Wednesday, September 01, 2004

Shasta Kearns Moore: World Traveller

Hello everyone,

French keyboards are different, so if there are a lot of typos, youll know why. For instance, I cant find the apostrophe anywhere, even though its a very integral part of the French language...

Well anyway, voici, my thoughts so far. I only have access to the internet through my host fathers girlfriend for now. He says well get internet in the next three weeks.





THERE IS A RIVER DIRECTLY OUTSIDE MY WINDOW!!!

But we'll get to that later.

I got to the Philidelphia airport a little early, so everything went smoothly there. I checked in at the British Airways desk and as I walked away, I looked at my boarding pass. There, directly beneath my name, were the words: "World Traveller," in the way one would write James Bond: International Man of Mystery. Shasta Kearns Moore: World Traveller. I eventually figured out that was the name of BA's priority class and the only reason I had it on my ticket was because I had gotten in the wrong line. But it added just the right tone to my embarkment that I couldn't help grinning to myself.
I'm thinking of having business cards made up.




Once the plane got off the ground at PHL, an hour late, the flight was uneventful. I sat next to a woman who spoke the most interesting language into her cell phone until the last possible minute before takeoff. It sounded to me like a weird combination of German and Russian.
"It's Polish," she laughed when I asked.
So, I was right.




The flight from London was where things went south, both literally and figuratively (Ba-doom tsh). Fortunately, a friend and fellow exchange student Ashley was on the same flight and became an invaluable help.
The St. Exupéry airport in Lyon was very disorienting. Not because it was a foreign airport, I'd seen plenty of those, but because just before landing, I came down with an ocular migrane. For those who haven't experienced one, it's very much like staring into a bright light and then looking away. You can't see anything but white and some colorful shapes for a while. Usually, it goes away in about 20 minutes, but this one hung around for two hours.
To add to my troubles, only one of my two bags arrived (fortunately it was the less-important one, but still). I had to wait in a very long line, leaving my other bags with Ashley, to discover a whole trolley had been left in London and wouldn't be in until at least that night. Ugh.




Ashley and I arrived at the meeting place for the Centre Oregon (that's what the exchange program is called) in a train station. I met my host father, whose name I still don't know. His last name is either Araignous or Didier or both. I just call him Monsieur. He's a relatvely trim man who just turned 45 and has a friendly kind of class. I was impressed with my ability to hold a conversation with him as he showed me the sights on the way to the apartment in the middle of town.
His fourteen-year-old daughter is very pretty and speaks rapid-fire French. I can usually keep up if I don't pause to wonder how she can possibly talk that fast or if she realizes how fast she's talking.
His fifteen-year-old daughter seems less intense but I haven't seen much of her. His 18-year-old son is in Barcelona right now and then off to Normandy so i might not see him for a while yet.




My room is on the second-story of a very interesting apartment. It's an amalgamation of old and new. Well-kept, but falling apart. The bathroom fixtures leak and are in need of replacement, but the walls are a very pretty aged plaster-and-rock combination. The front room is large, sunny and looks out on the Saône to the cream and peach townhouses lining the opposite bank.
My room is very cute and damn-near perfect. I have a dark green desk on one side and a low dark green bed on the other. The floors are Pergot (unharmable wood) and I have lots of closet space. But the best part is a low half-moon window on the far side. When I lay on my bed, I can watch romantically as the Saône flows by.




I got myself lost today. That's the best way I've found to educate yourself about a city. Go on long walks and don't take the same route twice if you can avoid it. In these old European cities with winding streets and no grid pattern this means you really have to let go of a set destination or you won't enjoy it. I didn't have any place specific in mind when I found the Place de Rouville, a beautiful outlook over Old Lyon. I was looking for the Place de Terreaux, but it was fun to find. Looking on the map now though, I must have taken the longest possible way to get there. It's about three blocks from my apartment if I'd taken the right road.




The weirdest thing about here is that if it weren't for the old buildings and everyone speaking French, it so far seems exactly like Portland. My host family is pretty chill and my host sisters watch WB shows dubbed in French. It's so much the same, I sometimes forget I have to speak French. I have had a bit of culture shock though. Id heard about the "bises," the French custom of kissing one cheek and then the other, but I didnt realize that it is done even when you first meet someone. Its a little disconcerting to know what to do when, but Im slowly getting used to it.

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