I arrived Sunday around 6:30pm after a fairly uneventful drive. It never fails to amaze me that little towns exist in all sorts of random spots and that people actually live there. When I got to the school, University of Quebec at Chicoutimi or "UQAC" (pronounced you-kack) I was ushered into the "Centre Sociale", the big area on the bottom floor where we start and finish most days. I was given my welcome pack and had my picture taken for my student ID which they printed off right there. Then I waited while my host family was contacted and came to meet me. I spoke with a few other students and some "Animateurs/Animatrices" aka, the hosts.
My host family, Gilles and Nicole, are an older couple. They have three grown children who have six grandkids between them. Nicole babysits two of them, Mayson and Shawna on a regular basis. Shawna is 8 months and adorable. Mayson is three and a little stinker. Cute as anything but really rotten. The frustrating thing is he has a better French vocabulary than I do!!! It's hard to get him to stop doing something stupid (like climbing on the bookshelf) when you don't really have the words to communicate. I think he understands, he just likes to pretend that he doesn't :P
I wasn't expecting it but it turns out I have two colocataires (roommates) from the program. Ashley is my age and Museb is 22. We're a bit of an odd combination but we've totally bonded. We each (obviously) have our own bedrooms and we share a bathroom. We eat breakfast and supper with the family and lunch at school at the cafeteria.
Another student, Steve, lives across the street and Beth lives one street over. The school sends a "minibus" (15 seater passenger van) to pick us up each day along with the other people on our route. Even though I have my car (Ashley and Museb took the bus up here so I'm the only one with a vehicle) I take the minibus as well because it's a great time to chat with the students and animateurs (in of course). Having the car is great though because we're up on a hill and kind of far from anything.
Someone coined the term "Chicouti-mere" and "Chicouti-pere" for our host families. I refer to Ashley as my "Chicouti-soeur" and Museb as my "Chicouti-frere". Since Steve is the only student in his house along with a dog we refer to that as his "Chiciouti-chien" LOL. Basically it's to distinguish from our real parents.
Monday morning we wrote our placement tests at school. Both written and verbal. There are six levels with two or three classes each. Six is for people who haven't been exposed to any French. One is for those who are "advanced" or basically fluent. I'm in 4A. Museb's in 4B (we're still trying to figure out how much of a difference there is, it appears that A might be slightly more advanced than B but I might just like to think that :P) and Ashley's in 5A. She's fluent in Spanish as well as English so a lot of her words (especially the numbers) have Spanish pronunciation but she's awesome and really confident at just trying to speak. It's great. Museb actually lives in Montreal (he's from Toronto) so he's just learned French from hearing it. He's the best at communicating with and understanding our host family.
Monday afternoon we had a walking tour of downtown Chicoutimi, in the cold and the rain. It was a horrible day. Since then it's thankfully cleared up which has been great. For that evening we heard that people were going to a pub called "La Tour a Biere" it turned out that close to 50 students were there and we had a great time getting to know people from all over the country and celebrating our last night of speaking French.
Tuesday we were assigned to our classes and met our teachers. We had the afternoon free so Ashley, Museb and I picked up Victoria, another girl on our minibus route, and went to the mall. I forgot my hiking shoes at home so I had to buy a new pair. Tuesday night we went to bed pretty early which we needed after our late night on Monday and trying to speak French all day on Tuesday.
Wednesday was our first full day of class. My teacher is great. She's Quebecois and really big on proper pronunciation but we have a lot of fun with it. This week has been a lot of review but somehow I feel like this time around it's actually sinking in. It's great. We've had people leave our class to go down a level and to go up but I feel like I'm really in the right place. I understand the teacher for the most part but I still feel challenged by the coursework.
Wednesday night the Canucks played the Sharks so we went out to the "Bistro" across from the school. It was $2 beer night so the place was pretty packed. They have a project screen so it was a great way to watch the game, and again talk to people. Pretty much everyone is a student back home so we all have a lot in common and lots to talk about.
Thursday was class all day. Usually we just have class in the mornings and activities in the afternoon but Thursday's we have "culture" classes in the afternoons. This week in my class we made posters advertising a local tourist attraction. My group did one for a bike trek around Lac St. Jean. Others in our class did Nouvelle France and La Pulperie de Chicoutimi both of which we'ell be visiting in the next few weeks. La Pulperie is at the bottom of the hill that we live on as well and we pass it every day. I'm looking forward to visiting.
Thursday was another relatively early night. Ashley and Museb actually went over to Steve's (he has a pool table and a hot tub) but I was having an allergy attack so I just stayed home.
Friday was class in the morning and activities in the afternoon. Group 4 actually had a free afternoon so I just worked on homework and there is a LOT of it. It's great exercise but it takes awhile. I want to make sure that I stay on top of it so I get the best experience out of this.
Friday night was our "Soiree Bienvenue" at the school. They transformed the "Centre Sociale" into a night club complete with a bar and we partied there till about midnight when we moved over to La Tour again. I was home around 1am and slept in today.
Tomorrow we go for a day trip to Parc National du Fjord-du-Saguenay. And now you're up to date! It's been really busy but really fun.