Ch. 11 – We are the world
So, the first month of school was packed with activity. The Louisiana group even managed to throw our first party in the game room of the cite universitaire. It was a costume party. I wore a neon-bright chartreuse-yellow top and pants and went as a bottle of French lemonade! It was a lot of fun. We met at the game room and gathered around the ping-pong table and ate and laughed. Then, we went to a boum in the lobby of the Catho. We danced to French and American rock, even though the place was not air-conditioned. The French did not believe in air-conditioning, but it sure got hot with all of those bodies dancing so close together.
We went on our excursion to Brittany. We entered Brittany via the departement of Loire-Atlantique, passing through picturesque villages like Ancenis, Nort-sur-Erdre, and Pont-Chateau. We went over this big suspended bridge that traversed the Vilaine river. Morbihan is the only Breton department with an actual Breton name. Mor-bihan means petite mer (little sea).
The Gulf of Morbihan was spectacular. We got on a boat in Vannes and took a tour of the harbor. I only got a little seasick, and it was very windy and cold, even though it was only the end of September! There were hundreds of rocky islets littering the bay, with little houses and farm buildings set upon them. We spent a lot of time “choosing” our own real estate – a private island for each one of us! We then stopped at the little port of Locmariaquer, where we had a picnic.
Afterward, we headed back via La Trinite-sur-Mer and went on to Carnac. One of the most important prehistoric centers in France, Carnac is famed for its megalithic remains that are said to come from the Neolithic period – which was in 3500 to 4500 B.C. In addition to 2792 menhirs, which are massive stones erected by tribes who inhabited the region before the arrival of the Gauls, the area is studded with burial places, semicircles of earth and stone, and tumuli (burial mounds). We, being American tourists, spent a lot of time taking pictures of each other behind and in front of large stones. Then we returned to Vannes and walked its ramparts.
It was great to have these excursions planned for us. I believe that I would have probably slept my weekends away if I had not had an agenda. The first week I was in Angers, I took a walk and ventured over the long bridge over the Maine, and explored some across the river. I remember eating alone in a café there. After that, I don’t think I went across the river much. There was so much to see on my side of the river!
As the month came to a close, we were encouraged to participate in the “end of the pre-stage” program. Any and all students could participate. We knew that the Notre Dame students were planning something, as well as the students from Tulane. We were lucky enough to have several gifted singers among us. Trish could sing, and wasn’t shy about it (I was, and did not come forward!) and we had a talented baritone in Roger, a former monastery student who hailed from Abbeville, which was not far from Lafayette. He seemed like such a serious guy, and was there to study how to play the pipe organ in a nearby cathedral – in addition to taking French lessons at the Catho with us.
We decided to sing “We Are The World,” the Michael Jackson and Band-Aid song that was so popular the year or so before. I was one of the back-up singers. We practiced a couple of times. I remember standing out in the quadrangle at the Catho, listening to Roger and a student from Notre Dame warming up with a duet. “Can you sing ‘Reunited’?” I quipped. They all laughed. I was quite the comedienne!
The night of the show, I recall being sort of offended by some of the other skits. The Tulane students, in particular, did a spoof where they mocked every French gesture and mannerism that we were just becoming accustomed to. They strode across the stage with unbagged loaves of French bread shoved under their arms. They met and babbled French greetings, kissing each other countless times on the cheeks. The tradition of cheek-kissing is called faire les bises. You kiss alternate cheeks two, three, or four times, depending on the region. In Angers, it was a standard two, but they fell all over themselves laughing as they kissed over and over again. Then, for their finale, one of their guys came out in Bruce Springsteen gear, and they played “Born in the U.S.A. and lip-synched to the music. They didn’t care if they offended – they were headed for Paris.
As the curtain dropped, we took our places, and cued the music. Those people who were going to lip-synch or sing along with the solos stood in front. The lyrics to “We Are The World” were popular, even in Europe, and the whole audience sang along:
“There comes a time, when we hear a certain call
When the world must come together as one
There are people dying, and it’s time to lend a hand.
To life the greatest gift of all
We can’t go on, pretending day by day
That someone somewhere will soon make a change
We are all part of God’s great big family
And the truth, you know that love is all we need
We are the world, we are the children
We are the ones who make a brighter day so let’s start giving
There’s a choice we’re making – We’re saving our own lives
It’s true, we’ll make a better day just you and me.
Send them your heart, so they’ll know that someone cares
And their lives will be stronger and free
As God has shown us, by turning stones to bread.
So that we all must lend a helping hand.
We are the world, we are the children
We are the ones who make a brighter day so let’s start giving
Here is the part that I wish I had the guts to say I wanted to sing:
When you’re down and out
There seems no hope at all
But if you just believe there’s no way we can fall
Well, well, well, well, let’s realize
That a change can only come
When we stand together as one
We are the world……
Hey, it was cheesy, but we were a hit!
Ch. 12 – The University Year begins!
October 6, 1984
Dear Tim and Rita-
Thank you for the letter. I was going to write you one, but I am glad I waited for yours. I am sorry that Reagan isn’t doing too well. The vice-presidential debate must have been interesting. I hear that it was a draw. I personally don’t have any strong political opinion for or against Reagan, but I don’t think that Geraldine Ferrare has the experience necessary to be the vice-president. I said this in my conversation class and a girl from Holland jumped on me because she thought I was saying that a woman couldn’t be a vice-president (or president). I just meant that I thought that Ferrare was nominated to attract female voters, and I didn’t think that it was fair for anyone to be used as a “token” candidate. Anyway, if she messes up, then everyone will think that a woman couldn’t hold such a high office – and that’s not true.
I went to Paris for a week instead of going to England because it was less expensive. I really liked it. Even though it rained for three of the days, it was fairly nice the remainder of the time. I went with some other students from Louisiana. One girl is named Trisha, and she’s a Cajun from near Baton Rouge. Robert is another student that goes to USL, and Keesha is a black girl that comes from Dominican College in New Orleans (it’s an all girls school!). We stayed in a youth hostel. We girls had a room for three, and Robert bunked in the men’s dorm. It was inexpensive, but there was a curfew, and the concierge was really cranky about our using the phone too late.
I love Paris! I have never walked so much in my life! Did you get my postcard? We walked around and saw the Arc de Triomphe, the Eiffel Tower, the Pantheon. We walked along the Seine to Notre Dame, and to the Jardins de Luxembourg. I have now walked the Champs-Elysees! Robert and I took a bus to the Bois de Vincennes, to look for the zoo, and we got quite lost in the suburbs. We also went to Montmartre and saw the Sacre Couer basilica. I’ve seen a lot!
I brought my sketch pad, and started a sketch of the little gothic tower in the back of the Cathedral of Notre Dame, but the weather was not very cooperative, so I didn’t finish it. I went shopping in one of the biggest flea markets in Paris. They call it that here, too – a marche aux puces! It’s actually on the outskirts of Paris, at the Porte de Clignancourt. It seems to go on for miles, and there are some shops that are permanently there, like big Stor ‘n’ Lock garages, as well as temporary booths. They sell everything there – from rare antiques to t-shirts and souvenirs to garage sale items to cassettes! I bought a pair of strap-on roller skates for 20 francs. They will need a little oil, but they are going to be fun! I also bought a Sorbonne t-shirt and a bottle of Kahlua (now that’s French!). I want to return to Paris another weekend – just to come back to this flea market!
I have resumed classes. At the moment, we are in the middle of settling our schedule for the semester. So far, I am taking a grammar class (called langue), written expression, and phonetics. I am also taking a class called etudes socio-culturelles – I guess that is where I will learn about France and French customs. I want to take Oral Expression, but I don’ know if that will fit into my schedule. I am also taking Chorus.
I have a new roommate. She is from Birmingham, England. Her name is Elaine – that should be easy to remember! She is also the same age as my sister Elaine: their birthdays are six days apart! She attends the University of Swansea in Wales, and is not taking classes at the Catho like I am. She will be attending classes at the University of Angers, which is another college located on the other side of the river. She is an economics major, I think. She’s very nice, and I think that we will get along well.
I am not sure, but I think that I will either go to Madrid or London in a few weeks. We have a four-day vacation from November first through the fourth. The holiday is called Le Toussaint – or All Saints Day. I have a friend from Paris who is studying in Madrid and I would like to go there to see her. If I can’t do that, then I may try and visit a friend from London. Another possibility is to go to Saumur, which is only an hour away from Angers. There is a lovely castle there, and a riding school called the Cadre Noir. It is a military equestrian school, along the lines of the Spanish Riding School in Vienna, Austria.
Speaking of riding, I am going to check out some riding instructors and stables around here and try to resume riding lessons. I really want to get back into some sort of regular routine of exercise. I walk a lot and have started to do exercises in my room, but I really like riding. I also looked into purchasing a bicycle. There are some nice ones for 900 francs (about $100). I’m still thinking about it, though. A bicycle would be useful, but the French drive like maniacs here – I don’t know if I would feel comfortable or safe venturing out! At least I am safe, walking on a sidewalk!
I am sorry that Rita is having problems with her knee. I hope that you are both taking care of yourselves and are feeling well. I’m feeling well, now. The food at the restaurant universitaire is not that great, but it is a balanced meal. I am taking vitamins, too. I love you and miss you and hope to hear from you soon.