Laskettelumahdollisuudet ovat täällä mainiot. Aivan Lyonin vieressä ei ole kovin isoja vuoria, mutta paikallinen hiihtokerho järjestää aina lauantaisin edullisen bussikuljetuksen johonkin keskukseen parin sadan kilometrin säteellä - ehdin jo käydä avaamassa lumilautailukauden Alpe d'Huezissa. Yhden viikonlopun vietin Pariisissa noin viidenkymmenen muun vaihto-opiskelijan kanssa. Kuuluisien nähtävyyksien lisäksi kävin paikallisessa Heureka-tyylisessä isossa tiedekeskuksessa.
Viimeisen kuukauden aikana myös opinnoissa oli hieman enemmän tekemistä kuin aiemmin, ei kuitenkaan liikaa. Kurssivalikoimani sisältää täällä tietotekniikan lisäksi myös talouteen ja kulttuuriin painottuvia aiheita sekä vieraita kieliä, ranskan lisäksi aloitin espanjan ja japanin opinnot.
Huomenna palaan pitkästä aikaa takaisin Suomeen perheeni luo. Uuden vuoden jälkeen jatkamme vielä yhdessä Lontooseen, josta palaan tänne loman viimeisenä päivänä 7. tammikuuta.
Iloista Joulua ja Menestykekästä Vuotta 2001!
18.11. Val Thorens 170 FF 25.11. Alpe d'Huez 165 FF 02.12. Les 2 Alpes 165 FF ...
Looking at the list of trips organised by the local ski club of INSA will make the Skipoli (the ski club of HUT) members in Finland green with envy. Lyon itself isn't surrounded by really big mountains, but every Saturday early in the morning you can catch a bus to spend a day on the slopes of one the ski centers within the nearest 200 km. The price is very reasonable, about 170 francs (25 euros, 1 euro = 6.56 French francs) including the ticket for the ski lifts. The club hires out equipment too if you don't happen to have your own, 50-70 francs for a pair of boots and skis or snowboard, depending on the desired quality.
This far I've joined just one trip, the Alpe d'Huez 25.11. It is not as well known as some of the big centers in Chamonix, but not small either, a few dozen slopes and about 1500 meters from the base station to the highest peak. For someone coming from Finland, that's already huge. :)
The departure was at 5.30., the skiers of the club have a nice attitude and want to be on the site when it opens - suits me fine. In November only about one fourth of the slopes were open, but there was enough snow, and luckily some had fallen just the previous night. Especially in the morning the quality of the snow was perfect too, so I spent most of the day commanding my snowboard off-piste. Not quite a match for Verbier, Switzerland last winter, but definitely enjoyable.
The following weekend I spent in Paris on a trip organised by the CEI, a volontary association that takes care of the exchange students. The most comfortable way to go would have been the train - the TGV takes only slighly over two hours - but to save money and have all the exchange students together we went by bus.
On the arrival people spread around the city to do what they wanted, but about half of us went with the organisers to see some of the most important sights like Sacre Coeur, Arc de Triomphe, and Champs-Elysées. As one might have guessed, the group was too big and about half of the time was spent taking group pictures. In the evening we went for dinner to a Belgian restaurant. The food was okay, but the service didn't score high points by not delivering meals at the same time for the whole group and by answering constantly in English to our questions posed in French.
After dinner we came quickly back to the hostel before continuing to local bars nearby. In the middle of the rain we entered one that wasn't dirty but not especially fancy looking either, sat down and were ready to order something to drink. To our astonishment, the price announced for a beer (44 cl) was 52 francs (8 euros)! Some took that anyway, I ordered the "drink of the night", an interesting mix of sweet fruit juices and rhum. Despite the whopping price of 58 francs I was happy with it, beautifully decorated and tasting surprisingly good.
Later we saw the list and noticed that also cheaper drink options existed (52 F was the most expensive beer), they just had "forgot" to tell us about them although we asked what brands were available. So much for friendly service again, out we went. Luckily being in the group of exchange students was nice as always and our night wasn't spoiled by such minor factors.
I had originally planned to still continue with Marius to a nightclub, but the most interesting ones were far away. Without good info of the parties we were afraid of spending the price of the cab (the subway was closed already) plus 100 F to get in (normal price in Paris) and be disappointed anyway - so we decided to walk back to the hostel and get some sleep.
On Sunday I decided to skip the Eiffel tower and other sights and go instead to a science center in the north-east, Porte de la Villette. It was a collection of expositions of various domains of science, like space, energy production, sound and information technology. In addition to the explanations in many places it was possible to try out the technologies presented: the Heureka center in Finland is similar, just smaller. The best parts were a temporary exposition "Desire of learning" and a 3D film in a big sphere-formed theatre. There isn't much to tell about the story, but technologically it was admirable, having the best sensation of space I have seen this far, but losing in color production and slight blur of the moving objects to a show two years ago in Sydney (in IMAX, if I remember correctly).
Other activities since my previous letter include a short one day hike to the mountains near Grenoble, a tour in Lyon city center on a special night of light and music shows, and participating in the Gala of INSA. The Gala starts with an event where INSA graduates get their diplomas, after that it's a big party of various shows and discos open for everyone who is willing to pay 130 F to get in. In a way it is a replacement of pre-christmas parties, which aren't here even nearly as common in Finland, where every club organises it's own.
I've been concentrating on the free time in my letters, but studying also became more intense as Christmas was approaching. Some project works had to be returned and I also had my first exams here, in accounting and Japanese. The first one was easy being almost exactly similar to the excercise sessions and I didn't have any major difficulties in the latter either. A few more are coming in January and February, here the exams are more evenly distributed throughout the year than in Finland.
I guess I haven't written too much of my course choices here: actually only about half of them are computer science. The rest of the material is divided between economics related studies, French culture and other foreign languages: I started Spanish and Japanese. The languages are just for fun, of the others I'm hoping to get a package accepted as the "minor specialty" in my degree. For major, I've planned to study neural networks, starting full steam next fall.
Tomorrow afternoon I will catch the train to Paris and continue by plane to Helsinki to see my family the first time since September. I'm really looking forward to going home, but on the other hand it feels nice that I will be returning here after the vacation - it was definitely the right choice to do a full exchange year and not only one semester. The vacation will last until the 7. January, allowing me not only to visit Finland but also spend five days in London with my family after the new year celebration.
I wish you all Merry Chrismas and Spectacular Year 2001!
Arto Teräs --- See http://www.iki.fi/ajt/ for contact info