Saturday, 14 September 2013

Soul searching in the French Alps

Spending time away from home and day-to-day routine certainly makes you think about who you are. During the summer I actually grew bored of reading after the 8th book and craved some form of social interaction. I have been around people since the 28th August, when I moved to Grenoble. I have quickly realized that I can have enough of people after short periods of time, though I do enjoy their accompany occasionally when not making small talk.

I had one of those intensive integration weeks: class meetings, hundreds of introductions to new people, a night drinking in the park, practicing French with locals, watching a film with some friends in their room, eating with people and chatting with them everyday. Cool, I was satisfying my need to see people. Then the news started reaching me that there was an Erasmus welcome party, and just about everyone was planning on going. It cost 10 euros to get a ticket, which was pretty expensive, but my first thought was "oh god, I guess I ought to go though..." People I had met kept asking "est-ce que tu as déjà acheté ton billet?",  "tu viens avec nous à la fete?", and a whole host of other uncomfortable questions. I was slightly begrudging paying for a party I knew I would probably dislike. Suddenly logic unveiled itself; why pay to go to a party I dislike? I don't like clubs, excessive drinking or small talk. Thus, I decided quite casually to spend the night in. I experienced a serious recharge sitting on my arse doing more or less nothing. I was thinking though, recharging and regaining energy that too many social encounters had stolen from me. Even though I really enjoyed the movie night with my new friends, for example, I felt exhausted when I left the room, yet immediately perked up when sitting at my desk alone. The truth is, too much socializing drains me of energy.

That's okay. It does not mean I am lacking in social skills, it just means I do not enjoy too much socializing. There is probably a reason as to why I always come out as an introvert on Carl Jung's personality test. I am not actually shy usually, nor a snob, nor an absolute nerd. I just like my space in generous portions.

So if such a huge-scale party doesn't excite me, what does? Today I went on a quite spontaneous 6 hour hike with a few people from my résidence and some couchsurfers. I spoke in both French and English, got a  sunburn, had a picnic with an incredible view, felt an incredible thirst after some steep slopes, and thoroughly enjoyed myself. These were interesting and enriching conversations and sights, I got an experience to remember and felt like I was doing something good for my mind and body.

One of the friends who I had met in the résidence luckily has a car an drove a group of to the car park, from which we commenced on our hike (starting the hike at about 9.30am). We walked to the summit of Aulp de Seuil and then reached the beautiful arch. The view was outstanding, and the white peak on the horizon is Mont Blanc, the tallest mountain in Europe. Up here on the plateau there was an absolute tranquility (when we weren't chatting), warm rays from the sun, and an occasional refreshingly light breeze. It was only a 4.5 km walk, but the almost vertical steep and crumbly slopes made it feel more like 7km. It took us over 6 hours to go up and down, including our picnic break and occasional photo stops.

Some of the others are going out for a drink in town this evening. I decided to stay here with my sunburn, gluten free chocolate cake, skype, and my blog. It was great, but I feel like recharging.

In other news, due to annoyingly placed exams post Christmas, I think I have decided I will stay here in December up until mid-January. My boyfriend will also come, and we may be spending Christmas in a traditional chalet in a mountain village with a French friend I met here. We then intend to get a cheap ride to Paris with covoiture, spend a few days there, then catch the megabus to Edinburgh or Dundee via London.
Life gets complicated.

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