Thursday, July 4

My first day of class.

So the formal educational part of the adventure begins this morning. How insane am I to be doing this? Glutton for punishment I guess.

Woke up at 3:30 to check my email. It was finally sent at 10:45 last night, right after I'd gone to bed. Now I'm too excited to go back to sleep. My whole life I've been very excited and nervous when school is about to begin.

I'm in level B1 (intermediate). B2 is advanced, and C1 is superior. A1 and A2 are for beginners. Sounds exactly right for me.

Classe : Cours pratiques (PRAT 13JUL8B11-01)
Professeur : Mlle ANELOK, IRINA
Jours de cours : du lundi au vendredi
Horaires : 08H30-10H30 
Lieu du cours : 5 rue Montalembert 75007 Paris (salle Crypte) 
Église de Saint Thomas d'Aquin

That's 8:30 - 10:30 Monday through Friday mornings over on the eastern side of the 7th, too far to walk every day. It's a short métro commute from the apartment. These are the main grammar lectures. I'm in the "Crypt" of the Church of Saint Thomas Aquinas!?

The afternoon lectures are from 3-6 pm on Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday in the auditorium of the building down the street on rue de L'Estrapade where I registered. Today's lectures are titled "La légion d'honneur, une spécificité française" and "La chanson française à travers les siècles".

Don't have the schedule yet for the phonetics lab. I should get that soon.

My main textbook is called "Le FLE par les textes". I pick it up this afternoon on rue de L'Estrapade. The teacher may require other books, which are available in area bookstores.

Hey, wish me luck. This should be quite interesting.

After I get my book(s), I'm definitely going shopping to find a new shoulder bag. This gynecology bag just won't do. Then I can start carrying around the pad. Haven't used it at all so far, just the iPhone and the MacBook Pro. Bought the pad for the Paris trip, thinking it would be worthless at home. Ended up using it all the time at home, not at all so far in Paris. Typical. At home I have to walk all the way down the hallway to my office to use my MacBook. I keep the pad on the kitchen table. So I end up using the pad almost exclusively. Here in my apartment it's less than 4 steps from any place to any other place, so there's no point in using the pad.

Our classroom building in the 7th. I live next to an 800 old university where Thomas Aquinas studied and taught, and my classroom is in his church. Coincidence? You decide.

Our classroom in the crypt.

Oh my. What adjectives come to mind? Academic. Traditional. European. Serious. Difficult. Challenging. Strict. And "just what I expected and wanted." The polar opposite of the super laid-back class I had last year in my private school in Wilmette. Not that our class last year was bad, just different. Completely different. And this one is 20 hours per week instead of 2, so multiply all I just said by 10.

If I focus intensely I perhaps understand 60% of what the teacher is saying. As another student remarked after class, this is a good thing. Anything less would be too easy and I wouldn't improve. I'm definitely in exactly the right level, B1.

Those "funny" rules turn out to be serious, also as I expected. They were reviewed. In no uncertain terms. We were handed them once again in writing and had to sign and date and return them. Some students began talking to each other just a little bit during class and were slapped down firmly and immediately. That is not done.

The teacher is not your friend. She has no interest in chatting with you. She has a doctorate. You do not, and it wouldn't matter even if you did. Respect is due, and if given, is returned. Listen and obey and study, then you will learn.

And that's just the 2 hours per day of grammar class. The phonetics class and lab is even more intense. But that's going to last for only 4 weeks, not the full 8, and it's only 1 hour per day instead of 2.

As usual, I'm by far the oldest student. And I think I may be the only American out of about 20 students. They come from all over the world. Most in their 20s or 30s, just a few older than that. We speak French with each other even though I suspect almost everyone knows English. They already think I'm a cute old man and think it's fun to talk to me. That's OK with me. I will happily play that role.

Our class was from 08h30 to 10h20. We were informed in class that our phonetics lab was from 11h00 to 12h00, all the way back across the 6th near the old Sorbonne. As our only clue, we were told we would probably want to take bus 13 down Boul St-Germain. So after class we all herded down to the bus stop and furiously started checking our maps and trying to figure out which direction was east. I had by far the best map on my iPhone. These kids just don't know how to do it right.

On the walk home from lab I stopped at a papeterie and bought a box of the funky graph paper French students use. We were told to get some. It's the only kind that's accepted for homework and tests.

The classroom is in a church of all things, the Church of St. Thomas Aquinas no less, in an upper class neighborhood in the 7th not far from the river and Musée d'Orsay. The lab is also near the river, but back in the 5th.

I'm on a one hour break. Then it's a short walk over to the main offices on rue de L'Estrapade to get my textbook, then go shopping for a new shoulder bag, then attend the afternoon lectures from 15h00 to 18h00 in the auditorium at rue de L'Estrapade. A very full day.

Hey, I'm paying a fortune for this "vacation". I want to get what I'm paying for - the real thing. Looks like that's not going to be a problem.

Paper maps? They still make those? I guess so because I see people fumbling with them all the time here, even the youngsters who all have smartphones. So sad.

Testing the wifi at school. This is one of my textbooks. The book was gratuit (free)! Oh, wait, that was included in the outrageous tuition. FLE stands for Français Langue Étrangère, French as a foreign language.

Shopping trip was a success. Had to do it. Never bought anything by Armani, probably never will again. The gynecology bag is in a trash can on Boul St-Michel. In French this is called a "cartable", a "school bag".

Home at last cramming pizza down throat because too busy to eat all day. First lecture was for fluent students and I didn't understand much. Second lecture on French songs from the Middle Ages through today was for beginners and was very easy, also very interesting and fun. But so tired.