So I thought that I had already posted about Switzerland, but clearly I did not as I just found the unfinished draft in my saved drafts. So I apologize for not posting my Switzerland shenanigans sooner. Also, I went to OFII today and I’m finally a legal foreigner! I will explain…
First of all-Switzerland. Of course, this turned into an interesting journey. What else is new.
So our break was a week, but we (Claire, Helen, Melissa, Grayson, and me) went only for 4 days…I don’t think we could have afforded any longer. So we travelled there on Wednesday Feb 4 (I just remember that because we left on Julien’s birthday) and travelled basically the whole day. We took multiple trains, leaving around 1:30 pm and arriving in Switzerland around 8-9pm. We rented an Airbnb-basically a guy who’s in Cambodia for the year is renting out his apartment and it was super nice and not far at all from downtown Geneva. The first night, all the grocery stores were closed, so we went to a kebab restaurant thinking it would be cheap, and it wasn’t at all. A meal you can get for €5 in Angers cost about 15 CHF (Swiss Francs)! So we realized we would be buying cheap food and eating in during our time there, which ended up being fine because Grayson is like a master chef. So the next morning, we woke up and went to grocery store and decided to make french toast and eggs and coffee and the whole bit. Well, when we got home, right as we started cooking, we ended up blowing a fuse, but only in the kitchen and half of the living room, including the outlet with the wifi router. So (as we thought) the kitchen didn’t work and the wifi didn’t work, and our French phones didn’t work, so we had to go to the neighbors asking if we could use their phone to call the girl who had let us into the house for the Airbnb guy, because she had the only key to the closet where we thought the fuse box was. Well, we couldn’t get ahold of her right away, so the nice (but kind of crazy) old neighbors let Claire and Grayson cook in their tiny kitchen, so we at least still got to eat. However, once everything was cooked, I had opened the fridge to get milk out, and noticed that the light was still on, which I knew was weird because if the power was out, the fridge light wouldn’t turn on. Then we tried the stove, and, guess what? That worked too! So as we had blown a fuse on the wall with the microwave, tea kettle, and light, everything else did in fact work. Not soon after we finished eating, the girl came over and showed us the fuse box, right next to the front door (it really didn’t look like a fuse box-more like a vent) so we could have fixed all of our problems all along, but it was still an adventure. We had planned on visiting some mountain while we were there too, but the neighbors had informed Claire and Grayson that because of the snow and bad weather, the mountain was not easily accessible and we would need snow shows-and not just snow boots, but actual snow shoes-like the tennis racket ones. So we decided to veto the mountain, and stayed around town. We went to a natural history museum, the St. Peter cathedral, the historic (old) part of town, we did go to see the water sprocket that Geneva is famous for but it was closed down because it was too cold, we got some Swiss hot chocolate, and then we went home, Grayson made dinner, and we called it a night.
The next day-Friday-Melissa, Helen, and Claire went to meet a Brother that Melissa knows, so Grayson and I went to the Museum of Beaux Arts, then to the United Nations building. That night we all just hung out, ate, drank, etc. We got up on Saturday and cleaned the apartment, then started our trek home. Everything went fine until we were on our train from Lyon to Angers, when, around 9pm, which was supposed to be an hour and a half before we arrived in Angers, the conductor came over the speak saying that there had been a “personal accident” and that the trains would be stopped until about 11:30pm. We found out that a “personal accident” meant that someone had jumped in front of a train. It wasn’t our train, but when that happens, all the trains in the route are stopped. So they gave us food, and we were thankfully in the more comfortable first class, and we didn’t end up having to wait all the way until 11:30pm to start moving again, but we still didn’t get home until around 2am. Nonetheless, it wasn’t the most eventful trip, but it was fun and I was able to spend time with people I hadn’t truly bonded with before.
So that Monday we started classes again (February 9), well kind of. The new students who arrived for second semester had taken their placement exams the week before, but the returning students had to either go to various meetings or for students like me who were placed in the “superior” level had to take a placement exam. So basically, there are different levels in my program, CIDEF. A1, A2, B1, B2, C1 and each of those levels have more sub-levels like B1.10-B1.25 for example. So I was in B1.25 last semester, which is the highest level of the B1 level, and this semester I tested into B2.22 which is the highest level of the B2 level. So that means that yes, my classes are harder, but I also have more options. I am taking some classes for credits back at St. Mary’s, but I am also able to take classes that I want. So I’m taking philosophy, theology, French, translation, and history of art. I know I already took translation and history of art, but I liked the courses so much that I decided to continue following them. Oh, and we recently got our grades from last semester, and I got all A’s and a mention Très Bien, which is the highest mention you can get in the French grading system. And my classes are going fine. They’re not all super interesting, but it’s still early in the semester so we’ll see what happens.
Last weekend I was able to go to Paris to visit Allie and some other smicks who are studying in Rome this semester but were visiting Paris, so that was super fun. For those who don’t know, Allie is one of my best friends and was my roommate last year, and I haven’t seen her since last May, so I was really happy that I got to see her, even though it was only for a few hours.
Then today, I went to Nantes, which is a town about an hour from Angers. If you all recall, during Christmas (I CANNOT believe it’s already been 3 months), I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to go home because I didn’t have my visa stamp from OFII (French office of immigration and integration) and today I finally got it! I had to go to Nantes, wandered around for a while trying to find the right tramways and the OFII building, and finally I got there. My appointment was at 2:45pm, but I didn’t actually get called in until around 3:30pm. It was a basic medical checkup, I had to strip down and have my chest x-rayed, and, since I’m completely healthy, there were no problems and I got my stamp and left. So I waited A LOT but it was easy and now it’s finally done! There was a girl in the OFII office when I was there who then I saw on the metro and she asked me for directions, and we started talking and realized that she also lives in Angers. So we grabbed a coffee and talked a little before heading home to Angers. She was really nice, her name is Esha and she is from India but she speaks English also. Small world!
Well I think that’s all I’ve got for you all right now. But I guess it’s kind of a lot. Anyways,