It’s time for another guest blog!
My French course started this week. It actually started at the end of January but I wasn’t here at the time and I didn’t get around to joining it until now because of some suboptimal bureaucratic process. In fact, there seems to be a rumor doing the rounds that I was initially put into a group for complete beginners without anybody either asking me whether that was correct or telling me that I was registered at all. Anyway, this week I got to take placement tests by email and telephone and now I am in an advanced group and seem to be doing pretty well. Most of the people have been here all year or longer. The course takes place at CEA’s astrophysics department, so almost all the people there are astrophysicists, with the exception of a few environmental scientists and myself.
It was good that I started this week because this meant that I got to participate in this weekend’s extracurricular activity: a rallye (puzzle hunt) in the Butte-aux-Cailles area in southern Paris. We were given a booklet with some background information and 40 questions to answer. Most of them concerned the street art that adorns many of the walls in this area. The other notable feature is that the Butte looks surprisingly unlike most of Paris, which was aggressively urbanized in the 19th century; in some of the narrow paved streets one could almost forget being surrounded by twelve million people.
My group came in second with 39 out of 40 points; the winners had half a point more and were rewarded with chocolate. It was still fun, I’m glad I got to know this pretty corner of Paris and meet interesting new people.