Yesterday, I did not write. I got home late, made dinner, and then realized that bills had to be paid. Then I realized that some of the bills had to be found!!! By the time I scraped all of that together, I was ready for bed. I did do a timeline on the computer while I was chaperoning my students in the computer lab yesterday afternoon… Here’s Chapter 7 – I still am 1,974 words behind!
Ch. 7 – Testing…
I woke up on my first morning in Angers feeling awful, with a horrible sore throat. I couldn’t talk at all, and I just wanted to lie in bed and sleep. I certainly didn’t want to go to the placement exam at 7:00 AM. I had set my alarm for 5:00 to give myself plenty of time to get ready, and to allow for some leeway in case I got lost. I didn’t know if I was going to make it to breakfast.As our new directrice wrote in one of our welcome letters: “l’enemie du Cidefien, c’est l’escargot!” I certainly didn’t want to be an escargot!
As I left the cite universitaire (dorm), I ran into two students from New Orleans – one was with another program and would only be in Angers for the pre-stage. There many students who were only going to be there for the month of September. From there, they would go on to a university in Paris – or just return home. Nena was going on to Paris in October, with the other Tulane students.
Carol, I found out, was a student at the University of New Orleans, and was actually dating Chuck, the guy from the interview with the seersucker suit. She was very pretty, and very nice. She had brownish-blonde, shoulder-length hair, brown eyes, and a pert, upturned nose. I liked her immediately.
Between the three of us, we managed to not get too lost. The placement test looked very simple – until I got past the first page! After we received our scores, I was kind of disappointed in myself. There were 17 levels of French taught at the CIDEF, and I was placed at level 10. My fellow Louisianians were placed at different levels. In the end, I decided that it was better to be at a lower level – maybe I wouldn’t have to work so hard!
Patricia, a student with our group who hailed from Bayou Pigeon (near Baton Rouge), was in my class. She was a true Cajun who was going to Nicholls State University in Thibodaux. She was a little taller than I, with a pretty freckled face and merry brown eyes. Her dark brown hair was cut short in the front, but left long in the back. I was very relieved to have a fellow Louisianian with me in class.
Meals during the September classes were served in grand style (for school food!). We were treated to a set table, complete with water and wine glasses. On the table were big pichets of red wine and that brilliant chartreuse-colored soda called limonade. It looked like Mountain Dew and tasted similar to Sprite. There were large baskets of sliced French bread strategically placed on the table, to be passed around. The dishes were also family-style, and were simple, hearty fare. The price of meals for the pre-stage was included in our tuition.
I managed to eat a decent amount – and we all tried some of the wine with our meal. After all, we were students. Free wine was free wine – no matter if it was noon, and we still had a busy day ahead of us… After lunch, Mr. Broussard, our escort, took us to the bank to open our accounts. Unfortunately, I had forgotten my passport in my room, and had to walk all the way back for it, then meet the others at the bank. The account opening was straightforward with the help of Mr. Broussard. He was only going to be with us for a short while to get us situated, and then, we were on our own.
I started to fade after this transaction – partly from the wine I had consumed at lunch, and partly from my sickness. Still, I trudged along to class and took a seat next to my new buddy, Patricia. She was a very energetic person, who spoke in quick, clipped sentences with a Cajun accent. Madame Jamet, our teacher, seemed very nice and her French was quite easy to understand. Unfortunately, I kept nodding off in class, and Trish had to nudge me periodically to keep me from giving in and snoring into my desk.
That first week was a rough one. I was really ill, and thought that it might be the flu. My first irritating discovery about my new hometown was that pharmacies are not organized in the same way that they are in the United States. You could not just walk into a drug store, cruise the aisles, and pick up medicines that you diagnosed for yourself. There was always a window or counter with a trained farmacien waiting to hear your symptoms, and ready to give a diagnosis and dispense what he deemed to be the appropriate medicine.
After missing a couple of half-days of class (I was already an escargot!), I learned that there was an infirmary available at the Catho. I dragged myself in and surrendered myself to the mercies of the nun on duty (of course, there were nuns, this was the Universite Catholique de L’Ouest, after all!). She took my temperature, and pronounced that I had a slight fever. Then, she looked down my throat, and said, “Ooh-la-la,” in concern. She gave me 3 kinds of medicine to take, for which I was grateful. I was also grateful to have someone actually say that I was sick – that way, I didn’t feel like such a goof-off!
During this first month of September, all of our mail was addressed and delivered to the CIDEF. There was a big box at the end of the hall with all of the letters just piled in it. The easiest thing to do was to wait until the end of the day, when it was sufficiently empty, and then check my mail. I was overjoyed to find a letter addressed to me during my first week in France. It was from Pablo!!! It was postmarked September 2, the day that we parted. It was a greeting card with a picture of Ziggy on the front of it. Ziggy said, “You know that I am not going to wait for you forever…” and I opened it to read, “I’ll give you ‘til about 2999!”
He wrote and told me that nothing was the same there since I left and he didn’t have a special friend to go to Bennigan’s with. He added that he would have to go there sooner or later – he couldn’t make it 9 months without a drink! It was amusing to read his English. He wrote that he called my father and talked to him for a while after he got back to Lafayette. He told Dad that I was alright, and added that Dad was “sad by my living” – I got a kick out of that. He said that after he talked to my Dad, he “slept like a bayby” – that’s exactly how he said “baby” when he spoke. I laughed out loud and felt less homesick. I was not forgotten!