Thursday, June 27, 2013

Day 1

June 26 & 27, 2013

Day 1 of my trip to Marseille started out with 3 flights that would last over 15 hours of travel time. My first flight was from RDU to Philadelphia, and was mainly uneventful. I met two other girls at the airport who had my same 3 flights to Marseille, and on the first flight we met another 3 UNCW students who were traveling to Marseille through Brussels. 

The second and longest flight across the Atlantic, was also the flight with the most drama. To begin with, we almost missed the flight. We had about an hour layover in Philadelphia before our 6:30 flight to Munich was scheduled to depart; however, none of us had realized that boarding for the flight began at 5:45 instead of a later time like we were expecting. We'd stopped at a restaurant and had to jog back to our gate once we heard the last call for boarding. We were the last people on the flight, but at least we made it.

The trouble didn't stop there. We remained on the ground for a rather long time and at 7:25 were told that because of a thunderstorm all of the flights out of Philadelphia were being rerouted for northeastern paths to avoid the storm. We didn't take off until nearly 8:00, and the wait to take off seemed endless. We arrived in Munich around 9:00am their time, only about half an hour late from our original schedule.

Our last flight from Munich to Marseille was significant in the fact that I believe it's the only time I've gotten on a bus and been driven from the gate to board a plane. We arrived in Marseille around 12:30 and managed to claim our bags and meet some of other UNCW students by 1:00. About 30 of us were at the airport and received a bus ride, provided by our program, to our hotel.

By this time we were all exhausted and starving, having stayed up for nearly an entire day. But as we were constantly reminded, it's better to fight jet-lag by staying up and going to bed at night in the new time zone. After checking into the hotel several of us took quick showers and headed out to find somewhere to eat. We ended up having a rather large group of about 15 or more students at first, but this proved difficult to come to any decisions and we spent a good while indecisively trekking around the streets close to our hotel to find our next meal. Eventually 10 of us ended up at the outdoor section of a local restaurant were they served gnocchi, veal, and duck, among other things. It was a fun time, and it was nice to get the opportunity to start meeting other people on the trip.

After our late lunch/ early dinner we stopped at a small grocery store just by our hotel to start on our grocery shopping. I was quite overwhelmed by all the different brands of food and the different languages that the labels were in. It hadn't really hit me that I would be in a foreign country for a whole month until I was in the checkout line. The cashier either didn't speak Engligh, or didn't want to. It was crowded and busy, and she was aggravated that I didn't understand what she was saying even though I tried to respond with "Je ne comprends-vous." Attempting to pay with a debit card was surprising difficult when I couldn't understand the French commands on the screen and I was feeling stressed to hurry up my pace. I quickly gave up and handed the lady some cash instead. I'd never really fretted about not knowing much French, but the brief encounter made me realize that I have a long way to go before I can easily interact with locals.

When I got back to the hotel I saw that my roommate, Molly, had arrived from a surprise layover in Lyon. Originally Molly and 2 other students were slated to fly in to Marseille from Amsterdam. It became a chaotic scene when a fly attendant didn't show up for the flight and the airline insisted that the remaining flight attendants couldn't handle a full flight of people, so they kicked off 40 passengers from the Amsterdam to Marseille flight. Molly and the 2 other girls were flown to Lyon, France instead and then put on a flight from Lyon to Marseille. The airline also lost all three girls' checked luggage, and at this time the luggage has still not been recovered. 

Molly and the 2 girls hadn't had a decent meal all day, so I accompanied them to a pizzeria even though I'd already eaten. I just sipped on water, but had a fun time talking with everyone.

Molly and I are still trying to deal with some minor issues like getting wifi passwords from the front desk, figuring out our international plugs, and planning what foods we plan to prepare for ourselves while on the trip. 

While I don't think the past day and a half would count as an "all-nighter," I've done a lot of things and am very exhausted. We have most of the day to ourselves tomorrow, and we have a formal dinner with the Euromed students tomorrow night on the beach. There aren't any pictures good enough to post today, but hopefully there will be soon.

p.s. Our lights just went out. Hope that gets fixed soon.

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