Friday, March 16, 2007

Rennes' Night Life

Notice: I posted two posts at the same time. If this is new to you, go back a post because there is another update there.

As they don't say in France, "When it rains, it pours." Here are two entries from France, take your time to read them because it will probably be a little while until I post this much again!

So here are two stories I have to tell you:

1) Two weeks ago, a friend of a friend from highschool, Alex, came to stay with me for his spring break. Alex is studying in Madrid, Spain, for a year, and wanted to visit France so I gave him a place to stay on my tile floor. We had planned an evening out with some of my friends - 1 German, one Mexican, one French guy, one British Girl, and Alex and Me. Rennes has a film festival every year, and we had planned to go see Taxi Driver, which worked for everyone because it's an American film with French subtitles. The boys had been at Carrefour(it's like WalMart) trying to get us tickets to see a soccer game at the end of the week, but when they got there the tickets had just sold out, so they sped across time to meet me and my friend Frauke (she's the German). BUT they parked in front of the wrong movie theater. At five to 8 Frauke and I were standing outside of the theatre watching people file in with no boys! So I called them and found out they were two blocks away at the wrong theater! They ran to meet us just in time... to find out that the movie was sold out ( I guess the boys were just having that kind of a day..)

After about 20 minutes standing around in the lobby we decided to go back to the other movie theater and see if there was another film showing in "Version Original" with French subtitles. We stood outside that theater for about half a century trying to figure out what movie to go with (something about young people.. we don't make decisions so well. I have a theory that it is because we've been brought up in a very tolerant society and most of us have decent manners, so we always say 'what do you want to do' and with so many choices presented to us, very rarely are actually able to make one) So we eventually decide to buy tickets (ahead of time) for Letters from Iwo Jima, and then spend another ion trying to find a place to eat where we can all be together and watch a football game at the same time but finish in enough time to get back to the movie theater. I would like to add at this point that I was the one who found the place to eat, even though I was with people who have lived in Rennes much longer. To be fair, Etienne (the French boy) was the one who had lived in Rennes the longest and he is pretty notoriously bad at directions. And by pretty notoriously bad I mean terrifically horrible.
The point is that after dinner we returned the the movie theater (in quickly with our pre-bought tickets) and sat down to see Clint Eastwood's movie, which began promptly in Japanese with French subtitles, and proceeded in such a fashion for 2 hours and 45 minutes. Whereas I did surprisingly well understanding the French subtitles, poor Alex had the WHOLE movie translated into Spanish for him by my Mexican friend Sergio who was reading the French subtitles, ocassionally leaning over to ask Etienne for definitions.
What a night.

2) This was only slightly topped by the following Saturday when I went out with some French Psychology majors from school. The evening started at a party at my friend Nico's house. Nico and I are do a linguistic exchange, which means every Thursday we meet for lunch and then I help him with his English homework for about an hour and he helps me with my French for about an hour. It's a great trade off, and he's a funny guy. In anycase I arrived at his apartment and there are three Chinese girls there who speak no French, only English. So I became the translator. It was bizarre, being the one that could understand and correcting the questions, instead of being the one always asking them. The Chinese girls kept using the world "seldom" which for some reason was funny to me.
Pretty soon all the people I know stand up and say they are going out. There's supposedly some really good American musician who plays electrical-mix music in town, and they all wanted to go see him. After about 25 minutes of saying we're going to go, we actually get on the metro to leave. As is my luck, (or perhaps just because I hang out with a lot of people who take a long time to make decisions and get places) we get to the music venue just as the show is sold out. My friends decide to walk to the absolute other side of town in an attempt to find a bar they really like. I really mean opposite side of town. So after a very long walk, on which I talk quite a lot with a boy who plays baseball in Brittany and is absolutely fascinated by the fact that my dad collects baseball cards and that I understand the game, we arrive in front of the bar. The bar is closed, so we promptly turn around and go to the town square, where we stand for another 45 minutes before they decide to go to a discotheque. At this point I remind them that I have church in the morning and decide I should probably take the bus home. They give me directions to the bus (number 16) and we say our goodbyes, theirs very merry ones.
It is now 1:15 in the morning. Early for French students but late for someone who has church in the morning and has already spent the whole day at the beach (yeah, I do that pretty much every weekend). The #16 pulls up and I step on. I wonder why it is going the opposite direction from campus. Taking it in stride and supposing it will eventually make a turn in the right direction, I relax and start to think about the North Park Campus Theme quesiton: "What is truth"? After about 8 stops, I realize we are no where near where I live. Coincidently, the security man on the bus also realizes that I am the only one still on the bus when everyone else has gotten off. He approaches me.
"What stop are you getting off at?" -Him
"Villejean" -Me, trying to act confident
-man gives odd look of confusion and pity-
"You're on the wrong bus"
"I am? Isn't this the 16?" -Me, losing confidence rapidly
"This is the Star night bus. There are two 16s that leave from Republique at night. One goes to Beaulieu and the other to Villejean."
"So that would be why I'm seeing all these Beaulieu signs" I think to myself, then hoping I don't appear drunk, as I am sure most people who miss the bus at 1 in the morning do. "Oh." (I continue) "What do I need to do?"
-Him, apologetically: "You have to go back to Republique and catch the bus in the other direction."
"Oh. Thanks." -Me, dejected and with a bit of a bruised pride, especially since I had done so well with directions the other night.
I resign myself to leaning my head against the window and trying not to fall asleep and miss Republique. I continue to think about truth and love and all those kind of philosophical questions that enter my mind when I'm on buses at 1:30 in the morning. Enjoying the time to wallow in my self pity, the bus man walks up to me again and asks me where I'm from. We commence talking about Rennes 2, and he tells me he's from Algeria, but he's doing his master's (phD?) thesis here in Rennes. I told him it was "superinteressant" that he was from Algeria because I was doing my studies in France and North Africa and their relationship. We continue to talk. He asks if I've made friends in Rennes and I say yes, quite a few from my church. The bus stops. Before I can get off, my new friend the Algerian man asks me if I want to meet him and his friends at 7 Sunday night for dinner. I say I'm not sure I have a lot of homework to do. I get off the bus and walk ten steps back to where I started from, but on the other side of the street, where the buses go the other direction.

It is 2am. The bus leaves at 2:30. I am cold.
I pray that God will give me a way to pass my time and take my mind off the cold. I commence breathing into my scarf which is wrapped around half my face and looking at my feet stomping the ground. Within three minutes I realize there is a person standing next to me.
"Hi, it's me again." My Algerian friend was back, this time wearing a sweater instead of a STAR jacket, "I have a break until 2:20."
It's 2:12.
"I really like the American accent." I couldn't tell if this guy was creepy or not.
"You do? I think it's so ugly! I think French is so much prettier the way it flows together."
We kept talking, adding things about his family and how his parents parents have lived in France for like 30 years, him looking at my watch about ever two minutes.
At one point he said something very nice.
"It turned out okay you missed your bus. If you hadn't I would have never met you."
"You're right, " I said. "Maybe God blessed me."
For some reason, this encouraged him to start talking about Christian relatives he has that live in Switzerland...
at which point it became 2:27 and 30 seconds and he needed to get back to work. He asked me again, maybe even pleaded, if I would meet his friends and him for dinner the next night. I repeated that I really wasn't sure, I had a lot of work to do. He resigned to saying 'maybe I'll see you at Rennes 2 sometime.'
I said OK.
"Don't miss your bus again!" He said, and walked away.

I recommence looking at my shoes and blowing air into my scarf trying to create a false sense of humidity. 8 more minutes until my bus comes. I'm hoping the scary Jamaican-looking man that usually sings gospel songs outside of the grocery store but is now at my bus stop won't come up to me. Instead some young French guy does.

"What are you doing all alone at night at a time like this?"
"What am I doing alone-what?" I say, not sure if I understood him
"You're foreign! I heard an accent!" He smiles at me, accusing me.
I promptly cover my mouth with my hand and don't talk back.
"What are you?" he says "Anglophone? British? Scottish?"
I removed my hand for a minute. "You're almost there."
I keep my hand over my mouth, and shake my head.
"Well do you have a cigarette?"
My bus had finally arrived. "Sorry, I don't smoke." as I stepped on, I turned to him, "and I'm American"
He let out a big sound of discovery and frustration and waved good-bye. I got on my bus, and noticed it was going the right way. I praised God when people from my building got on the bus. I happened to have lost the key to my building when Alex was here. We were let out about two blocks from my dorm. I tried to inconspicuously follow them as we filed silently across the now-deserted, nearly arctic traffic circle between the bus stop and my dorm. Someone pulled out a key card and I positioned myself behind them so as to appear as if I wasn't using theirs to get in. I climbed 4 flights of stairs and unlocked my door. I was home safely.
What a night.

Love you friends. Talk to you soon.


christine lee said...

Lol... I think my favorite part about this story is when you talk about the "scary Jamaican-looking man"... you're so freaked out about it when in reality, a different sort of person ended up creepily talking to you, lol. That's totally something I would do, too... feel like so-and-so looks SUPER creepy and they end up, I don't know, helping me out or something. Hahahaha. Oh man. You are going to have so many memories. :)

christine lee said...

P.S. Please let me know when you get the mail I sent you! I want to know it got there all right.

KatieKate said...

Yahoo for Alex coming to visit! I love that kid!!!!!!!

And we miss you. So glad you are living life abroad for awhile. Eat some fabulous cheese for me, ok?