mardi 14 juillet 2009'm home.

Well, the last couple weeks in France were fantastic. I went to the lake nearby almost every day with Marion or Cloe, and I spent the last 4 days before the orientation in Paris with 12 other AFSers. The last night at the orientation was really really sad....I had to say goodbye to all my new friends I had made at Paris, and then to Miyu and Victoria, who were my closest friends in France. I cried and cried and cried. But the next morning...I left at 6h30 for I the airport...and I realized that maybe I was ready to go home.

I got home at 8:00 last night at the airport....and my mom and brother and sister were waiting for me with signs. I got home and I gave them my presents. Allie and Chris stayed in my room with me until I went to bed at about...3 in the morning. (jet lag?) And we talked and talked and talked.

It's really weird to be home. I mix up my English and French (I'll start speaking in French really fast and then have to correct myself, and translate it for everybody). J'aimerais mieux de parler francais, en fait. Je vais essayer de parler avec ma mere et ma soeur, parce qu'elles comprennent un peu mieux! I keep walking around the house, and looking at all the things I left in my room...because it feels I'm in a stranger's room almost. Very weird. But I called all my friends here, and I've already organized sleepovers and things to do!

Ah very very weird! I don't think I've even realized that I'm REALLY home yet. OH well. I'M HOME!!! WHOAH!

jeudi 18 juin 2009

June Gloom

It’s June. How scary is that? I’ll write a pretty long post for this one…June is pretty important, considering it’s my LAST FULL MONTH IN FRANCE.

So, the other day I looked back at some journal entries I wrote in the beginning of the year. (I’ve faithfully kept a journal here, in English the first month, and in French the rest. I have 2 already completely filled up!). And here is one from right before Christmas:

It’s snowing again. It’s my first real winter and I never thought it would be so cold. Okay maybe I did. But I didn’t think about all the other things, really. Not about the aloneness of starting a new school or the little things that remind me of home. I didn’t think about being trapped in my head or being with people who just wouldn’t understand.
But I also didn’t think about the beauty. I mean, I’m only an LA kid—I’m not accustomed to all the trees and sky and snow. I feel like I should introduce myself.
When I think of Christmas I think of…tourtiere and our advent calendar, the perfect tree in the family room with the lights out. The smell of pine and tourtiere. I think of driving to Orange County and seeing the cathedral, then driving home in the dark. I think of grandpa and his last gifts, I think about Willie Nelson Christmas albums and picking presents one by one—we see everyone open each one. I don’t think about little siblings, foie gras, or the decorated dining room. But I think I will, when I go home.
It’s getting darker and darker and all I can think about is emptiness—I feel pretty empty—almost like I’m in defense mode. Every smile is the best moment of my week.
I hate the uncertainty here. Home is sure, my friends are sure, my family is sure. I’m really not homesick—but I hate the uncertainty of not knowing if my friends here really like me, or not or what’s up. It takes someone confident to be an exchange student, I guess. I don’t know if I’m confident enough. I try!

When I think about that time in my exchange year…it was still kind of in the stage where I kind of had friends, but not really yet, and I was still feeling kind of uneasy and nostalgic about Christmas in the US. But what is true is that it takes someone confident to be an exchange student. I think that I was kind of confident when I left LA, but now that I’m going to return, I feel like my confidence has grown a lot. I think that I can get away with a lot more in LA than I can in France, in terms of fashion and behavior, and I’m definitely going to take advantage of that when I get back. If I went to my school in LA wearing something out of the ordinary (I dunno…a floor-length dress, or a weird hat or something), it would be noticed maybe, but it wouldn’t be a big deal. However, if I did that in France, everyone would stare and make comments and soon I’d be famous. Okay, maybe it’s not that extreme, but I find that a lot of girls at my lycée make a lot more comments on everyone’s clothing, their weight, if they’re “moche” (ugly) or not. haha, that sounds funny, but it’s true.

I will no longer have ANY problems at all meeting new people—if I can do it in another language I can do it in English. And that’s coming from someone who used to be really shy when she was younger—I’ve changed a lot. And it’s definitely a change for the better. I can see better where I am as a person—what I’m doing, the real importance of certain things.

Anyways, someone commented on my last post and asked me to give advice for people going to France next year. (Wow! I’m trying to imagine myself in your position last year! I didn’t even have my host family yet in June!) So here ya go, the differences: (I’ll name as many as I can think of).

1. The French give the “bise” (kisses on each cheek) a lot. Firstly, to say hello and goodbye. Guys only kiss other guys when they’re really good friends, but guys kiss girls to say hello and usually give handshakes to other guys. Girls “font la bise” almost always to everyone to say hello. (No mess with handshakes and all that…) Pretty complicated, eh? And then, girls and guys who are friends sometimes just kiss each other on the cheeks all the time, just because they like each other. Et voila. French people kiss a lot more than American people.
2. Most people eat pretty delicately, with a fork AND a knife. Practice eating with the fork in your left hand, the knife in your right, and don’t put your elbows on the table.
The food is a pretty big difference. They eat almost everything with bread, and they don’t mix the courses often. (As in, you eat some vegetable dish, and then, you eat the meat, and then the fromage, etc.)
3. If you are placed in pretty small town, don’t expect everyone at lycée to be welcoming first. I think because everyone comes from the same area, everyone is kind of attached to their group of friends that they’ve known for a really long time. All the students won’t necessarily go and talk to you at school, so you have to make an effort to talk a lot, be really friendly, and ask people to go with them when you don’t have class, etc.
4. It’s really common for teenagers to drink alcohol. (The drinking age is 16 for beer and 18 for wine or something like that). It’s not illegal, so I’d say, even if you’re not used to drinking in the US, to go ahead and drink a little. It’s kind of a joke with me and my friends here that I should take advantage, because back in the US I still have 5 years to wait.
5. A lot of teenagers smoke. It’s fairly normal, but if you don’t smoke, your friends usually won’t pressure you.
6. Everyone doesn’t party very often, but when they do, it gets kind of crazy. Almost everyone gets drunk and does n’importe quoi.
7. The school system is interesting to say the least. High school starts in 10th grade (Seconde), and with AFS, usually you’ll be put in S.E.S. or “générale.” 11th grade is called Première, and you have to choose from 3 options: Littérature, Sciences, or ES (économiques et sociaux or something like that). In 12th grade, or Terminale, you stay in the option you chose, and you take the Bac at the end of the year. You’re put in one class of students that you stay with for all the subjects. Class starts around 8, and finishes around 5 or 6 pm, depending on what subjects you take and things like that. When you don’t have class, you can leave the school to walk around town or go home or do what you want, really.

I can’t really give differences about family life, because that really depends on the family. Like anywhere you go.


Pack enough underwear and pajamas. I sure didn’t.
Girls: bring jeans and t-shirts or blouses, and sweaters. Not many people wear skirts or dresses to school, if they do, it’s with leggings or tights. If you’ll be somewhere cold, bring a coat in wool or something like that, not one of those giant ski jackets.
Guys: jeans and t-shirts will always be fine. Not a big difference there. You don’t have as many guys that sag their jeans, though.

Talk A LOT. It’s the only way to improve your French, and if you talk, it’s easier to make friends and get along with your family. Call your new friends to organize things, etc.

Don’t use the internet too often. If you use it to go on MSN and talk with people in France, then go ahead, but not for messaging everybody in the US. The internet is kind of addicting, or it was for me—so you should think about it, and set up a time you should use it each week. (I went on two or three times a week for only about 10 minutes each and that was perfect).

Try to work in class, and actually do your homework and study and all that. If you do well, it’s good for your self-esteem, and even if you don’t, everyone in class will see that you try—that you’re like them, not a huge slacker at the least.

And that’s it, really. If anyone has questions to ask me, they can go right ahead. I’ll answer them!

And I haven’t even covered what I’ve been doing lately, since my last post. Today
I went with Helene, Pauline, Louis, Gautier, Arthur and Charlotte to go see the “Structures Gonflables” at Borts-les-Orgues. I think it’s a kind of playground structure type thing, but with special things where you can blow balloons up or something. (Okay, I really have no idea). But turns out, we couldn’t even find the “Structures Gonflables,” so we went and saw the Chateau de Val (which is very pretty!), and we ate icecream at a restaurant nearby. We got back to the house around 7, and we snacked on chips and guacamole. It was a funny kind of day.

Last week was my LAST REAL WEEK OF LYCEE. Which is kind of starting to scare me. Thursday we only had 1 hour of class, and so for the rest of the day, we laid around au stade (grassy area where people play rugby in front of lycee), and I got sunburned really badly. (But it was awesome at the same time!). Friday we had a huge surprise party for Madame Culinat (our math teacher, who’s retiring), and we got another teacher to open up her room before her class at 1 o’clock, so everyone (two classes from Seconde) brought food, hid, and cheered when she opened the door. I don’t like the French version of math, but she’s a good teacher and a really nice lady…it’s sad that everyone won’t have her next year! Anyways, we finished at 2, so we went to the park and hung out. Normal normal. hehe. But it’s the beginning of the end, really.

And this week has gone even faster. We didn’t go to class the past couple days, really, (don’t tell!), because it’s the last couple days and they changed around all the schedules and we only watch movies in class…so ce n’est pas grave! Monday, we had a class picnic at the park, and Madame Blanchard and Culinat came (with clafoutis!), and it started raining afterward, so we all hung out at Marie T.’s house. (another girl from my class who lives right next to lycee, almost). And Tuesday we didn’t go to class at all, but hung out at Ussel, went to go eat kebab for lunch, and all that. Wednesday, I went with the group to the lake at Meymac for the afternoon. It was fantastic, but sad too. It’s the end of things. I wrote little letters to Marie, Nono, Charlie, and Julie that pretty much say “je t’aime! tu vas me manquer!” (a little longer). I’ve made really good friends here. I hate that when you really make friends here, you have to leave.

Hey, AFS, why don’t you offer, like…3 year programs?

samedi 30 mai 2009


"Parmi les choses dont la sagesse se munit en vue de la félicité de la vie tout entier de beaucoup la plus importante est la possession de l'amitié" --Epicure

I am really happy. I went back to lycée today and I realized, I've found some really good friends here--and I have a family here and I will miss France so much. Even with my rollercoaster emotions, I've learned a lot here, things I never would've learned if I had stayed another year in Los Angeles.

Last Monday, the school bus came late so I missed 2 hours of math. All the high schooelrs from Liginiac (we're about 8) got to Ussel around 9h30, so we all went to a pub before going back to class ( we had to all go together; otherwise we couldn't get away with it! hehe) We got back to lycée around 10 and we told everyone that the car had just arrived! My English teacher wasn't there all this week either, which was pretty nice (she has some really bad mood swings, and not a very good accent) The weather is finally getting warmer (20-30 degrees celsius!) and so it's generally marvelous. We spet all of last weekend next to the swimming pool--I've started tanning!

The other night, Minette (one of our many tabby cats, their names are: Songha, Minette, Nougat, Tigrou, on other one that I can't remember the name of, and Gaspard) gave birth to kittens! Apparently, Minette started giving birth at like...3 in the morning, on Pauline's bed (I would definitely like to be woken up by that! lol...I'm being sarcastic). Now there are three tout-petit chatons hanging out in Pauline's room.

And yesterday was a Thursday, so we finished at 3 like usual, so we went in a group to le parc de la mairie, and just hung out. I love the days like that. We kind of all lean and lay on each other in the sun, and talk, and goof around. And it's starting to feel like the end of the SES we already got our grades for the last trimestre, so no one takes notes; and everyone has started talking about summer plans. I finish school the 17th of June; and then I'll leave Ussel the 7th of July to return in LA the 12th.

I've just started to realize that I only have...1 monh left in France. About a month...a month and a week really. And that scares me. I think I keep saying that (yes?) but it's true! 10 months has gone by a bit too quickly. 10 MONTHS?! I can't even believe I've been here for that long.

So I've also started thinking about what it'll be like when I get back to LA. I'm mostly thinking it'll be weird? I think I took way too much for granted when I was in LA--the closeness of everything and everyone. I'm looking forward to seeing you. And doing AP work of course (I'm kidding for that one). I should probably see all the movies I missed this year, and start reading only french books or something (or give bisous to everyone all the time!)

But mostly, I'll deal with that in July. Right now I just want to be here with my friends and Helene and the family and the countrside and the swimming pool and Ussel and the afternoons after lycée and general normalness. I will miss it incredibly. I'm glad that I'll have 3 weeks of French summer vacation before I leave--so I can hang out with all my friends here, I'll have enough time to say goodbye. Or maybe I'll never have enough time? I'm not someone who would "accidentally" misplace their airplane tickets or something like that (like that AFS book says people do before they leave), because I know that I'll have to go back to LA. I just wish I had a bit more time, you know...this year has almost felt like a dream. Wake me up in 6 more months!

I don'wanna leave yet.

jeudi 7 mai 2009

Easter and...other stuff

Maymaymaymay!!!!May ?

I should say, c’est mai! Je me sens comme je dois écrire tout en français maintenant ! C’est vrai que, quand j’essaye d’écrire et penser en anglais, tout devient bizarre. (J’ai besoin de penser soigneusement d’abord, et après écrire)

But I won’t continue in french…because then (almost) no one at home will understand me! (exceptions: Mama, Allie, and Sarah?) I feel restless. Not here, but because I keep thinking I’ll be home in 2 months, and how weeirrdd that’ll be. I have changed a lot. I can no longer think back when I was in LA, and remember the conversations I had or how I really spent the days, because my types of conversations and how I spend my days here are so much different. I am home here. I also feel like, once you really settle in, you have to think about going home. (2 months will go a whole heck of a lot faster than I want)

What will I do without the hours after school is done, when we hang out and wait for the car? What will I do without the chateau? Without all the forest to take long walks in? Without the snow in winter? Without all my friends here? Without Louis and Gauthier and Lucie and Marion to talk with? Without fromage?

So, we had another 2 week vacation at the end of April (that finishes next Monday), and I stayed with a temporary host family in Paris for the 2 weeks. (They couldn’t find a family in Marseille). But it was AMAZING! The family consisted of Laure, and Michel her husband, and their 3 daughters: Anne, Claire and Louise. They weren’t at home all that often (at ages 13, 16, and 19), but I did a couple things with Anne, who is hilarious, in the first week. (I also went to her college one morning in the 2nd week, because she wanted me to). haha, but almost every day I woke up pretty early, left the house to go see things in Paris: le Louvre (Mona Lisa!), Montmartre, le Marais, St. Germain-des-Pres, les Champs-Elysees, and elsewhere. The first week, two friends from the lycee at Ussel (Antoine and Pauline) were in Paris too, staying at Antoine’s uncle’s house, so we hung out a bit. And the second week, Nadine from Switzerland stayed with the family too, so we went to the Tour Eiffel and saw everything again. (I saw Marton too, who was there with another host family). Pretty much, I was rarely alone in Paris!

Our last night in Paris, Nadine and I made carrot cake (did you know they make one in Switzerland too? But with a taste of lemon and lots and lots of nuts) We used the American version…but the problem was that we didn’t have flour, oil, cream cheese (for the frosting) or carrots. And all the supermarkets were closed because it was the 1er Mai (La Fete de Travail). So we decided we’d find everything we needed, somehow. haha, we went to the Gare de Lyon (the family lived just next to it), in the metro (they have little stores inside), and finally (after walking 5 blocks) we found a little grocery store that was still open. It was kind of hilarious, we ran around the store trying to find everything (and at the cheapest), and we bought flour, a GIGANTIC thing of vegetable oil, 2 carrots, and a fromage a tartiner, for only 4 euros! We high-fived and ran back to the house (and they loved the gateau en plus!)

I saw about…4 movies: 17 again (the really um…cliché one with Zac Efron), Coco avant Chanel (with Audrey Tautou, which was good), Safari (un film française, really funny but kinda dumb), and Incognito (another French movie with Benabar). There was a movie theater about a block away from my host family’s house, so it was kind of convenient! I also went to a lot of museums: le Louvre, Le musee d’Orsay (impressionists!), Le musee Carnavalet (French history), and Le Grand Palais, where I saw the Andy Warhol exposition (fantastic!) and one about graffiti. It was just fantastic. I really needed to get out a bit from Mareges to be in a big city again—just for a little bit. By the end I was homesick. I was ready to go back to lycée!

Anyways, because I didn’t update in April (sorry…I was really busy!), I’ll summarize it a little bit. Pretty much, it was comme habitude, and one weekend Miyu and Victoria came to visit me (It was soo much fun, we stayed up really late each night and talked and sang in foreign languages) and then the next weekend, I went to Yolaine’s house at Brive for her birthday party. (She’s 18!) We stayed up until 4 AM watching ‘Mon Voisin Totoro.’ (And we ate pasta in the form of flowers and hearts, hehe) And afterward, pretty much like normal: hanging out with everyone after lycee, and doing homework and yup. I got a 12/20 on a dissertation in class for French, and I am pretty proud of myself, because my prof grades severely, and I had the same grade as Marie!

There was also Easter! Here in France, they say that the cloche hides the eggs (not the enormous bunny). Actually, the cloche doesn’t chime (I can’t remember what word I would use in English to describe the noise of a large bell?) at the church for the week or two before Easter, and on Easter, it rings and rings, (right word?) and they say that the cloche came back, with chocolate for everyone. Aude and Lucie went to go hide the eggs in the garden, and afterward, we all went to try and find them. It was a good day; not Easter in the US, but Easter in France! haha, and that’s about it.

Yup… I have to do my devoirs, so, à plus tard!

dimanche 15 mars 2009

Lol, murs and 16!!!

It’s the middle of March. Which is pretty strange. I know I always say that—but it’s really very strange. I almost feel like this year has been a dream or something—It really feels like a REALLY LONG august or something. As though I left LA a week ago and I’ll be returning in a week or so.

Yesterday Helene made a gateau de murs (mur = a kind of blackberry/mulberry type fruit) and all the chateau smelled like…murs. I felt really bizarre, because it was as though the smell called up a distant memory. I’ve smelled this scent before, but where? Once I thought about it a bit more—it’s what the chateau smelled like when I arrived in August. When I first arrived, I went with Helene to pick murs, and she made confiture (jam) with the murs that we picked. I associate the smell with the first couple weeks of complete confusion. But also with the excitement that I had the first week or two—it was so beautiful, here, it was so wonderful, here, everything was different and amazing. It’s funny to think I’ve been here for 7 months. The longest I’ve ever been away from home! But once you’re here for this long—this kind of becomes home. I’m no longer a guest au chateau! (I haven’t been for awhile)

Anyways, for my birthday, mama sent me a packet of cards. It was the most amazing birthday present I’ve ever gotten. I got a card from EVERYONE. Everyone in girl scouts, lariats, the aquarium, Allie and Chris, and all of my friends from school and elsewhere. Nicole got everyone to sign a card at school—which just makes me smile—I’m trying to imagine Nicole getting all the random people to sign: Charles Kim from my bio class last year, Ms. Derdzinske, Micah and Ted. Emily sent me cards and pictures and a marvelous Giant Robot t-shirt. I feel loved by everyone at home, and everyone here (man, I just feel loved in general). hehe, but it’s true. I have some really good friends in LA, who I love incredibly, and who I miss a lot. Even though I’m not quite ready to leave yet, I really can’t wait to see everyone in July.

The week of my birthday was maybe one of the best weeks I’ve had since I’ve arrived in France. Everyone sang to me for my birthday (accompanied with lighters in one case, haha) and when I got home, Helene made brownies for my gateau d’anniversaire, and I got a pretty pair of earrings, a book of conjugaison, a card from Lucie, and a book about chiens from Gautier. And after that it was just a good week—one of those weeks that go a lot faster than expected. On Thursday, we finished at 3 comme habitude, and so we went to the café and each drank two glasses of (ok, I don’t really remember what that was? alcoholic beverage?), and we were all a little more…relaxed? hehe…So we went to the park in Ussel—le parc de la mairie, and sat down at the stone table at the top of a hill. It’s really an awesome place—you can see all of Ussel (the church and all the buildings around it, and then the campagne in the distance). Charlie brought his guitar, and he played and we sang. On Friday we finished at 2, so we went to the café (didn’t drink, really, this time) and then went to the table en pierre again. (Pierre = stone) It was awesome to just talk a little bit with Noemie and Charlie. And we changed my birthday party to next weekend, because ‘Lol’ played at Meymac yesterday, (which we all really wanted to see). And it was fantastic. The movie is just about a girl au lycee—with boyfriend problems and friend problems and family problems. At the end, she gets together with her best friend, Mael (hot French guy who plays guitar), and everything pretty much works out. It was hilarious, and I guess it could say something pretty concrete about who most teenagers in France want to be…to be an ideal girl who parties with a boyfriend that looks like one of those guys in the Kooks? Maybe.

To sum it up: I’m happy. Just plain happy. I remember reading that book about “your exchange experience” or whatever that was written by that lady with AFS, and about how most people went through the same stages: arrival excitement, culture fatigue, getting used to it a little bit, holiday depression, then culture adaptation, etc. They show you a chart that shows how your feelings go up, down, up slowly, down slowly, then gradually rise and rise as you adapt to the culture. But when I really think about it—mine was never really like that. Mine would look less like a mountain than it does a lightning bolt. It’s kind of funny to think about it. Mais c’est pas grave, the little line keeps going up and up from here, and I’m sure of it!

So, that’s it really. Frede, the AFS Correze coordinator is organizing so I can go to Marseille the next vacation, and stay with a temporary host family or someone with AFS. Which would be amazing. (I want to see Marseille more than ANYTHING). And Victoria and Miyu visit the weekend of the 28th this month….and I have to study for a test in English tomorrow (the easier of my classes) and yes! bye!

mardi 24 février 2009

Almost birthday-ness! And vacation!

Hi! Chelsea here.

It’s the end of February, and I can’t think of ONE single thing to say. Everything is normal…this month has gone by way way too fast. Hm. And now we’re on vacation again. (yes, again….they have too many vacations here! I like school!)

I really feel…in love with here. I loovveee my friends and my family (though I can get annoyed at times…normal). Noemie was in the hospital this week, because she had an operation, so Marie, Julie, Laurine, Laetittia and I visited her on Thursday and Friday afternoon after lycee. Noemie is really fantastic—when we saw her yesterday at the hospital she was doing great! And I met her mom and sister (her sister looks a lot like her!) The hospital isn’t too far from lycee, but we ended up running up the hill to catch the school bus in time! (I bet we looked pretty ridiculous). Friday was the birthday of a guy named Keea in my class, so Celine brought saucisson to eat in perm (study hall), and some of the girls brought crepes and soda to eat during histoire. We spent pretty much the whole day snacking…but it was pretty funny, Allisen wrote him this legendary birthday card (comparing his eyes to grenouilles and telling him not to worry because love always starts with a dispute…etc.) J’adore ma classe des filles.

I went skiing another time with the UNSS at lycee, and it was great! Charlie and I were the only people who didn’t know how to ski very well, so we went with Madame Barbier (my P.E. teacher) in the morning, and Charlie went on some of the bigger pistes later, I stayed with Madame Barbier! I’m a whole lot better now though, I can stop, turn, you know, do the things that are kind of necessary for skiing. I only fell ONE TIME! And Madame Barbier taught me to go without the funny pole thingies, and it’s really a lot better like that. (Papa, we can go when I get back?)

It’s also my birthday pretty soon (2 and a half weeks!) and the group is coming over to stay at the chateau, and we’re going to watch horror movies and have general fun, the weekend after. Miyu and Victoria may also be coming to visit me next month.

I’m at a complete blank. I have no idea what to say. At all. I feel like I should be able to spew out some thoughtful reflection about my almost 7 months here….about some difference between the Americans and the French. But no, I’ve got nothing. Yesterday I went running with Marion, and we got into a conversation about my first day in France. She was in Australia for 3 months during the summer, and she talked about how she only said “Huh?” for about the first 2 weeks. I remember the train to Brive in August…It was me, Victoria, Miyu and Marton, tired and nervous. Victoria was talking a mile a minute. I listened mostly, and I had a stomachache. I think Marton was the calmest of all of us. The train stopped, we took our bags, and headed outside. Fred was there to greet us, and Helene was there with Pauline and Louis. I kissed them bonjour, but they didn’t say anything, and I didn’t either. We headed to the car, and I think Helene must’ve asked me if I wanted to put my suitcase in the trunk…but I didn’t understand. It was complete silence in the car on the way to the house. The only thing I could think of to say was “C’est jolie ici!” hehe…awkward!

Things have changed a lot since that first day. I’m trying to imagine the day I leave. This year has gone way too fast. I only have 132 days left!! Not fair!

vendredi 23 janvier 2009

January fun-ness

END OF JANUARY! Woot! So in the past Nothing much has happened, really. Everything is normal with my friends and school. I got my departure date too…July 11 (from Ussel to Paris) and July 12 (from Paris to US), which means I have only 5 months left to go, and that’s generally scary. (They’ll probably go by faster than I’d like)

We had an AFS reunion the weekend of the 18th. We went to Super Lioran, in Cantal (look it up!) and we went skiing! So I have some pretty funny pictures to show. But my first experience with ski = horrible. I fell about 5 million times, and they didn’t teach us how to stop when we were on the skis, so everyone SHOT down the mountain, and kept going and kept going and couldn’t stop and almost hit a bunch of little kids and…that pretty much explains everything. Lucas, a guy from Argentina who’s here for 2 months, ran into a little kid, and got yelled at by the kid’s dad. (We were all watching, mortified) And Victoria ended up next the parking lot one time. The worst experience of mine was when we went up on the second “piste” and there are these funny things that resemble poles, and you hold onto the pole to get to the top of the hill, and then let go, and ski down. But I let go too early, when we were climbing up the hill, (and of course I couldn’t stop) so I started sliding backwards down the hill, and I crashed into Victoria, who was coming up the hill with the pole. Victoria and I went to the nearby pub afterward, drank water, and decided that skiing wasn’t our forte. But I’m going with lycee next week…so I’m really hoping for a better experience. haha. It was really great to see everyone though, and all the 2 month-ers and Ione (5 months) left this week, (which makes me sad) so I got to say goodbye (and hello to the 2 month-ers, who I hadn’t met).

And the other day was the presidential inauguration! I got home from school, ran to the TV, and started watching (I made it in time to see Obama’s speech! And when Bush left in his helicopter!) It was fantastic. During the commercial breaks I’d run into the kitchen to tell Helene the updates. Today Antoine (a kind of funny kid who worries incessantly about his haircut, and says “SALUT L’AMERICAIN!” every time he sees me—but he’s nice all the same), came up to me and started talking about Obama. He said he watched the entire thing on TV and he taped a picture of Obama on the back of his agenda that says “Yes We Did.” I think he’s more excited than I am!

There really isn’t much more to say. I feel, now that I’ve made the 6 month mark, that I ought to do some reflecting and listing.


My 5 pet peeves in France:

The handwriting. Almost everyone writes the same…the same kinda loopy writing with the Ms that don’t look like Ms and the Rs that look like Ns and the Xs that look like nothing at all. And then the teachers write on the board in cursive, and I have to ask people what it says because it looks like they’re writing in Arabic or something (which would be funnier if I was actually in a country where the national language is Arabic). I mean, how in the world can that be an M or an R or a Q or whatever?

So, sometimes I’ll get home later on a Wednesday afternoon because I go to eat kabab, or go to the library, or something, and I have no idea if someone else is in the house. That really is a problem if you live in a large house (un château par exemple)…You can’t find anyone! Sometimes people are in random places all over the place and if someone doesn’t come for dinner when called, you have to go search in their room, in the living room, in the room with the TV, Helene and Alain’s bedroom, the little house next to the chateau with the bedrooms of my host sisters, the garage, the grange, the yard, the forest, all of Corrèze, okay you got the idea. I mean, the château is beautiful, and it’s perfect when you have 9 kids (including the exchange student), 7 horses, 3 dogs, and about 15 cats. But when I’m older, I’m going to find a little tiny house in the middle of a huge city, and then I won’t have to search for people.

The little bit of racism in France. Maybe it’s just because we’re in the middle of the countryside, and that’s where you tend to find people with…firmer beliefs about their religion and their race….and maybe it’s just because I’m not in Los Angeles, and France isn’t a country made entirely of immigrants…but it exists here. Alain is a really nice guy, and he’s a great host dad, but sometimes he’ll say some remark about how Aude dated “that Turk” or how people will say “le noir” (the black) instead of “that guy.” And a lot of people think that everyone who looks slightly Asian is Chinese. I mean, I guess I come from a city, and a school, where you find about everyone from everywhere, and so it’s no surprise when I’m easy to condemn little things that people say about things like that. Not to mention a friend of Alain, René, who said something along the lines of “Je ne sais pas ce que ce noir va faire, mais on verra.” (I don’t know what this black will do, but we’ll see). The problem is that he was talking about the president of the US. (first impression of René = ruined)

The fighting over food. Okay, I’m exaggerating. haha, but I come from a little family (really little in comparison), where we eat as much as we want. There’s enough orange juice/nutella/clementines for everyone, and always a lot to spare. But here, it’s “who’s going to get the last piece” or “who ate the last of the cocoa puffs?” or “I have to eat this even if I’m not hungry so Arthur won’t get it.” It’s a bit ridiculous—but I guess Allie, Chris, and I did a little bit of the same thing when we were little. But Helene has to hide the nutella because if she doesn’t, the next time she goes into the cupboard, it’ll be gone. She brings it out for breakfast one day, to eat with bread or toast, and by lunchtime, the whole bottle is gone. We don’t buy too much nutella, either.

French singers who sing in English. It’s really not worth it. They’re humiliating themselves without even knowing it.

And since I mentioned my pet peeves, I should mention the things that don’t annoy me one bit. The things that I liked about France, that I still like:

The diet. The food is great! And the cafeteria food is so not even in the same league as American cafeteria food. And I love the fromage, and the fresh bread all the time. I’m going to eat like a French person when I get home. (Mama, Papa, watch out! hehe)

So you know how it’s kind of…a lot colder here than in LA? (Now, about a good 0 Celsius on average…so…about 32 Fahrenheit?) I kind of like that. There are about 3 stages of my liking-of-the-weather. At first, it was YAY SNOW I LOVE SNOW WHOA SNOW, and then after a couple months, eehhhh, I want the sun again, when is it going to get sunny again please, and now it’s kind of a familiarity and loving relationship with the cold. I really like wearing a coat all the time (coats are fashionable!), and I like drinking hot tea when I get home from school, and I like the rain and the wind that howls. Home is more of a getaway when you can’t venture outside if you don’t want frostbite. And I like it when I walk to the bus when school ends and the snow gets caught in my hair and the bus driver plays Tracy Chapman and Jason Mraz. When I get back to LA, I’m going to appreciate the sun like no other, and just sit in the sun…ahh…but for now, this cold is peaceful.

All the new things learned. That’s a funny thing to say, really, but it’s true. I’ve learned a lot, already. I’m fluent in French. (I can say that, now, I think). I’ve learned how to be independent, and how to survive away from home (I’m ready for college! hehe). I’ve learned how to act in weird situations (everything can be normal after a little bit of time), and how to meet new friends (who speak another language no less!). And to be a little more spontaneous, (I only have 5 more months here! THAT’S IT! I’d better take advantage!) And I’ve also learned little things, silly things: how to make the perfect crepe, how to describe the structure of an atom, how to bake turkey, how to pass time on trains, how to figure out words, how to practice piano without a piano, how the French economy works, how to dress the warmest possible without looking like a dork. These things will come in handy one day.

I’ve already mentioned how much I love my family and my friends and manifestations in my last post. So I won’t say (again) how much I love my friends and family here. You know that already.

I don’t even want to think about how I only have 5 months left. That’s not a lot of time. That’s not a lot of time at all, if I really think about it. I have February (vacation for 2 weeks) March, April (2 weeks of vacation) May, June, (school off around the 18th), and an EENSY bit of July. I talked a bit with Clement (a guy in France who went to New Zealand with AFS last year), who said that when it was time to leave for France again, he didn’t want to go. His parents talked to him about getting his permit, and he didn’t want to hear it. And when he got home, he had a huge coup de blues…It’ll be strange to go home. I’m anticipating it (I’ve made a list of things I HAVE to do when I get there), but dreading it aussi.