Wednesday, February 7, 2007

A bit about Rennes:

What an interesting little town I live in. A darling hippie village, Rennes is the place where everything in France begins. Those protests we all heard so much about last year began right here... I've even heard tell that the French Revolution started here (though I can't find evidence to back that up). Well today I was lucky enough to witness my first French protest. I had front row seats as I sat outside under a large green awning with one of my new friends, eating the BEST ITALIAN FOOD IN THE WORLD, and a river of French folks with large banners yelling in unison came flooding by. I played tourist and snapped pictures, wildly amused, as I experienced la vrai vie Rennais (true Rennes life). We were handed a flier, though I have no true idea what the march was about (immigration was our best guess). I have been warned never to be involved in such displays, though I anticipate this is merely the first taste of many more to come during my semester in this far-from-quiet, quirky town.

Among the cultural differences, there are apt to be many little things quite different from life back home. Since arriving here I have learned about an interesting law that I find absolutely hysterical. Here in Rennes, if a homeless person is arrested, it is illegal for the police to leave their dog unattended. A strange law, one might say, but this has created the rather bizarre loophole that the police actually cannot arrest someone who has broken the law if there is no one to take their dog. Just to complicate this already bizarre situation, the police and animal control WILL NOT come to the same location...it's not allowed. If the police are already there, animal control stays away and vice versa. Being the ingenius creatures humans are apt to be, all of the homeless people therefore own dogs, making them relatively untouchable. So, as you can imagine in a hippie town, walking down the street, one encounters a fair few folks living on the street, which might even go unnoticed except for the fact that they ALL have giant, mangy, unkempt muts. Just walking down the street it is not uncommon to see a pile five or six humongous dogs laying around next to a few bums on a blanket drinking wine, and sitting in a local pub you look out the window to see these monsters roaming the streets randomly like a pack of coyotes. Ah, la vie Rennais...

Excitingly I have managed to make quite a few friends here! Yay...I have friends! There are ten or so of us Americans who tend to wander around, often in a large pack, and we are definitely getting the ropes around here. Whether navigating the French administration, getting our free metro passes (woohoo! what a life-saver), buying baguettes, finding a great local pub, making a night in the dorms a blast, we are learning how to rock Rennes! It's a little disappointing to be speaking so much English in France, but managing to survive and maintain sanity are so much more difficult here, that just being able to actually communicate with some people has been so important. I look forward to getting to know more of the French kids around me as my language abilities progress in my classes and speaking more French even with my American friends as we all get more comfortable in our tongues.

Classes started this week, and I am thrilled to report that they are amazing!! Being a bit of a nerd and loving learning as I do, I have been more excited about going to class than just about anything else since arriving in Rennes. Though I was nearly dreading and more than a bit nervous before my classes started, both about being able to do the work well and just being around French for hours on end, I find that it is none of the things I feared. I have yet to be overly-taxed though I am adequately challenged. I was placed in the absolutely PERFECT level for me and even placed quite high in my speaking proficiency (much higher than I expected and higher than many of the other Americans who are in higher level writing courses than I am). Besides being seemingly tailor-made to my ability level, all of my classes so far have been astoundingly well-taught and more entertaining than I would have thought possible for a classroom. My classes have only about 12-15 people and most of the instruction is done through excercises and games with the other students who hail from places as diverse and random as Iran, Syria, Brazil, Australia, China, and many more. I find school here wildly amusing... making me a bit of a geek, but I'm happy to take the label if it means I get to look forward to going to school everyday!! So far, more strikingly than the rest of my travels, classes have been everything I hoped and more.

Life here is certainly settling into a rhythm, which is simultaneously comforting and alarming. I have many friends now, who I hang out with constantly. We even got to go see the Super Bowl (with unfortunate French commentary and none of the good commercials) on Monday night at our local pub. It was such a treat to get to do something so supremely American (le football americain) here so far from home, and we had a total blast! I can feel my busy semester already beginning to slip away as I watch some of the wonder of this trip that I so long anticipated transform into memories of things gone by. They are, however, wonderful memories that I shall have for the rest of my life, so even in this pensive mood, I can only appreciate this amazing life I have. As I sit here cutting the roof of my mouth on yesterday's baguette (it's still too delicious to throw out), I hope for the opportunity to sink into la vie francaise, and as this semester slides past me, I hope I know every day how lucky I am. I love you all...thank you for making a life like this possible for me. Even when (fill in the blank with anything you can imagine) ...I could not ask for more.

1 comment:

Jon Colton said...

Hi Granddaugter-- I just now got a chance to read your latest blog message. How lucky you are to have your experience in France. It sounds like you are making the best of it. Your experiences will help shape the rest of your life.

I love you,

Grandpa