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O Fim duma Viagem

From Paris to Dijon

FRANCE | Monday, 14 September 2015 | Views [208]

Friday morning was rather lazy. I packed for the weekend, sorted through papers, and cleaned the apartment. After lunch, I headed to the university for my last "math" course of the week. Really, my only history class, since if it was a math course, the math department should have known what time classes were.

History of mathematics met in a classroom. Not a lecture hall. Which made it an incredibly small cours magistral, even if it was still a very large course for me.

The professor began by taking attendance. It was a small enough class that was a possibility. There were two lists: one of history/philosophy of science majors and one of math majors. He didn't call out last names for the first list, so I was left on edge trying to be prepared to hear my name in a foreign language, and wondering what I would do if he didn't call it. Fortunately, the second list had last names, and I recognised my name when he called it.

Next, he handed out syllabi and we went over them. Together. This was feeling way more like a Carthage course than anything else had felt like before. He took the time to go over contact information, course objectives, and percentage breakdown of the grades. (75% is the final exam, and does the other 25% really matter?) And, though we didn't go over it in detail, there were pages of the syllabus dedicated to recommended reading (half and half mix of English and French texts) and anticipated weekly content. (The non-math majors would leave to do mysterious and shady things after the midterm while the rest of us continued the course.) I felt on very familiar ground with this class.

That feeling didn't go away. The final and midterm are far enough away that I don't need to worry about how one studies for a history exam, so I could just listen, take notes, and enjoy hearing about the history of mathematics. And, for today, the prehistory.

The class is a two hour cours magistral followed by a two hour TD. Most TDs are three hours long, but, as the professor put it, this way we have an extra hour each week to devote to the class. So however long we expect to need to spend on homework each week, add one hour to it. The professor did promise he would observe the fifteen minute break between the cours magistral and the TD, which was nice of him, I guess. (Makes me kind of miss the days where professors would decide an hour and a half was too long and give us a break in the middle.)

Two hours, fifteen minute break, and another two hours is still a really long time. And unlike Tuesday's analysis course, this is something I will need to get used to. More, I will need to get used to it coming at the end (thanks to phonetics, near the end) of a very long, French-math-filled course. However, it seems very manageable. The professor seemed nice, and it was easy to hear and understand him. And it is nice to have a math course that doesn't require all of the thought that an advanced math course takes.

At the end of the class, the professor took a seat near the door and asked us to come up to him to choose one of Euclid's propositions to present. He didn't really explain what this meant, other than that we should understand that proof better-than-normal. Meaning we were supposed to read and understand the entire packet he gave us, but really understand our particular proof.

I got Proposition 31. I gave him my name, then needed to spell it. Which was test number two in that class. The French alphabet has all the same letters as the English one does, but they pronounce the letters differently. Spelling my name was not as easy as it sounds. Still, I got through this without difficulty and was free to go.

My train left at 19:23. I had this in my head as "around 19:30," and had the idea that I had enough time to buy a sandwich, stop by my apartment, switch bags, and go. I was nearly ready at 19:00, and then 10 minutes vanished and I was only then stepping outside the apartment building. I got to the metro stop and realised that I'd left my pass back at the apartment. So I had to run back to get it. Got to Gare de Lyon. Find my train. It was still there, but there was a station worker motioning that it was too late. I'd missed my train.

First priority: get on the next one. There were machines nearby to purchase or exchange tickets. Was it possible to exchange, since that would be much cheaper? No, since I had a printed e-ticket and not a real one, and hence couldn't insert it into the machine to read. Was there anyone I could talk to, since a worker might take pity on my flustered state and a machine definitely wouldn't. I couldn't find anyone. So, time to buy a new ticket. Wait, what was that other option on the first screen? Exchange e-ticket?

Stop. Breathe. Read the entire screen. Now what do I want to do? Exchange my e-ticket. What's my reference number? OK. Time for the third and easiest name test of the day: can I type my name on a French keyboard. I can! The next train to Dijon departs in an hour. I want that. I don't think there are any second class seats available. Guess I'm upgrading to first. Pay and print. Get new train ticket: check.

Next priority: contact Laure and explain that I'll be on the next train. The only contact information I had was her phone number. I sent a text and decided that if she didn't respond within half an hour, I would call her. Within a couple of minutes, I had a very understanding and nice reply from her.

Now, I had nothing to do but wait around for the next train's track to be revealed. This train was delayed (it couldn't have been the other way around?) So that took a while. But at last, I was on a train. The train ride was pleasant. Dark, but otherwise relaxing. I like trains.

I successfully got off at Dijon and met up with Laure. We headed to her house, where she finished making a vegetarian quiche and we had dinner. She was a former Brown professor who is currently teaching English at middle schools, high schools, and universities. (University students are her favourite because they're more make.) She was very nice, and understood some of the issues of study abroad very well from having spent time in the United States. She was also very good at nicely correcting my mistakes without getting in the way of me talking.

It was kind of late by the time we finished dinner, so she invited me to make myself at home, made sure I had everything I needed, and went to bed. As I sat on the couch finishing up a blog post, I couldn't help but think that, despite her efforts, it didn't feel like home. Paris was my home, and this was my first weekend away from it.

Tags: history, host family, math, trains

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