Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Back in America's Arms...

Here I am, two weeks after my return to Washington, two weeks of school done and my first round of exams coming up next week. My how time flies. These past 15 days have allowed me to sufficiently look back on, think about and analyze how things have changed since I've come back home. So without further ado, the substance of my last post on this blog. I hope you enjoy it.

As one might expect, yes, things have changed for me. Perspectives, attitudes, thought processes and ideas of normalcy. I am still in 1/8 French mode. French phrases still come to mind before English phrases, I crave a good baguette and cheese after eating a meal, and I look at streets and feel like the other side might as well be on the other side of the Grand Canyon. These are all good and excellent things. But how about some other things? Didn't I take anything other than that away from this? Sure I did. Here are a few that come to mind first.

The most drastic change for me has been my desire to engage with the international students who are doing what I was doing, only here at WSU. Apparently once you actually have those foreign friends, that diversity, it gets into you. I can honestly say that I have never had a diverse group of friends in my life. And in France I finally did. Now that I'm back and lacking that amazing difference in perspective and life experience, I am finding that I want it again. This is something that I really like. Besides being enriching personally, as an international business major it definitely benefits me to have a taste of this international flavor of people, lives and perspectives consistently. There are not a lot of places that make it much easier to meet cool people from cool places than WSU. I am still looking for a French speaker to practice with though. Apparently they are difficult to find here in small town USA.

Another change I have found is that I have found a new sense of drive in my work here. After a semester of taking classes in a foreign language, suddenly taking classes in English is no big deal. Plus I have had some international exposure, giving me a taste of what I might be doing later on in my life (or what I'd like to be doing). The enjoyability of this experience gives a reason to work hard because I know that I'm working towards something that I know I will enjoy. The language change plays a large role as well simply because the ease of doing readings has increased exponentially and the lectures are amazingly easy to stay awake and take notes in. I have also appreciated the shorter class sections and less amounts of class time, but more time studying and learning on my own. It frees up more time for fun things that college kids are supposed to experience.

The last major thing I have come away with I already hinted at: the exposure to a different system and life than mine which allows me to critique, change and appreciate my life in a more complete way. I now know that I prefer the American university system more than the French (perhaps European) system minus the cost of attendance here. I've found myself being more conscious of energy and water, two extremely expensive things for Europeans. I try to recycle more diligently and I have even found myself eating a more balanced diet (or as balanced as a student on a budget can afford). I can't really say what clicked, but it's almost like coming back to the US has allowed to me restart my habits again, changing and tweaking what I do to match how I now feel is the way I want to live. It is a new, clean slate where I can set the standards for exercising, doing my homework thoroughly and completely, working, being more economical, eating better and expanding my worldview even while living in conservative, white and not-diverse-whatsoever Pullman, Washington. I love it. Taking initiative and using this rare chance to change things that I otherwise may never have considered changing is a neat chance and I want to use it to its fullest advantage.

Ok, ok. This was a bit longwinded and maybe stale like my new apartment full of four men, but I hope you enjoyed it. I know it was a good thing for me to sit down and process my experiences as I had them. Thanks for reading, if there was anyone who read, and next time I go abroad I'll make sure and do this again so you can have southernfrancemakesmedance round two.


Friday, January 14, 2011

Rollin on home

Well, the day has arrived. The day that I have been looking forward to for weeks is nearly here. I am less than 12 hours away from being on a train heading to Paris where I’ll catch my flight back to the United States. Wow. Yes, I have been looking forward to this day since 2011 started, but now that is nearly here, I can’t help but not want to leave. It is the end of an era of sorts. A very short era, but an era none-the-less. Four months living in a foreign country, learning and speaking the language, eating the food and enjoying their culture. There are no complaints though, this was probably the most amazing experience I have had the chance to take part in.

Going into this study abroad experience I had, not low, but I would say different expectations than what really happened. I’m not sure I saw this whole thing realistically enough before leaving. Simply put, what I expected to leave France with and what I’m really leaving France with are NOT the same. They are not equal in any way whatsoever. What I thought I knew about the world coming in was thrown on its head. I learned so much more than just the language. Anyone reading will most likely think to themselves that I sound like one of those people they quote in the study abroad brochures or info guides. And I do sound like one, but it’s cause I know it’s true now I guess.

There is no better way to learn about what’s around you than to get out and experience it. Montana is a great place, but it is NOT the world. Washington State University is an amazing place, but the Palouse just doesn’t carry the cultural diversity of southern France. The news on TV only takes our understanding of Europe to a certain level. Living in and with Europe and Europeans changes the whole perspective you carry on who they are, what they’re like and your opinion on them. After I get back and I start putting things down into words, I will post a final review and summary of experience. But until then, suffice it to say that I am bummed to go. I will miss all the friends here in southern France. From the Germans to the English to the French to the kid who happens to be all three, to the Canadians to fellow Montanans, I will miss them and their multicultural diversity and fun and shenanigans. It was an amazing semester, one that I will always remember fondly. It was a semester of firsts and new starts, including the beginning of my real global education. Who knows where that will end up.

Friday, December 31, 2010

The Last Lofthouse

Well, I can officially say that December was a bad month for blogging for me. Not only did I only post a mere two pieces, but the first article was more or less just me thinking out loud. Probably not that interesting for all you brothers and sisters out there reading this thing. This post shall be much more interesting though, because I finally got to travel again, my last of the 4 months I have here. Off we go.

My older brother Andrew came to France for about two weeks, from December 16th to today, December 31st. This timing coincided just about perfectly with my Christmas break from school, so we had two full weeks of nothing to do but try to see Europe. And seeing as that can be quite, quite spendy, we cut the time traveling to nine days. Our destinations: Paris and Amsterdam. From the 19th to the 27th, we were rocketized animals, shooting around France, the Netherlands and eventually Germany on trains of high speeds and public transportation. The recap begins here.

We started off in Paris, taking trains up to the City of Light all day on the 19th to save some coin. We arrived in the evening and met up with our host, a friend from my hometown, who happens to be living there and working as an English teacher in a local lycée, or high school. We were able to spend three nights at her place and save a bit of cash money for the trip. She was our tour guide for a lot of it, showing us around Paris like it was the back of her hand. In the three days we were there, we hit the most touristy things of all time, but they were all great. We climbed the Eiffel Tower. We gawked at the wealth of the Palace of Versailles. We saw the Notre Dame and hiked up to Sacré Coeur. We saw the Moulin Rouge and walked down the Champs Elysées. We climbed up the Arc de Triomphe and saw the Nouvelle Arche on the other end of it. We went into the Louvre and checked out the Musée d'Orsay. We even managed to eat a real French cooked meal while dining at my Parisienne friends house one night. All in all, it was an extremely busy three days, packed full of activities, money spending and fun. We were definitely the most average tourists ever, but that is what you do in Paris. You walk around and you see those things. I can safely say both me and my brother loved it.

Next up was Amsterdam, which ended up being a letdown. I can't hate on Amsterdam, because it really is a cool city. The canals, architecture and unique culture make it an interesting place. Just NOT on Christmas day and NOT when you don't want to see naked woman or get high or freeze to death when you're walking around. Cool place, wrong time. We were victims of the wrong place, wrong time syndrome for sure here. Christmas time is simply not a time to be away from home is the final conclusion both me and my brother drew out of this experience. We spent a lot of time walking around, taking the trams and simply admiring the city. We went to a museum one day too, which housed a lot of Dutch military and world power mementos along with a lot of Rembrandt paintings. That was pretty cool.

But, as I alluded to, we soon grew tired of the city and decided to look into leaving a day early. So I sent a Facebook message to a German friend of mine who lives only a three hour train ride away from Amsterdam, way up north in a city called Münster. We checked the trains and decided to use the extra day on our Eurail passes to give them a visit. Sure enough, nothing went as planned though and we ended up arriving about three and half hours late and only being able to stay there for 18 hours or so. Although I have to say that they were some of the most enjoyable 18 hours of the trip. We checked out their city (which won the title of "World's Most Livable City in 2006 with none other than Seattle) and saw where they grew up. We had some tea and Christmas cakes with their family as well. Add on top of that an AMAZING Christmas dinner prepared by my friend's mom, and Christmas was completely and utterly redeemed for us. There is nothing quite like a family dinner with delicious food and desserts to put you in a holiday cheer. To top it all off we went out and had German beer in a German bar with a German name (Das Blaue Haus), a bucket list goal checked off for sure. We went to bed then took 18 hours of trains on home to Aix, finishing the day with a stressful connection between our last trains and a 2:45 AM bedtime. Thus ended my European travels for my stay here.

Needless to say it is nice to be home and I am ready to knock these two weeks of school out and fly on home. I put my brother on a bus to the airport this morning and now I am hanging out until classes start again, celebrating the New Year and trying to make sure I get credit for all my classes. I am quite ready to be home right now, especially since these two weeks of class are essentially meaningless for us. Only two classes have anything real to do so I guess all I can do is try to get better at French and pass those two tests. We shall see. So I am down to only one more post to the ol blogosphere world for my time here. To be honest, it will be an amazing feeling to be done with this all, bittersweet, but refreshing. So I hope you enjoyed this one, one or two more coming. And now, of course, some pictures.

why yes i AM amsterdam
hammurabi's code...balla.
been there...done that.
the two lovely French hosts.
Notre Dame de Paris

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The exodus and ensuing thoughts

It is mid-December and here in France, the exodus of students has officially begun. In fact, one might argue that we're on the tail end of the migration. I have said goodbye to four of my American friends. Two of them have already left and the other two are leaving this weekend. On top of that, I received my last Coug Blog Squad prompt several days ago and it was entitled "Preparing for Re-entry". This is ironic since I still have a month here in France and, in fact, have many experiences ahead until my own re-entry happens. But all these events boiled around in my head until a nice little thought emerged that I believe is a good thing to write about on the blog. The topic is this: What would I have changed if I was to come back here a second time and do it all over again? Now, I realize I still have a month left and a lot can change, but I plan on writing on this again after my "re-entry" to the US and assimilation back to my own world. Geez I sound like I am an alien with the word choices I have made. Whatever, on y va!

At this point in time, there are two things that I would contemplate changing. These items are the school I go to and the amount of French friends I have. These two items are heavily connected. And I realize that you might look at this and say to yourself "Wow Connor, you do realize that these things are completely in your own power?" Yes I do realize that, but that does not change the fact that I may not have done all I wanted to or imagined I would. I will tackle the subjects separately.

The school is the main thing I question, mostly because I should have been able to see this coming, yet never did. Before leaving for this great adventure across the ocean, I tooted the horn of my school, L'Institute des Etudes Françaises pour les Etudiantes Etrangeres (IEFEE), heavily. Citing the diversity and international flavor of the students, I spouted off about how I would meet all sorts of students from across the world with cool lives and languages and stories. Never did it cross my mind that the adverse of that situation equates to "Connor not meeting any French people where it would be amazingly easy to meet French people. School." The more I think about it, the more I wish I had gone to a French university directly enrolled. Granted, the courses, language, students and general life would have been overwhelming at first, but when thrown into a situation like that, you learn fast. Between having French friends with whom I could talk, sitting through hours of class each day and my own explorations of the language, I am sure I would have been just fine after a month or so. On the other hand though, going to IEFEE was a choice made exclusively for learning French. It is a school created for foreign students wanting to learn French, as the name implies. Obviously I have learned more French now that in the last 3 years combined, but I still can't help but wonder what would have happened if I had gone into the French school system directly.

The other thing I would change, the number of French friends I have, should be a problem easily solved. Had I made the choice to seek out French people my age and hang out with them and develop friendships, this blog post would not be happening. I would be in the perfect situation. Learning French in a school designed for learning French, then learning French with real French, where they speak the fastest and with all the current language and slang after class. Nothing better than that dreamy life for four months. Win win for Connor. But alas, I have not made many French friends, mostly due to my own lax attitude about going out of my way to meet them. Being here is enough out of my comfort zone that I prefer to stay in my own language and speak English because it takes so much less effort. Also hurting me is the widespread knowledge of English by the French. 7 times out of 10 the French person I am talking to speaks English just as well as I can speak French, if not better. It's a blessing and a curse.

In the end this all comes down to my lack of effort of making French friends. I have a month left here, but of that month I am traveling for nine days, my brother is here for 15 days, and I am getting ready to leave for the last five days or so. Do I regret not making the effort? Sort of, but I absolutely cannot complain about the progress I have made and the progress I will leave here having made. All I can do is now try to make the best of my last 30 days here. May not seem like a long time, but a lot can happen in a month. Wish me luck.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

I see London I see France

I promised a shorter time span between blog posts, and to all you 7 people out there who read the last one, take note that I followed through. Though I am writing mostly because I had a great and grand adventure in London last weekend and feel the need to share with all who read the experiences I had. So without further ado, a quick recap of the most expensive place ever! (Minus all of Norway)

I flew out of Marseille on the glorified bus/plane that RyanAir call's a Boeing 737 last Thursday, the 18th of November. Unbelievably small and cramped, I definitely remember every time I ride on a RyanAir flight why their prices are so low. Unfortunately, every seat in the plane was booked and, as luck would have it, the seat next to me, the last open one in the plane, was filled by a large smelly Frenchman who couldn't speak English and cut me off from my fellow American sitting next to me. Sad day. But, as one might imagine, life went on and I landed in London Stansted airport at 9:45 PM that night. That night I took a wild ride on a bus driven by the shortest and most unsafe driver the world has ever seen. Somehow this man poked his little head above the steering wheel and navigated us into downtown London in one hour, 15 minutes ahead of schedule. This fact allowed me to blow my first pounds of the trip on a horribly overpriced Tube ticked to my hostel. Thank you London for making the money waste a theme. That night I slept well and prepared to meet my traveling buddies in the morning after they arrived.

My friends, all six girls of them (too much for the ginger to handle), showed up not quite bright eyed and busy tailed, but they were game to romp all over London so we went on our way! First stop for the day was...you guessed it...FOOD! We grabbed some breakfast and then hopped on the Tube to see the biggest of Ben's. Much more impressive than imagined, Big Ben was quite the sight. Lots of gold and...stones and stuff...adorned the clock's sides and faces, making it much more large and in charge than a clock should ever be. Following a quick photo op of the bridge that the dementors destroy in the 6th Harry Potter movie (important site I know), the crew and I headed two blocks down the road to Westminster Abbey. Also large and in charge, this abbey also commanded a large sway on our pockets as well, with its 12 pound entrance fee playing the role of mean parent not allowing you to do something you really wanted to. After some photos and whatnot, we moved on to bigger and better things, like the queen of England!

Yes, we dropped in on the queen real fast cause her place was just up the road. We called her up but she didn't answer and the silly guards in big tall hats weren't too keen on us going in unannounced, so we settled for pictures and leaving a nasty message for the queen telling her to get some better guards. Moving on, we closed out the day with some time in the parks that are all over London and the Tower Bridge. The Tower Bridge was pretty neat, also large and in charge. That night finished with a frantic hostel changing experience after the girls decided our hostel was not safe or nice (at 11 PM) and the meeting of a very nice Martinique inhabitant named Jean-Louis.

Next morning was the big day, the moment we had all waited for. HARRY POTTER ON IMAX!! Yes, we more or less came to London to see the HP movie. On Britain's largest movie screen no less. And in the end it was totally worth. I'd forgotten what an IMAX experience was like and came out of the movie with my mind blown and my head spinning and ears ringing. To put the cherry on top, a group of four or five British girls came up to me and told me I looked like Bill Weasley. Needless to say, I was more than honored and told them that they were my favorite British girls I'd met in London yet. I don't think they realized they were the only British girls I met but it don't matter. After that we wrapped up our site seeing with a visit to Abbey Road (with complimentary four-people-walking-across-a-crosswalk picture). Then a Notting Hill visit (six girls...need I say more?). Finally, we visited a Christmas carnival deal in Hyde Park, ate our dinner then decided to take the train out to the airport. So yet again, I had the honor of sleeping in or around an airport yet again. This time, though, the airport stayed open and I was actually WARM all night. You appreciate the little things after awhile I guess.

This about wraps up the time I enjoyed in the London town area. Lots of good times, money spent and memories created.
In other news, my French is progressing quickly still and I am enjoying my time here for sure. I changed my flight yesterday, so I'm coming home two weeks earlier than anticipated. Which is a good thing and a bad thing. Mostly good in my opinion. And I have peanut butter here now, sent from home. My life is good. Now for pictures!!

Ronnie the Bear! I am apparently his brother's doppelganger
You have to ride the Tube to get this one
the mean guard man
the biggest ben
and platform 9 3/4...yes we went there. and yes it exists. sort of.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Garbage food and cheap living

With a quick glance it becomes obvious that it has been a long time since my last post, and for this, I apologize. I fully realize I let down all those that are relying on this blog as their lifeline to updates to my life in Europe. That being said, I also realize that means I let no one down. Thus, with a clear conscience, I begin the update.

Since October 21, 2010 (the date of my last post for those too lazy to scroll down to verify), my lifetime count of countries visited approximately doubled and the count of familiar faces seen in Europe has quadrupled. So I consider these last three weeks to have been grand successes. Between my last post and today, I dressed up as a model for a Halloween party, flew on RyanAir's last ever flight between Marseille and Oslo, Norway, slept in a teepee on Halloween night proper, ate 65% of my meals with food fished out of the trash for a four day period, entered the world's third largest cathedral, ate true Spanish tapas, drank true Spanish sangria, took a flaming shot that was called "Harry Potter", missed the Pope's visit to Barcelona by 2 hours and took the nicest train ride of my life (where I was GIVEN a pair of headphones AND two movies were shown on the five and half hour ride). Oh yeah...I was also homeless for a night and spent one chilly (and, thanks to daylight savings time, extra long) evening under a set of stairs in a parking garage outside the Oslo airport. All in all quite eventful I'd say.

The reasons for such a large variety of events is "les vacances de Toussaint", a French holiday which gave us the week off school and the chance to leave the country and explore the world. So I did leave. I flew to Oslo, Norway on October 30th to go see my best friend whom I have known since age five. He is going to school in a city called Bø, which is in the region of Telemark and is a three hour bus ride from the airport I flew into. My flight came in a BIT too late for the bus though, thus the conundrum I faced when seeing that the airport closed for about five hours during the night. The decision I made was, in retrospect, a bit stupid, but saved me some cash money. I hunkered down under a staircase and layered up for the night ahead. I was only too cold to sleep for about an hour, which in my opinion is a win. In the morning I caught the bus to Bø and met up with my friend Justin. What ensued for the next four days was a mixture of garbage food, "borrowed" fruit from neighbors trees, nature and lots of darkness. Bø is a small village in the middle of one of the most beautiful places I have ever been. The little town wins the contest for my favorite place visited yet. It was so much like home and so beautiful with the fall colors I fell into the trap and now love it. On my first night in Bø (Halloween), Justin and I hiked up to a teepee by a lake and spent the night out there, cooking our food over the fire and playing cards. We headed back into town early, mostly cause we couldn't sleep cause we were cold (see a theme?) and spent the rest of the day watching movies, poking around town and just enjoying life. The next couple days were similar, where he showed me around town and his school and we both prepared for our journeys out of Bø on the last day. We both flew out of Norway on that Wednesday November 3rd. Thus ended my visit to the best place I've been in Europe.

Next up on the list was Europe's cheapest city! Sevilla. I don't know if it really is the cheapest, but I ate it up cause everything was SOOO cheap. I guess after living in a very wealthy and expensive city (Aix) for two months, it was a breath of fresh air. I met up with my roommate in college, James, there. We only had 24 hours together or so cause my flight came in late and the bus I caught came late too, but it was surely an epic 24 hours. We did our normal thing. Hanging out in parks, walking around checking out the sites and generally just doing shenanigans. We visited the third largest cathedral in the world, which was neat (and large). Then we went to a "botellòn", or a big street party. There were thousands of Spanish people just hanging out like real bros in a square. Everyone brings their own drinks and stands around, talks and drinks. It was quite the sight. I met a few very nice Spanish people who proceeded to tell me that the unemployment rate was 22% but no one cared cause they're Spanish and they don't work anyways! There were many complaints about the Spanish work ethic while there, but I felt they were ok. Anyways, the next day I scooped up some cheap baked goods for the train ride and headed on to Barcelona, leaving a teary eyed James at the station with the promise of seeing him in January.

Last stop...Barcelona! The city which everyone gives you the "Have fun being drunk all the time" look when you say that you're going there. Known for its partying scene and its Antoni Gaudi architecture, Barcelona was a good time. I met up with two friends from university, Jaclyn and Claire, and we had some adventures. No drunken times experienced, but I will say the opportunity for such escapades is quite high in that city. Bars and clubs and more bars abound, as per the Spanish tradition. We went out one night and then saw all the Gaudi architecture around the city. Gaudi's stuff is incredible. His style and imagination are unique throughout the world and I have to say I very much enjoyed seeing it all. The next day after the sites I hopped on a train and headed on "home" to Aix. The end of the trip held no free headphones or movies, but I did enjoy the rides back. Exhausted, I arrived in Aix, walked home, ate dinner and...did my homework. Yup, I did do homework. Don't worry, school does exist here still.

That about sums up the adventures, since this week has been all school and nothing fun yet. Tomorrow I'm going to Ligue 1 soccer match in Marseille. Cheap tickets and amazing soccer. I cannot complain. Next post, I swear, will be both shorter and not as far after this one as this was from the last. Now for the best part...pictures. Some images so you can imagine my adventures with me.

yup...thank you justin for the card game "idiot". played HOURS of this.
a bit of Gaudi work here...cool lizard deal is hard to see though

botellòn! spanish street parties are the best

Sevilla square dealio
yes we did conquer the Norwegian cold in that teepee
yup i am going back someday
my bed for the chilly night at the airport

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Les grèves

After a series of well crafted and entertaining stories, I am going to take it down to the scholar level and do some information sharing that the news feeds across the world would find quite interesting. I am going to talk about "les grèves", the massive strikes, which are currently sweeping across France.

If you haven't heard, the French government is attempting to reform the retirement and pension ages. The proposed changes include raising the age for retirement from 60 to 62, as well as moving the age for full state pension benefits from 65 to 67. Those of us who live in the US know very well that 62 is still a full three (soon to become 4) years younger than the retirement age at home. Other countries that have age 65 or higher as the year you can qualify for retirement include Germany, Great Britain, Norway and both countries of the Iberian Peninsula. I could go on, but these countries illustrate well enough that in the world's leading economies, the retirement age is much higher than that of France. Even by raising it, the age would still be considered low. Yet the strikes go on.

"Les grèves" and "les manifestations" have been a common theme in French history. Simply searching "French striking" with Google gave me page after page on instances where the French went on strike over...something. They've taken CEO's hostage, overtaken and burned trucks carrying produce and blockaded ports, airports, roads and buildings. Striking and protesting is in their blood, law and history, thus, right now, they're out in full force attempting to back the government down from reform. Obviously they strike because it has worked before. In 1995 they forced the government to back down from the same type of pension reformed getting voted on right now. The current situation might turn out differently with Sarkozy as president, but we'll see soon. The vote was scheduled for yesterday. The results of the vote should come out soon. But until then, all I can do is share with the world what I see and hear, how these strikes have affected me, and how they might affect me soon. So here goes.

First of all, the turnout on these strikes is incredible. The police say that there are over a million people out in the streets for each of these days of called strikes (the union estimate is always roughly twice to three times the police estimate). Regardless of that number demonstrating, the number striking is astounding not only because of how many, but how varied they are. Busses don't run like they should, both city and intercity. Last weekend I tried to go to a city only 70 km away and couldn't get there because the busses weren't running there due to strikes. Trains are running irregularly because the workers don't show up. At one point one in three trains was NOT running, with one in two TGV (bullet) trains either late or not running. That is astounding. France depends heavily on trains and busses for transportation. Between Aix en Provence and Marseille, which has a large commuting population, a 30 km drive turned into a nightmare. It took two hours to make the drive on a strike day instead of the average 30 minutes.

Gas stations have run dry across France, affecting cars and planes both. My program director drove by five stations in Marseille that said they were dry before she came across one with any gas. One in three planes was affected, either late or cancelled, due to fuel shortages. Sarkozy had to order the forced opening of the oil refineries in France in order to keep things running at at least this capacity. Inhabitants of Marseille also took it upon themselves to block all the entrances and exits from Marseille to the freeways, thus stopping the majority of traffic in and out of the city. The most disgusting thing I've seen was the piles of garbage rotting on the streets of Marseille. The trash workers aren't picking them up and the heaps simply sit there and accumulate until they spill over into the streets or cover the sidewalks. It's more than slightly revolting.

Schools, too, are being affected. Mine has not, but the students of the university in which I am a part of went on strike several times. Today I'm pretty sure I saw a group of about 150 of my Université Paul-Cezanne compatriots walking and chanting up and down the main street of Aix. A friend of mine teaches English to French lycéens, or high schoolers, and was stopped in his attempt to leave school one day by a line of shopping carts and angry students blocking the doors. His entrance to school was also blocked one day by tons of dumpsters and trash cans set up by the students. Students somewhere even lit a car on fire. The youngsters are getting riled up too. They want in on this, but I feel like they just want to join in and not go to school just because they can avoid working for a bit. I have a hard time believing that they're actually angry enough about this to blockade their own school. They just want time off. But that's just me.

So those are my observations and experiences from the strikes. I don't think they're going to work this time. Sarkozy is pretty bullheaded about this, and it needs to happen. Had it happened in 1995, the government would have already realized billions of euros in savings from not having to open up the coffers so early. Instead, they have to face round two of angry French people striking and protesting their actions. I think the government needs to do this, regardless of whether the people are angry or not. It just needs to happen. Talking to my first homestay host, she said that the reforms would fundamentally alter the French way of life. She also added that people's bodies just can't take working hard that long. "It'll kill us all!" she said. I can see why she'd say that. But I don't really believe her. I told tell her that smoking a pack a day like the French do will kill you even faster. Maybe we should up the age on smoking? She said that the French would pull another 1789 style attack on the government if that happened. That I do believe.