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Saturday, June 5, 2010

One month in France


It’s been a month now that I’m in France, so I guess that gives me the right to write about France as if I’ve known her forever. (Oh my God now I’m referring to France as “her”, you know I’m Frenchified.) 

Apart from making me ascribe genders to asexual objects (though based on my encounters which some Italian senior citizens, I hesitate to say France is really asexual) France has subtly changed me in certain ways. Of course, I’m not experiencing culture shock, for I am much too bizarre to let that happen to me. Indeed, I quite fancy that I am the culture shock. 

First of all, I remember that when I got to Nice 

Wait, let’s begin at the beginning...

At the end of the tiring 13 hour flight, we landed at the Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris. About an hour before landing, when we were flying in the French airfield above France, Asyraf and I looked out the window, and saw what looked like miles and miles of empty fields, as far as the eye could see.

Instantly I had the impression that France was more like a farmer village, full of peasants and country folk. 

To this day I still haven’t figured out what that landscape is, but I have to say, although France isn’t as country-side and farm-like as the view from the sky would have me believe, it’s certainly not as urban as some of the big cities in Malaysia. Granted I haven’t seen Paris yet, but still, Nice is a big city and it’s not half as urban and modern looking as Malaysia. Not that it’s a bad thing, it’s just different.

Meanwhile, here are two more pictures I snapped while on the plane:
This is the face of joy and excitement 

We got to the CDG Airport, but I didn’t snap a picture of it, most probably because it was so unimpressive that I completely forgot to. But here’s a photo of it that I found on the internets:

Nothing compared to KLIA

At the airport, we met the JPA officer who’s based in Paris, and he took charge of us there, and he gave us our tickets for our connecting flights to our respective cities along with a briefing explaining procedures and other advice.

But most importantly of course, was the light snack he bought all of us at the airport!

The first food I ate in the land of patisseries: un pain au chocolat et un espresso.
The water however, was not free, and cost me 3€50 

When in France, of course you speak French. And since I’ve studied French for two years now, naturally I didn’t hesitate to speak French with the airport staff and airport shopkeepers. But everyone replied in English, as if they were trying to say “Oh, I can see that you don’t really speak French, don’t worry, we speak English too,” which I found somewhat annoying.

Anyway, briefing and complementary coffee settled, we boarded the 1 hour Air France flight to Nice, Côte d’Azur.  

At the Nice airport, we were received by a representative from Campus France, along with a few seniors from PreFrance 6 who study in Nice. At the Nice airport, I also discovered that my luggage didn’t make it to Nice, and so I had to speak to the airport staff about my missing luggage. At least here in Nice, they replied me in French. Apparently my luggage wasn’t transferred from the Paris airport to Nice and they would have it delivered by the next day. I got a toilet kit from them, and then we set off in a van driven by a Campus France staff to our respective foster family’s homes.

This was the first time I was actually seeing France. I mean, the first time stepping outside of the airport. And one of the first things I saw when we were along the way to our homes was a guy pissing on the side of the road, and I thought “Mmmm, civilization!”

Asyraf and I got to our foster parent’s home. Her name is Martine Baron, and she lives alone. She welcomed us, and laid down just one rule: Don’t waste water and electricity, be prudent. Other than that, we’re pretty much free. She’s a really nice lady, and very much motherly, and I have to say she’s doing a wonderful job playing host to us. She’s had plenty of experience hosting Malaysians, so she knows all about serving halal food. In fact, she’s the one who pointed out the direction of the kiblat for me. And if that’s not enough, she actually has a French translation of the Quran in our bedroom.

She does her best to cook food which she thinks we’ll like, sometimes serving French cuisine, and sometimes trying her best to come up with something more Asian, like fried rice (which is not bad really) and chicken curry (which is yellow and more like masak lemak than curry, but it’s not bad either, if you can accept that it’s just not curry how the Indians intended it – she suggested eating it with a little jam, and surprisingly, it’s quite delicious!) 

Since I didn’t have my luggage, I decided to go out and buy some clothes for class the next day. And that’s when I really saw what life in the city of Nice is like. There are lots of people everywhere, people actually walk! And there are zebra crossings everywhere, and the cars actually stop to let you cross!

And there are dogs everywhere too. It seems like almost every other French person owns a dog or two and they bring them wherever they go. And they’re really tame too, and don’t bark at or chase strangers. They actually remind me of Pokémon, following their trainers wherever they go.

image image
Dogs, dogs everywhere! 

The people are really nice and friendly too, and when you stop and say bonjour and excusez-moi they actually stop and smile back at you and take the time to give you directions. And even if they don’t know the directions, they smile warmly and apologize sincerely. So not like KL.

Oh I love how the water in Nice is clean, and we can drink straight from the tap! Actually, I find it tastes better than the bottled mineral water. It’s really convenient that you can just carry a bottle around and fill it up anywhere there’s a tap. It saves a lot of trouble and money.

The morning of the second day, we had our first breakfast in France, which consisted of some really tasty tasty bread, unlike any bread I’ve ever tasted in my entire life, and a delicious instant chocolate drink called Nesquik which I fell in love with instantly.

imageIt may look like any other breakfast, but I tell you it was frikkin amazing. 

Then we went to the Alliance Française, where we take French classes for 4 hours a day.

It’s really convenient that it’s so close to home (1 minute’s walk)
so we can wake up really late and still be there on time.

 Within the first few days we’d walked around Nice, and we’d discovered the beach and Place Massena, which is quite a busy part of town, and a popular tourist destination.

imageLook, it’s a fountain

Nice is so alive, so full of activity. There’s always something interesting going on, always something to see, something to do. And not to mention the street performers who fill the promenades and squares with music.

An open air concert at Place Massena

imageAn accordionist

Michael Jackson Impersonator (performs regularly)

imageA pianist

imageA saxophonist

imageA model at a photoshoot


imageI don’t even know why there’s a Winnie the Pooh in Nice, but she gave me a kiss. 

As for food, there’re no problems. Martine prepares breakfast and dinner for us, so we only have to buy our own lunch. And there’s plenty of Kebab and Pizza shops which sell halal food at really decent prices. And, for those days when we really want to have Malaysian food, there’s even a restaurant owned by a Malaysian couple, where we can go in and order nasi goreng ayam for 5 euros.

Malaysian Food!

But then of course the lousy bank is taking forever to validate my bank account, thus leaving me unable to buy an iPhone!

Life’s not perfect, but it’s pretty Nice.

1 comment:

drifter said...

Wow I really like this update! Initially I thought you were going to tell the story from A to Z.. haha!

Thank you so much for the pictures too! I've actually been waiting for them lol

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