Sunday, 30 September 2012

Trainspotting and doing stuff...

In a flurry of language hurled at you daily, you begin to wonder if it's only you who can't understand it all. All these people can wear gorgeous dresses and dapper suits, and laugh at things and hold interesting high-brow conversations and understand it all and that's just fine. And as much as I like to be my own person I don't like to be an outsider. I want to know it all. I want to know it all, and be able to hold interesting high-brow conversation but then also have the ability to tell them to screw off because talking about all of their shite is by no means more interesting than talking about the pornstar you saw on French TV at dinnertime or the plans you have tonight or the gossip you just heard about so-and-so and so forth and so on.

Luckily, in most conversations I have (as one sided as they are) I can work out what people are saying with a manner of things like gestures and situational things that I can't properly explain and tone of voice. But in others i'm totally lost.

And it's for this reason that i've decided to put an end to just casually learning the language: It's not going to happen through osmosis. I'm gonna go full-throttle on this badboy and conjugate verbs and form grammatically-sound sentences that would have even Balzac giving me the thumbs up.

So i'm translating literature again. (I tried this method years ago, and only failed because I lost interest in   the shit books we were given to read by the uni: Stupeur et Tremblements by Amelie Nothomb, and La clé sur la porte by Marie Cardinal, both pretty lacking in interesting storyline to be honest, sorry ladies)

I bought Trainspotting by Irvine Welsh, and Bilbo Le Hobbit by JRR Tolkien: Both in French, and both different levels of language all together.
I've started going through Trainspotting page by page and reading and noting down the words/phrases I don't understand then reading through again once I do know them. This was a great start.

But I need to tidy my desk.

I can't read with a messy desk, and I don't read well in bed.

I need to eat, because I can't translate if i'm dead.

And I need to write this blog for some reason to tell people how much i'm reading and translating literature because it will inspire me to actually start again

Fuck, I did it again.

Gareth 0 : 1 Procrastination

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

La rentrée

So I finally made it to the Université d'Aix-Marseille in France, and after one month of no work, no studies and no major responsibilities i'm back to the grind. Sort of. You should see my timetable....most of my lectures / seminars are in the afternoon and i've specifically dropped modules which start at 9am AND don't sound toooo interesting either .It's all for the greater good. If I wake up too early i'm moody and unhappy, and therefore I'd be unhappy for the rest of the day: If I wake up later and go to the modules I have in the afternoon already, i'm more likely to do better in them, and enjoy them more if I drop the shit ones early on in the morning!

Method in the madness.....

I really didn't realise how different university here is to the UK until this week: the workload is already a lot bigger, the lectures are true lectures with minds full of historical dates and names of kings and writers and penseurs to soak up somehow, lecturers sometimes turn up late with no apologies, students turn up late and apologise profusely, the building is covered with political graffiti and 'down-with-capitalism' posters (French students seem enormously more politically active than back at home which is great), and French students seem very work-orientated rather than pissing around in class chucking paper balls at each other like in kindergarten. Serious studies happen here, and for someone who has come from universities where students regularly take the piss and waste the lecturers time, that's quite a refreshing thing actually...

Also, i've realised that admin is absolutely capital in these parts. For my Traduction class, I need written confirmation from my tutor at my home university to verify that it is course-related and I have the sufficient language level to participate, despite having already discussed and planned which modules to take with my home lecturers. I can't enrol for the class until I have that and the class starts soon so it's a big mess of paperwork and trying to wrestle my lecturers into action, which is tougher than it might sound. Fucking academics.

I have une fiche pédagogigue which has to be taken to every exam , un certificate de scolarité which has to be guarded 24/7 and never lost on pain of certain death, une fiche d'évaluation which to be honest I still don't know what to do with, as well as all my other Erasmus shite to wade through; arrival forms, exit forms, grant forms, learning agreement, changes to the learning agreement forms, changes to the changes form etc etc.....

It's going well though, and it's only my first week/few days back so I have plenty of time to make a tit out of myself as usual by getting lost or walking in the wrong class (which seems to be my speciality).
But I like it here. I'm looking forward to my courses, although i'm sure this blog will be the only thing keeping me sane with the immense workload we have ahead of us!

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

This is a blog allllllll about Julie Koothrappali.

So there's this girl here who is Corsican, lives in Aix, speaks English (with such an Indian accent she might as well hold a dual-nationality passport despite her not being Indian whatsoever) and is moving to Liverpool in the UK for the hell of it for a year to find a job and all that.

When she's not harassing me to buy a chateau with her, she's calling me a gayboy but then demanding that George Michael personally call me up to party on down with her. He's obviously way too cool for that though, he always apologises on the phone but makes it very clear that he'll be in Liverpool soon but only if she is a little bit cooler.

So, Liverpool. Godspeed. If she doesn't drink your taps dry, she'll blow you the fuck up man. After all, she is Corsican.

No in all seriousness, tons of good luck to her. I met her the first night I was here with the 'casual alcoholics' and she's definitely one of the biggest characters here who i'm sure will be sorely missed! Liverpool's a nice place apparently, and she'll hopefully have enormous luck finding a job and settling in well with the rain and the miserable comedy and the Scouse accent! 'Caaaaaaym caaaym down lad'

Here's her mugshot haha:

On the left

Julie + Lén = SWAG

I love this photo of us. she might 'fuck you up' but she's still such a cutie 


Saturday, 22 September 2012

I'm pretty sure the Erasmus programme was made just so that natives can laugh at foreign people getting lost or making twats out of themselves.

Since i've been here i've made quite a few gaffes. Most of them are down to the good old combination of alcohol/social ignorance/my bad humour........ and although it's alright with friends from home who probably already know that when you've had a few too many you end up talking utter shit (and that's fine), it's so much different in a foreign country with a foreign language holding you back too.

I very frequently make a twat out of myself in social situations and so far I think i've insulted almost every nationality that i've come across so far in some manner or way:
  • I was describing the Marianne [national emblem of France] and her flowing hair that I saw on a coin here, but I apparently I made her sound like a total diva and that annoyed some people. 
  • Compared some American girls to guidettes from Jersey Shore because of duckfaces. That didn't go down so well
  • Made a joke (which to be fair was taken hilariously) about the Troubles as well as the wars between England and Ireland as being 'back in the good old days'. Obviously sarcastically. In context it was funny....
  • Talked about Swedish people looking like mannequins with perfect skin and perfect hair.
  • OBVIOUSLY there were jokes about the Germans a bit. I'm British after all.
  • And finally jokes about French guys being so relatively skeezy French guys.
I think the problem is that i'm overly confident just going up to people and talking to them normally (especially in English) and -obviously- friend humour is different to random stranger humour.

I realised that after sitting in the park with a few friends from uni and others a few times, making lewd jokes or having a bit of a laugh with each other to the point of calling each other names and making comments about things you really wouldn't normally: The faces of the people who weren't in our 'uni friends group' were just priceless. So shocked! Is that because we're generally vulgar though?

Personally i'd like to find out more about 'typically French humour'. We have really deadpan/black humour in England and we know it, but i've not really encountered much obvious humor here to be honest. Stand-up on TV really isn't any good an the bare bones of humor in conversations that I can actually understand between French people here just often doesn't make too much sense to me.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
On the other hand, laughing at tourists is the universal language of comedy I think. Why are tourists so obviously touristy allll the time? And why do they always wear hiking boots everywhere....even in 50 degree Provence? I would like to think of myself as never being 'touristy' to the point of this. I still get lost, look lost and go to museums, and I went to the Eiffel Tower to take photos. But I did all that without wearing ridiculous caps and hiking boots.

For anyone coming to Aix, you will eventually realise that there are a lot of tourists. And for the right reasons too, it's a glorious city, very Provençal with a modern touch. This unfortunately drives up prices in some places around the city centre, but after a while it's easy to learn which places aren't catered for people with hiking boots. I promise.

If anyone doesn't know the Marianne, she's the one holding the flag (and leading the fight): Liberty Leading the People by Eugène Delacroix.

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Life in the ghetto is pretty damn good, actually.

Despite hearing a multitude of horror stories about Cuques (specifically the unrenovated halls with communal showers and toilets), I decided to take a room here. Anyone who has ever tried to find an apartment here for the same low low price as halls will understand my pain and several month's worth of wracking my brain as how to find the money to cover the obscenely high rent and living costs in Aix, and Provence in general.

So my place is basic, it's a single bed 'dorm room' in halls. We share toilets and showers on a floor of people.....which isn't as bad as it sounds: There are plenty showers and toilets for a whole lot of people to get naked and wet at the same time and they're cleaned and maintained by the staff here, twice a week I think. At least I don't have to scrub toilets......I'm getting every penny's worth out of my rent in  reality! The rooms have mini-fridges, biiig windows with shutters and plenty of storage space for all of those photo frames with pictures of you and your cat that you so desperately needed to bring with you to Provence.

Kitting my room out cost me around 130€ for everything including kitchen stuff and food and some more clothes and most importantly, lots of bedsheets and comfy pillows. The rooms here are given as just that. A desk, a chair, a fridge, cupboards, bathroom area and a mattress for your bed. No blankets or quilts or any 'luxury' items come for free here....

Also, this academic semester in France is the first time i've ever lived in halls, and it's a great experience as well as a great way of saving money (which I want to use to travel more). It's also, of course, an enormously good way of throwing myself head first into social situations and ways of learning the language with real natives: Erasmus students here are an enormous percentage, seemingly, of the student body, so finding French students with decent banter is of course imperative. I found myself some casual alcoholics. They're awesome.

The first night I was here, as I already said in my previous blogs, I was invited out to the hill at Cuques, and from then on met tons of people and my boyfriend too. It was a great night and living in halls really is good for that sort of situation. I recommend finding your Erasmus group for halls anywhere in Europe. The groups here work quite well and it's from there/that that I met the casual alcoholics who I see almost every night now.

However i've noticed that it's very work-orientated here. There doesn't seem to be such the same social-leaning to French halls as to UK halls. My direct neighbours here are phantoms who I never see, although I have met an awesome Spanish guy called Jorge who lives right next to me, and a guy called Raphael with the best taste in music ever. I'm trying not to generalise too much, but it's a lot quieter here than compared with UK halls. I don't mind that at all of the reasons I didn't want to live in halls in UK was for fear of just losing myself in a mad frenzy of drink and drugs. (of course I didn't need halls for me to do all those things either ;) )

So for anyone coming to study in Provence, take heed. Cuques is good.... as long as you don't mind being asked for a cheeky tenner off your neighbour because his girlfriend wants to buy some crack cocaine. True story, bro.

Thursday, 6 September 2012

I couldn't think of a good title

I really don't have much to write for this post, a little bit like the last one I made, but i thought i'd upload some pretty pictures of things for your viewing pleasure. I've not been very good at taking photos of Aix recently (unlike Marseille/Sanary/Le Lavandou etc etc) since i've mostly been getting my bearings right and making sure i actually 'see' most of the town as opposed to doing the whole touristy thing too much. But there's a few anyways

Anyways, it was the Erasmus 'Flag on your Face' party a few nights ago and the first real outing with the Erasmus students as opposed to the group of French friends i've made. It was okay, it was really weird to see just how many people there are here in Aix just in this one bar from all four corners of the globe, and the bar was packed but I had a fun night with the girls from uni at home and some other English/Australian girls too. 

 We may have absolutely taken over the streets next to the Wohoo bar

Obviously I don't have to try to be sexy after two bottles of wine.

Being tourists on the Cours Mirabeau in Aix. That's Carey btw, she has a blog too.

We saw this procession of traditionally dressed people walking through Aix, but we still have no idea why. Anyone can explain? It was September 2nd 2012.

Me and my first baguette. It was love at first sight. And she was cheap.

Wednesday, 5 September 2012


So i've been here for just one week in Aix. One week! I feel like it's been forever, and it's certainly beginning to feel a lot like home. I know my way around most of the city now with the exception of the tiny little alleyways, I have friends from here and friends from back home, I've registered for uni and i'm beginning to be get along with all that admin bollocks and as well I have a hangover (which is either a sign of drinking way too much or having a really good night out...bit of both). For me, it's been a week long hangover with short bursts of normality.

All in all it's been great so far. 
It's really really expensive to live here, and 20€ will get you sweet f.a but that's the South of France for you, I guess...

In other news, I met a boy.