Epic French Email #4

This could be a challenge…  I’m typing on a keyboard that doesn’t speak
English.  This is not as big a problem as it was in the beginning, but my
fingers are starting to get the hang of all the letters being in the wrong places.
Only about half the keyboards in this building speak English, and I’m not
desperate enough to wait anymore.

So!  Been another exciting week. It was the last week of my regional culture
class, which I suppose means the end of my very laid back schedule.  I had
the last actual class today, although I still have to write two papers, due at
the end of vacation.  I’m not very excited about that.  I have lots of things
to do before vacation.  For example, talking the bank into giving me my card
back.  I was trying to get money for lunch the other day, and the ATM thingy
ate my card.  Granted, I put in the wrong PIN three times (I was convinced I
was right…  I was LOOKING at the number on the paper.  Turns out that was
the number for the phone and minitel services… I have NO idea where the pin
is…)  I missed out today, so now I have to wait until Monday.  Luckily, I
got some cash when the program director reimburrsed me for the train tickets I
bought.

My first adventure of the week was a trip down to Arbois to learn all about
the viticulture of Franche-Comte.  I learned all I never needed to know about
the wine making process, which is actually very interesting, and then I got to
learn all about what makes a good wine good.  It makes no sense to me.  Not
even in French (or especially in French?)  And yes, there was wine tasting.  I
tasted a lot of wine.  It’s a good thing I didn’t have to drive…

Arbois is also the home of Louis Pasteur.  You knew he came up with that
whole vaccination thing, and the pasteurization bit*, but I bet you didn’t know
that he liked wine a lot.  In fact, he invented the whole science of oenology
(I think it’s spelled something like that).  With a country this small that
has so much history, it’s impossible to live anywhere without having a resident
celebrity born nearby.  Besançon is home to Victor Hugo.  Don’t remember if
I’ve mentioned it before, but it is currently the 200th anniversary of his
death, which basically means one big party all year long.  _Notre Dame de Paris_
is my next reading project, I’ve decided.  Right after I finish _Harry Potter
et le Coupe de feu_ which I started at the beginning of last month.  At 736
pages, I’m about a third the way through and getting faster.  Hehe.

*You’d think maybe Pasteur could have shared some of this knowledge with his
fellow countrymen.  The milk here is scary.  Most of the time it comes in
boxes (you can get it in bottles, but that’s more expensive) and it has a shelf
life of 6 months. SIX MONTHS!!  Granted, you have to refrigerate it once
opened, but even then it’s good for a month.  If you buy “lait frais” which is
think is about the same as normal milk in the States, you have to pay a
gazillion dollars.  Alas…  So anyway.

The other adventure for the week was the trip Abby and i took to Montbéliard.
It’s a smallish city in the north of the region that’s got a lovely chateau,
dating from the 13th to the 18th centuries.  It turns out the French don’t
know how to leave well enough alone.  Even if they don’t break their pretty
buildings during wars or try to bury them under parking garages (where most of
the archaeological discoveries in the city have been made) they insist on
adding on to the buildings that they already have.  Something silly about wanting
to keep living in them.  Buildings they use for public restrooms would have
been historic preservation sights long ago in the US.

That’s pretty much all I have to say about Montbéliard the city.  The real
adventure was figuring out how to get train tickets, and once we had those, how
to find the trains etc.  It was good practice for traveling, and I’m very
glad I had someone else with me for moral support the first time.  Going to
Italy for break next week should be a snap.  (By the way, I’m going to Italy for
4 days in the coming week. :))  I have a friend down there (hello,
Lindsay-pants!) studying, so we’re going to take a few days and play.  I’m very
excited.

Okay.  I should probably start closing now, as it still takes me twice as
long to type on these keyboards and my time is running out.  I’m looking forward
to crepes for supper tonight.  February officially commences crepe month…
I guess around here, evey month gets its own pastry.  January was galette
month.  I like galettes a LOT.  As far as I know, there’s nothing like them in
the US.  They’re flat, doughy pastry things that taste like orange blossoms.
🙂  So tonight its crepes.  My last dinner with my host mom…  I started
moving into the dorms this morning.  Getting my key was a process.  Sheesh.  The
room is cozy, probably the same size as the one I had at Coe, but with less
furniture (although what furniture there is is arranged to make the poorest
use of space and then nailed down. :p) I’ll stay with Marie-T tonight and
tomorrow after lunch I’ll move the rest of my stuff over.  Living by myself will
be an adventure of an entirely different nature.  I think I’m ready…

Okay.  The muscles in my hands are actually objecting to this new
arrangement, so it’s time to give up.  I’ll send another note some time next weekend to
let you know how the move and the visit to Florence go.  In the meanwhile, I’m
sending long distance hugs –

🙂 Laura

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