Tonight I finally sat down to once again write a blog-worthy narrative of my time here in France. My posting has not been as disciplined as I had hoped it would be before I settled in Angers, but I also did not expect idle time to be so non-existent. Of course, I have spent afternoons dabbling on the internet and perusing the news which occurred overnight as I slept seven hours ahead of home. I also unwillingly admit that Netflix may have occupied my computer screen some nights, although it is a French version which offers limited American television, so I was in fact practicing my language skills and immersing myself more fully in the French culture (or I was just procrastinating). Nevertheless, I can honestly say that no time here has been unfulfilling, even the moments when I was most unnerved.
My semester here has not been absent of challenges. When you are unable to communicate all of your specific needs and questions, simple tasks such as mailing postcards or buying a cold remedy (no medication in France is sold off-the-shelf) can become overwhelming, especially when you have a terrible case of both the coughs and homesickness. This occurred my third week here. As Angers and my classes became familiar, my friends and school back in Mississippi became less so. I had met great friends my first day here and I was enthusiastically exploring markets and magasins (shops) by day and acquainting myself with French students from both the city and my foyer at night, but when I began to comprehend that I would not laugh with old friends, hug my misfit dogs, or enjoy a morning ride along the Gulf Coast for another two and a half months, it was difficult to not feel slightly discontented.
Thankfully this unkind feeling was fleeting as my weekend voyages began and acquaintances soon developed into friendships in which mutual feelings of confusion and nostalgia were shared and quickly assuaged. In addition to eating croissants aux amandes, drinking Saumur sparkling wine of the Loire Valley, and walking a considerable amount around Angers, my weeks are occupied by eighteen hours of class, the majority of which are French language skill courses, and one French Quotidian class in which I have learned all things French, including the details of their holiday celebrations, the function of their social security system, and the essential guide to which regions produce specific wines and cheeses. Researching and coordinating my weekend vacations takes a considerable amount of time, but I will undoubtedly miss the delight of discovering a new city each weekend once I return home. After my first trip away to the famous island commune of Mont Saint-Michel and the port city of Saint-Malo on the English Channel, I was pleasantly surprised to return to Angers to enjoy a gorgeous, sunny Sunday, a rarity in this western city which more frequently welcomes grey skies and afternoon showers, which I also enjoy, only from my window. I strolled along the Maine River, through the Parc De Balzac, which was busy with bikers, book readers, picnickers, and lovers. Of the one hundred park strolls I have taken during my time here, perhaps during four I did not stumble across two people kissing on a park bench or fondling in the grass. The French do not hesitate to express emotion, good or bad, and I admittedly admire it.
My time here will be ending shortly, but enough time still remains to visit the undiscovered parks, shops, and cafés of Angers, France’s 17th oldest city, which welcomes a considerable student life, though undetectable after Friday afternoons when all the University students, and many residents, are seen walking towards the Gare d’Angers St. Laud with luggage following close behind them, ready to board a train home or off to roam Paris for the weekend. Now Christmas lights hang above the streets here and the shop windows boast sophisticated winter displays to entice shoppers. Tomorrow after class I will go to Centre Ville where the Marche de Noel has arrived for December. There are chalets throughout the city, which are setup specifically for the event, and each one offers crafts, food specialties from a different French region, or offers samples of Sangrias and teas. I will most likely buy a Vin Chaud and sip it slowly as I walk past the same Patisseries for the fiftieth time, but tomorrow I will try a new flavor macaroon or maybe the little orange mango cake, it may be 4 euro, but I only have two weeks left to try all the delicately designed desserts. I may not write a blog tomorrow, but I will be admiring Angers, just as I intended to.