Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Obligatory Post on the 19th: September

So much has happened since I last posted, I'm going to divide this post into different topics! Here goes...

La Vie Scolaire
I am happy to report that school is nowhere near as bad as it was at the beginning! It's been two weeks now since it started, and I'm beginning to get the hang of things. I'm not even as tired at the end of the day anymore. Most importantly, I found a group of girls who have welcomed me; they are a wonderful bunch that I can laugh, be weird, eat lunch, and sing songs badly with. Having friends has really helped the transition, and they always make an effort to talk to me and help me feel more like a French high school girl. Once, I took a yogurt, and they asked if I had taken any sugar (they eat plain yogurt with sugar here). I said no, and they handed me some, and the yogurt tasted a lot better that way!
My class of Première ES 1, with only 22 kids, is a pretty great group. I have no words in any language to explain how hilarious English class on Monday was, because this is what happened. The activity that the prof assigned was to come up with excuses as to why one was late for or absent from school. Nothing special; I remember having done a similar activity in French class two years ago. Then the prof had me walk around checking everyone's grammar, and I came across some extremely bizarre sentences. The following are my favorites, from a group of boys named Hugo, Clément, and Arnaud.
"My fish had a headache."
"My computer died and I had to bury it."
"The school bus got in an accident with a submarine in front of my house."
Add bad grammar to these sentences, as well as their French accent reading them out loud, and you might be able to understand why I wanted to die laughing!
The next day, I asked Arnaud if his fish still had a headache. Without missing a beat, he replied (in French, of course), "No, it's gone. But he has a fever now, and it's not looking too good" in a tone as serious as can be. I expressed my condolences.
Here I have some physical evidence of how I'm getting used to school:
At first, my notes looked like this

But now, they look like this, all colorful like how the French kids do it (yeah, they write in cursive too)

One thing I hate to admit about school is that I can actually understand a little of the content, and I find myself WORKING in class. WHY. I thought this year was gonna be a break from that! I've even helped out some of my classmates in math and science... I've been asked the question, "Did you get good grades in the United States?" and I said they were very good, and I've been called a smart girl already. That reputation just follows me everywhere, I can't escape it. Guess some things never change, and some things will forever be a part of me. Of course, there are still times in class when I feel dumb and clueless, and I let it happen. I'm here to enjoy the country, not to do well in school. History class is difficult for the French kids too, anyway.

It just wouldn't be a year in France without the cafés! These little sidewalk establishments are a huge part of French culture, and everyone likes to spend their time socializing and gossiping there. Whenever I find myself in one, I order the same thing - a sirop de fraise à l'eau. It's a chilled drink, pretty much strawberry syrup mixed with water. Trust me, it's really good.

Here is a café in Angers, where I hung out with some Rotary friends.

Since I arrived, I have already been to 8 French cities: Le Pouliguen, Parthenay, Niort, Bressuire, Angers, Cholet, Oiron, and Thouars. European public transportation is absolutely magnificent- the trains and buses leave exactly on time, and everything is very organized. During all this traveling I've done, I feel amazed at how I handle all my issues, ticket changes/purchases, and questions entirely in French. I adore this language, and I can't believe I'm actually speaking it every day!

It's already a well-known fact that France has a myriad of castles. One of them, a relatively small one from the renaissance age, is the Château d'Oiron that my second host parents took me to see.

For some reason, there was a contemporary art exhibition happening inside the castle. The contrast of renaissance and modern age art was pleasing to my mind, but my second host dad didn't feel the same!

One of the many strange, unexplainable, yet fascinating works of art was this nautilus carriage.

Oh yeah, I got to hang out with a unicorn inside the castle too, I really felt like a princess!
I can't get enough of all the spiral staircases here.

Check out the king's chamber (the room he'd occupy on a visit) - yes, that is REAL GOLD.

Finally, here is a painting of a congregation of the Greek deities. (This is obviously not contemporary art.)

If you know me well, you'll know that I feel most at home in a big city, which Parthenay most certainly is not. It is a town in the middle of the French countryside, dating back to the medieval era. It has barely over 10,000 inhabitants. However, I do not wish to change my city- life all the way out here is very relaxing, and I feel like that's what I need the most this year. I know that Rotary placed me where I'm meant to be, and I have the rest of my life to choose to live in a big city anyway! While I don't think I'll convert into a country bumpkin this year, I'm definitely going to enjoy all the different aspects of living here. After all, that's what exchange is about- being placed in unfamiliar and uncomfortable situations, making the best of them. And I travel out of the city often enough anyway.
I took some photos of the St. Jacques Quartier, the medieval quarter of my city. It's very beautiful indeed.

Also, if you know me well, you would know that one of my favorite singers is a guy named MIKA, who I think is bigger in Europe than in the US. I first heard of him on that Europe trip in 2010, when I heard his song Blame It on the Girls in Paris. From that point on, I was hooked on his cheerful, catchy, singable music, and I was absolutely ecstatic when he released a song in French summer 2011 called Elle Me Dit. When I first listened to that song, I couldn't help but idly daydream about what it'd be like to live in France. Now I am in France, and I still listen to that song, and when one of my girl friends during lunch break played it off her phone, we couldn't help but all sing part of it. And now that the new album, the one that has this song, came out on Monday the 17th (ONLY IN FRANCE) I couldn't help but rush to the Hyper U after school to buy it. I looked at it as a reward for going through two weeks of school.
Here's how excited I am to have it, and how happy I am to be living in France in general!

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