Exams and the incredibly inappropriate Haribo bear

Bonjour à tous !

It’s been a crazy week. In the space of seven days, I took 8 exams (amounting to 13 and a half hours in total) and handed in an essay, and they were all in French (except for my Italian and German exams, obviously). It was stressful because, given that I haven’t exactly been a model student during the term and have missed a lot of lectures (and the ones I have been to I mostly haven’t concentrated/understood what’s going on), added to the fact that I had no motivation to revise, meant that I was very unprepared for all my exams, for which I only have myself to blame. But on the plus side, while the exams were a massive pain in the arse, I now know that I’m capable of sitting down to a three hour exam and writing a comparative essay on two French texts in French (even if my grammar does turn out to be horrendous). So that’s something, at least.

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Pretending to revise (but really taking selfies) 20 minutes before our Civilisation Française exam

The actual exams themselves turned out to be a complete joke. All of the exams took place at the same time and in the same rooms as the lesson usually is, which meant that they didn’t feel like proper exams at all. There was no room for us to spread out so we were all squashed together with very little elbowroom, which would have been ideal for copying if the French didn’t have such illegible handwriting. In our Occitan Culture exam, which consisted of 22 multiple choice questions (!!!!), Ruth and I were able to confer heavily with our choice of answers as most people around us were having whispered conversations too. If we pass that exam it will be entirely out of luck and not merit, because, having been to 6 out of 12 classes, we simply did not know the answers. It was supposed to last for an hour and a half, but most people were finished within the first 20 minutes and were queuing up to hand their papers in, which is another system that completely baffles me: when you’ve finished your exam, you take your paper up to the front, sign something and then you can leave. This leads to a huge queue of chatting students during the exam. It’s very bizarre.

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The most ridiculous exam by far, though, was my Histoire Littéraire exam, when the teachers hadn’t brought enough copies of the question paper. After giving out the papers that they had, they went off to find some more, giving Nichola and I a good five to ten minutes to discuss the questions and write a plan together. Even when they came back and the teacher asked for silence absolue it wasn’t very difficult to confer. It was so cold in the lecture theatre that everyone kept their coats, scarves and gloves on and sat shivering as they wrote, and when someone got up to leave from the middle of the lecture theatre, their entire row had to stand up to let them squeeze past. The whole exam period was a completely bizarre experience, but I think (I hope) I’ve got a good chance of passing all but two of them (Occitan and Civilisation Française were a huge waste of time).

IMG_0249‘Working’ in our new favourite place, Home Coffee

I have one more exam next week and a presentation to give, but other than that, I’m free of Paul Valéry forever! I celebrated by going home and reading something not university related (such a treat), catching up on New Girl and sleeping before heading out to Les Hivernales with Chantal for some vin chaud. There, much to the amusement of the lady at the ticket desk, we regressed back to childhood and went on the tiny rollercoaster that was made for children, which became abundantly clear when we nearly couldn’t squeeze our bums onto the tiny plastic seats.

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The childhood dreams continued when we headed to the Haribo museum the next day. We got the train to Nîmes and from there got a bus to Uzès, and from there walked 3km along a main road to the tune of dozens of French perverts honking their car horns at us to get to the Haribo museum. The bus driver assured us it was only 800m away, but he was wrong. The museum itself was very quiet and not overly interesting, but the whole trip was made worth our while by the Haribo factory shop at the end of the visit and the incredibly inappropriate Haribo bear outside the museum.

From the front, he looked completely innocent…

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From the side, however…

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There is no way that this could have been an accident. Whoever designed this is killing themselves with laughter right now.

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He knows what he’s done. Dirty, dirty bear.

In all our maturity, we obviously seized the photo opportunity.

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I do not approve

IMG_0381Chantal does though

On a sugar high from the handfuls of free haribo we’d discreetly shovelled into our handbags, the whole day turned into a full-on photo shoot.

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The end of my time in France has started to resemble more and more the very beginning of my time here, except colder. I’ve been doing all the things I was doing before Paul Valéry reared his ugly head: eating with friends, drinking with friends and partying with friends.

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Drinks at Fabrick

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Party at Ruth’s house

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Les Hivernales and mulled wine

We had a raclette evening last week, which was delicious! The idea of raclette is that you have an assortment of food like salad, tomatoes, dried meats, olives, potatoes and so on, and then you make a layer of whatever you want on the bottom of a very small, very shallow pan with a handle, about the size of your palm. You cover it with slices of raclette cheese and then put it under a sort of grill that heats up the cheese and makes it melty and delicious. Even though it’s a very typically French thing, it reminded me of home because mum has a raclette machine that we used to use when I was younger (mum, here’s your shout out for being the best mum ever!).

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Something that occurred to me this week is how backwards the French attitude to health is. The French are very concerned with their health; there are pharmacies everywhere and they are the only place you can buy medicine. When the pharmacists went on strike, it was because they didn’t want medicine to be sold in supermarkets. ‘Our health is not for sale’, they chanted. On any advert or packaging for food that is less than good for you or on any kind of alcohol, there is always small print at the bottom reminding you to do some physical activity every day, not to snack between meals, to keep a balanced diet, or to enjoy alcohol or sweets in moderation. Even McDonalds has the warning on the posters in their windows, and at the wine festival they had the warnings next to the names of every different wine. Yet the French smoke like nobody’s business, tobacco and weed, and when it’s weed they’re hardly discreet with it. It wasn’t unusual at Paul Valéry to get a sudden strong whiff from someone casually smoking up their pre-lecture pétard on campus. Not all of the French smoke of course, but a lot of them do. Like medicine, you can only buy cigarettes in special tabac shops; you can’t just get them in anywhere. I find it to be a very contradictory attitude, but the French just don’t care.

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Things crossed off the bucket list this week:

  • Visit the Haribo factory

I’ll leave it there for now. I’m coming home in a week just in time for Christmas and I’ve got a lot of fun things to do before then, so I’d better go and get started.

See you in a week! Bises xxx

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Graffiti that we saw on the way to the Haribo museum. I assume it used to say ‘Don’t worry, be happy’, but unfortunately now it just reads ‘Don’t be happy’. Ooops.

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