Exploration #7: World of Color

Photo from Keri Smith's "How to be an Explorer of the World"

Photo from Keri Smith’s “How to be an Explorer of the World”

I haven’t actually gone to a proper hardware store here yet. I’m sure that the one I know of, Leroy Merlin, has paint chips. However, for this post I will use a couple of online paint chip applications to choose colors that match some of my favorite things here.

First, the city Transportation system. I really like being able to bike whenever I want without having to buy a bike, and the bus gets me to and from class. Without that, I would be walking for over an hour to get to Sevenans from Belfort!


Next, the springtime flowers and other flora


Exploration #6: Archaeological Dig

Exploration 6 archaeological dig

Photo from Keri Smith’s “How to be an Explorer of the World”

Considering that I do not have many things from my childhood here in France (in fact, I don’t think I brought anything from my childhood with me), I decided to re-create something.

I knew I could get cardboard easily enough, and I had some aluminum foil from chocolate wrappers and some leftover crepe paper from decorating my room. So the first thing that came to mind was to re-create one of the sword and shield hangings that are in my room at home.

I did not find enough clean cardboard to make a shield of a satisfying size, so I settled with just a sword. The process took a couple of days. I used a sandwiching method to put it all together: the blade is 2-cardboards thick while the handle is 5-cardboards thick. The crossguard was layered inside the bottom of the blade, and the handle was sandwiched on the outside of that.

Cut and molded toilet paper tubes became the rounded part of the crossguard, while a slice of round wine cork became the rounded ends of the guard. The pommel was created in a similar manner, using a cut-vertically round-head wine cork. I sliced down part of that to sandwich it into the cardboard and secure it all in place.

When all of this layering was finally set and the glue was dry, I had to choose what color the blade would be. It could be green, blue, or orange based upon what colors I had in paper. I have been listening to the Inheritance series by Christopher Paolini recently, so I went with blue. The handle I covered in aluminum foil from various types of chocolate wrappers.

To hang it on my wall was actually a bigger challenge than expected. I have almost no sticky tack left, and I couldn’t find such a substance in any of the stores I’ve been in here. I had, however, purchased suction cup hooks for my window hangings. I replaced their metal hooks with more flexible string loops and then taped the hooks to the wall so my sword could hang above the head of my bed.

The Blue Sword

Exploration #4: Daily Walk

Exploration #4: Daily Walk

Photo from “How to be an Explorer of the World” by Keri Smith

I can’t collect actual objects without ending up with a million things I cannot take home. So instead today, I tried to change my path to school.

Since I can’t change which bus I take, I sat on the other side of the bus. I didn’t see much that was new, but I did get the chance to see some buildings I don’t usually see because I always return at night. I found a few beautiful spring flowers this afternoon on my way to class:

        Spring flowers                                  Spring Flowers 2

I rode with a friend from Sevenans to band today. That did allow me a new tour of stores. I have never gone into Belfort from Sevenans by going behind the train station.

Band has begun to be very fun. It is less of a chore to understand what is being asked of me and I can now enjoy the music more. Sometime this week, I will have to purchase a bottle of valve oil for my old euphonium. The instrument works well, but it is old enough to have the tuning slide before the valves.


Exploration #3: Light

Picture from "Explorer of the World" by Keri Smith

Picture from “Explorer of the World” by Keri Smith

I think the most interesting pattern I see regularly is that created by my window shades in the morning. I marked it the first morning: there are 1.5″ slits that look like dashes in my shades. These cast a fun pattern on my wall, bright dashes that get bigger the farther they are from the windows. It’s enjoyable to get rows upon rows of bright dashes of light streaming in.

Last weekend, I purchased crêpe paper in four colors: blue, orange, yellow, and green. I now have two window hangings and two wall hangings, which keep my room feeling much less blank and desolate. The window hangings don’t filter light much, but they are nicely illuminated when the sun comes through in the morning.

I noticed this morning that my waterbottles do something that glass prisms do: they create little rainbows! Right around the edge of the bottles where a shadow should have been, pale rainbows exist instead.


shows dashes of light streaming through window shades     shows a wall hanging on a white wall with increasingly larger dashes of light

Exploration #2: Experience Collection

photo from "How to be an Explorer of the World" by Keri Smith

photo from “How to be an Explorer of the World” by Keri Smith

I have made a small list of things I have noticed so far in France:

  1. There are no drinking fountains in the UTBM, or in any other public space that I have seen
    1. Seriously, I’ve never seen a drinking fountain here. Most people use water bottles, disposable or not.
    2. There is also a very present push for recycling and Earth consciousness here. There are recycling spaces all over, and almost every product has something that says “Think about the earth, recycle!”
  2. Black beans are nearly impossible to find
    1. Black beans, cheddar cheese, thick yogurt, and a few other foods are much harder to find here.
    2. However, there were whole rabbits, various critters’ brains and livers that were available at the supermarket. The vegetables are also more varied and fresher than at home. I’ve already commented about the bread – it’s not meant to last more than a few days.
  3. Contact solution can be found at the pharmacy – but only by asking
    1. At home, contact solution is on the shelf and is easy to find. Here, I have to go to the pharmacy and then specifically ask for it. Luckily, it’s slightly cheaper here than at home.
  4. Chapstick bottles are built differently, and better, in my opinion
    1. In the USA, chapstick bottles are built with a small cap and a little wheel on the bottom. Here, the cap covers most of the bottle and though the wheel is still at the bottom, it affects the entire bottle. There is no way to accidentally push the chapstick up too far without taking the cap off.
  5. Sundays are complete do-nothing days
    1. The only things that are open are the cinema and various restaurants
  6. Though communication is harder, we actually communicate better with partial barriers because we work really hard to overcome them
    1. Whether I am talking to other exchange students or French natives,

Exploration #1: Right Where You Are Sitting

Photo from "How to be an Explorer of the World" by Keri Smith

Photo from “How to be an Explorer of the World” by Keri Smith

I sat at my most frequented bus stop and told myself to finish this exercise before the bus arrived. This bus stop is Techn’hom UTBM, the closest to my residence for taking Line 3 to the Sevenans campus.

“There is a quaint house in front of me. Its wooden shutters are black and always open. The frames re brown, and there’s a striped curtain at the top of each window. The house’s number is 6, and this number is displayed twice. I like the texture of the cream outer walls.”

Then the bus arrived – so I continued writing about the bus.

“It’s a one-car bus, and my favorite seat is taken. I sat instead behind a pair of girls, one blonde and one brunette. The blond is wearing a blue scarf with light blue and red patterns and has blue eyes. her hair is in a bun and her shirt, from here, looks like my favorite green collared shirt. The seats they are sitting on have pink upholstery with a tiny running pattern of brown squares, while my seat has red upholstery with navy blue squares. The brunette has a cream knitted scarf and a brown leather jacket. The perk of sitting behind women is that the smell is never that of sweat or city.

There was someone pruning the plants in the pot outside the Brasserie de la Gare. That’s new. Ack, this bus has the annoying buzzer for the  “arret demande” signal. This bus driver is not the smoothest, and I’m becoming a little carsick. The bus driver has short white/grey hair – the same color as my white RFA Engineering pencil.

There is a Carnival this Sunday. I wonder if I can go, given the meetings with Chancellor Shields that I will be attending. Oh, look, the lights posts behind Leclerc are blue. I hadn’t noticed that before, since I’m always looking toward the natural scenery.

This bus ride is reminding me why my favorite seat is the one it is. I usually sit in the seat that is situated over the rear wheel. Doing so nearly eliminates the vertical motion, and the side-to-side jostling isn’t quite as bad, either, even with the worst drivers.

I should explore Danjoutin sometime. It looks like a nice town to be in for a while, and it’s not far from Sevenans.”


In doing this exercise, I focused on describing the things around me instead of allowing my mind to wander like I usually do on the bus. I am not sure that I succeeded in heightening my knowledge of my surroundings, but I do know that tiny details like the color of the dots on the upholstery is something I would not have distinguished otherwise. Had you asked me the color of the dots before I did this exercise, I would have answered, “black”