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My first week in Lyon


Where to begin. Lyon is one of the oldest cities in France founded by the Romans in 43 BC; it is the point of confluence for two rivers, the Rhône and the Saône; it is reputed to be the gourmet capital of France; it hosts renowned museums; it's classified as a UNESCO World heritage site; it's a stone's throw from Beaujolais wine country; oh and I live here now.

After the 391 kilometer (243 mile) train ride through the French countryside to Lyon Part Dieu, I was picked up by my host for the summer, Sylviane Paget. We crammed my 60 pound suitcase into her teeny French car and maneuvered through the windy streets of this historic city. Sylviane lives up on Fourvière Hill in Lyon's 5th Arrondissement. Upon arrival, we hauled hauled said heavy suitcase up five flights of stairs in an elevator-less building, to her cozy, but petit flat. She countered the somewhat awkward experience of settling in to a strangers home with a delicious Quiche Lorraine.

I should note that Sylviane does not speak a lip of english. This makes for occasional searching pauses in the conversation and the need for our communal French-English dictionary to always be within arm's reach; but I think being forced to communicate in French will do wonders for my language comprehension and speaking skills.

My commute to-and-from school is a much more tedious undertaking than hopping in in my Mazda3 and jetting off to UMKC. I have to catch a perfectly timed bus followed by a street car and make my through the city to end up at Université Lumière Lyon II, located on the Berges du Rhône (bank of the Rhône river).

The summer program through UMKC at Lyon II is structured as such: For the first two weeks of the six week intensive, it will be just us UMKC students at the university. We'll on grammar, reading, writing and speaking. Along with classes on culture, race and identity from our own Professor Nacer Khelouz. We have small classes, with individual attention from the French professors who drill us on skills and proudly teach us about their city. After the first two weeks conclude, we'll be joined by other international students. At that point, everyone will be placed in classes based on language skills and subject preference.

Learning to navigate at the public transportation in unfamiliar city is every bit as invigorating as I expected, and even more exhausting (especially when you hail from the 'burbs and maintain a heavy reliance on your car). And by exhausting I mean, you do a lot of extra walking on the days you just can't seem to figure it out. I experience several incidents of boarding the wrong bus, getting off at the wrong street car stop and missing trains in that first week.

For instance, on one of my first nights out in Lyon, not wanting to hail an overpriced taxi, I scurried to the train/bus station, Gare Perrache to catch the last bus of the evening at 12 a.m. I sat in the terminal for over an hour, but my bus never came. After several panicked and unsuccessful phone calls attempting to hail a taxi me from the station, my Sprint international plan reached a few numbers that were no longer in service and a couple of cab drivers who hung up on me. Sidetone: I've oddly had better service with Sprint in France than I ever do back home. Phone dying, I resorted to walking. The middle-of-the night uphill promenade took almost two hours and was compounded by a steady rainfall. Two hours later, I arrived home chilly and exhausted.

I learned two things the next morning. Gare Perrache has two bus terminals and I was waiting at the wrong one that night; had I not been so embarrassed and I could have called Sylviane and saved myself from that late-night pluvial walk.

C'est comme ça. There are some lessons that need to be learned the hard way.