This week was eventful to say the least; the first week of classes followed by a weekend trip to Montpellier which went just a teensy bit awry. But first the classes. The first class was Modern French History on Monday afternoon which was not exactly a confidence booster; myself and my two fellow Erasmus students adopted the same approach of trying to pick up the occasssional word among the avalanche of gibberish pouring from the lecturers mouth, while simultaneously trying with all our might not to draw attention to ourselves and trying to laugh at the right time whenever he seemed to make a joke. I can safely say I have never worked harder in a lecture and never understood less. This would have been more of a blow if I had been expecting anything different, but I had been expecting not to be able to pick up a word for the first few lectures at least, which made my next class something of a nice surprise, although it did take place at half eight in the morning which I consider to be little more than a disgusting breach of my human rights. Aided by a lecturer who was, I suspect, sympathetic to having two students listening in a second language and who more importantly had to pad the class out to four hours, I was able to understand most of the first three and a half hours of the lecture on Columbus discovering America (which was, I think, the background to a comparison we are going to make between the respective philosophies of Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Che Guevara). Those were the high and low points of the week academically. We did have a French as a foreign language class on Friday in which a pop-quiz threatened to expose my dangerous lack of grammar fundementals, which I can only cover up by being allowed time to study or flee the country.
I also started university sport for the first time ever this week. I played football and went to the gym session but was not able to begin playing rugby for lack of a compulsary medical certificate – because this is France, and there is always a syphilis outbreak to stem somewhere – which I will not be able to get until Wednesday this coming week. Football was a strange experience, being Scottish I am used to football being a full contact sport which is more about aggression and determination than the actual ability to control the ball. In France it is the exact opposite; everyone had a bit of skill and could play silky one-touch football and nobody wanted to be the one who crashed about kicking people: it was pretty much a different sport. The gym was also a fun and sociable experience, although the gym itself was the sort that would be used in a Rocky Balboa film to show that he was the underdog, but it had all the necessary implements for a decent workout.
Knowing we were going away for the weekend, there was no attempt at a proper night out this week, but we did go for a drink at a pub in which the basement had been turned into a seperate seating area; with the oddly shaped white walls and plastic seats it felt a bit like having a picnic in the twilight zone, but it was a good spot for a drink and we all felt as though we had discovered some really cool secret hideaway.
Which brings me to the aforementioned weekend roadtrip. We left Albi at around half eight in the morning and drove through the French countryside for three hours, including through one village that advertised every shop using a fully dressed taylor’s dummy, which made it seem like home to some kind of voodoo cult and would have been the ideal place to break down at the start of a horror film. When we arrived in Montpellier the first task was to park our unwieldy beast of a minubus (the Erasbus), which we managed only after scraping under several barriers by a centimetre, in an outdoor carpark near our hostel. To look at I would describe Montpellier as the perfect place to go for someone who cannot quite afford to go to Miami, it has all the palm trees and tiled streets and trams, but is not quite so spotless. The hostel itself was clean and comfortable although the girls were not too happy about sharing a room with a character, who, from their descriptions, was a bit like the crazy cat-lady from ‘The Simpsons’ minus the cats.
After a couple of hours attempting in vain to sunbathe we conceded that it was not quite beach weather and went for dinner. The food at the restaurant was good but the chances of getting what we ordered seemed about as high as the chances of winning the Euromillions jackpot. After this we went on a proper night out, with cheap alcohol and young people and clubs and ***SOME BLOG MISSING*** The next morning we hung around the city until the hangover wore off and then went to head home. However when we reached the Erasbus we found that the window had been broken and five bags had been taken. It was hardly the pink panther diamond theft; items stolen included a bag of tampons and a pillow, but also clothes, phones and a passport, which made it a traumatic experience. In our brave stab at finding a silver lining we consolled oursleves with the exemplary French we used to report the crime to the police and the excellent job we made of patching up the window.
And that’s us up to date. I’m off to replace my stolen toothbrush.