 2 hours, I finally got to the first one (five minutes after they closed for lunch). It's a memorial that holds the bones of 150 000 unknown French and German soldiers. There's also a huge cemetary in front.
Then I went to Fort de Douaumont, which is a massive fort built just before WW1. Then I stopped at a place where French and American soldiers were buried alive due to German gunfire. I walked back to the first monument, and got it. By this time it was 2:30, and I had been walking since 10. So I decided to try and hitch hike back to Verdun, thus saving myself 2 hours, and pain in my feet. A nice French couple picked me up (they were the first ones that I stuck my thumb up at), and dropped me off in Verdun.
There's no one else in the hostel (the two Germans left this morning), yet it's mysteriously going to be full on Thursday, but they will have space again on Friday. So, I'm headed to Chalons-en-Champagne, then Reims (I can only get two days), then somewhere else, before finally getting to Lille. I just want to get rid of all my luggage.
One more thing though, I'm sick of pain et confiture. When I get to Lille, I'm making egges, bacon, pancakes, and hash browns. No more bread and butter/jam.
A+ (A plus tard) mes amis...

September 22, 2003

McMadagascar and a Lille Assistant...
Yesterday I went to the catacombes under Paris, and saw where millions of peoples bones lay. It was quite amazing. I've heard that they're better than the ones in Rome.
I caved and went to McDonald's, but for good reason. I didn't want to spend $16 Canadian on a personal sized cheese pizza. Besides, I had a McMadagascar at McDonalds. When was the last time you've seen one of those? Never for me, so I took a photo of it, and when I get to Lille, I'll put it online for you all to marvel at. They'll soon be having McIndia, McMorocco, McArgentina, etc. Should be interesting.
Anyway, the big story is what happened in the evening...
I had just gotten out of the shower, and there was a guy there trying to charge his cell phone. The plug wasn't working, so I suggested that he use the one downstairs, in the main area. We did the usually hostel thing, "where are you from, where are you going?", and I mentioned that I was going up to northern France to work. He said something about Lille and I was like, "yah, I'm going to be living in Lille this year".
He said, "really? Doing what?"
"Working as an assistant to an English teacher."
"Are you serious? Me too!"
So we ended up talking for a while, like a long while. It was like 9PM, and neither of us had eaten, so we went for dinner with his friend. The three of us headed out an area with a lot of restaurants (I can't remember the name of the area), and had dinner at a little, cheap French restaurant. The restaurant started to close down (I didn't know that they would actually eventually kick you out of a French restaurant), so we went to a little cafe (one of the very few that were actually open).
Anyway, after getting sort of lost in Paris (it was so late there was no metro running), we made it back to the youth hostel by 2:30 in the morning. Needless to say I'm a little tired.
That's all from the Jardin Internet in Paris, hope all is well.
A Day in Paris...
Not to make you jealous or anything, but I thought that I'd let you all know what I did today.
After having breakfast with some Swedish friends, I decided to go for a walk along the Seine. Not along the road by the Seine, but right down by the water, along the foot path. After walking by Notre Dame, I got to the Louvre, where I sat down and ate an apple while watching the tourists. Then I strolled through the Touileries (a garden), before getting to Place de la Concorde (where the king of France was beheaded). Then I walked along the Champs-Elysees, towards the Arc de Triomphe. It rained a little though, but it stopped by the time that I went for lunch in the park. On my way back I walked along the other side of the Seine, through the Marais. Then I went into Notre Dame for a while, before heading over to the internet cafe.
I'm heading out to Verdun tomorrow; the train leaves at 6h40. Ouch, that's too early for me.

September 20, 2003

You know you look French when...
= Parisians ask you in French directions to different streets
= A French tourist couple asks you in French the history behind the Hotel des Invalides
= A Japanese girl wants to take a photo of you and her in front of the Eiffel Tower
= The lady at the tourist info center in St. Denis asks if you live in St. Denis (lol)
Ah, the joys of not looking like a tourist.
BUT, I'm still a long way from looking totally French. I don't have red running shoes, don't wear kapri pants (it was more in style last summer), and I don't play tennis in the heat of the day while wearing khakis and a button up shirt (that's just insane, I'd melt!)
Bienvenue à Paris...
I am finally here. Firstly, I have to say sorry for the typing. I'm not used to the keyboard. I wanted to sign into MSN, but I don't know how to get the at sign yet...
If you've sent me an email, thank you very much. I haven't replied because I've been so busy, and these keyboards are soo hard to get used to !
Anyway, everything is great here. Well, besides the fqct thqt there was no water at the youth hostel the first night, but they fixed the problem.
The weather is great. It's about 28° C, it's almost too hot.
The assistants meeting yesterday was great. There was no one from Lille, but a lot of Paris assistants. There were about 45 people there, and a few of us went out for dinner after.
Mmmmm, French food. OK, so I haven't had a lot yet. But I ate in a Tibetan resaurant, which was cool. But the French food that I have tried was great!
I'm going to another assistants meeting tomorrow, then I'll head to Verdun. I've been taking photos, but I can't get them online yet. I think that I'll have to wait until I get to Lille.
Today is French heritage day, so entry to a lot of museums is free. I went into the crypt where the kings of France are buried (some for over 1200 years!) There's a lot of amazing history here. It's really incredible, and I can't really descirbe it. I mean, when you walk by buildings that are literally thousands of years old, and yet they're sitting right beside buildings that where built last year. It's quite cool.
By the way, I got another email from one of the teachers at one of the schools where I'll be working, as well as from a family in the south of France that I know. Hopefully I'll get to visit them. I also got an email from a girl that will be living in the same building as I am. She said that the place wasn't too bad, but the room was small. There's also a British assistant living in the building.
There's a lot left to say, but I don't know how much longer I have on the internet. Besides, I have to buy a Carte 12-25 (I had to come online to get the address of the school where I'll be working) now. It will give me 25-50% off train rides !
Hope all is well, and I'll be writing more, hopefully soon...

September 16, 2003

Flying to France...
It's hard to believe, but I'm flying to France in less than 12 hours now.
I'm excited, nervous, and numb in a way. It's kind of hard to describe. I've been running around for so long now, that it just seems weird that I'll actually be leaving.
Anyway, I leave Vancouver at 7:30 AM, and I get into Paris at 8:30 AM the next day, with a four hour layover in Toronto. The worst part is that they serve me two breakfasts on the plane. I'm going to have to buy some real food when I'm in Toronto.
I'm planning on spending about a week in Paris, meeting some of the other assistants and seeing the sights, before heading to the Champagne region. I'm planning on going to Verdun (WW1 battle sites), and Reims (where the kings of France were crowned, and champagne cellars are). I'll arrive in Lille on October 1st. On the 3rd, I have my orientation for all of the language assistants that will be working in Lille.
I haven't actually packed yet, but I've got everything together, and now I just have to put it in a bag. Anyway, I should go pack now...

"He who would travel happily must travel light."
-Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (he wrote "Le Petit Prince" - "The Little Prince")

September 14, 2003

Where haven't you been yet?
I saw this question a few weeks ago and thought it was really cool because people usually ask, "where have you been?" While I'm in Europe, I'm hoping to go to Morocco, Eastern Europe (Romania, Czech Republic, Slovakia, etc.), Brussels of course (it's really close), Switzerland, and so many other places.
But I thought that I would also come up with my Top 5 List of places I want to go (after going to France/Europe this year).
5. Australia and New Zealand
4. South America (especially Brazil, and Peru)
3. The Overland Route (Turkey, Iran, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Nepal, Tibet, China)
2. South East Asia (Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, etc.)
1. India
OK, I know that I fudged a bit and gave more general regions than specific places, but now, where haven't you been yet? What are your top 5 places?

"All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveller is unaware."
-Martin Buber

September 12, 2003

Saying goodbye...
I've been going around and saying goodbye to friends for the past two weeks or so. I cooked Thai food for Lyle, Sheri, and Marlin last night (I think it turned out well), tomorrow I'm going out for a friend's birthday (happy birthday Robin!) where I'll say goodbye to a lot of friends from school, and I'm seeing my relatives this weekend at a family BBQ. But there's just no way that I'm going to be able to say bye to everyone though (sorry to my friends in Richmond/Vancouver/Surrey, there's just no way I'm making it out).
Even though I'm leaving in just over four days, it still doesn't seem real. I've been thinking about going, and getting ready to go, since the beginning of July when I found out the two cities in France where I'll be working. I know that I'm leaving, but it just hasn't sunk in yet. I can't really explain it; it's almost like some sort of bizarre dream.

"Travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living."
-Miriam Beard

September 11, 2003

September 11th
What need I say?
I was reading The Peking Duck today (a blog posted by an American in Singapore), and he posted an email sent to all American expats from the US government. Part of it reads:
"...We therefore assess that European or Eurasian locations could be venues for the next round of attacks, possibly to closely coincide with the anniversary of the September 11 attack. We expect Al-Qaida will strive for new attacks that will be more devastating than the September 11 attack, possibly involving non-conventional weapons such as chemical or biological agents..."
Now I'm not one to freak out or anything, but that's still a little scary. If you think about it though, there's a better chance of me dying in a car accident on the way to the airport than being killed in a terrorist attack, but you never know.
There's no point in living life in fear, because we're all going to die at some point. So why not make the most of our lives right now?

September 10, 2003

Contact with France!
I got an email today from the head English teacher at one of the schools where I'll be working! It may not seem like much, but I was thrilled. He said that he was excited to get my email, because they've never had an English assistant before at his school.
I had asked what the weather in Lille is like in the winter (so I'd have a better idea what to pack), and he said that it rains most of the winter, and that they get about one or two weeks of snow. Being on the westcoast of Canada, it rains all winter, but we only get one or two days of snow. I can handle the rain, but I'm looking forward to the snow! (Maybe I won't be so excited once it does snow, we'll see).
It's scary and exciting to think that in a week from now I'll be on a plane headed to Paris.

"People travel because it teaches them things they could learn no other way."
-Lance Morrow

September 09, 2003

Of Various Things...
This post is a hodge-podge of a bunch of different things.
Firstly, I got an email from a girl in Baltimore, Maryland last night. She's going to be staying in the same residence as I am (Maison d'Accueil du Jeune Travailleur, or MAJT) in Lille. That's cool because I'll at least sort of know someone. However, I don't know if I'll be staying at the MAJT the whole time that I'm in Lille. If I like it I'll stay, and if not I can give 8 days notice before leaving. It's sort of a place to stay until I get housing worked out.
I'm going to have to remember not to smile while I'm in France. In Canada here, you smile at almost everyone, just to be nice. But in France, people don't smile nearly as much. In fact, that's one of the reasons why girls from over here think that French guys are hitting on them all the time. If a girl smiles at a guy in France, the guy takes it as a sign of interest from the girl.
My application for school in Lille was faxed in today, and the cheque and ID photos are in the mail. Hopefully everything will work out with that. There's an orientation meeting at the university on October 1st, which I'm planning on attending.
ID photos. Oh my word, I had no idea that I'd need so many for going to France. I've already used 9 ID photos (passport sized), and I haven't even gone to France yet! I need at least another 10, and I'm sure it wouldn't hurt to take some more. To get a pair of ID photos at WalMart costs way too much money, so I just print them off on my Dad's colour printer. The quality isn't as good as a normal photo, but they work just as well (I even used them for my visa application).
My VISA card came today! I'm going to pick it up after I go to the dentist this afternoon.
I'm sort of getting tired of waiting to go to France. I've almost got everything ready to go, so I'm just sort of waiting around. Don't get me wrong, I'll miss not being home at Christmas, but I'm excited about going overseas too.
That's all for now folks... Time is counting down!

September 07, 2003

The Movies...
Well, I finally saw Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers last night. I figured that I had better see the second Lord of the Rings in English before I get to France, when the third one comes out. It was a really good movie. I'll be for sure watching the third one in version originale when I'm in Lille.
I also saw Pirates of the Caribbean at Silvercity today. It was better than I had expected, although I hadn't expected much. The plot line was not believeable at all, but I guess that doesn't matter too much. Some of the fight scenes were cool though.

September 06, 2003

"A journey is best measured in friends rather than miles."
-Tim Cahill
I stopped by UCFV again yesterday to pick up my translated birth certificate (I need it while navigating the French bureaucracy). I ended up seeing and chatting with a lot of friends. Some I had planned on meeting, and others I just happened to run into. I even ran into a guy from my high school who just proposed a week and a half ago, and is getting married this winter. That now makes six marriages (that I know about) from my grad class, and we only graduated 2 years and 2 months ago.

September 04, 2003

VISA encore...
You may remember that I was having problems with getting a new VISA card. Well, I think that things are worked out now.
I called VISA, and they said that the card should have been ready for pickup a week ago. I check two branches of the bank, and the card isn't there. I called VISA again yesterday, and they say 'yes' the card should be ready, and they give me the address, phone number, and hours of the branch. I called the branch this morning, and they say 'no' the card has not arrived. So I called VISA again to see what is happening. The lady says that the card should have been ready for pickup, but I told her that I had just called the bank, and that the card wasn't there. The lady put me on hold, and came back a minute later to tell me that 'no' the card is not ready yet (didn't I just say that!?). So then she says that they will send it out, and I tell her that I'm leaving for France in a week and a half, and that I won't be back for 10 months (or so).
The happy ending is that she's going to put a rush on the card, and it will hopefully be here a week tomorrow, with just two days to spare. I hope there isn't a strike somewhere, but then I'm not in France yet (where they strike way too much)...

September 03, 2003

School in France...
I've found what I think that I'll do for school in France. I won't be taking normal classes (thereby saving myself from suicide), but I'll be taking a French class for foreign students at one of the universities in Lille. It's offered in the evening, so it won't interfere with my work. It will also prepare me to write the DELF/DALF, which are French competency exams administered by the French government. They are a series of exams that will allow me to study in a French university in the future (if I want to). The results of the exams are valid for life, unlike the TOEFL exam wich is only good for two years.
The only problem is that the course goes until the end of May, but I finish working the end of April, so I'll have to pay for a month of living in Lille, without making any money to support myself.

September 02, 2003

Back to School...
No, I'm not really going back to school this year (I'm going to work France in case you didn't know), but I went back to school (UCFV - University College of the Fraser Valley) today. It was great to see some of my friends again that I haven't seen since the beginning of the summer (being busy with work and everything). Plus I got a free burger and Coke, and XFM was on campus.
I also got my hair cut today. It's a different style than the way that I've had it for the past 19 years or so (since I had enough hair to comb).
Two weeks to go, and so much to do...