… it might be your accent.
Seriously. One of my biggest fears before coming to France was that I would forget how to speak French or that people wouldn’t be able to understand me or that I wouldn’t be able to understand anyone else. But so far I’ve been told by a cab driver that my French speaking is very good, by a rental agent that my French writing is very good, and by two different people at a hostel in Paris that my French accent sounds like it could be Québécois or British. So this post is about my speedbumps and subsequent successes during my first week in France, which may or may not be due to my accent/ability/inability to speak French. And bear with me, people. This is going to be a long post with lots of pictures (so easy for Uma to understand… 😉 )
When I finally got to Nice, I turned right around the next day and got on a train to Paris to set up a bank account and meet the head honchos at the Franco-American Commission (where Fulbright is based). I walked around the Bastille area of Paris, visited the cinémathèque francais and the musée du cinéma, stayed at a hostel, tried my first French candy bar (the pic below), and then went back to Nice the next day. Overall, a pretty successful trip.
Now at this point I’m back in Nice. I’ve already mentioned a little bit about the temporary studio I’m in, but let me take this moment to fill you in completely. The entire studio is probably like 150 square feet total. There’s a bathtub that’s half the size of a normal tub, with no shower curtain, and the ceiling above it is about 4 feet tall. There’s no toilet in the studio– it’s out on the landing– which is fine and not a big deal, but there’s also no easily accessible hallway light, so if I have to go to the bathroom after 7pm, I have to take my keys so I can lock the apartment door, toilet paper, and a flashlight. The “kitchen” is actually just a sink, a mini-fridge, and 2 hotplates. The bed is pretty nice, but it’s a weird shape and the ceiling above it is like 2 feet high.
BUT I’ve had some good leads on apartments, so hopefully within the week I’l be posting pictures of my new place. Here’s some pictures of views from potential apartments:
Public transportation in Nice is pretty similar to any other city, with several bus lines and a tram line. It’s only 1 euro to ride one way (that’s HALF the cost of an el trip in Chicago) and there’s a website to help you plan out your trips. Seems easy, right? Mmm, no. One of the first bus trips I took I started on the Promenade des Anglais, the biggest road in Nice that runs along the Mediterranean Sea (the equivalent of Chicago’s Lake Shore Drive). Apparently, when you take a bus from this street you have to actually “hail” it– like wave your hand and signal the driver to stop. I didn’t know this, so when the driver stopped for me about half a block past the stop, I got a lecture on how you have to wave your hand to stop the bus because he could get in an accident. Then he said something I didn’t catch and I gave him a blank look. And then guess what he said to an old woman on the bus?! “Oh, she doesn’t speak any French.” Because I didn’t understand ONE sentence. I really want to become part of the community in Nice and I don’t want to be taken for a tourist or a dumb American, so that made me kind of mad. But I’ve taken the bus a few more times and haven’t had any more problems. I even managed to get back from an apartment viewing without looking up directions!
As for feeding myself, I’ve basically had to re-learn how to go grocery shopping. Aside from the fruit and vegetable stands and the boulangeries/patisseries (bread and pastry shops), there are regular old supermarkets, too. The first supermarket I went to didn’t have peanut butter and I also forgot the word for turkey, so I took a lucky guess and grabbed some sliced “dinde” to have for lunch (I was right, by the way). Since then, I’ve found a closer supermarket AND it has peanut butter AND nutella in a GLASS jar #livinthelife (in the US, it only comes in plastic jars). I even found an instant cappuccino mix that actually FOAMS when you add hot water 🙂
So I guess the less is if at first you don’t succeed, try again and again and again until you get it right. Even though I get discouraged sometimes, I know I have to put myself out there or I’m not going to learn anything!
Au revoir for now!
P.S. I’ve gotten a request for a phonetic French lesson– the sounds that make up French words are different than the sounds that make up English words (there’s even an entirely separate French phonetic alphabet), but I’ll try my best. Today’s word is:
décalage horaire (DAY-kal-aj OR-air)- jetlag
Il y a une différence de six heures entre Nice et Cleveland, donc j’ai connu immédiatement le décalage horaire.
There’s a difference of six hours between Nice and Cleveland, so I immediately experienced jetlag.