Ma Deuxième Maison

If I could zoom through space in the speed of light and transport myself somewhere, I’d be at 7 rue de la Digue 59000 Lille, France. I’d be standing in front of a gate with blue vertical bars and a security system that’ll require you to enter a 6-digit pin before you could get in. I remember how my fellow exchange students and I had to come up with a way to memorize the 6-digit pin easier. As the five of us don’t really stay that much in the dorm in order to make the most of our 4-month stay in Europe, we had to enter the pin almost 5-8 times a day–once when we go back from school, once when we go back from school after eating lunch in the dorm, once after going to the grocery, once after eating late lunch somewhere, once after going to the mall or the train stations, once after visiting Teilhard, and once after going to some party with other exchange students.

After getting the pin wrong twice, I’d finally get it right and I’d walk a quick 100 meters to get to the lobby. While those 100 meters may sound easy, they were the toughest 100 meters of my Europe life. My friends and I would usually schedule weekend out-of-town trips, where we’d be back in Lille by Sunday night just in time for school the following day. Sounds brilliant? Maybe. Only, I need to point out that I easily get cold and chilly. Since we live on ‘student budgets’, we’d choose to walk from the “gare” (train station) to our dorm, instead of a taking the bus or the metro. AND THAT MEANS WALKING WHILE AN EXTREMELY COLD BREEZE IS BLOWING. Think one-digit temperatures in degrees Celsius. The last 100 meters of the walk to get to the dorm would be the most brutal. So near yet so far.

I’d be entering through the heavy glass doors–with a heavy sigh of relief that the temperature is more tolerable. (Thank you, heaters and radiators!) To my right would be a few chairs and a table (think of it as a mini welcome lounge) with stacks of the latest newspapers and some magazines. They’d all be in French, of course, so I’d just pretend to understand the few bonjours and ouis. To my left would be a room with doors that have two circular windows inscribed–as if you were peeking through a submarine. Inside would be the dorm cafeteria–with a bar/counter where piles of pain platine are stcked, another table with pitchers of hot and cold milk for breakfast, and some rows of tables and chairs with small packets of honey, sugar, butter, jams and hazelnut spread in a basket as a centerpiece. Oh, and there’s also a foosball table. Breakfast was my favorite meal of the day when I was in Lille. The main reason is that it meant FREE FOOD! We had unlimited bread (w/ croissants and pains au chocolat every now and then) which we could devour with butter or chocolate or both! And we had unlimited hot or cold milk! One can even sneakily grab a whole loaf of bread (which I did hahaha) to bring up to one’s room…for lunch. I attribute my 20-pound weight gain to this.

Straight ahead was the door to the stairs, and beside it was an elevator which could fit about 6 people. I’m not sure about you, but there are certain scents that give me a stomach ache due to the accompanying nostalgia. Elevator scents, in particular, give me thousands of butterflies in my stomach. Being in our dorm elevator gave me a sense of “security” and a feeling of home. My favorite memory related to the elevator was this one time when the 5 of us + our favorite French friend were inside and I had everyone gather in one corner for a selfie. (Yes, we were doing selfies before they became an ‘in’ thing.) We didn’t realize it then, but obviously, our weight got concentrated to one part of the elevator, and to cut the story short, we BROKE the whole thing. It was under repair for a few days so we had to take the stairs. Yey, exercise!

I’d get inside the elevator and hit the button for 3 etage (3rd floor) where my room is located. Upon landing at the third floor, I’d turn left, and immediately to my left would be our floor’s kitchen. Inside, there’d be a sink, a four-range stove, a fridge, a microwave oven, a huge trash bin, three small tables, six chairs, and a HUGE window. I have good and bad memories of the kitchen. Well, I actually have just two bad memories: (1) our communal pack of jambon (chicken) being stolen from the fridge, and (2) my almost untouched pack of 50 crabsticks being stolen from the fridge. Good memories are more abundant, thankfully. I remember having our first few meals there, when we were still so shy and timid that we’d just share a medium-sized pizza. I remember packing our sandwiches for our trip to Paris–just to save some money. I remember the joy of eating ‘laing’, a famous Filipino viand–thanks to a canned version which I was able to buy at the Asian store. I remember cooking ‘adobo’, another famous Filipino viand, which drove away a French dude who was small talking with me–thanks to the strong vinegar + soy sauce scent of what I was cooking. I remember the faces of the French dudes whenever we’d bring out the rice cooker, which seemed to be a strange contraption for them. I remember eating dinner with Joseph, another exchange student friend of ours from the Philippines, for Christmas eve–the beef steak, the carbonara, the dessert, and the wine & cheese.

If I go straight ahead to the end of the hallway, and turn right, I’d be in my room. It’s quite spacey as upon getting in, there would be a door to the left for the restroom, a door to the right for a mini walk-in closet, and a door in front to get to my actual bedroom. Upon entering the center door, there will be a simple twin bed, a floor-to-ceiling cabinet, a long table, two chairs, and the best thing of all–a heater! During our stay, my room was the “home base” as it was where’d all hang out to plan trips, play stupid things haha, and beat each other in Playfish games on Facebook. I’ve had numerous people stay in my room: (1) Christian, an exchange student from a few years back, stayed overnight, (2) Mark, another Filipino fellow exchange student, stayed for a few hours to sleep, (3) Kem and Ken (part of our group of 5) accidentally fell asleep in my room, causing me to sleep on the floor, and (4) Ding (part of our group of 5) would have sleepovers with me in my room on random occasions. Oh, and I became a barber thrice during my stay in Europe. Upon realizing how expensive a haircut would cost and after I joked about it, Denver volunteered to have his hair cut by me! It took us three hours inside my bathroom but it turned out so nice! Kem got more confident with my skills and availed of my haircutting services next, and Denver came back for another session about a month later. During our haircutting, their hair would be all over my bathroom–which caused me an extreme case of Last Song Syndrome with the song Screaming Infidelities (“Your hair is everywhere…”). My favorite memories inside my room, however, are mainly related to how I managed to warm myself up during the winter season. I did two main things: (1) the expensive route–I literally stayed in front of the heater for hours, and (2) the cheaper route–I literally stayed in my bath tub filled with warm water for hours. Good memories.

I’d be laying on my bed, cozying up with my blanket, and sleeping so comfortably and without any care in the world–knowing that I was spending the best months of my life in one of the best places in the world.

Oh, and if Doc Brown, Marty McFly, Einstein and the Delorean actually exist, I’d also transport myself back to 2008.


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