Bird watching and military schools

It’s Saturday and I’m spending a day with the local bird watching association. “Il y a 15 bouses!” shouts my Italian friend excitedly, peering through her binoculars. However, the sky is not full of cowpats.
Something really good about learning French on Erasmus as opposed to within class is the way in which each new word becomes linked in some way to a memory. For example, I now know more bird species in French than I do in English, including the unfortunate buzzards that Emma spotted (“buse” not “bouse”). In addition, another girl, Karolina, takes great care to teach me a wide range of new vocabulary, anything really as long as it isn’t remotely decent.
So after five weeks I feel like I’m settling into French life. I still have the odd Erasmus fallback such as last Thursday, meeting a whole cohort of English girls at a tram stop before a night out. The tram was full of tipsy people (drinking is allowed outdoors here) and I found myself squished between two sliding doors in a group of people shouting “Erasmus! Erasmus!” just because we could.
That night and morning were followed by a two hour nap and then my first ever all-in-French job interview. So on Friday I wandered into the base of a French military school, an establishment thoroughly fenced in from the outside world and manned by a mixture of receptionists and soldiers in epaulettes. As an applicant for their English language assistant job, I handed in my passport at reception, received a map and an ID badge and made my way along a deserted road that cut through the fields on either side. Half way along was a real aeroplane turned statue, suspended on its side and with a forbidding sign “Do not climb.” One solitary class of kids stared at me from the distance.
Nevertheless, speaking French but being foreign, I strangely don’t feel so intimidated in new situations. The interview with the military headmaster went well, although I couldn’t work all the hours he needed. Still I’m making an effort to look around now and find some job or organisation with which to spend my time, because staying within the university would be an isolated experience.
So fingers crossed for next week. On Wednesday the birdwatchers are going on a night time stint. How could I resist?

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