Arriving in Haubourdin
I arrived in Haubourdin on Monday afternoon!! Haubourdin is a country, quite suburb of the northernmost metropolitan area of France, surrounding a city called Lille.
Arriving here wasn’t nearly as easy as it should have been. I came from Ghent by train to Lille. The train ride was only an hour and 15 minutes. Somehow that took me over 3 hours. The teacher who is helping me at the school (my prof référent) was meeting me at the train station in Lille to drive me to Haubourdin so I could avoid the bus etc. with all my bags. I was SO happy I live the life of the chronically excessively early and left Ghent 4 hours early!! Also, really happy to be able to carry everything – would definitely pack in my backpacking pack and not a suitcase again.
So what happened: the train from Ghent to Lille arrives in a town called Kortrijk. At Kortrijk, the first half of the train splits and goes to some other city while the back half goes to Lille. You know what wasn’t posted anywhere? That the train splits. Literally nowhere. I was on the train for almost an hour before someone checked my ticket and told me that I was on the wrong train. She told me to get off and ask the person at the opposite platform, and I could get to Lille that way. Soooo, I do just that. The staff member on the other train said I could take that train directly to Lille, no changes. Great!
Until I arrived back in Ghent, where I had started the day (so I went in completely the wrong direction!). So, at this point, I get off the train, and happily only have to wait about 15 minutes until I can get back on the same train line I had been on that morning. This time I sat in the very back. Also, because I got to do the entire process twice, I verified. NOPE, no signs at all. There was a message before Kortrijk which I imagine explains all of the details but it was only in Dutch. You would think since French is a national language of Belgium, and the destination speaks French, that a French message might also be useful. Regardless, I arrived in Lille about 10 minutes before I was supposed to meet my prof référent.
I got to Lycée Beaupré around 4 pm, and immediately met my roommate. Josephine is one of 2 Chinese language assistants also working at the school. We arrived within a few hours of each other – which has been really helpful for getting the apartment and the school figured out. Anyways, after arriving, I got a very brief tour of the school, and the keys to my apartment. At this point in time, I was extra thankful to have a totally free and furnished apartment waiting for me. Seriously I already felt stressed enough about only understanding about 2/3 of the conversations being had (woooo French) and literally having NOTHING in our apartment except furniture and being starving after not eating lunch or breakfast (thanks 3+ hour train ride) – it was super nice to be able to just be somewhere.
One other little comfort from this day – I packed some Reese’s peanut butter cups to share since peanut butter is not really a thing over here, let alone peanut butter candy. Uhhh…. Those will not be shared! As soon as I saw those in my stressed/hungry/tired state I ate about 5. It was great to have a little treat from home, and worth making space for in my bag.
The Reese’s were one gift, the other was Wi-Fi! We have no Wi-Fi in our apartment yet, because you have to have a French bank account in order to do all of that. Since I was running so late to the train station, I didn’t have time to buy a prepaid French SIM card with some data. All this to say, I had no internet connection, am in a Podunk town with nowhere to get free Wi-Fi, and literally nothing else to do. Emotions are evidenced below:
This first night, I was able to access a Wi-Fi hotspot with a pretty strong connection. It cost just under 5€ for a day long pass. Obviously that was the best 5€ I have ever spent. So, I stayed up super late planning, facebooking, looking at maps, phone plans, etc. If for no other reason, this was super useful because I was able to find a Bouygues Telecom store about a 25 minute walk away so I could get a SIM card. And the crazy thing? This hotspot completely vanished the next morning! I was kind of annoyed, because I had expected to be able to use more of my 1-day pass. But I think it is just a great example of God’s crazy & generous provision. I needed (wanted is probably a better word) Wi-Fi and He provided that.
All in all, starting to get settled and thankful that I have a week here to get used to everything before starting my job. It rained all night the first night I arrived, and I consider it my personal welcome to Haubourdin.