So as my father so deliberately pointed out, it has almost been a week since my last post. Correction. I think today marks the week point. So in order to combat the risk of this blog becoming yet another thing that should be a source of enjoyment, but instead turns into a source of stress, I figured it’s about time I recounted my Besancon trip.
A basic summation of the trip is best described by my facebook post “One citadelle complete with baboon soap operas and lion/tiger rivalries, 10 euros for 10 shots, a night full of gagnam style dancing in the streets, lots of spanglish, frenglish, and other mixes of languages, 1 strange dancing german toast, much delirium and even more laughter later, I have returned from Besancon. Time to catch up on 4 days of sleep. But oh what a great trip it was.” ….is it weird that I just quoted my own facebook post??
Besancon was a wonderful first excursion to have for many reasons (most of which are noted above). Venturing outside of Montbeliard, exploring an old city, learning more about the region, bonding with assistants, speaking with native frenchies somewhere around my age, finally dancing, completing one more paperwork hurdle, commiserating with other assistants about orientation boredom, and feeling the satisfaction of a four course french meal cooked by a quirky french host woman, are among the pros of the trip. After buying my Carte 17-25 (which gives me half off train tickets), me and four other assistants, Diego, Maggy, Maribel and Jose (two Americans, one Mexican and one Panamen(?) hopped on the train. It was nice to see that even the seemingly rundown looking trains not only functioned, but provided a quick, smooth and surprisingly pleasant trip. I’d gotten all too familiar with the underground world of the T where surprise stops, unrelenting creepers, crying babies, loud incomprehensible announcements, and increasingly more agitated people were commonplace. I welcomed the beautiful country side, the good company, the audible announcements and realization that in fact we had arrived early. Qu’est-ce que c’est ca?
We greeted Besancon in full fledged tourist attire- dragging bags and pulling out cameras as we wandered around until we eventually found the cobblestone streets leading to our hotel. Besancon is old and beautiful but is also unfortunately under a ridiculous amount of construction because of the addition of a new tramway. But even through the construction, we were able to experience the beauty of this enchantingly old city (not quite sure how old but apparently during the 4th century it’s name was changed to Besontio, which later led to the transformation of Besancon…so it’s pretty darn old).
After checking into our conveniently located hotel (what? we don’t need to put down a deposit and our keys are already in the door??), we explored the area and stumbled upon an old flea market. It took everything in my artist/hoarder power not to purchase a multitude of chachkies. I saw so much potential in the old frames, worn text books, a rusting owl brooch- but as a survivor of a recent painful purge-o-stuff process, I kept on walking. Some how we were led to an environmental fair where rows of tiny huts promoted and sold fair trade, organic, and local items. And some how we managed to purchase the last crepe of the evening, relishing in the savory goodness of our prize.
Fast forward to 4 bottles of wine, 3 baguettes, 2 cheeses, and one dance lesson including dougie, cupid shuffle, superman, and most importantly gangnam style, and we were ready to check out the Besancon night life. In short, the night was a blast and I learned that french people love to speak English to you even if you answer in French, that 10 is definitely too early to arrive at the bar but if you don’t give a damn, they won’t either, and having Latin men as dance partners is fun, educational, and actually quite painful (legs and hip flexors suffered the next day…or maybe I’m just that out of shape…). Surprisingly enough we managed to get up by 8:30 the next day, which actually wasn’t that difficult considering we had five people crammed in one room.
With several museums, an insectarium, an aquarium, a noctarium, and a zoo all within it’s 17th century walls, the Citadelle was quite the cite to see. Apparently by the early 1700s, it was one of the strongest fortifications in France during that period, but let’s be honest- the animals made it pretty damn cool too. It was by far one of the most unique zoo experience I’ve had. Normally, zoos depress me, but watching weird assed lion monkeys roam around ruins and climb on ancient citadel steps was too interesting to feel sad. Besides, they weren’t even in cages. During the day I communicated with strange piglets, entered a bird cage, witnessed a lion challenging a tiger (each within their own respective cages) followed by a strong tiger roar, and watched the baboon equivalent of an intoxicating reality tv show- monkey hierarchy, fights amongst the females, struggles to protect the newborn and teenage antics- Who needs the discovery channel when you have this?? We left the citadelle feeling both thoroughly exhausted and entertained as well as completely unprepared for the next two days of orientation and mandatory medical visits.
Luckily I survived both- though the medical visit was quite awkward as a tiny french doctor asked me rapid questions, while taping on various parts of my back and then pushed me against an x-ray machine, because apparently I didn’t understand how close one needs to get to be registered by said machine. But I FINALLY received my official documents from the France side and am one step closer to being done with paperwork hell! Social security, reimbursement and bank card, here I come!
There is much more I would like to recount or discuss- the lovely dinner (spoken entirely in french!) with the quirky divorcee who houses foreign students or visitors and who hosted me and an Australian assistant before our Dr’s appointment, the historical and cultural differences between Catholic Besancon and Protestant Montbeliard, the weirdness that is English language (or so I’m learning) and of course my first week of teaching. But for now I must say adieu and enjoy the pictures!