ATTENTION: I have an address! Here it is:
Mlle Amanda Munroe
Chambre no. 315, Bâtiment OUESSANT
2, rue d’Alsace
35070 RENNES CEDEX
Bonjour Mes Amis!I have arrived (after some delayed flights) safely in Rennes, France. I am writing this on my computer in my dorm room, but have no access to the internet from here. However, there will be a general “how-to” meeting on Monday at which I will hopefully gain information on how to use the internet around campus.
So… let me tell you about my living situation. I live in a Residence Universitaire with other French students, but I have my own room. It’s about ½ the size of an Anderson Room...maybe ¾ at best , but then again is only for one person. I have a much bigger window than the Anderson windows, however. I look over a parking lot to L’Ecole St Jean Bosco, a primary school. It’s cute. There is also an apartment building and in the distance a smokestack (what luck!) It’s not bad. The trees here are different.
I have a twin bed with a brown-striped comforter circa 1966 and a tubular pillow. The have a bedside table (probably my favorite part) sitting next to it, on which I have put the orange pillowcase I brought since it doesn’t fit on round pillows, only square ones. Opposite (or two feet from, if you prefer) my bed is my desk-- nice big space with two drawers and a chair with ripped upholstery. I have a bookshelf above my desk that has sliding wood doors, a mod feature I believe also circa 1966. There is a half-wall separating the bed from a sink area with a small mirror and behind it a wardrobe for my clothes. Unfortunately, though I tried to pack them, my hangers didn’t fit in my bag, so all my clothes are currently folded.
There are two bathrooms, one at each end of the hall. There are two toilets (no toilet seats) and two showers. I took a shower this morning, and this is how it works: You push a button and water comes out for about 45 seconds, and then stops. That way, you use less water in the shower. Genius, I think, but also kind of cold.
On one side of the hall is our kitchen. We have cupboards and a microwave, and refrigerators that are shared by 4 rooms. I opened my refrigerator…and no one must be using it because it is the most disgusting thing I have ever seen in my life. I bought some sponges today at the supermarket and plan to get down to business ASAP. I need to be able to buy refrigerate-able items, I think, and right now I’m limited to apples and bread.
All in all it’s my space and I like it. The corridor looks a little bit like a prison because the doors are all metal painted green, and kind of skinny. My coordinator, M. Henry, told me that people here don’t leave their doors open like in the US. ”It doesn’t mean they don’t want to talk to you,” he insisted, it’s just that the library closes early and quite a few people study in their rooms. Speaking of studying, I am located directly across from the university, which is nice. There are about 20,000 students (aka 10 times as many as attend North Park, but it’s also not too spread out, so I should be able to find my way around.
Interesting thing to note: In France, the suburbs work sort of in the opposite way that they do in the US. The centre-ville (downtown) is nicer and more expensive to live in, while the suburbs are where you will find the more industrial-looking structures and low-cost living areas. Rennes 2 is located in a sort of “suburb” of the city, but is only about a 3-minute metro ride from downtown! They only have one metro line, but let me say that it is the most superb underground I have ever seen in my entire life! It’s only 1.10 euro for a ride, and it is incredibly fast, quiet, and NICE, not nasty on the interior like the one in Chicago. There aren’t any turnstiles, either, just an electronic line on the floor you have to put your card in a tower to walk over. Don’t ask me how that works.
Last night I had the terrific luck of meeting another American – Marissa. She’s a junior from Iowa St., (what is it with me and meeting people from Iowa?) and lives a floor below me. She and I went downtown today, and oh what a beautiful town! It is honestly a gem—tons of half-timbered houses and French architecture, cobblestone streets and good shopping, too. First we went to the fresh market, open on Saturday mornings with people selling everything from fruit to wine to fish. And the bread… don’t even get me started on how beautiful the BREAD is. Marissa and I wound our way through the streets….by the way, did I mention that it’s SALE season in France? Yeah. Things don’t go on sale very often here, but there are certain months where the whole country goes on sale—I think the other time is in August. You may be interested to know that I am the happy owner of two new pairs of pants (I left my favorite pair of jeans at home) and new shoes. I will probably return to my favorite store, Etam, on Monday and buy a jacket I almost purchased today…if it’s still there, which is doubtful after the number of people I saw walking those streets today. BEST PART OF THE WHOLE DAY: When Marissa and I were leaving Etam, we noticed a box of discarded hangers on the floor which we saw some people picking up. We rushed to them like flies to French cheese. We shoved as many as we could fit into my bag and then calmly walked away. I my grab some more upon my Monday return...
Marissa and I had lunch at a terrific Creperie, beautifully decorated and good food, as well. We did a LOT of walking around… After shopping downtown, we took the metro back to the university and went to the grocery store again so I could buy some school supplies and a sponge to clean out the fridge with. And now I’m home, in my little room, looking at the big big rain cloud out my window (it’s pretty much gray all the time around here) and about to do some more decorating to make these grimy white walls look a little nicer.
I miss you all a lot. It’s very different being without a roommate, and I haven’t had the courage to go out and meet any ‘real’ French students yet, beside the girl Francois handed me off to yesterday who gave me a tour. Monday we have a meeting with all the ISEP students and Tuesday another with ALL the international students, and soon after that I start my classes, with real French students, where I will hopefully meet more (you have to be kind of proactive here to first meet someone, not like in the US.) There is a general stereotype, however, that in the US people are very polite on your first meeting, but after that it can be as if you and the person never met, or the relationship stays on that surface level, instead of perhaps being nicer to the people you have longer relationships with.
So that’s a little (a lot) about where I am, pictures to come once I can figure them out, and more cultural stories as well I’m sure. It’s only day two and I’m already learning a lot.