Sunday, February 26, 2012

Why I did it

Not that I talk about it all that much (not anymore anyway, I did when I first got back - my poor friends), but when my semester abroad comes up, people usually end up asking me why I did it, and for the life of me I can never ever come up with a good reason. Usually I just say baguettes, and people think I'm kidding, which I guess is fine by me.

No really though, I've been back over a year now (holy goodness), and I think I've finally got my answer.
I did it because I didn't want to be the shy girl with a common name that people still can't seem to remember. And because I wanted to force myself out of my comfort zone and do something a little crazy. I'm not a shy girl. Up until high school, I was really the opposite of that. I don't know what happened, but I wanted to fix it. Shy is not who I am.

I can admit that I am not an especially motivated individual. Homework has never really been my strong suit, let alone something silly like studying (ha). All lack of scholastic motivation aside, I wanted to do something tough to prove to myself that I could. I wanted to be motivated. And exchange programs are pretty tough, lemme tell you what.

Another reason I wanted to live abroad though is because, at least in my family, everyone else was doing it. My dad was in the air force and worked in the government a bit too, so our family moved around a lot. My mom has moved 30 times since she was 18. Yeah.
As the youngest child, though, with my dad hitting retirement when I was like 12, I got the tail end of all that adventure. Not that I didn't love every bit of it, but I am a little jealous that my three wonderful older siblings were such globetrotters when I got to live in the same place for all of high school. I mean, what is that? I decided I was going to do something about it, so... I up and went to France for a semester.

The last, and probably biggest and best reason I did it is because I knew I needed to grow up. I'm not saying I came home with a monocle and Shakespeare's complete works memorized, but I definitely learned a lot during my semester abroad. It was only five months, and it's not like I was really that removed from my life back home, but leaving home at 17 does some pretty cool things for a person. Living in the same place for a long time wasn't exactly something I was used to, and I really didn't handle it all that well - I let myself get stuck in a rut. I wasn't doing the growing up and the figuring out I wanted to, so this was my way of leaving that all behind and doing my own thing, just to figure out what the heck my own thing was. Everyone has to do it sooner or later, right?

I know nobody reads this anymore, but sometimes I like to look back and remember that this experience made me. I think that every decision like this that we make makes us who we are, in a very cheesy sort of way, and I don't regret this decision one bit. It was super tough, and I remember many a night spent crying because it was too late for me to call my momma and all I wanted was for her to buy me a ticket on the next plane home. But I stuck through it, and for an unmotivated giver-upper type like me, it was probably the most empowering experience of my life.
Sorry to go all sappy, but for real, I can't say enough how much I learned about myself while I was off learning about my host country. So if you, by chance, are a youngin' wondering whether or not to go for it, I give you my endorsement ('cause I'm basically the bees knees, right?).

Anyway, that's why I did it. Because I didn't know who I was and that's how I found out. :)

Plus the baguettes.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

some MORE observations (it's like it never ends...)

Seriously, I'm not even close to covering it all.

But here's to trying! :)
So, including some new ones, some old ones I forgot about, and some I just didn't think to add before:

- eggs are refrigerated at home, but not at the grocery store.
- there's some dodgy sinelli's-type stuff - like, "oh, spinelli's!" but there's this interesting ferment-y sort of aftertaste...
- fermented milk also exists. and I don't mean cheese or something (though that is also rather plentiful), just literally fermented milk.
- i forgot the world for lettuce in english! :D i thought we didn't have a word for it. valentin suggested that maybe it was because we're american and therefore ignorant of all things green and leafy.. ^^
- pretty much everything is closed on sunday and at lunchtime. (except lunchtime sandwich shops and grocery stroes, etc.)
- lunch is also eaten pretty much right at noon. like, you don't call it a "dejeuner" like you learn in french class. you just say "what are you eating at noon?"
* turns out you don't say "dîner" either - it's le repas du midi for lunch and le repas du soir for dinner. if you say the other ones, people with think you're being hokey, because i guess only the bourgeois talk that way. :)
- old stuff really isn't impressive to french people. i thought they were just sort of hiding their secret passions for architecture and gloriously extravagant old artifacts so as not to seem too touristy or something (sure doesn't stop me from taking hundreds of photos). but they really just don't notice. how sad.
- to confirm some stereotypes: pretty much everyone smokes. everybody's super in-shape (and yet you never, ever see people exercising...). you get dressed when you leave your house (this does not include sweatshirts or sweatpants, ever - unless they're super-stylin', but that takes away the comfy aspect in any case, so it's not the same). and i think their health care system blows ours out of the water (they tell me that a lot, anyway).
- to dispel a couple of rumors: they do shower. ;) and there are plenty of french people that don't like snails or oysters.
- yogurt and fruit are dessert foods.
- they cut their food differently. it's like an opposite pulling motion with your knife and your fork, and it's about a hundred times more effective.
- they put forks on the left of the plate. is that different? i don't even know. :P
- they put dessert spoons above the plate. because dessert is always eaten, and always eaten with a dessert spoon.
- they change english product names and movie titles to other english names that are apparently easier to understand. (frosted flakes --> frosties)
- masculinity is an entirely different affair over here. at first it sort of freaked me out that there were boys kissing each others cheeks and wearing fancy sweaters and carrying bags. then it was more like, "ooh. okay it's not so bad..." :)
then i just kinda got used to it.
but it really is different. i guess it's like, in america, masculinity is not having to do any upkeep oon yourself - and in europe, masculinity is about being able to - the dressing well, the gallantry (although there are definitely plenty of exceptions on that one), the composing of onesself.
- as a matter of fact, i think that sort of applies to the general population of the two places.
in amercica, it's okay - even cool - to be sloppy every now and then. like "i'm so cool, i can be sloppy and still be cool!"
and here, it's more like, "i'm cool because i know everything there is to know about being cool and how to put it into unfailing action. i'm cool because i'm always cool."
huh.
- they have detention. it's on wednesday afternoon, because usually wednesdays are over at noon (except in elementary school - there's no school at all on wednesday). It's called colle, which means glue. So, it's like they're... glued.. to detention...
- They have way more cuss words than we do. it's kind of alarming.
- They're also much more lax about using them. This week I saw a teacher cuss out a bunch of students in the hallway, and it's totally okay to swear in class.
- It's also totally okay to show really inappropriate things in class. Or on T.V., or in an ad... or anywhere, really. Also quite alarming.
- while I'm on the subject of quite alarming, there's also a whole dang lot of smoking going on. like, you may think you know what i'm talking about, but multiply that by 500 and you might be getting close. so nasty.
- on a more positive note, there are lots of quaint little things that you just don't see in america. like little boulangeries, charcuteruies, candy shops... like in the old days when hamburgers cost a dime and stuff.
- Brittany has a lot of... regional pride. Not in a stupid sort of prideful way, in a "this place is awesome, and I'm proud to be from it" sort of way. I really like it, because it's sort of the equivalent of state pride or school pride or even swimteam pride - but you don't really see that a lot here. Except in Brittany. :)
- Speaking of great things from Brittany, caramel au beurre salé. oh good gracious, that stuff is scrumptious. :D

There's tons more, but you know... you just gotta come to France to really know. :)
And if you do, take me with you!

some cheesy reflections.

So, I've only got a few days left in this paradise. WHAT? where did all my time go? :(
I didn't fall asleep 'till after one AM last night, and after that, I think I woke up at least every hour freaking out because I'd dreamed I was leaving or on the plane home or at home without knowing how I got there...
This isn't the first time it's happened, either. :/
I mean, I know I'll eventually be happy to be home, but for now.... nope. Not really into the idea. :/
Sorry to all you future exchange students, but this part just stinks. Like, seriosuly miserable.
You've had this amazing experience, you've given a part of yourself to a new country and culture and family and set of friends, you've grown up, learned things about yourself and the world, and now you're supposed to go back to the way it was before?
I was warned. And now I'm warning you all!
It will be sucky.
But, you know, "better to have loved and lost," and all that.
So, for everyone that's getting ready for their big adventure right now, be it a semester exchange, a year long one, or another adventure entirely:
nothing lasts forever, and the only thing that's inevitable is change. life goes on and it just doesn't work to stay stuck in one part of your life, no matter how wonderful it may be. we'd never learn anything that way.
that's what i keep telling myself, anyway. even though it's super corny. :)

so, what i'm trying to do is come to terms with the fact that, as much fun as it would be to stay here à tout jamais, there are more things coming.
Like college! I got my acceptance letter from BYU-I last week (good news, but I'm still holding out for Provo - those letters will go out mid-february), and now it's all sort of more real.
Which is scary, but good. I've got another big adventure coming my way, and I'm ready for it. :) bring it on!

I've learned so much from this incredible experience. I haven't had a "perfect" exchange, or been a perfect exchange student, but I couldn't be happier with the way these 5 months have gone.
So, here's some of the biggest things I got out of my experience:
- I was so shy before I came here. I really just wasn't confident in myself, or especially eager to draw attention to that fact. So i kept quiet. I think it shocked a lot of people that I would do something like this - go live in a foreign country all alone for five months, when she can't even talk to people in her own high school?
But being here, I got a fresh start and a world of opportunities opened up in front of me, and I got to see that I can be brave and independent and talk to new people (and so what if they think I'm a little weird?).
I can't explain how, or pinpoint the moment when it happened, but over the course of the last five months, I got confidence.
- I learned about me! :) I have a better idea of what characteristics make up katie. Which is just kinda cool.
- I learned that even though a lot of things are different between these two countries, a lot of things are just... relative. Like transportation, being independent (which actually has a lot to do with transportation), manners, food - all the things that make up a culture.
Like, you could  look at the fact that the French can't drive 'till 18, and think "well that's dumb. they're totally restricted." But, when you take into account that:
1) there exists so much efficient public transportation that it's pretty much easier to go that way.
2) with the cost of gas, especially in europe, driving everywhere would be extremely restricting, at least financially.
3) i don't even think there would be room on the little streets for any more cars. seriously, it's kind of terrifying sometimes in the huge city buses.
4) you can seriously get anywhere without driving. there are bus stops everywhere, and if it's a little far, hitchhiking is totally legal (still includes driving, but it's someone else, so...)
- Culture actually has a lot to do with personality and conduct. Obviously, not all French people have the same sense of humor or disposition or timidity just because they're French, but it still makes a bit of a difference. It took me a while to realize that, and even to catch on to some of the mannerisms that I sort of was harsh about at first.

I've learned so much. SO much. I'll never be able to put it all here. But I hope that I can put it into practice and actually be, you know, a better person.

Even though I've had pas mal de hard times throughout this whole experience, I can't even tell you how glad I am I did it. And I did! I did it. :)
Four months ago, I honestly thought this day would never come (and I'm now wishing it hadn't!). I was pretty sure that, before the five months was up, I'd wimp out and go home.
But, looky here, guess I'm stronger than I thought. :)
That was my favorite thing that I learned about myself.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

pictures!

rather than trying to load them all onto here/facebook, i created a shutterfly site to keep all my pictures.

http://katiepiesue.shutterfly.com/

check it out. :)

Thursday, December 30, 2010

better late than never, edition 2?

(if you don't speak french - google translate is about to become your pal)  :)

depuis mon dernier post...


il y a beaucoup à raconter. :)

en premier, je voudrais dire que, enfin, je suis FLUENT. :D
je crois. au moins normalement je comprends tout ce qu'on me dit, sauf parfois des mots plus longs ou particulier. mais, pour le plupart, je pense que je peux dire que je parle courrament le français. :)
mais c'est vraiment ennervant qu'il me reste qu'un mois pour en profiter. je savais que ce serait le cas, mais quand même...

en deuxième.. il me reste qu'un mois! je peux pas y croire que 4 mois sont déjà passé. ma vie ici, c'est ma vie. ce n'est pas des vacances (même si mon emploi de temps indique autre chose), ce n'est plus un "programme d'échange", c'est ma vie. :) ça me parait pas que c'est un séjour, qu'il y aura une fin de cette expérience - c'est comme si j'ai demenagé. c'est une continuation de la vie, c'est pas une pause. ^^
j'ai peur que j'aurai vraiment du mal à me rintégrer (je crois pas que c'est un mot.. re-m'intégrer?) dans la vie chez moi. mes amis, mon lycée, un boulot, conduire... tout ça me parait vraiment bizzare, de l'avoir encore. dans un mois! dans un mois j'aurai tout ça. trop bizzare.
j'aurai autant de résponsabilité. je devrai retrouver un boulot, rechoisir mes cours, faire mes formulaires pour plusieurs bourses pour aller à la fac, faire plusieurs présentations sur mon expérience ici, mon diplome... la liste continue à tout jamais.
mais malgré tout ça, c'est vrai que je commence à avoir un peu hâte d'y retourner. :) mes amis, ma famille, même mon boulot... ça me manque. même si au début c'est un peu dûr, je vais vraiment apprecier toutes les choses de la vie américaine qui m'ont manqué.

alors, ce mois...

au début, c'était le lycée. que du lycée. :P (c'est vrai que je passe beacoup moins de temps au lycée que les vrais élèves français, mais quand même... :)
mes cours commence à être compréhensible. en histoire, j'ai répondu à une question! (c'était pas la bonne réponse, mais au moins j'avais essayé) en français, j'ai lu un livre (pas le même que les autres, mais je l'ai fini et je l'ai compris - mais je vous previens: si vous pensez à lire la petite fille de monsieur linh, ne le faites pas. :P ) et en maths, j'arrive à bien comprendre la matière, et j'ai même passé un examen. :) (je l'avais fait au premier lycée aussi, mais c'est différent)
Même que mes profs continuent à m'ignorer complètement, je me sens mieux à l'école. :) j'ai fait beaucoup de progès pendant le temps que j'ai passé en cours même si les autres se rendent pas compte... :)
avec les autres élèves... il y a pas vraiment de contact, en fait. :P ils sont pas méchants (pas quand je suis là, en tout cas... ^^ ), mais, sauf quelques unes, ils nous parlent presque pas. (et quand je dis "nous", ça veut dire miranda et moi - juste pour clairifier. :)
j'attends pas d'eux d'être nos nouveaux meilleurs amis, mais je fais l'observation parce que c'est different. chez moi, quand il y a des étrangers, tout le monde les suit, les parle, les prend sous son aile. mais là, comme c'est les études qui sont le plus important, comme on parle pas aux gens qu'on connait pas (surtout ceux qui parlent que en anglais...), c'est normal.
les profs sont assez gentils. ils peuvent pas faire grande chose pour nous, parce qu'il faut rester sur le chemin pour le bac et tout - ça je comprends bien. mais j'aimerais bien que, au moins, ils nous laissent suivre le cours comme les autres. il y a rien d'attendu de nous là. les profs n'ont rien de spécial pour nous à faire, ce qui est normal, mais ils attendent même pas de nous le même travail que les autres. il y a pas de travail du tout! déjà, on est dans la filière la plus facile, on a que 24 heures de cours par semaine, et puis on a pas du travail à faire. pas de devoirs, pas d'examen, rien du tout. au début, oui, on était trop content - ça serait facile, on pourrait faire du travail avec notre français et tout. mais maintenant pendant les cours on a rien à faire. si on essaye à suivre les cours, même si je comprends ce que le prof dit, j'arrive pas vraiment à suivre parce que je connais pas du tout la matière. :/ je me sens coupable de n'avoir rien à faire. surtout quand je reviens à la maison le soir, avec tout mon temps libre pour faire ce que je veux, et valentin a plein de devoirs.. c'est pas normal.
mais, je suppose qu'il faut en profiter pendant que je peux... j'aurai tellement assez de travail dès que je rentre chez moi. ^^

.. à part le lycée aussi, mon séjour se passe super bien ici. j'ai trop de la chance d'être avec cette famille. :) j'ai jamais eu de petits frères et soeurs, mais maintenant que, pendant ce moment, j'ai eu l'occasion, ça va me manquer tellement. :/
ils me disent toujours que c'est dommage que je suis là dans la petite appartement et tout, mais moi, je l'adore. :) j'en ai marre de l'espace! j'aime pas les grosse maisons américaine dont ont utilise normalement même pas la moitié de la place. même quand c'est un peu serré là, j'aime bien qu'on est tout près les un aux autres. ( c'est très possible qu'ils ont un peu marre d'être toujours tout près de moi, mais quand même...)
j'adore être près de tout, tout près du centre ville et tout... j'ai jamais été si autonome que je suis là. :) (c'est normal, vu que ça exige un peu d'autonomie de venir toute seule dans un pays étranger, mais même ^^ )
je prends le bus, le métro toute seule, je sais me rendre presque n'importe où s'il fallait. je me sens plus confiante en moi que jamais. :)
je suis si contente d'avoir eu cette experience. c'est trop dommage que je pourrait pas être ici pour plus longtemps, mais comme c'est mon année "terminale," celle-ci est la seule façon de le faire. :/
maintenant qu'il me reste si peu de temps, j'ai du mal à me placer dans une catégorie - plutot de placer "chez moi." quand j'imagine vivre encore en alaska, ça me parait pas du tout comme c'est ma vie. mais si j'imagine rester ici à tout jamais, ça non plus, c'est pas ma vie. là, ici, je suis chez moi. mais après... le futur, c'est bizzare d'y penser. ^^ il vaut mieux ne pas le faire.
pour maintenant, je profite de la vie française, de la merveileeuse famille française que j'ai tellement de la chance d'avoir. je fais des observations (ce que je vais ajouter toute de suite), je prends plein de photos (ce que je vais mettre aussi), et j'absorbe tout ce que je peux. :)
je suis tellemt reconnaissante d'avoir eu cette occasion. :) c'est vraiment inoubliable, et je sais que ça va me servir pour toute la reste de ma vie. et c'est trop magnifique de voir comment je fais du progrès en français. même si c'est pas très français de parler de son cerveau, c'est vraiment interressant de voir comment le mien marche avec cette nouvelle langue. :)
bon je termine ce post là, et je vais bientôt rajouter des photos et des observations et que j'ai fait :)

(et je suis désolée, j'arrive même pas à faire un résumé d'un mois en france sans faire une dissertation sur mes nombreux sentiments... gah. félicitations à eux qui ont lu ce post entier. ;)

à bientôt!

- katie :)

oh, p.s.:
i didn't use a dictionary at all! :D
not to toot my own horn, but...
toot toot!
;)
(but this also means you should forgive me for any complete nonsense in there.)

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

ooooobservations.

  • school is serious business
  • tests are never, ever multiple choice
  • it's toally normal for a test to require at least 4 pages of written response
  • they have a lot of bad words :(
  • everybody's catholic, but nobody's "practicing"
  • "religion is for old people"
  • their school supplies are awesome
  • and very organized when put to use
  • dessert is an obligatory part of the meal - parents force their children to eat dessert.
  • country music doesn't happen here
  • neither do random holidays / days off of school
  • they just seem a lot less... festive? jolly? congenial? affectionate? zealous?
  • road signs are different
  • the sign for a speed bump looks like a mustache :)
  • it's not tailgating until there's an audible collision
  • there are no SUV's, or a word for them
  • all cars here are stickshift
  • they drive exactly like in the movies
  • they do the air kissy thing exactly like in the movies
  • ... they pretty much live just like in the movies.

 

things that bother french people:                                                       
  • burping/sneezing/hiccuping/making any sort of unexpected noises
  • smiling at strangers / cheerfulness
  • loud americans in the bus/metro (apparently)
  • being wasteful (letting the water run, leaving the lights on, not recycling)
  • giggling
  • noise outside
  • especially during meals
  • school (i guess that's international)
  • driving
  • saying entire words - everything gets abbreviated
  • living far away from family (far = an hour or more)
  • halloween :(
  • using the wrong form of "you" :P
  • being too casual in public - pyjamas are entirely out of the question
  • when i say "desolée" but haven't done anything bad

things that do not bother french people:
  • stinky cheese
  • stinky people smells :P
  • their hair, however it is when they wake up (this is awesome)
  • speaking english, whether or not they know what they're saying
  • listening primarily to english music... whether or not they know what it's saying
  • smoke
  • lung cancer...
  • being reeeeeeally close to other people when usinbg public transportation
  • kissing people's faces (i've been here two months and i still panic every time i encounter a large group of people i know)
  • when their teachers write in chicken scratch :(
things i heard about in french class that are very true:
  • french ads don't usually make a whole lot of sense
  • they talk FAST
  • they do the little pulling-on-the-eye thing when they don't believe something
  • they write in cursive, all the time
  • they are seriously meticulate in note-taking
  • teachers are authority, not pals
  • teachers change classrooms, too



p.s. i edited this list, because it sounded too pessimistic the first time. i need to learn to write only when i'm in a good mood. :)

    those magic chaaaanges...

    1) that song has been stuck in my head today
    2) there really have been a lot of changes since my last post!

    so - i'm in rennes, again. i left, but now i'm back.
    long story short, i'm no longer an AFS-er (sad), but i'm still here, and still gonna finish out at least my semester here (happy!).
    i'm staying with the letorts, a really awesome family that lives here in rennes.
    they have three kids  - antonin, who's five, lucie, who's ten, and valentin, who's fifteen.
    i'm going to lycée st martin, which is so pretty, and i'm in a class of about 15 people, which is nice. miranda's also in my class - she's another american here, and also a redhead! what a happy coincidence. :) she's spunky and fun and awesome.
    we're in the same class, so i get to not be alone, and i get to help her when she doesn't understand.
    it's really cool how i'm starting to actually understand the majority of what people are saying!
    i'm confident enough in my language skills to put french down as a language i speak fluently on my BYU app. :)
    oh, yeah. applying to college from a foreign country is even more awful than trying to do it from home.
    j'ai la flemme! (also a very handy expression)
    i'm getting even better at procrastination now that i'm here. i mean, there are better things to do than continue to further my education. like eating pastries. definitely a worthy substitute...
    especially after this weekend (vacay), my eating habits are... not what they should be.
    we went to le havre this weekend and stayed with delphine's mom. it was really great. :) it's kind of hard here sometimes to feel like i'm not totally crashing the party of their lives, especially when it comes to family time. but i just felt really.. belonging. :)
    it's really hard to think about leaving. i mean, i miss home. i miss a lot of things about home. i miss people at home. but there are so many things here i know i'll miss. my bus pass, having to really think before i speak, breaking cultural barriers every day, facilitating world peace when i participate in class, you know...
    really, though, it's cool to feel like i'm doing something important here. everything is coming together all at once, and it's really overwhelming, but i love it.
    my language is really taking off, so i can have real conversations and actually explain things - so when people ask me about america and why it's different, i can answer. i'm really getting to dig in and learn about the culture- it's like the initial "i'm in france!" shock has worn off, so now i can look around and see what makes it france. and i'm starting to really be at home at home, too.
    poof! all of a sudden i'm living this french life and i don't want to think about it ending.

    anyway, that's all for now, but i really am going to be posting more often.
    for serious. :)

    à bientôt!
    -katie

    p.s. pictures! :D
    
    the perfect strawberry, and xenia. :)
    
    all french children are adorable. proof.

    tomato picking!


    :)

    antonin :D
    this is what happens when young children stay up too late.

    au havre

    falaises à etretat

    etretat :)

    le mont st. michel

    in le mont st. michel :)

    
    "oh my goodness! the sun is on these fields but not those ones over there!"
    yeah, it's pretty. :)
    
    hailstorm! :D
    awesome.

    
    le parc thabor
    
    a rainbow over the train station on our way to school :)

    Tuesday, September 28, 2010

    better late than never... :) (chronicles of the first month)

    
    first school lunch. yummers. :)
    
    trying cooking frenchily. (apparently we do it all wrong)
    arc de triomphe!

    us. :)
    and the eiffel tower.


    louvre.




    super-cute farm/country store place. :)


    
    angers
    


    oh my gosh, i'm so embarrassed. it's been pretty much a month since i left home, and i haven't written anything real!


    ugh. in my defense, the internet in my room is not super strong. (i know that's a bogus excuse, but it'll have to do.)

    let's see, i've a lot to cover... let's start with orientation.

    so, the first one was in new york. that happened right after the last time i wrote on here. it was pretty good. the first day was weird. i got into the airport, by some miracle managed to follow the directions to terminal 5 (JFK seriously needs to work on their airtran labeling system), and arrived mostly in one piece. (there was an incident on an escalator where one of my suitcases made it onto the stair ahead of me, but the other caught on the armrest thing, so i had to run back up the down escalator and pull my bag down without killing myself, while the suitcase that did make it on was rocketing down the escalator towards some unsuspecting, possibly german folks)

    so, after i arrived at the jetblue area, i didn't see anybody that looked like they were with AFS. so naturally, i panicked, called my mommy, shed a few small tears, and continued searching. then, in one of the spots that i could have sworn i'd checked at least 3 times, i saw a familiar face! a facebook face...

    see, some really smart kids that are also going to france this year had the idea to create a facebook group before we left, so that we could get to know the other kids and prepare a little more. super idea, because if i hadn't known those kids from facebook, i probably would have tried to get to the hotel by bus or something - if you know me, the idea is laughable.

    so, i joined these marvelously familiar faces, and we waited for about an hour for some other kids that were supposed to ride over with us. turns out they actually did successfully get to the hotel on a shuttle (i applaud them), and we were off! the hotel was really nice. (now we know why an AFS exchange costs so much...) since we were some of the later arrivals, we pretty much jumped right into the orientation - movies about how AFS started, movies about how we should choose AFS (cool, we already did), movies about how it's gonna be really hard... we also played some games. one was, "let's play a charades-like game where instead of guessing words, we guess at ridiculously difficult phrases that don't make any sense!"

    i know i'm probably sounding really cynical here, but it actually was pretty fun. the activities were... less than joyous, but it was good just to be able to think, "oh, i'm not a nutjob. there are 129 other people here who are doing the same thing as me." good bonding. i called my mommy that night, and tried to prepare myself for the journey.

    then, the next day: THE FLIGHT! we had to wait around for a while (in our awful yellow sack-shirts with all our baggage), but it was well worth the wait. the flight was awesome. a-w-e-s-o-m-e. double decker plane, yummy food (no chevre, kristina!), the coolest in-flight entertainmentcenter ever, and of course, our very own cute french flight attendant. ;)

    when we arrived, we took a bus ride through paris to our hostel (can't tell you about that though, i was asleep - too much entertainment on the plane, didn't sleep a wink). the hostel was nice, too. not too hostile. ;) haha. us americans (amurrkins) were among the first to arrive, along with the australians / new-zealand-people. they have really strong accents, in case you didn't know. cute, but crazy. we didn't realize at first that they were even speaking english.

    they were making fun of us because we say youtube like "youtube," and they say it like, "yeeoochoobe". hmmph.

    anyway, the second orientation was a little better, i think, cause it was more focused on you're going to france" than "you're abandoning everything you know and going somewhere else for a long period of time." we talked about what the pressures would be, what our goals were, how to write our names on our school papers, etc. :)

    then, we went off to our host families! those of us in rennes got to take the TGV. the ride was so beautiful! it was in the morning, so the sun had just come up, the fields were all misty and pastel-y... it was so gorgeous. the pictures don't do it justice.

    so, we arrived at the train station, where our families came to pick us up. we got of the train, and there they were! it was really funny to see everybody do the exact same thing - scan, scan, double take, wide eyes, stumble over to the host family, awkward bises, and some smiling and gesturing. :)

    so, i left the train station with my family. i talked! in the car, i talked. i made a little joke and they laughed! it was good. :) we got back to their house, and we changed, ate lunch, and went on a hike. :) the first part of the hike was pretty great. it was really pretty, and everybody was speaking french, i was just soaking it up. then we got to the turning-around point, which was a small dam (we'd been hiking along "la vilaine" - it means the villain. it's the river that flows through rennes - it's called that because the water is kinda murky from the rich soil around it - they think it's ugly. i thought it was beautiful). there was a cute little house, too - where the dam-operator-guy lives. on the way back though, the 10 hour time difference definitely caught up. i was so tired! i can't really remember what happened after that. i think we got home, at dinner, and they explained my room and the bathroom and the lightswitches and stuff. and then we went to bed.

    i woke up the next day, and went to school! what a day. i didn't understand a single thing. except my english class, of course... ;) i had geography (jibberish), lunch (my first meal there, and we get hot dogs - really yummy, though - the cafeteria food is awesome), english (such a relief), italian (it's like, italian 4. so that was interesting), and science. there were supposed to be two math classes in there, but there werent. because.... the teacher was on strike! :D how awesome is that? if our teachers don't want to go to class, we don't have to, either!


    so the next day, i didn't go to school at all.no teachers = no class. there was a big strike because the french government is trying to pass a new law saying that retirement is no longer at 60 years old, but 62. so, to show that they won't want to work more than already do, they just don't work at all that day. :) my host family actually took me to a demonstration in rennes - wow. there were so many people, so much noise, so many signs, so much chanting (didn't understand it, but i think it rhymed). it was really cool. there were old people, young people, people with babies, people with dogs. it was a big deal. we found out on the news that it was like, 20,000 people. and millions all over france.

    turns out the law thing actually passed, though. like, the next day. i think it's sad that even though it was obviously very strongly opposed, they went ahead and did it. no second guessing or anything. i don't know if it's like that in america (i probably should know, oops), but it's sad. the demonstration experience was really cool, though.

    so, after that, we went home, i think. ate dinner, i went to bed, cause i was super tired. can't really remember much. :P (10 hours is a huge difference. i have a good excuse.)

    wednesday: went to school, had three hours of math, went home, went to a birthday party for one of the chadufauxs' friends, nearly fell asleep, went home, fell asleep.

    math was weird. i thought it would be the easiest to understand (next to english, of course), but it wasn't. we did stuff with heiroglyphs and roman numerals and stuff.

    the birthday party... wow. so we surprised her at her apartment, and she was really cute - very surprised. :) then we went in and had some munchies (all involved cheese somehow), and then went off to dinner at this restaurant with like, a dance room that they had rented out. we ate (yummy), and then there was karaoke and dancing! but i was so tired, i was falling asleep at the table. super embarrassing.

    thursday: the longest day of school. it was so hard. my teachers seem to have trouble understanding that i've got a lot of trouble understanding. :P but they're nice.

    that night, i came home, and fell asleep. like, i was doing homework in my bed (bad idea), and at like 6, i fell asleep and woke up at like 7:30 the next morning. and was still tired. :P

    friday: finally! friday was pretty good. i took the bus by myself. :) there was a lovely sunrise over the cute little town of pont pean.

    saturday: saturday, i slept in. i'm so tired. all the time! but, i got to sleep in, then have a lovely little lunch, and then go to a church dance! :D

    yeah, that's right, a dance. a dance in france. ;)

    i went in the early afternoon and helped decorate (communicated a lot with gestures - it's a good thing i play charade-like games so often with my friends at home - it's been coming in handy). then, we danced the night away! it was a dance at the church with everyone in the whole ward (congregation), so there were cute old couples, bunches of teenagers, cute little families... it was pretty great.

    There was also a potluck-type dinner after.

    Best potluck of my life. French food is just the bomb.



    i can't even remember what's been happening now! it's been too long. Bah, i'm so undisciplined. :P

    anyway, there you have a play-by-play of my first week.

    The second and third (and part of fourth) have pretty much been the same, but somewhat less exhausting. :)

    Let's see... there was another strike this last thursday. I didn't go to school, instead I went to Rennes with some buddies and explored. :)

    I've also gotten to go to a lot of super fun activities at the church.

    Like, every wednesday, the missionaries here have a ping-pong-and-pancakes night, where we play ping pong, eat pancakes, and have a smashing time. :)

    There's also seminary on Fridays (it's a church class - at home I go every day, we have a seminary building just next to the other high school in town - but here, we're more spread out, so we do it by phone every day except friday, when we meet together).



    Hmmm. Well, I've also succesfully gotten into Rennes a few times, ALONE, by bus. Not to toot my own horn, but I think that's a pretty darn cool/independent thing to do. ;)



    I've only gotten lost/confused with the bus system once, and it's totally excusable.

    Story time:

    So, I'm trying to get into Bruz, to meet up with a friend who was going to show me around. Turns out that the list of bus hours in the pamphlets only shows about a third of the stops - so, assuming that "croix aux poitiers" (the stop i now swear i will never return to unless i absolutely have to go to the supermarket that is located there) was the only one i could change at, i got there, figuring i'd get off, stand around for 10 minutes, and get back on the next bus in the other direction.

    NOT SO SIMPLE.

    so, there are two bus lines that use Croix Aux Poitiers. There's the 72 (pont pean - chartres - rennes), and the 59 (bruz- chartres - rennes). What I was supposed to do was take the 72 to C.A.P., then change there to the 59.

    The problem: there are four different waiting booths at C.A.P. Two are for the line 72 (and right across from each other), and two are for the 59. Now, from the 72 booths, you can see one of the booths for the 59. That's for the bus going towards Rennes. The one towards Bruz is nowhere in sight.

    Nowhere.

    It is the most well-hidden bus stop on the planet. I missed that same bus twice in a half hour trying to find the stop.

    Actual location of correct booth: across the highway, on the other side of it, no crosswalks nearby, obscured both by a giant industrial shopping place and prickly bushes/trees/death traps, about a quarter mile from the other stops, which are all within like 100 feet of eachother (I'm really bad at distance estimation, but that was the best I could do).

    Fortunately, I've chosen my friends well here, so I still got my tour. Just, you know, a few hours later. :)



    It's been a pretty crazy (almost)month. There's been so much more that has happened, but because I'm the world's biggest procrastinator, I can't get it all on here..

    I'm having fun, though. :) The first week was really hard. But it's turning out to be so great. :)

    Time really does fly when you're having fun. I'm 1/5 of the way through my exchange! Noooooo! I'm not ready for that yet. :(


    Well, I guess I feel like I'm sufficiently caught up. Kind of. Given the circumstances. (what with my procrastination and all)

    If I think of anything else that's really splendid that I've got to add, rest assured that I will do so.

    :)



    Well, I'm off to enjoy more yummy french food!

    A bientôt!

    -Katie



    p.s. other observations:

    - pickup trucks are nonexistent here.

    - their humor is different. They don't think sarcasm is as funny as we do. :(

    - they all wear the same shoes. (well, pretty much. bear with me on the hasty generalizations, here)

    - there is no such thing as lazy days. sweatshirts/sweatpants are a no-no. :( sad.

    - everybody has a trousse (pencil case).

    - they don't really have cutesy words for stuff. like potty, or yucky, or kitty, or really anything we add a -y to.

    - everybody pretty much has the same handwriting.

    - they all take notes the same way.

    - they don't snack.

    - nutella jars are glass here.

    - all cracker-type snacks are cheese-flavored. chevre-flavored cheeto things = :(

    - brown sugar is nonexistent.

    - same with chocolate chips.

    - when they cook, they measure by eye.

    - all french children are adorable. (not a generalization, that is 100% fact.)

    - normal french = elevated english.

    - the bises are really weird to get used to. :P

    Sunday, September 19, 2010

    fun facts! :D

    so, because i know you've all been waiting with baited breath for me to post again, i'm going to. :D hooray!


    also, i'm really sorry i haven't posted in so long. i know there are like, 10 people reading this, but still. i feel guilty about not writing. i promise i'll be better. :)

    now, instead of giving away all the news and details that i'm saving for my real blog post, i'm going to make a list (probably a long one) of observations i've made about france. and french people. :) they're obviously huge generalizations, but that's okay.

    without further ado, here we've got (in no particular order of fun)

    FUN FACTS ABOUT FRANCE:

    • it's beautiful here.
    • the chti language really exists.
    • thankfully, i'm not that far north. but there is another language here in brittany that some people speak - breton.
    • ratatouille also exists, and is yummy. :)
    • msot of their music and movies are american. (movies are usually dubbed, though).
    • they love amercia (more applicable to teenagers).  
    • apparently my school is just like everything they ever hoped for. :)
    • they do eat a lot of cheese. 
    • a lot of bread, too. 
    • in terms of food, everything we can do, they can do better. (except mac and cheese, hamburgers, and pb&j) 
    • speaking of pb&j, they think it's weird. lots of them have never had peanut butter, and they think it's crazy to put it with jelly. they lose cool points on that one. i love pb&j. 
    • they do wear black (or navy) striped shirts a lot.  
    • they are super put-together. it's intimidating. 
    • they are also really big on ironing everything/ not having any stains on you. pretty unfortunate for me. 
    • most everybody under 30 speaks at least a little english.  
    • the boys are super cute.  
    • ;) 
    • everything is smaller here. people, serving sizes, houses, cars, fruit... 
    • facebook is huge. 
    • the countryside here is the cutest thing you ever saw. it is exactly what you might picture when you think of "calm, lovely french countryside." complete with rolling hills, random groves of pretty trees, old cottage-y houses, with laundry drying in the wind... (*sigh*) 
    • laundry is dried on a clothesline, by the way. it's very pretty.  
    • but, everything is stiffer. and your jeans don't shrink back. and apparently all your socks dissapear. :P 
    • everybody speaks french, all the time. (i know i sound like an idiot putting that in as an observation, but sometimes it hits me, and it's really shocking all of a sudden. i dunno.) 
    • school = ETERNITY. seriously. thursdays are 8:30 am - 6 pm for me. ewwwww. 
    • and both the teachers and students switch rooms after every class. i don't get it, but whatever. this also means that the rooms aren't decorated at all. it's very dreary - in the hallways, the walls are cement. in the classrooms, the walls are plain white. 
    • my school also only uses flourescent lighting. AAAAAAHHH. :( 
    • you also don't pick your classes. you pick a "track," sort of. there's ES (economics and stuff), S (math and science), L (litterature - that's what i'm in), STG (i think that's general stuff - or management). there are some other ones, too, at speacialty schools.  
    • so, in your track, you get to pick a few options. like, for L at my school, you can choose two languages out of 5, and you can choose whether you want more math or more english.  
    • then, you have a class that you go to all your classes with (besides the ones you picked - then you just go with the ones who picked the same stuff as you). my class is 26 girls, and one boy. and we spend all day, every day together. 
    • there are no school sports. or any extra-curricular activities, really. 
    • a lot of teenagers smoke. (not a fun fact at all.) 
    • the buses are starting to make sense to me! :D 
    • there are no lockers at school. (well, there kind of are, but they're tiny, and there's only like 50. it's a one-time use sort of thing.) 
    • cafeteria food is AWESOME. (see above statement about food) 
    • there are a lot of false cognates between english and french. 
    • there are more real cognates - if i don't know how to say a verb, i say it in english, plus a french accent and -er on the end. it works about 2/3 of the time. 
    • some people (especially women) make this weird hiccupy/gasp noise randomly throughout conversations. i think it's some sort of emphasis thing.  
    • they also do it sometimes when it's dead silent. 
    • they're not all like parisians. they're very friendly, if you are. 
    • nobody says "zut." they say a lot of things in exclamation that i won't repeat. :P 
    • they also say "mince." (it means skinny.) i think that one's safe, though. 
    • they are super-scheduled. like, they make plans on saturday for the next friday. and they eat at the same time every day, together.  
    • they have lots of slang / abbreviations that don't make any sense. 
    • "lizzie mcguire, you are an outfit repeater!" would never happen in france. people wear the same shirt, or the same sweater, or the same pants, a few days in a row, and it's totally normal. especially for teachers. like, you could wear the exact same thing every day for a week and it wouldn't be werid. 
    • their plugs (and the voltage) are different. (kind of obvious, but maybe i just saved somebody from frying their laptop or something several years down the road.) 
    • they have big noses. (okay, obviously not all of them, but kind of a lot.) 
    • they really think americans are fat and stupid and uncultured.  
    • they might be onto something... 


    well.

    that's all i can think of right now. but, when i post more posts, i'll stick extra random observations in there. :)

    i'm doing pretty well, too, by the way. :) my first week was hard. but things are looking up, and my french is already taking off. it feels good to really get going. :)

    well, i've gotta go so i can eat some really yummy dinner with my host family, but i'll post my real post soon (it's in draft mode still).

    à bientôt! :D



    -katie (now prounounced kha-tee)

    Wednesday, September 1, 2010

    going, going... gone?

    I'm in The Salt Lake City airport now, which means I've officially left the nest.
    I can't say the flight was particularly exciting - the highlight was waking up just in time to get the cookies. But I didn't sob through the entire trip, so that's good..
    My friends (and my dear mommy) came to the airport with me. Let me tell you, I've got the best ones in the whole world. Sorry for hogging them. :)

    Yesterday, I was totally freaking out. Like, I'd be packing, and walk by the bathroom, and think, "oh my gosh, I have to pack enough hair-ties for five months. That's how long I'm going to be gone." (I also just remembered that I only brought two. With my track record for losing things, we'll see how long those last...) And then, I'd shuffle over to my mom's room and cry on her shoulder for a while. My tear ducts are still malfunctioning from crying so much - my eyes start watering for no reason like, every 3 minutes.

    So, yeah, I cried a lot yesterday -  but I'm starting to remember why I was so glad to be able to go. I know I'm going to learn so much - not just about speaking french, but about being confident and assertive and leader-ly and outgoing and eating vegetables and all sorts of other wonderful things. :)
    I'm beginning my adventure, and I haven't really realized it yet. LAst night, I had a better grasp on it, but right now, my mind hasn't really caught up with what's going on. Which is probably just as well, seeing what a mess I was yesterday...

    Anyway, I plan on posting again at some point during the orientation.
    Sorry if these posts kinda drag on, but until I really learn the art of journal-keeping, that's kind of what this is gonna be. :)
    à bientôt!

    -katie

    p.s. picture! :D this is my lycée. (sorry, it's the best picture i can find...)