Today has been such a full day that it almost feels like it has been two days wrapped into one.
First, this morning I woke up to the loud and irritating sound of a fire alarm, and since we are in France and not the U.S., I wasn't sure if it was a drill or if there was really a fire in the building. I didn't smell anything. I didn't see any smoke, and I didn't hear the rapid steps of other students trying to scurry out of the building. It turned out that there wasn't a fire, but we students suspect that since all of us had to be ready to leave at 8:00am this morning, that our two coordinators ran a "drill" as a wake up call to ensure that we would wake up on time.
Our morning appointment was with the European Parliament in Strasbourg. The parliament typically meets here only one week every month and meets for the rest of the time in Brussels. The presentation really wasn't anything that we haven't already heard, but since one of the student groups is not studying the EU, they asked some questions that I didn't think about. It's always interesting to get outside opinions from those who aren't as close to a subject matter because sometimes they can provide greater insights.
After that appointment we had some time for lunch in the city center, and since I haven't had much of an opportunity to eat fruit since I left Georgia, I ordered a tarte with strawberries and raspberries. I can't even explain how good fruit tastes when you haven't had it in a while. I even bought four apples at the local grocery store because I just wanted more fruit to eat.
Once the groups met back up in front of the cathedral at the city center, we walked to the U.S. Consulate's office in Strasbourg. He actually talked with us, explained his role in American diplomacy abroad, and answered all of our probing questions. After listening to him speak about his job and what he does in Strasbourg, I have to say, his job sounds amazing. It's so exciting and unpredictable that the job maintains its appeal. For example, one of the things he was responsible for on Memorial Day giving a speech at a U.S. cemetery in France. He also has an appointment tomorrow to represent the U.S. at a dedication in Strasbourg to a U.S. military soldier who died in 1944 in World War II. In addition to diplomatic matters, he's also responsible for issuing visas, promoting American industries abroad, and helping American who are living in France with such things as birth certificates and passport applications.
Once we returned back to the chateau, my group had pretty much decided to go bike riding around the countryside and get some groceries on the way. Luckily we bought groceries and brought them back to the chateau before we went riding out in the country though...grocery bags definitely would have weighed us down.
The bike ride through the country and through the corn fields was nice, but it was a lot like driving stick shift for me; I am fine once I get going but my starts and stops are a little iffy. Had the bicycle been lower, I might not have had such a problem, but with my short legs, I couldn't even touch the ground when I was sitting on the seat! So needless to say, I had some rocking and questionable stops that involved some bushes and the occasional dropping of the bike in order to save myself, but overall it was quite lovely and the weather has been perfect.
Tomorrow we have an appointment with a representative from Amnesty International and then we leave for Paris in the afternoon. I'm hoping that the train ride won't be too bad...as long as its nice and cool inside the train I'll be fine.
Well, until tomorrow,