Documenting our adventures in 2011, beginning in Fontainebleau, France
Friday, January 14, 2011
Fontainbleau/Avon and Orientation week
Our initial impressions of Fontainebleau have been very lovely, especially with the beautiful weather that we have had the past week. Cold air and sunny skies made for picturesque walks on the castle grounds and easy exploring through Fontainebleau. HOWEVER, about 4 days in, the romantic 40-minute strolls to campus along grassy trails have turned into 40-minutes of cursing and sloshing through rain and mud. After one heated conversation running to campus late, mud-covered and drenched ("I will never be able to wear heels!!"), and a long up-hill walk home from Carrefour in the rain with bags of groceries ("why aren't we in Singapoooore!"), we have since decided to rent a car for the semester. Sadly, deciding it doesn't make it so. We have encountered some slight roadblocks in terms accessing money and setting up a french bank account and mobile phones, but soon we will be on our feet! (and also hopefully a new set of wheels).
Our first week has been busy! One thing I am really happy about is that the school has done a really great job connecting students and partners with the school community and so even before my first day of orientation, I had a coffee date with 5 of the other partners! It was such a relief to me to get to know the other "mba wives" and to see that we are all in the same boat, wondering what is in store for us this year, and what goals and plans we can make for ourselves along the way. Many are taking french courses, working in Paris or London, travelling back and forth from their home countries, pregnant or planning to be pregnant, planning new hobbies, and on and on. I'm happy to know that I will be in good company this year.
What else is really cool is that partners are welcomed on campus, and I have my own access badge, can take out books from the library and join the gym. On the first day of school, P and I both had orientations! We each got a package of information and our own designated handbooks (his a lot denser than mine!) and we were given campus tours. There was a welcome ceremony, complete with champagne, and lots of meeting and greeting. Each day we had our own schedule of activities. Mine centered around lengthy breakfast and lunch dates with partners, partners' clubs presentations and workshops about living in France while P had presentations by career services, faculty, group projects, and (yesterday) his first official class. Today he had an Outward Bound day from 8am to 6pm so I still havent seen him yet! Im really curious about how the day went. I have dinner and a bottle of wine waiting for him like a good mba wife. On that note, I can't tell you how weird it is to be a "partner". It's a whole mental shift for me that started on the day that the woman at HSBC in Vancouver opened our Euro account. "What is your occupation?" she asked. "I'm a graduate student" I said. I watched as she filled in "Homemaker".
Not that I think being a homemaker is a bad thing, on the contrary, it is extremely valuable. I have just never thought of myself as one before, and I've also never dedicated a whole year to the job. Someone send me a recipe for making dinner on a hotplate before I fail at my new profession!
I am considering taking a french language class here (there is one offered on campus for partners) as Im realizing how much it is needed here! Luckily, Im not doing so bad, and if needed I can throw together a sentence that makes enough sense to be slightly understood. It would be nice to have some more confidence though, and be able to converse well. Yesterday, P and I had dinner together in town and parted ways so that he could attend a seminar and I could take the bus home. The problem was that I didnt know my way home on the bus and didn't realize how roundabout the route was! I couldn't for the life of me find a bus stop going in the direction of home! Realizing that I wouldnt make it unless I stopped to ask someone, I stumbled into a shop. It went like this:
Me: "S'il vous plait, parlez-vous anglais?"
Gruff looking man at the counter: "Non."
Me: "(crap). Oh, um, Ou est-ce que, uh, ou est la bus, i mean "boos" de Avon, a avon? oh dear."
Man: "Avon? la bas" (pointing across the street)
Me: "Oh great! Ligne C ou A?"
Me: Oh. okay. S'il vous plait, i mean..
Since then I have been studying my french dictionary (thank you B and A!!) and practicing pronuncing new words (that I don't necessarily know the meanings of) while I'm cooking, or late at night when I'm still too jetlagged to sleep. P is for some reason jetlagged in a totally different way (up way too early in the morning, can't keep his eyes open at night).