Lots of things

Hello everyone, sorry I haven’t given anyone an update in a few days, but I haven’t had much time. Don’t have much now, in fact. The web connection doesn’t work in my room, so I’m on someone else’s. I’ve gotta talk to the front desk about that (“madame, le web ne fonction plus!”).

Anyway, real quick, some updates.

I’m warming up a little bit to my roommate. I still think he’s needlessly rude, but I suppose he’s a challenge placed before me by Providence. Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam, after all.

The curbs flush water into the streets from little spouts, to allow the street sweepers to clean. Genius.

The government of France controls when and how much the end of season sales are in many retail businesses. This is done to protect the small businessmen, because the large chains used to drop their prices extravagantly to push the small people out. This is brilliant. Walmart wouldn’t be the de facto ruler of America if we did this.

The churches here are grand beyond any conceivable measure that my American mind can muster. Each one makes me tear up. They are the most beautiful spaces that I’ve ever seen, conceived during a time when France was the greatest defender of the Catholic faith, built for the glory of God. Walking into many of them, one has a strong desire to fall to one’s knees. They are incredible, and I haven’t seen anywhere close to all of them.

I’m one of the strongest French speakers on this trip, or at least one of the most confident. I help people with what French folks are saying sometimes, and I can address French people at the drop of a hat. At first I felt like the French were condescending when you speak their language to them, but really, it’s simply that they can tell that you’re a foreigner. They do appreciate it when you speak to them in French. I carried out a transaction with a merchant completely in French today, with him giving me directions for how to treat the item I bought (a piece of art).

The group seems to think that I’m funny and a nice guy to have around. That, and being able to speak French pretty well makes me really feel essential to the group. That feels good. It mitigates the reality that I started out as an outsider, since everyone else is from Minnesota. I’ve made fast friends, and it’s a good time. One of the other guys, Mike, is an amazing conversationalist, and I think a couple of the girls have the same type of academic interests that I do. I’ve mingled with everyone though, traveling with one group at the end of the day and playing cards with another at night, etc.

The exchange rate sucks. I exchanged the $250 in American that I brought with me, and got 146 euros, with no fees or commissions. USA for the lose. 1 euro is about $1.65. I took out 100 euros yesterday, and nearly wept. That had to have been the entirety of my last little paycheck from the library.

The group didn’t seem as keen on speaking French among themselves at first, but they seem to be picking up more and more on the idea, which I think is cool. It really makes me glad, because I’m growing to love playing around with and speaking the language more and more the longer I’m here. I still do feel like an amateur next to the French, of course, but I suppose those are the ropes. I tried haggling with that artist that I mentioned earlier, but it didn’t work so well. Mark my words, as I get better, I’ll get more assertive.

Anyway, I love speaking French, I love seeing all the things that I’m seeing, and I like the group that I’m with. The one thing that gives me pause still is the amount of homesickness that I feel. I can’t think about home too often without getting a little sad. I’ll get through it though.

That’s all I’ve got for now. It’s late, and I’ve gotta get to bed.

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