I hate buses, dirty stinking things. Cars in honesty aren’t much better though variable hatred of buses increases whenever near one or being cut up by one. My hatred of them is especially worse today, a 16 hour monster from London Victoria to Liège Belgium via Calais. In my suitcase was enough clothes and books to last a week, an xbox360 controller to complement my laptop and the Half Life game installed and an ipod. These were the tools I was going to last three weeks in Belgium then an entire year in France. I didn’t feel apprehension or fear, just hatred, hatred of the white, elongated, cramped metal tube that would be my transport to learning French.
I had the ignorance problem, I didn’t know where I was going and what I had signed up for, needing to learn French as I was going to start my third year of university as an Erasmus student at Ècole Supèrieur d’Informatique et Applications Lorriane (ESIAL for short) in Nancy, France. My friend Keeley had provided me both with words of wisdom – “Forget about fire alarms, the French smoke a lot” and her wisdom trying valiantly to acquaint my mind with the intricacies and complexity of the French vernacular. I felt that “Parlez-vous anglais s’il vous plaît” would get me through without incidence or problem.
I got talking to a guy called Anthony while in the waiting area, found out that he had just got back from Nepal, from the Everest base camp, he was a hulking man and I could well believe it. In his early ’60s he was going to Ghent as his son was having a baby, as he hadn’t seen his son’s fiancee or son in a while, he was taking the journey to see how things were going.
We started talking about ourselves and how people’s lives are transformed in different ways. Myself a could-do-better student with his mind too much on playing rugby or climbing, and him in the same sort of mould, having grown up in the north, bought a café, then another, eventually emigrating to America, replicating the same sort of success in cafés that had found him in England. He’d settled down with a family, had kids, had a son destroy the garage and the car, got divorced and top it off found out after September 11th, that his visa would be a lot more difficult to renew. On this deciding that it was time to enjoy life he set off travelling and found himself sitting next to me in the waiting lounge.
Myself I replied that I was a student that was doing a degree (or reading a degree, for those that have ‘elitist without being elitist – Times Education Supplement University Awards 2008 ) – views’) in Computer Science with Business Management and decided in a moment of madness and fear that the gravy train would end, I spoke to the Head of Department José that I wished to do a foreign exchange and would it be possible. In his research he found that I was going where no Computer Science with Management student had ever gone before, as Computer Science with Business Management (European Union) didn’t have a UCAS code – this had led to massive student loan nightmare, needing for the office responsible setting my course as 3rd year Medicine. With a small stipend which went straight to paying my overdraft off getting me upto ￡zero I then found that the University of Liège runs a three week intensive French language course, with my ignorance problem that should sort my language problem out.
Ghent came and went, with my vague slumber being taken by the bus cleaning machine the driver thoughtfully took us through. Three hours later, I stepped off the bus, knackered and thoroughly disorientated, the road signs were no help, whatsoever. Spotting an open pâtisserie i acquainted myself with an eclair and a Quiche Lorraine, temporally refuelled, spotting a sign and a directional arrow for a hotel Ibis I tottered off in search of shelter.