Monday, October 12, 2009

20 September 2009 at 8:24 Montpellier Time

I didn’t do anything too exciting this weekend. I ate far too many french pastries and miscellaneous desserts. Ever since I first introduced myself to the art that is french pastry cooking on Wednesday, I had been craving some more. This weekend, I had eclairs, croissants, cakes, and more, all delicious and all worth it. Other than the chocolate and bead, I attended the honey fair that took place in Montpellier this weekend. It reminded me of the events I see up north when I go to stay with my Mom. I guess it was my version of the Southington apple or italian festival. Montpellier has tons of events such as this. I have seen at least three separate festivals during my stay already. I love it, they foster a real sense of community cohesiveness, yet supporting community outreach. People who live in the same neighborhood have a place to go and chit-chat, as well as learn of a trade or aspect of the world they might not experience regularly. For example, there were honey farmers from Iraq in attendance. The subjects of these fairs and festivals might not be exciting, however, their true worth, in my eyes, is their promotion of constructive, positive community interaction, recreation, and diversification. Learning or seeing something new is always exciting. Getting past the sweets, I went to mass at a beautiful 14th century cathedral named Saint-Pierre. It’s stunningly beautiful both inside and out. It has everything you would expect a cathedral of some prominence to posses: the large nave, bell towers, stained-glass windows, gargoyles, etc. Surprisingly, I comprehended the better part of both the sermon and the biblical readings.  The service was much more informal than what I am used to in Louisville. The service seemed thrown together at the last moment. It wasn’t nearly as polished or fluid as mass at St. Louis Bertrand. Nonetheless, I enjoyed it and am hoping to make it a weekly habit. Other than these activities and a couple of dinners with the roommates, that was the weekend. It was rather slow, yet relaxing and rejuvenating. I am ready for a new week.

Since I do not have much to report this weekend, I thought I would describe my living situation here in Montpellier. I mostly share the experiences and activities I encounter outside of my home. Obviously, these aspects of my life are far more entertaining. However, I would like to share what I do day in and day out, what my home looks like and what I do when I am not in the city center. For me, the sights and sounds of downtown Montpellier are far less dissimilar from my past than my home life. I find it entertaining to compare the differences, to weigh the positive and the negatives of both existences. First, I will describe the aesthetics. My home is a two-story apartment situated in a sleepy suburb about ten minutes outside of downtown Montpellier (twenty to thirty minutes outside when you add the walk to the apartment from the train station). The apartment complex sits between a neighborhood of middle to upper class housing and a beautiful park. There are really only two directions you can go from our apartment building. If you take a right out of the complex and follow the road towards the main road and tramway line, you will be journeying along the outer walls of the park, down a narrow street lined with stone fencing. If you cross the main road and tramway line, you will be going towards St. Lazare cemetery, known as the most beautiful cemetery in Montpellier. Passing up the cemetery, you will find several small shops specializing in crafting marble tombs, a few apartment complexes, and a couple parks. The road is lined with trees and the buildings are very quaint, giving the area a very small-town feel. This is my favorite route to get to different places. It is beautiful and secluded from the hustle and bustle of the main transportation routes. The other area around the apartment, traveling away from the park, is far less pleasant. Their is a neighborhood that, save for a few pretty houses, is rather dull and unimpressive. If you walk out of the neighborhood, you reach another street with a shopping center and other small stores on it. This area is far busier and much less pleasing to the eye, I avoid if I can. The apartment itself is nothing special, but it gets the job done. My possessions include my room and a bathroom and a one-quarter share in the common area made up of the kitchen, a small dining area, stairs, and storage space. My room has a bed, desk, a book case, and a closet. As for my bathroom, it has a shower that does not work properly, a sink, and closet. It’s all the basics, nothing too fancy. The rooms on the second floor are much nicer than mine and Tiangia’s on the first floor. Qibin and Suzanna have much more spacious rooms, each with a most coveted balcony. When alone, we usually stay in our rooms doing whatever it is we do. I have no tv, radio, internet, or phone. My free time is divvied  up between reading, writing, running, taking walks in the park, and studying (other than adventuring around the city and hanging out with the roommates). Life is much slower and simpler here than in Louisville. I find myself taking more walks or reading in the park after dinner or before lunch. I run three or four miles daily and read, write, and/or practice french for the rest of my alone time. It is a simple existence, void of all aspects that can distract or postpone things. You can’t stay out too late because the tram stops running around midnight and the bus even earlier(unless you want to walk back from the city center). I find myself enjoying many aspects of life I simply did not notice or have time for in Louisville, a nice walk after dinner, a reading session in the park, and the pleasure of a nice sit-down dinner with friends. All in all, I enjoy it. It is a far cry from what I believe are many people’s expectations of a college trip to Europe, but I am not disappointed, I enjoy it for what it is.

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