Reflections in Aix

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My initial enthusiasm to write this blog has been seriously disrupted by the events in Paris and the frenzy that broke out afterwards. First, I absolutely hated the idea of writing anything other than condolences. Not as if I had anything against people sharing their thoughts, but especially during the first days, Facebook was full of hysterical and later deleted statuses, pointless debates, and religious expertise. The second thing I really wanted to avoid was to take up the role of the survivor or someone who is really involved; Aix is 750 kilometres away from Paris, and although Marseille is close, this place is hardly targeted by anyone other than tourists and exchange students.

Having said that, the attacks did play an important role in forming the general atmosphere. Maybe it’s just the winter, but the city seems less vivid. The effects of what happened are present: the candles and flowers in front of l’Hotel de Ville, an increased police presence, soldiers patrolling the city. And I remember watching the live broadcast and thinking that I’m in the same country. Again, it’s probably only a sign of how we think in terms of national borders; the actual events had more to do with Brussels or maybe even Hungary than with this part of France.

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In my previous entry, I did not really write about the city. Aix-en-Provence, in short Aix, is a beautiful little city with an old downtown and unreasonable amount of fountains. As I mentioned before, the city is overridden by tourists who do not seem to retreat when the weather turns bad. Accordingly, there are a tremendous number of shops and restaurants, which can sometimes give the city an artificial look. This is especially true considering the bad reputation of Marseille, which is only 30 kilometres away.

Unfortunately the language barrier does not allow me to really get to know the locals, but they are generally very nice. Here I have to note that there’s a strange oddity with the people and their preferences of transportation. Never in my life have I seen so many weird means of getting from one place to another: using scooters is a thing here, even among the adult population, but there are also some very unique motorized vehicles too. I was told in Paris that Southerners are weird and it looks like there’s actually a particular quirkiness, but it’s likeable.

My life here is pretty laidback. Academically, it’s not overly demanding for exchange students, so I’ve got lots of spare time, which I can use to travel. There are some very cheap buses and planes from here, you can go to Paris and back from 2 Euros. I started giving English lessons to French kids so I even make some money. Although I’ve had French language classes, I couldn’t say that I can communicate in French outside the supermarket. It really looks like a long shot but I haven’t given up, I’m currently doing lots of Duolingo and I will have my first French tutorial this week. Wish me luck!

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