Today marks my third day officially living in Lyon, and my fourth day since leaving the United States; and let me tell you, it has been a rocky first few days. I’ve gotten lost, had to walk through dark places alone, had issues communicating, and gotten locked out. However, there’s also been many more good times to overshadow these troubles, so you could say it’s been a roller coaster journey thus far.
Fresh off the plane, (after 16 hours of travel) I received an email from my advisers with instructions for getting to La Statue de Saint Exupéry à Place Bellecour, where I was supposed to meet my host family for the first time in a few hours. With four hours on my hands I decided to give public transit a shot. The instructions seemed fairly clear to me, so having navigated the Portland public transit a lot I thought I could handle it. Of course I was wrong.
I got onto the Rhone Express, and settled in for my ride. The sign said that “Vaux-En-Velin La Soie” was the next stop, however, when I got off at the next place it stopped, it wasn’t Vaux-En-Velin La Soie at all. In fact I had no idea where I was, and because I didn’t have service I couldn’t really figure it out. So I went to my next best option; I got back on the Rhone Express heading the opposite direction, back to the airport. At this point I had already wasted forty minutes, and public transit just seemed daunting to me, so I had to walk all the way back to the airport entrance and hail a taxi.
When I finally get a taxi, I learned that my driver doesn’t speak a lot of English, and at this point my French is really bad. I can understand him really well, but actually forming words seemed impossible besides very minor phrases. But, I at least remembered the phrase I had to tell him for the ride, so I said, “Place Bellecour, s’il vous plaît, à la statue de Saint Exupéry.” He responded, “Ça n’existe pas.” Wait, what? He went on to say that the only statue in Place Bellecour is the statue of Louis xiv, so he ended up taking me there instead, thinking that my professors must have been mistaken about the statue they meant.
So here I was, alone in a foreign country, at a statue that wasn’t the one I needed, lugging around a huge check bag, and to top it off, I didn’t have wifi or service of any kind on my phone. However, the shining light was that I spotted a café that was described in my arrival guide from my professors that was supposed to be next to the statue of Saint Exupéry. “Café Bellecour.” Working from there I actually found the correct statue and my heart rate immediately slowed again. Feeling more confident, I stopped at Café Bellecour and got une salade verte; jambon et parmesan, which was delicious; and set out for the statue to meet my host family.
My host family is a very nice family, and their house is absolutely gorgeous. My room is cozy, and I even have my own shower. There’s a minor language barrier still as I work to improve my speaking French, but everyday it has gotten easier.
Yesterday I had orientation and I met a lot of really wonderful people. Last night a few friends and I decided to go out and drink a bit on the Rhone river and it was the party central for all of the local Lyonnais. The second the first drop of rain hit everyone simply moved under the cover of the bridge. There was laughing and shouting, and it was a ton of fun. We learned that it is “not possible” (imagine a thick French accent) to enter a completely abandoned night club at 11:30 if one of your friends is in joggers, and that Le Prado, for all of it’s faults, is simply Le Prado; and that makes it the best apartment building ever for the students– according to the students living there.
But it got late, 2:20 in fact, and we knew it was time to leave Le Prado and head home. I didn’t want to risk the 40 minute walk, so instead I opted for an uber, which was actually really inexpensive. The cost was only 20 euros after the price flux for popular hours. However, that came with its own problems. My driver’s map took me to the street above my host family’s apartment, instead of the street where the front door is located, but he wouldn’t take me around to the front, so he dropped me off up there with instructions about a path in a park. Trying not to freak out because it was 2:45 and very dark, I start walking around to find this park. I do find it, and an unlit path winding down the hill that we were on. I risked taking out my phone for a flashlight and made my way down. I got through it completely without incident and found my apartment and used the code to get into the building. Then though, I couldn’t figure out how to open the door! I had turned the key every way I could possibly think of to no avail. It took me literally a half hour just to get into the apartment, and after that I just wanted to detox and relax. The good thing about being up at 3:30 am here was that it was only 6:30 pm back home, so after a calming video chat with my boyfriend, I went to sleep.
I love Lyon so far. It’s quiet, beautiful, and also magical in its own way. I’m excited to start my classes, and my university is like it’s own little multiverse of other French learners. Each day I feel more confident about my French abilities, and even though I still have a ways to go until I can have a conversation without asking for them to repeat themselves, I know I’ll get there eventually.