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Europe » France » Franche-Comté » Besançon
February 2nd 2010
Published: February 2nd 2010
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my daffodil plant!
They say that you should never accept rides from strangers.

And the people who tell you this are absolutely right…for the most part. But when you have class until 7:30pm and then find out at the bus stop that the buses aren’t running because of the snow, and you find yourself in the deserted downtown with no way to get back to your residence hall (which is inconveniently on the outskirts of town), not to mention you have no idea how to even get there if you were crazy enough to try and walk, somehow a ride (heck, you don’t even care with who) starts to sound good.

At the bus stop there was another girl waiting. After talking with her and finding out that she had been sitting there for a while and had seen no buses, it was time to accept that we were en panne (“out of luck” or, more accurately: “screwed”). She said her house was in the direction of the CROUS (my lovely place of residence) and that we could walk that way together.

After ascertaining that she probably wasn’t a serial killer or part of some scheme to knock me
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my dorm building
out and steal my kidneys, I decided that it would be a good idea to walk with her, since she at least knew how to get there. We walked along and talked, and I discovered she was a really nice and interesting person. She also happens to work at a bakery/café that I frequent, and after she told me that I recognized her. It just so happens that she is also in training to be a dog groomer, so naturally I told her about Jackson.

As we walked in the snow, she got the idea to call her mom and see if she could drive us the rest of the way, since it was still a long walk. We waited and talked some more until her mom and brother rolled up in the car.

After I ascertained that these two people unknown to me probably weren’t aliens who wanted to abduct me for anal probing (wearing human skin, of course) or Al Qaida assassins, I happily slide into the car with my new friends. The ride was quiet, and I wasn’t quite sure what to say.

I soon ascertained that they were in fact
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the residence area
driving in the direction of my residence, and not to some deserted farm house, which was good. In no time flat, they had dropped me off in front of my dorm. I thanked them profusely, and they smiled at me. (I’m hoping that meant that they had ascertained that I in fact was not a Chinese star-throwing ninja with a vendetta against the French or a government robot.)

They drove off and I waved goodbye. Tomorrow I will visit my new friend at the bakery to say “hello”. If there’s one thing that I’ve learned about the French, it is that though they don’t always wear it on their sleeves, they are (to make a sweeping generalization) super duper kind.

Here, take another example. Yesterday morning I was waiting with the others in the snow for our class. It was the only one where I hadn’t yet made any friends. Well, almost. I saw a guy who had been quite friendly with me in one of my Archeology class. I cringed thinking about last Thursday. Before I had ascertained that he was a weirdo, I had volunteered to be his partner for a project. I had to work with him the entire two hours—during which I tried incessantly to figure out how one might say the following in French: “Dude, scoot back, your in my bubble!” (I’m still trying to figure that one out, but I don’t plan on working with him again, so hopefully it’s a null pount.)

Anyways, back to yesterday morning when I’m waiting outside the classroom. I see this guy walking towards me. It was sort of like those old Godzilla movies, you know? The ones where the puppet monster (a.k.a. him) is crushing the city as innocent bystanders (a.k.a. me) run for their lives. Luckily though, I didn’t have to run.

Out of nowhere, these two girls pop up, and start talking to me. Out of the corner of my eye I saw the demon lizard change trajectory (note: I believe this is a military tactic that has been successfully used since Roman times). I recognized these girls from my Archeology class (in which I had ascertained that they seemed really cool). In the classroom, they motioned for me to sit with them (please note: in France, this is a big deal). The one girl who looks
The Museum of Time!The Museum of Time!The Museum of Time!

while inside, it started snowing again!
especially cool, Pauline, leaned over to me and said, “You know that guy who you were working with last Thursday?”
“Yeah…” I groaned.
She leaned in even closer to whisper, “Well, he’s really weird.”
I was relieved to find out that she agreed. Sometimes it’s hard to tell about people when you’re in a foreign country speaking a different language.
Then she smiled, “Don’t worry, we’ll protect you.”
Alright! I thought, Girls who have each other’s backs!

Throughout the class Pauline would show me her notes so that I could make sure I had spelled names and places right and written down dates correctly (dates are super hard for me in French).

And that’s how I was adopted by yet another set of friends. I say “yet another” because this has been pretty much the way I’ve made friends here. People in my classes see that I’m a stranger (unlike them, they’ve all had the same classes together for the last three years). What’s more, they see that I’m a native French speaker who struggles sometimes with the language. So, they take me in.

The truth is, when you study abroad you have to learn to rely
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in 1900 this was the most complicated clock in the world! Aside from applications to give time in various forms, it could tell you what the stars would look like that night, what temperature it was, and what the current barometric pressure was!
somewhat on the kindness of others. This can clash with the American mentality to “be independent” and “do it yourself”. For me this is especially difficult. But I’ve learned here that as a foreigner I really am at a disadvantage in many ways, and that it’s okay to ask for help.

It’s ok to be that person in the subways of Paris asking for directions. (Wow, I can’t count the number of times since I arrived in France that I’ve asked for street, bus, subway, and train directions). It’s ok to be that person in class who leans over to ask how to spell that crazy French word that the professor just said. And it’s ok to be that person who walks into a store and asks where the toilettes are without any intention of buying anything, because you just arrived at your dorm and discovered that they don’t supply toilet paper in the public restrooms there and you haven’t had a chance to buy any yet.

Of course, being a foreigner also means that you have to keep your wits about you. You’re vulnerable, and that means that you can’t just trust any Joe Schmo. That’s what
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and then it started snowing! the next couple of pics are taken from the tower of the Time Museum
can make traveling scary. However, it’s good to realize that just as there as tons of dangerous Chinese-star-throwing ninjas and kidney theives, there are just as many good people out there who mean well and would like to help you.

As for me, typing this blog entry has made me work up a hefty appetite, so I think I’ll go prepare something for dinner. Later tonight I'm going to a crepe party at Rejane's!

Also, here are some more pictures of Besancon. Enjoy!



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a replica of Foucoult's pendulum (ha! i saw the real one in Paris!)
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and then the blue sky came out again! view from my window


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