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...)