France: Pas SDF…presque!

I’m finally getting settled into Angers and more importantly, I now have a place to live.  Sammy and I have been staying with our friend Alex in her flat the last few nights, and we are so grateful for a place to stay.  Of course, we opted out of living in the foyer or with a host family and chose the most difficult option:  finding our own accommodation.  We have been walking through the streets looking for “louer” signs and writing numbers down to call.  Mellie also used the French version of Craig’s List, Le Bon Coin, to search for flats as well.  Luckily, we had friends in Angers that were able to call on our behalf and help explain things.  If we hadn’t had French friends here, it would have been extremely difficult to find a place to live.

We looked at only one apartment on the first day, and it was the perfect apartment; unfortunately, it didn’t work out.  Feeling down, we went to the bar to drown our sorrows away at the thought of never finding a place to live.  Luckily, the owner of the bar Soft Yves happened to have an apartment for rent.  He offered to show us the next day and said it could accommodate two people.  In the same night, we also got a call back from another apartment for the girls.   It was as if things were finally coming together.

We went with Yves to look at the apartment, and it turns out he owns the whole building and is in the process of remodeling it.  The apartment is small—two bedrooms, a bathroom with standing shower, and kitchen; more importantly, it’s furnished.  Jake and I decided we would take it on the spot.  Rent is only 225 euros each per month and includes water.  Yves is also working on setting up wifi for us, so we will only be responsible for electricity usage.  All together, rent is cheaper than in Oxford.

My room at Rue Joachim du Bellay
My room at Rue Joachim du Bellay

Although we found a place to live, we have been struggling to get the electricity and wifi set up.  The people who rented the apartment before us used very little electricity, so we have a low limit.   We have been unable to run both radiators at the same time, use multiple lights, or use other appliances without the power shutting off.  We have to trek downstairs to flip the breaker and by the time we make it back up the stairs, the power has usually shut off.  We have finally figured out a temporary system where we use only one radiator and the lights sparingly.  It has been so cold in our apartment that we have been able to see our breath! We haven’t really had hot water and have been using tea candles for light at night.  Because of this, we have spent a lot of time over at the girls’ apartment.

Today, we went the electric company to put the electricity in our names.  They are sending someone to our apartment Friday to change the meter and to make sure everything works properly; we have a two-hour window to expect them.  Unfortunately, this is still a few days away….  I’m optimistic though.  Our landlord is currently working on setting up wifi for us and is making various repairs to the apartment:  hanging a new door, changing the lock, etc.  Hopefully by next week, everything will be in order, and it will start to feel like home.

Things in France are somewhat complicated.  In France, we are required to purchase a type of insurance for the house (provides for damages from fire, flood, etc) and civil responsibility, which covers various accidents that can occur (damage caused by a bike accident, for example).  For our apartment, it cost 86 euros, and we are covered for the entire year.  Obtaining electricity and the insurance has been somewhat of a challenge, because we did it all in French.

Classes started this past Monday although they have mostly consisted of orientation and placement tests to make sure everyone is at the right level.  By next week, I think I will be settled into a normal routine, and the real classwork will begin.  I hope to move up at least one more level before next week.  I’ve already purchased two of my books for a total of 26 euros, which seems cheap to me compared to the cost of textbooks in the United States.  I’m slowly making new friends and have noticed improvement in my oral comprehension.  I hope after a few weeks things will get easier, and I won’t have to think so hard everyday.

I’ve tried a lot of new foods since I’ve been here and have enjoyed almost all of them with the exception of andouillette.  I made the mistake of ordering this in my crepe, thinking that it would be like Andouille sausage in the United States.  It tasted strange at the time, but I later learned it was sausage made of intestines.  Other than that, I have liked French food.  I’ve also been trying to cook while here, but many of the ingredients used in the US are not easily found here and the cuts of meat are different.  It’s been fun roaming the grocery store but difficult for me to estimate portions using the metric system.

Family Dinner at the girls' apartment
Family Dinner at the girls’ apartment

A side note.  I discovered that I’m allergic to something in certain kinds of white wines here.  I had one glass of cheap, boxed wine last weekend, and slowly a rash started to form across my face.  My friend Grace noticed it first, but I thought my cheeks were just flushed; I’ve never had an allergic reaction before.  As the night continued and we were about to go out for the evening, the rash had spread.  We became seriously concerned because it ran down by neck and back.  After a frantic Google search and a few WebMD articles, we figured out it was likely caused by the wine, and I took some Benadryl.  Within an hour, the rash had completely subsided.  Lessons learned:  1) Always carry Benadryl with you 2) and avoid the cheapest white wines.

White Wine Allergy
White Wine Allergy
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