Walking through a neighbourhood

The weather was very warm and sunny on Thursday the 15th, the best it’s been so far. I decided to take advantage of this by walking around Poitiers. I eventually found myself in a very beautiful residential neighbourhood. The pictures speak for themselves.

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We’ve all heard about how too many staples and nails in hydro poles can be dangerous for the workers that must climb the poles. I recently read a CBC news article about Newfoundland’s Hydro company advising a woman not to tack a yellow ribbon to hydro poles, based on this reasoning. “The utility says even one staple can cut a worker’s protective clothing, putting them at risk of electrical shock.”

I was interested that this problem does not exist in at least some parts of Poitiers.

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As you can see, the pole is made of concrete with indents, presumably to be used for climbing. If we used these in Canada, the hydro companies wouldn’t need to whine about safety issues caused by their method of maintenance being vulnerable to tiny staples.

Caribou Café and hair cutting party

Saturday the 10th was mostly relaxing.

Since before I left for France, I’ve been in contact via e-mail with Nico, a French university student who went to UNBSJ a few semesters ago. I finally met him in person Saturday afternoon, and we went to the Caribou Café. This place follows a Canadian theme with Canadian license plates, maple syrup, and everything else. We talked mainly about our experiences in Canada and France, and the differences between the two cultures. Did I mention that we talk only in French? He’s doing a masters in English linguistics, and likely does not need to practice his second language as much I do! I was able to somehow say most things I wanted to say.

In the evening, I got my hair cut. Ben (my British housemate) organized to have the hair dressing come to our flat to cut the hair of anyone who came. She spoke only French, so this was yet another opportunity for me to practice speaking in my second language. Here’s my head chopping procedure in progress:

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Notice how I am actually holding the mirror? No, I didn’t do that the whole time, just at the end. Ben tried to mount a mirror on the wall, but that didn’t work so well. Let’s just say he now has 7 years of bad luck. I have more pictures of others waiting to get their hair cut, as usual, in my gallery.

On Sunday, I didn’t do a whole lot. I went for a walk at around noon. I had my earphones with music playing the whole time. At 12:34, I realized my cell phone alarm block was ringing since 12:00 without me hearing it. That explains some looks I got from some random strangers as I walked by.

That’s all for now. 4 days of classes this week, plus various group meetings. Enjoy the week everyone!

Around Poitiers, and a Friday night out

It has unfortunately been a while since I’ve updated. Hopefully I’ll make up for that today.

On Sunday the 4th, Brian (another UNBSJ student) and I went to a museum here in Poitiers. Mr. Gervis (our landlord) had told me that the museum is free on the first Sunday of each month, and that the 4th would be their last day for a type of exhibit. Some of the artwork and French sculptures were interesting, particularly an illustration of Poitiers several decades ago showing the old wall around the city, and other landmarks. After the museum, we walked around Poitiers a bit, where I got some more photos for my gallery.

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A nice shot in the park beside the river. If you’ve seen my Rockwood Park photos, you would know I love to compose pictures with sunlight, pathways, and such.

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Entrance to the Cordeliers mall, with the Monoprix grocery store visible. This mall has a strange blue mascot which you can see above the entrance.

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The pink toilet paper at Monoprix. One of the great mysteries of French culture.

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A house located right on the river. Not far from here, some people have farm fields next the river, all visible from the crowded city centre.

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Cars park pretty much anywhere here, even on sidewalks making it somewhat dangerous to go walking if traffic is heavy.

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One of the many crowded streets. Most streets are one-way in Poitiers, with one lane of most two-lane streets being used for parking.

On Friday the 9th, I went with some French and international students to see a movie “Ã la Recherche du Bonheur” (The Pursuit of Happiness) with Will Smith. It wasn’t a bad movie. After that, we went to a Tunisian restaurant, which has cheap sandwiches. I had “Kebab Frites” (Kebab with fries), and it was pretty good. I brought my phone out, and everyone had fun taking pictures with it (despite the fact nearly everyone had their own camera phone capable of taking better pictures than mine).

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After the restaurant, we went to the flat of Julien and his girlfriend, where we just sat and talked for a few hours. I spent most of the time speaking in French, and so I am getting good practice with that at least!

That’s all for now. I have more to tell soon in another post about today’s adventures.

Head shaking mystery continues

I was talking to some French students yesterday, and I asked about the head shaking thing that I mentioned in my last blog. They say a shake from left to right means “No”. Maybe it’s only different in Germany, or maybe my classmates got their facts wrong.

Charles (my American housemate) and I went to the large Leclerc’s grocery store outside town via bus yesterday. It was his first time riding the bus in France. The transportation system here is so advanced. The bus stops each have electronic displays which tell you how many minutes there is before the next bus departs. Inside the bus, another electronic display tells you what the next stop is, and the current time. All in all, it is light years ahead of Saint John’s relatively un-advanced transportation system.

I spent a bit of time redesigning the look of my gallery. The general look is not my own, but rather a widely available template which I simply customized. I added my digital photos from Canada that used to be in my “Digital Photography” section. The new system is much more powerful, and far easier to maintain.

This upcoming week is fairly easy with only one tutorial class where my group meets with the professor, and two other classes. I was checking my schedule for the semester, and each week has only 2-3 days of classes. However, lots of extra work time is expected in the form of group work.

To close, I’d like to share an example where lack of common sense in the news media has gone too far. I read an article on CTV News about possible social instability that could be caused by an imbalance of China’s birth rate of males vs. females. The article closes with the following statement: “China’s current birth rate is 1.8, meaning one woman of childbearing age gives birth to an average of 1.8 children.”

One must wonder how ANY woman can give birth to “1.8” children or any other such fraction. Are most children born without one leg or arm in China? I can understand that the number came from calculations that would seldom yield a whole number, but in discussion as this, I believe a different wording of the question is in order. Perhaps something like “1.8 children are born for every woman of child-bearing age” would be more appropriate. My wording not seem to imply that some or all of these women would have given birth to fractional children.

In the end, I know what they were trying to say, but I think the wording is still a bit odd.

Have a great week!

Party at rue de la Tranchée

For the first half of this week, my days have been busy with classes. It’s still quite difficult to stay awake for 3 hours, especially when I have trouble staying awake for 50 minute classes at UNBSJ.

Last Friday, there was a party at my flat attended by most of the international students as well as several French students of ESCEM, as you may have already seen in my gallery photos. Ben, one of my housemates, operated a bar where everyone pays 6â?¬ and then gets whatever they want. Contrary to popular belief, I did not drink at the party and am not drunk at all in the party photo of me.

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The picture of me mentioned above is of course not right here. You can find it in my gallery.

Ben named our place the “Frog et Rosbif”. Anglophones tend to refer to speakers of French as “frogs”, and Francophones tend to refer to North American speakers of English as “rosbif” or “roast beef”, because we burn and change colour in the sun. The name was decently chosen. At the party, you could easily hear a mixture of English and French being spoken by everyone. I was able to speak in French with a few French students.
The sun finally showed its cautious self here in Poitiers, and I took a few more photos in the Parc de Blossac, which is right near my flat.
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I also saw a funny looking traffic garage type of building. For some odd reason, it was quite entertaining to watch a car slowly ascend this thing.
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Just today in class, I learned something new about Europeans from Christoph, my German teacher of Strategic Management. He was answering “yes” to a student, while shaking his head left and right as if to say “no”. Apparently, any shaking of the head in Europe always signifies a yes response, as opposed to North Americans who can say Yes or No by shaking the head. You can easily imagine the possible communication issues in conversations if a tourist visiting Europe is not aware of this.

A walk in the park

Yesterday, I didn’t have class until 2 PM, so I got up late, and looked out my window.

View from my room window in the morning

With the sun showing its face for pretty much the first time since I’ve been here, I left earlier and checked out the park near my flat. It has goats, birds, flowers, and everything imaginable it seems. Rockwood Park in Saint John is very nice too, but Poitiers has many parks strewn through the city that are well maintained by the city workers.
Park

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I had plans to meet Brian and the others at the university cafeteria at 12:30. Many students go there because of the cheap food. I’ve gone twice so far (again today), but the food choices don’t seem too good to me. Maybe I’m just fussy. I got very lost, and took about 30 minutes of walking around randomly before I finally found where I needed to go. Such is life.

On the way, I saw an interesting sign:

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It says (in French of course) “If you take my parking spot, take my handicap”, which I assume is designed to bring about guilt for those who needlessly use handicapped parking spaces when there is nothing wrong with them.

I have started 3 of my classes now; the others will begin later. My three teachers are an American, an Irishman, and a German. The content is quite interesting for me, since I am totally new to business, and the large emphasis on Europe is a refreshing change. It is still a bit strange getting used to the fact that I am living in Europe at the moment, and not North America.

That’s all for now.

First few days

I have landed and settled in France. I regret that I haven’t blogged yet since being here, but I am slowly getting things into gear.

My trip was a total of 23 hours from Saint John to Poitiers. At the Saint John Airport, I was more emotional than I expected, and almost missed seeing my grandmother since she could not arrive as early as we did. Everything went fine and airport security was less intrusive than I expected. For the first time since I was 5, I got on the plane and was quite amazed by how small everything looked on the ground when the plane was high enough.

View from my seat in the plane from Saint John to Montreal

View outside the plane over Saint John area

After an hour and a half, I landed in Montreal for a 5 hour wait. I accidentally exited the secured area of the airport, and had to go through security again. Oops. On the flight to Paris, I spoke some French and some English to a Quebec woman from Montreal. At the Paris airport, I waited another 5 hours for the train, and everything was pretty smooth sailing. My luggage was very heavy, beyond the acceptable limits for flying, so I’ll have to lighten it up before coming home. It was very hard to carry it up stairs.

At the Poitiers train station, I met Mr. Gervis, my landlord. He’s a very nice guy as everyone says, and very easy-going. He took me to my apartment, and set me and the other students up with the appropriate forms. He also took me and another housemate for a drive around Poitiers to show us everything. Everything is very old and very crowded. Think of the narrowest street in Uptown Saint John, and then imagine if the whole city was that way. It’s very interesting because it seems unsafe, but it works, and no one gets hurt. They make it work, even with things like city buses running regularly through the narrow one-way streets.

Narrow Poitiers street

The place I’m living in is quite old, but my room isn’t too bad.

My room

Since I brought no food, Gerke (one of my housemates) and I went to a fast food restaurant similar to McDonald’s called the Quick. That wasn’t bad. We also went to a grocery store called Monoprix, but I didn’t actually buy anything there until the next day.

After arriving on Thursday, Friday was orientation at ESCEM Business School. It was mostly administrative, and quite boring. Lunch was provided, with French cuisine like Quiche and whatever else I am forgetting. It was good.

On Monday, I began actual classes. They are very long, at 3 hours each, compared to an average of 1 hour for UNB classes. However, I have 2 days out of 5 off this week, so I can’t complain too heavily. Most of the class is made up of French students who are learning English, so it is an interesting scenerio to be in.

Yesterday, I took the bus to a mall that is outside the main city core. I bought some groceries at the larger grocery store there, and also got a cell phone. I paid 99â?¬ (about C$150) for a phone, which comes with 25â?¬ free of prepaid credit. Not bad. In general, mobiles are more expensive to buy and use over here.

As far as getting settled, having to plan and make all of my meals is an adjustment. Luckily, the grocery store is just a 20 minute walk away, so I can always get whatever I need during open hours (which do not include Sunday at all, as I discovered already). Speaking French is also an adjustment, but I have enough to get by in most situations. I’m hoping I’ll be working with more French students at school, and that I’ll pick some up that way.

I’ll try to update regularly. Au revoir.

The adventure begins tomorrow

After working for about a week on my “Lego World”, it’s time to demolish it. All that remains is the pictures.


Yesterday, I set out to register my electronics with customs so I don’t have to pay duty when bringing them back to Canada in June. My mom and I went to the “Customs Building” uptown across from Saint John High School, but apparently Canada Customs in not there anymore, and instead are located in old post office building on Prince William Street. We went there to find that it is quite large inside. There was a security guard, an information, and another unmarked desk with someone sitting there. No one else was around, so we asked the security guard where to find the customs office. He told us to go up the stairs, and down a hallway. Another security guard was at the top of the stairs, and told us exactly where the office was, even though we didn’t ask him. He just magically knew. That was odd, but we didn’t realize how he knew until we left and he radioed the other guard to tell him that we were coming down the stairs (as if the sight of us walking down the stairs to face the other guard at the bottom wasn’t evidence enough). I’m not sure what else the government hides in that building, but they certainly have plenty of security guards and information people watching the place.

Innovatia has been very generous in allowing me to work remotely on a part-time basis while in France. Yesterday was my last of working in the office before I leave. We went out to lunch at the Saint John Ale House.

So this is it. The eve of my departure. I will fly to Montreal tomorrow, and then Paris. I’ll arrive in Poitiers at about 11 AM Atlantic time on Thursday. It feels a bit weird to be doing this. I am nervous about a few things, but I’m sure everything will be OK.

I expect my next blog post to be from Montreal, Paris or Poitiers – wherever I have enough time and internet access. I’ll be in touch.