Well, it seems that so far my New Year's resolutions/goals are on track. On Friday night I was in a neighboring town, Chauny, with the assistants there and another lost soul looking for fun in Picardy. The assistants in Chauny are a really fun, welcoming group and I had a blast with everyone! We had an absolutely delicious dinner prepared by V, hung out and talked for hours over I think four bottles of wine, then headed out to their local bar/cool place to go on weekends, Cuba. Not only does this bar break the law by still allowing smoking inside (come on France, get with the program here!) but they have an illegal downstairs bar, where we hung out all evening. A highlight included when the gendarmerie dropped by and we all had to be quiet, then prepare to tell them if they came downstairs that we were at Warren's birthday party. Anyway, it was such a fun evening, and I'm glad I'm friends with that group. It was just really nice to feel that I actually do have some friends in this country and that I'm not condemned to loneliness for the next six months.
I'm also hopefully on my way to making a French friend my age! The professor's hall that I live on in the lycee is sort of a boarding house for random people who find themselves in Soissons, so there's me and another American assistant, a professor at the lycee, two guys from Guadeloupe who are doing some kind of technical exchange or stage or whatever, and a journalist who's contract is only month to month, so he didn't want to do the whole contract/real apartment thing. Back in October I randomly ran into the journalist in the hallway after several weeks of wondering who on earth lived next door to me. I can see into his room, because I live in a corner room, and he can see into mine, so until we actually met in the hallway we had merely stared awkwardly through our windows at each other. Anyway, he asked if he could write a story on the other assistant and myself for the newspaper, so we had an interview one night and chatted a little. He is originally from Lyon and doesn't know anyone in Soissons either, so he said that if we ever were going out to do something we should knock on his door. Well naturally, we never did. I've thought about saying hi many, many times when I've seen his light on, but I never did because I was either too shy, or he turned the light off before I had a chance to go over, or I could hear that he was on the phone.
New paragraph because that one is too long already. Then on Thursday I saw that his light was on and I said to myself "Soleil, this is your chance. You keep wishing for a French friend to fall into your lap, and this one has done just that. Stop being lame and go over there to say hi!" So I mustered up my courage, walked out the door, took two steps and knocked on his door. I heard some sort of metallic noise, a pause, and then he answers the door, wearing only a button down shirt and underwear. Oh yes, he was pantsless. I'm slightly embarrased by this, and manage to mumble in broken French that I had seen his light on and just come over to say hello. He exclaims about how nice that was, then says we have to do the bise (kiss), we exchange New Year's greetings, and then he finally says "wait just a minute while I put on some shorts." You know, I wouldn't have minded waiting at the door while he put shorts on before he answered. Were the strange metallic noises I heard before he answered the door the sounds of pants being removed? Was he in there with someone, or did he take his pants off just for me? He came back out after he got dressed and we had a nice conversation about life in Soissons, French culture, and the fact that he's moving to Australia for a year starting in June, giving no indeication that there was someone in there, nor did I hear another voice. But I offered to practice English with him before he leaves for Australia, so we have an appointment to speak English together sometime next week. I hope he plans on wearing his pants. In any case, pantless or not, I really hope we end up being friends. He also said that he goes to Paris almost every weekend because all of his friends live there, so perhaps I can profiter from that and make friends who live in Paris too, and then I would have lots of French friends. Although if they are members of some weird pantsless society, I'm not sure if I could handle that. I'll just take it slowly, starting with the English date this week, and see how it goes from there.