I've had a lot of fun the last couple of days. And also, a lot of stress. But you can't have your cake and eat it too I guess, even in France (didn't Marie Antoinette lose her head for trying?).
I've spent that last two days in the care of Thibault, my second CouchSurfing host. Thib is a 28-year-old middle school English teacher, and one of the most popular CouchSurfing hosts in Lille, for good reason. He is A LOT of fun! On Monday night he took me to his friends' apartment to meet them and have some drinks. There were about ten of us there, and everyone was really friendly, and very interested in me and what I am doing here in France. They were all speaking French (at native speed, and with a lot of slang), but I understood about 20% of what was said, a feat that impressed both Thib and myself. And it was really nice to hang out with a group of young people like that, as it reminded me of hanging out with my friends at home. I got to try some different Belgian beers (the drink of choice around here), and some rum from Reunion, one of the French territories. So a good time was had by all.
It has also been fun to talk to Thib about all of his travels. He has been to almost every country in Europe (except for Greece and a couple of former USSR countries), and has done it all through CouchSurfing. He also spent 2 months in Indianapolis when he was in high school, as part of an exchange program, so it was really neat to talk to him about his time there.
Yesterday, while Thib was at work, I headed into the Centre Ville to meet up with Christin, another girl from IU who is doing the same teaching assistant program that I'm doing. She brought 3 other American assistants with her, and the 5 of us spent the afternoon wandering around the Centre Ville and commiserating about our mutual stress/culture shock/inability to understand what's said to us in French. As it turns out, people in Northern France speak much more quickly and tend to run words together more than in central and Southern France. I guess the saying "everything is slower in the South" applies in Europe too. But it was really comforting to spend the day with some people who are going through what I'm going through.
So that was the fun, which helped to mitigate the stress. I found out on Monday night that the British assistant who had asked me to live with her and two others in Valenciennes, and who had taken it upon herself to make all of the arrangements (and not really let anyone else be involved), had found housing for herself and two of my other prospective roommates, and totally left me in the wind. So now I've got to find housing, which is complicated by the fact that I've learned that in order to go through a rental agency, I need to have an old rent statement from my last place, and some old utilitiy bills, all of which I threw away when I moved out of my apartment in Indy. So I'm not really sure what I'm going to do. My contact person at my school thinks she has found a house for the 3 assistants in Valenciennes that still need housing (myself included), but that means all three of us will have to be on board, and I don't know if that will happen or not. But I have to hope that it will. Otherwise, I'm not sure what my next step will be. I know something will work itself out eventually, and that my school will not let me be homeless, I just hope that it's sooner rather than later, as I am quite anxious to have a place to land. CouchSurfing is fun, but being a nomad is hard work.
So that's the update on my life. This afternoon, Thib is going to drive me (hooray!) to the train station and I will go to Valenciennes, hopefully for the duration. I'll be spending the next 3 nights with CouchSurfing host Emilie, and hopefully getting some other details of my life nailed down, like getting a French cell phone, opening a bank account, etc. I'll be sure to keep you all posted on how things are going.