Classes, Mont Sainte-Victoire, and le “DIAble”

Classes have officially started here at Université Aix-Marseille! They started last Monday. The class choosing and taking process can be complicated, but my week went smoothly! I tried out a sociology class about cities and the environment, a literature class called Récits d’ailleurs (Stories from Elsewhere), a sociology course about culture and collectivity, and sociology of education. I decided to drop my sociology of education class, so I will be taking the first three classes, as well as a theater/improv class (so fun!!!) through my study abroad program and a mandatory university methodology course. It’s looking like a fun and busy semester ahead! For my city/environment soc class, I have a big project where we go to Marseille and conduct interviews and observations about a development project. I am still a little unclear as to what we will be doing, but I think it will be challenging and rewarding!

Last Friday, I climbed Mont Sainte-Victoire with my friends Aimee and Hayley! Aix-en-Provence is famous for this mountain that resides outside of the city. It was a perfect day to hike, and we had a lot of fun. It took us three tries to climb a good trail, but we found the right one and made our way to the top! The trail consisted of diverse terrain, and we took lots of little breaks to catch our breath or rest our legs. We even found a little picnic area about a third of the way up to have lunch at. I loved the exercise, the cool mountain breeze, the amazing views, and the chance to get to know my friends better as we climbed this beautiful mountain. It is a goal of mine to climb it once a week since I don’t have class until 5:15 PM on Thursdays and it only costs a euro each way to bus to the mountain. I’m looking forward to the exercise and the peace found on Mont Sainte-Victoire!

Now, it’s time I told you about le DIAble. My friend Aimee came up with this nickname for the grocery store, Dia, that is in the basement of our apartment building. When we first moved in, we were elated that there was a place to get all of our food without leaving the block, but we have since acquired a strong dislike for Dia (hence the nickname of “devil”). Here’s the deal with Dia: you go in with your list of things to buy, only to find that half of the things you want are not stocked. I try to buy chicken there every week, and I kid you not, one time in the past 6 weeks was I able to buy it. They are always understocked and always chaotic. Another aspect of Dia that drives us crazy is the checkout lines. There are always 50 people trying to check out at two registers. TWO! Lines in France generally are slower than those in the States, and I am used to this now, but Dia really takes the cake in slowness. It will take me 5 minutes to grab the items I need but I will wait 20-40 minutes in line. Sometimes they will open a register, and there is literally a stampede to get to that line. I never make it. Haha. Alas, shopping at Dia is a real test of patience, and I am learning to just suck it up. I am also learning to shop at other stores, although sometimes not leaving the block and dealing with the lines is a better choice than walking across town.

I know I’ve ranted a lot about le DIAble, but I think I ought to point out that some of my favorite interactions have happened there! One time, a man in front of me bought a huge load of groceries and attempted to pay in all change (and not even one or two euro coins, actual change). He was the cutest old man and short 60 centimes, so I helped him out and made a friend! Another time, an older man tried to tell me (in complete seriousness) that I could buy a pack of 2 or 4 slices of ham instead of the pack of 6 that I had. It’s not common to buy bulk here, but I wanted 6 slices of ham, and I explained this to him. He then asked me if I was Italian (which has actually happened to me a lot here)! Just today I had another good Dia experience. An old man (I seem to have a lot of old men friends! Haha) was in front of me checking out, and kept insisting I go ahead of him in line. Today was the worst line I have ever been in. I was probably the 15th person back from the register. I politely declined his offer repeatedly (which in hindsight might have been more rude than polite, in his eyes) because he only had four items, which is what I had. Oh well!

I tell you these stories to share the good found in Dia, or at least the shared disgust for this place! Life in Aix is great! I’ve gone on several fun trips around the region, am enjoying living with my 87-year-old landlady, and have settled in well! I hope to provide more updates soon. Bonne journée, mes amis!