Here I am in my new home in Parthenay. But before I go into other details, I will start this entry from the moment I read the messages in my exchange notebook in the airplane.
None of them made me cry except for my mom's (it was all sappy and got into when I was a baby), because most of them were very funny and made me smile quite widely. The notebook was a success, and I know I'll be reading it again sometime!
Tuesday August 28 was my first day in France. In one word, it was
Betty and I arrived in Paris sometime past noon, and after some waiting, we congregated with the rest of our inbound group at the Ibis hotel. While we were all pretty excited, everyone had just taken a long flight (except maybe the German and the Turk) and was extremely tired. We didn't leave until about 3:00 PM, and didn't reach Le Pouliguen until some time before 10:00 PM. I had zero appetite, didn't feel well, and just wanted to shower then sleep. Later that night, after having showered and refreshed ourselves, my four roommates (Betty, Maya from CA, Brooke and Joey from Canada) and I complained about how much the day sucked then all felt better about ourselves.
Things started looking up after that.
Some highlights of the trip include:
I really thought I'd be the only one to bring a ukulele to the camp, but there were two others who did! One is a boy named Leo from Brazil, and the other is a boy named Evan from Iowa. We had fun jamming on the beach.
Speaking of which, we went to the beach three times!
I spoke in Chinese with the Taiwanese girls. One of them, Sabrina, is really entertained by it and tells me I'm adorable. Thus, I had spoken three times as much Chinese the first day than I expected to speak the entire year.
The boardwalk by the beach in Le Pouliguen was very pretty. There was a merry-go-round, and numerous cafés lined the sidewalk.
I wondered whether having the camp right off the bat was a good idea or not; during the beginning, I definitely thought we should have met our host families first, had our cliché welcoming at the airport, then gone home to unpack and sleep. However, I have already made a lot of friends from the trip, and it's always nice to know that there are other kids nervous for starting school and making friends outside Rotary. That's truly the best solace anyone can have in this world, knowing that they are not alone.
On Saturday September 1st, my counselor picked me up after I said good-bye to my inbound (it feels so good to finally call myself that!) friends, and I feel like that's where my exchange really began. Now that I wasn't with the international kids anymore, everything I said and heard was in French. I had listened to French in movies, songs, and in simulation recordings in class, but it was nothing compared to having several conversations on random topics on a drive that took over two hours. Despite being tired, I tried my best to listen carefully and respond interestingly. I did not speak English at all, except to say the words "farm" and "countryside" (the French countryside is gorgeous by the way) which my counselor did not understand anyway.
So at about 5 PM, I arrived at my house in Parthenay after driving through the medieval quarter of the city. I was tired and just a bit overwhelmed at everything. I met my host parents, my host sister Maéva (she's 16), and my host brother Alcide (he is 10 and simply adorable). After talking in the dining room a bit, I went upstairs to unpack.
Just so everyone knows, I love my room. I have a large desk, a fireplace (not sure if it actually works though), and really cool decorations (little Eiffel Towers!) plus a psychedelic wall pattern, all pink and orange and swirly. It was then that I finally started to cry- tears of relief, exhaustion, feeling overwhelmed, pride, and just a bit missing my family, friends, and Rotary friends old and new. But I got over myself quickly as I organized my stuff and left my room arranged to start my new life.
As for my new life, here are some things I have to get used to:
The grand majority of people here smoking. My counselor smoked four times in the car and both my host parents smoke. I've learned to not let it bother me, except the fumes irritate my throat sometimes.
The toilets being separate from the shower.
The French not putting ice in their drinks. They don't have ice in the freezer, either.
We went to the pool on Sunday September 2nd, and the changing area was not segregated into males and females. There are individual stalls, sure, but that's as far as it goes.
How OLD my city is. It's a thousand years old, and being here, it's easy to tell...
All the boys kissing me on the cheek twice when they greet me. Not that I'm complaining ;)
And here are some highlights:
I LOVE the way the French talk! They're very refined in their speech, the most eloquent people I have ever met (and this is coming from a person who did speech and debate two years in high school). They always talk with their hands with a variety of voice inflections. My counselor would take both hands off the wheel as he drove to talk to me and always do these elaborate gestures. Furthermore, there was a little boy, one of Alcide's friends, who came to visit on Sunday, and at the dinner table he told a story about how one day three years ago he woke up at 7 AM to watch TV like it was an epic worthy of Homer and The Odyssey.
I went on a walk around the city today, and I touched a church that was built in the 14th century.
My school books are so new and high quality, unlike the ripped ones in Tualatin that are falling apart. Plus, they're not thick as hell and super heavy.
I like to sit in the living room watching TV with my little brother, even if he is on his DS and I am on my iPad. We had a conversation about Pokemon once, and it was a lot of fun.
I don't hear English from anyone other than me. Parthenay is an obscure medieval town in the middle of the French countryside, after all.
School starts on Wednesday the 5th. Because my school is awesome, we get out at noon, since that's what happens every Wednesday.
I will update more later!