Monday, January 18, 2010

Each monday and friday I head southward from my apartment to the center city and my place of occupation, the International Relations House. Three stops and a seven minute tram ride, or nearly thirty minutes by foot and stride, I descend the tram at Le Corum, a tramway stop and major convention center in Montpellier, and begin my ascent of seven flights of stairs to the foot of l'Esplanade de Charles de Gaulle and the street level of downtown Montpellier. Facing the center city, and to the left and right of the staircase which snakes its middle passage up the modernized acropolis, lie Le Corum and La Maison des Relations Internationales, my building, each forming the final border of its respective side. Taking a right from the top step, I find three long, tree-strewn lanes leading through the park, l'Esplanade de Charles de Gaulle, to la Place de la Comedie and the center city and, to my right, a panoramic view of the north side of Montpellier, culminating in a mountain range, les Cevennes, at its far-off horizon. Continuing straight ahead, I pass through a gate and onto a path which leads me from my point of entry through a garden of palm and cypress trees, colorful flowers, and brown park benches, and eventually terminating at the arched entryway of the International Relations House. In the mid-section of each rectangular block of concrete making up the walkway lie marble plaques dedicated to each of Montpellier's sister cities. The building itself lies at the very edge of the right wing of the acropolis, offering the same panoramic view as listed above. Built in a colonial style of red brick, pale blue window boards, and creamy white cornices around each doorway and window, the two-story house is beautiful and picturesque.

Inside and up two flights of stairs, at one end of a narrow passageway, is my place of work. In the center of a large, rectangular room lies the table of my toils, flanked on both sides by two desks, one for the director of students such as myself and the other for a very hard-working, very over-worked secretary. On the opposite side of my position, separated by table and mine and her computer screens, is another office worker. To this day, I am not sure what all they do or if they do all they are there to do. The atmosphere is chatty and convivial, conversation is easy going and time never seems to be lost or squandered. At certain times, the boss of my bosses will come into the room to assign chores and ask for help on one of her seemingly endless projects. Overall the workplace is laid back and ritual. However, when a task duffs its ritual and seeks to be independent and unique, the place, as a result of its habitants, turns colorful, chaotic, and passionate. It's best at these moments to stand aside and keep to yourself lest you become the target or accidental victim of a flailing arm or an indecipherable, yet highly affective and hair raising, tirade my colleagues possessedly fall victim to.

As far as my tasks go, I run documents over to the hotel de ville, the sight of many government big timers, and research and/or suggest possible events or activities that link Louisville and Montpellier. I write articles on upcoming events and track down possible sources of coming-togetherness between the two cities. My research and writing has included the Derby, football, baseball, Kentucky bourbon, Joan Baez, writers from Louisville, Thanksgiving traditions, and, my personal favorite, Buffalo Bill. Today was a good day. To test the fluency of possible french exchange students to the United States, I had to make an english exam. I can proudly say I did not let the sudden power go to my head. I created a very thorough, but not extremely difficult or tricky exam made up of grammar, as well as, reading and writing comprehension segments. It was nice to be the warden for once and not the prisoner.

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