Okay everyone! So I am here and alive! Sorry to drop off the map for a bit but its been a really new/horribe/crazy/fun
interesting/complicated experience so far. Here, take it all (it’s a lot):
DAY 1: Friday 2/9/05
I arrived in Lyon last Friday (Sept 2nd). Everything started off really well with no probs at the airport and a free cab ride to the centre of Lyon with a fellow traveller ho was here for business (Thanks Ricky...you're the best!). Be friendly and make the most of it and look what happens! After that, unfortunately, it was all down hill. I arrived at uni and they couldn’t’t find me on the computer system. Then, they told me I was at the wrong campus and could I just haul all my stuff 20 mins south! So I hooked up with some English girls who were lost too (says something doesn’t’t it?), dropped my stuff at their hotel and found the other campus. When we got there the woman in charge of housing or 'lodgement' had gone home! Oh, and P.S., Cara wasn't on the list for lodgement anyway!!! Ooops for them Big time! I expected something like this but hoped for better! And in fact I wasn't on the computer system at all! They didn't know I was coming! Because I deferred my exchange last semester I think they completely forgot!
So I collected all my stuff and went to the ‘Venissieux’ Youth Hostel I booked just in case! There are 2 HI hostels in Lyon. The other 'Vieux (Old) Lyon' was full when I tried so 'Venissieux' was my only option! It was awful! It was empty, depressing/old/dirty and gave the impression that every ounce of happiness and life had been sucked out of it! I hated it! After I found my room and cried, I decided to be proactive and find food. A random guy said Hi to me in the foyer and I decided to ask if he was going dinner shopping too. He ended up giving me 5 Euros and told me to buy wine and charcoal for a BBQ. I went across the road to Carrefour (a giant Safeway+Kmart and reminds me a bit of Costco in the USA). There’s like a butcher counter, mini fish market, deli and everything. Wine is so so so cheap here, cheese too, but everything else is expensive!). When I returned he had salad and asparagus and a baguette! Free dinner….make the most of every opportunity (in a safe way of course!-that’s for my family). We ate, talked a little and then I decided to bed, maybe things would look brighter! I didn’t’t feel like taking any pictures, writing about my adventure or contacting anyone since I was sooo unhappy/surprised/disappointed.
I am also in a bit of a culture shock! It’s not so much that everything is different it’s just there is a huge language barrier and I can’t read or understand anything! I am coping okay but when people speak its really difficult! I have now learned to ask questions really specifically with yes or no answers and to use simple words to try and get people to say things I can understand.
DAY 2: Saturday 3/9/05
Decided to go see Lyon all day to escape from the hostel. I was told to go back to the International Office on Monday when the accommodation woman would be there so I was free all weekend. I took a bus to the metro station of Venissieux, which is the end of ligne D in the south of Lyon. The metro here comes like every 4 mins (even on Sunday). It is clean, underground and without drivers, it’s automatic. I decided to visit the Park de la Tete d'or (Park of the Golden head) because Appley (an Aussie girl I met at an RMIT info session) said in en email it was pretty and had zoo animals. I didn't see any zoo animals but it was very pretty. However I was still feeling depressed. I left and took the metro to Ampere station where I met the British girls. The aim was to get phones and sort out our lives but Appley, who was going to help us, couldn't come. We looked at phone deals and I decided to think about it rather then buy a prepaid sim (shows you how great I was feeling about Lyon. I figured I might not stay. The girls decided to go to Carrefour and we parted ways. I wandered around Lyon next to the river. I was sitting next to the river (probably looking forlorn) when some random Algerian Parisian French gut started talking to me (I had become used to this). He didn't speak much English so it was good practise. We ended up eating grapes and peaches by the river and talking. He was keen to have dinner too but I was keen to be cautious. I decided to go and see if Ricky (the lift from the airport) was free for dinner and if not meet up with the Frenchmen. At Ricky's hotel I couldn’t’t remember his last name and even though the hotel was small the owner decreed it all to complicated to find his room number for me. I went back to Ampere to meet this French guy and the best thing in the world happened to me! He didn’t show up!!!!!! Nope, that’s right !
I was sitting there waiting and this random guy sat down (I noticed he sat at a safe/respectable distance and didn’t look at me which made me think he wasn’t French…isnt that weird !). He was wearing a jade pendant from NZ and I decided that was my ‘in’ to strike up a random conversation in French. It turned out this guy (Doug) was American (from New Jersey) and staying at the OTHER hostel! I said that he was lucky to have a reservation but he said that there was space there and he had just arrived today and gotten a bed! We decided to hang out and had a beer at an English Pub in Vieux Lyon. After we ended up at this posh French restaurant eating a 2-course meal for 15E! It was great! Especially the ginger chocolate moose cake for dessert. We talked for ages! He said he had gone on exchange to Italy and for the first couple weeks he hated it, talked about leaving and almost cried (sound famillar ?) Talking to him I felt so much better. He said acouple of times ‘Youre going to love it here’ and ‘I cant believe you get to live here’.The street was alive and vibrant with everyone out on thre streets on a warm summer night with diners being enterntained by a violynist ! This was the turning point for me. I asked Doug to see if there was space at the other hostel and we aggreed to meet up the next day at Bellcour train station (in the middle of the city on the Presqu’ile).
The train ride home was interesting! I have since learned/decided that Venisseux is NOT a good area. Anything in the south and east of Lyon is considered poorer and tends to be inhabited mainly by Algerian families. On my way to the station (with pepper spray in pocket) I was whisteled at. On my way down to the platform a guy grabbed my arm and started propositioning me, not sure what he said because I wrenched my arm away after a quick ‘Je ne parle pas francais’. On the train a guy made overly done disgusting kisses at me, mouthed the words baby before getting off and winking. After that a random Algerian French guy told me that French men were not bold, aggressive and upfront as I said. He said they were practique? (practical). He then proceeded to get off the train with me and ask if I wanted his number repeatedly! When I declined and asked him which bus he was waiting for he said he was going back to the train in the direction we just came from. He missed his stop to talk to me! Ahhhh, Zut! Les homes francais!
DAY 3: Sunday 4/9/05
Met up with Doug the American. There was space in the hostel!!! Said bye to Doug who was off on another adventure and beat it back to Venissieux. Packed all my crap (suitcase, giant backpack, little backpack and a lap top) as fast as possible and pretended to be a pack horse (4 things, 2 hands, 1 back = bad) while walking, catching a bus, taking le metro (train), another bus, the funicular (a train that goes up a hill) and then walking to the youth hostel! (P.S. The guy working at the train station told me to stop by anytime, that I was his friend and did I want his number?) Every step I kept saying ‘it’s going to be worth it’ over and over again. The hostel was soooo much nicer! Vieux Lyon is beautiful and a very nice area! The hostel is on a hill so you can see out over all of Lyon. I was so excited I nearly ran all my luggage up 4 flights of stairs and proceeded to help 3 other people with theirs (great way to make friends). As soon as I got there I asked about finding food and was invited for dinner with some randoms! What a nice place! I started talking to lots of people- Americans, Germans, French, Italians, Quebecois (my neighbours). I saw someone who looked familiar and it turned out to be Ben, an Aussie from RMIT session! Hooray! I went to bed late, tired but happy and relieved!
DAY 4: Monday 59/05
Got up and went to the orientation class. Became registered as a student. Felt like I existed! Went to the exchange office to Elise about ‘lodgement’. After waiting forever with a million other people she said she would try to find me something and could I wait until tomorrow! Ok, what to do about that? Nothing. Wait.
DAY 5: Tuesday 6/9/05
Back to the international office. Melb uni is apparently shocked at the situation (I would think this would happen all the time) and I spoke to someone up stairs who was really nice but I don’t think is a ‘do-er’ she’s an ‘I’m here for you’ type of person. At this stage I was still hopeful and expecting something (should have known better). Spent the entire day looking for housing on the net!
DAY 6: Wednesday 7/9/05
Okay well the situation is now clear to me! There is nothing left in Lyon! You really have to look and the market is now getting really expensive because there aren’t a lot of places left. All the residences are taken! I got 2 names today from Elise and one is really far out while the other is far too and expensive! Chantal, one of the women who works here gave me the number of one of her friends who supposedly is renting an apartment. It is close to the station Guillotiere which is a bad area. I decided to go look at the location and outside, since the woman never retuned my call, and to see if I wanted to pursue it. There was lots of graffiti and it looked pretty average! I decided to ask some locals and one girl when I said ‘C’est dangeroux?’(It’s dangerous?) I couldn’t remember 2 seconds later if she said ‘pas du tout’(not at all) or ‘pas beaucoup’ (not a lot)! A asked some police who were there (always a good sign!) and he made a motion with his hand meaning not too good not to bad. He then proceeded to make the actions of dinking and injecting drugs. I also understood the word ‘Squatters’. Maybe no! Went back to the hostel. We had a cocktail party for the exchange students. It was fun I got to talk to a lot of new people and found I knew a lot of people already. Returned to the hostel. Stayed and chatted with the Canadians and ended up walking around Vieux Lyon and the rivers with Charles for ages! Until like 4am! He was great to talk to and may pass though Lyon (I offered my non existent apartment floor of course) on his way home. He and his 2 Canadian friends rode bikes from Paris to Lyon (in 4 days I think) and are currently on their way to pick grapes! What a great idea! They got to bring their bikes form Canada for free so they thought why not!
DAY 7: Thursday 8/9/05
Actually went to my orientation classes today! All of them! FLE (French for foreigners) Class, Historie de la France and Literature (Moyen age au 18e seicle). Talked to Elise again today. Nothing. Continued to look on my own. Ben and I went to look at more ads at some youth place and then at 7:30 we pretended to be a couple and looked at an apartment in Vieux Lyon! We loved it! It is huge for an apartment here and compared to the residences it is gigantic. It has big windows a spiral staircase leading up to the apartment. It is not furnished so that will be an interesting adventure. But the guy didn’t seem to care if we left in January which is a massive hurdle here, everyone wants you to stay for a year and if not then they want 6 months which for Ben and I means February. We were SO happy and relieved! We cooked dinner with a Japanese girl in my room (she was alone and I wanted to include her). We were and still are delusionally happy! Talked with some new people and some Aussies! Yaya! They sounded REALLY Aussie to me! Went to bed late once again! We have an apartment! We can move in on Wednesday! The Youth Hostel is all booked out for Sat, Sun, Mon weekend which means have to find somewhere to stay until I can move in! I won’t go back to that other hostel either! You can’t make me!
DAY 8: Friday 9/9/05
Hauled all my luggage to uni! I am going to leave it there and then stay with my Aussie friend Nikki (RMIT session) for as long as I can! Went to class: FLE (French for foreigners) Class. Confused still, must revise all! Historie de la France. The teacher speaks with wacky intonation but he pronounces things clearly even if the words are pretty big. I then decided to skip (Yes, Cara is skipping class!) Literature (Moyen age au 18e seicle). I then tried to find Nikki who is an Aussie girl I met at an RMIT info session. She has offered to let me stay with her until I can move into my apartment. Once again I remind people to take EVERY opportunity. If I had not spoken with her and exchanged email addresses then I wouldn’t have somewhere to stay! I ended up walking to her place- a residence called St Jacques, 10 mins from our uni. I am happy my apartment is so big because Nikki’s is small (maybe 15m2) and she is paying a fortune (600 E/month). However, that is the only down fall! She walked off the plane and walked here. She gets her place cleaned (and they give her new tea/bath towels and little hotel soap), she has a balcony and little kitchen and there are washing machines downstairs. Wondering what it would have been like to have everything sorted out. Couscous for tea and then Jane and Jaana (pronounced Yana), exchange students from Finland and Canada, came over. We went to meet up with some more European Girls and then took the bus to a boat nightclub on the Rhone called Fish. We danced and I met another exchange student who goes to our uni (what a coincidence) who I proceeded to invite to my upcoming house warming! Back to Nikki’s! Bed!
DAY 9: Saturday 10/9/05
Today was a good day. I slept in!!!! It’s and amazing miracle. Nikki and I split a ‘trios fromage’ quince and a ‘Venetian’ that had really good dark milk chocolate chips. This was my first time at a French Bakery. I ordered in French food in French. How French! Then, Nikki and I walked to Carrefour (safeway + kmart+ Harvery Norman) in Part Dieu (shopping centre), met some of Nikki’s exchange student friends Jaana (Finland) and Jane (Canada) and went shopping. Like a good little economist, I wrote down the prices of things that Ben and I will need for our new apartment. I am going to compare at other stores (especially Ikea) and see if I can find an op shop too. I managed to get 2 wooden wine boxes in the wine isle for my new apartment!! Definitely a highlight of my day! Nikki really wants the cute small one (when you are deprived of everything wine boxes become cute) so now I am on a permanent mission in France to search and destroy wine boxes! I see bookshelves, drawers, cupboards for food…..oh the possibilities are endless! Nikki has agreed to go and stalk wine boxes at the supermarche’s here. Tonight we had dinner with Jaana and Jane and afterwards went to Nikki’s German friend’s house for wine and cheese. I am keen to meet French people here. I met a girl on the train already named Claudine and a guy in the supermarket named Alban, both of which I invited to my future house warming party. Ben and I decided we are going to have a massive house warming party because it took us so long to find a place and had to go through so much. I think Nikki seems happy for the moment to stay with her etuident etrangere (exchange student) friends and in her comfort zone. I am keen to meet new people and want to meet French and talk French. After dinner we went over to Nikki’s friend’s Julian and Pierre’s apartment (2 Germans who drove to Lyon and brought their entire houses) and ate cheese (Roquefort and 2 others) and bread, drank wine and talked! Everyone is speaking English all the time! It’s awful and will soon be rectified! Although it is nice to feel included and be making friends. Pierre has offered to lend me one of his 2 hammers he brought from Germany (!) when Ben and I buy furniture from Ikea here! Make the most of every opportunity and be nice! Nikki and I decided while walking to Jane and Jaana’s that I get a lot of looks! Even when my hair is up and I am not wearing shorts (something here which attracts a huge amount of attention!)! I think I must look foreign, that or I look at little bit like some famous French person because it’s incredible!
DAY 10: 11/9/05
I can’t believe I have been here 10 days! It feels like years! I ate a banana and plain yougurt today which was good. I have been eating 3 stable meals of beard a day since I got here. Both Youth hostel’s provided a ‘petit dejuner’ (breakfast) of Cereal, long life milk, bead, butter, jam and hot choc/coffee which the french drink out of a bowl. I have been taking the bead and eating it will vegemite or butter and honey for lunch and then for dinner eating pasta. Needless to say that’s a lot of bread! I have been at McDonalds most of today bludeing off their free wireless internet (called wiffie)! I refuse to buy anything while I am here too because that’s what they want me to do! Ha! Once again, it’s all about who you know and how friendly you are and the effort you make! I didn’t know this was here, Nikki, Jaana and Jane did! Everything here is closed on Sunday pretty much so I was going to go to ‘Fnac’ (electronics store) but they are closed! On the way here, I was hasteled going down to the station….something which I have come to expect now! Ignore completely is my motto and seems to work the best! As I am sitting here in McDonalds by the stairs guys are looking at me as they come up and down. One guy just said something to me involving ‘syampa’ which means nice.
Natlie Imbruglia just came on French radio here (they play A LOT of English music). Class tomorrow. Maybe I can go instead of looking for housing! Ha ha! I have to choose my classes at uni soon. That is also an incredibly complicated French process! Nikki said yesterday ‘They say ‘C’est la France’ here all the time when things are really complicated like instead of fixing it they are just going to adopt it as a nation’. Haha. Too true mate! Too true! I find it odd that at Carrefour they recycle batteries, every hostel/house/apartment/residence is equipped with water saving showers (you have to hold the shower head in your hand so you end up getting wet, soaping up,and rinsing- Aust should follow this example), power saving lights in the residences (only go on for 5 mins when you push the button) but people don’t recycle in their homes at all! If you want to you have to collect it up and take it to giant bins located randomly around town.
P.S. Everyone is invited to my up comming house warming party so just tell me when you fly in and I will pick you up !