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."
- 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


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

check it out. :)