Monday, January 31, 2011

Day 2 - First day of school

Today was the first day of school! The fact that I was wearing the same clothes as the previous 24-hour wake period did not matter so much. I would get clothes later.
I arrived by 8:10 AM. Others started to gather, but no one attempted to engage me, and if they did I was not able to respond very well.
The test was in 3 parts - listen to a story and answer questions based on it; read a story and answer questions based on that; and speak with the professor (Miguel). I'm glad to say, I thought that I understood a very little bit, but I'm really happy to say that I was put in the "beginner" group of learners. The group had already started at 8:45; now it was 10:30. Not a problem, and it was somewhat familiar.
After lunch, we in the intensive program get to converse with the teacher's assistance. It was fun to tell others about myself and to ask them questions. The students are full of life. Most appear to be in their 20s.
Classes end at 2:30 and some days excursions are planned. I went on the walking tour of Nice. We walked and walked and walked. Please be mindful that I am wearing my new house shoes (a little better than slippers, but NOT meant for long walks) because my regular shoes are in my lost luggage. Most of the time I am surprised that my feet did not hurt. Then again, it has been quite a while since I have put in so much time walking. We would through the streets of the old city, passing shops, the open market, and a dominican convent (I may have to go back there another time), and up the hill to the site of an old chateau (no remains of the house) where the view of the bay and city is breathtaking. It was very peaceful there.
When we came down the hill, I parted ways with the rest of the group because I needed to buy a few items to make the next day more pleasant for me and for others. Shopping was good in that there were many sales on. Shopping was a challenge because I am unfamiliar with the European sizing of items. Despite that, I came home with a new blouse, socks, and underwear.
I walked in the door of the apartment at 7:45 pm - a very long day. It was good to eat. My feet are now one size larger than they were this morning. But (YEAH!) my luggage was delivered around 5:00 pm, so now I can choose which clothes to wear tomorrow. : )

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Day 1: The journey to Nice

HI all, Well, I made it with just a little excitement and no luggage.
In Chicago: Eileen and I left Dubuque at 7:05 AM making good time into O'Hare, so I was there with 3 hours to spare at the International Terminal. No one was around for a very long time, and I was not finding my flight on the board. The clock is ticking and I am starting to get anxious. As it turned out, when the desk was staffed, I was to be in the Domestic Terminal at United - this was NOT evident from the ticket. Now, with just less than one hour till departure, I moved quickly to the train to take me to Terminal 1. At United's desk,  I was directed to the kiosk to check in with a credit card. After 2 false starts - one to say that the time and flight number of my first flight had changed, the second that I could not use the kiosk because I was going to be away too long, next I received real person help. They did not think that my bag would make it, but they would try by tagging it with "Priority".  Then they said, "Do not stop for anything; go fast, do not stop." So I did not - security was busy but went smoothly. Then I ran. And I made the flight, but my bag did not come along with me. I hope it comes in tomorrow. All I can say is "thank you, God" for being able to get myself here.
In Washington-Dulles: Found the gate info for the Scandanavian Air flight. Dulles is a maze - down the stairs, up the stairs, take a transit vehicle, down the stairs, up the stairs.... Plenty of time to settle in, but no waiting.
To Copenhagen: The flight was not full, so there was room to move around so that rest might be more possible. Dinner was good (rosemary chicken, potatoes, lettuce salad, et al.) then it's time to try to sleep. I think I probably winked through about 4 1/2 hours. Breakfast was a ham sandwich on wheat with yogurt and tea. We arrived at the airport ahead of time, so it's possible to grab a few more winks.
To Nice: On this flight, there are only clouds below until the Alps show their tops, then more clouds. Even Nice was cloudy today, but no rain. Any breakfast items may be purchased. I think a bottle of OJ would be good. At this time I find out that I left my credit card in the kiosk in Chicago. (Aw, good grief!) (Can you believe it?!) Well, there's not much I can do about that now, and I figured that I am grateful not to have discovered this earlier in the trip - I would have been a basket case.
At the airport, I waited for the luggage that would not come and filled out the paperwork to connect with it, likely in a few days. It takes a while to do these things, so I was concerned that the person sent to meet me might give up. But no, I actually made it out the door before he arrived. Malek took me directly to my host family - Madame Michele Bondi.
The Bondi House - Michele lives on the first floor of an apartment building. She has 2 cats - it will take a while for them to get used to the idea that I have taken over their bed for the next three months. If I liked to smoke, I would not have to worry. But this is just another part of the culture. Michele speaks good English, and I think she is willing to help me get pronunciations correct. She has a very small kitchen which fits her life just fine, but we will likely share an occasional meal at the table in the evenings. She will prepare breakfast for me in the mornings, then I'm on my own the rest of the time.
Exploring the neighborhood: Michele drew a map to show me where the school is, 2 French Catholic and 1 American Catholic church, the train station, and a few other local landmarks. So I decided to take a walk around the area. The Russian Orthodox Church is a landmark just 2 blocks away. Czar Nicholas had a home here in Nice - much nicer than cold Russia in the winter. I walked as far as the school, so I know that I can find it, and then wove my way across the city. At one point, I thought I should retrace my steps since I was getting turned around - soon I found my way. Then I found a Boulangerie that had pizza by the slice and sandwiches. (I was able to draw some Euros from the ATM around the corner.)
When I got back to the house, I needed a nap. It was just a short one. Since I don't have my luggage, settling in did not take long.
That's really all the excitement of the last 2 days. I'm very glad to be here. The people are very kind-hearted, and I'm looking forward to knowing them better.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Family is assigned

Today I received an email with information regarding my host family while in Nice. It looks like Madame Michele is in her sixties and has "un chat." Her home is a 10-minute walk from the school - near the sea and the movie theater. Sounds just right. Very much more excited, too.