Remembering our arrival in FRANCE June 2008

It will include many people from the batch that landed in Paris on 25th June 2008. But the story would rather begin from sometime before the actual arrival.

I was lucky to have a very nice batch of HEC scholars at Alliance Français Islamabad for the language course. Naughty Naeem Ashraf, mysterious Ahmad Junaid, giggling Omer Hayat Malik, different Raheel, good looking Usman, evergreen Zeeshan, very french Sajid, very pakistani Raza, literary Shahzina, Taimoor, Batool, Rafi and me made a perfectly heterogenous crowd. Our pakistani teacher Madam Farah tried to bridge us from urdu-pakistan to french-pakistan while our french teacher Madam Elisabeth took us from french-pakistan to french-france. Later when she returned to her own France, we were left with another very nice but a bit angry lady, but we stayed happy nevertheless. Group activities and discussions were always dominated by Naeem, Sajid and Zeeshan while mark sheets were dominated by Junaid, Sajid and Usman. I used to be either absent or in the last row in these and all other categories as well as many of the classes. When the course concluded, we had our exams in HEC H-9 building and a reception by French ambassador to Pakistan in Serena Hotel Islamabad. The evening before our proposed departur, we were given (or some of us were not-given) visas. I boarded with many other comarades from the class from Islamabad but was eventually destined to land in CAVILAM Vichy with none other than Shahzina only, people from other groups of AF Islamabad as well as from AF Karachi constituted the whole group.

It was a bright sunny afternoon when we landed at l'aeroporte Charles de Gualle, Paris, my first ever travel to another country, first ever in an aeroplane too. There were many other first evers as well. I made my way out of the airport where SFERE people were waiting for us. We boarded a bus to Paris city. I use we because there were many other people with me, but the truth is that I really felt alone at that time, perhaps because I was not friends with anyone as yet. Aysesha Ashraf helped me activate international roaming of Jazz, by virtue of which I told Maryum that I had safely reached. I slept at night without remembring who was our guide to a nearby Kebab, where we listened to metro noise under our feet. By 8 in the evening I was tired. I heard people leaving for visit of Paris but hardly knew anyone. So went to sleep without having a chance.

Next morning, we had breakfast and then left for our destinations. Ayesha Ashraf gave a boring talk. Wahid Bakhsh Jatoi told us about our accommodation in Vichy and Clermont Ferrand for girls and boys respectively. Salma Hasan had a typical reaction to that one. I talk to Jai Pirkash, when we were in a lunch midway to our destination, perhaps at Moulin. Shariq had a cunning look at me when I was posing for a photograph before a nerby nothing. He didn't seem asking, but seemed telling me that he knows it. "First time abroad?" He lit a cigarette. I nodded, saying yes and continued the same disinhibitedly. Happily shifted in our rooms, I discovered that I had a familier face in the crowd, Naveed, from a morning batch of AF Islamabad. We talked to eachother and bought some grocery for ourselves. Rest of all passed very well. Jabbar Tahir Madah and all karachïtes were very friendly.

For me, everyday was discovering a new thing. I learned how to call from a booth, both inside France and outside (obviously to Pakistan). Later I found various landlines in the neighbouring floors where calls could be easily attended. Making photographs and sending them home through emails from CAVILAM internet facility was a favourite thing. Always looking for a phone booth where a call from Pakistan can be recieved was quite notorious than famous thing about me. Adjustment issues raised their ugly heads with some otherwise very nice people. I have always believed in learning through mistakes so everything taught me a lot of things.

Cultural shock was an undeniable happening. Someone coming from the rural areas of Pakistan where I remember talks went on for more than a week when a woman passed on the road driving a car by her own, was naturally vulnerable to such things. Language centre was less toxic though, travel by train, railway station unions, reunions and dis-unions were aweful. Sunny days were even difficult. Soirées at CAVILAM were really inspiring and the independance day was celebrated with vigor.

Coming this long, if I count, I have a good number of friends around, even Shariq is far less toxic than those words of first time abroad thing :). There is nothing bad about those days, all cherished moments all around. Now that PhD has got underway, it seems good to remember those funny days of Clermont-Fd. They passed like a dream, I regret we didn't made good use of them and there were not much adventures except Puy de Dome visit. But still those days and nights (rainy, lonely and sad) are a wealth to guard. Good days are always to remember as good friends are always to keep. Share your views please.


  1. Ahem Ahem Ahem.... the angry lady was madame Sameera who is currently in France :)
    I never thought Ayesha was a boring lady but i never was her student :)
    But this article made me remember my days in Cavilam, first time with you ppl and then recently in December 2009. Tours or Vichy, i can't ever decide which one i like better.
    Overall... well written, i hope one day you would try something like that in French as well.
    Lastly, what is most important is that you keep on writing.
    Best of luck.

  2. good effort keep it up but i think analysis of some friends could be more better. Good luck for future

  3. A good work done by you khalid.I support Mme Samia suggestion to continue it.You wrote it in a simplified way but its good.It would be better, if you can follow sahzina suggestion with addition that we should not forget some of our foreigner friends and French teachers who helped us lot in settling in a new environment. It will increase the effect of this article and I would like to suggest you to mention some unforgettable incidents e.g. you can add your special incident when a dog came near you and you screamed and started calling at once "Oh bahi, Oh bahi" ha ha ha.......
    You can also decorate this writing by mentioning some special difficulties about residence etc.
    I also agree that in early days your progress was too much in finding phone facility then French.....lol
    However,It was a very good time and its unforgettable.
    I like to say thanks all A.F.Islamabad teachers (specially Mme samia and Isabell),All vichy friends(Pakistani and foreigners) and French teachers for their guidance and help.

  4. I just read your blog and a quarter of that bog was (I think) telling my situation. But may be you were lucky to have many friends from Pakistan around. I still have no confidence how to make a phone call from public booth. Although I have some Pakistanis around but perhaps they are not as fruitful. In certain way I thank my active learning and reading habits that rescued me in first five days otherwise it would have been very tough!
    Thankfully Innsbruck is small and easy to explore so I never need any (Pakistani) guide anymore.
    You have written excellently and I am amazed how many things and persons you quoted in your blog. Its absolutely marvelous!
    Well keep writing!