30 January 2011

Wii - The Bridge Between Nations

My weekend has been thoroughly enjoyable thus far. It seems to be passing fairly quickly as well. The next four months will be over before I know it.

Friday night, Anne-Sophie made crepes for the whole family. The batter was poured onto this hot plate, and then we put either ham and cheese, fried egg, or nutella and bananas on top of it. They were delicious! I've never seen a plate like this either. Usually, most restaurants use a giant plate and most people I know would use a skillet.

Saturday, Julia invited me to see the remains of an ancient Roman theatre. Performances are still held in this space, and it would a great spot to have a picnic once spring arrives. To be able to sit in a space that is over one thousand years old and look out over the city was breathtaking. We spent a while just sitting in the stands. After that we visited the museum that is located in the hill and showcases Gallo-Roman artifacts found specifically in the Lyon area. I saw a lot of tombstones. Those were interesting because the epitaphs were written in great detail, usually indicating the immediate family of the person who died as well as their occupation and sometimes where they lived. Each floor had a mosaic, usually describing a story from Roman mythology. Other artifacts included: bronze age weaponry, bracelets, statues of political/mythological figures. I also learned that there is evidence that a human presence existed before Roman rule in the plain of Vaise, which is northwest of Lyon.

After dinner Saturday night, I played Wii bowling with Anne-Sophie, her boyfriend, and Julia. I won the first game by getting five strikes, three of them consecutively. At this point it was around 10:30, so I was getting a little tired. However, Anne-Sophie's boyfriend insisted that he have the opportunity to seek revenge. So I stayed one more round and beat him by one point. Even though everyone is always speaking fast French at me, playing with my host family on the Wii feels familiar. And I'm good at it, which helps. When I mess up they tease me, and when I'm doing well I gloat a little.

Today I'll be seeing my American movie, and probably studying for most of the day. C'est la vie.

27 January 2011

Silver Lining

Today was my first Tae Kwon Do class. Let me tell you, I definitely needed the workout. The class was kept moving for the entire two hours: doing kicking drills up and down the mat, running, stretching, and basic techniques. Next time I'll eat a real lunch before I go. I almost passed out twice which I assume is from a lack of energy due to not eating enough. However, I am still alive and not in the hospital. Also, the headache I've had for the past two and a half weeks is gone, at least for the moment. Pretty happy about that. I'm 100% sure that I'll wake up tomorrow in pain, but I only have one class and the rest of the day to read.

Yesterday I met Julia for lunch. She doesn't speak much English and I don't know any German, so we completely rely on French to talk to each other. I still have problems understanding exactly what's being said but with repetition I can usually get the gist of any question or story. She's even become my translator at dinner. My host parents speak fast French and she translates it into slow French for me. I've almost stopped speaking English completely at dinner, and I suppose that's the first step to becoming fluent. Woo!

25 January 2011


The past two days have been nothing but classes. This week I actually have all of my courses at their regularly scheduled times. Plus, Tae Kwon Do starts on Thursday. My host mother says I need to make French friends, so maybe that will help.

I've decided to make at least two trips to Theatre de la Croix-Rousse to see A Comedy of Errors done in French in March as well as Le Vrai Fiancee in April. Seats for students are 15 euros at most, which in my opinion isn't bad for seeing a professional production.

Tomorrow I'm picking up some books for my foreign literature class. The weekend looks like it will consist of studying and going to see a movie called "The Way Back." It stars Ed Harris and only has a limited release in the US. I may alternate between American and French movies each time I go to the cinema, or whatever looks interesting at the time.

23 January 2011

Weekend Experiences in Lyon

Thus far, my weekend has been fairly relaxing. Yesterday I went to see a movie at the cinema near Bellcour. The film I decided on was called Les emotifs anonymes or Emotional Persons Anonymous. It was about two neurotic chocolate makers who fall in love when the woman takes a job selling the chocolate of the shop that the man owns and runs. The woman also randomly sang the French version of the Sound of Music song "Confidence in Me" which was interesting. Shockingly enough, I understood what was happening. Also, when I purchased my ticket, it came with an offer for a reduced price ticket to see a movie next week. Definitely going to take advantage of that.

Today I decided to take a trip to Vieux Lyon. I wasn't quite sure what I was going to do once I got there, but I managed to stumble upon a miniature museum. It was four floors and about eight rooms, so I went through it fairly quickly. There was a lot of interesting exhibits. For example, the museum showed different rooms done by a man named Dan Ohlman. He created miniature libraries, lofts, and various scenes. They were very detailed and well done. I envy people who have that much control over their hands.

On my way back to the apartment, I walked through an open-air market. It smelled fantastic. There were booths selling fruits, vegetables, and normal market-type foods. But there were also booths for roasted chickens, dumplings, and huge blocks of cheese. I really wanted to get something, but I was so overwhelmed that I just walked through and looked at everything. Next time, I will pick something up.

22 January 2011

Overcoming Anxiety

Yesterday was freezing. Actually, it's been freezing temperatures all week. Not that I should complain, because if I were home I'd be buried in snow. The point is, despite the cold, I decided to make a trip to the outside world. I went to Pizzeria Napoli for lunch. I successfully ordered a limonade, which tastes like Sprite, and a Pizza Margarita, which consisted of tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese, and olives. It was delicious, and I'm definitely going back. Unfortunately, I sat at the table right next to the register. Everyone was lined up behind where I was sitting, and it took some getting used to. I also managed to catch the attention and acquire the business card of an insurance salesman. Strange.

I also had to make dinner for myself last night. I decided to make scrambled eggs with ham and cheese. I'm still not quite sure what the name of the cheese is. I'll try to remember when I write my next post. I also unloaded the dishwasher, and, surprisingly enough, put everything back in the right place.

20 January 2011

"Fear Not the Obstacles In Your Path"

I watched Oh Brother, Where Art Thou? tonight for free at the Lyon 3 campus. It was the original English with French subtitles. There were about 15 other people there and none of them had ever seen the movie before. It was pretty sweet. And because I saw the movie today I wanted to quote it again.

I won't have class again until next Monday. Today I decided to go to the library and check out some books for my cinema class. I have a feeling that I won't understand that much of the lecture. So taking notes about the topics we're supposed to cover should help when the final exam comes around.

Tomorrow I'm going to eat at a Chinese restaurant for lunch and make my own dinner again. Those might actually be adventures worth reporting.

18 January 2011

Subject to Change

Yesterday was my first day of class. Since I only had one, it was a pretty chill day. I bought a bilingual copy of Macbeth and a nutella crepe from a street vendor. Life is swell.

Today was way crazier. I had three classes today, all of them taught in French. Foreign literature, theatre (studying plays), and cinema (in order of my schedule). So the first class wasn't so bad. We're lecturing over Robinson Crusoe, so I need to find a copy of the book. I'm sure the bookstore where I found Macbeth would have it, otherwise I have no idea where I should go. Then I got lost.

Here's the deal. I thought I had cinema second and theatre last so I went to the room where cinema was supposed to be. It turned out to be a sort of philosophy class taught in English. Way confusing. So I went to the International Affairs office and eventually a couple of the staff helped me locate where I could find the postings for the room and time of each of these classes. So I went to theatre with an hour left in lecture. I think that will be my best all French class, as the professor speaks slowly and the material I walked in was review from what I learned in Intro to Literary Analysis last semester. In cinema, the professor talked at lightning speed and I only caught about a third of what he said. That's probably going to be my hardest course.

Because I had a massive headache after my classes ended, I decided to drop my fourth French class in favor of a SELF course. I'd like to be challenged while I'm here, but I would also prefer to keep my sanity and emotional health in tact. That class will be tomorrow. My courses for Thursday and Friday start next week. Life should be getting pretty interesting by the end of the month.

16 January 2011

Last Weekend of Total Freedom

Classes start tomorrow. Whoa, crazy! So this will be my last weekend without university-related things to do.

Yesterday I thought I would venture over to La Saone. Bad idea. It is nowhere near as pretty to look at or walk by as La Rhone. I spent about twenty minutes walking before I decided to head back to Bellecour. I did get a nice picture of people using the public bicycles though.

There are bike racks in various places throughout Lyon. You essentially pay to take the bike from one rack to another. It seems like a pretty good way to get around if you're going long distances, have a destination, or just like bike riding through the city. I haven't had the chance to use the service yet, but maybe sometime in the spring I can be persuaded.

Later in the evening I saw a post on the "SELF and DEUF Lyon Spring 2011" facebook group asking if anyone was interested in a more quiet social gathering, instead of just going somewhere to get wasted and party. It sounded like my kind of night, so I went. I met up with two Finnish and three Italian women in between one of the Bellecour metro stations and McDonald's. The original plan was to head to a pub and if anyone wanted to go to the crazy party later they could do that or go home. Unfortunately, the pub they had in mind was something of a sports bar and a game was going on at the time. So we decided to head to one of the party boats on La Rhone river.

We ended up on one called "Q Boat" which turned into a nightclub around the time we left. We were pretty much the only people there from 10-11, and all of the other women ordered a single drink. As a side note, it's a very small world out there. One of Julia's friends that I met when I went out with her also knew the Italian women, so I got the chance to talk to him again. Better this time, since I've become more comfortable speaking in French for more than five minutes. It was certainly interesting to talk to people from different parts of the world. I learned that in Finland, you can pass out drunk on the street and wake up with all your money still in hand, but in Italy women feel uncomfortable walking around sober at night. My take? As long as you look like you know what's going on around you, the chances are high that you'll stay safe.

Today I walked all the way to the Hotel de Ville metro station. It's pretty far away from where I live, but aimlessness has been known to get me great distances. Not only did I find the large movie theatre, I found the hole-in-the-wall artsy type cinema, a game workshop, and a Chinese restaurant. One of these days, I'm going to find the courage to go into these places. Until then, I'm content with observation.

14 January 2011

"You Shall See Things, Wonderful to Tell"

First person to get the reference wins everything forever.

Today was slightly more exciting than yesterday. It began with finally buying myself a watch! Most of the stores are having a major sale this week, and the cost of everything is drastically reduced. The watch I bought was originally 100 euros, and I paid 41.50 for it. And it comes with a warranty, so that's awesome. After doing that I sat and watched the gulls on what is now my favorite place in the entire city.
After that I walked along La Rhone for about two hours. During this time I saw lots of graffiti, some high schoolers hanging out a playground-type area, and old people feeding geese. Something that really jarred me though was walking out from the center of the city to find the bridge where homeless people lived. I've seen homeless people before, there are quite a few that show up at Crown Center Plaza. However, I've never really had the image of people camping out in a tent or in a bridge support before. It reminded me that social problems exist everywhere, and I need to keep myself mindful of it.

Tomorrow Julia and I are responsible for making dinner. The rest of the family will be gone. Somewhere, I didn't really understand that part of the conversation. Ah well.

13 January 2011

Stovetop Misadventures

So Tae Kwon Do was not today, as I originally thought. Sports activities start up on the last week of January, so you will find out about my martial arts training on the 27th. Because of this, I was able to eat dinner at the apartment tonight. However, everyone else also had Thursday night plans, so my host mother got some food out for me to heat up. Frozen chicken nuggets and potato balls that were sort of like French fries.

This is when things got interesting. First, the stove is essentially a giant touchpad and, it took me about five minutes to figure out how to set the temperature of burner and make it stay that temperature. Eventually I figured it out. Second, these were food items that should have gone in the oven, but since they were put in a skillet for me I thought I should use the stove. The potato balls were super dry and the nuggets turned out kind of mushy. Such is life. I ended up drinking three glasses of Coke Zero just to get the taste out of my mouth. Here's the moral of the story: I'm not ungrateful, just bad in an unfamiliar kitchen.

12 January 2011

"Wherever You Are, There's Always That Guy"

This title was taken from my thoughts while riding the metro at 10AM. An accordion player hopped on the metro and started playing. It reminded me of the accordion-playing Textbook Game gorilla in Columbia. Nothing makes you feel more at home than finding a similar street performer.

I finally figured out my schedule for this semester. It's missing a seminar but, I have no idea which one I'm supposed to be in. I think I'll be able to find it tomorrow. I'm also ok to start going to Tae Kwon Do classes, which are every Thursday. Starting tomorrow! It's pretty much the only thing I've got going for my day except laundry.

Right now my favorite thing to do in the city is walk down to the Rhone river. It's gorgeous, even though it was gray and cloudy outside today. I like the feeling of having a place in Lyon where I can relax, think, and regain my sanity.

11 January 2011

Serious Business

The rain was downright disheartening today. Or maybe that's just me being overly homesick/ridiculous/dramatic/sentimental that is absolutely necessary. Either way, I didn't feel all that great.

The language placement test was today and, I'll find out the results of that tomorrow. Hopefully I can get an early start to tomorrow, so I can get my student card, the results of the test, and settle my confusion about scheduling classes. All before the international relations office closes for lunch! Because I'm not planning on sticking around for 2 hours without a laptop or a place to go for just one of those things to get done.

Some of you may not know this, but Lyon is the gastronomic capitol of France. Obviously, I haven't had a dish so far that I haven't liked. And tonight I was treated to a family specialty. Tomatoes stuffed with cheese, served with penne noodles! I had two servings of each, and it was the most I've eaten for dinner since I arrived. My appetite is finally returning to normal, and I'm going to take that as a positive sign.

I was feeling pretty homesick today as well. Actually, that's an understatement. I know most people are going back to Columbia this Thursday, and I had a major feeling of "GRAH I'm all alone and no one's here and what the hell do I do with my life?" It happens. But after I get my sports card tomorrow, I'll be able to participate in their Tae Kwon Do organization. Having something to do that's familiar, even if it is in a foreign language, will be a huge relief.

10 January 2011

Even Street Vendors Can Tell You're American

Today was my meeting about how to choose my classes. That was fun, and I now feel kind of slow for not figuring it out sooner. But it doesn't matter too much now, I GET TO ENROLL! Finally.

The most exciting part of my day was ordering a sandwich. The conversation went kind of like this.

Moi: "Pain steak frites, s'il vous plait"
Vendor: "Pas... plus... de frites"
Moi: "Ca suffit. Coca, s'il vous plait"
Vendor: (with hand gestures) "Boutaille ou (whatever the word for can is)"
Moi: "Boutaille, merci"

Although the vendor spoke slowly, and used excessive hand gestures so I would understand the questions, I still felt pretty good about being spoken to all in French. And speaking in French. That's important. Tomorrow I get to take the French placement exam, as well as go register with the sports organization.

09 January 2011

Defeated by the Rain

I went on a picture taking journey yesterday, when it was bright and and 14C (about 55F for those who don't want to do the conversion). I managed to walk to both rivers, la Rhone and la Saone. The views of both were beautiful. By la Rhone, there are places to get close to the river and walk around. I sat for a while with some gulls on the staircase leading to one such place. It was a relaxing way to spend the early afternoon. When I was tired of sitting, I made my way across the bridge and on the other side was a mini-skate park. A few kids were jumping in and out of the ramps with their scooters and bikes.

Today, I had a plan to walk across that bridge again, but this time venture further into the city. Unfortunately, it is raining quite a lot today, especially for someone who doesn't have a real destination in mind. I got a picture of a store that sells manga though, and I decided that, no matter what the weather, I will go to the movies later this week. There are about 4 that I've seen coming out on Wednesday, including the new Miyazaki movie! So exciting. For me at least.

07 January 2011

Alone in Lyon

Today I spent mostly by myself. I got up, made myself breakfast and even washed a few dishes. Still kind of unsure of whether or not I need to help unloading the dishwasher. I'm taking my cues from the other exchange student, since she's been here a semester already.

After my morning rituals, (can someone please tell my Uncle Scott that it's possible to take warm showers in France?) I went to the university and almost fell asleep during a presentation on the Faculte des lettres. I won't get to access the university Intranet until the 10th, but I have an idea of which classes I might sign up for. At this rate, I don't think any of them will be SELF even though I originally planned to do both.

Once the meeting was over, I got my metro card. It's 25.60 euros a month for students to ride the metro as much as possible. A single one-way ticket is 1.60 euros, and I take the metro every time I go to and from the university. So the card saves me a lot of money and the need to buy things just to get coins.

The rest of the afternoon is up in the air. I've found that I really need a watch. There are not very many clocks at the university, and I don't have a phone. I can see it being an issue at some point.

06 January 2011

The University

Before I got started, I just need to say that last night I watched Grey's Anatomy in French. It was interesting, to say the least.

Today I had a meeting for DEUF students. It was all in French, and I understood pretty much everything that was said which is good, because most of my classes will be that way. There are a lot of information sessions I have to attend between now and when classes begin. Honestly, I'm pretty ready for classes to start. I need something normal in my life.

It's been raining almost the whole day. Sadface. It definitely doesn't help my mood any. But I suppose that's just the way things go.


The other student who is staying with my host family took me out with her friends to a bar called "The Beers." I got to meet Russians, Italians, and one guy from Peru. That was exciting! All but one of them are leaving within the next two weeks, but I'm still glad I got the chance to go out with them.

05 January 2011

First Day in the City

Today was my first day out and about. Woke up at 9:30 in the morning, had a breakfast of bread, nutella and a banana, took a shower and was off to the university! Because I'm enrolled in the DEUF program, my meeting is actually tomorrow. So I didn't really need to go today, but it was a good visit nonetheless. The campus is about the size of the North Quad, which totally blew my mind and made me miss Mizzou.

After I was done at the International Office, I met Julia (the other foreign exchange student staying with my host family) at the cafe. She took me around the center of the city with her friend, Nastia. The first store we went to was one that sold postcards, pens, books, and other such things. Here's where you can respond: if I were to send a postcard would you rather have a stereotypical "Greetings from Lyon" postcard or a weird-artsy-type postcard?

After that we went to Starbucks. Now I know what you're thinking. "Jordan, what the heck? There are TWO Starbucks in COMO!" But here's where France is great. At this Starbucks they sell actual meals, like pancakes and paninis, and awesome bakery stuff, like doughnuts and CAKE. Then we went to a few stores because Nastia, who is returning home next week, was looking for souvenirs to take for her parents.

I'm still not all that great with speaking and responding yet, but hopefully in the next week or so I can nail that down. Practice makes perfect after all, and I've definitely been practicing. And I understood enough French to laugh at appropriate times! Normally, I can't even pull that off in English so, I'm considering today I good day.

Pictures will be up later.

Current state of mind - victorious.

04 January 2011

My Arrival

I am alive and well in Lyon, France. I just got up from a nap, which I'm about to return to. The plan is to go to the University tomorrow. Hopefully I'll have some fun and exciting tales to share.

In Germany

So here's what's been going down so far. Took Air Wisconsin to Philadelphia, which was a 26 seat airplane and a 2 hour ride. Then I got to Philadelphia where I spent a half hour eating, the next half hour trying to get an internet connection, and the last half hour boarding the plane. Fun times. The flight across the Atlantic was pretty interesting. Pasta for dinner, and I got the chance to watch Easy A twice. I chose it as my first movie, then when I decided I was going to try to sleep the guy next to me started watching it. My flight to Lyon doesn't board for another hour, so I bought some time with the internet in order to stave off boredom.

03 January 2011

Today is the Day

It's early. I won't eat breakfast for fear of losing it. By 3 AM home time I will be in another country.

01 January 2011

Nervous Wreck: 2 Days

I know I haven't updated in a while. A week of having nothing going on in my life, then a week of holiday festivities made finding the time, motivation and patience for blogging slightly difficult.

Right now, the part of my trip that is giving me the most anxiety is realizing that I will not have a human support system in Lyon. All the people who are normally there to give me advice and talk me out of freaking out will be harder to reach once I cross the Atlantic Ocean. During breaks I won't be able to go home to my family, during my free time I won't be able to hang out with my friends. It's not fun finding out the hard way that I am not as independent as I'd like to believe.

I'm going to pack everything tomorrow. It's the only thing I absolutely have to do all day, and I'm going to take advantage of that time to make sure I don't forget anything.