...continues to make me smile. Although marked by the start of classes and subsequently early wake up calls, the past few days have once again left me in a blissful state of mind. And while I'm certainly struggling when it comes to sounding French, I am somewhat better at looking French, which is actually really easy, because all you have to do is wear gray or black and act cool, of course without trying to act cool. Ok, so actually, it's pretty hard, because you can imagine how trying to act cool actually makes you look like a complete loser. Dad, I'm sure you can understand where I'm coming from.
Culture shock is actually not a myth, believe it or not. I find myself having to adjust to certain cultural differences every day (however banal they might be), regardless of the fact that France is a Westernized country. For example, as many of you might know, many showers here do not come equipped with shower heads, meaning that you have to actually hold the thing over your head. It makes showering a laborious process instead of a relaxing experience. My shower happens to be one of these showers. Which is dangerous, because (insert joke about how I never shower as it is here).
Aside from that, I really am getting used to life here. The language barrier is more prevalent then I thought it would be, though: I make lots of little mistakes every day, and sometimes not so little ones, kind of like last night when I inadvertently used a Marseillaise expression to call someone a penis instead of an old geezer. Oops.
I have however learned many slang words and expressions and put them to great use. The other day I successfully delivered my very first joke! I was so proud. I've also discovered the slogan of my life: "qui aime bien chatie bien" (rough translation: I tease you because I love you). The expression has given way to many other great variations, including "qui aime bien donne bien les frites" (if you love me, you'll give me some fries).
Classes started on Wednesday. My schedule is terrible and will make it a little harder for me to travel on the weekends, but I won't let it stop me! Here are the names of my classes: Texts and Contexts after the Revolution, Literature and film of the Mahgreb, Contemporary French Press, History of Provence, and Conversation. I've only had each class once, so it's hard to gage what they will be like. So far, though, I get the impression that I'll be working harder than I thought. Certain professors speak pretty fast and assume that we have a preexisting knowledge of historical and cultural events, which is frustrating. Others are kind of crazy, which is funny for the first 5 minutes and terrifying for the last 70.
Yesterday for lunch I went with some friends to the cafeteria of the local university. You pay only 2,80E (about $3.75) for a full plate, a side, and a dessert. The quality of the food is nothing to write home about, but nothing to complain about either. Tons of students go to eat there to save money and talk with friends in between classes.
At night we started off at Bellegarde, which was quite the scene. After a few glasses of wine we headed out to O'Shannons, a bar near my street where Talia and I ran into our downstairs neighbors, a pair of Israeli boys who speak mostly Hebrew and English and who are here working at the airport in Marseille. The bars here close at 2am because people go to clubs afterwards, so we left and headed to a friend's apartment to hang out a bit more. We came home around 6am, just as the merchants were setting up for the markets. For one reason or another, it made me feel really calm and oddly content to see that people are waking up when I am going to sleep.
Tonight Talia and I are going out to dinner with our friend Bastien to a sushi restaurant. I'm curious to see what sushi will taste like here...