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Forks, Portland, Lyon - France, Paris - France, Portland and ending up in Bellingham.... the adventures of my life!

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Saturday, November 26, 2011

Adventures in the Metro

Living in a large European city teaches you many different things such as: get used to that 15 minute walk with heavy groceries, or, don't make eye contact with that scraggly looking group of youth, or even, be friends with your butcher.

The one thing I still haven't mastered since my year and a half in Lyon is What To Do On the Métro.

Public transportation is inevitable, even if I wanted to avoid the bus or the underground subway line I couldn't!  You see, even with the fabulous bike share system and the potential to walk anywhere with my two feet- the métro is juste faster and easier.

Or is it?

In Lyon there are 4 lines of the underground Métro system, 2 lines of forniculars, 4 lines of over-ground tramway system, a multitude of electric buses and and ever more selection of bus lines.  All information is available from the TCL Website.

Today's focus will be: The Underground Métro:

Line A, or the RED LINE goes from Perrache in the center to Vaulx-en-Valin la Soie (or whatever on the spelling) out on the East side of Lyon.  This line utilizes the typical system, a dude sitting and driving it.  However, this also causes some issues in regards to timing. The driver will sometimes wait at a stop, more than necessarily, probably picking his French teeth or laughing his French laugh.  This wait makes us all uncomfortable, and everyone begins to be aware of time passing- watches are checked ever 20 seconds, feet start tapping with impatience...

Line B, or the BLUE LINE goes from Stade de Gerland to Charpennes.  Basically a great line to avoid unless being transferred to the Centre Commercial de la Part-Dieu which is necessary when taking a train, doing Christmas shopping.. or even going to a Football Match (Stade de Gerland).

Line C, or the ORANGE LINE (really looks yellow, but I'm not picky) goes from Hôtel de Ville to La Croix Rousse.  It's a really odd métro line, why do I say this?  Because it resembles a sort of fornicular or cable car.  Everything is in a sort of slanted angle, when on the métro you have to do a sort off lean forward in order to not fall on your neighbor.  La Croix Rousse is up on a hill, so logic tells you the Métro is basically climbing a hill.  Same as the RED LINE, the ORANGE LINE has a manual driver which switches every end stop, and takes at least 7 minutes to start up.  But, a lot easier to take the métro than walk up the giant hills of the Croix Rousse.

Line D, or the GREEN LINE, goes from Gare de Vaise to Gare de Vénissieux.  Neither of the Gares is a nice place to be, so at my advice I use the Green line to get closer to Ikea (in St. Priest), get to Vieux Lyon... and that's about it.  Oh, word to the wise:  This line is a-u-t-o-m-a-t-e-d!  This means there is like a 5 minute passing period, if it's at the stop... RUN!  Once the beeping starts, you better jump into the train otherwise you will be waiting an efficient 3 minutes for the next one.

What to Do On the Métro, and What NOT To Do
Getting on the métro can be a terrible experience for those unprepared.  Between 4PM and 6PM every day there is a sudden flux of individuals all pressing to get home for dinner.  Baguettes stick people in the bum, bags are shoved into your chest, and with the métros having a limit of people- well that disappears.  If you want to catch a métro you must go in elbows first. Don't be afraid to push and jump into the craziness!  So:

Rule #1:  Elbows First.

Then you're on the métro, you have some posters glued along the side panels, lovely flourescent lights lining the ceiling.  Most likely a smelly homeless man shoved away in the corner, smelling grotesquely like an ogre.  There will probably be a group of hoodlums hanging in the corner and shouting to each other.  Now the question is, where to go?  If you have enough room to elbow through to a safe spot... In this case:

Rule #2: Find the Grandma.

So you've successfully gotten into the métro, situated yourself next to Grandma.  One thing is clear from this moment,

Rule #3: Look Anywhere but Other People's Eyes, AKA Avoid Eye Contact

Look any where else, that poster you've read a million times, your iPhone game, your hang nails.  Many French people will occupy themselves by chewing on their nails- if you want to avoid a terrible habit simple count the lines in the ceiling.  It is difficult to find things to do on the métro, but everyone is in the same position.

Looking around, you'll notice how hard everyone is trying to look anywhere but in someone's eyes.  On the métro, even though you're practically in your neighbor, it's as if we don't really exist in the same place.

Now, your stop is arriving...

Rule #4: Elbows Out to Exit the Métro

Don't let them French people get you stuck, just shout clearly, "excusez-MOI!" and elbow them.

Or you could always just get a year pass to Velo'V and bike it!


Thursday, November 24, 2011

Culture Shock: The Teacher Who is a Troll

I didn’t like him when I started the class, the first class was him pretty much shouting out random French law ideals and saying, “No one knows the definition of LAW?  Who has taken LAW?”  He resembles a troll, with a slightly high-pitched voice, and jeans slightly too small.

I meekly raised my hand, it was 8am in the morning and I was in no mood to be bothered by some French man.  He pointed at me and barked out, “What is LAW?”

I shook my head, “No, I learned in America, not in France.”

He barked again, this time adding a fancy wavering to his voice, “Oh yah? How great for you, then SURELY you can give me a definition!” I shook my head again.

What a douche.

It only gets worse, there are some things the teacher does that I’m wondering if the others find normal.:

Every few seconds he slaps his hands on the table, “S’il vous PLAIT!  S’il VOUS PLAIT!!” If he hears even the slightest of whispers.

Cell phones? Forget it.  He loves to point out whoever is using their phone, shout how abnormal it is to use it, and then continue on his rants which we are supposed to pretty much write “word-for-word”.  Very interesting (smell the sarcasm here).

When explaining a topic, he gets oddly quiet in the speech… slowly… and then suddenly he SHOUTS! LOUDLY! I am wondering if he potentially has a form of turrets, control issues perhaps.

The worse is his physical ticks, no joking, from picking his nose with a mouchoir in front in the class, standing one leg up on a chair in a Napoleonic stance while stratching and bouge his balls without even being shy about it, or the best: picking his ears and flicking the findings towards our tables.

I think it’s the ball stratching, the random shouting and his too big white button up shirts that get to me.  I mean really.  Stop picking your ears, moving your nether regions around and shouting… then I might be able to have a sense of respect.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Soirée Deguisement

I entered into the room and 15 sets of French eyes stared at me expectedly, I nodded, waved, and then noted that my friend was bustling around already giving the ‘bises’ and saying the appropriate ‘bonsoir’.  It was the first true party that I was invited to by my promotion or the people that are in your school program, they decided to do a sort of soirée déguisement or costume party.  Of course when I was packing my 3 luggages in 2010 I didn’t exactly think to pack up my costumes, none of my fairy dresses, wings or even cat costumes.  So for this soirée I was at a loss for a costume.  Lucky me, on one of my discoveries around Lyon that I came across a little magasin de déguisement owned by a typical round chubby Frenchman.  Costumes ranged between 10-15€ and I was able to pick up some cheap cat ears and a tail for only 11€.

We had worked our butts off all day, hashing through an etudes de cas which is simply a case study- French style.  Meaning: all in French, the whole head ache of French teams (shouting out ideas, hashing it out until you need to crawl to bed) and little to no direction.  From 8am to 5pm we worked, with little breaks and just a quick sandwich to keep it going.

Needless to say, we wanted to drink in massive quantities.  In order to try to get to the party and not feel totally left out since I am that silly étrangère, I got together with another girl in my class (a devil that night) and we métro’d it up to the host’s apartment.

Thus I found myself in a room of 15 French people, one from Israel, and myself.  I served myself a nice warmed up glass of Rum punch and began the drinking.  If I try to remember the conversations I had, well, I simply can’t.  There was some discussions regarding ‘French Fillers’, which will have to be on its own in a blog… it was hilarious.  Otherwise, typical questions such as comment est-ce que tu as appris de parler aussi bien Français que ça? or est-ce que c’est vrai que les filles sont « easy » aux USA ? Well.

The night got rolling, and seemed to pass by in a blur.  A couple of the class-mates decided to do a pretty funny mock-up of two “typical Americans” that sort of went like this:
Girl: Yesssss, yesssss, I uhm amahricannn, I eet zes burgurs uhn hei luhk beer!
Guy: Yoo luhk beer? Me hei lahk yoo shoe!
Girl: yess yess, zhis moosic ehs very nuhce!
Guy: I am agree!

I almost blew my warm rum cocktail out of my nose.

Another dude came up, typically a French person and popped in the most ghetto rap I’d ever heard.  I started, bouche bée and said, “What you’re like a gangster from the Bronx or what?”

5 coupettes of warm rum and tequila drinks later I was happily claquée and my French friend mentioned it was time to go.  I looked at the clock and we had at least 20 minutes, I said as much and she said, “Yes, but we have to make the rounds,” The rounds?

I watched as she began to circle around and make the bise with everyone, saying, bonne soirée (different than bon soir) and simply making some goodbye small talk.  Well, bother, so much for escaping with a quick wave and a bye-bye.  I began making me rounds, and although doing the bises is something I’ve done a millions times since I’ve lived here, this felt odd.

Oui je dois partir, tu sais, pour le metro.
Bonne soirée.
Repeat about 50,000 times.

The best part was that my copine was much more bourrée than me and she was telling me all kinds of conneries.  We separated ways in the metro and I got on the last train with all the other alcoholic teenagers, etrangères, and clochards, and stared at a poster while I listened to the girl next to me, British, shouting out “SHOTS, SHOTS SHOTS SHOTS!!!!” over and over and over.
All in all, a good night!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Mastering the Art of the French Master's Degree

First off, I should probably explain what is going on at the moment and why I disappeared for about a month.

I've been getting many helpful comments and nice things being said about me but I barely have had a moment to log on and to even say THANKS!

September of this year I officially started a Master's degree in International Business Management in Lyon.  In order to create more of a challenge I decided, given the choice between two programs, to go with the program entirely in French.  Even better I decided to pick the intensive Master 2 Professional option which meant about 32 hours of classes a week.  Oh, let's just add that I was working, as well, around 18.5 hours a week at Wallstreet Institute.

You can imagine my typical day, as detailed in my last blog post.

Well, there truly is an art to the French Masters, even an art to studying in France.  It started with the intensity of the courses for me and wounded up in a climatic end of term finals where I about ripped out my hair from stress.

Shall we?

What Happens in Class
After a sleepless night and nightmares where I lost all ability to communicate in French, I arrived in my Master's class with my college-ruled American notebook and a single pen.  As I settled into the uncomfortable plastic seats and nodded around the class, practically whispering, bonjour, I noticed immediately that I was not well prepared.  Three girls glimpsed over my 'school materials' and then pulled out their own lumpy pencil bag, deftly picking out three different colors of pens, a ruler and either white sheets of paper or lined paper that gave me a headache to look at.

I scoffed to myself, what a bunch of overachievers, until I noticed even the laziest looking guy in my class had at least 2 colors and a ruler laid out in front of him.  My throat began to become dry as I suddenly felt like that dumb American foreigner and quickly reached into my bag to see if I had another color of pen.

Before I could find the second color, the teacher came exploding through the door, "Bonjour classe, donc, je suis veille France et donc je ne supporterai pas les ordinateurs, téléphone portables ni les SMS" I sighed quietly as I glanced over to see if I was supposed to start noting or what, she continued, "Et je n'enverrai pas les Power Points donc prennez bien vos notes" Well merde at that one.  I was at least relying on some back support in my American in France learning struggle, but I prepared my hand for the noting battle.

Looking back on my notes for that day I almost feel pity for myself, I had tried to note as fast as possible, but got lost in the dialogue, the questions my colleagues posed, the language itself.  Many of the passages said things like, "Une entreprise ????  donc important de ???" Where I was meant to miraculously fill in the blanks at home and try to get the sense.

I noted as the others used abbreviations, multicolors to change the theme and rulers to create perfectly level lines.  The precision was utterly disgusting but yet somehow exciting at the same time, I find the French people to be, in my opinion, the most apt to OCD in the world.  I also suddenly had an urge to use those weird multi lined bloc notes to organize and create some absolute precision in my writing.

Oh, and, the teacher's do not really want your opinion, even though they ask.  If you have the balls to answer, be prepared to be grilled on the topic until you turn a beet red in frustration and shrivel into your shirt.  They are talking at you, the underling, and you must simply note what they say.

Also, no homework. Everything is based on tests.

So advice for those wanting to pursue a degree in France?

  • Let go of the College Ruled paper, embrace the Bloc Notes
  • If possible, bring a computer
  • If possible, bring a charger
  • Don't eat during class, otherwise you will here some rampant mumblings about the American stereotype
  • 3 colors of pens
  • A ruler for lovely lines
  • LABEL LABEL LABEL (otherwise you'll end up like me and freaking out during dead week)
  • Buy a classeur to organize your notes
  • Ask if the teacher sends the slides
Team Work in France
I am lucky enough the have the experience to be in a class with 85% French people.  The only foreigners are myself, a girl from China, from Cambodia and from Spain.  In a class of 25 people, we are almost forced to work in a team with at least 2 Frenchies.

My first experience in a team was, well, lost in translation.  In the States I was the queen of leadership and team organization, toujours type A personality.  The biggest challenge was suddenly being thrown with 3 Frenchies for 3 hours to create a team presentation and project.

Their version?  Shout, debate and argue until we are exhausted enough to drag ourselves to get a coffee, drag ourselves back and argue once again until we vomit some form of work.  Luckily, I was able to organize the team enough to create an agenda, minimalize the arguing and come home with a freakin' awesome grade for my team.  Oh, if ever curious about grades, I wrote a blog on that: Grading in France, and we received an 18/20, because 20/20 only God can get, and 19/20 only teachers can get so we were 3rd.

  • Don't be afraid to Be American, make an Agenda and stick to it, even if they follow some random chemins of conversation
  • Speak slow and deliberate, even if they are shouting and speaking quickly
  • Understand the topic before you try and traite it
Les Partiels aka Final Exams
I got the handle on the note-taking during classes enough to start high-lighting and multi-color pen using to my heart's content.  I, however, was not prepared for the final exams.  As a girl in class warned me, Prépares-toi, j'ai reçu un 3/20 dans un examen l'année dérnière.  I gasped at that revelation and proceeded to memorize, and rememorize the material in order to simply barf it back up during the tests.

With my book size of notes I memorized facts, dates, chemins, charts, graphs, exhaustive explanations on Theories of Economics.  In French.  When the day of the test came it was like this:

  1. Read this 20 page case
  2. Analyse the case
  3. Regurgitate any relevant information on these University marked Sheets
    1. IN PEN
  4. You have 2 hours
Oh my goodness.  By the end of the week and 6 final exams (12 hours of writing in 3 days) my hand was literally cramping, my vision was blurry and I broke down crying on the Friday.

Did it pay off? Sure, the first exam I received back was 13/20, knowing the highest grade was 15.5... so I was not a dummy American who couldn't speak French!

  • Study constantly throughout the term
  • Record classes and relisten to difficult sessions (I relistened to the last two sessions)
  • Use black or blue ink, white out for mistakes
  • Use scrap paper to write thoughts and nice paper to rewrite
  • For a week before the exams restrain from English
  • GET SLEEP, staying up all night to study will not guarantee a better grade
So Now What?
Well, now, Wallstreet Institute is done, my last day, sadly, was last week.  I continue my tutoring, hoewever, pulling in an average of 8 students a week on top of classes I am taking.  I write my notes, retype my notes and relisten to classes.  My goals are to get the highest grade on one of the tests during the term, but it's only an over-achiever American hope of mine.

Next step is an Internship.   Oh LORD!


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