Sunday, September 26, 2010

On Hold

Hello all!
So still apartment hunting, which basically means that my life is on hold till I find something. Until then, I can't: open a bank account (therefore get paid or do a myriad of other things which require a French bank account), receive the box with my winter coat (which apparently I may need sooner than I thought), go to Paris to visit mes amis, post pics, use a normal keyboard...the list goes on and on. I can't really breath till then, pour résumer (to sum up).

I have a couple of possibilities which I'm waiting on with baited breath, as I'm sure you all will soon be as well. First, a co-worker of the sister of the teacher I'm staying with has a big, beautiful maison bourgoise (as my teacher called it), which basically just means that it's a big house, and as their older son is now out on his own, working in Lyon, they have an empty room, possibly for me. I went over to this maison bourgeoise Saturday afternoon to meet him and his wife and see what they had to offer. Their house is located up on one side of the Fourviere hill in Lyon's 5th arrondissement and a quick bus ride takes you down into the center of town, so it's definitely in an awesome location with a an awesome view. They were really nice and I told them that I would happily accept the offer, only I have to wait until Friday to find out if it's definitely ok (for a few reasons, don't really feel like explaining them). So that's a "definitely, maybe." In the meantime, however, I have to keep looking, especially since I can't mooch off of M and Mme Kawak forever.

With fewer and fewer ads put up everyday, and even fewer responses to my inquiries, it's not easy. The couple of places I have seen have been extremely OK (emphasis on the ok), with, nonetheless, an endless queue (line) behind me, 20 people fighting for 1 room. Student housing is expensive and requires French guarantors and other complicated paperwork (but desperation could drive me to it), and getting together a group of other assistants or even a group of French people, to look for our own apartment sounds complicated (and most likely unfurnished) as well (though again, desperate times).

A second possibility just popped up a few hours ago--the assistant liason at my school called today to let me know that a girlfriend of her son's (or her son's girlfriend, not sure which as the word "copine" could potentially mean both), has an apartment right in the center of Lyon--seriously awesome location--and she's looking for a coloc (roomie). I'm going to see it tomorrow, but apparently the downside is that it's pretty small and really only for one person--the second "bedroom" is the living room, so I guess I'll see tomorrow what exactly that means. I also don't know anything about the furnishings (or if she smokes, dun dun dun), but at least it's a great location, probably not to cher (expensive), and could be at the very least, a temporary solution to my soon-to-be dire situation.

Other than my apartment troubles, and the quite sudden change from summer to cold and rainy fall, I have been enjoying many Lyon treats, promenades and have started meeting up with some of the other assistants. I met up with one last night to prendre un verre (have a drink) and tomorrow I have plans with one, possibly two others (one of which is also a Lindsay, but -ay, and she is also teaching in St. Priest, but at the elementary school!). So, wish me luck for my big Monday--two apartment viewings and nouveaux amis (new friends)!

mille bises

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Bienvenue à Lyon!

Bonjour tout le monde!
So I arrived in Lyon Tuesday night, after nearly 24 hours of traveling, plus a 9 hour time difference. While waiting for my two American-sized suitcases, i met one of the other assistants, Emily. Nqturally, we had recognized each from Facebook, thank you once again Mark Zuckerberg. Thankfully one of the English teachers at my school had offered to house me while i look for an apartment; and even better, she even came to pick me up at the airport, so no lugging heavy suitcases through pubic transportation, hallelujah!

We arrived at her house around 8:30 at which point she homemade some zucchini soup for dinner, and as usual got the "you don't eat very much do you?" from her husband because although i seem to eat plenty by American standards (no one ever says that to me in the US), paradoxically, i can't seem to keep up with the French (though i still can't figure out where they put it all). Trust me, I eat PLENTY.

Anyway, she and her husband are super nice and welcoming, the only slight annoyance is that they live about 20 minutes outside the city, so once i go into the city, i have to stay until i'm ready to come home for the night, and even that is really only a problem because i'm apartment hunting and so far my rendez-vous have been scheduled at 8pm. Oh, and we can't get the wireless to work so i have to use their computer and it's evil French keyboard--so blame the typos on that!

Yesterday i wandered around Lyon for a few hours, mostly just hanging out until I had to head over the the 8th arrondissement (Lyon is split into 9 arrondissements or administrative districts like Paris is split into 20) to see my first apartment. So what did i do the pass the time? Well luckily it wa a nice sunny, Indian summer sort of day, so I just meandered along the river, down a few Vieux Lyon backstreets, and of course passed through Place Bellecour, Lyon's huge central square. I took care of a few necessities, buying phone credit, stumbling upon a Gilbert Jaune (French bookstore chain) where I was able to find a little Lyon map-book like its Parisian counterpart that i never leave home without when I'm there. I was hoping to find something like this so I don't have to whip out my giant "hello i'm a tourist" map everytime i need directions. More importantly though, i stopped at a boulangerie for some sustenance à la lyonnaise: an orangina and a tarte aux pralines roses. When I can use my own computer again, i'll be sure to post a picture of this pink delight. Last time I was in Lyon I became obsesse with their speciality, the pink prailine; which they crush up and add to an array of pastries, most commonly in a brioche or tarte. The delectable tarte has a shortbread crust and a beautiful, crunchy pink praline mixture on top. If you ever come to Lyon, make sure to try it, especially for those with an incurable sweet-tooth like me!

After wandering around some more to walk this off, i sat down in some random little park determined to make a few phone calls and set up some appointments to see apartments. Speaking on the phone in French is not one of my strong points and it definitely still freaks me out. I used to do it fairly regularly at the Chamber of Commerce, but that feels like forever ago, and besides, they always spoke English just in case. But since emails dont seem to get many responses here, i knew this was my best shot at finding something, so I finally just made myself dial and push the call button. Well it seems my fears were justified because I was a total idiot during the first call, but somehow i did manage to make an appointment for tonight, so hopefully she'll realize i'm not really as retarded as i seemed on the phone. Here's to hoping I get better at this, as i'm sure there are many more French phone calls in the near future.

At about 8:15 I showed up at the apartment I had scheduled to see that night. Located in the 8th arrondissement, it's not exactly in the center of town, but it's a quiet neighborhood that seems pretty safe and a 10 minute walk from the tram i'll take to my school in St. Priest (Pre-est, not Priest). My roommates would be a 25-year old couple from Madagascar (French-speaking). They were really friendly, and the apartmen really nice and pretty new, but the room is unfurnished, so not ideal. Plus I would prefer to be more centrally located if possible, though I know beggars can't be choosers, and yes, as the song goes, "it's hard out there for a pimp," so we'll see. I'm supposed to let them know on Friday. Hopefully I'll have a couple more options by then.

That's all for now! Wish me luck on my hunt and hopefully in a few days i'll have some good news to share! (and eventually pics as well!)

Monday, September 20, 2010

Presque Lyonnaise

Tomorrow I am once again off to France--no surprise there. But this time, it's for 7.5 months. Straight. Now we all know how I feel about France and les Francais, but after 7.5 months in the Hexagon, we'll see how many Eiffel towers still decorate my room. Just kidding...sort of ;)

I'm super excited, but beyond nervous, especially about finding an apartment. The hunt is on starting Wednesday, but for now, I just have to sit tight and pray to the Lyon apartment gods that something awesome is just waiting for me to knock on the door.

Apartment nonsense (and other bureacracy) aside, I am looking forward to really getting to know another city in France, and am interested in making all sorts of comparisions with my golden standard: Paris (don't worry, when I say golden, I say it in a tongue-in-cheek manner, I know it's far from perfect). I'm already well aware that Paris is NOT France and once outside it, it's a whole different world. I'm also looking forward to frequent 2hr tgv trips up there :)

Anywho, more packing to do before embarking on my 20 hour voyage and my next life adventure! Wish me luck, keep in touch and stay tuned!