Seminars, Red Tape and … and English Class

By 8 pm tonight I will have completed my second week of “school.” This week it was ateliers RH or HR Seminars. Aside from one cancelled and postponed session this afternoon, we’ve spent the past three days talking about integrating into a new company environment, working on our resumes and frantically preparing presentations. And I have to confess…it was a bit boring. I did enjoy the case study work and scrambling to prepare a presentation in an hour. It was also nice this week to start working with my program class mates. But I’m looking forward to digging into my real course work on Monday. 

Before I do that I do have to sit through an Business English class. Yes that’s right an ENGLISH class. I’ve been excused from the introductory class – after I attend the first early morning session and advice the instructor – and the exam but not the Business English class. In all honesty I can say: I hope I can pass. I keep being told to slow down.

I am however looking forward to taking my intermediate French class. So far I have managed to successfully get through enrollment, opening a bank account, a business game and more. But it will be nice to brush up on my grammar and my writing skills. Hopefully the next time the internet at my apartment crashes I will be able to help my landlady understand that it is OK to unplug your router and physically reset the WIFI.

This week has also been a lesson in French red tape. I had to postpone starting my internship by one week as I am still waiting for the necessary paperwork to come through. I purchased my bus/tram pass and paid for the whole year in advance. Only to try to board the tram and have my card not work. (P.S. Anyone know the french translation for lanyard or badge holder?) I purchased the SIM card for my phone so that I finally will be able to use my smart phone as more than a large texting device. Only to realize that I would have a few days of interrupted service while my number changes providers. I think I can officially say I have a greater appreciation for navigating important tasks in my native language.

The Business Game

Otherwise known as my current form of cruel and unusual torture. It would be really interesting and engaging – if I could participate. Let me back up. As I am sure you know, yesterday was the first day of school. All in all despite everything (including the 12 hour school days) I think it will be a good challenge and I will really enjoy studying here.

But in the mean time I have to struggle through the rest of this business game. And I mean struggle – as it is completely, 100% in French. While my French is rapidly improving and has served me well so far – I am struggling to understand the game. I am able to follow the conversations of my team and understand about half of what is going on. But by the time I understand and think of something to contribute the conversation has moved on. My saving grace is that each group has a foreign student they have to carry.

That being said – I did better today. And was able to participate more significantly. Granted I was just reading through resumes and struggling to understand the key phrases. But I was able to narrow the pool and help the team make a decision. There was also a slight understanding about the word “concubinage“. For English speakers I think you can understand my immediate shock and confusion, particularly as this was listed with pride on a CV (or resume). Just to clarify a concubinage is a common law marriage or when two people live together without actually being married. While a bit shocking at least the French came up with a word for this situation.

Tomorrow marks the end of the game. I think my tired brain can take one more day of intensive French and translating. Then I have both Thursday and Friday and the weekend to finish getting settled and to rest up before I jump in feet first. And I go back to trying to understand in English instead of French.

For now I have to go find another cup of coffee so I can finish out the day.

Lost in Translation

Today I had a moment that was lost in cultural translation. A rather big – four mile moment.

I’m settling into my new apartment and am exploring the city. I’ve made an appointment at the bank to open a new account, visited the school campus, been downtown to run errands, etc. I’ve been walking, a lot, and have figured out the tram system.

But facilitate getting organized and getting settled – I decided on an IKEA run. (PS. Miss Mercer you got off easy and you still owe me one ;0) The local IKEA isn’t far from my new place and should in theory be easily accessible via public transportation.

However, the city is expanding one of the tram lines and adding a new stop. So the directions provided on the IKEA website weren’t valid. But the bus lines are still running and the center should be easily accessible. I love public transportation but am always leery of bus lines. In general I find them harder to navigate. It’s hard to know which stop is yours, if you are traveling in the right direction and even when the next bus will be coming. But I felt the IKEA trip was necessary – so after about 30 minutes of internet research I decided to brave it.

I set out this afternoon map, directions, large bag and backpack in tow. I easily found where I was supposed to board the bus. And the tram station with a map and a ticket machine. However, no where on that map was the bus line I needed. I double checked my instructions and my paper map. I was in the right place but still no bus. Realizing I was about halfway to IKEA already I decided to walk the rest of the way. The whole trip door to door is only about two miles. I figured I could cab it back if I bought a lot of stuff.

I easily found my way to the IKEA store…but….it was closed. Actually the entire shopping center – which also contained a Toys R Us of all things – was closed. Apparently in the typical French, well Western European fashion, Sunday is in fact a day of rest. Who knew? Apparently I am used to the Cali way – where it is rare for stores to be closed on Sundays. You occasionally see service locations – salons, cobblers, tailors – closed on Sundays but never big box stores. So when I was checking out the website for an address and directions I didn’t even bother to look at the store hours.

So after my two mile trek I found myself standing in an empty parking lot – no taxis or buses in site. And I began the trek back. At least in the process I also found the lovely Bordeaux lake park. When the weather is nice I know where I can go for water sports, picnics and time outdoors.

As I got back to my apartment I decided I would at least do one productive thing and head to the grocery store. As I have to carry everything I’ve been collecting basics in stages and I thought I would make a plan for dinner.

But again there was a breakdown in cultural translations. The grocery store closes at 1 pm on Sundays……..