Thursday, February 28, 2013

6 Mois en France

It is only on special occasions that I go to the pâtisserie and treat myself to a tasty pastry. Today, February 28, 2013, was one such occasion.

I don't really know what this was, but I ate it all after dinner. It had raspberries on top and in the cream filling.
As the title connotes, I celebrated my 6th month in France today.
Just to let you know, time is continuing to zoom by beyond my comprehension. There is proof of my confusion in various journal entries, where I write something along the following lines: mercredi le 19 sep décembre 2012, or even samedi le 26 décembre janvier 2013. (Yes, those have been real mistakes I've made.)
If you are my friend on Facebook, you may have seen the photo I posted to commemorate the main events of these past 6 months, and by main events, I mean places I have graced with my presence.

I've been keeping a list of all the places I've visited until this point
I also had this discourse in French, and I will provide the translation for it here.
Ces 6 derniers mois ont passé trop vite; je n'arrive pas à comprendre comment j'ai déjà vécu une moitié d'une année de ma vie en France, le pays de mes rêves. 
Avec ces 6 mois sont venus des souvenirs que je garderai dans ma mémoire à jamais. Des gens que j'aurai à jamais comme amis, des amitiés qui duront le reste de ma vie. Les leçons apprises, les réussites, les ratés, tout ce que j'ai vécu feront partie de moi, de mon âme, de mon esprit...à tout jamais. 
"These past 6 months have gone by too fast; I can't understand how I've already lived half a year of my life in France, the country of my dreams.
With these 6 months have come memories that I will keep in my mind forever. People I will have as friends forever, friendships that will last the rest of my life. The lessons learned, the successes, the failures, everything I have lived will be a part of me, of my soul, of my spirit...forever."

Another thing I did was watch the new Les Misérables in the cinema with two of my French friends. We all thought the film was going to be in French, and were a bit deceived when it ended up being in English with French subtitles. I felt a bit awkward listening to them complaining about understanding nothing but "Madame," "Monsieur," and "Vive la France"; I mean, it is a story set in France in an important period of their history, so I understand their wishing it was all in French. (It would have been more legit that way, in my opinion.) Nevertheless, it was still very enjoyable, and I couldn't help feeling pride within myself whenever the revolutionaries waved their flags around.

During the bus trip, I had a lot of time to reflect seeing as I find it impossible to sleep in a seated position. One morning, while everyone else was sleeping, I spent about 2 hours writing in my journal. Because I'm feeling lazy and I figure I should put raw thoughts on here for once instead of doing heavy editing in my mind before typing stuff out, here are some direct quotes from February 22.

"As we drove closer to Salignac last night and farther from Paris, I noticed a drastic change in the scenery. The roads were very narrow, and there were no street lights, so it was like looking out into oblivion past what was immediately discernible. When we could see buildings, they were nothing at all like the intricately detailed white buildings of Paris, nor were they lined alongside several stories high out over busy streets like other major French cities. No, these were the classic French countryside buildings; made out of stone, very quaint, either in clusters or isolated. It was then that I realized this was all normal to me. The isolation, the dark, the tranquility of the countryside. I have grown so used to it there was nothing new, and it has become an environment I know now. Parthenay may not be as ancient village-y as Salignac, but it's definitely nothing like Paris. After all, Parthenay is medieval, and from the moment one leaves it, one only sees the vast countryside. So really, as much as I don't want it to be true, I really do know the prairie :P [Don't mind this, this is a reference to an inside joke I have with Brooke] Because you see, Salignac is in a region with a lot of rolling hills, which is a huge contrast from the flat land around Parthenay. All of this contrast got me to thinking, most people's perception of France (including me in the past) is the following:  [And at this point, I start doodling]

Paris, 'nuff said
high fashion
busy sidewalk cafés
the luxe of Versailles
"While all this is indeed accurate, after living in the middle of nowhere for six months, my vision of 'France' has become the following:

the silhouette of my walled city on top of the hill
ancient stone bridges that are footpaths spanning little creeks
sheep in the fields
cute little houses
"The countryside, to me, is no longer a novelty. It's all become familiar. I guess I'm happy to know that I got the chance to know the France that not everyone realizes exists. I also think I feel less frustration with it now that I finally got to see Paris and travel around (away from the countryside :P). I have spent almost two hours writing and looking out the window, but I'll think I'll stop writing now."

And I think I'll continue this blog entry now, with one last picture.

My wall of pride
Over these 6 months, my blazer sure has accumulated a lot of crap.
After multiple inbound weekends, one bus trip, and looking out every which way for a new treasure to display on it, my blazer now resembles a kind of unwearable pin display case. I will admit that at the beginning, I was set on not putting a ghastly amount of pins on my blazer like most RYE students and instead setting them aside to put in a display case later. However, the more I got involved with other Rotary kids, the more I became enthusiastic with the tradition that is unique to Rotary exchange students, exchanging pins and placing them on our blazers. 
Thus, our blazers become representative of our exchanges. At the beginning of exchange, the blazers are blank slates, ready to be filled with all manner of knickknacks. Parallel to an outbound ready to learn and absorb a new culture they previously had no knowledge of. As the exchange progresses, every Rotary student customizes their blazer with pins they gathered from other exchange students and other little memorabilia from their life in their host countries. I, for example, have the tags from two items of clothing I wear all the time (my red pea coat and my white infinity scarf) sewed next to the lapels. Finally, at the end, the blazer will become a sort of personal record of the exchange and will carry tangible proof of memories the Rotary kid will have of their exchange. For instance, whenever I look at the little Indian rickshaw, I will think of Aarohi. Whenever I look at the pink macaron, I will think of the chocolate expo. 
That's the thing about Rotary kids. Every one of us is unique and has a different outlook on exchange and how it affects us personally, and no two blazers are exactly alike (unless they belong to outbounds who haven't left yet, like in this picture I have set as my iPad wallpaper that makes me reminisce on good times past).

Okay, I lied when I said my wall of pride would be the last picture.
Oh, I can't wait to see my outbounds again. 
Although each blazer is as different as the person who owns it, the fact that we all own a crazily-embellished blazer is a fact that unites us all as well. All of us, no matter our motives for going on exchange, what we take from it, or what we choose to do during exchange, have in our hearts a sense of adventure and the desire to see the world and experience new things, changing our lives in the process of it. 

As for me, you probably already have an idea what my motives were for going, what I'm taking from it, and what I choose to do. If not, then read my other blog entries and deduce for yourself. I'll sign off by saying that these past 6 months have been so fulfilling, and I continue to be eternally grateful for the chance to do this exchange. I have 4 months left, and a whole lot left to do. Stay tuned! 
woof woof, says the pug eagerly wagging its tail anticipating my next entryimage
(I wonder if I can put it on my blazer...)

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