Marvelous Marseille?

Marseille. Or, for many English speakers, Marseilles. Everyone has heard of this city, which is the second largest in France. It evokes images of the Mediterranean Sea and its famous harbor. Like many others, I associated Marseille as a glamorous city, a marvelous town perched on the edge of a sunny coast and the wide open ocean.

What I experienced was a dirty, unsafe city…where it rained for four days straight! It was also in Marseille that I spent time in a prison cell and was attacked by a giant seagull (I’ll explain how I ended up in prison a little while later). I stepped off of the train and I immediately knew that Marseille would be much different than I had been anticipating. The sidewalks were cracked, construction was everywhere and there was so much dog poop. Yes, doggie doo doo. Strange people were standing on every corner, looking like they were up to something dark and dangerous. This was not the Marseille I thought it was.

I set my bags down at the hotel and went about exploring with caution. My first stop was the museum of Mediterranean archeology, which I was able to get in for free. This was a very interesting museum that held artifacts not only from ancient Greece and the Roman empire, but also Egypt, Mexico and Africa.

This museum was super cool. Check it out if you're in Marseille.

This museum was super cool. Check it out if you’re in Marseille.

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I went to the Vieux Port, which was smaller than I imagined it. Along the harbor, I found a fort that was under construction, but also a massive cathedral. I headed inside and checked it out. From there, I found another church. This church was very old (12th century, Saint Laurent).

Vieux Port

Vieux Port

Pretty colored animals were lined along the Vieux Port

Pretty colored animals were lined along the Vieux Port

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Look how pretty!

Look how pretty!

Yep. That's a tire. I saw lots of nasty things floating in the port. I even saw slick oil on top of the water - it was not a pretty sight.

Yep. That’s a tire. I saw lots of nasty things floating in the port. I even saw slick oil on top of the water – it was not a pretty sight.

Mirror looking down on us all.

Mirror looking down on us all.

Cathedral, La Major

Cathedral, La Major

St. Laurent

St. Laurent

My last visit of the day was to the Cours Julien, which is a famous street known for its artistic people.

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The second day, I was in Aix-En-Provence, which you can read about in my previous blog entry.

The third day, that’s when I ended up in prison and was attacked by the seagull. My day started off pretty normal. I went to Notre Dame, which is this church on top of this hill. I knew it was one of the highest points in Marseille and I knew it would give me a great view of the city. I climbed up a massive hill and thought, Okay. It’s right here.

Nope. Not at all. I had to climb another hill and about a million stairs. I asked myself if it was really worth it. In the end, it was. Even though it was horrible day and I couldn’t get a good view, I got the idea. Marseille is a huge city, sprawling everywhere. And it was surrounded by giant mountains. The church itself was beautiful, very ornate…and very popular with the tourists. I saw so many people! And all of them took tour buses, taxis or buses to the top. I envied all of them in that moment. I was the only one to climb the path that I climbed. I was the only one crazy enough to do it. Note for next time: take the city bus.

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Notre Dame

Notre Dame

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This was hill number one. Number one.

This was hill number one. Number one.

I ate a nice lunch, saw a fish market and took a boat ride…which landed me directly in that prison cell I mentioned before. What prison was I taken to? The Château d’If. That’s right – the famous prison from the Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas! I took the ferry to the island, which is right off the harbor of Marseille. I walked inside the prison (free admission again for students) and discovered that it wasn’t always a prison.

Me in prison

Me in prison

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Maybe I learned this in high school, but I was still a little surprised. The château was first built as a defense for Marseille. It was later converted into a prison and made famous by the tale of Edmond Dantes, the young man unrightfully imprisoned and his daring escape…and the buried treasure! Can’t forget the treasure! It’s a delightful tale and I first was introduced to it in high school. In my high school French class, we read an abridged version. Okay, it was super abridged and it contained really simple words, but we still got the idea of the intricate tale. I still remember a lot of vocabulary words from that story (I learn vocabulary best if I learn in it in a book or in a real life situation). Since then, I’ve read an abridged version in English, but I have yet to read the full version in English or French. I do love the story though. So, visiting the Château d’If was very exciting…especially when it was rainy and the sea was stormy. It added to the dramatic effect.

The Château d’If has a room which they call the Edmond Dantes room (which it obviously can’t be, since he was a fictional character), but it does have a hole leading to another room (which fits swimmingly with the story). Speaking of swimming….how did Dantes survive that fall into the ocean? I saw those cliffs…he must have been one great swimmer!

His room: http://youtu.be/mwfDNhoxUYk

His daring escape: http://youtu.be/ECymhE2uNn0

It was also on these cliffs that I was attacked by a giant seagull. I read a sign early saying that the seagulls were aggressive and to be careful, but there is a difference between aggression and pure blood lust. I wasn’t even near this seagull when I heard this horrible war cry. I was like, Oh my goodness. I’m going to die. This is it. This is the end of Kellene O’Hara – pecked to death by a seagull. It wasn’t even a regular seagull. It was huge…and it had a little speck of red on its beak, probably from another one of its victims. It swooped down and began to beat its giant wings. It was screaming for my blood…also it was trying to summon its friends to come and feast on another yummy tourist. “I’m going! I’m going!” I shouted as I ran away.

I didn’t do anything to the seagull. I didn’t even look at it. I wasn’t even close to it. That is not aggression. That’s pure madness.

Beware of Seagulls!!!

Beware of Seagulls!!!

I took the boat to the Frioul islands, which are right off of the coast and next to the Château d’If. I wasn’t sure what I’d find on these islands. What I found was even worse than being in prison and being attacked by seagulls…I found the creepiest island ever. First, it was Sunday. Second, it was raining. This meant that I was the only one walking around the island (although, apparently, a few people live here because I saw a small apartment building, although I have no idea why anyone would want to live here). I found a series of abandoned buildings with signs saying not to enter. It looked like something out of a horror movie. I was like, let’s not go there. I found a sign for a fort, so I climbed up a giant mountain thinking I was going to see a fort with some historical information. Nope. Not at all. I got crumbling ruins. I was the only one here and it was very spooky. I thought to myself, This is how tourists die. And there were the seagulls again. Those deranged seagulls. I got off that mountain quickly.

Abandoned building - super creepy. Do not enter.

Abandoned building – super creepy. Do not enter.

Entrance to the fort - this looks educational, doesn't it? Well...it wasn't. It was just scary.

Entrance to the fort – this looks educational, doesn’t it? Well…it wasn’t. It was just scary.

Crumbling ruins

Crumbling ruins

Okay - is it just me or do the ruins look like crosses? It looks like some creepy cemetery sign - turn around while you're still alive!

Okay – is it just me or do the ruins look like crosses? It looks like some creepy cemetery sign – turn around while you’re still alive!

I saw a sign for a historic monument, a hospital, and I decided that was a safer bet. I went to the hospital…only to discover it was in terrible shape and no one was allowed in it! It was abandoned and incredibly spooky, like the fort. This was a historic monument? Apparently, they plan to renovate it and finish the renovations…in 2018! More blood thirsty seagulls.

World Monument...that sounds promising, but...

Nope. Just sketchy.

Nope. Just sketchy.

And scary!

And scary!

On the bright side, I did get to see two calanques, which are unique to the Mediterranean coast. They are inlets, usually made of limestone, and they are beautiful.

My first calanque!

My first calanque!

Touching the Mediterranean Sea for the first time!

Touching the Mediterranean Sea for the first time!

Calanque - aren't they beautiful?

Calanque – aren’t they beautiful?

Look at the water! Isn't that cool?

Look at the water! Isn’t that cool?

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Nice view of the port on the island

Nice view of the port on the island

The first beach. I wrote "KO" for Kellene O'Hara and "WVU" for West Virginia University.

The first beach. I wrote “KO” for Kellene O’Hara and “WVU” for West Virginia University.

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But, then, the rain began to pour in earnest. It was a terrible rain and I was quite scared. What if they cancel the boat because of the rain? What if I am stuck on this island for the night? Oh. There is no way I’m staying in that abandoned hospital for the night, which probably was the inspiration for Shutter Island (I haven’t read the book, but I saw the movie and that scared me enough). I cannot describe to you how creepy this island is when you’re the only one there in the rain. Even Stephen King couldn’t make this up…it’s so scary it has to be real!

I got off the island with my life and soul intact. My eyes were not pecked out by a seagull. I lived to see the next day.

Rhino with books inside. I can actually explain the rhino. A live rhino was actually on the island at one point, to give as a gift, but it died during a storm and was stuffed. (This is the history abridged version, as brought to you by Kellene O'Hara).

Rhino with books inside. I can actually explain the rhino. A live rhino was actually on the island at one point, to give as a gift, but it died during a storm and was stuffed. (This is the history abridged version, as brought to you by Kellene O’Hara).

The next day, I went to visit more calanques because they are so unique and they are just beautiful. I started off by going to one calanque which was really easy to get to. Believe it or not, these calanques are within the transportation limits of Marseille, meaning that I didn’t have to pay anything special to get to them. I took a bus to one place, which a tourist helper said was within easy walking distance. Only 35 minutes she said.

35 minutes…for who? Lance Armstrong on a bike? First, there weren’t any signs. I didn’t have a map so the trail markers didn’t help me. I walked for a while in the woods until I reached this mountain. I could see the ocean and, since calanques are inlets of the ocean, I decided to head in that direction. But it was raining…and it was cold. I only saw three other people, crazy enough to come out in the rain. There was this couple and they started to go down the mountain, but turned around. The old man, who looked like a crazy scientist, didn’t even go near the mountain. The calanques are a national park though, so maybe he was headed somewhere else.

I started to go down the mountain and started to doubt myself. I couldn’t see anything. The rocks were too high. There were too many trees. But I was half-way down the mountain, so I kept going. I seriously doubted myself though because while I navigate well in an urban setting, I am pretty much useless in a wilderness setting. I don’t know anything about plants or trees and I don’t have an internal sense of the northern star.

Luckily, my instincts were right. I found the calanque after a very, very long hike. I could have touched the water, but the trail further down looked too dangerous. I’m a Mountaineer at West Virginia University, but I’m not a real mountaineer. I could have probably done it, but I was completely alone. I have one rule when traveling alone (or traveling in general)…don’t die.

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Living life on the edge

Living life on the edge

You can see the path going down the calanque here. I decided not to risk it.

You can see the path going down the calanque here. I decided not to risk it.

Look at those rocks! Huge!

Look at those rocks! Huge!

Beautiful view: http://youtu.be/wmg5Y9rOf_8

It was a lovely view, but then I had to climb back up. That was fun. It was certainly not 35 minutes.

I headed back into town, ate lunch, then headed to the next calanque. I took a bus and then needed to take another bus. However, the other bus didn’t run for like two hours! I’m not even kidding. Luckily, I just had an hour to wait. But I was dropped off in the middle of this neighborhood and I didn’t know what to do. I remember passing some beaches though, so I went down this street and found a rocky beach. It was small and clearly not popular (there were only a few people there), but I got to sit and watch the waves for an hour. It was quite relaxing…and the sun actually made an appearance! I was so happy it stopped raining.

Chilling by the ocean

Chilling by the ocean

Then, the bus arrived. I say “bus” lightly. It was actually a small van, with enough room for ten people! I took the bus, which went around and around these winding twists and turns against the cliffs of the Mediterranean. It gave a great view, even if it was slightly scary at times. The bus ride was pleasant, since I was with a bunch of old people and they all chatted with everyone like we were all best friends. It wasn’t a long bus ride and I was dropped off at my last calanque. It was bigger than the other calanques and not as cool, but it was worth seeing just for the bus ride and for the little village at the base of the calanque.

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Big calanque

Big calanque

Tiny town

Tiny town

And here's a cat.

And here’s a cat.

There was only one restaurant…and it didn’t have a name. It didn’t need one. When you’re the only restaurant in town, there’s no confusion!

I headed back on the next bus, since I didn’t want to stay for another hour or two. I returned to Marseille and ended my last day in Marseille. It wasn’t what I imagined, but that’s not a bad thing. Marseille provided a more urban view of France…at the same time provided some spectacular views of nature! It’s marvelous in its own way. I enjoyed my time in Marseille, even though it was wet, dirty and strange. I’m glad I came, but I’d like to leave now for the next part of my adventure.

I’m waiting for my train to Nice…but it’s been announced that it’ll be four hours late! Four hours! I’ve seen trains five or ten minutes late, but four hours! Yikes (I talked to a train person and she said there was an accident). I guess Marseille doesn’t want me to leave quite yet.

—-

Update: In Nice now. In French class a few weeks ago, we had a “scenario.” Your train is late, you must ask for a new train ticket. Well, this is one scenario that was actually true. Due to an accident, the train was supposed to be four hours late. I later looked up to see it has a funny name beside it. I asked the SNCF (train people) what it meant – it meant that the train was delayed “indeterminately.”  Well, that didn’t sound good. So, I asked if there was another train and there was. I got in later than expected, but I still got here. This further proves that although my French isn’t perfect, it gets me where I need to go.

Aix-En-Provence

Saturday, I took a day trip from Marseille (where I am currently staying) to Aix-En-Provence. It was just a short train ride away, but the differences between the two cities are dramatic. While I will be talking about Marseille in another blog post, the most evident difference, for me, is that Aix-en-Provence is cleaner, safer, prettier…It’s a pleasant place to be.

Even if it’s raining, which it was raining. All day Saturday. Non-stop.

Still, even in the rain, Aix-En-Provence has their famous fountains going. It was like a giant water park. There was a fountain in every circle, square and block.

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I went to the tourism office and found a map. I then tried to find a museum or a dry place to get out of the terrible rain. That’s when I stumbled across the museum of natural history. I was pleasantly surprised to find that this museum was free for all. I walked inside, saw the exhibits, learned some new French vocabulary and was dry for a short period of time. It was a win-win situation.

Land Before Time - anyone remember those movies?

Land Before Time – anyone remember those movies?

Creepy Gothic exhibit

Creepy Gothic exhibit

I saw the markets of Aix-En-Provence, which must be pretty famous because they were marked on the tourist map. They were like many other street markets I’ve seen in France. Vendors trying to get you to buy their apples, which they swear are the best in the region, which is exactly what the farmer next to him says and the farmer next to him….

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I looked at the tourist map and was slightly disappointed to see that the Cezanne’s workshop was out of the main city. It looked like it was too far to walk to. I planned on doing other stuff, but I walked by a sign pointing in the direction of Cezanne’s workshop and it a picture of a person walking. Huh. You can walk there?

Distance is hard to gauge on a tourist map. Sometimes, things look like they are close, but they are really far away or vice versa. I had a lot of time to spare before my train left, so I decided to try. To my surprise, it wasn’t very far away at all. It was definitely within walking distance.

I walked into Cezanne’s studio, which ended up just being one room. All of that…for one room. It seemed a little silly, but what can you expect? I got to see where the famous Cezanne painted…and I got to see some of the props (including skulls and glass bottles) that he used as reference when painting. Pictures weren’t allowed inside of the studio (probably because it is so small and if people took pictures of it, no one would want to come and the city would lose money), but I took plenty of pictures outside.

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I then decided to walk to the overlook where Cezanne painted. I was warned by the woman working at the studio that it was a good twenty minute walk and, in this rain, I wouldn’t be able to see the famous mountain that was often the subject of Cezanne’s later work. I’m only here for one day, so I decided to go.

Unfortunately, twenty minutes for one person is not twenty minutes for Kellene. I kept walking and walking and walking. Why can’t I find it? I asked at the end of twenty minutes. Well, I walked right past it! It’s a stone staircase and I wasn’t expecting to find it so soon, so I kept walking.

I went up to the overlook and saw that there wasn’t too much to see, not on a day like today. But, still, Cezanne painted there.

This landscape inspired Cezanne.

This landscape inspired Cezanne.

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There’s not a ton to do in Aix-En-Provence, although they are very obsessed with Cezanne. I guess when someone famous lived in your town, you have to exploit that somehow! I did enter a little art shop and found myself looking at paint brushes and canvases. I’m not an artist by any means, but I still felt inspired by the town to just paint. And then I realized that I’m not an artist so I gave up on that idea pretty quickly.

These are all over the city. You can follow in Cezanne's footsteps to EVERYWHERE he ever was/could have been/thought about going.

These are all over the city. You can follow in Cezanne’s footsteps to EVERYWHERE he ever was/could have been/thought about going.

I still had time left before catching my train, so I went to the library to get out of the rain. The library wasn’t just a library though. It was a cultural center. I was surprised to find that they had several expositions and lots of information. I found a book and spent the rest of my time reading in a warm room.

Always trust a library that has The Little Prince painted on the outside.

Always trust a library that has The Little Prince painted on the outside.

Cold, wet, tired and content, I boarded my train to return to Marseille. Aix-En-Provence was certainly something to experience.

Pont du Gard

The bus dropped us off in the middle of nowhere. The bus driver, an old, grumpy, not morning person, slammed the doors and drove off before I could even ask, “Où est…?

 

I looked at the old man, my only companion. He looked at me. It was obvious we were both going to the same place. We wanted to go to Pont du Gard, the Roman aqueduct that was used to carry water to the Roman city of Nîmes. He started walking in one direction and I followed, assuming that the old man knew where he was going. But he led us to a dead end, so I started walking the other way. Then he followed me, assuming that I knew where I was going. But I was also wrong.

 

We looked at each other. Well. We walked in opposite directions. And, eventually, we both found our way to the left bank of Pont du Gard. Now, I got there very early in the morning. Like 8:30 in the morning. But it was magnificent. I highly recommend going when you are the only person there. I didn’t like the site as much as when it was crowded.

 

My first view of Pont du Gard

My first view of Pont du Gard

The first thing I did was climb up to the panoramic view point on the left bank. It’s quite a hike. The path isn’t well-marked and the terrain is rough and rocky. Since I was the first one to walk these paths since the daybreak, I found myself with thin, sticky webs tangled in my hair. One spider was still attached. Maybe he was hoping to see a panoramic view of the Pont du Gard too.

 

After fighting through prickly brush (which was unlike anything I’d seen in America) and tripping over a million rocks, I ended up at the top of this cliff. In America, there would be a guard rail to prevent people from falling, dying, and having their estate sue the national park. In France? Nothing. There was nothing between me, nature and the incredible Pont du Gard.

 

Underneath the arch of Pont du Gard

Underneath the arch of Pont du Gard

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Pont du Gard, from the side

Pont du Gard, from the side

I went further into the site, up and down different nature trails. I only had a rudimentary map and really poorly marked trails. I saw portions of other aqueducts and beautiful wild flowers. But then I wanted to get back. I had to rely on my sense of direction to get me back, as there was no cell service, no detailed map and I didn’t want newspapers to read, “American Tourist: Dead in Woods After Walking Opposite Direction of Civilization.”

 

More ruins of aqueducts

More ruins of aqueducts

As I started to walk back, I heard a rustling in the bushes. I hadn’t seen a soul the entire time, which was over an hour and a half. But this wasn’t a person. In Maine, I might assume that it was a moose, but it sounded too small to be a moose (and I don’t think they have Mediterranean Moose). A rabbit? A bird? Oh my goodness. If it’s a snake, I am screaming and running up a tree. What I saw was even stranger…

 

A cat. A cat in the middle of nowhere. There aren’t any houses near this place. It’s all wilderness. Where did the cat come from? Then it hit me. This cat was probably a feral cat. He looked at me from one point of the path. I looked at him. We started at each other for ten minutes, wondering what the other was going to do. He sat down and seemed to watch me in a bemused way. Eventually, he got bored and walked away.

zoom in of cat

I walked away too, but I heard noises in the bush for a few feet. He decided to follow me, but then grew bored of this activity too and disappeared. I returned to the base of Pont du Gard and then headed to the museum, movie and exhibition. Did you know that if you walk to the site, everything is free? I just had to pay for the bus ticket. If you arrive by car, you have to pay eighteen euro for access to the site, but everything after that (museum, movie, exhibition, etc.) is free. It’s a great deal and I definitely plan on coming back one day. Pont du Gard, for me, was one of the highlights of this trip so far.

 

I walked into the museum, unsure if I was allowed to be there. I was unsure because I was the only one there. It was a good sized museum, but no one was working. In fact, I don’t think I saw anyone working the museum, movie or exhibition the entire time I was there. It was really bizarre and unsettling. Usually, there are museum workers watching you to make sure you don’t touch the exhibits, but not here. Here, I was allowed to roam at my own pace and pretty much do whatever I wanted. They had some interactive stuff too which I liked (my favorite: the quiz on Pont du Gard at the end – you take it on the computer and it tallies up your score). I also liked how they included observations from famous people (writers, artists, etc.) who have visited Pont du Gard.

 

Latin: Measured, a sign that the Pont du Gard was perfectly measured, planned, ordered...a sign of superior engineering

Latin: Measured, a sign that the Pont du Gard was perfectly measured, planned, ordered…a sign of superior engineering

I went to the exhibit, which was a modern art display. It modeled after James Joyce’s book, Ulysses. My first thought…someone actually read that book? My second thought…who would make an art exhibit out of that book? It was really interesting because to see the exhibit you had to walk on this scaffolding to look down at this room size maze of wood and metal.

 

After the strange art display, I went to the movie, which confused many people. The doors were closed and the lights were off, but you were just expected to walk in. At the exact times, the movie started. I think the movie was on an automated timer because, like I said, I didn’t see anyone. It was all mysterious. The movie itself was rather strange because the brochure said it was supposed to be 15 minutes long and involve a dragonfly. What I got was a movie that was 25 minutes long and involved a French girl and her Italian boyfriend. She invites said Italian boyfriend to come to Nîmes and explore the region. She shows him around the Pont du Gard. It was so cheesy and it was definitely from the eighties. They drove around on a moped. Contrary to what I was told in middle school (or maybe it was true then, but not now), I have only seen a handful of people on mopeds. They really aren’t that popular, but in every French book in middle school, everyone was on a moped. This led me to believe that everyone rides mopeds, which is untrue. Most people ride bikes or take the tram or metro or bus. Anyway, the French movie was pretty funny. It reminded me of a video series we watched in high school to learn French regarding a French girl named Armelle and her boyfriend, Pierre.

 

I packed a lunch and then had a little picnic under the Pont du Gard. I returned to the movie theater to watch the movie in English, just to see if I really understood the movie in French. I was very surprised to see that I understood 90-95% of the French movie. The parts that I had difficulty with were the technical terms, but I felt better when I heard the English portion. There’s one section where the narrator rapidly lists carving tools…and I didn’t know what some of them were in English! Furthermore, when I was listening to them in French, I had the idea. I knew they were tools, but I didn’t exactly know what each tool was. In that sense, my English and French competency was probably the same.

 

After that, I went to the Mémories de Garrigue, which is a carefully labeled, outdoor museum/exhibition…I’m not sure what to call it. Basically, it gives you a view on the agriculture of the Mediterranean. As you walk along, you’re invited to walk among the crops and see how they are grown. It’s really fascinating. I walked among olive trees and grape vines and mushrooms! I saw lots of interesting things along this trail.

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Olive trees

Olive trees

Grape vines

Grape vines

I ventured across the bridge to the right bank. I went up to the right panoramic and found a quiet cliff to hang out on for a bit. I just sat, thought…I can understand why writers are inspired by nature. I was overwhelmed with beauty and awesomeness…and I didn’t even have the words to describe it, but I wanted to. I climbed down and then walked along the Gardon River, which runs under the Roman aqueduct. I sat by the river and put my feet in. It was glorious. My feet were sunburned from the day before and it was very soothing. Children were playing in the river, adults were kayaking, some were swimming.

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Pont du Gard

Pont du Gard

Continuation of Pont du Gard through the mountain

Continuation of Pont du Gard through the mountain

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I went further downstream where the water was calmer and looked into the clear water. I saw fish nibbling on moss on a rock! I could have stayed forever in this place.

 

But I had to be careful because the bus only left at certain times and I needed to get back to Nîmes. I returned to Nîmes that night, dreaming of returning one day. I do know that this region is absolutely remarkable and I do wish I had more time to visit. I’m fascinated by the nature and the history that it holds.

black and white

Sur le Pont d’Avignon

I took a day trip to Avignon yesterday. I boarded the train and was in Avignon in no time at all. I found a tourism office pretty quickly and grabbed a map. I tried to find a free museum to duck into, but all of the free museums were mysteriously closed that week for renovations. I wandered around the city wondering what I was going to do for an entire day.

 

All hope seemed lost, but that’s when Notre Dame showed me the way. I went inside, looked around, and then ended up outside at these beautiful gardens. This garden was: Le Jardin des Doms. It is a very high spot above Avignon and you can see everything from up there, including the Rhône River.* I went down to the river and walked forever trying to find a bridge across. I found a bridge and spent a while walking along the river. It was a very sunny day out.

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I think the sun makes me more beautiful. Either that or it makes the boys more likely to confess their undying love… When walking along the river in Avignon, I had many teenage boys (and some older men, as usual) try to woo me. I think my favorite was this one guy who was just completely enamored (or possibly drunk)… “You are so pretty. You are the most beautiful creature…Wait. Please don’t walk away. Do you hear me?

 

Yep. Just walk away. The sun does crazy things to people. Oh no. The sun. Darn it. When will I ever learn? I burn very easily in the sun. I brought sunblock with me, but I didn’t bring it to Avignon. I completely forgot. I burnt quicker than a fork in a microwave.

 

I took a ferry across the river and snapped some good shots of the Pont d’Avignon (made famous by the song, “Sur le Pont d’Avignon”). I checked out some local shops and then went to the Pope’s Palace. Yes, the Pope.

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Here’s a bit of history. The Pope didn’t always reside in Rome. For a period of time, the seat of the Catholic Church was in Avignon. I checked out the Pope’s crib and it was pretty cool, although it looked like they were getting for high tourist season so many of the rooms were under construction.

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I still had time to spare so I went back to the Pont d’Avignon and actually went inside it. Did you know that the bridge has a chapel on it? It was built because Saint Bénezet was commanded by angels to build it. The bridge is actually called Pont Saint-Bénezet, but everyone calls it Pont d’Avignon.

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By this point, I was thoroughly sunburnt. Avignon is a small town completed encased in walls. I had explored the inner walls. I explored a little of the outer walls. I wasn’t sure what else to do, so I ended up going back to the train station a little early, mostly to get out of the sun.

 

It was a good day. Tiring, but good.

 

Sunburned, as you can see

Sunburned, as you can see

*I first saw the Rhône River in Lyon. I have now seen a portion all five major rivers in France:  La Seine (Paris), la Loire (Nantes), le Rhône (Lyon and Avignon), la Garonne (Toulouse) and le Rhin (Strasbourg).

I was on the train and I saw this guy. Look at his hat. Look at the size of the feather in his cap. That's a huge feather! Why does he have such a big feather in his hat? Where did he get the feather? What kind of bird is that from?

I was on the train and I saw this guy. Look at his hat. Look at the size of the feather in his cap. That’s a huge feather! Why does he have such a big feather in his hat? Where did he get the feather? What kind of bird is that from?

Stepping Back in Time: Nîmes

On Tuesday, I arrived in the city of Nîmes, which was once a Roman city. Since then, I’ve explored the city a little bit and have taken two day trips (Avignon and Pont du Gard, which will be featured later on this blog). Walking in Nîmes is like stepping back in history, which is absolutely marvelous to me. I’ve always been fascinated with time travel, but I don’t have a TARDIS like the Doctor* and I don’t have a magic tree house. ** So, I have to make due with walking among the ruins.

 

Upon arriving in Nîmes, I tried to find a tourism office in the train station, but the train station is very, very small. So, I walked into the bright sunlight and wished for one. And then, I stumbled across a tourism office…and they had a map. Kellene does well in cities when she has a map. It makes her very happy.

 

Moving on with this story, I looked at the map and said to myself, “Gee, Kellene, we’re pretty close to the ancient Roman arena, aren’t we?”

 

And BAM! I looked up and there it was! Then I said to myself, I wish there was a Quick*** nearby. And BAM! I saw one and ate lunch. Then I said to myself, I wish I had a pony, a nice looking European boy and a million dollars.

 

But I didn’t get those wishes. Maybe you only get three per visit in Nîmes and I “wasted” mine on a tourism office, a Roman arena and fast-food restaurant. Oh well. Now I know. When I come back, I’m wishing for the pony, the nice looking boy and the money.

 

This is the fountain near the tourism office, arena and Quick. It is where my dreams came true. I am convinced this is a magic fountain.

This is the fountain near the tourism office, arena and Quick. It is where my dreams came true. I am convinced this is a magic fountain.

I visited the Roman arena first, which reminded me a lot of when I visited the Coliseum in Rome. The façade of the arena in Nîmes very well-preserved, even better than the Coliseum. Of course, the Coliseum is bigger and the interior and perhaps more interesting than the arena in Nîmes. What I find fascinating, though, is that the arena is still used for shows today. In fact, in a week they will be hosting a huge historical event where gladiators will fight. I’m so sad I’ll be missing this event. It seems like a lot of fun. The arena also hosts concerts and bull fights.

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This statue is of a bullfighter.

This statue is of a bullfighter.

I then went to the Maison Carrée which is a Roman temple. When I arrived, there were a lot of people there. Apparently, the temple shows a 3D movie and that’s it. You can’t really look around. And, apparently, a lot of groups booked Tuesday in advance. There was only one man, named Jimmy according to his name tag, working at the site. He had to explain to us waiting in line that there wasn’t room in the next few showings because there were a lot of groups that booked in advance. I was okay with this because I still had a lot of other things to see and they showed the movie every thirty minutes. But others? They weren’t so happy. One lady practically started a riot by exclaiming that she wanted a refund. Others demanded to know who was in charge. They were just vicious. I understand, Jimmy. I do. I work with Arts and Entertainment and sometimes people aren’t happy. However, you have to do your best to make them happy. And that’s exactly what Jimmy did. He was very calm, even as one lady was about to rip out his throat.

 

I was the last person he got to and he looked a little scared. “When would be a better time to come back?” I asked.

 

17h30,” he replied nervously.

 

That was like in an hour and a half. Seriously? Could people not wait?

 

That works well. Thank you,” I said with a smile.

 

Poor Jimmy looked quite relived that I didn’t try to kill him and ran inside, away from the cruel crowd. I went to the Jardin de la Fontaine which was absolutely stunning. Nîmes is the place you want to live. It’s the place where old men play poker in the shade. It’s the place where kids play football. **** It’s the place where old ladies sit on park benches and feed birds. It’s the place where more old men play pétanque (a traditional French game with balls).  It’s lovely.

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In the gardens, there is the Temple of Diana. No one really knows the history of this place, but it is clear that it was a temple. It is mostly deteriorated, but some of it still stands.

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Then, I made my way up to the Tour Magne. Let me tell you…it was a hike. I climbed up and up and up. Finally, I made it. I then waited in line forever until another man rushed around trying to get everyone’s department number (which is how they tell where people are from in France – I told him I was from the United States). After much waiting, I went up a spiral staircase. I went up and up and up. To get to a tiny platform where no more than seven people could stand. I’m not even kidding. Yes, it provided a nice view of Nîmes, but seriously? I got a discount on all three of the major monuments because I am a student, but I don’t know if I would want to pay for it without my student discount. I don’t know – maybe. If you’re in Nîmes, you have to do it because it’s just something you have to do.

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I returned to the Maison Carrée later that evening. I watched the 3D movie, which was good because it had lots of interesting historical information, but a little strange too. The name of the movie was the “Heroes of Nîmes.” It told the story of different heroes throughout history with the frame narrative of a guy walking into the temple asking the Roman Gods who the greatest hero of Nîmes is. He blows on some smoke and a giant smoke bird leads us throughout history. Furthermore, the movie was entirely spoken in Latin, except for modern day portions which were in French. I kid you not. Latin. It was strange, but cool because I took Latin last semester and loved it. I think we should start speaking Latin again. We can make it the new trend, the “hip” thing to do or whatever you kids call it today. We can make it go “viral!” Getting back to the film, it had subtitles in French and English, for those of us not entirely fluent in Latin. The ending was a little cheesy because the man opened the doors to the temple and announced that the Gods said that there will always be a brave hero in Nîmes so long as the arena stands.

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I haven’t done much in Nîmes since then, but I know that this is a great city and I’m so glad to have visited. It was like stepping back in time.

 

—–

 

 

*If you don’t know what this is, please Google it. It will change your life. Doctor Who is amazing. Thank you late nights with college friends in the Honors Hall for teaching me about this awesomeness.

** Children’s series by Mary Pope Osborne. I loved this series as a kid and I still remember my second grade teacher reading the books to us. I remember the exact phrase he told us as the end of the year, “I won’t be your teacher next year so you’ll have to keep reading these books on your own.” I did.

*** Quick is the European equivalent of a McDonald’s…cheap food, quickly.

****American translation: soccer

La Ville Rose: Toulouse

Why is Toulouse called “la ville rose” (the rose city)? Well, it’s because of the buildings, which are built with a pink/reddish brick. It makes the city absolutely beautiful, one of the most aesthetically pleasing that I’ve seen so far (although, Strasbourg might be a shade prettier). Toulouse is the first leg of my vacation…and the people here probably think I’m an angry cocaine addict. Let me explain.

 

I’m sick. I have a terrible, nasty, no-good cold that won’t go away. My body did such a good job of not getting sick during school. It waited until I was in a beautiful city for me to get sick. Great. My nose was running faster than a gazelle escaping a hungry lion and the tissues I have are harder than the bricks of the buildings in Toulouse. The end result? A sniffling girl with a nose redder than Rudolph’s. I probably look like a cocaine addict. On top of that, I wasn’t smiling (once, just once) and some guy was like, “Why aren’t you smiling?” Yep. I probably look like an angry cocaine addict.

 

The train ride from Nantes to Toulouse took six hours, but that included one connection and several stops along the way. I arrived in the afternoon on Saturday and checked in to my hotel (my parents are convinced that I am going to die while traveling by myself and won’t let me stay in a hostel). The woman checking me in was pleasantly surprised that I spoke French and immediately was more eager to help me because I was speaking her language (apparently this hotel gets a lot of English speakers).

 

My first stop in Toulouse was the center of town. I needed to orient myself and I needed a map. My best chance for that? The center of town…which conveniently had a tourism office. I got my map and checked out the outside of the Capitole. It was a very pretty building and I wandered around for a bit. The best way to see a city? Follow the people. I followed a crowd of people and they led me to a giant open area where there was a free cheese festival. Seriously. There were tents and different types of cheeses to try…all for free! Free cheese? Yes, please! I have discovered that I like mild cheeses, which are usually white. Anything that’s green? Yeah, I’m probably not going to like it. I still try it, but when it’s green? It’s just too strong of a taste for me.

 

The Capitole

The Capitole

A little park

A little park

Beautiful fountain!

Beautiful fountain!

Free cheese? Yes, please!

Free cheese? Yes, please!

Cheese!

Cheese!

I found a church, St. Jérôme, and explored that area a bit. However, I wasn’t feeling well so I went to a supermarket for some soup and called it a day. The second day, Sunday, I was even sicker. But the problem? It was Sunday. In France. The pharmacies are closed on Sunday. So, I had to take it in stride, drink some orange juice, and hope for the best. And I’m in Toulouse. I’m not going to let being sick stop me from seeing the city. In fact, when I have ever let being sick stop me from doing anything?

 

Candles in the church

Candles in the church

Fountain with beautiful flowers

Fountain with beautiful flowers

So, I started with the Basilque St. Sernin. There was a huge market around the entire church and I wasn’t even sure I could get in. I’m not sure if it is every Sunday or if this was a special event, but it was crazy and a little annoying. All I wanted to do was get inside the church, but I had to walk around all of the merchants to do so.

 

Basilque St. Sernin

Basilque St. Sernin

Market in front of the church

Market in front of the church

I went to the Chapelle des Carmélites, which was a little strange. First, it was totally dark. The only light was the light from the open door. Second, it was empty. No one was there, except for this one old couple. Third, they had an electronic image of Jesus at the cross. In a historical church. It was strange. The ceiling was quite beautiful though and you could tell that someone put a lot of effort into painting the church, but it was dark, so I didn’t get a very good look. On the bright side, this place has a free bathroom. In Europe, you can’t turn down a free bathroom!

 

Look at that beautiful ceiling!

Look at that beautiful ceiling!

Strange computer projection of Jesus

Strange computer projection of Jesus

I saw Notre Dame du Taur and then headed to Notre Dame de la Dourde. I am considering this my mission: see every Notre Dame in every city in France…ever. I’m already off to a good start. There’s been a Notre Dame in every city I’ve visited so far! And, here in Toulouse, there are two! Lucky me!

 

Evil snake in Notre Dame de la Dourde

Evil snake in Notre Dame de la Dourde

Notre Dame de la Dourde

Notre Dame de la Dourde

I saw the famous Pont Neuf, which to me just looked like a bridge, and then walked over said famous bridge. I saw the water tower, Château d’Eau, before going to the Abattoirs, which is the museum of modern and contemporary art. Before coming to France, I would not say that I was an art lover. I really don’t know a lot about art, but I’m learning. I do like contemporary art (modern art is cool too, but contemporary art is cooler). I was pretty excited to go the Abattoirs and it certainly did not disappoint. My favorite exhibit was these barrels which had nice words written on them. It was by an American artist and it was called “Crude Kindness” or something like that.

 

Pont Neuf

Pont Neuf

La Garonne

La Garonne

Château d’Eau

Château d’Eau

Flowers in front of Château d’Eau

Flowers in front of Château d’Eau

Random statue of a bug. He looks like he's going to tell a story, doesn't he? I wonder what story he's going to tell...

Random statue of a bug. He looks like he’s going to tell a story, doesn’t he? I wonder what story he’s going to tell…

Oil barrels painted with kind words

Oil barrels painted with kind words

 

Also, they had a temporary exhibit which was in another building. I went down one flight of stairs, then another, then another, then another. I kept going and I was seriously wondering where what this exhibit was. It was called “How Solid Light Works” by a British artist. I opened the door to the exhibit and it was totally dark. It surprised me. Then, there was a light coming from the ceiling that made a design on the floor. The smoke in the room allowed you to see the beam of light, giving it the appearance that it is totally solid. It was very strange, but very cool. It was also slightly dangerous too because no one could see anything. There was a second floor, which required us to walk up the stairs in the dark. By the time I got to the end of the exhibit, my eyes were slightly adjusted to the dark, but other people were still confused. I had several people run into me and I heard some people run into walls. I had to wonder if this was the artist’s intent – to laugh at all of us walking around in the dark! My favorite part, though, was this old man who was staring at the light. “Inside,” he said, walking into the middle of the circle of light before walking out and saying, “Outside.”

 

He paused. And repeated the process. “Inside. Outside.” Like five times. Maybe he saw the “light” of the light.

 

Light...no picture, no words can describe this exhibit.

Light…no picture, no words can describe this exhibit.

I continued on my journey of Toulouse by going to the Hôtel d’Assezat, the Capitole, the Convent of the Jacobins and the Hôtel de Bernuy. I heard a super amazing band play (they were trumpets, tubas, percussion and trombones). They were a group of students from Marseille and they were dressed in a really outrageous manner. However, they had a great sense of humor. “We are a really famous band. We are touring internationally. For future dates, you can find us in Toulouse, Toulouse, Toulouse, and for the last date, Toulouse. Thank you,” one of the boys announced.

 

I really like this painting in the Capitole.

I really like this painting in the Capitole.

Another beautiful painting in the Capitole

Another beautiful painting in the Capitole

The Captiole

The Captiole

The Capitole

The Capitole

Convent of the Jacobins

Convent of the Jacobins

Hôtel de Bernuy

Hôtel de Bernuy

Take a look at these crazy kids! They were certainly fun to watch!

Take a look at these crazy kids! They were certainly fun to watch!

I finished my day by looking at the architecture of the Musée des Augustins, but I was pretty sick so I called it a day. I slept for like twelve hours. I really wasn’t feeling well, but when I woke up this morning, I was feeling a little better.

 

Musée des Augustins

Musée des Augustins

Today, I went to the Cité de l’Espace, which is a good bus ride into the middle of nowhere, but it was definitely worth it. Toulouse has a very strong space program, which is something you probably didn’t know. I didn’t know either. Now, I’m fascinated by the universe like anyone else, but I’m not a super science geek. I was slightly skeptical of this museum because I didn’t want it to be like the Air and Space museum in Washington D.C. (don’t get me wrong – it’s a good museum, but I’ve been there so many times. It’s the same thing over and over again and it lacks an interactive element). However, this museum was simply awesome. They had many exhibits, which were designed to attract people of all ages. They had lots of cool touch screens and you could control screens with just the movement of your body. It was super interactive. I even did a “mission” on how to use data from satellites to save the wild caribou in Canada.

 

There was a ton of information about earth, about space…it was really incredible. I was a little disappointed that there wasn’t an exhibit about France’s involvement with the space program (which seems a little strange that they would leave that out). Instead, the museum mostly had stuff on the American and Russian space programs. In fact, there was a Russian space station that we could walk on and a life size model of a rocket. It was much more than a museum. It was a park that I spent many hours just walking around. I watched a video on the Hubble telescope (which I think is the same one that they show in the Air and Space museum, the one by Leonardo DiCaprio? Well, this one was in French, so that was interesting). I even played this really intense quiz on the earth in this special room. It’s a half-hour game and you are placed into teams. I was with this old couple and we didn’t do too well (in my defense, the questions were very scientific and they were in French). However, this one family must have been a group of rocket scientists because they got every question correct! Needless to say, I had lots of fun.

 

Mars robots

Mars robots

Space!

Space!

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I then went to the Roman ruins here in Toulouse, but guess what? They were closed. When I read the information online, I assumed I misread it. I thought it said that it was closed, except for Sundays from 2pm-6pm. I thought to myself…why would it only be open for four hours per week? On a Sunday? So, I assumed that I didn’t read it correctly and that it meant that it was open every day except for Sunday from 2pm-6pm. Well, I was right in the first place! It is only open on Sunday (when nothing is open in France) from 2pm-6pm! How strange is that? Beyond that, there was a fence all the way around the perimeter. I walked around and saw that the site itself wasn’t very big…and there weren’t many Roman ruins at all. Just a few rocks.

 

Locked out.

Locked out.

Just a few rocks

Just a few rocks

Oh well. I ended my day at the Jardin des Plantes, which is a beautiful garden. The flowers are all in bloom and there was even a nice waterfall!

 

Waterfall

Waterfall

Flowers!

Flowers!

Random rooster walking around the park. I have no idea why.

Random rooster walking around the park. I have no idea why.

Toulouse is certainly a different side of France. It is a beautiful city with a heavy Spanish influence (everything was in French and Spanish, just like in Strasbourg how everything was in French and German). Also, the French accent is very different here in Toulouse. When some people talk to me, it just sounds like gibberish. It doesn’t even sound like they’re speaking French! It’s really strange.

 

Tomorrow, I’m headed to Nimes, which is city with lots of Roman ruins, from what I’ve read. As you might have guessed by now, I really like Roman ruins. I’m completely fascinated by them so Nimes should be the perfect city for me.

Toulouse

Toulouse

A Word about Language

Since arriving in France, a question has been floating in the back of my mind. Am I the same person in French? Sounds like a funny question, doesn’t it? Of course I’m the same person! I didn’t change because I changed languages, did I?

 

Well, in my literature class last week, we examined this very question of identity and language. I find multilingual questions like this to be particularly interesting because a large portion of the world speaks more than one language (sorry USA, you’re a little behind). Nearly everyone I’ve met abroad speaks their native language, English (everyone speaks English), and another language, if not three or four more! It’s actually gotten to the point where I was talking with another student in French and mentioned that I speak English. She laughed at me and told me that, “That doesn’t count! Everyone speaks English!

 

But that’s the problem. I speak English, but English isn’t just a language for me. English is the language I use to express the shared history of the United States, it’s the language I laugh in, it’s the language I use to explore… As Nancy Huston writes in Nord Perdu, “Le problème, voyez-vous, c’est que les langues ne sont pas seulement des langues.” *

 

And that’s true. Languages aren’t just languages. They’re a way of expressing ourselves, of imagining, of connecting with other human beings, of seeing the world. English is my native language, my langue maternelle. If such a large portion of my identity is English, then where does that leave my French? Am I the same person when I speak French?

 

This is a question I don’t think I can solve, at least not right now. Maybe years down the road, may never. Here’s why. To answer this question, I have to first define identity, then identify my identity (and then there’s the question of multiple identities and performed identities…people have written dissertations and books on this stuff)…It’s very intricate and confusing.

 

But I think one thing is sure. I think I have a stable core identity. I have morals and beliefs that are tried and tested in English and in French and in many situations. I’m a confident person and I am very confident in my identity so that remains regardless. However, I do feel like there is a difference in the expression of my identity. It is directly tied with my ability to speak French.

 

Since I don’t have the full vocabulary to express myself in French, I feel as if I am blocked. It can be very frustrating sometimes because I know my identity is not being expressed properly. Instead of intelligently discussing the political differences between countries, I find myself struggling to communicate complex ideas with simple words. I want the same level of fluency that I have in English, but that’s not possible, so sometimes I’m left with the meager, “Uh…c’est compliqué.” **

 

Also, I don’t feel as if I’m as social as when I am speaking English. I am often more reserved and willing to listen. I can understand French much better than I can speak it, which leads to my number one frustration in France. Yes, I understand what you’re saying, but I can’t respond as eloquently as you asked me. I know it seems like I don’t understand because I answered you basically, but I assure you that I do understand.

 

However, one of my classmates in my literature class suggested that when we pick up another language, we also pick up aspects of that culture. For the most part, I’ve noticed that French people are usually quiet and reserved (usually, there are differences as with any culture). She suggested that we are reflecting that reservation subconsciously to mirror the culture we are surrounded by. Perhaps.

 

While I may feel as if I am slightly less social, I have to remember that I’m known for laughing the most in a group – whether it is in the USA or in France. I’m extremely active in both the United States and in France. In fact, my life is almost identically mirrored in both countries. You think I’m kidding? I’m not. On Tuesday nights in the United States, I went to the French table at 7 pm. On Tuesday nights in France, I go to the English table at 8:30 pm. I play Quidditch in the United States. I play Quidditch in France. I don’t like fish in the United States. I don’t like fish in France.

 

Am I really that different? Hmm…maybe I’ve answered my own question. I don’t think I’m that different. Although, I admit, it’s easier to be “me” in English than in French. I think this why many international students tend to hang out among their own people. I’ve seen this phenomenon with American students, but also with other groups of international students. It’s just easier to make friends in your own language. It’s easier to tell stories, to judge a person’s character and humor. That being said, I do have French friends…it’s just tougher.

 

Here’s why it’s tough. I can talk to old ladies all day. They talk slowly and mostly talk about me finding a French boyfriend. It’s very easy to understand. But talking to groups of young French people? That’s one of my worst nightmares. First, young people talk so fast. They talk like they will never have a chance to say these words again, as if the very next second may never come and as if what they have to say is the most important thing to have ever happened. Then, they use all sorts of slang that I simply can’t understand.*** In class, we’re taught to speak French properly. **** They don’t teach us the real French we’ll hear in the streets. For a non-native speaker like me, it’s sometimes virtually impossible for me to follow the conversation of students my own age! That being said, I’ve picked up a few words to follow some basic conversations, but most of the slang words and idiomatic expressions remain a mystery. ***** However, this confusion usually just occurs when I’m talking with large groups of French students. They tend to let the conversation carry them away and they don’t always check to see if I’m following with them. Luckily, if I’m with one French student, I can ask them to explain their informal speech and suddenly things start to make sense.

 

Tough, though, has never meant anything to me in any language. Just because something is “tough” doesn’t mean that I’m not going to try. Even though I have difficulties expressing myself (and I worry that my identity isn’t clearly conveyed), I keep trying. I keep trying to be involved. I keep trying to better myself for my club, my community, my country and my world (that last bit is part of the 4-H pledge. I couldn’t help myself. It fit so well). I keep trying to learn, because there is always something new to learn. As a wise girl in sixth grade once wrote in response to the writing prompt, “When does education stop?”… “You could be 10,000 years old and never know everything there is to know. […] I love to learn and I really want to keep learning until the day I die.” Well, Kellene from sixth grade, you’re twenty now and you still REALLY want to keep learning.

 

Maybe some things in our identity transcend language, culture and time. Maybe that is our identity. Or maybe our identity is fluid and can be influenced by language, culture and time. If so, then wouldn’t having knowledge of many languages, many world views, wouldn’t that be a benefit? As Nancy Huston writes, “Et, si je disposais d’une troisième langue – le chinois par exemple – cela impliquerait-il un troisième imaginaire, un troisième style, une troisième façon de rêver?”******

 

Ah…so go the questions of multilingualism, identity and other big scholarly ideas. I think I’m going to go eat a cookie now. (Did you know that in French they also say “cookie”? That brings me to the topic of language contact, when there is a mélange of words, grammars… The world mélange comes from French and… Okay. I give up. Time for a cookie now. Seriously.)

 

 

 

* “The problem, you see, is that languages aren’t just languages.” -Rough translation by yours truly.

** “Uh…it’s complicated.”

*** Slang. Slang doesn’t necessarily mean bad words. I’m talking about regular, informal speech. For example, in English, when address a group of your friends, you can say, “Hey, you guys!” All of that is slang. Easy for you to understand, right? Well, you’re a native speaker. But a non-native speaker might not have been taught this expression and to them it can just sound like a bunch of sounds.

****In this paragraph, I talk about the problems about not knowing slang because we’re taught proper language. But we can also have the opposite problem. We can be too scholarly, too well-educated. For example, I speaking with French people on Tuesday and I used a word. They looked at me like I was crazy. I repeated it like seven times. They understand what I was saying and they even repeated the word. They said it sounded like a French word, but they didn’t know it. I went home and checked. It was a French word, but apparently it is a very scholarly word and no one uses it in every day conversation. Likewise, a girl in my class went to a party where she used the verb, “méduser” (which means to be dumbfounded, coming from Medusa, a mythical woman who turned people to stone if she looked at them). Apparently, no one knew what this word meant. I wonder what we sound like to French people. We probably sound like old professors. Eh, I’m okay with that. I’d rather be an old professor than an improper hooligan.

***** Idiomatic expressions : These are things like, “It’s raining cats and dogs” or “a little bird told me.” Luckily, I learned some proverbs in high school that have served me well in my time since being here. They really help to make it sound like you know what you’re talking about. You drop an idiomatic expression and the French people are like, “Wow. Now, you’re speaking our language!”

****** “And, if I have a third language – Chinese for example – does that imply a third imagination, a third style, a third way of dreaming?” – Rough translation by me. It sounds better in French.