I’ve been in France almost a month already, and in classic post-Macalester-you’re-not-accomplishing-enough fashion, I feel like I should have more to show for it. More blog posts, more pictures, more pages written in my journal, more adventures. What I’ve got is:
—a stack of brochures for museums I haven’t visited yet
—a handful of new friends, most of whom speak English
—a few new vocabulary words, not all of which are in French (I’ve been working on my Arabic and my British, too)
—and, despite walking and biking a ton, an extra kilo or so around my waist. Why resist pastries and cheese when they’re so cheap and so good?
I blame a lot of this on my living situation.
As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve been staying in a foyer de jeunes travailleurs. Now, beware false cognates: this is not an ostentatious, crystal-chandelierred room in a suburban home and it is not full of travelers. It’s just a dorm that’s not affiliated with any specific university. Ours, however, happens to be adjacent to a huge trade school, which is why men outnumber women in the foyer about five to one–especially on our floor, where Rosie and I stumbled upon an Island of Lost Boys. At first I thought it was cute that they take turns making each other meals and keeping each other company in the common room; however, I quickly grew tired of smelling like their feet and their hash-a-rettes.
The great thing about the foyer is that it’s been a fantastic way to meet people. In addition to “the builders,” as we call the French dudes on our floor, I’ve been spending lots of time with a Brit and some Aussies. This means that I’ve adopted some of their vocabulary. I apologize in advance, because when you say British words in an American accent, you just sound like a pretentious boob. (I’m looking at you, Madonna.) I’ve started saying “Uni” instead of “college,” “freshers” instead of “freshmen year,” “proper,” and “lads.” I’m also lucky to count two Moroccan boys among my closest friends here. (Bonus: free Arabic lessons!)
Unfortunately, other than my new friends, pretty much everything about the foyer blows.
1. It’s quite far from downtown, about a 25-minute bike ride and even longer by bus. That doesn’t sound so bad until you realize that Angers really isn’t big to begin with, and being nearly half an hour from a small city really feels like the middle of nowhere.
2. Though there’s a big trade school and some other Uni nearby, I don’t understand the French version of a college town. There are no dive bars! In fact, there’s nothing nearby but a cheap supermarket.
3. There is laundry onsite, but it’s a cockamie system whereby you must buy tokens from a specific person during certain hours and use the machines during the five hours per day that they’re open.
4. It’s very expensive. Rent is 325E per month and you have to pay an additional 65E per month toward meals in the restaurant, which are not good. (And bad food in France is really a crime.)
To give you an idea of what that 325E per month buys, let’s talk a little tour, shall we?
Here’s my room.
(That adorable elephant, by the way, is the only impulse purchase I’ve made so far. A whopping four euros! I needed something to cuddle.)
As many complaints as I’ve got, though, I’ve grown quite fond of it here. Nonetheless, I’m super excited to move today in the apartment I’ll post pictures of soon!