31.08.2014 - 03.09.2014
I have had a bit of trouble with technology and wifi connections, so I apologize for the delay of my first post. I still don't have my own connection, so I am writing this in the library.
Starting from the beginning - I had what was probably the smoothest possible trip over here; after a [relatively] dry-eyed goodbye (Eva almost made me lose it...), I took off from Omaha on Sunday morning. For someone who had never flown alone before, four flights in thirty hours was a little daunting! But every connection was easy to find, each flight was on time, and my luggage always ended up where I did. Luckily, one of my superpowers is being able to sleep anywhere, so I stayed rested and didn't get too bored on any of the flights! My last flight landed me at Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris, where I then took a bus to the Gare de Lyon train station. Finding that bus had been a big source of anxiety for me, but it turned out that the stop was literally right outside of my baggage claim area! My one miscalcutation was the "layover" at the Gare de Lyon...my online source said that the bus ride would take about an hour and a half, but it took twenty minutes. So I sat in the station for a little over four hours. But then the train came and we were off! I was really excited to see some of the French countryside on the train, but as beautiful as it was, it was also a lot like Nebraska. So I found myself sleeping again...
Before I left Omaha, I was matched with a student from the University named Théo who would help me get assimilated. So he met me at the station, took me to my dorm to drop off all of my stuff, and then to the "old town" area, Granville, to show me around. Up to then, I had observed a definite "European feel", but Besançon was still quite Omaha-y: there were a lot more cars than I had expected, and way more post-1960 construction than any town needs. But Granville is the romantic vision of France that we probably all have: cobblestone streets (about a third of which are restricted to pedestrians), rows upon rows of stone buildings with no space between them, and more sidewalk cafés than I think I can afford to visit in the next ten months! We also walked by the monument to Victor Hugo (he was born in Besançon), the ruins of a Roman amphitheatre, saw the Roman citadel in the mountains above the town, and walked along a beautiful path by the river. After almost three hours, Théo asked me if I was starting to get a sense for the area, but I had no idea where we were - the streets run at all kinds of angles and there are at least five streets that shoot off all of the larger squares!
Yesterday, I had the day to myself, so I spent the morning trying to find the Intermarché (a brand of supermarket) that Théo had pointed out the night before (it only took three tries!), where I was able to buy some easily forgotten, yet very important objects, like a towel, toilet paper, and breakfast, to name a few. (Side note: I bought a loaf of bread at this store, which was pretty much like a Target, and I think it was the best just plain bread I have ever eaten in my life! So yes, French-Target bread is better than Omaha's French bakery bread...) At the cash register, I had my first "conversation" with a non-university employee. Lets just say that it leaves me with a lot of room for improvement! But then I was able to give my self-confidence a bit of a boost by navigating to bus system back to Granville to meet with the coordinator of my study abroad program and to get registered for my student card. Then, since I was in the neighborhood already, I spent the next five hours wandering the same streets from the night before, and getting a better sense of my surroundings. Still a little too intimidated to sit down at a sidewalk café, I bought a sandwich from a cart and ate it in the park. But then, after a few more hours of wandering, I was really feeling the need to do something super stereotypically French. So I bought a croissant (stuffed with apricots!) and a coffee from one of the cafés in the big square, and sat at a little table in the shade of a giant fountain. Aunt Betty, this one was for you:
In the evening, I headed back to campus and worked on wifi and phone problems (with varying degrees of success) and finished unpacking.
So, I today is day number three in Besançon, and I am beginning to get a little bit more comfortable with my surroundings. This morning, I was able to use my new knowledge of my neighborhood - as far as the Intermarché in one direction and along part of the bus route in the other - to go for a little run.
I'm slowly getting more comfortable talking to people, and I have been doing a lot of eavesdropping. I start class on the 15th, and in the meantime I plan to continue to explore and make a fool of myself!
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