Sunday, October 13, 2013

And The Days Go By

I wake up at 6:00am to have time for a shower and coffee and breakfast before catching the express bus to the center of Pau, where I catch another bus out to the university, where I meet one of the two fellow students who have cars and who live in Pau for a ride up and out to Montardon and the agriculture college where the classes are held. We get to the campus with about 10 minutes to spare before the first class starts at 9:00am.

We're studying marketing and ecology, bookkeeping and macroeconomics. There will be other courses over the year, but those are the ones we're focusing on in this first three-week period. I'm not impressed with the marketing class, which so far hasn't had a lot of practical application in the real world of small-scale farm operations; none of us are going to be hiring George Clooney to advertise our products, nor worrying about whether the images we choose have hidden sexual meaning. The macroeconomics professor orates in a labyrinth of words, taking an hour and a hundred winding phrases to get to a point that could have been summarized in five or six quick verbal steps. But I'm enjoying the bookkeeping class more than I expected, especially since I don't even balance my own checkbook (and can't remember the last time I did so). I could get into the numbers game, and it's a skill that could prove useful in the future.

I'm trying my best to not be frustrated by the fact that I deliberately got here at the beginning of September, when the registration for the university opened, but was prevented from actually registering until the agricultural program started, and that things are moving very slowly on that front. In fact, I think I'm going to be the first person in the program to enroll, since the program secretary is pushing things through faster than usual because of my visa situation. Technically I'm currently here illegally, as my visa expired last Wednesday. Tomorrow I'll go back to the university, where they've promised my student ID card will be waiting, and then will go to the local prefecture to submit my application for another year-long student visa. However, I have no idea how long that process will take, and my chances of getting paid for the work I'll be doing on the pig farm are getting slimmer by the day. Another frustration - I was the first of the 24 students in the program to have my practical apprenticeship lined up, but because of the delays in registration I may be one of the last to make it official, and only the first six students get the chance for paid positions.

Most of the other students are 19 20 21 years old, and a half dozen or so spend most of their time chattering in class, even while the professors are speaking. I've been told that this is not uncommon, and that it's up to the teachers to call the students to order. Some of them do, and some don't. The other day two of the chattiest girls, who were sitting next to me (though I usually try to sit on the other side of the room so I can hear the instructor better) went from chattering to mock-quarreling, giggling and shoving each other, until one of them shoved the other into me, bumping my shoulder and knocking my pen out of my hand. I'm not particularly enjoying being back in grade school, in that respect, and find myself tempted to slap the irritating children so they'll just shut up.

On the plus side, I'm learning things, and my language skills are improving daily (though the phrase "shut the fuck up!" might not be useful outside of my current school situation). And the food at lunch in the cafeteria is surprisingly tasty, and the cooks know that I don't do gluten or dairy, so when there's pasta or something they save me some rice, or heat up a plate of cauliflower or potatoes to go with the roast pork or the duck in tomato sauce or whatever other main dish they've put on the menu that day. My main meal is lunch these days, and at 4 euros it's quite the bargain. And then after lunch I take a walk, to stretch my legs and get away from the children and balance my thoughts. I've found a dirt road that runs along a field of corn, with an orchard of kiwi bushes on the other side. It's just long enough for me to walk to the end and back, the sun on my face and the sound of birds and insects in my ears, before heading into the classroom again.

Classes are over at about 5:30pm, though sometimes we're let go earlier, and once the professor kept going until 6:00pm. I beg a ride back into town and if I'm lucky I'm at the central mall area in time to catch the express bus back to Gan and home by 6:45pm, though usually I'm not that lucky and have to wait for the regular bus and don't get home until 7:30pm. After a day of focusing on sometimes confusing information presented in a foreign language - because although I am getting better, I'm still not fluent in French - all I want to do is scan my e-mail, play my Lexulous moves, catch up on the latest depressing news about the Republicans and then balance that out with LOLCats or something similar, and go to bed. 10-hour days cutting pigs into pieces will seem positively relaxing after these weeks in school.

And yet, for all my bitching, I'm glad I'm here.

No comments:

Post a Comment