Day 22

Jun. 23rd, 2008 09:13 pm
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Day 22

So last week, my French teacher, Dominique F. told us yet another interesting word origin: sadism. Apparently, there was a Count of Sade, who was locked up for, um, kidnapping women and, well... yeah, hence, sadism. The subject was only brought up because the Count actually wrote a lot in prison, and it had something to do with some "ism" or another and it was literature-revelant, okay? ;) But then Monsieur was like (in French, of course, but translated for the benefit of those who don't speak French fluently enough to get sexual jokes...) "Oh, another parenthesis... The masochist said to the sadist: "Hurt me! Hurt me!" and the sadist replied "no.""

Yeah, I love France. ;) I also have photos from Belgian chocolate shops that sell more... racy molded chocolates. Very amusing. :3

I've also finally bought stamps! The post cards have been written and addressed and stamped! Soon, they shall be sent off to you all, hopefully to arrive before I do. ;) 

Oh, and I must relate a quick anecdote from my time in Brugge. I was in a kind of new age store that sold really funky clothing, but I was buying a few really nice scarves. I was observing my surroundings, trying to blend in (tourists are always a target for pickpockets, and I find that you're treated more nicely in general if they think that you're local), and I was listening very intently to the people in front of me as they spoke in Dutch. The lady at the counter would say someting to them that sounded very much like a Dutch variant of "hello, how are you today?" and there would be the generic  Dutch "fine, thanks", which don't really need translation. I could sort of understand the numbers, as "octo" sounds like it should be "eight", etc., right? Anyway, and then after exchanging goods, they'd each say "dankevel" (or something like that) to each other. 

So when it was my turn, the lady at the counter said "hello" to me in dutch, and I nodded, smiled, and mumbled someting that sounded like what she had said (when you mumble quietly, especially if there's music and/or people talking in the immediate vicinity, they totally fill in the blanks mentally, you know?). Then she gave me the total in Dutch (which I saw on the till), so I handed her the right amount of money, and she said "dankevel" and a few other things, to which I replied with "dankevel" (yay for imitating blindly!). So I interacted successfully in Dutch! 

But the story isn't over. I still hung around because my friend Yan was trying on some clothing, and when she went to the counter we were talking in English. The Dutch employee saw us, did a double take, and asked (in English), "Hey, didn't I just talk to you in Dutch?" So apparently I passed as a native of the Netherlands. :3

So this Wednesday, I shall return to Belgian to go to Brussels! :D Yay for chocolate! ... and I'm determined to find more waffles. D:<

Day 21

Jun. 22nd, 2008 10:13 pm
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Day 21 (...wow, has it really been that long...?)

So it has been brought to my attention that I haven't yet spoken about Ypres. :) It's an awesome city. Much of it has been rebuilt since the first world war, as it was literally leveled by shelling. The really cool thing about it is that those buildings that were rebuilt? They're exact replicas of the orginals, save for the fact that the dates written on the sides are now like "1923" and so forth. So it has a kind of... newness to it that makes you think "ah, so this is what it was like 200 years ago when it was new..." (which isn't strickly true, as the buildings would have probably looked even more grimy way back when because of the industrialization polution and so forth...)

Anyway, we go to see the Menin Gate (we passed through it on our way in, in fact), and that was just awe-inspiring. I can't remember the exact dimesions, but I swear that it rivals the Arc de Triomphe in size and grandeur. It's a giant war memorial dedicated to those soliders of the British Empire whose bodies couldn't be found. It's litterally covered with names, which is rather depressing. 

The main attraction of Ypres for us was the In Flanders Fields War museum. It was awesome. :) All of the displays were in French, English, Dutch and German, so it was easy for me to understand. They had a temporary exibit on about the different cultural groups that fought in the trenches; did you know that the British actually brought in many "barbarian" soliders from its colonies? Not just Native Americans from Canada, but also East Indians, Africans, Polynesians... even a few Chinese and Vietnamese labourers were sent to the battlefields of Europe! It was really interesting to read about all of this and see the interesting "foreign" uniforms... Oh, and in the display on "Canadian soldiers", they had this deer skin that belonged to this Native American soldier who fought in the trenches. In traditional style, he depicted his exploits in battle on a deer skin - so it looks really ancient, until you realize that the enemy figure are wearing german helmets. It's awesome.

And that was just the temporary exibit! They also had a really well done permanent one as well. There was dialogue and sound effects playing as you looked at the displays... oh, and when you entered, you got a card that you scanned at computers which were found at intervals throughout the museum. Essentially, you follow the life of a person from the era. I got a Dutch nurse, Rosa something or another, who worked in a field hospital near Ypres... and she was killed on her way home at the end of th war. D: One of the teachers actually followed the story of a young Adolf Hitler. I kid you not. It was an awesome museum.

This past Saturday, Yan and I returned to Brugge for a day trip. Essentially, we bought Belgian chocolate. Lots of it. Oh, and we also went up to the top of the the famous belltower (and listened to it ring as it struck the hour of one o'clock!) and checked out Michelangelo's Madonna in that one church... both of which we missed when we went with the class. Also, we found another delicious waffle restaurant that was just plain awesome. I got to have a lovely and crispy waffle with light and fluffy whipped cream and real maple syrup on top. Absolutely delicious... :3 

Today, we went to the market at Wazzemmes again. If you want cheap stuff, there's the place to go. I bought some clothing there (I don't expect it to last long, but wow, it looks cool while it's still intact), and a bunch of really awesome 1€ or 2€ scarves. Please, act surprised when I give them to you as souvenirs. :) They look really pretty when worn, or even just hung up in the wind or on the wall. I didn't pick any with too many sequins, as those ones are itchy and they hurt. D:

...So tomorrow I actually have to go back to class. Darn it! ;_; Don't worry, in between hopping from here to Belgium, I actually have been doing my homework. ;)

Day 10

Jun. 12th, 2008 10:09 pm
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Okay, I'm pretty sure that it's day ten... anyway, now everything's going to be arbitrarily so many days away from today, which is now "Day 10" of my trip... even if it isn't. What is reality, anyway...? D:

Last night, I saw a wild rat for the first time. I was walking back to my dorm, searching in my purse for my keys (and, incidentally, thinking that my wallet had been stolen for all of five seconds before realizing that I was holding it in my other hand), and I saw a flicker of movement out of the corner of my eye. I looked, and I saw a rat dissapearing underneathe a bridge. D: I was kind of creeped out, but I suppose that it's normal for a large city to have vermin inhabitants as well...?

Back to more pleasant subjects... Brugge was awesome. :3 As I mentioned in my last post, it's "the Venice of the North", and it really is a gorgeous city. Unfortunately, I woke up this morning and opened the window to look out upon torrential rain. D: It actually wasn't too bad in Belgium, alternating as it was between "tsunami"-like train and clear skies, then back again, sometimes all within fifteen minutes. 

The city itself was about one hour's bus ride away from Lille. The bus was late getting there, but we still had to leave on time, so we ended up only having about two and a half hours in Brugge, nearly 45 minutes of which was taken up by a boat tour... which was nearly pointless, as we were all huddling underneathe our umbrellas and as a result hardly saw anything. (We did discover that Brugge has extremely low bridges. One of them had litterally less than a meter of clearance. Cool.) So... that left us with less than two hours of time to explore this beautiful city. 

That was very mean. Seriously, I would have been quite happy with a week to explore. Two hours is just teasing - "Here is the awesomeness that is Brugge! Look around, see the sights! ... but make sure you're back at the clocktower right away, or you'll miss the bus and be stranded!" I didn't get to go up to see the view from the famous clocktower, I didn't get to go see Michelangelo's Mary, didn't get to go find some nice lace (Brugge is famous for it's lace, as is much of Belgium), didn't find that one scarf shop that several people reccomended, hardly glanced into any shops... D: I was there for just long enough to see how much I was missing. 

On the plus side, Yan and I have decided that one of our weekend trips will now be to Brugge. We need more time there. 

I'm not saying that my trip today was a waste. It was awesome (I have like 400 photographs of various sights, mostly Flemish roofs). I did manage to buy some Belgian chocolates, which I shall eat pretty soon (we're going to Brussels in a few weeks, so don't worry, my dearest family, I shall return with some Belgian chocolates from there for you!), some really nice specialty tea from an awesome tea shop, and at least 8 post cards (one of them is shaped like a waffle! and another like a box of chocolates!). So yes, I am determined to return to Brugges. 

Also, we're still planning on what to do this weekend. We're hoping for Amsterdam, and we've been looking at train tickets and hostels online... but nothing's been finalized. I really must get on that...
I must now sleep. I am quite tired...

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Days 9-10 (maybe? Have I lost count?) (Morning Post)

Today is the day that we go to Brugge! .... and its raining! Badly! D: Last night, it was gorgeous out, no clouds whatsoever... and then, I wake up this morning and think "hey, I need some light, let me open the window and illuminate the room with sunlight!" and I raise the blinds and... it's like halfway to Noah's ark outside. ;_; 

... Well, it's not as bad as that. It's raining hard, but from what I can see, it's actually almost a sunshower. Sunshowers are nice, right? (I need convincing.) See, I don't mind rain, especially here in Europe, because it's a nice, warm rain. However, it's really difficult to take pictures if you have to wipe rainwater off of the camera lense between photos. ;_; 

Anyway, I shall now report on my trip to see "Alice, etc." at the Théatre du Nord! We walked down to the theatre (it's right on La Grande Place square), and demonstrating in front of it were a bunch of people chanting against the possibility of expulsion for the "sans-papiers" (litterally, "without papers", but they're referring to illegal immegrants). They had an epic chant, and they were singing and everything. I have a short video of them from far away, but my camera's microphone isn't terribly good. Again, I'll try to figure out this youtube thing later! D: 

(Demonstrations are actually really popular in France, as I'm sure that some of you may know. Since here, I've witnessed... like two or three. I've been here for less than a week and a half, and this isn't a massive city.)

Oh, and there was a firedancer having fun outside the theatre when we left. Just so you know. That square is an awesome place for demonstrations of any kind. 

Anyway, the play itself! It was... strange, probably very avant-garde (it's France, right?). There were a lot of sexual jokes, and since that kind of vocabulary just doesn't come up very often in the context of the classroom, some of it was difficult to follow. It started off kind of dark and almost hallucinogenic, as we got these three girls who are dressed like Alice (from Alice in Wonderland), but in different colours, doing things in sync... But most of the play is about this one chick (whose name also begins with "A" but I can't remember the whole thing... it wasn't Alice, though) and her husband. Her husband cheated on her, and she tries to kill herself in various ways when she finds out. The husband then insists that "hey, you can cheat on me too", like, an open relationship... and she goes into various changes in clothing, etc. to try to attract a younger man to prove to herself that she's still attractive. Of course, when she begins succeeding, her old husband gets increasingly jealous, and then he threatens to kill himself... And the play ends with him jumping into a bathtub with a plugged in hairdryer (fireworks!).  XD It was very funny (he came out okay, just covered in charcoal).

The two main characters frequently address the audience (commenting on how stupid the other is ;) ), and it gets more and more absurd as things go on. ;) There was also a random interlude with the character of this wife (that you never see again) who runs away from home, ends up returning in the dark and making up with her husband... and then when she gets up in the morning, there are strange children and a strange man sitting at the kitchen table... and she had "made up" with someone who wasn't her husband. D: She leaves, awkwardly, saying that it was just "a little mistake". ;) The cool thing about that entire scene is that it's narrated by that wife, and she acts out the parts of everyone else. Oh, and "she" is played by a male actor. I wasn't sure for the first minute or so, but then s/he took off her wig to play the part of a male lover. He was an epically good actor. 

Anyway, if you ever get a chance to see it (even in translation), do so! It's very good. :) Anyway, now I need to get ready for my morning's worth of classes... and then we leave for Brugge! Luckily enough, as I was typing this, the rain seems to be dying down... Now I can only hope that the rain just isn't drifting across the border into Belgium...
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Note: This entry is now Friends locked to make my mother less paranoid. :3

Days 6-8 (or so... I've actually lost count. I'm recounting the first week I've been in Lille, in any case)

So... it's not Monday. D: Sorry. It's actually Tuesday, right around 9:30 in the evening as I'm typing this. :) I'm just happy to have finally achieved internet access! I spoke with the nice French student who lives down the corridor from me on the second floor of Galilée, and he has not yet received the internet cords he promised me... however, he has leant me one of his own (as he broke his promise), and I have managed to connect it all on my own! :) Thank you, Monsieur, for your help!

All right, I shall now narrate the most interesting points of my stay thus far in the lovely city of Lille. (This will be difficult, as much of what I have been doing is awesome and fascinating and seriously guys you should all go on this trip next year.)

Cut for French awesomeness... )

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