So, I will start out talking about the greves that have been going on (strikes). Right now, the main idea behind the strikes is that Nicolas Sarkozy, the president of France, wants to raise the retirement age to 67 or 69, and the people do not agree with that. I am not quite sure what side I am really on with the politics aspect of the strikes, but last Friday, there was what is called a "blocus," in which the students blockade the entry way to the school. There was then going to be a march down to the town hall made up of a bunch of students. My friends and I decided that since we only had three hours of classes that day anyway, we were going to participate. :D It was a very very interesting experience. We all got into a bunch and slowly but surely made our way down the streets of Vernon to the town hall, making a bunch of noise along the way. When we got there the mayor came out and spoke to us for a while, which along with the noise and it being in French, I couldn't really understand... But it was satisfying... then it was finished at about 11 30, and my friends and I got food downtown and then I went home. Altogether is was a good experience. :D
But students aren't the only ones striking in France right now! There have been plenty of national strikes lately, and since it is for the retirement age, literally anybody can skip work and say that they are on strike, be it a bus driver, a student, a waiter, anyone. Because on the days that there are organized and very large strikes, it is highly possible that it will be difficult to get around via public transportation. It's better if you don't really have anything planned on those days :D
But last weekend, we had decided that we were going to go to Paris, and Saturday there was a big manifestation planned in the Bastille section. As we walked through the 11th arrondisement of the city, you could here the echos of shouting and chants from far away. To tell you the truth, it was a really eerie experience. The small manifestation at my school didn't compare at all to this. There were thousands of people all lined up, all with different organizations, marching through the streets of Paris. For someone not used to this kind of thing, it felt almost apocalyptic in a sense. One group marched with red flags shouting "Resistance! Resistance!" Others blasted loud music and sang chants and songs about reform. Altogether, it made me rethink my prior thoughts about greves. They aren't just for fun, like it is made out to be at the lycée. They can be scary, and they can get violent. For example, with us at the school, there was a line of police officers around us at all times, but there were only about 10, and one car. In Paris, there were police officers with batons, helmets, and the plastic guard/shield things, almost like the SWAT team. We even saw one avid protester get taken away by members of the police force. Yeah, it wasn't all fun and games on Saturday.
And the greves are still continuing, all throughout France this week and most likely next week, too. It is really fascinating to me that there is so much manifesting here. That just doesn't seem to happen in the US. I know we have little strikes or boycotts occasionally, but nothing compared to the organization and level of strikes here in France. I mean, this week wasn't my first experience with greves... in a month and a half, there have been about four. :/ So yeah, they are pretty popular here.
But because this week has been largely made up of a bunch of greves, my school schedule has been pretty relaxing. Lots of my teachers aren't there and I get time to hang out with friends and/or go home early. For example, this week I had school on Tuesday from 8 30 to 11 30, and then I was finished, although I stayed at school for a while. Today, Wednesday, I started school at 10 30 and finished at 12 30. :D Now I have a relaxing Wednesday afternoon to look forward to :). Tomorrow will be pretty much normal, starting at 8 30 and ending at 4 00 in the afternoon. And finally Friday... through an odd set of circumstances, I start at 8 30 and have class until 10 30, so les vacances commence at 10 30 for me! I am so excited!
One thing I find interesting is that they have vacation in October here. I think it is a great idea! :D:D In France they understand that school needs to be split up with lots of vacations... here is the school's schedule:
October vacation: 1 and a half weeks
December vacation: 2 weeks
February vacation: 2 weeks
April vacation: 2 weeks
Basically every two months of school, you get two weeks of vacation ^^ Yay!
Apart from graves and school, My host family is great and I have been getting more and more used to life here everyday. :D
That's all for now!