mercredi 24 décembre 2008

Making Meringues and Noel!

Wow. It’s ALMOST Christmas!
I’ve been here for…a long time now. Just about 5 months. Which means that I’m approximately half-way through my year abroad in France.

And wow. The first 3 months were hard. The first month I found a friend in my sister, but didn’t find any at school. I didn’t understand anyone, and no one could understand me. The second month I started a new school, and realized that it’s actually pretty hard to find friends at a new school. And the last 3 were just…hard sometimes, but wonderful mostly. I made a good thanksgiving dinner, hung out with people here that I love, will celebrate Christmas!
Have I mentioned how much I love my host family? Alain and I talk and watch NCIS and rugby together. Helene knows my preference for apples for dessert, and we talk too. Aude is sweet, and is en train de devenir vegetarian. Marion corrects my French (« ce que je mange, pas quoi je mange ») and knows how to play BS. Hmm…Louis is funny, and always tries to help me figure out words. Lucie has a strong personality (some people would say…strong tempered?), but we hang out occasionally, and if there’s something wrong I can talk with her. Pauline doesn’t talk much, but I think she’s accepted my existence comme même. I let Gauthier cheat at ‘Dame’ (checkers…okay, he’s not cheating, but I don’t like the French rules! they’re not fair!). Arthur and Charlotte make noise all the time, and are possibly the most annoying children in France (or in the US for that matter) Or maybe they’re not. (maybe little kids are just annoying in general? I’m definitely not going to be a kindergarten teacher) It’s different to be in such a big family, but it’s also kind of comforting, because everyone has such a big support system. And it really doesn’t feel like such a large family while living with them. It feels normal. (I’m going to go home and feel bizarre when setting the table…we put 9 plates right? hehe) And really, I hardly see everyone all together…all in the same room or something. Alain has two children from his first marriage (Pauline at 18 and Mathieu at 24 years old), who only visit occasionally. Aude is only at home for the vacations, and Marion is home every other weekend. I’m trying to imagine everyone on a road trip.

And have I mentioned how much I love my friends? I’m not very close with Samantha, Orane, and Charlotte, who I hung out with the first month at lycee, but I don’t think I was ever very close with them to start out with. (I find that they’re nice, but a little exclusive) But I’m really close with Juliana, who just moved to the Meymac area from Gironde (so she’s starting out fresh too), and Elise, who reminds me A LOT of Mary Rose (a girl I played AYSO soccer with), which is pretty bizarre. Also with Marie, Noemie, Julie, and Charlie, who I hang out with Thursdays and Fridays after school. It’s easy to talk with them, and they’re sweet—huggy and free-thinking. They like Manu Chao (¡me gustas mañana, me gustas tu!) and Charlie plays some pretty awesome electric guitar, and Marie plays a little bit of guitar and sings. (she says she doesn’t sing well…but she’s modest! She’s great!) The Friday before the winter vacation, we all went to the “Espace Jeune,” and Charlie played guitar and Flora played the bass, Marie and Solene sang, I played a little bit of piano. Everyone else listened, and/or sang along. It felt a lot like…the guys’ band practice at our house, or something. It was comfortable, and loud.
AND I LOVE MANIFESTATIONS! So, the French government is trying to reform the Bac, and change the hours of school and change the whole system and everything, and it’s all pretty dumb. (great explanation, eh?) So there’ve been a bunch of protests from the lyceens throughout France (they protest a lot here—a lot more than in the US) And last Thursday there was a ‘greve,’ meaning that none of the students went to classes all day (okay, there were about 5 in our classe that went…the losers! just kidding) and around 2 there was a ‘manifestation,’ where about 50 or 60 of us met around centre ville in Ussel. We formed a big group and the police was there (along with a reporter from Bleu-Limousin radio), and we marched in the streets of Ussel, (blocking traffic!) and sang songs. (« Trois marches devant, trois marches derrière, c’est la politique du gouvernement! ») It was really just…awesome. I mean, we weren’t the only ones protesting…hundreds of teenagers throughout France were doing the same thing. How come we don’t do things like that back home?

Yup. I dunno…I’m really at home here. It’s normal. With lycee, I’m going to ‘faire du ski’ (we meet Wednesdays after school in January and February, and then we go and faire du ski pendant quelques weekends). Yolaine and Ione are visiting the chateau in a week or so, and there’s an AFS weekend next month. The SNOW here was WONDERFUL. And when there’s too much snow the school bus doesn’t pass by the house and we don’t go to school (and then we go out in the snow and build igloos and ‘bonhommes de neige,’ no joke!). And then it’s beautiful and I take pictures. (Finally some pictures of everyone for you guys back home!) I thought we were going to have a white Christmas, but yesterday we had some sun (for the first time since the beginning of November, honestly!) and our igloo melted and I spent the whole day in jeans and a t-shirt. (it was a good 7 degrees! Um…about 45 degrees Fahrenheit…ooph) I think I’m getting acclimated to the cold.

I’ve had a lot of firsts in France: first real winter, first beer, first manifestation, first taste of elk. (Charlie and Noemie are afraid that they’ve taken away my innocence, and that they’ll send me back to the US an alcoholic or something. Which is pretty ridiculous. hehe)

And I’m excited for Christmas: to open the mysterious presents that Mama and Papa sent, and to see if everyone likes my presents (Arthur will get the t-shirt that says ‘Muscle Beach’ on it!). And I sent home presents, which you’ll all get way too late. Sorry. I hope you get it before February or something.

Hum. I don’t know what else to say. Christmas eve is tomorrow!! New Years is shortly after! And then school will start again and then I have another 5 months to go!

(photos are in next was too slow to include in this one!!)

dimanche 23 novembre 2008

Real men play rugby!

C’est incroyable!! C’est déjà presque la fin de novembre !!! Ma vie ici va trop vitement pour moi ! Alors, tout va bien.

This month has gone by UNBELIEVABLY FAST. It feels like October. Or maybe August? Anyways, lycée has been going along like usual. I am way more comfortable with my friends here, and my classes are fairly interesting. (Je crois que j’ai la moyenne dans presque tout !) I found a jazz band that plays with the Ecole de Musique here that I might join, and I can play a sport after school on Wednesday afternoons. I listened to Fred’s advice and I’m trying my best to do things with my friends outside of school, and I’m having a little fête for Thanksgiving next Sunday, and inviting some friends from school to my house for a big traditional American dinner. And I’m more and more a part of the life of my host family. Alain and I watch rugby occasionally which is a sport I find pretty bizarre, and I help Hélène cook sometimes too. Everything feels pretty normal, now, and when I don’t have anything to do I’ll watch TV with Lucie, Pauline, or Gauthier or sit in the cuisine (kitchen, warmer than the reste du château) and read “Harry Potter à L’école des Sorciers.”

And my French is improving like clockwork. I finished Un Secret by Grimbert, and I can read Harry Potter in French without a dictionary. It’s pretty bizarre, because none of the word plays that J.K. Rowling uses exactly work in French, so they changed a bunch of the names. Oliver Wood turned into Olivier Dubois (du bois= of wood), Hogwarts into Poudlard, Professor Snape into Professeur Rogue, and they call magic wands “baguettes magiques,” (which makes for a nice visual image).

I think I can think in French now. I can understand almost everything that everyone says to me, and I’ve been having pretty weird dreams, in French. (one involving mama and papa donating money to a charity and getting new pots and pans, one involving my prof principale du lycée and the exchange student from Brazil at my school, who I’ve never talked to) I used to wake up every morning and be disorientated when Hélène talked to me in French…it used to take a little bit to get used to speaking in French again. But now, I wake up, and it’s French, automatically. (Though I occasionally insert words like ‘the’ and ‘nor’ in my classwork by accident) I thought that this would be harder, language-wise. It’s really not so bad. The language came fairly easily for me, I think. And sure, I’m not Victoria, where French is her….4th language? (Portuguese, Spanish, English, French), but mon français marche pour moi !

I’ve found that I don’t like the French school system as much as I like the one in the U.S. Man, it’s hard! Well, you actually learn something in the classes here, but you choose what you want to be for the rest of your life at the end of middle school. When I changed schools from college to lycée, I chose between “Information Gestion,” another section for people who want to become “ingénieurs,’ and “S.E.S.” (Sciences Economiques et Sociaux, or something like that, supposedly the most ‘prestigious’). And school isn’t required after college, so some people just finish and find a job at 15 and that’s it. I chose S.E.S., and after this year, everyone chooses between L (literature, history, etc.), ES (economics, history, math), or S (science, math, etc.). My prof de S.E.S. made it very clear that if you’re just a “moyenne” (average) student, you can leave. There isn’t room for you at lycée. So everyone in class actually does their homework, and everyone tries to do well. (It’s like being in more than an honors class, without the ‘honors class’) I mean, in the US, even if you don’t succeed in high school, you can still go to college and be, really, whoever you want to be. My anthropology professor last summer left school at 9th grade, and now he has a book published and a doctorate! But in France, not everyone goes to université, and if you do, bonne chance, because it’s really difficult, and a lot of people leave.

Anyways…I’m happy here. I haven’t had any major homesickness bouts since last month. Every once and awhile there’ll be little things: Hallelujah (Rufus Wainwright) will play on the radio, and I’ll be really sad and think of Emily’s last birthday party, or someone will say something that reminds a lot of home, but other than that…I haven’t been as close with Lucie since I changed schools, and she seems to be going through a phase of « j’ai marre du monde » But I guess being annoyed by my host siblings means I’m really comfortable with my family, haha. Well, it’s the weekend again, and I have tennis today and homework tomorrow. (a fair amount of sleeping there too…je suis toujours trop fatiguée par le week-end) I don’t really have any GRANDE NOUVELLES to report, because nothing too exciting has happened. I’m excited for Thanksgiving next weekend, and it’s almost December!

jeudi 30 octobre 2008

George Brassens 'Au marché de Briv'-la-Gaillarde' et Manu Chao

Octobre va finir a bientot! The beginning was pretty slow, the first month felt like a year, but once I’ve settled in, it’s going by pretty fast! I changed schools in the beginning of October, from college (6th to 9th grade) to lycée (10th to 12th grades), which is really where I should be. Everyone was really nice at college, but I think its better that I’m with people the same age, and that I can make friends that aren’t the same friends as Lucie’s. It’s a little weird because it’s like I’m starting over, but I really like it.

My class has only 3 boys in it (none of which are too cute…) and a bunch of girls, who are all really friendly. I’ve become friends with girls named Samantha, Orane, Charlotte, and Lea, who I eat lunch with most of the time. But after school (sometimes school ends at 3, so we have to wait a couple hours for the school buses) I occasionally hang out with Charlie, Elise, Noemie, and Marie, who go to the Troubadour (a restaurant/ice cream place/bar/et cetera place) in Ussel, where they play pool and such. Noemie and Charlie smoke, but after I said I didn’t, Charlie said “Good! Don’t start!” And I probably won’t (don’t worry Mama). Drinking is more common too for teenagers, but it’s not the same kind of drinking that a lot of teens do in the US. I mean, they don’t get really drunk or anything. As 15 year olds, we can go into any bar or restaurant in Ussel, and order a beer, and it’s perfectly normal. It’s weird to think that if I was in the US, they would ask to see an ID, or, more likely, refuse outright. (Well, the drinking age here is 16, which might be a part of it)

Anyways, my classes at lycee are a bit harder than at college. All of the professeurs expect us to take notes while they dictate, and we have a controle (a quiz) about once a week in each of my classes. (And they’re hard!!) I really like my Physic/Chimie class though, (which is odd, because it’s a subject I hate in the US) because the prof Mme (Mademoiselle) Peyre, is really nice, and I actually understand what we’re learning (how to calculate light years and things like that). And Espagnol, which is surprising, seeing as I’m terrible at it and can’t understand anything the teacher says. (I think if I could understand what was going on in my classes, I’d be really confused) The thing about lycee, is that it’s a lot more relaxed. When a teacher isn’t there, or we don’t have a class at a certain time, we can leave the school to walk around Ussel, or sit and talk at school. Normally, school starts at 8 AM and ends at 5 PM, except for Thursdays, where we finish at 3, and Wednesdays, where all the schools finish at 12.

Life with my host family is great, as usual. Everyone liked the snickerdoodles, and tacos I made for them (not simultaneously of course). I’m still scared of the horses a little bit, but I go with Lucie and Pauline sometimes, and I start tennis lessons on Saturdays next week. I finished my first book, completely in French! (Cette chanson-la by Sarah Dessen, which is an American book translated into French) Pretty soon, though, I will be reading Le Mariage de Figaro by Beaumarchais for Français, and Un Secret by Grimbert for Histoire/Geo.

I don’t know what else to say. Vacation has started, and the past couple days I stayed at Yolaine’s house (a girl who will be going to the US next year, and who is hosting Ione (no idea how that’s spelled) who changed families this month and is from the US too and is now part of the AFS Correze group, (me, Victoria from Brazil, Miyu from Japan, Marton from Hungary), and who is just generally awesome. Everyone, except for Marton and I, lives at Brive La-Gaillard, and so we all got together to hang out in Brive, and visit Tulle (where Marton lives). Ione and I also had our own mini-halloween, and carved pumpkins. (Yolaine thinks mine looks like Salvador Dali?) These past couple days I had a kind of bad bout with homesickness (J’ai mal de pays!), but I talked with Frederique (the Correze coordinator, who everyone calls ‘Fred’) and we decided that I need to get out more, talk nonstop, buy a portable (cell phone) and find bus routes to Ussel from Liginiac. It’s mostly because sometimes I’m stuck a la maison with nothing to do, and that’s when I miss home.

But mostly, I’m pretty comfortable here. And it's snowing outside! (no joke!) And it’s really weird to write in English, too. I tried to read the English book that Papa sent, but it took me like…a half-hour to read 8 pages. Mais, ce n’est pas grave! À plus tard! Here are some pictures too! (pictures from lycée will come later, sorry)
Miyu and Marton being silly

Ione carving the pumpkin

My pumpkin...

the chateau!

Charlotte!! (hehheee)

vendredi 26 septembre 2008

One month mark

Mission accomplished. Well, a little more than it was 2 days ago. I made a list the other day of things I was going to do to take better advantage of my year in France, (yeah, I make lists…hehe) because I was feeling kind of out of it. The teenagers here aren’t exactly like the teenagers in the US, similar (I think all teenagers around the world are pretty similar), but not quite. Advice to anyone going to France: just give it some time. You’re not going to have immediate friends, but by being friendly, after a couple weeks, you’ll have a couple. I mean, that if you went to the US, tons of people would be really overfriendly and show you around the school and ask you to eat lunch with them, but here, everyone is more laidback, and most people won’t approach you first. You really have to make a conscious effort to make friends. And I think I’ve made a couple! At least started to, anyways. I’ve definitely found a friend in Lucie, my host sister. She’s been pretty awesome showing me around at school, and we’ve been doing homework together and such.

I want to be able to say how France is right now—to sum up the last month. But as always, just when I need the words the most, they won’t come. First of all, Los Angeles is no longer where I’ve lived for 15 years, but what defines me. In Arts-Plastiques (drawing) we had to draw a picture of us—who am I? what do I like? that kind of thing. Without thinking, I started drawing LA, and piano keys along the side. If I was in the US right now, I could say my hobbies were soccer, dancing, girl scouts, LA youth, guitar, knitting, and aquarium-ing. But here, none of that exists. I can’t even say that I like to write, because I can’t creatively write in French. I’m pretty blank here. I mean, it’s not a bad thing. But it’s different.

When I say I come from Los Angeles, they say “Quelle chance!” (what luck!) They all have this idealized version of what LA is, and it’s kind of hilarious. (yes! of course I see movie stars all the time! hehe) But I absolutely love Liginiac and Ussel. They’re these old towns with old houses and flowerbeds on all the balconies. And there are patisseries (bakeries) and little restaurants on every corner. Some of the parents of people you go to school with own boulangeries. The whole atmosphere is pretty charming, because everyone knows (or knows of) everyone who lives nearby.

I should talk about the food too. It’s delicious, to sum it up. I am sincerely hoping I won’t gain weight. Each meal with my host family has about 2-3 “courses” I guess you could say. (they aren’t huge portions in the “courses”) First, we’ll have some kind of vegetable (tomato salad, or soup, for example), and then something with meat and a starch (chicken and pasta) and then cheese (camembert, goat’s cheese, I am a fan of brie) and then dessert (yogurt or fruit, or on special occasions a gateau). Even the cafeteria food at the cantine at college is WAY better than American cafeteria food. No hamburgers/cheese covered fried stuff. They have pasta and vegetables and meat and yogurt and general goodness. And you know how everyone thinks that there aren’t any overweight people in France? They’re wrong.

Hm…what else to say? I don’t know. Oh, never say “Je suis pleine” (literal translation: I am full) because it really means that you are a female cow, and you are going to give birth. Marion informed me of that a couple days ago…so I didn’t have to go through the embarrassment of saying something like that…

Mostly, it’s pretty strange to think that I’ve been here for a whole month already, because it really doesn’t feel like it. (Yesterday after dinner, Helene brought a yaourt with a candle in it, and reminded me I’ve been here for exactly a month!) And if the rest of the months are like this, I’m happy. And I have things to look forward to too: maybe going to a lycee instead of a college (that’s a different, more complicated, and less interesting story), Paris at Christmas, Ping-Pong class during lunch every Friday, the AFS outing planned for this weekend at Montaubon, going um….the equivalent of jumping off a cliff with one of those elastic rope things attached, with Marion and Lucie in October, dinner tomorrow, History class (we’re learning about the American elections, and I am therefore doing very well)—everything. I’m more and more excited for my continuing life in France.

mercredi 3 septembre 2008


I'm finally here....after the AFS camps, both in New York (which was almost horrible, by the way), and in France (which wasn't).

The days have been passing by...and they seem a lot longer here. Everyone wakes up at 6 or 7 for school (which I 'll talk a bit more about later), eat lunch around 12, 13h00, then eats dinner around 21h00, then goes to bed. They're house is beautiful... and everyone has been really nice to me, even though my french really isn't what I expected and I don't understand much at all. When I think about it, it's really the little things that make France so...awesome. I am in love with here. The other day, I sat out in their backyard, and Gautier plopped one of the many cats in my lap. Pretty much, it pooped all over my jeans--and it was just too funny. ( You know those moments when you're really embarrassed, but when you think about it, it's really pretty funny) Lucie and I couldn't stop laughing. And when we drove in the car to go canoeing and canyoning (a excursion), they played a french song, and then that oldie 'Satisfaction' and Alain sang along. Alain has been talking in a strange mix of english and french ( he studied in wyoming for a couple years, but his english has since deteriorated), and when we went canyoning (rock climbing) he was trying to help me, but he kept mixing up the words 'left' and 'right.' And I've been really confused mind-wise, and most of the time, I can't remember whether someone said something to me in english or french....
The little things that are just.....funny about france:
  • they eat fromage and pain with everything
  • when I ordered pizza in a restaurant, they came out with a whole pizza on a plate for me
  • there's a waffle in the vending machine
  • the mailwoman knows everyone's name in the town
  • Charlotte (3) has a different cut little dress to where everyday, and she loves Indiana Jones movies
  • Gautier tries to be helpful, by repeating what everyone says very slowly for me
  • People smile and wave when you drive by, and they don't know you
  • they think it's just hilarious to eat eggs for breakfast
  • there are little villages everywhere and all of htem are the length of about one street in LA

School started yesterday too. It put it mildly CONFUSING. We took a big charter bus to much I didn't understand anything, but Lucie is in the same class as me, so she was really helpful. My P.E. teacher thought it was very interesting that I was from the US, and he made us walk 2 blocks, then gave us candy. Pretty much, the whole day was WHOOSH (that was it going over my head). But today, the seocnd day of school, was much better. I could understand a bit more, and I had english class, and music. (Singing! required singing class! I think we learn some recorder in there too).

But I'm taking 10 classes overall: French, english, spanish, math, physics/chemistry, biology, history, drawing, music, P.E., and Technology. And ALL of that is required!! I am definitely thinking about all the requirements I can get out of the way. haha...

In the meantime, everyone thinks it's quite a novelty to be from LA, and all the girls in my class have been asking if there are 'beautiful boys there.' I tell me. =P

I love it, and I miss you.

vendredi 8 août 2008

Visas, Details, Excitement, and Pre-packing

So, I got my visa! It was a lot easier than planned. We went to the consulate once, and had to wait for about 2 hours, but then just gave them the paperwork, and then got a sticker to put in my passport! (French visas are so pretty too! Green and glittery and such). A lot of the girls who were there getting a visa for their exchange with Rotary were having tons of trouble. They didn't have all the papers, and they kept having to come back, and so on. Well, my mom spoke to the consulate-guy in french (that may have helped somewhat), and AFS gave us all the papers we needed, so it was no trouble at all! Yay!
And I also got a copy of my host family's application, that talked about their interests, personalities, and details. My host father is an artisan, and my host mother a librarian. They live in a large house in the countryside, and have a garden and swimming pool. The atmosphere of the family is calm, and they have a regular schedule. No one smokes, and they are Catholic, but not regularly. Their pets include dogs, cats, horses, and hamsters.
Helene wrote "Aude is the artist of the family, Marion is more intellectual, Lucie is talkative. Pauline is mysterious, Louis is a dreamer (he wants to be baker, he cooks). Gautier is moving all the time. Arthur and Charlotte are very noisy....Lucie and Pualine like horse riding. They practice it sometimes with Alain and Aude. Louis and Gautier like motorbiking. They do that with Alain. They also like soccer. Aude and Marion like to go shopping, but there are not a lot of shops nearby. "
I have also started shopping and pre-packing....and trying to find presents to give my host family. My host family has a piano: an old out-of-tune one, and a keyboard (they said if I wanted to play on another piano they could arrange with a neighbor to play on theirs), so I can practice. I had my last piano and guitar lessons the other day....and I have music to learn by myself while there. (Thanks Natasha!) My last day of volunteering at the Santa Monica Pier Aquarium was on the 9th. It's all coming to a close, really.
I had one week of backpacking in Yosemite, and now I have 4 days until I leave. (Today is the 15th) It's just incredibly crazy-sounding now. I'm having a kind of unofficial going away party in 2 days, and then...whoa. I think about who will or will not come, and I find that it might not make a difference, if people I love are there, and I have a good time. It'll be interesting to see who I stay in touch with while in France, (who will try to stay in touch, when I may not be able to do so often). And I don't think anyone really understands how this feels, at the moment (unless you are leaving for France in 4/5 days also!). I want to be able to say goodbye to everyone, and I want to be able to be sad when I leave...but mostly I'm just a little confused. I'm going? Really? For a year?
Eh...enough talk. I need to pack.

vendredi 11 juillet 2008


So, apparently, my host family information wasn't even sent to AFS USA from AFS France until yesterday, and that's why I hadn't heard!
I'm going to Liginiac! Which (as google searches tell me)is a leeetttle tiny town (and by little I mean 630 inhabitants) in the city of Ussel, in Correze, in the province of Limousin, in France!!! And according to these websites, Limousin the 2nd least populated region in France! I was surprised when I saw the address AFS gave me, because it's nothing like "600 Rue de Lafayette" or something like that. It's actually "Chateau de Mareges." So they live in a chateau? WOW! I searched it in google (that amazing google..haha) and I got pictures of a castle-like place, advertising it as a holiday property. So I am slightly confused, though the chateau in the pictures looks rather like the photos they sent me! (the first photo up there is from the holiday property website!, and the second is one they sent me!) My theory is that they rent out rooms because of their extensive land, or rent out their chateau on holidays. (I don't have high expectations do I? haha)
I really think it's awesome that they put me there. My family sounds amazing, and I'll be going from a HUGE CITY to a little tiny town, and I'll get to experience REAL FRENCH LIFE! IN THE COUNTRYSIDE!
I'm sooo excited. So so psyched. Even though I couldn't find any information on my school, "College Voltaire."

mercredi 9 juillet 2008

Host Family!!

Guess what guess what guess what!! I got a host family!!!

Well, I didn't officially get any information from AFS, but my host family emailed me today! (Apparently it is normal for the host family to get information before the exchange student?)
My host parents' names are Helene and Alain, and I have EIGHT host siblings!
Aude 17
Marion 16
Lucie 14
Pauline 12
Louis 10
Gautier 9
Arthur 5
Charlotte 3

And they emailed saying things such as (of course in French) "We're preparing the house for your visit! We can't wait to meet you! I'm sorry my english is not good, but it will help you practice your french!" etc.etc.
I AM SO EXCITED! Even though I still don't know where in France I'll be, or what school I'm going to, or anything!!

samedi 10 mai 2008

What is America?

No current news about host family or anything. Still waiting!! (I want to know now!!) Though I am taking Precalculus and World History over the summer to prepare.
We had our Pre Departure Orientation yesterday!! Mind, this was an old post I'm updating, so it still says the 10th of May on it. Currently, it's the 18th of May! And the 17th was the orientation! It was soooo awesome. When we first arrived, all the volunteers were walking around, talking rapidly in foreign languages to us (none of us understood), so they would see how we react to situations like that. (we'll encounter MANY of those situations in our host countries) One guy, who spoke German, said that it's good if we smile and try to understand what they're saying. haha... So, we were broken up into random groups, where we talked about how we see our country, how we see our host country, and how to break those stereotypes. We also went over the basic facts about culture shock, and how we will have to have a sense of humor, use the language, ask lots of questions, empathize, etc.
Then we had a snack the volunteers provided. They tried to bring food from a bunch of different cultures, and didn't tell us what the foods were until after we ate them. Therefore, I found out that I tried: a gooseberry, banana chips, faux-meat used in sushi, an odd ginger candy, baked bread, among other things. Some people got blood and tongue sausage, but mine didn't have any (thank god). We were then split up into long/short programs by gender. My group had only 2 other people in it, and was really relaxed. We went over the AFS rules (no hitch-hiking, driving, drugs), then went through scenarios we will (hypothetically) encounter. Then over the communication problem. (They pretty much shouted NO INTERNET! NO CALLING! for about a half-an-hour) For lunch, the volunteers opened all of our sack lunches, then served them to everyone. I hope someone liked my sandwich.
The last module-thingy was split up into regions. There were 12 people going to France! (though most were for the summer). There were 5 people from Los Angeles going to France for the year program! We sat in the grass with Cory, an AFS student in the US from France, and he pretty much just told us EVERYTHING we'll need to know. For example: there is a specific way you must hold your hands while eating, french people don't hug often, students protest a lot, people go out to bars/clubs/cafes to hang out with friends or meet people, along with other very interesting things that I had no idea about. Everyone asked questions about cell phone service, boyfriends/girlfriends, sports (In soccer, support Lyon! Not Paris!), and food.
I just feel so excited, about going! It is no longer a hypothetical situation, but a real one! I'm actually going to France next year! Whoah!
The AFS volunteers said to finish reading CultureTrek lately (special booklet AFS gives out), and it talks about how you should know and understand your own country, so you can better understand another.
And so I've been thinking....what is America? What is the United States?

America is everyone of every culture you can imagine, living within the same borders.
America is the white headlights after headlights after headlights on the other side of the freeway, as we drive, and drive, and drive.
America is smiling through every awful, uncomfortable situation, talking with your hands, looking people in the eye.
America is confusion, everything too blaring and bright, too fast, too hard to understand.
America is walking under an expanse of pale sky too large to possibly comprehend.
America is ignorance, not knowing and never knowing.
America is music--screaming, soft, choral, metal, everything ever imagined.
America is resistance, knowing you should just let life be, but wanting something more.

mercredi 2 avril 2008

More preparations.

Don't you like the lovely new header thingy? I was bored when I was sick...

I just got a letter today saying they would send us visa information 6-8 weeks before I I'll get that in a bit. My french phrase-a-day calender says to "Gardez le sourire" (Keep smiling)
I have to take World History and Trig over the summer so I won't be behind when I come back. Therefore, I'm applying to take classes at SMC.
And I can't wait for summer!! Because I will be:
-taking college level classes
-having a job? perhaps?
-going up to San Francisco to see Cass and Justine (I HOPE SO)
-worrying about who my host family will be
-backpacking in Yosemite for a week
-if none of job plans work out, I'll be volunteering at the Santa Monica Pier Aquarium

School go faster! Faster!! Please!!

jeudi 20 mars 2008


This is where I will post all the goings-on while I'm in France! I'm going with AFS (American Field Service) Intercultural Programs and I'm going on the Summer-Departure France Year Program. I leave on August 20-23rd!!!!
I'm so unbelievably excited.
Here are some interesting facts/statistics about France.
Capital: Paris
Highest Point: Mont Blanc in the Alps
Population: 60 Million
Religion: Roman Catholic 83-88%
Protestant: 2%
Jewish 1%
Muslim 5-10%
Unaffiliated: 4%
Currency: euro
Percentage of French homes w/ a pet: 52%
Amount of cheese eaten by each french person a day: 2 ounces
Percentage of ownership: iron 98%
frying pan 67%
microwave oven 52%
Children age 15-24 that live with their parents: 73%
Hours the french work each week: 35 hours